Francis George: I'm Cardinal Francis George, and it's my pleasure as
Archbishop of Chicago to introduce you to this teaching resource, Draw Near, a
video guide to the Catholic Mass. This video is both timely and timeless.
Timely because it coincides with our celebration of the year of Sunday mass in
the Archdiocese of Chicago. Timeless because the mass is a gift we have
received from Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
As the Catholic Church observes the year of faith around the world, we are
called to strengthen our relationship with Christ Jesus. A better
understanding of the mass is one way to make that happen. My hope is that this
video and its companion study guide will be valuable tools for those who teach
our Catholic faith by explaining who Christ is for it is Christ who is the
I thank Father Louis Cameli for his insightful presentation as he walks us
through the meaning, the beauty and the spiritual necessity of the mass.
The letter of St. James, Chapter 4, verse 8 proclaims, "Draw near. Draw near
to God, and He will draw near to you." We draw near to God every time we go to
mass and receive Christ in Holy Communion. I pray that we will all be drawn
closer to God through a deeper understanding and appreciation of the mass. May
God bless you.
Fr. Cameli: One of the TV science channels offers a program entitled, "How
it's Made." The show deals with all sorts of things that we use every day,
from rubber bands to popcorn, from car engines to ballpoint pens. We learn how
these every-day objects are made, and once we step back from familiar things
and understand what goes into them, we see them differently, and we appreciate
them in a new way.
As believers, as people of faith, it's very helpful for us to step back and
take another look at what we believe and how we practice our faith. When we
think about the center of our faith, the mass is right there as the source and
summit of our Christian life.
In this video, we will take another look at the mass, a prayer that may seem
to be so familiar, but also a prayer that can take on new and deeper meaning.
As we walk through the different parts of the mass, we will realize that it is
one prayer, the prayer of Jesus who gave Himself up for us in self-sacrificing
love on the cross. We make the prayer of Jesus our own.
Although there are many parts and rituals that belong to the mass, there are
two fundamental movements in the mass. Hearing God's word proclaimed and
preached and then, celebrating the Eucharist that makes Jesus' death and
resurrection remembered and present to us, the same Jesus who then gives
Himself to us as our Bread of Life in Holy Communion.
With this introduction, we can begin to look at the mass for deeper
understanding and appreciation.
Mass begins with a procession of the priest, celebrant and ministers who
accompany him. The priest reverences and kisses the altar, which symbolizes
Christ. In fact, mass began with our own procession, coming into church,
leaving behind the world, our world that may be hurried and a bit chaotic or
even struggling and suffering. We walked in.
The entrance procession now walks in for us. The entrance chant signals that
we are now in a holy place. We have carved out a time and a place where we can
meet God, and God can meet us.
Priest: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Cameli: We begin with what is perhaps our earliest personal religious
memory and practice, the sign of the cross. We invoke the name of the triune
God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The God we have come to meet and the God
whose life we share. Our path to the triune God is the cross of Jesus. His
sacrifice that will be made present in the mass, we are about to celebrate.
The short opening dialog between the priest and the congregation uses biblical
language. For example, "The Lord be with you and with your spirit," to signify
that the Church, in that moment, is now gathered in the presence of the Lord.
The penitential rite begins. The different forms of the penitential rite at
the beginning of mass asks for God's mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The prayers draw on pleas for mercy and forgiveness found in the Bible. The
purpose of this rite is to enable us to worship God with a purified heart.
Jesus, for example, says in Matthew's gospel, "When you are offering your gift
at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something
against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be
reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift."
The Glory to God in the Highest hymn is now sung. It is also known as the
Gloria, and it draws its text from the song of the angels at the birth of
Jesus. The words are found in St. Luke's gospel, Chapter 2, Verse 14. The
Gloria brings us to the praise and thanksgiving of God at the beginning of our
worship. To be mindful of God's greatness and to live with gratitude, not only
describe our worship, but also an abiding awareness that ought to belong to
every Christian life.
The Collect or opening prayer as the name indicates collects the prayerful
intentions of the people who are gathered for worship. The opening prayer is
compactly composed and generally includes an invocation of God, a description
of what God has done, a specific petition, and a conclusion that directs the
prayer to the Father, through the Son in the Unity of the Holy Spirit. The
Collect concludes the first introductory part of the mass.
The second part of the mass is the liturgy of the Word. Every act of worship
in the life of the church is based on the Word of God that is found in the
Bible. The Word of God is proclaimed, heard and explained. God's Word leads us
to celebrate the Eucharist. God's Word directs us to live our lives in a
renewed and transformed way in the world. We are seated for the first two
readings, a posture of receptivity.
The first reading is usually taken from the Old Testament. In some way, it
echoes a theme that is at the heart of the gospel of the day that we will hear
The Responsorial Psalm takes verses from the Book of Psalms, the inspired
prayers of the Old Testament. The Psalm verses respond to the reading we have
just heard. The verses enable us to absorb and recognize the message of the
The second reading is usually taken from one of St. Paul's letters. Across a
series of Sundays, selections from one of Paul's letters may be read. The
readings move from chapter to chapter. For example, across his letter to the
Romans, Paul's message consistently encourages and challenges believers to
embrace their faith in Jesus Christ and to live it out more authenticly.
The Gospel Acclamation is usually A sin, Alleluia, which means praise God. We
stand to honor the gospel Word that we will receive.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And with your spirit.
Priest: A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Congregation: Glory be to you, O Lord.
Fr. Cameli: The priest or deacon proclaims the gospel. There is a three-year
cycle of readings from the gospels. Year A for Matthew, Year B for Mark, the
shortest gospel, which is combined with John's gospel. Year C for Luke. The
selections generally represent a continuous reading, chapter by chapter of the
gospel of the year.
Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
Congregation: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Fr. Cameli: The word homily comes from an ancient Greek word that meant to
hold a conversation, to live with familiarity, to associate with. The priest
celebrant or occasionally, a deacon, preaches the homily to draw us into a
deeper understanding of the Word of God that we have just now heard.
The homily also leads and directs us to the Eucharist that will be celebrated.
Finally, the homily encourages us to live the Word in the course of our daily
The Creed or the Profession of Faith is a summary of the Church's faith
initially formulated at the Council of Nicea in the year 325 A.D. In the early
centuries of the Church's history, councils of bishops met to identify and
articulate our faith in understandable terms. Our common profession of faith
is a fitting response to the Word of God that we have just heard and received
The Prayer of the Faithful or Universal Prayer concludes the second part of
the mass, the liturgy of the Word. Prayer intentions are offered, usually in
four categories, for the needs of the Church, for public authorities in the
world, for those in special difficulty, and for the local community. When we
offer these prayers, we exercise our ministry as the priestly people of God.
The liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the gifts. The
gifts include the bread and wine that will be used in the Eucharist as well as
the monetary offerings, which we bring and which are used to support the
Church and care for the poor.
In a small procession, representative members of our congregation bring the
gifts forward and so symbolize the offering that all of us are making. Prayers
of blessing for God's goodness, recited either aloud or silently, accompany
the priest's preparation of the gifts. He then washes his hands to express his
desire for interior purification as he quietly prays words from Psalm 51.
"Wash me, o Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins." After
inviting everyone to pray that the offering to God be acceptable, he prays the
prayer over the gifts and concludes the rite of preparation.
The Eucharistic prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification, in
which the elements of bread and wine are consecrated and become the Body and
Blood of Christ. As the memorial or remembrance of what Jesus did the night
before He died, the Eucharist makes present His saving sacrifice on the cross
in sign and sacrament. For these reasons, the Eucharistic prayer is truly the
center and the high point of our celebration of the mass.
The Eucharistic prayer begins with a prayerful dialog between priest and
Priest: The Lord be with you.
Fr. Cameli: And with your spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
Fr. Cameli: We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord Our
God. It is right and just.
Then the Preface follows, a prayer often sung, that gives us reasons for
offering praise and thanksgiving to God. The Preface concludes with the Holy,
Holy, Holy, an acclamation that we say or sing. This acclamation is taken from
the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 6 and echoes the worship of the angels before the
throne of God in heaven.
Our celebration of the mass certainly takes place on earth, but it is also
linked to the heavenly worship of all the angels and saints.
The main body of the Eucharistic Prayer begins after the Holy, Holy, Holy.
There are a number of different Eucharistic Prayers, but they also share a
common structure and direction. The Eucharistic Prayers begin with
acknowledging the holiness of God and then move to an invocation or calling of
the Holy Spirit to come upon the gifts of bread and wine and to change them
into the Body and Blood of Christ.
The priest extends his hands over the gifts as he makes this prayer invoking
the Holy Spirit. This is an ancient gesture, always associated with calling
the Holy Spirit, and it is also used in baptism, confirmation, ordination, and
other sacramental rituals.
The center of the Eucharistic Prayer is the recitation of the Words of
Institution, the very words which Jesus gave us the night before He died for
us. "This is My body, which will be given up for you. This is the chalice of
My blood." The priest pronounces these words not in his own name but in the
name and person of Jesus Christ. Faith tells us that the reality of bread and
wine becomes the reality of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Faith tells us
that in this action, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is made present to us
for it is His body given up for us, and his blood poured out for us.
After the Words of Institution, the Eucharistic Prayer continues with a brief
remembrance of the events that brought us redemption in Christ. Another kind
of remembrance follows that links us to the universal Church through the pope
and our local bishop. Finally, the prayer remembers the dead who have gone
before us marked with the sign of faith.
The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with the Doxology or great word of praise.
Through Him and with Him and in Him, o God, Almighty Father, in the unity of
the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours forever and ever.
We respond with the Great Amen, our heartfelt affirmation of the praise of God
and indeed, of the whole Eucharistic prayer, which comes to a conclusion with
Fr. Cameli: The communion rite begins fittingly with the Lord's Prayer, the
prayer which Jesus Himself gave us and which is found in Chapter 6 of
Matthew's gospel. In that prayer, we ask God to give us this day our daily
bread. In fact, the Lord Himself will give us the bread of life, his own Body
and Blood in Holy Communion.
After praying for deliverance from evil and for the gift of peace, we are
invited to exchange the sign of peace. When we offer each other the sign of
peace, we prepare ourselves for that unity and communion that makes us one in
the Body of Christ, which we will shortly receive.
While we pray or sing the Triple Lamb of God, the priest breaks the
consecrated bread, symbolizing that we who are many are made one by receiving
communion from the one bread of life. The breaking of bread also symbolizes
the Body of Christ, broken for us, so that our sins can be forgiven, and we
can receive eternal life.
When the priest offers the Lord present in the Eucharist to us, behold the
Lamb of God, we respond by borrowing words from the Roman centurion found in
Chapter 8 of Matthew's gospel. We echo the centurion as we say, "Lord, I am
not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my
soul shall be healed."
As we come forward, the priest or minister holds the Eucharist before us and
says, "The Body of Christ." Our response is "Amen," which simply means, "It is
true. We believe."
After Holy Communion, there is some silent time to absorb the holy mysteries,
which we have just now celebrated. The Communion rite iteself concludes with
the Prayer After Communion, a prayer that sums up the experience of the
Eucharist and asks God to let its effects take hold of our lives.
The concluding rites of the mass include a Blessing that asks God, Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, to stay with us who have celebrated the holy mysteries of the
death and resurrection of the Lord. The Dismissal follows the Blessing. It is
an ascending rite that encourages us to bring what we have experienced in the
mass to the world. Go and announce the gospel of the Lord.
As we conclude our celebration of the Eucharist, we leave God's house. We
return to our world and day-to-day life because we have met the living Christ
in his Word and sacrament, we have been changed. Now we are responsible for
bringing Him into a world in need of its savior.