The Structure of the Mass

The Mass is divided between two essential parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  (Formerly, the first part of the Mass was labeled the Mass of Catechumens given that the early Church would allow inquirers to be fed by the Word but not by the great mystery of the Eucharist. These potential converts were dismissed at the time of the offertory.)  There are a number of parishes that follow this pattern today, with the candidates and catechumens departing for continued instruction and prayer.  It is suspected that the reservation of the second half of the liturgy to baptized believers, once called the Mass of the Faithful, was why many who opposed the Church made up all sorts of horrendous stories about what Christians did at Mass, including allegations of cannibalism.  Those not initiated, as well as those who had excommunicated themselves through grievous sin, were cast out and could not take Holy Communion.

While we have newer Eucharistic prayers today, the Roman rite consists in a consistent outline of the Mass parts and certain essential prayers in the canon, regardless of the exact oration selected. 

Introductory Rites

  • Introit (Entrance  Antiphon /Hymn) & Kissing Altar
  • Sign of the Cross & Greeting
  • Confiteor & Kyrie Eleison & Absolution
  • Gloria (Glory to God)
  • Collect (Opening Prayer)

Liturgy of the Word

  • Reading(s)
  • Responsorial Psalm
  • Alleluia or Gospel Verse
  • Gospel
  • Homily
  • Creed (Profession of Faith)
  • Prayer of the Faithful

Preparation of the Gifts (Offertory)

  • Bringing Up the Offertory Gifts
  • Blessing of the Bread
  • Mixing Water into the Wine
  • Blessing of the Chalice
  • The Lavabo (The Washing)
  • The Orate Fratres (Pray Brethren)
  • Prayer over the Gifts

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  • Introductory Dialogue & Preface
  • Sanctus & Benedictus
  • Appeal to the Father or Plea for Acceptance
  • Epiclesis (Invocation of the Holy Spirit)
  • Consecration (Words of Institution)
  • Memorial Acclamation
  • Anamnesis (Memorial Prayer)
  • Oblation to the Father
  • Intercession of the Saints
  • Intercession for the Church & the Living
  • Intercession for the Dead
  • Closing Doxology & Amen

Rite of Holy Communion

  • Our Father, Deliver Us Prayer & Doxology
  • Sign of Peace
  • Fraction & Commingling
  • Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)
  • Secret Prayer for Priestly Worthiness
  • Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the Lamb of God)
  • Communion & Antiphon (Hymn)
  • Prayer after Communion

Concluding Rites

  • Final Blessing
  • Dismissal

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
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