Celebrating the Eucharist in Community

Celebrating the Eucharist in Community

The celebration of the Eucharist is not a private devotion but rather a communal gathering much like a family meal. We come together at the same time and in the same place so that we can take part in a common action. We open with a ceremony of pardoning, a way to unburden ourselves of past offenses so that we can rejoice in one another’s company. Later we will share a sign of peace and reconciliation. We don’t sit and read the Bible quietly to ourselves but rather listen to it proclaimed to us as a community. We follow this with a public proclamation of our communal faith. 

We then gather around the table of the Lord for our family meal. As we prepare to eat our meal, we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that has identified and united Christians for centuries. The actual partaking of the food is referred to as “communion,” a joining together of the members of the community, not only with their God but also with each other. Our celebration closes with a charge to go forth as a community and bring God’s love to the world.

The Participants in the Mass

The principal participant in the celebration of the Mass is Jesus Christ, who makes his presence felt in the assembly of his followers, in the proclamation of the Word, in the person of the priest, and especially in the Eucharist. Jesus fills the community with his Spirit as his Death and Resurrection are memorialized, and his followers obey his command to “Do this in memory of me.” 

The assembled community participates in the celebration by listening to the proclamation of the Word and by bringing their lives to the altar to be offered in union with the Passion and Death of Jesus. The entire community participates through responses, gestures, and song, and some members of the community assume special ministerial roles as ushers, lectors, and Eucharistic ministers. The participants are filled first with the Word of God and then with the Body and Blood of Christ.

Because of his Baptism, the priest participates in the celebration as do the other members of the community. But he has a special role to fulfill because of his ordination. His configuration to Christ in a special way empowers him to preside at the Eucharistic celebration and to pronounce the words that will make Christ present in the Eucharist.