Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. . . ." They went . . . and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.". . . . And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood." Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.
For the times when we celebrate Holy Communion please see our Mass Times.
Catholic but not practicing It can seem quite daunting to walk though those doors, but we've been waiting for you. Welcome home.
The structure of the Mass has been carefully designed: each element has a particular significance and role to play. Before going further, I should stress that the Mass can only be understood in terms of a two-way gift - and both sides of the giving are expressed in the Liturgy of the Mass:
1. God's gift to us - the Mass is the most concentrated and effective of the means used by the Father to give us grace, holiness and his very own life. Nothing compares to the depth and richness of the Mass because here, the Father gives us his Son, Jesus Christ under the forms of bread and wine. For this reason, the sacrament is sometimes called the "Sacrament of sacraments". "We offer to you his Body and Blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world." (Eucharistic Prayer 4)
2. Our gift to God - at the same time, the Mass is also a sacrifice (i.e., something offered by mankind to the Father). In the Mass, we are allowed to join with Christ as he offers to the Father the gift of his passion on Calvary and his resurrection for the salvation of all mankind. We give to the Father the life of his only Son. In addition, we give to the Father all those who, through Baptism, are in Christ: we give to God the whole Christ ("totus Christus") meaning both head (Jesus Christ) and members (the baptised, the Body of Christ). We ask that as the Father accepts Christ as a perfect offering, he may accept us too, who are inseparably joined to Christ. So the Mass is an act of self-giving to the Father - we are not simply receiving (i.e., passive) but also actively giving (i.e., we need to take an active and deliberate participation in the Liturgy as it unfolds). "May he (Christ) make us an everlasting gift to you (Father)" Eucharistic Prayer 3.
The central action of the Mass revolves around the Liturgies of the Word and of the Eucharist. In the past theologians would speak of the two altars of a Church - the 'altar' of the Word (meaning the ambo or lectern, from which the readings from Sacred Scripture would be proclaimed) and the altar of Sacrifice. This idea is only rarely spoken of today. Although it was trying to make a good point (that Christ present in the Scriptures was the same Christ who is present in Holy Communion - so in a sense the lectern is very similar to the altar because from here Christ is offered to the people for them to be nourished on him), nevertheless, it is bizarre language - the lectern looks nothing like an altar and in any case an altar is for sacrifice only, and we are not offering Christ in sacrifice from the lectern in the readings! In addition, we do not exactly equate Christ's presence in the Word of the Scriptures with his presence in Holy Communion: there is a completeness and sublimity to the presence of Christ in 2 Holy Communion which is not matched anywhere else - even in the Sacred Scriptures. In this form he is substantially present. SO, instead of the "two altars" language, today there is a greater emphasis on the profound unity between the readings and Holy Communion - the same Christ is offered to us, only in two very different ways. For this reason, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form the twin axies of the Mass. Around them are fitted the preparatory and concluding rites: Greeting, Penitential, Communion and dismissal. This structure is the same today as it has been since the time of the Apostles. Records that have survived from the first century and continuously until today show that this structure has been the form of the Mass from the very beginning.