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4. There are three distinct parts in the sacrifice of the Mass: the offertory, the consecration, and the communion.
The sanctuary bell is rung at the consecration and the communion, and also between the offertory and the consecration, at the Sanctus.
1. What takes place at the offertory is this: Bread and wine are offered to God and blessed.
The priest takes the paten whereon the Host is placed, and elevates it, offering the Host to God. Then he takes the chalice, pours into it wine and a little water, elevates it, and offers it likewise to God. He next invokes the Holy Spirit and blesses the oblation with his hand- This is called the offertory, because the actual sacrificial act does not begin until the consecration. For if the priest who was celebrating should chance to fall sick, or any accident should occur, if it was before the consecration he could break off the Mass, but Dot after the consecration; in that case he must take the communion immediately, and then leave the altar. And supposing the priest were to die after having consecrated, another priest must proceed with the Mass, even were he not fasting; but if the priest who was celebrating died before the consecration, it would not be necessary to go on with the Mass. What does this prove? The name of offertory is given to this part of the Mass because in early times the offerings of bread and wine were made by the faithful. The bread is prepared from wheaten flour; it is unleavened, because the bread Our Lord used was unleavened, and also because it denotes the purity of the body of Christ; it is round in shape, to symbolize the eternal nature of Christ, without beginning and without end. A large Host must be used at Mass, unless only small ones can be had. The wine must be prepared from the juice of grapes; a little water is mixed with it, because this was done by Christ. The water and the wine are also in commemoration of the water and blood which flowed from His riven side.
2. What takes place at the consecration is this: The bread is changed into the body, and the wine into the blood of Christ; and they are then elevated in the sight of the people.
The consecration is effected by means of the words Our Lord uttered at the Last Supper.
At the consecration something similar occurs to that which occurred when Elias offered sacrifice on Mount Carmel, when the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust (3 Kings xviii.); in that case however the agent was natural fire, whereas at Mass it is the supernatural fire of the Holy Ghost. As natural fire changes wood into glowing embers, so the Holy Spirit effects the transubstantiation of the oblation by words of fire. Hence from the earliest times it was customary in the East as we learn from ancient liturgies to call upon the Holy Ghost to come and effect the change. At the moment of consecration the heavens are opened at the word of the priest, and Christ, the King of heaven, descends from above with His courtiers, the angels, who wait upon their Monarch. He descends from heaven upon our altars as swiftly as the eyes on being opened perceive at once the most distant objects. At the moment of consecration, the Incarnation of the Son of God takes place anew, and in the same manner as when, at the salutation of the angel, Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. As the Blessed Virgin then spoke but a few words, so now the priest utters but a few words, and the Son of God comes down from heaven at his summons. It is because Christ becomes man again in the Mass, that at the conclusion the words: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” are read; and when the Credo is sung at High Mass, special emphasis is given to the sentence: Incarnatus est, de Spiritu Sancto, ex Maria Virgine; et homo factus est. The birth of Christ is also repeated in the Mass, with this difference, that Christ is not born corporally, as at Bethlehem, but spiritually; that He is not now clad in mortal flesh, but arrayed in His glorified body, resplendent with the five sacred wounds. It is on account of this spiritual birth that the Church appoints the Gloria in excelsis, the song of praise sung by the angels at Bethlehem, to form part of the Mass, and that Our Lord has appeared many times after the consecration under the form of an infant. An appearance of this kind is said to have been the means of converting the Saxon chief Wittekind, who, when at war with the Emperor Charlemagne, entered the enemy’s camp in disguise, and was present when Mass was said. The same announcement may be made to us Christians as was made by the angels to the shepherds of yore: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, for to-day is born to you a Saviour.”
3. What takes place at the communion is this: The priest receives the body and blood of Christ, and oftentimes administers the body of Christ to the faithful.
Before the priest communicates the people, the Confiteor is repeated and at the end he absolves and blesses the faithful; then taking the sacred vessel containing the Hosts in his hand, he holds one up in the sight of the people, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who taketh away the sins of the world ;” and then repeats three times: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word and my soul shall be healed.” To each of the communicants, when administering holy communion to him, he says: “May the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul to life everlasting, Amen;” having previously made the sign of the cross over him with the sacred Host, to signify that it is the crucified Redeemer Whom he gives to him. The Hosts that remain after the communion of the people are reserved in the ciborium, which is placed in the tabernacle. In each of these Hosts which were consecrated in the Mass Our Lord remains present. They are used to give communion at other times than in the Mass. Communion may be given at any time when it is allowable to say Mass; but not on Good Friday, nor on Holy Saturday until after the communion of the priest. If there should not be enough Hosts for the intending communicants, the priest may divide them, or in extreme cases, a particle may be broken off the large Host.
This article, 4. There are three distinct parts in the sacrifice of the Mass: the offertory, the consecration, and the communion is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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