What Makes Up the Mass?

The mass is made up of two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

When you enter a church before mass, you dip your finger into the font (a bowl by the door or the end of the aisle filled with holy water) and make the Sign of the Cross with your hand.

The Sign of the Cross is a gesture (and a prayer) where you use your right hand to touch the forehead, then the middle of the breast, then the left shoulder and finally the right shoulder while saying, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."(Eastern Catholics say the same thing but they go to their right shoulder first and then to their left.)

Once you find where you are going to sit, you genuflect facing the altar before moving into the pew. To genuflect, you touch your right knee to the floor while bending the left and making the sign of the cross. Genuflecting is a form of respect and it is only done in front of the Holy Eucharist, because the Holy Eucharist is the real body and blood of Jesus Christ. When one enters mass, the Eucharist is in a large metal tabernacle somewhere on the altar.

Before the Liturgy of the Word, the priest opens up with a greeting (the Introductory Rite) which is typically the sign of the cross. The people respond, "Amen."

After, the priest may say "The Lord be with you," or, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God," or, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

In response, people say, "And with your spirit." The phrase comes from Galatians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 4:22.

Following the greeting is the Penitential Act, a public acknowledgment that everyone is a sinner and has sinned to some degree during the week. It doesn't replace the Sacrament of Reconciliation and it doesn't count as going to confession. It starts with everyone saying the Confiteor:

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Mary, Angels and Saints?

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

What do Mary, the Angels, the Saints, you and I have in common? We make up the Communion of Saints! The Church teaches that those who have passed and are in either Purgatory or Heaven are present at mass with you and I. They can hear our prayers and pray for us!

Whether the Confiteor is said, the Kyrie is also said as part of the Penitential Act. Kyrie is Greek for "Lord," as in, "Kyrie eleison" or "Lord have mercy."

The Kyrie expresses public guilt and shame for any sins against God because committing sin is also an offense to the faith community. People say in unsion, "Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord, have mercy."

Depending on the liturgical season or the church, you may hear it said in Greek! "Kyrie eleison; Christe, eleison; Kyrie elesion."

Following the Penitential Act, the Gloria is sometimes said. The Gloria is only said on Sundays (Excluding Sundays during Advent and Lent), holy days and at all solemnities and feasts. It is either recited or sung. It begins with the words said in Luke 2:14, "Glory to God in the highest." 

The Gloria:

Glory to God in the highest.
and peace to God's people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,

almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks;
we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The last part, before the first main portion of the mass, is the Opening Prayer (Collect pronounced as COLL-ect) which sets the tone for the liturgical act of divine worship.

It reminds the congregation that adoration of God is directed to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.

Every Sunday, holy day and feast day (honoring a saint) has its own prayers and readings depending on the time of year or the feast day being celebrated.

Throughout the introductory part, everyone is standing.

Whew! Sounds like a lot, right? That all happens in the first ten minutes, give or take.

Now it's time for Mass to start!

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