As Catholics, we have Mass to worship and to receive God’s grace, to unify with him and with other worshipers through the sacrament of the Eucharist (the Christian sacrament in which Christ’s Last Supper is commemorated by the consecration of bread and wine). As a sacrament, it is that Jesus himself acting through the Eucharist, and supplies all the graces we derive from it. If you have been to Mass before you will recognize the liturgy and prayers.
The Order of Mass
The Mass is the most important sacramental celebration of the Church, and it always follows a set order.
- Entrance Chant: We gather as a community and praise God in song.
- Greeting: We pray the Sign of the Cross. The priest welcomes us.
- Penitential Rite: We remember our sins and ask God for mercy.
- Gloria: We praise God in song.
- Collect: We ask God to hear our prayers.
- First Reading: We listen to God’s Word, usually from the Old Testament.
- Responsorial Psalm: We respond to God’s Word in song.
- Second Reading: We listen to God’s Word from the New Testament.
- Gospel Acclamation: We sing “Alleluia!” to praise God for the Good News. During Lent, we use a different acclamation.
- Gospel Reading: We stand and listen to the Gospel of the Lord.
- Homily: The priest or the deacon explains God’s Word.
- Profession of Faith: We proclaim our faith through the Creed.
- Prayer of the Faithful: We pray for our needs and the needs of others.
- Presentation and Preparation of the Gifts: We bring gifts of bread and wine to the altar.
- Prayer over the Offerings: The priest prays that God will accept our sacrifice.
- Eucharistic Prayer: This prayer of thanksgiving is the center and high point of the entire celebration: i. Preface (we give thanks and praise to God), ii. Holy, Holy, Holy (we sing an acclamation of praise), iii. Consecration (the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ), iv. The Mystery of Faith (we proclaim the mystery of our faith), v. Amen (we affirm the words and actions of the Eucharistic Prayer).
- Lord’s Prayer—We pray the Our Father.
- Sign of Peace—We offer one another Christ’s peace.
- Lamb of God—We pray for forgiveness, mercy, and peace.
- Communion—We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
- Prayer After Communion—We pray that the Eucharist will strengthen us to live as Jesus did.
- Final Blessing: We receive God’s blessing.
- Dismissal: We go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our lives.
Holy Days of Obligation
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has decreed that the Holy Days of obligation to be observed in Canada are:
- all Sundays of the year
- Mary, Mother of God on January 1st
- Christmas Day on December 25th
The feasts of the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) are transferred to the following Sunday.
Seasons of the Liturgical Year
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means coming. During the four weeks before Christmas we look forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as king and judge at the end of time and to our Christmas celebration of his coming as our Saviour 2,000 years ago.
During the first weeks of Advent (up to December 16) we reflect on Christ as our coming king and our judge; we wait in joyful hope for his return in glory to complete his work on earth.
Beginning on December 17, we join with the prophets and the people of God who looked forward to the birth of the Messiah. We express our longing for God’s mercy, and grow more aware of our need for this saving help.
Christmas is one of the most important days of the Church year, second only to Easter itself. It is the feast of the Incarnation, the feast of God taking on human flesh. It is a uniquely Christian teaching, that God chose to become one of us.
The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him; that he was born to die for us.
Special Liturgical Celebrations during the Christmas Season
- The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
- The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph
- The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
- The Epiphany of the Lord
- The Baptism of the Lord
Historically the origin of Lent is tied to the final spiritual preparation of catechumens for baptism and initiation into the Church at the Easter Vigil. These days of preparation were marked by prayer, fasting and almsgiving or acts of charity. Over time, Christians were so moved by the devotion of the catechumens that they began to join them in these acts in preparation for celebrating the Feast of Easter.
Regardless if you are preparing to be baptized or already are, the purpose of Lent remains the same to turn our hearts to the Lord and give some perspective to our lives. Lent is not a season for comfort. It is a season for sacrifice and growth. It calls us to move. And this is the great question we have to ask ourselves: What makes me move, what drives me?
Through his Paschal Mystery, the Lord Jesus redeemed the human race and gave perfect glory to the Father. By dying, Christ destroyed our death; by rising, he restored our life. For this reason, the Sacred Paschal Triduum, when we celebrate the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord, is the high point of the Liturgical Year. The Triduum opens with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, continues with the remembrance of Christ’s passion, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. Following the Triduum, we enter the holy season of Easter.
The word Triduum comes from the Latin root for three days; specifically the three days of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. Since the Triduum begins with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday, day one of the Triduum ends on the evening of Good Friday, the second day ending the evening of Holy Saturday, and the third day ending on the evening of Easter Sunday.
The Easter season flows from the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and concludes fifty days later on Pentecost. It is a joyous season in which we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. This is a time of rejoicing, when Alleluia should be sung with renewed and heartfelt emotion after having completed the forty days of penitential preparation of Lent.
The Easter season is full of symbols which remind us of the new and abundant life that Jesus has won for us. The primary symbol is the Paschal Candle which stands in a prominent place in the sanctuary and is lit for every liturgical celebration until the conclusion of Pentecost. The newly blessed water and holy oils used in the celebration of the Sacraments also direct our minds to the purpose of Easter and that we are God’s redeemed and holy people.
Due to the connotations of the term “ordinary”, which is used to describe things that have no distinctive features, many people misunderstand Ordinary Time as being unimportant. But nothing could be further from the truth; there is nothing uninteresting about Ordinary Time. It is called Ordinary Time because the weeks are numbered. So Ordinary Time is not just any ordinary time, but it is when the Church does things in order (as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd… week of the season). Ordinary Time consists of 34 weeks and celebrated in two segments: from the Monday following the Baptism of Jesus to Ash Wednesday, and from the Monday following Pentecost to the first Sunday of Advent. The liturgical season of Ordinary Time is the longest season of the Church year.
The liturgical colour during Ordinary Time is green, the colour of hope and growth. During these 34 weeks, the Church calls us to meditate upon the whole mystery of Christ’s life and his teaching ministry with his disciples. This is an opportunity for every Catholic to grow in his/her faith. With the absence of major celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, the faithful are encouraged to put their faith into practice. It is a time to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5.7). During this time, all of us are to strive to become messengers of the Gospel by strengthening our prayer life by meditating on the Scriptures, and also aspire to rekindle our love of Christ through Eucharistic devotion.
The first segment of the Ordinary Time focuses on the childhood and public ministry of Jesus Christ; while the second segment focuses on the role of the Church in preparing us for the Second Coming of Christ. It is also appropriate that this segment goes hand in hand with the summer season. We usually only notice the bustling greens of nature during summer, but silently it is preparing for autumn and winter. Like nature, the Church is also reminding us to use the time to prepare ourselves for the autumn and winter in our own lives.