The Eucharist and the Parts of the Mass—Part 1

07-25-2021Fr. Charlie's Homilies & Teaching NotesFr. Charlie

According to a recent poll, 1/3 of Catholics who go to Mass weekly don’t believe in the real presence of the Eucharist.

We can ask what was the wording of the questions on the survey? When a Catholic responded that the Eucharist was a “symbol,” did he or she understand the theological distinction? In other words, the respondent may have answered symbol, but meant the real presence even if they couldn’t express it precisely.

But allowing for all of that, the report is very distressing.

What I’d like to do, in conjunction with Fr Jerome and the deacons is to use the next 5 weeks to talk about the Eucharist. This is a perfect opportunity because the Gospel readings are from John 6, called the Bread of Life Discourses.

We are also going to go through all of the particular aspects of the Mass—the accoutrements, vestments, the parts of the Liturgy, the gestures and words used—what does it all mean? Are these just traditions and habits we’ve picked up? Or is there deep, theological meaning that underly everything that goes on?

Theological Reflection

The Eucharist is the supreme gift that the Lord has given to His Church. It is the gift of Himself and of his saving work on the cross.

The forgiveness of our sins on the cross is not a static, historic event that is in the past. Through the Holy Eucharist we are able to participate in that event at Calvary right here, right now—and until the end of time.

Vatican II calls the Mass the Source and Summit of our Faith. We’ve heard that term before, perhaps many times, but just what does that mean?

To say the Eucharist is the "source and summit of Christian spirituality" means at least two things.

  • First, that Christian spirituality flows from the Eucharist as its source, the way light streams forth from the sun.

  • And second, that Christian spirituality is supremely the Eucharist as its summit or high-point-that to which all of our actions should ultimately be directed.

Christian spirituality, then, is a two-way street. It leads us the Eucharist as our starting point out into the world of daily life and it takes us back home to the Eucharist after our sojourn in the world.

These two dimensions of the Eucharist-its being both the "source" and "summit" of Christian spirituality-reveal how the Eucharist brings God and man together in a saving dialogue, a mutually giving and receiving relationship. In short, in a covenant of love.

Put in the traditional language of the Christian spirituality, we say that this communion with God is brought about by grace and lived out in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

  • Because the sacraments are instruments of grace and means of growth in the theological virtues, we can say that Christian spirituality entails what Pope John Paul II calls a "sacramental style of life."[1] It involves using the sacraments to grow in the spiritual life.

  • And because the greatest of sacraments is the Eucharist, Christian spirituality is above all Eucharistic: the Eucharist is the zenith of the Christian life.

  • If you are not convinced, just listen to the words of Jesus: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you cannot have eternal life.

  • If His words are true, then we have to understand just what is taking place in the celebration of the Eucharist, believe it is Jesus fully and really present among us, and participate in this event as fully as we possibly can. More on that to come.

Parts of the Mass

Accoutrements of the Altar:

  • Tabernacle—reverence by genuflection
  • Altar Cloth
  • Candles
    • They must be at least 51% beeswax.The wax produced by the honeybee is considered the sweetest and purist, the most appropriate for symbolizing the humanity of christ.
    • The Paschal Candle must be 75% beeswax
    • We are required by Church law to have six candles for Sunday Mass (we will be getting two more) and seven when the Bishop is present—representing the Jewish Menorah used in the temple.
  • Crucifix—the saving work of Jesus on the Cross is the epicenter of our existence as Christians. There must be one visible to you, the congregation and one that the priest can focus on when he is at the altar.
  • Missal—all the parts of the Mass. The priest cannot add or omit what is the Missal. This is not our Mass; it is the Church’s Mass.
  • Lectionary—Cycle A, B, C for Sunday; Two Cycles for first reading during weekdays. Over the course of 3 years, if you come to daily Mass you will hear about 2/3 of the bible.


As we’ll see, much of what we do has its roots in the Jewish customs prior to and in the time of Jesus as well as the customs developed by the early Church over the years.

  • Black clerics—“dead to the world”
  • White Alb—baptismal garment
  • Cincture—symbol of chastity
  • Stole—symbol of authority; comes from the Jewish High Priest
  • Chasuble—like the seamless garment robe worn by Jesus
  • Dalmatic—vestment worn by Deacons
  • Liturgical colors:
    • Green—Ordinary Time
    • White/Gold—Christmas, Easter and major Feast of the Lord and our Blessed Mother
    • Violet—Advent and Lent
    • Rose—can be worn on the 4th Sunday of Lent or the 3rd Sunday or Advent
    • Red—Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost and Martyrs