Explanation of the Mass - Overview

Through a series of informational articles, we will try to explain terms, prayers, and actions that happen at Mass and why they happen.  You will learn about the prayers the priest prays silently during Mass, as well as the people’s parts.  References to GIRM in italics refer to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the book from which rites related to the Mass are codified.  We hope this information will help to make your participation in Mass more meaningful and understandable.

Of the seven sacraments, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated most often - every second of every day whenever and wherever Mass is celebrated.

Jesus held the first Mass on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper.  Most of what happens at Mass comes directly from the Bible with readings, prayers, and scripture references throughout Mass from beginning to end.

The term Mass comes from Latin, “Ite, missa est,” meaning “Go, you are dismissed.”  Mass means dismissal.  Taking this one step further, it means that the Mass does not end when we are dismissed, but we are called to live the Gospel when we go out into the world.

Other terms for the Mass:

  • Liturgy – “work of the people”
  • Eucharist – the Greek word  for “thanksgiving”
  • Lord’s Supper – reference to the origin of Mass on Holy Thursday
  • Holy Sacrifice – linking of Last Supper with crucifixion on Calvary on Good Friday

Mass is prayer referred to God the Father, by Jesus the Son, through and with the Holy Spirit.  God the Father is addressed throughout.  The priest acts in persona Christi, meaning in the person of Jesus Christ.  Imagine that Jesus is saying the Mass …

  1. Thanksgiving                                                   }  We imagine standing at the foot of Calvary
  2. Memorial of Jesus’ sacrifice                            }  and watch a representation of the ONE
  3. Presence of God in Word and Sacrament      }  sacrifice in an unbloody manner