Mass in the Catholic Church

A 15th-century Mass

The Mass or Eucharistic Celebration is the central liturgical ritual in the Catholic Church where the Eucharistic bread (Communion) is consecrated.[1] The church describes the Mass as "the source and summit of the Christian life".[2] It teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The Catholic Church practises closed communion, with only baptised members in a state of grace permitted to receive the Eucharist.[3]

Many of the Catholic Church's other sacraments are celebrated in the framework of the Eucharist. The term "Mass" is generally used within the Latin Church's celebrations of the Eucharist, while the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the various Eastern Catholic Churches use terms such as "Divine Liturgy", "Holy Qurbana", and "Badarak",[4] in accordance with each one's tradition.

The term "Mass" is derived from the concluding words of the Roman Rite Mass in Latin: "Ite, missa est" ("Go; it is the dismissal"). The Late Latin word missa substantively corresponds to the classical Latin word missio.[5] In antiquity, missa simply meant "dismissal". In Christian usage, however, it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word "dismissal" has come to imply a mission.[6]

The Roman Rite Mass is the predominant form used in the Catholic Church and the focus of this article. For information on the theology of the Eucharist and on the Eucharistic liturgy of other Christian denominations, see "Mass (liturgy)", "Eucharist" and "Eucharistic theology". For information on the history and of development of the Mass see Eucharist and Origin of the Eucharist.

Roman Rite Mass

Depiction of the first Mass in Chile, by Pedro Subercaseaux

The following description of the celebration of Mass is limited to the current Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, conducted using the local vernacular language and customs. This version was introduced in 1969 following calls for liturgical reforms by the bishops participating in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) based on new historical perspectives and biblical studies, and has become the most common form used. This version was introduced to succeed the Tridentine Mass, celebrated in Latin and dating to the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent (1545–46). The Tridentine Mass, as revised in 1962, is still permitted for use as an Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Other historical and minor contemporary Latin Rite Masses have been used in different regions of the world, as well the Eastern Christian forms known as the Divine Liturgy.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC or Catechism) produced in 1994 discusses the importance of the Mass in the Catholic tradition based on the whole history of the Mass and the understanding of it to that time. The United States Catholic Conference edition of the Catechism prefers to call the Mass the “Eucharistic Celebration,” after its roots in the celebrational Last Supper. Under this topic in the Subject Index it lists as principal subtopics: commanded by Christ; center of the Church’s life; memorial celebration; in the Church from the beginning; participation as Church precept; structure and movement.[7]

Liturgical Texts

The Roman Missal contains the prayers, antiphons and rubrics of the Mass. Earlier editions also contained the Scripture readings, which were then fewer in number. The latest edition of the Roman Missal contains the normal ("ordinary") form of Mass in the Roman Rite[8] and the 1962 edition the Tridentine Mass which, according to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, may be celebrated as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

The Lectionary presents passages from the Bible arranged in the order for reading at each day's Mass. Compared with the scripture readings in the pre-1970 Missal, the modern Lectionary contains a much wider variety of passages, too many to include in the Missal. A Book of the Gospels, also called the Evangeliary,[9] is recommended for the reading from the Gospels, but where this book is not available the Lectionary is used in its place.

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