Monday, March 8, 2010

Pax Sinica Article: Mass (Part III) (Feb. 22)

Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Last week was Chinese New Year. It is the time to give thanks to God. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving”. The Eucharistic Prayer is at the heart of the Mass. Although there are a number of Eucharistic Prayers that can be used by the priest, they all have a common form. The key parts of the Eucharistic Prayer are: the preface, the Sanctus, the epiclesis, the institutional narrative (Consecration), the anamnesis, the intercessions, and the great doxology.

Praise and Thanksgiving

At the beginning of the preface, the priest invited the people to lift up their hearts to God in order to thank Him. The theme of the preface is that of thanksgiving. It is a solemn recall of God's gifts to us. This prayer leads us to join the angels to praise God by singing or saying the Sanctus. The words “holy, holy, holy Lord” echo the seraphim's song of adoration (Isaiah 6:3) and the words “blessed is he” echo the cries of the people at Our Lard's entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). St. Gregory said, “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist at the holy sacrifice.” St. Augustine said, “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” We knee during the Eucharistic Prayer to acknowledge the presence of God.

The Most Sacred Moment

Epiclesis means “invoke upon”. It leads to the Consecration. At the epiclesis, the priest holds his hands outstretched over the bread and wine with his palms down. He asks God the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon the gifts so that they may become the body and blood of Christ.

Then comes the most sacred moment of the Mass--- the Consecration. The priest, repeating the narrative of the Last supper, pronounces over the bread and wine the words of Christ Himself: “This is my Body”, “This the the cup of my Blood”. These words change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The twofold consecration of bread and wine points to the reality of the separation of the body and blood of Christ on the cross. According to a Catechism: “The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ.”

During the Consecration, the priest elevates the host and the chalice for the people to adore Christ. While the host is elevated, we can make an act of faith by praying quietly, “My Lord, and my God.” And while the chalice is elevated, we can pray quietly, “My Jesus, mercy!” The ringing of the bell at the Consecration helps to remind us of the sacredness of this moment.

Remember and Pray

After the Consecration, the priest invites the people to proclaim “the mystery of faith” and the people respond with an acclamation. The priest then commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ. This commemoration is called the “anamnesis”. After the anamnesis, the priest offers the body and blood of Christ to God the Father and asks Him to bring about the effects of the Holy Eucharist among the people. The priest continues prayers of intercession for the Church, the faithful departed, and those present. During the Eucharistic Prayer the saints are remembered: we ask God to let us be helped by their prayers and to bring us into their company.

The Eucharistic Prayer is concluded by the priest lifts up the chalice and the host as a gesture of sacrificial offering and says or sings the great doxology: “Through him, with him, in him...”. This is a majestic expression of the Trinitarian mystery of the eternal Sacrifice. The people ratify the whole Eucharistic Prayer by a loud and full-hearted “Amen”.

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感恩祭獻

上週是農曆新年,也是向天主謝恩的好時日。顧名思義,感恩聖祭就是向天主表達感恩而舉行的祭祀。

「感恩經」是彌撒的中樞。雖然在彌撒中,神父可選擇不同的「感恩經」,但其型式都是一致的:頌謝詞、歡呼歌、祝聖禱詞、祝聖祭品、紀念禱詞、代禱和聖三光榮頌詞。

讚美與謝恩

頌謝詞開始,神父呼籲信眾齊心向上感謝上主,而頌謝詞主體是謝恩,提醒我們從天主領受到的恩惠,隨即引導我們與天使們一起詠唱或誦唸「歡呼歌」:「聖、聖、聖」回響了依撒意亞先知書(6:3)中的色辣芬(熾愛)天使欽崇天主的詠詞,而「當受讚頌」是重應了當年群眾迎接耶穌榮進耶路撒冷城的頌詞(瑪竇福音21:9)。聖額我畧說:「天開了,無數天使降下參與這神聖的祭獻。」聖奧斯定亦說:「眾天使環繞祭台,幫助神父主持的彌撒。」神父誦唸「感恩經」時,信眾下跪,公告主的臨在。

最神聖的時刻

「祝聖禱詞」步入祝聖祭(禮)品的階段:神父覆手於麵餅和酒水,祈求天主聖神降下,聖化祭品,使成耶穌基督的聖體聖血。

然後,到達彌撒最神聖的時刻——成聖體聖血的祝聖時刻。神父複述耶穌最後晚餐的話:「這就是我的身體」、「這一杯就是我的血」,頃間,祭台上的麵餅變成耶穌的身體,聖爵內的酒水變成耶穌的聖血。分開祝聖聖體聖血,表示耶穌在十字架上,體血分離, 流盡聖血而亡。要理問答寫着:彌撒是重行耶穌在十字架上的祭獻,彌撒中的祭品和主祭都是耶穌基督自己。」

神父分別把耶穌聖體舉揚,把盛載着成了耶穌聖血的聖爵舉揚,讓信眾欽崇朝拜。神父舉揚聖體時,我們舉目瞻仰,可發信德地默唸「我主、我天主」;神父舉揚聖血時,我們舉目瞻仰,可發信德地默禱「主耶穌,矜憐我」。此時輔祭响鈴,提醒我們,這是彌撒最神聖的時刻。

紀念與祈求

舉揚聖體聖血後,神父邀請信眾宣認「信德的奧蹟」,然後以「紀念禱詞」追念基督的聖死復活,更把基督的聖體寶血獻給天主聖父,作為救世的聖祭。之後,神父為教會、為亡者祈求,亦為參與聖祭的信眾祈禱。「感恩經」經文同時紀念諸聖,祈望藉諸聖的轉禱,我們得以有一天和他們在天國共聚。

「感恩經」結束時,神父舉起聖體聖血呈奉天主聖父,高唱或誦唸聖三光榮頌詞「藉着基督,偕同基督,在基督內 ...」,這是彰顯了天主聖三,在這永恆的祭祀中至尊崇的奧祕,信眾則異口同聲同心和應「亞孟」。