STRUCTURE, ELEMENTS, AND PARTS OF THE MASS
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7. At Mass or the Lord's Supper, the people of God are called
together, with a priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ,
to celebrate the memorial of the Lord or eucharistic sacrifice.
For this reason Christ's promise applies supremely to such a local
gathering together of the Church: "Where two or three come together
in my name, there am I in their midst" (Mt. 18:20). For at the
celebration of Mass, which perpetuates the sacrifice of the
cross, Christ is really present to the assembly gathered in his
name; he is present in the person of the minister, in his own word,
and indeed substantially and permanently under the eucharistic
8. The Mass is made up as it were of the liturgy of the word and the
liturgy of the eucharist, two parts so closely connected that they
form but one single act of worship. For in the Mass the table of
God's word and of Christ's body is laid for the people of God to
receive from it instruction and food. There are also certain
rites to open and conclude the celebration.
READING AND EXPLAINING THE WORD OF GOD
9. When the Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself is
speaking to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, is
proclaiming the Gospel.
The readings must therefore be listened to by all with reverence;
they make up a principal element of the liturgy. In the biblical
readings God's word addresses all people of every era and is
understandable to them, but a living commentary on the word, that is,
the homily, as an integral part of the liturgy, increases the word's
PRAYERS AND OTHER PARTS ASSIGNED TO THE PRIEST
10. Among the parts assigned to the priest, the eucharistic prayer is
preeminent; it is the high point of the entire celebration. Next are
the prayers: the opening prayer or collect, the prayer over the
gifts, and the prayer after communion. The priest, presiding over the
assembly in the person of Christ, addresses these prayers to God in
the name of the entire holy people and all present. Thus there is
good reason to call them "the presidential prayers."
11. It is also up to the priest in the exercise of his office of
presiding over the assembly to pronounce the instructions and words
of introduction and conclusion that are provided in the rites
themselves. By their very nature these introductions do not need to
be expressed verbatim in the form in which they are given in the
Missal; at least in certain cases it will be advisable to adapt them
somewhat to the concrete situation of the community. It also
belongs to the priest presiding to proclaim the word of God and to
give the final blessing. He may give the faithful a very brief
introduction to the Mass of the day (before the celebration begins),
to the liturgy of the word (before the readings), and to the
eucharistic prayer (before the preface); he may also make comments
concluding the entire sacred service before the dismissal.
12. The nature of the presidential prayers demands that they be
spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone present listen
with attention. While the priest is reciting them there should be
no other prayer and the organ or other instruments should not be
13. But the priest does not only pray in the name of the whole
community as its president; he also prays at times in his own name
that he may exercise his ministry with attention and devotion. Such
prayers are said inaudibly.
OTHER TEXTS IN THE CELEBRATION
14. Since by nature the celebration of Mass has the character of
being the act of a community, both the dialogues between
celebrant and congregation and the acclamations take on special
value; they are not simply outward signs of the community's
celebration, but the means of greater communion between priest and
15. The acclamations and the responses to the priest's greeting and
prayers create a degree of the active participation that the gathered
faithful must contribute in every form of the Mass, in order to
express clearly and to further the entire community's
16. There are other parts, extremely useful for expressing and
encouraging the people's active participation, that are assigned to
the whole congregation: the penitential rite, the profession of
faith, the general intercessions, and the Lord's Prayer.
17. Finally, of the other texts:
a. Some constitute an independent rite or act, such as the <Gloria>,
the responsorial psalm, the <Alleluia> verse and the verse before the
gospel, the <Sanctus>, the memorial acclamation, and the song after
b. Others accompany another rite, such as the songs at the entrance,
at the preparation of the gifts, at the breaking of the bread (<Agnus
Dei>), and at communion.
VOCAL EXPRESSION OF THE DIFFERENT TEXTS
18. In texts that are to be delivered in a clear, loud voice, whether
by the priest or by the ministers or by all, the tone of voice should
correspond to the genre of the text, that is, accordingly as it is a
reading, a prayer, an instruction, an acclamation, or a song; the
tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the
solemnity of the gathering. Other criteria are the idiom of different
languages and the genius of peoples.
In the rubrics and in the norms that follow, the words <say>
(<dicere>) or <proclaim> (<proferre>) are to be understood of both
singing and speaking, and in accordance with the principles just
IMPORTANCE OF SINGING
19. The faithful who gather together to await the Lord's coming are
instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing psalms, hymns, and inspired
songs (see Col 3:16). Song is the sign of the heart's joy (see
Acts 2:46). Thus St. Augustine says rightly: "To sing belongs to
lovers." There is also the ancient proverb: "One who sings well
With due consideration for the culture and ability of each
congregation, great importance should be attached to the use of
singing at Mass; but it is not always necessary to sing all the texts
that are of themselves meant to be sung.
In choosing the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should
be given to those that are more significant and especially to those
to be sung by the priest or ministers with the congregation
responding or by the priest and people together.
Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more
frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing at least some
parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the profession
of faith and the Lord's Prayer, set to simple melodies.
MOVEMENTS AND POSTURES
20. The uniformity in standing, kneeling, or sitting to be observed
by all taking part is a sign of the community and the unity of the
assembly; it both expresses and fosters the spiritual attitude of
those taking part.
21. For the sake of uniformity in movement and posture, the people
should follow the directions given during the celebration by the
deacon, the priest, or another minister. Unless other provision is
made, at every Mass the people should stand from the beginning of the
entrance song or when the priest enters until the end of the opening
prayer or collect; for the singing of the Alleluia before the gospel;
while the gospel is proclaimed; during the profession of faith and
the general intercessions; from the prayer over the gifts to the end
of the Mass, except at the places indicated later in this paragraph.
They should sit during the readings before the gospel and during the
responsorial psalm, for the homily and the presentation of the gifts,
and, if this seems helpful, during the period of silence after
communion. They should kneel at the consecration unless prevented by
the lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good
But it is up to the conference of bishops to adapt the actions and
postures described in the Order of the Roman Mass to the customs of
the people. But the conference must make sure that such
adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of
22. Included among the external actions of the Mass are those of the
priest going to the altar, of the faithful presenting the gifts, and
their coming forward to receive communion. While the songs proper to
these movements are being sung, they should be carried out becomingly
in keeping with the norms prescribed for each.
23. Silence should be observed at the designated times as part of the
celebration. Its function depends on the time it occurs in each
part of the celebration. Thus at the penitential rite and again after
the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; at the conclusion
of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what has been
heard; after communion, all praise God in silent prayer.
A. Introductory Rites
24. The parts preceding the liturgy of the word, namely, the entrance
song, greeting, penitential rite, <Kyrie>, <Gloria>, and opening
prayer or collect, have the character of a beginning, introduction,
The purpose of these rites is that the faithful coming together take
on the form of a community and prepare themselves to listen to God's
word and celebrate the eucharist properly.
25. After the people have assembled, the entrance song begins as the
priest and the ministers come in. The purpose of this song is to open
the celebration, intensify the unity of the gathered people, lead
their thoughts to the mystery of the season or feast, and accompany
the procession of priest and ministers.
26. The entrance song is sung alternately either by the choir and the
congregation or by the cantor and the congregation; or it is sung
entirely by the congregation or by the choir alone. The antiphon and
psalm of the <Graduale Romanum> or <The Simple Gradual> may be used,
or another song that is suited to this part of the Mass, the day, or
the seasons and that has a text approved by the conference of
If there is no singing for the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal
is recited either by the faithful, by some of them, or by a reader;
otherwise it is recited by the priest after the greeting.
VENERATION OF THE ALTAR AND GREETING OF THE
27. When the priest and the ministers enter the sanctuary, they
reverence the altar. As a sign of veneration, the priest and deacon
kiss the altar; when the occasion warrants, the priest may also
incense the altar.
28. After the entrance song, the priest and the whole assembly make
the sign of the cross. Then through his greeting the priest declares
to the assembled community that the Lord is present. This greeting
and the congregation's response express the mystery of the gathered
29. After greeting the congregation, the priest or other qualified
minister may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the
day. Then the priest invites them to take part in the penitential
rite, which the entire community carries out through a communal
confession and which the priest's absolution brings to an end.
30. Then the <Kyrie> begins, unless it has already been included as
part of the penitential rite. Since it is a song by which the
faithful praise the Lord and implore his mercy, it is ordinarily
prayed by all, that is, alternately by the congregation and the choir
As a rule each of the acclamations is said twice, but, because of the
idiom of different languages, the music, or other circumstances, it
may be said more than twice or a short verse (trope) may be
interpolated. If the <Kyrie> is not sung, it is to be recited.
31. The <Gloria> is an ancient hymn in which the Church, assembled in
the Holy Spirit, praises and entreats the Father and the Lamb. It is
sung by the congregation, or by the congregation alternately with the
choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either
by all together or in alternation.
The <Gloria> is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, on
solemnities and feasts, and in special, more solemn celebrations.
OPENING PRAYER OR COLLECT
32. Next the priest invites the people to pray and together with him
they observe a brief silence so that they may realize they are in
God's presence and may call their petitions to mind. The priest then
says the opening prayer, which custom has named the "collect." This
expresses the theme of the celebration and the priest's words address
a petition to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.
The people make the prayer their own and give their assent by the
In the Mass only one opening prayer is said; this rule applies also
to the prayer over the gifts and the prayer after communion.
The opening prayer ends with the longer conclusion, namely:
-if the prayer is directed to the Father: <We ask this (Grant this)
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever>;
-if it is directed to the Father, but the Son is mentioned at the
end: <Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever>;
-if directed to the Son: <You live and reign with the Father and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever>.
The prayer over the gifts and the prayer after communion end with the
shorter conclusion, namely:
-if the prayer is directed to the Father: <We ask this (Grant this)
through Christ our Lord>;
-if it is directed to the Father, but the Son is mentioned at the
end: <Who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever>;
-if it is directed to the Son: <You live and reign for ever and
B. Liturgy of the Word
33. Readings from Scripture and the chants between the readings form
the main part of the liturgy of the word. The homily, profession of
faith, and general intercessions or prayer of the faithful expand and
complete this part of the Mass. In the readings, explained by the
homily, God is speaking to his people, opening up to them the
mystery of redemption and salvation, and nourishing their spirit;
Christ is present to the faithful through his own word. Through
the chants the people make God's word their own and through the
profession of faith affirm their adherence to it. Finally, having
been fed by this word, they make their petitions in the general
intercessions for the needs of the Church and for the salvation of
the whole world.
34. The readings lay the table of God's word for the faithful and
open up the riches of the Bible to them. Since by tradition the
reading of the Scriptures is a ministerial, not a presidential
function, it is proper that as a rule a deacon or, in his absence, a
priest other than the one presiding read the gospel. A reader
proclaims the other readings. In the absence of a deacon or another
priest, the celebrant reads the gospel.
35. The liturgy itself inculcates the great reverence to be shown
toward the reading of the gospel, setting it off from the other
readings by special marks of honor. A special minister is appointed
to proclaim it and prepares himself by a blessing or prayer. The
people, who by their acclamations acknowledge and confess Christ
present and speaking to them, stand as they listen to it. Marks of
reverence are given to the Book of the Gospels itself.
CHANTS BETWEEN THE READINGS
36. After the first reading comes the responsorial psalm or gradual,
an integral part of the liturgy of the word. The psalm as a rule is
drawn from the Lectionary because the individual psalm texts are
directly connected with the individual readings: the choice of psalm
depends therefore on the readings. Nevertheless, in order that the
people may be able to join in the responsorial psalm more readily,
some texts of responses and psalms have been chosen, according to the
different seasons of the year and classes of saints, for optional
use, whenever the psalm is sung, in place of the text corresponding
to the reading.
The psalmist or cantor of the psalm sings the verses of the psalm at
the lectern or other suitable place. The people remain seated and
listen, but also as a rule take part by singing the response, except
when the psalm is sung straight through without the response.
The psalm when sung may be either the psalm assigned in the
Lectionary or the gradual from the <Graduale Romanum> or the
responsorial psalm or the psalm with <Alleluia> as the response from
The <Simple Gradual> in the form they have in those books.
37. As the season requires, the <Alleluia> or another chant follows
the second reading.
a. The <Alleluia> is sung in every season outside Lent. It is begun
either by all present or by the choir or cantor; it may then be
repeated. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the <Graduale>.
b. The other chant consists of the verse before the gospel or another
psalm or tract, as found in the Lectionary or the <Graduale>.
38. When there is only one reading before the gospel:
a. during a season calling for the <Alleluia>, there is an option to
use either the psalm with <Alleluia> as the response, or the
responsorial psalm and the <Alleluia> with its verse, or just the
psalm, or just the <Alleluia>;
b. during the season when the <Alleluia> is not allowed, either the
responsorial psalm or the verse before the gospel may be used.
39. If the psalm after the reading is not sung, it is to be recited.
If not sung, the <Alleluia> or the verse before the gospel may be
40. Sequences are optional, except on Easter Sunday and Pentecost.
41. The homily is an integral part of the liturgy and is strongly
recommended: it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian
life. It should develop some point of the readings or of another text
from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day, and take
into account the mystery being celebrated and the needs proper to the
42. There must be a homily on Sundays and holydays of obligation at
all Masses that are celebrated with a congregation. It is recommended
on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and the
Easter season, as well as on other feasts and occasions when the
people come to church in large numbers.
The homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant.
PROFESSION OF FAITH
43. The symbol or profession of faith in the celebration of Mass
serves as a way for the people to respond and to give their assent to
the word of God heard in the readings and through the homily and for
them to call to mind the truths of faith before thy begin to
celebrate the eucharist.
44. Recitation of the profession of faith by the priest together with
the people is obligatory on Sundays and solemnities. It maybe said
also at special, more solemn celebrations.
If it is sung, as a rule all are to sing it together or in
45. In the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful, the
people, exercising their priestly function, intercede for all
humanity. It is appropriate that this prayer be included in all
Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be
offered for the Church, for civil authorities, for those oppressed by
various needs, for all people, and for the salvation of the
46. As a rule the sequence of intentions is to be:
a. for the needs of the Church;
b. for public authorities and the salvation of the world;
c. for those oppressed by any need;
d. for the local community.
In particular celebrations, such as confirmations, marriages,
funerals, etc., the series of intercessions may refer more
specifically to the occasion.
47. It belongs to the priest celebrant to direct the general
intercessions, by means of a brief introduction to invite the
congregation to pray, and after the intercessions to say the
concluding prayer. It is desirable that a deacon, cantor, or other
person announce the intentions. The whole assembly gives
expression to its supplication either by a response said together
after each intention or by silent prayer.
C. Liturgy of the Eucharist
48. At the last supper Christ instituted the sacrifice and paschal
meal that make the sacrifice of the cross to be continuously present
in the Church, when the priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries
out what the Lord did and handed over to his disciples to do in his
Christ took the bread and the cup and gave thanks; he broke the bread
and gave it to his disciples, saying: "Take and eat, this is my
body." Giving the cup, he said: "Take and drink, this is the cup of
my blood. Do this in memory of me." Accordingly, the Church has
planned the celebration of the eucharistic liturgy around the parts
corresponding to these words and actions of Christ:
1. In the preparation of the gifts, the bread and the wine with water
are brought to the altar, that is, the same elements that Christ
2. In the eucharistic prayer thanks is given to God for the whole
work of salvation and the gifts of bread and wine become the body and
blood of Christ.
3. Through the breaking of the one bread the unity of the faithful is
expressed and through communion they receive the Lord's body and
blood in the same way the apostles received them from Christ's own
PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS
49. At the beginning of the liturgy of the eucharist the gifts, which
will become Christ's body and blood, are brought to the altar.
First the altar, the Lord's table, which is the center of the whole
eucharistic liturgy, is prepared: the corporal, purificator,
missal, and chalice are placed on it (unless the chalice is prepared
at a side table).
The gifts are then brought forward. It is desirable for the faithful
to present the bread and wine, which are accepted by the priest or
deacon at a convenient place. The gifts are placed on the altar to
the accompaniment of the prescribed texts. Even though the faithful
no longer, as in the past, bring the bread and wine for the liturgy
from their homes, the rite of carrying up the gifts retains the same
spiritual value and meaning.
This is also the time to receive money or other gifts for the church
or the poor brought by the faithful or collected at the Mass. These
are to be put in a suitable place but not on the altar.
50. The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the
presentation song, which continues at least until the gifts have been
placed on the altar. The rules for this song are the same as those
for the entrance song (no. 26). If it is not sung, the presentation
antiphon is omitted.
51. The gifts on the altar and the altar itself may be incensed. This
is a symbol of the Church's offering and prayer going up to God.
Afterward the deacon or other minister may incense the priest and the
52. The priest then washes his hands as an expression of his desire
to be cleansed within.
53. Once the gifts have been placed on the altar and the accompanying
rites completed, the preparation of the gifts comes to an end through
the invitation to pray with the priest and the prayer over the gifts,
which are a preparation for the eucharistic prayer.
54. Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: the
eucharistic prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The
priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord in
prayer and thanks; he unites them with himself in the prayer he
addresses in their name to the Father through Jesus Christ. The
meaning of the prayer is that the entire congregation joins itself to
Christ in acknowledging the great things God has done and in offering
55. The chief elements making up the eucharistic prayer are these:
a. Thanksgiving (expressed especially in the preface): in the name of
the entire people of God, the priest praises the Father and gives
thanks to him for the whole work of salvation or for some special
aspect of it that corresponds to the day, feast, or season.
b. Acclamation: joining with the angels, the congregation sings or
recites the <Sanctus> This acclamation is an intrinsic part of the
eucharistic prayer and all the people join with the priest in singing
or reciting it.
c. Epiclesis: in special invocations the Church calls on God's power
and asks that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that
is, become Christ's body and blood, and that the victim to be
received in communion be the source of salvation for those who will
d. Institution narrative and consecration: in the words and actions
of Christ, that sacrifice is celebrated which he himself instituted
at the Last Supper, when, under the appearances of bread and wine, he
offered his body and blood, gave them to his apostles to eat and
drink, then commanded that they carry on this mystery.
e. Anamnesis: in fulfillment of the command received from Christ
through the apostles, the Church keeps his memorial by recalling
especially his passion, resurrection, and ascension.
f. Offering: in this memorial, the Church-and in particular the
Church here and now assembled-offers the spotless victim to the
Father in the Holy Spirit. The Church's intention is that the
faithful not only offer this victim but also learn to offer
themselves and so to surrender themselves, through Christ the
Mediator, to an ever more complete union with the Father and with
each other, so that at last God may be all in all.
g. Intercessions: the intercessions make it clear that the eucharist
is celebrated in communion with the entire Church of heaven and earth
and that the offering is made for the Church and all its members,
living and dead, who are called to share in the salvation and
redemption purchased by Christ's body and blood.
h. Final doxology: the praise of God is expressed in the doxology, to
which the people's acclamation is an assent and a conclusion.
The eucharistic prayer calls for all to listen in silent reverence,
but also to take part through the acclamations for which the rite
56. Since the eucharistic celebration is the paschal meal, it is
right that the faithful who are properly disposed receive the Lord's
body and blood as spiritual food as he commanded. This is the
purpose of the breaking of bread and the other preparatory rites that
lead directly to the communion of the people:
a. Lord's Prayer: this is a petition both for daily food, which for
Christians means also the eucharistic bread, and for the forgiveness
of sin, so that what is holy may be given to those who are holy. The
priest offers the invitation to pray, but all the faithful say the
prayer with him; he alone adds the embolism, <Deliver us>, which the
people conclude with a doxology. The embolism, developing the last
petition of the Lord's Prayer, begs on behalf of the entire community
of the faithful deliverance from the power of evil. The invitation,
the prayer itself, the embolism, and the people's doxology are sung
or are recited aloud.
b. Rite of peace: before they share in the same bread, the faithful
implore peace and unity for the Church and for the whole human family
and offer some sign of their love for one another.
The form the sign of peace should take is left to the conference of
bishops to determine, in accord with the culture and customs of the
c. Breaking of the bread: in apostolic times this gesture of Christ
at the last supper gave the entire eucharistic action its name. This
rite is not simply functional, but is a sign that in sharing in the
one bread of life which is Christ we who are many are made one body
(see 1 Cor 10:17).
d. Commingling: the celebrant drops a part of the host into the
e. <Agnus Dei>: during the breaking of the bread and the commingling,
the <Agnus Dei> is as a rule sung by the choir or cantor with the
congregation responding; otherwise it is recited aloud. This
invocation may be repeated as often as necessary to accompany the
breaking of the bread. The final reprise concludes with the words,
<grant us peace>.
f. Personal preparation of the priest: the priest prepares himself by
the prayer, said softly, that he may receive Christ's body and blood
to good effect. The faithful do the same by silent prayer.
g The priest then shows the eucharistic bread for communion to the
faithful and with them recites the prayer of humility in words from
h. It is most desirable that the faithful receive the Lord's body
from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the instances
when it is permitted, they share in the chalice. Then even through
the signs communion will stand out more clearly as a sharing in the
sacrifice actually being celebrated.
i. During the priest's and the faithful's reception of the sacrament
the communion song is sung. Its function is to express outwardly the
communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices,
to give evidence of joy of heart, and to make the procession to
receive Christ's body more fully an act of community. The song begins
when the priest takes communion and continues for as long as seems
appropriate while the faithful receive Christ's body. But the
communion song should be ended in good time whenever there is to be a
hymn after communion.
An antiphon from the <Graduale Romanum> may also be used, with or
without the psalm, or an antiphon with psalm from <The Simple
Gradual> or another suitable song approved by the conference of
bishops. It is sung by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with
If there is no singing, the communion antiphon in the Missal is
recited either by the people, by some of them, or by a reader.
Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received communion
and before he gives communion to the faithful.
j. After communion, the priest and people may spend some time in
silent prayer. If desired, a hymn, psalm, or other song of praise may
be sung by the entire congregation.
k. In the prayer after communion, the priest petitions for the
effects of the mystery just celebrated and by their acclamation,
Amen, the people make the prayer their own.
D. Concluding Rite
57. The concluding rite consists of:
a. the priest's greeting and blessing, which on certain days and
occasions is expanded and expressed in the prayer over the people or
another more solemn formulary;
b. the dismissal of the assembly, which sends each member back to
doing good works, while praising and blessing the Lord.
Courtesy of Meeting Christ in the Liturgy E-zine: Weekly reflections on the Scriptures of the
sacred Liturgy and the Catechism of the Catholic Church