Thursday, June 25, 2009


Before we continue just a quick clarification to a good point that Samantha pointed out yesterday. She stated, “while it is true that the validity or essence of the sacrifice of the Mass is not impacted by which priest is presiding or his level of holiness, it does matter in terms of the guidance and potentially additional graces available to the lay faithful in attendance. Example, Holy priests who preside with genuine reverence aid the faithful by example in also participating with true reverence.” This is true and thank you for pointing that out. But the attempted point was that when you do not have a choice in the matter of the celebrant and the a particular priest does not work for you or you think him not holy enough, take comfort in that the Jesus you hear proclaimed and the Jesus you receive in the sacrament is just as valid. There is some comfort in that.

Turning the page in the Sacramentary in the RC we sum up, “Accept this sacrifice from your whole family,” and then inform Him (and us) what we want for all of us: Peace in this life, protection from final damnation, and being numbered among the chosen. This is our wish for all the living.

The next part is called the Epiclesis. You can recognize it in all of the Eucharistic Prayers by the priest extending his hands flat over the bread and wine. In many parishes this is also accompanied by a single ringing of the Sanctus Bells. This marks the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts which we ask God to approve and make acceptable our offering which we ask to become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.

Now begins the Institution Narrative – the particular instructions left for us by our Savior. Please note once again that it is the Father that is being addressed (not us!) just as Jesus addressed the Father when He said these words first 2,000 years ago. The celebrant takes the bread in his hands and even though the narrative says, “He broke the bread,” we do not break it at this point! We are NOT putting on a play nor are we making a new sacrifice. The rite of breaking the bread comes later. Now we are concerned with having Jesus becoming present in this significant way. As the bread and wine is consecrated and becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus the celebrant genuflects in adoration which is often accompanied by the ringing of bells. The congregation likewise is given a moment of adoration of God made present on our altars.

Notice we say, “Do this in memory of me.” Some people make the claim that Jesus wanted us to do this for some symbolic reason in much the same way we might use a blanket or some such thing to remember our late grandmother. It calls her to mind and reminds us of her kindness or what have you. This is a very logical assumption but wrong. One has to use the terminology the way Jesus intended it.

The Jewish people at Passover also celebrate “in memory.” But in celebrating they don’t celebrate a new Passover but by celebrating it become present at THE Passover and thereby become the Chosen People. (If I have any Jewish readers I hope that I explained that in an adequate fashion and if not please clarify.) In any event, that is what WE mean. We become part of the original sacrifice.

Jesus is now present on our altar in this most privileged way, we acknowledged the fact, had our first opportunity at worship and now (usually) sing of this wonderful mystery (by way of example) “Lord, by Your cross and resurrection You have set us free! YOU ARE THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD!”


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Father, for explaining why the celebrant doesn't break the bread when saying the words of consecration ("He broke the bread . . . ."). Thanks also for this series.

Anonymous said...

Father, I was wondering why the use of bells during the Epiclesis and Consecration seems to vary among parishes. Is it up to the discretion of the priest or should bells be used at all Masses? No need to answer immediately, but if you could sometime in the future, that would be great.