What is Mass? What are we really doing?
We as Catholics worship God in a variety of ways, but our chief act of communal worship is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Western Church we call this service “Mass,” an English word derived from the Latin text of the priest’s dismissal at the end of the liturgy (“Ite, missa est, translated, Go, you are sent!“).
We believe that Jesus Christ accomplishes the work of salvation by making Himself present in our world, especially in Sacraments. In baptism we are plunged into Christ’s death and resurrection, becoming God’s adopted and beloved children. As disciples of Christ, we share communion with him in the breaking of bread and prayers that are the Eucharist. For us, liturgy is truly sacred: uniting ourselves to Christ in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving is our most important act as Christians. Although the Church is active in many other ways, liturgy is the “summit” towards which all other activity is directed, and the “font” from which all power for ministry flows.
At Mass, we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist and offer ourselves to God. We taste the heavenly liturgy we are already journeying towards. Attending Mass for the first time can be intimidating or even confusing, but don’t worry! Relax, reflect on the sights and sounds, take time to pray in your own words, and listen to the Word of God.
Sunday Mass includes prayers, hymns, readings from the Holy Bible, a sermon (also called a “homily”), and the Eucharist. In all this we worship the Triune God: we offer thanksgiving and praise to the Father, in the sacrificial memorial of Christ and His Church, by the power of His word and of His Spirit.
It is easy to find entertainment in today’s world. Mass is something different: a place to contemplate and pray, a place to bring the sufferings and joys of daily life to our Lord Jesus Christ.