In the Mass, bread and wine are transformed into the real presence of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who healed the sick, taught powerfully and rose from the dead two millennia ago. 

That same Jesus draws close to us today in the form of bread and wine, to unite us to Him and to transform us into saints.

Jesus Established the Mass at the Last Supper and, since the time of the first Christians, it has been the primary act of Christian worship.

In every Catholic Mass in every church around the world, Jesus becomes present to His people.

It’s the same Jesus

How Jesus is present to us in the Catholic Mass

Jesus is present to us in many different ways, but in the Eucharist, the bread and wine offered at the Mass, He makes Himself ‘wholly and entirely present’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374).

Jesus does not tell us that the Eucharist is a symbol of His body and blood, but that it is His body and blood. 

‘I tell you most solemnly if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.’ John 6:53-55

The Mass makes Jesus present to us

‘This is my body, which will be given for you’

The Mass is referred to as ‘the holy sacrifice of the Mass’ because it re-presents (makes present) to us Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.

At the Last Supper, when Jesus celebrated the Passover meal the night before His crucifixion, He told His disciples to ‘do this in memory of me’.

This commands His disciples to treat the Mass as a memorial, which, in Jewish tradition does not mean to remember an event but to make it present again, to re-present it.

On the cross, Jesus was sacrificed for our sins and He became the ‘lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’, akin to the Jewish tradition of sacrificing sacrificial lambs in the Temple.

At every Mass, His sacrifice for our true freedom is made present once again.

The Mass is a Sacrifice

‘Do this in memory of me’

In the Jewish celebration of the Passover, eating the sacrificial lamb was an important part of the ritual as this shared meal created communion between the people and God.

Today, by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass, we experience an intimate union with Him and enter into communion with God.

This communion creates a deep unity between Jesus and us, the members of His Church, making us a part of His one body, alive and active in the world today.

The Mass brings us into communion with God

'One bread, one body'

We begin the Mass by acknowledging our sins in the ‘I confess’ prayer, known as the Confiteor. 

Just as the people of Israel prepared to meet God at Mount Sinani by washing their clothes and consecrating themselves, we prepare ourselves to receive God in the Eucharist by confessing our sins.

Confiteor | Latin, ‘I confess’

Why do we confess sins ‘in my thoughts, in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do’? 
By speaking of these four areas of our lives, we have a moment to examine our conscience. In asking us to even to think of the good we have failed to do, it challenges us to be more like Jesus in our daily lives.

The Confiteor

‘I confess to almighty God …’

In the Kyrie, we make a plea for God’s mercy, which is a natural thing for us to do as we approach God, aware of our brokenness.

When He walked the Earth, many people approached Jesus wanting healing but first asking for mercy.

‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David’ Matthew 15:22

Kyrie Eleison | Greek, ‘Lord, have mercy’

Why do we still say it in Greek?
Greek, Hebrew and Latin are the three liturgical languages and by using them, we speak the very same syllables as the first Christian worshippers, connecting us with them.

The Kyrie

‘Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy’

With the singing of the Gloria, we move from repentance into praise. The opening line of the Gloria comes directly from the angels' announcement of Jesus’s birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem.

‘“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”’ Luke 2:14

Why do we sing our praise to God?
In the Gloria, we sing many of God’s biblical titles, such as ‘God, almighty Father’ and ‘heavenly king’. We do this because God is our father - He is not an all-powerful tyrant but a loving creator and so we sing to celebrate His sheer goodness and to express our love for Him.

The Gloria is a joyful song because we have already been saved by Jesus in His great redemptive act on the cross.

The Gloria

‘Glory to God in the highest!’

The Readings at Mass are made up of a first reading, from the Old Testament, a psalm, and a second reading, from the New Testament.

The scriptures were written by men who were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meaning that they have God as their ultimate author.

‘Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. … There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.’ Pope Benedict XVI

Inspiration | from the Latin, ‘inspiratio’ meaning ‘inbreathing’.

Why do we have the readings in this order?
The readings at Sunday Masses follow a three-year cycle and this practice of a cycle of readings is rooted in Jewish tradition.

In this way, we are not allowed to stick to our favourite or most familiar Bible stories but are challenged by all of the scriptures. This allows us to see the connections between the Old and the New Testaments and how God has worked across time to save His people.

The Readings

‘This is the Word of the Lord’

The readings climax with a reading from one of the four Gospels, all of which tell the story of Jesus’ life, signifying how all of scripture points towards Jesus, who is the source of our salvation.

Through the Gospel, we encounter the authentic Jesus, and His words and actions challenge us to pursue holiness and to love those around us.

Gospel | from the Greek, ‘evangelion’, which translates in Old English as ‘good news’

Why do we make the sign of the cross over our forehead, mouth, and breast?
In this three-fold ritual, we ask that the Gospel would always be on our mind, lips, and heart, so that Jesus would guide our everyday thoughts, words, and actions to those around us.

The Gospel


The homily exists to instruct the faithful and to explain the scriptures.

Explaining scripture readings goes all the way back to the Old Testament and can be found in accounts of the Levites who read the scriptures and ‘gave them sense so that the people understood the reading’ (Neh 8:8). 

This was also the case in the synagogues: scripture readings were always explained and Jesus Himself explained the scriptures in the synagogues of His day.

Homily | from the Greek, ‘homilos’ meaning ‘crowd’ and then ‘homily’, Greek for ‘discourse/conversation’

The Homily

Preaching the Word of God

The Creed is the summary of our Christian belief and it sums up the whole story of our salvation history in a short statement of faith.

Proclaiming this Creed is a counter-cultural act. In our relativistic world, to proclaim the Creed is to state our belief that there is a loving creator, that we are sinners, that we know our saviour, and that life has a purpose.

‘Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.’
Catechism of the Catholic Church 150

Creed | from the Latin, ‘credo’ meaning ‘I believe’

The Creed

‘I believe’

In the offertory, the people present the priest with the bread and wine to be consecrated.

Offering bread and wine was normal in Jewish sacrificial rites and was used in the Passover meal. In Jesus’ day, bread was ‘daily bread’, a necessity for life, and wine was a common part of meals too.

To offer bread and wine is therefore to symbolically offer our very lives to God.

Offertory | from the Latin, ‘offerre’ meaning, ‘to bring/to offer’

The Offertory

‘Fruit of the earth
and work of human hands’

The words of the Sanctus come from Isaiah’s vision of God sitting enthroned in heaven being worshipped by angels.

The Sanctus invites us to have the awe of the angels for what is about to happen, as we await Jesus becoming present in the Eucharist.

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of his glory.’ Isaiah 6:3

Sanctus | Latin for ‘holy’

The Sanctus

‘With the angels, we sing’

In the consecration, the priest speaks Jesus’ exact words from the Last Supper over the bread and wine.

In His language at the Last Supper Jesus is clearly speaking of a sacrifice and He speaks of Himself, His body, His blood being offered, in the place of the Passover’s sacrificial lamb, making a radical change to the traditional Passover.

His words here mysteriously anticipate His death on the cross just the next day, when He gives His life for the forgiveness of our sins.

When He says ‘do this in memory of me’ he is telling his disciples to celebrate this New Passover meal of His body and blood as a liturgical memorial, which makes these past events mystically present to us today.

Consecration | from the Latin, ‘consecrationem’ meaning, ‘to make holy/to devote’

Why does the priest say, ‘the mystery of faith’?
With these words, the priest is quoting St Paul (1 Timothy 3:9) to express awe at the fact that Jesus is now present on the altar in the form of bread and wine before us. 

This is the supreme moment of the Mass and we can only respond to it with wonder. This is also then expressed when we sing the ‘Great Amen’.

The Institution and Consecration

‘This is my body,
which will be given up for you'

Sharing a sign of peace goes back to the early Christians and the practice of a ‘holy kiss’ which was a Christian greeting encouraged by both St Peter and St Paul.

This sign of peace may be different across cultures and nationalities, but whether it is bowing, shaking hands or something else, this gesture expresses our unity as children of God and anticipates the mystical unity we will share when we receive the eucharist.

‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you’ John 14:27

The Rite of Peace

‘Peace be with you’

At this point of the Mass, the priest breaks the bread and the people sing the ‘Agnus Dei’.

The breaking of the bread (or the fraction) signifies that we are all sharing the same bread, the same Jesus, which unites us together as one Church.

Jesus breaks bread with people often in the Bible, famously with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who do not recognise him at first, but do when he breaks bread with them.

‘Now while he was with them at table, he took bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him’. Luke 24:30

Agnus Dei | Latin for ‘Lamb of God’

Why does the priest place a small piece of the host into the chalice?
This ritual, known as ‘comingling’ is an expression of unity that originated in Rome. 

The Pope would send a small part of the host that he had consecrated to priests throughout the city who would put this in their chalice, symbolising their unity with the bishop of Rome.

Agnus Dei

‘Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us’

In Holy Communion, we eat the consecrated bread and drink the consecrated wine that have become Jesus’ body and blood and we then receive Jesus into our bodies in a profound moment of union and intimacy with God.

When we have received Jesus in this way, it is important that we take the time to contemplate the magnitude of this moment and to pray to Him, that He will sanctify us and unite us to Himself. 

‘Our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other purpose than to transform us into that which we receive.’ Pope St Leo I

Why do we pray ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof?’
As humans and sinners, this prayer again acknowledges our unworthiness to receive Jesus in this profound way, but also expresses confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal us: ‘only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ 

As for why we refer to a roof, this is because these words come directly from the centurion in scripture who implores Jesus to heal his paralysed servant. ‘The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.’ Matthew 8:8

Holy Communion

‘Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed.’

At the closing rites the priest speaks these words to us: ‘Go forth, the Mass is ended’ which is a dismissal so significant that the whole liturgy draws its name from this.

The name ‘The Mass’ comes from the Latin ‘Missa’ meaning ‘dismissal’ or ‘sending’. This signifies that the Mass, that Jesus, is not just for us but that we are sent to tell others of the hope we have in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

‘Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfil God's will in their daily lives.' Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1332 

Ite Missa est
| Latin for, ‘go, you are dismissed’ 

Blessing and Dismissal

‘Go forth, the Mass is ended’

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