“The Eucharist is the most ordinary and divine gesture imaginable”
On the night before he died, Jesus gathered with his closest friends and followers in an upstairs room to celebrate the Passover.
He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body.’ Then he took a cup of wine, and in the same way offered it to them, saying, ”This is the cup of my blood.’
In this gift, he expressed the giving of himself on the cross, a sacrifice that he was soon to make. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ he said.
After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the followers of Jesus were characterised by this regular ‘Breaking of Bread.’ When they followed his command, they proclaimed his death and resurrection, received all the benefits of his sacrifice and experienced his presence in their lives.
‘The Eucharist,’ said Henri Nouwen, ‘is the most ordinary and divine gesture imaginable.’ Yes, we gather for a meal (what could be more ordinary?) during which we discover the presence of Jesus (what could be more divine?)
In the Eucharist, we really do make a meal of Christ’s love.
Mass is celebrated here each Sunday and daily through the week.
How holy is this feast in which Christ is our food. His passion is recalled, grace fills our hearts, and we receive a pledge of the glory to come.St Thomas Aquinas
The sacraments of Christian initiation include Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion. The Church in Wales teaches that all baptised Christians may receive Holy Communion. We offer preparation for children to receive their First Holy Communion, if parents choose this, and as well as providing preparation for Confirmation of those who are of catechetical age i.e. those who are old enough to be able to receive instruction in the Christian Faith.
Word and Sacrament
The Holy Eucharist is known by different names such as Holy Communion, the Breaking of Bread, the Lord’s Supper and the Mass.
Whilst it may be celebrated in many different ways and in different places, the content and structure of the Mass generally remains the same. There are two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Here, we look simply at each part of the Eucharist which we hope will help you to actively participate in and be drawn deeper in to the Mystery of the source and summit of the Christian life, the most important act of Christian worship. We begin with the preparatory rites as we gather as God’s People.
We gather in the Lord’s name and in his presence. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name,’ said Jesus, ‘I will be with them’ (Matthew 18:20).
At a Sung Mass, the opening song gives voice to the community of faith and raises our minds and hearts to worship.
The Sign of the Cross
All make the Sign of the Cross, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The priest greets the people and may introduce the theme of the celebration.
Gathered in God’s presence, we recognise our sinfulness and confess the mystery of Christ’s love.
This is one of the Church’s most ancient hymns. You may recognise the opening words, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth’ as the song of the angels when they announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:15).
It is a festive hymn and is sung on Sundays and major feasts (but not on Sundays during Advent or Lent).
Collect (Opening Prayer)
This prayer may expresses the character (or theme) of the celebration. It draws the ‘Preparatory Rites’ to a close and prepares all who are gathered to hear the word of God.
The Liturgy of the Word
In the Eucharist we retell and celebrate the story of salvation. The story is not simply a memoir or an historical account but something alive and real, to be experienced in the here and now.
We receive this story firstly through the Liturgy of the Word when the Word of God (the Bible) is announced, read and listened to attentively.
At Sunday Mass (and on major feast days) there are usually three readings: the first is from the Old Testament (although this may vary – for example, during the Easter season when it is from the New Testament). On a weekday, the First Reading can be from either the Old or New Testament.
We respond to what we have heard in God-given words by singing or reciting a Psalm together. The Psalms express the faith and feelings of God’s people over the centuries and were used by Christ himself as prayer.
On Sundays and major feasts, a second reading from the New Testament follows.
We rise (with an ‘Alleluia’ on our lips and in our hearts ) to welcome a reading from one of the four Gospels. During Lent the ‘Alleluia’ is replaced by an alternative acclamation.
In the Homily we receive a living explanation of God’s word. It helps us take the word to heart and apply it to our own lives.
Profession of Faith
On Sundays and Solemn Feasts, we respond and recite the statement of faith, using the words of the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. This is what we believe!
The Prayer of the Faithful
We respond to God’s word and look beyond our own needs to those of the whole church and the wider world by offering our prayers of Intercession.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
We acknowledge that Christ is present in our neighbour. We make our peace with one another before we present our gifts at the altar.
Presentation of the Gifts
We bring the gifts of bread and wine to the altar, together with financial offerings and other gifts for the sustenance of Christ’s Body, especially in the poor and needy. The table and food is then prepared.
The Eucharistic Prayer
This is the centre and summit of our entire celebration. The Eucharistic Prayer begins with a dialogue between priest and people, for this is a prayer of the whole assembly which the priest expresses on our behalf. We thank God for all he has done for us, especially through Jesus and his suffering, death and resurrection.
There are three particular parts of the prayer in which we respond with one voice, and the first of these is the Sanctus (‘Holy, holy, holy…’). We join our voice to that of all creation in giving glory to God. The words reflect the vision of Isaiah (6:3).
The priest says, ‘Send your Holy Spirit upon this bread and wine…’ It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that the bread and wine are consecrated and become the body and blood of Christ.
After the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, the priest invites us to ‘proclaim the mystery of faith.’
In this Memorial Acclamation we acclaim the central belief of the Christian faith: the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death, resurrection and his presence among us.
The Eucharistic Prayer concludes where it began by praising God. Finally we endorse the prayer with our ‘Amen!’
The Lord’s Prayer
The church is the Family of God. Jesus taught us to call God ‘Our Father’ and so, through the Holy Spirit, we are able raise our voices to God who provides for us and gives us all we need. The themes of ‘daily bread’ and ‘mutual forgiveness’ makes it particularly appropriate to use here.
‘Breaking of Bread’
This is a characteristic action of Jesus at the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Last Supper and the meals he shared with his disciples after his resurrection.
The action of ‘The Breaking of Bread’ was so central to the celebration of the Eucharist that it was how it was known from the days of the Apostles. It makes sharing, table fellowship and communion possible.
Invitation to Communion
We are invited to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We respond with confidence and humility. ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed.’
We make the procession to receive Holy Communion. During communion we maintain prayerful silence or a hymn may be sung.
Prayer after Communion
We rise to pray, thank God and asking that the spiritual effects of the Eucharist will bear fruit in our lives.
Blessing and Dismissal
The Priest declares the blessing of God who guides and protects us, and sends us away to love and serve the Lord in the midst of our daily lives.