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Catechism of the Catholic Church
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IV. The Liturgical Celebration of the Eucharist
The Mass of all ages
1345 As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
On the day we call the day of
the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which
has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day. It displays
two great parts that form a fundamental unity:
1347 Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table "he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them."172
The movement of the celebration
1348 All gather together. Christians come together in one place for the Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ himself, the principal agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration. It is in representing him that the bishop or priest acting in the person of Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides over the assembly, speaks after the readings, receives the offerings, and says the Eucharistic Prayer. All have their own active parts to play in the celebration, each in his own way: readers, those who bring up the offerings, those who give communion, and the whole people whose "Amen" manifests their participation.
1349 The Liturgy of the Word includes "the writings of the prophets," that is, the Old Testament, and "the memoirs of the apostles" (their letters and the Gospels). After the homily, which is an exhortation to accept this Word as what it truly is, the Word of God,173 and to put it into practice, come the intercessions for all men, according to the Apostle's words: "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and all who are in high positions."174
1350 The presentation of the offerings (the Offertory). Then, sometimes in procession, the bread and wine are brought to the altar; they will be offered by the priest in the name of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which they will become his body and blood. It is the very action of Christ at the Last Supper - "taking the bread and a cup." "The Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, when she offers what comes forth from his creation with thanksgiving."175 The presentation of the offerings at the altar takes up the gesture of Melchizedek and commits the Creator's gifts into the hands of Christ who, in his sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices.
1351 From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich:176
Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need.177
In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. the whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God.
epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of
his blessing178) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may
become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in
the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put
the epiclesis after the anamnesis).
anamnesis that follows, the Church calls to mind the Passion, resurrection, and
glorious return of Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his
Son which reconciles us with him.
1355 In the communion, preceded by the Lord's prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive "the bread of heaven" and "the cup of salvation," the body and blood of Christ who offered himself "for the life of the world":179
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist ("eucharisted," according to an ancient expression), "we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught."180
169 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 65-67: PG 6, 428-429; the text before the
asterisk (*) is from chap. 67.
170 SC 56.
171 Cf. DV 21.
172 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.
173 Cf. 1 Thess 2:13.
174 1 Tim 2:1-2.
175 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 18, 4: PG 7/1, 1027; cf. Mal 1:11.
176 Cf. 1 Cor 16:1; 2 Cor 8:9
177 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 67: PG 6, 429.
178 Cf. Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 90.
179 Jn 6:51.
180 St. Justin, Apol. 1, 66,1-2: PG 6, 428.
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