15. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Some of us remember a time when Catholics would think that as long as
they arrived at Mass by the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist,
they met their Sunday obligation. The Church thinks about this
differently now. Since 1963, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
has called us to a fuller participation in Mass. “The two parts…that go
to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of
the Eucharist, are so closely connected with each other that they form
but one single act of worship. Accordingly, this Council urges pastors
that in their catechesis they insistently teach the faithful to take
part in the entire Mass…” (CSL no. 56).
The Liturgy of the Eucharist is made up of two major parts: The
Eucharistic Prayer and the Communion Rite. A small rite of preparation
precedes the Eucharistic Prayer. The Church has arranged the entire
celebration of the liturgy of the Eucharist in parts corresponding to
the words and actions of Christ. “For Christ took the bread and the
chalice and gave thanks; he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples
saying, “Take, eat and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my
Blood. Do this in memory of me” (GIRM
• In the preparation of the gifts, only the bread and wine are brought
to the altar table, that is, the same elements that Christ took into his
hands. No other items, except money or food for the poor, are to be
brought forward at this time.
• In the Eucharistic Prayer, praise and thanks is given to God for the
whole work of salvation, and especially for the gift and sacrifice of
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The offerings of bread and wine,
through the power of the Holy Spirit, are transformed into the Body and
Blood of Christ. We, too, pray that we will be transformed into Christ’s
Body and Blood for the life of the world.
• Through the breaking of the bread and through the sharing of Holy
Communion, the people of God, though they are many, receive from the one
bread, the Lord’s Body, and from the one cup, the Lord’s blood.
Take, give thanks, break and pour, eat and drink. This is what we all do
at Mass as believers, baptized in Christ. This is also what we are
called to do in the world. When we participate in the sacrifice of the
Mass, we renew our call to mission. A liturgist puts it well, “…the
sacrifice of the cross reveals and inaugurates the mission of God’s
people to announce the good news in word and deed by giving of self for
So our full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy of the
Eucharist brings us more deeply into the Body of Christ and therefore
calls us to imitate the self-sacrificing mission of Christ to the world.