The Sacrament of the Eucharist administered during the Mass is a sacrament of love and unity, and is a Paschal banquet whereby the Faithful partake of Jesus Himself. It recalls that we have been raised to the dignity of royal priesthood by virtue of our Baptism, and renews the configuration and incorporation in Christ that we have received in the Sacrament of Confirmation. In the Eucharistic Celebration, the whole community gathers to be a part of the Lord’s own living and real sacrifice. (CCC. 1322; CCC. 1321).
The word, “Eucharist” comes from the Greek eucharistein and eulogein and can be translated to mean “an action of Thanksgiving to God” (CCC. 1328). The Eucharist is the origin and the highest point of Christian worship and life (CCC. 1324), and in its celebration, unites us to Christ, makes us sharers of His Body and Blood to form a single Mystical Body (CCC. 1331), makes us participants in the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection (CCC. 1330), assembles the Faithful as a visible expression of the Church (CCC. 1329), and anticipates the wedding Feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem (CCC. 1329). According to the Code of Canon Law 898, “The Christian faithful are to hold the Most Holy Eucharist in highest honour, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration.”
In the Catholic Church, there are six different liturgical rites, to which the Faithful are baptised into. Within these six liturgical rites there are 24 sui iuris Churches, or self-governing Churches that are all in communion with each other, are all Catholic Churches, and all of which are in union under the primacy of the Pope. According to the Code of Canon Law 923, “The Christian faithful can participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice and receive holy communion in any Catholic rite, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 844,” which in turn refers to how Catholic ministers must administer the sacraments licitly or legitimately to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly or legitimately from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of 2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, 2 (Can. 844).
In the case, that a member of the Eastern Church which is not in union with the Pope seeks the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick, they would need to be deemed properly disposed to receive the Sacraments by the Holy See, and obtain the necessary approvals before the receiving of the above Sacraments would be considered valid or licit (Can. 844. 3.).
While the Catholic Faithful may receive communion in any Catholic Rite (Can. 923), it must be noted that according to Can. 846. 2. “The minister is to celebrate the sacraments according to the minister’s own rite.” The celebration of the Liturgy, also cannot be done willy-nilly, but as Can. 846.1 says, “In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority.”
The Latin Rite, also known as the Roman Rite is the largest of these 24 Catholic Churches and is the only Western Church, with the other 23 Catholic Churches being Eastern Churches (LaBanca, 2019)
Of these 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, Pope St. Paul VI says in Orientalium Ecclesiarum (1964, 1-3):
“The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers…
“The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place.
“These individual Churches, whether of the East or the West, although they differ somewhat among themselves in… liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage, are, nevertheless, each as much as the others, entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman Pontiff, the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter in primacy over the universal Church.”
The following presents the six rites of the Catholic Church, followed by which sui iuris Churches are contained within them.
- Latin (or Roman) Catholic Church
Under the Latin Rite, are also situated the following Liturgies that date to before the Council of Trent: a) the Mozarabic rite from Spain, b) the Ambrosian rite from Milan, Italy, named after St. Ambrose (340-397), c) the Bragan rite from Portugal, and d) the order liturgies of the Dominican, Carmelite, and Carthusian orders (Catholic News Agency, n.d.; McNamara, 2016).
The Latin Rite can also be celebrated under 2 forms – the Extraordinary Form, and the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo). The Extraordinary Form is celebrated using the Traditional Latin and taking the form and structure of what was laid out in the Council of Trent, while the Novus Ordo, or Ordinary Form, is the Mass that is said in the vernacular of the people and which came to being after Vatican II (Klos, 2020).
- Coptic Catholic Church
- Eritrean Catholic Church
- Ethiopian Catholic Church
West Syrian (or Antiochene) Rite
- Maronite Catholic Church
- Syriac Catholic Church
- Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
- Armenian Catholic Church
East Syrian (or Chaldean) Rite
- Chaldean Catholic Church
- Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Constantinopolitan (or Byzantine) Rite
- Albanian Catholic Church
- Belarusian Catholic Church
- Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church
- Byzantine Church of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro (or Križevci Catholic Church)
- Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
- Hungarian Greek Catholic Church
- Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
- Macedonian Catholic Church
- Melkite Greek Catholic Church
- Romanian Catholic Church
- Russian Catholic Church
- Ruthenian Catholic Church (also known as the Byzantine Catholic Church in America)
- Slovak Catholic Church
- Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
The Latin Rite of the Mass comprises four main parts:
- The Introductory Rites
This part comprises the Entrance Antiphon, the Entrance Procession, the Greeting, the Penitential Act, the Kyrie, the Gloria, and the Collect (The Opening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Word). The Introductory Rites gather the Faithful and prepare them to receive the Word of God.
- The Liturgy of the Word
This part of the Mass is derived from the Jewish Synagogue Service where there was often a proclamation of the teachings from the Torah. The Liturgy of the Word comprises usually 2- readings taken from the Old and the New Testament, and the Gospel, with the exception of the Easter Liturgy which contains 7 readings before the Gospel. The Gospel is followed by a Homily, which the priest or deacon unpacks the salient teachings of the Scripture proclaimed. Following this, comes the Profession of Faith. The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Universal Prayer, otherwise known as the General Intercessions.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist
The third part of the Mass presents the summit of the Mass, where we are re-presented with a memorial of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This Memorial is not merely a reminiscence of an event past, but a mystical reality transcending space and time, where we are brought to the Last Supper and the events of the Passion and the Cross unfold in real-time before us.
As CCC. 1362 – 1363 state, “In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real.”
It is at this juncture that we receive Jesus in Body and Blood, in Holy Communion. The Liturgy of the Eucharist concludes with our “Amen” when we receive Jesus.
The order of the Liturgy of the Eucharist comprises: The Presentation of the Gifts, The Orate, frates, or the Offertory, The Eucharistic Prayer, the Sanctus, the Consecration, The Communion Rite, the Pater Noster (Our Father), the Breaking of the Bread, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), A sign of Peace, the Invitation and the Preparation for Communion, Communion, and the Prayer after Communion.
- Concluding Rites
This part of the Mass, containing the Blessing and the Dismissal concludes the Liturgy and also commissions the Faithful in its mission where we are sent out into the world to proclaim the Good News and to make disciples of others.
(Kosloski, 2021; Burke, n.d.; Universalis, n.d.)
We have spent much length on this introductory article on the Mass. There is so much more to unpack. We have been given a great and wondrous grace, that we often take for granted. In summary, the words of the saints regarding the Sacrifice of Holy Mass ring true:
“The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. “ – St. Gregory the Great
“Know, O Christian, that the Mass is the holiest act of religion. You cannot do anything to glorify God more, nor profit your soul more, than by devoutly assisting at it, and assisting as often as possible.” – St. Peter Julian Eymard
“Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O admirable height and stupendous condescension! O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under a morsel of bread.” – St. Francis of Assisi
“When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.” – St. John Chrysostom
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan
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Code of Canon Law. (n.d.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/archive/cod-iuris-canonici/cic_index_en.html
Klos, M. (2020). Celebrating Mass Using the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. Catholic Life. Retrieved November 7, 2022 from https://catholiclife.diolc.org/2020/02/17/celebrating-mass-using-the-ordinary-and-extraordinary-forms/ – :~:text=There%20are%20two%20principal%20forms,latest%20tweak%20coming%20in%201962.
Kosloski, P. (2021). What are the 4 Different Parts of the Mass? Aleteia. Retrieved November 7, 2022 from https://aleteia.org/2021/05/05/what-are-the-4-different-parts-of-the-mass/
LaBanca, N. (2019). The Other 23 Catholic Churches and Why They Exist. Ascension Press. Retrieved November 7, 2022 from https://media.ascensionpress.com/2019/01/21/the-other-23-catholic-churches-and-why-they-exist/
McNamara, E. (2016). Why So Many Rites in the Church. EWTN. Retrieved November 7, 2022 from https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/why-so-many-rites-in-the-church-4827
Pope St. Paul VI. (1964). Orientalium Ecclesiarum. [Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite]. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_orientalium-ecclesiarum_en.html
Universalis. (n.d.). The Order of the Mass. Universalis. Retrieved from https://universalis.com/static/mass/orderofmass.htm