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The Altar
The Altar

Preparation

The Altar

In the Catholic Church, the first object which attracts the eye of the individual is the altar. The basic part of any Religion is sacrifice and in the Catholic Church the greatest act of worship is the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. We are directed by our liturgy today to construct our altars of stone. Imbedded in the stone altar top or mensa should be a little reliquary in which the partial remains of a Christian martyr are preserved.

Crosses are placed in the center and on the four corners of the mensa to recall the five wounds of Christ’s body. Since the altar is the place of sacrifice, where, after the consecration of the Holy Mass the particle consecrated becomes the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the altar must be dedicated at a special ceremony by the Bishop of the Diocese. The altar prepared for Holy Mass is covered with three white linen cloths which are provided to absorb the consecrated species of the wine or the precious blood should it be accidentally spilled.

To the right on the altar table is the Mass book called “The Missal.” This book contains not only the common prayers said daily but the seasonal and feast day prayers for the entire year. The three altar cards contain some of the common prayers recited by the priest daily at the Holy Mass. The candles for a Low Mass are two in number. For a High Mass six candles are lighted.

These candles are made of beeswax. The vault-like portion in the center of the altar is called the tabernacle or the depository for the Blessed Sacrament. It is richly ornamented. The inside usually is beautifully draped to afford a suitable throne for the King of kings. Above the tabernacle is found a crucifix which recalls to our minds the Sacrifice of Calvary.


The Priest in the Sacristy
The Priest in the Sacristy

The Priest in the Sacristy

When the priest enters the sacristy the order of the day is studied by him in a little booklet called “The Ordo.” You will observe the vestments on the vestment case with the veiled Chalice. The articles covered by the veil are the Chalice, the Purificator, the Paten, the Host and the Pall.

The Chalice and Paten are made of gold because only the most rare and costly utensils should be used at the Holy Sacrifice. They must be consecrated by the Bishop and ordinarily can only be touched by the priest. The Mass is a repetition of the Last Supper, and the Chalice and the Paten are representative of the cup and the dish used by our Lord at the Last Supper.

The Paten is the repository for the Host at Offertory and the Chalice contains the wine. The Purificator is an oblong piece of white linen used to purify the Chalice. You will observe in your study of the Offertory that the celebrant performs this action of purification.


The Priest Puts On the Amice
The Priest Puts On the Amice

The Priest Puts On the Amice

Before vesting, the priest purifies his fingers saying,

“Give virtue, O Lord unto my hands that every stain may be wiped away, that I may be enabled to serve Thee without defilement of mind or body.”

Then the priest puts on the Amice. The Amice is a small rectangular linen cloth with two strings attached to fasten it. The word has it derivation from the Latin and means, “to wrap around.” It is used as a protection for the vestments and before being placed on his shoulders the celebrant touches his head and forms a helmet as a protection against Satan. As he puts on the Amice, he says,

“Place, O Lord, the helmet of salvation upon my head that I may overcome the assaults of the devil.”


The Priest Puts On the Alb
The Priest Puts On the Alb

The Priest Puts On the Alb

The Alb is a long white linen garment with full-length sleeves. In some instances the Alb is adorned with lace. The word itself means, “white” (garment). The priest quietly recites this prayer:

“Cleanse me, O Lord, and purify my heart that being made white in the blood of the Lamb I may have the fruition of everlasting joy.”


The Priest Puts On the Cincture
The Priest Puts On the Cincture

The Priest Puts On the Cincture

Since the Alb is a loose garment the priest places the Cincture about his waist to secure it. This word also has a Latin derivation meaning, “to gird.” The significance of this sacramental is mortification of the flesh and its vices. It is the symbol of sacerdotal chastity. The priest says,

“Gird me, O Lord, with the girdle of purity and extinguish in my loins the desires of lust so that the virtue of continence and chastity may ever abide within me.”


The Priest Puts On the Maniple
The Priest Puts On the Maniple

The Priest Puts On the Maniple

The Maniple is the vestment placed on the left arm of the celebrant. It is about a yard long and from four to six inches wide. Originally it was a handkerchief carried in the left hand for use during the service. It reminds us also that on earth our life is one of tears and sorrow. The priest accepts the Maniple, kisses it, places it on the left arm saying,

“May I be worthy, O Lord, so to bear the Maniple of tears and sorrow: that with joy I may receive the reward of my labor.”


The Priest Puts On the Stole
The Priest Puts On the Stole

The Priest Puts On the Stole

The Stole is the sign of the office of the priest. It is a long slender band usually richly decorated with embroidery or gold. It is placed over the shoulders of the celebrant, crosses upon his breast and secured on either side by the Cincture.

The name is derived from the Latin “stola” which was the distinctive garment of the nobility. The priest first kisses the cross in the center of the Stole and places it on his shoulders saying,

“Restore to me, O Lord, the Stole of immortality which I lost by the transgression of the first parent: and although unworthy, as I draw near to Thy sacred mystery, may I be found worthy of everlasting joy.”


The Priest Puts On the Chasuble
The Priest Puts On the Chasuble

The Priest Puts On the Chasuble

The Chasuble takes its name from the Latin “casual” (little house). It was used originally as a cover for the priest ready for the celebration of Holy Mass. It varies in color according to the feast as do the Maniple and the Stole.

The violet vestment indicates a sign of penance, the white of joy, red of love, green of hope, and black of sorrow. This vestment is also significant of charity and as the priest places this garment over his head he says,

“O Lord, Who hast said: ‘My yoke is easy and My burden is light’ make me able to bear it, that I may obtain Thy favor. Amen.”


The Priest Is Prepared for Holy Mass
The Priest Is Prepared for Holy Mass

The Priest Is Prepared for Holy Mass

At Holy Mass, the priest is another Christ. When he begins Holy Mass, picture our dear Lord in the Garden of Olives. He is suffering for our sins; He asks His Father to take away the chalice of pain, but He only suffers the more. His sweat becomes blood drops on the ground. Yet He said:

“Father, not My will but Thine be done.”

Raise your hearts in pity for your Savior, Who suffered so for you. Be sorry for your sins and pray with the priest raising your hearts to God.


The Celebrant Enters the Sanctuary
The Celebrant Enters the Sanctuary

The Celebrant Enters the Sanctuary

The priest is now fully vested and proceeds to the foot of the altar. You will observe the headdress worn by the priest. It is called the Birettum. He is robed in his sacred vestments and is accompanied by the acolytes. In his left hand he carries the Chalice covered with the veil. His right hand rests upon the Burse containing the Corporal. He proceeds to the center of the altar, genuflects and proceeds to ascend the steps.

You will say the following prayer (interiorly):

“O Jesus, because Thou art merciful, I hope in Thee; I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, grace to serve Thee in this life and nevermore to offend Thee! O dear Jesus, I firmly believe that Thou art really and truly present in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. I believe that here is Thy most sacred Body and Blood under the humble appearances of bread and wine.”


The Priest Ascends to the Altar
The Priest Ascends to the Altar

The Priest Ascends to the Altar

“We approach Thy holy altar, O God Almighty, the Joy of our youth, our Protector, our Father. To Thee we fly for protection against the enemy of our souls.”


The Priest Places the Chalice
The Priest Places the Chalice

The Priest Places the Chalice

Upon reaching the top platform and approaching the altar (Mensa) the priest places the Chalice to the left of the center. He removes the Burse from the top of the veil-covered Chalice containing the Corporal, opens it and places it immediately over the reliquary and in front of the tabernacle. He then places the Chalice on this Corporal, bows reverently and proceeds to the right hand side or the Epistle side of the altar to open and prepare the Missal.

As the priest prepares the chalice, let us join quietly and silently in the following prayer:

“O my God, I love Thee above all things with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art infinitely worthy of my love. I love my neighbor as myself, for the love of Thee: I forgive all who have injured me and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.”


The Celebrant Prepares the Missal
The Celebrant Prepares the Missal

The Celebrant Prepares the Missal

You observe that the book is opened and the various markers are placed for the Mass of the day. He then returns to the center of the altar, bows reverently to the Crucifix and descends to the foot of the altar.

“O Almighty and Eternal God, look upon the heart of Thy dearly beloved Son and upon the praise and satisfaction He offers Thee in the name of sinners and for those who seek Thy mercy.”


Missal Prepared
Missal Prepared

Missal Prepared

“We bessech Thee through the unbloody sacrifice of Thy Son Jesus Christ Who died to redeem us. Give us Thy grace that we may devoutly assist at this Holy Sacrifice, and let us partake of the merits of our Saviour. Amen.”


Prayers at the Foot of the Altar
Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

The priest standing at the foot of the altar makes the sign of the cross.

“We approach Thy holy altar, O God Almighty, the Joy of our youth, our Protection, our Faith. To Thee we fly for protection against the enemy of our souls.”

You will observe that the celebrant is reverently inclined forward saying the following:

“I confess to Almighty God, to the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints and to you brethren that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed.”

It is at this time that the priest and the people before the altar of God confess their unworthiness and indicate by the profound bow their guilt of sin, and striking their breasts say (interiorly by the faithful):

“Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”

The priest asks God for the forgiveness of his own sins and the sins of all present who may be guilty of sin.


The Introit
The Introit

The Introit

The priest ascends the altar and after reaching the altar he kisses it reverently in respect to the relics contained and proceeds to the Missal. He now reads the Introit. Since all that has gone before has been in the way of preparation for the Holy Sacrifice the Introit should be considered as the real beginning of Holy Mass and it is for this reason that the priest commences this prayer with the sign of the cross.

“We beseech Thee through the unbloody sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ Who died to redeem us, give us They grace that we may devoutly assist at this holy sacrifice. And let us partake of the merits of our Savior. Amen.”


The Gloria
The Gloria

The Gloria

Upon the completion of the Introit the priest returns to the center of the altar and here he recalls the words of the invalids who had faith in God’s curing powers when he recites the prayer,

“Lord, have mercy on us! Christ, have mercy on us! Lord have mercy on us!”

Upon the completion of this prayer he recites the Gloria which begins with the beautiful hymn of praise which the angels chanted on Christmas night when our Lord was born in the stable at Bethlehem.

“Glory be to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”

The priest raises his arms and hands reverently towards Heaven during this prayer as a sign of joy. This prayer is omitted in Masses for the Dead.


Priest Kisses the Altar
Priest Kisses the Altar

Priest Kisses the Altar

After the Gloria, the priest kisses the altar in reverence for the relics. At this ceremony he places both hands upon the altar beyond the Corporal.

(Viewed from back of Church)


Priest Kisses the Altar
Priest Kisses the Altar

Priest Kisses the Altar

After the Gloria, the priest kisses the altar in reverence for the relics. At this ceremony he places both hands upon the altar beyond the Corporal.

(Viewed from side of altar)

During this ceremony we may join in silent prayer saying:

“I bow down before Thee in this great sacrament of Thy love and adore Thee as my Lord and my God, my Redeemer and Savior. We adore Thy real presence in the Sacrament of They love. Confirm my faith of Jesus.”


The Dominus Vobiscum
The Dominus Vobiscum

The Dominus Vobiscum

“The Lord be with you,”

is the prayer which the celebrant says at this time. The servers who represent the Faithful reply,

“And with Thy spirit.”

In this action the priest encourages the congregation to take an active part (interiorly) with him in the Holy Sacrifice. This prayer is repeated eight times during the Mass.


The Oration
The Oration

The Oration

After having invited the people to join with him in prayer, he prays aloud commencing with,

“Let us pray. O God of mercy, refuge of those who hope in Thee, hear our prayers. We can do nothing without Thee. Give us Thy holy grace that we may keep Thy commandments, and that all actions may be pleasing to Thee. Amen.”

You will observe that during this prayer the celebrant keeps his hands apart and elevated in penance and to symbolize the unity of prayer of his congregation. This part of the Mass is called the Collects because the people have joined with the priest in asking God for the spiritual faith needed.


The Epistle
The Epistle

The Epistle

In the first years of the Christian era, St. Paul and some of the apostles often wrote letters (Epistles) to their disciples in other cities instructing them in the Faith. One of these Epistles is read at Mass every day of the year as instruction to the Faithful. At the conclusion of the Epistle, the server says: “Deo Gratias.” (“Thanks be to God.”)

It will also be noticed that the priest holds the Missal as he reads the Epistle and this signifies that we should be doers of the Word and not hearers only.


The Server Transfers the Missal to the Gospel Side
The Server Transfers the Missal to the Gospel Side

The Server Transfers the Missal to the Gospel Side

The server removes the book from the Epistle to the Gospel side of the altar. This act is completed by the server as the priest proceeds to the center of the altar where he says the prayer, “Munda Cor Meum,” a prayer in which he asks God to cleanse his heart and make it acceptable to receive the Gospel. Changing the book signifies the fact that the Jews did not accept the teaching of Christ as they should have so both He and His Apostles preached to the Gentiles.

“O my God to Thee I offer up all my thoughts, words and actions. May they all be done to Thy honor.”


Munda Cor Meum
Munda Cor Meum

Munda Cor Meum

Let us pray,

“I bow down before Thee in this great Sacrament of Thy love and adore Thee as my Lord and my God, my Redeemer and Savior.”


The Gospel
The Gospel

The Gospel

The priest having prayed that God should make him worthy goes to the left side of the altar. He begins by making the sign of the cross on the book and then on his forehead (that he may know the word of God) and then on his lips (that he may speak the word of God) and then on his breast (that he may love and cherish the word of God).

We must all stand to hear the word of the Gospel which is the word of Jesus Christ Himself. We must all sign ourselves as did the priest on the forehead, the lips and the breast. Upon completion of the reading of the Gospel the priest kisses the Gospel portion of the Missal. The people through the servers express their devotion to our Lord by replying.

"Prase be to Thee, O Christ!"


The Credo
The Credo

The Credo

On Sunday and on certain feast days of the year immediately after the Gospel the priest returns to the center of the altar and recites the Creed, a summary of our Faith. This Creed was made the universal prayer of the Church at the Council of Nice and through the Grace of God and the treasury of Faith it has been handed down through the centuries.

“I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who, together with the Father and Son, is adored and glorified: Who spoke through the prophets. And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And I expect the resurrection of the dead. And life of the world to come. Amen.”


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The Holy Mass


Home

Preparation

Offertory

Canon

Communion

Conclusion

Appendix I
(Altar & Sanctuary Guide)

Appendix II
(Server Instructions)

Appendix III
(Pronunciation of Latin)

Appendix IV
(Pius V Quo Primum)

Catholic News

Rosary in Latin

Gregory XVII "Siri"
The Pope in Red

The 7 Prayers of Fatima

Rare Gregorian Chant

The Coming Great Catholic Monarch

St. John Bosco's Dream (Vision) of Hell

Michael Dimond:
a False Prophet

Original St. Michael Prayer (Exorcism)

Examination of Conscience

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Infant Baptism in Emergency

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