- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass in the new Nationals stadium will be familiar to Catholics but foreign to many other observers.

The catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Mass is “the same sacrifice of Calvary offered in an un-bloody manner” and can be broken down into four basic parts: the introductory rites, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Communion rite.

As with all Catholic prayers, the Mass begins with the sign of the cross, which is when the priest and congregation cross themselves with their right arm. The priest will then lead the faithful in the penitential rite, during which all present prayerfully confess their sins and ask for forgiveness, with such gestures as the traditional “mea culpa” breast beat and the Kyrie prayer. Organizingthemasses.jpg

The faithful sing the “Gloria,” a hymn that is derived from the words said by the angels as part of the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the field in Luke 2:14.

The Gloria, Kyrie and other elements of the Nationals stadium Mass will be sung by a huge choir even though they are often omitted on weekdays, and even on Sundays and feast days are sometimes merely said rather than sung. Pope Benedict will be saying a Mass of the Holy Spirit, which is often used to open the academic year at Catholic colleges and schools.

The Liturgy of the Word consists of readings from the Bible. On Thursday, the readings will be Acts 2:1-11; Romans 8:22-27; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; John 20:19-23.

Pope Benedict, the main celebrant, will give a short homily — a sermon that usually includes a few greeting words, a commentary on the readings and Gospel, and/or a spiritual reflection or moral recommendation. It is the only part of the Mass that allows the priest to speak from scratch and “preach,” in the sense that most Protestants understand, rather than follow a rule or choose from among two or three well-defined options.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is simply the preparation of the gifts, or offerings of bread and wine; the Eucharistic prayer; and the Communion rite.

The Eucharistic prayer, which gives thanksgiving to God for creation, salvation and sanctification, precedes the singing of the Sanctus, which describes the praise of the worshippers joining with the praise of the angels, as Catholics believe that all the angels and saints are present at every Mass. Itinerary-Map.jpg

The celebrant then implores the power of the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, then proclaims Jesus’ words at the Last Supper over the bread and the wine.

Catholics believe that the bread and wine are transubstantiated — or changed in substance — into the flesh and blood of Christ in accordance with John 6:41-62 and the Last Supper narratives in Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22. This explains why the congregation kneels for large parts of the Liturgy of the Eucharist — actions performed out of reverence for the real presence of Christ.

The Communion rite involves several prayers said by the priest and the congregation to prepare for Holy Communion, starting with the “Our Father” and including the most obvious external gesture in the Mass, the sign of peace among the faithful. After lining up to receive communion, distributed with the help of 250 bishops and at least 1,200 concelebrating priests, the faithful return to their seats and pray until the elements are out of sight.

Following the prayer after Holy Communion, the priest blesses the people in the name of the Trinity and dismisses the assembly.

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