A look at the new GIRM
by Father Walter Ray Williams
In our ongoing perusal of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, we continue today in “Chapter II – The Structure of the Mass: Its Elements and Its Parts.” Picking up where we left off last week, we come to the section on “The Liturgy of the Eucharist.”
- “At the Last Supper Christ instituted the Paschal Sacrifice and banquet, by which the Sacrifice of the Cross is continuously made present in the Church whenever the priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries out what the Lord himself did and handed over to his disciples to be done in his memory… Accordingly, the Church has arranged the entire celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in parts corresponding to precisely these words and actions of Christ.”
- “The offerings are… brought forward. It is praiseworthy for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful… It is good also that money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, should be received. These are to be put in a suitable place but away from the Eucharistic table.” “The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the Offertory chant, which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar.”
- Incense may be used during the Offertory “so as to signify the Church’s offering and prayer rising like incense in the sight of God.”
- The priest’s washing his hands at the side of the altar is “an expression of his desire for interior purification.”
- Today our parish will institute the change already mentioned in a previous bulletin. After the priest finishes washing his hands, he turns back to the altar, at which point all the faithful stand as the priest invites them – “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” And the people, already standing, respond – “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.” This is followed by the Prayer Over the Gifts.
- The Eucharistic Prayer (or Canon). “Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: namely, the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification…,” which is addressed, not by the priest to the people, but rather by the priest with the people “to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the meaning of the Prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful should join itself with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice. The Eucharistic Prayer demands that all listen to it with reverence and in silence.”
- The chief elements of the Eucharistic Prayer are as follows: Thanksgiving – the priest, in the name of the people, giving glory to God and thanks “for the whole work of salvation….” Acclamation – the singing of the Sanctus (the Holy, Holy). Epiclesis – where the Church, through the words of the priest, implores “the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, become Christ’s Body and Blood….” Institution narrative and consecration – “In which, by means of words and actions of Christ, the Sacrifice is carried out which Christ himself instituted at the Last Supper, when he offered his Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine….” Anamnesis – when the Church, in this great prayer, especially remembers Christ’s suffering and death, his glorious Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven. Offerings – the priest with the people altogether offering the spotless Victim to God the Father in the Holy Spirit as their sole means to God and, as well, the offering of themselves to God through Christ. Intercessions – that the Eucharist “is celebrated in communion with the entire Church, of heaven as well as of earth, and that the offering is made for her and for all her members, living and dead, who have been called to participate in the redemption and the salvation purchased by Christ’s Body and Blood.” And the Final Doxology – “by which the glorification of God is expressed and which is confirmed and concluded by the people’s acclamation, Amen.”
- The Communion Rite – Christ’s Body and Blood should be received “as spiritual food” and only by those Catholics “who are properly disposed.” (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1398 – 1401; and Code of Canon Law, 912 and 913).
- The Lord’s Prayer – “In the Lord’s Prayer a petition is made for daily food, which for Christians means preeminently the Eucharistic bread, and also for purification from sin, so that what is holy may, in fact, be given to those who are holy.”
- Concerning The Lord’s Prayer, the question about holding hands keeps coming up from numerous parishioners, and this is the opportune time to address it. The simple answer is that this is not an official part of the Catholic liturgy and that there is no provision for it in the norms and rubrics. I know that some are attached to this practice, but they need to realize that some are not and so they cannot presume that everyone should hold hands. After all, those who choose not to are abiding by the current norms.
To be continued next week…