A Guide to the Mass

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THE MASS (also known as the Eucharist, Holy Communion, and the Lord’s Supper) is the central and most important act of Christian worship. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus at supper with his friends, took bread and said “This is my Body”. He took wine and said “This is my Blood”. “Do this in remembrance of me”.

At the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, mass is celebrated each and every day of the year (except Good Friday and Holy Saturday). Sometimes our celebrations are very simple; sometimes they are rich in symbol, music and ceremony. In whatever way the mass is celebrated, those who gather are invited into the deeper mystery of God, made known in the life, death and resurrection to new life of Jesus Christ.

If you are new to Christian faith, or exploring it, or perhaps returning to Church after a time away, some of the words, the gestures and the rituals may seem strange and even incomprehensible. Be patient. Let it all soak in. It is not about “doing it right” or “understanding it all”. You are among friends. We hope that this booklet will help to explain the structure and parts of the mass, and some of the symbols, gestures and rituals that we use at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

And never be afraid to ask questions. Any of the clergy would be pleased to answer your questions and help guide you in your participation in the mass. You are welcome here.

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EVERY mass has the same basic shape:

lessonThe Gathering of the Community: We gather together, whether it is just a handful of people, a large crowd, or somewhere in between.

The Proclamation of the Word: We hear readings from the Bible, the story of God’s relationship with us and our world. And we respond by stating our faith, by offering prayer, confessing our sins, and sharing a sign of God’s peace.

The Celebration of the Eucharist: We place bread and wine on the altar and, in response to our prayer, God transforms them into the Body and Blood of Jesus. All those who are baptized, regardless of age or denomination, are invited to receive communion.

The Sending Forth of the Community: We are sent into the world to proclaim God’s love in word and example.

Some masses are said masses, which means that there is no music. The presiding priest is usually assisted by one server. Some masses are sung masses, which means that there is music and more ceremony and ritual. Some masses are solemn or high masses, which means that there is also music and the ceremony and ritual is particularly ornate.

Whatever the ‘style’ of the particular mass, the shape is the same – we gather, we hear the Word of God, we pray, we are fed with Christ’s Body and Blood, and we depart.

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THE MASS is a drama in which we enact, proclaim and participate in the mighty of acts of God. We are invited to participate in that drama in body, mind and spirit – our whole selves. Worship is not just about being engaged in our mind; it is about engaging our entire selves, and all five of our senses. This is why our worship at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene is often rich with sound, sights and movement. Incense, colour, movement and gesture, music, bells – they all play a part in our celebration of the mass

The burning of incense engages our senses of sight and smell. Incense symbolizes the ascending of our prayers to God. Holy things are censed – the altar, the gospel book, and everyone present. The burning of incense in worship is an ancient tradition of Christians and one we inherited from our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Colour engages our sight and also helps to mark the particular day or season in the Church’s year. The vestments that are worn, the hangings on the altar, and the veil on the tabernacle behind the high (main) altar all indicate the season or the particular day in the Church’s year

White or gold are the colours of most major celebrations, including Christmas and Easter

Red is the colour for the Feast of Pentecost, which celebrates the coming of God’s Holy Spirit in tongues of fire. Red is also used for the celebration of saints who have been martyred, and a deep red is used for the liturgies of Holy Week

Purple is the colour of the seasons of Advent (the season prior to Christmas) and Lent (the season of preparation for Easter). Purple symbolizes penitence and preparation

Green is the colour of ‘ordinary time’, symbolizing growth. Green is used most Sundays from the end of the Easter season in the spring until the beginning of the season of Advent in the late autumn.

Page_6Movement and gestures engage our bodies in worship. At every mass, we are invited to share a sign of God’s peace with others – by the shaking of hands. We hold out our hands to receive the bread, and we assist the person administering the cup to guide it to our lips. On special occasions we process inside the church, and sometimes outdoors.

You may notice other gestures and movements that people use. These include:

• Bowing the head when the name of “Jesus” is spoken

• Making the sign of the Cross, particularly when the congregation is blessed and when the priest pronounces God’s forgiveness. (This it done by touching the forehead, chest, left shoulder and then right shoulder.)

• Making the sign of the Cross on the forehead, lips and heart when the gospel reading is announced. This symbolizes our prayer that the truth of the gospel may be in our minds, on our lips, and on our hearts

• Reverencing the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood with a genuflection (kneeling down briefly on the right knee) or a profound bow.

The use of these gestures has ancient roots in Christian worship, and many find that, as they become more familiar with them, these gestures help to deepen their experience of worship. At the same time, these gestures are optional, and each person will find for themselves their own pattern.

Music is a central part of our Sunday morning worship at sung and solemn masses. “The one who sings, prays twice” is a phrase attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. Music engages our hearing and can be a particularly powerful way for a group of people to enter more closely together in prayer, praise and worship.

Bells also engage our hearing as they are rung to draw our attention to the mystery of the transformation of bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood given for us.

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THE MASS is one of the liturgies of the Church. The word liturgy is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘the public work of the people’. In the liturgy, we are all invited to take our place, joining in the prayers, the responses, the music, the movement – the drama of God’s presence in the world. We are invited not to be bystanders or onlookers, but to immerse ourselves in the liturgy as it unfolds.

In the pages that follow, each of the basis types of mass (said, sung and solemn or high) is outlined in more detail.

You are invited to participate in any liturgy at St. Mary Magdalene’s. And if you are not baptized but want to know more about baptism, please speak with one of the clergy, who will welcome a conversation.

It is our hope and prayer that this guide will help you become familiar with the celebration of the mass and, in particular, with the particular customs of this parish. And, again, be patient. Let it soak in. And ask questions. You are welcome here.

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SAID MASSES: Sundays at 8.00 am and most weekdays

The Sunday morning 8.00 am mass is a said mass, as are most of the daily masses from Monday through Saturday. There is a booklet available at the back of the church called Said Mass at SMM. It provides the words you need to participate in a said mass.

Said masses are celebrated in one of the side chapels – the Lady Chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, the mother of Jesus (on the south side of the church) or the St. Joseph Chapel, dedicated to Jesus’ earthly father (on the north side).

The Gathering of the Community

• A bell is rung to indicate that the priest and server are entering the church.

• An introit (from the Latin word for entrance) is said. It is usually several verses of a psalm.

• The priest greets the people and the people respond.

• The Kyrie eleison (Greek for `Lord have mercy`) is said and, on Sundays and other special days, the Gloria in excelsis (Glory be to God on high), a hymn of praise, is said.

• The priest prays the prayer (called a collect) of the day.

The Proclamation of the Word

• Two or three readings from the Bible are read. The final reading is always a reading from one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the New Testament. Because of the importance of the gospel, we stand when it is read.

• Sometimes a sermon (also called a homily) is preached. The sermon usually relates to one or more of the Bible readings.

• On Sundays and other special days, the Creed is said. The Creed is one of the ancient statements of Christian belief.

• The priest or another leader leads the Prayers of the People, sometimes called the intercessions. Specific needs, including people in need of prayer, are mentioned, as well as the names of those who have recently died and those whose anniversary of death it is. You may add the name of someone in need of prayer to the list kept on the stand at the back of the church.

• Everyone is invited to confess their sins in the words of a general confession. The priest then pronounces God’s absolution – that through the mercy and love of God we are forgiven and begin again.

• We share a sign of God’s peace with one another by shaking hands, a sign that we are both reconciled with God and with one another.

The Celebration of the Eucharist

• Bread and wine are placed on the altar. After praying the prayer over the gifts (that is, the gifts of bread and wine which we offer to God), the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer. The word “eucharist” is the Greek word for “giving thanks”. In this prayer, we give thanks to God and we recall the events of the Last Supper in which Jesus instructed his disciples to “do this in memory of me”. It is in response to this prayer that God transforms our offering of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, gifts for us from the gifts we have offered to God.

• After saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Agnus Dei (“O Lamb of God”, an expression of our desire for God’s mercy), we are invited to receive communion. Most people put out their hands, one on top of the other, to receive the host (the bread) and to help guide the cup (the chalice) to their lips. Receiving either the bread and the wine, or only the bread or wine, is perfectly acceptable. And if you prefer to receive a blessing, you are invited to cross your arms across your chest, as a sign to the priest.

The Sending Forth of the Community

• After receiving communion, the priest prays the Prayer after Communion and pronounces God’s blessing on all present. With words of dismissal, the mass is ended and we are invited to go back into the world, fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, and ready to proclaim him in our lives.

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SUNG MASSES: Sundays at 9.30 am

The Sunday morning 9.30 am mass is a sung mass. The order of service leaflet is intended to help you participate fully in the mass. The 9.30 mass is celebrated at the high altar, an altar placed at the front of the pews, or in the St. Joseph Chapel. On certain Sundays of the year, the 9.30 mass is called a “Folk Mass”, which means that the service is specifically designed to engage people of all ages.

The Gathering of the Community

• A bell is rung to indicate that the priest and servers are entering the church. A hymn is sung and the altar is censed. The hymns are either in the blue Common Praise hymn book (which is the most recent hymn book of the Anglican Church of Canada), the Green New English Hymnal, or are printed in the service leaflet.

• A song of praise or penitence is sung. The words are printed in the service leaflet. The music, if you would like to follow it, is found in the blue book called The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene.
• The priest prays the prayer (called a collect) of the day.

The Proclamation of the Word

• Three readings from the Bible are read. The final reading is always a reading from one of the four gospels in the New Testament. Because of the importance of the gospel, we stand as it is read. As a sign of reverence, the gospel book is censed with incense before the gospel is read.

• Between the first and second readings, a psalm is sung, and a hymn is sung before the gospel reading.

• A sermon (also called a homily) is preached.

• The Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed is said. The creeds are ancient statements of Christian belief.

• A leader leads the Prayers of the People, sometimes called the intercessions. Specific needs, including people in need of prayer, are mentioned, as well as the names of those who have recently died and those whose anniversary of death it is. You may add the name of someone in need of prayer to the list kept on the stand at the back of the church.

• Everyone is then invited to confess their sins in the words of a general confession. The priest then pronounces God’s absolution – that through the mercy and love of God we are forgiven and begin again

• We share a sign of God’s peace with one another by shaking hands, a sign that we are both reconciled with God and with one another.

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The Celebration of the Eucharist

Page_15• The offertory is a symbolic giving of ourselves to God. While a hymn is sung, bread and wine are placed on the altar and are censed. People are invited to make a financial contribution to support the life of the parish and the wider Church. After praying the prayer over the gifts (that is, the gifts of bread and wine which we offer to God), the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer. The word “eucharist” is the Greek word for “giving thanks”. In this prayer, we give thanks to God and we recall the events of the Last Supper in which Jesus instructed his disciples to “do this in memory of me”. It is in response to this prayer that God transforms our offering of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, gifts for us from the gifts we have offered to God.

• After singing the Lord’s Prayer and the Agnus Dei (“O Lamb of God”) or another song about what we are about to receive, we are invited to receive communion. Most people put out their hands, one on top of the other, to receive the host (the bread) and to help guide the cup (the chalice) to their lips. Receiving either the bread and the wine, or only the bread or wine acceptable. And if you prefer to receive a blessing, you are invited to cross yours arms across your chest, as a sign to the priest.

The Sending Forth of the Community

• After receiving communion, the priest prays the Prayer after Communion, we proclaim our praise in the doxology (“Glory to God”), and the priest pronounces God’s blessing on all present. With words of dismissal, the mass is ended and we are invited to go back into the world, fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, and ready to proclaim him in our lives.

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SOLEMN OR HIGH MASSES: Sundays at 11.00 am & Feast Days

The Sunday morning 11.00 am mass is a solemn mass, also known as a high mass. The order of service leaflet will guide you through the mass. On special feast days during the week (either at 6.00 pm or on Saturdays at 10.00 am), the mass is also a solemn mass.

The Gathering of the Community

• Before the mass itself begins, there is the ceremony of the Asperges (the Latin word for “purging”) in which the congregation is sprinkled with holy water as a sign of our baptism, and as a sign of the washing away of our sins.

• On special feast days, instead of the Asperges, there is a procession which moves throughout the church while a hymn is sung. This is a way, through movement and music, to emphasize and celebrate an important occasion in the Church’s year.

• As the mass itself begins, an introit (from the Latin word for entrance) is sung to Gregorian chant by the ritual choir. It is usually several verses of a psalm. The altar is censed during the introit

• The priest greets the people and the people respond

• The Kyrie eleison (Greek for ‘Lord have mercy’) is sung, followed by the Gloria in excelsis (Glory be to God on high), a hymn of praise. The music, if you would like to follow it, is found in the blue book called The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene.

• The priest then prays the prayer (called a collect) of the day.

The Proclamation of the Word

• Three readings from the Bible are then read. The final reading is always a reading from one of the four gospels in the New Testament. It is accompanied by censing and a procession, to mark its primary importance in the Proclamation of the Word. The gospel procession is a reminder that the gospel (or good news) is meant to be carried out into the world and proclaimed, not hidden away. On feast days, the gospel is proclaimed from the middle of the congregation, which turns to face the gospel as it is read.

• After the first reading, the gradual is sung. The words of the gradual chant are usually taken from the book of psalms.

• Before the gospel, an Alleluia is sung, followed by a hymn. The hymns are found in the green New English Hymnal in the pews or are printed in the service leaflet.

• A sermon (also called a homily) is preached.Page_18_also

• The Nicene Creed is sung. The creed, which dates from the fourth century, is one of the ancient statements of Christian belief.

• The priest or another leader then leads the Prayers of the People, sometimes called the intercessions. Specific needs, including people in need of prayer, are mentioned, as well as the names of those who have recently died and those whose anniversary of death it is. You may add the name of someone in need of prayer to the list kept on the stand at the back of the church.

• Everyone is invited to confess their sins in the words of a general confession. The priest then pronounces God’s absolution – that through the mercy and love of God we are forgiven and begin again.

• We share a sign of God’s peace with one another by shaking hands, a sign that we are both reconciled with God and with one another.

The Celebration of the Eucharist

• The offertory is a symbolic giving of ourselves to God. While a hymn is sung, bread and wine are placed on the altar and are censed. People are invited to make a financial contribution to support the life of the parish and the wider Church. The offertory sentence, usually a sentence from scripture, is then sung by the Ritual Choir, and then the Gallery Choir sings a motet. The motet will reflect the Bible readings of the day, or the particular celebration or season of the Church`s year

• After praying the prayer over the gifts (that is, the gifts of bread and wine which we offer to God), the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer. The word “eucharist” is the Greek word for “giving thanks”. In this prayer, we give thanks to God and we recall the events of the Last Supper in which Jesus instructed his disciples to “do this in memory of me”. It is in response to this prayer that God transforms our offering of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, gifts for us from the gifts we have offered to God.

• After saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Agnus Dei (“O Lamb of God”) we are invited to receive communion. Most people put out their hands, one on top of the other, to receive the host (the bread) and to help guide the cup (the chalice) to their lips. Receiving either the bread and the wine, or only the bread or wine, is perfectly acceptable. And if you prefer to receive a blessing, you are invited to cross your arms across your chest, as a sign to the priest.

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The Sending Forth of the Community

• After receiving communion, the priest prays the Prayer after Communion and pronounces God’s blessing on all present. With words of dismissal, the mass is ended and we are invited to go back into the world, fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, and ready to proclaim him in our lives. The liturgy concludes with the singing of a hymn and the recitation of the Angelus (a traditional form of prayer accompanied by the ringing of the church bell).

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