Inside the Mass: Liturgy of the Eucharist (Part I)

The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

This weekend we begin to reflect on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When we talk of the Eucharist, it would be good to make a distinction. We can refer to the Eucharist either as sacrifice or as communion. The Eucharist as sacrifice is Holy Mass celebrated; it requires a priest. The Eucharist can therefore be understood as Holy Mass. Eucharist as communion is the consecrated host that is received either during Mass or taken to the sick. As it were, the Eucharist is a meal: a meal prepared (mass celebrated) and a meal eaten (communion). That said, we dive into our reflection on Part One of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist, as the second main part of the Mass is called, is the major part of the Mass after the Liturgy of the Word and ending before the Concluding Rite. The priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries out what the Lord himself did at the Last Supper and handed over to his disciples to be done in his memory. Christ took the bread and the chalice, gave thanks, broke and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat and drink: this is my Body; this is the chalice of my Blood. Do this in memory of me. Hence, the Church has arranged the entire celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in parts corresponding to precisely these words and actions of Christ, namely: At the Presentation of the Gifts, bread and wine with water are brought to the altar, the same elements, that is to say, which Christ took into his hands; in the Eucharistic Prayer, thanks is given to God for the whole work of salvation, and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Christ; through the breaking of the Bread and through Communion, we receive from the Lord’s Body and the Lord’s Blood in the same way that the Apostles received them from the hands of Christ himself. The Liturgy of the Eucharist consists of three sections: the Preparation of the Gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Communion. We might describe these as setting the table for the meal, saying the blessing, and sharing the meal together. More detailly, the Liturgy of the Eucharist includes: Presentation of the Gifts and Preparation of the Altar, Prayer over the Offerings, Eucharistic Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, Sign of Peace, Lamb of God, Communion and Prayer after Communion.

Presentation of the Gifts and Preparation of the Altar

The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the gifts and the altar. The Preparation of the Gifts has rich symbolic meaning. Here the bread and wine and our monetary donations serve as symbols of our gifts and of ourselves. The collection gathered for the needs of the Church and the poor speaks of our willingness to follow the Lord in caring for those in need. It also reminds us that all that we have, not just the portion that we put in the basket, belongs to God. The donations we make symbolize all that we have and ultimately all that we are. Our giving symbolizes our commitment to give our whole lives to God and to use all the gifts God has given us according to God’s will. As the servers prepare the altar, representatives of the assembly bring forward the bread and wine that will become the Body and Blood of Christ. The presentation of the bread and wine (the gifts) from the assembly reminds us that we are all involved in this act of worship, presider and assembly together. The celebrant blesses and praises God for these gifts and places them on the altar. Just as the gifts and the altar are prepared, so we prepare ourselves to enter into the great blessing prayer and the meal that is to follow.

Peace be with you!

Fr. Augustin