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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Monday, January 22, 2007

As explained last week, in response to Cardinal Cormac’s plans for the diocese we plan to use this space for a few weeks to explain parts of Holy Mass.

When was the Mass first celebrated?

Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. This is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. This action ritual action was completed the day after by his actual, bloody death upon the Cross. Since then, the Church has never ceased to follow His command and gather together to receive His body and blood in the Eucharist.

When was the basic structure of the Mass set up?

The basic format of the Mass has been the same since the earliest days of the Church. Writing around the year 150 AD, St. Justin Martyr described Christian wor-ship: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather togeth-er to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read... then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imi-tation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray... when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each...”. The Mass we celebrate today has the same structure.

Why does Mass start with the Sign of the Cross?

We always begin the celebration of Mass by making the sign of the cross. In this way we recall our baptism which was “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, when we became part of Christ's Mystical Body. We are also reminded that God is a Trinity of three persons, though one divine nature. Further, we call to mind Christ's passion and death on Calvary. It is by Christ's free acceptance of death on a cross that we are reconciled to God.

Why does the Priest say “the Lord be with you” or “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”?These are special forms of greeting used only by bishops, priests and deacons and both are taken from the Bible. They are forms of blessing and with these profound greetings the priest (with arms spread in a symbolic gesture) welcomes everyone to the Eucharistic celebration. We return the greeting by responding “and also with you.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:55 am