Concerning the Mass
The words of God are words of power. They bring to pass what they declare. At creation God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. In the Mass, God says, "This is my Body, This is my Blood," and it is so. Although it is the priest who stands at the altar, it is still Christ who speaks the words of power; the bread and wine become his body and blood, his real and true presence. (St. Augustine’s Prayer Book)
This Sacrament was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper with his disciples. There he gave new meaning to the Passover meal by identifying himself with the sacrificial lambs, declaring that the bread and wine were his own body and blood, and that henceforth, this was to be done "in remembrance of me." Was ever a command so obeyed? The Mass has been offered for every conceivable human need and circumstance from the birth of a child to the repose of departed souls. Over and over, day by day, the Mass is offered at altars around the world in thanksgiving and supplication, strengthening the people of God. It is holy food for a people being made holy.
The Mass is "our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." By acknowledging the Mass as sacrifice, we remember that Jesus freely gave of himself in love that we might have true life in him. The sacrifice of the Mass "participates" in the offering of Jesus at the Last Supper, in the offering of Jesus on the Cross, and in the continual offering of Jesus to his Father in Heaven. It also reminds us that we, too, are to live sacrificially.
We also speak of the Mass as the Holy Eucharist, as thanksgiving. We are reminded that Jesus "gave thanks" at the Last Supper. The Mass is the supreme act of Christian thanksgiving, whereby we recall what God has done for us in Christ. We come to Mass not only for what we receive, but because we need to worship.
Other common names for the Mass include the Holy Mysteries, because the fullness of the gift surpasses our understanding; Holy Communion because we corporately share in the reception of his presence; the Blessed Sacrament because it is the greatest and holiest of Spiritual joys.
When we take bread and wine (the Offertory), give thanks (the Eucharistic Prayer), break the bread (the Fraction), and then receive Christ’s Body and Blood (Communion), we are following Christ’s command. It is a command of love, as we are fed by grace and united with him. It is as important that our souls be nourished with the Bread of Heaven and Cup of Salvation as it is for our earthly bodies to be nourished by food and drink. Holy Communion should be received regularly and often; for some that will mean daily, for others weekly, for others once or twice a month. Additionally, major days in the Church Year (such as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, All Saint’s Day) and in one’s own life should be celebrated by reception of Holy Communion.
Careful preparation by prayer and self-examination are required before receiving Communion (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Intending communicants must be free from willful sin, in charity with all, and in reverent fear of God, clean both in heart and soul, with full purpose to remain so. When a communicant’s conscience is not clear, before approaching the Sacrament the communicant should first seek counsel, penance, and absolution from a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Fasting is another traditional method of preparation by which we empty ourselves physically so that we may receive him spiritually.
In the Eucharist, we most clearly find ourselves transformed into the holy people of God. We are not to be "as gods," a competing horde of rivals to the One Living God; rather we are his creatures, fallen, yet redeemed in love; his own dear children, whom he willed to make "partakers of the divine nature." We come to adore him and we leave strengthened by the Word of God to do his will.