On the Sacrifice of the Mass
This Overview of the Mass is taken from the Baltimore Catechism and provides a good introduction to the traditional mass.
Q. 916. When and where are the bread and wine changed into the body and blood of Christ?
A. The bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ at the Consecration in the Mass.
Q. 917. What is the Mass?
A. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ.
Q. 918. Why is this Sacrifice called the Mass?
A. This Sacrifice is called the "Mass" very probably from the words "Ite Missa est," used by the priest as he tells the people to depart when the Holy Sacrifice is ended.
Q. 919. What is a sacrifice?
A. A sacrifice is the offering of an object by a priest to God alone, and the consuming of it to acknowledge that He is the Creator and Lord of all things.
Q. 920. Is the Mass the same sacrifice as that of the Cross?
A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross.
Q. 921. How is the Mass the same sacrifice as that of the Cross?
A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross because the offering and the priest are the same—Christ our Blessed Lord; and the ends for which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered are the same as those of the sacrifice of the Cross.
Q. 922. What were the ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered?
A. The ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered were: 1st, To honor and glorify God; 2nd, To thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world; 3rd, To satisfy God's justice for the sins of men; 4th, To obtain all graces and blessings.
Q. 923. How are the fruits of the Mass distributed?
A. The fruits of the Mass are distributed thus: The first benefit is bestowed on the priest who says the Mass; the second on the person for whom the Mass is said, or for the intention for which it is said; the third on those who are present at the Mass, and particularly on those who serve it, and the fourth on all the faithful who are in communion with the Church.
Q. 926. For what end or intention may Mass be offered?
A. Mass may be offered for any end or intention that tends to the honor and glory of God, to the good of the Church or the welfare of man; but never for any object that is bad in itself, or in its aims; neither can it be offered publicly for persons who are not members of the true Church.
Q. 928. From what may we learn that we are to offer up the Holy Sacrifice with the priest?
A. We may learn that we are to offer up the Holy Sacrifice with the priest from the words used in the Mass itself; for the priest, after offering up the bread and wine for the Sacrifice, turns to the people and says: "Orate Fratres," &c., which means: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty," and the server answers in our name: "May the Lord receive the sacrifice from thy hands to the praise and glory of His own name, and to our benefit and that of all His Holy Church."
Q. 929. From what did the custom of making an offering to the priest for saying Mass arise?
A. The custom of making an offering to the priest for saying Mass arose from the old custom of bringing to the priest the bread and wine necessary for the celebration of Mass.
Q. 930. Is it not simony, or the buying of a sacred thing, to offer the priest money for saying Mass for your intention?
A. It is not simony, or the buying of a sacred thing, to offer the priest money for saying Mass for our intention, because the priest does not take the money for the Mass itself, but for the purpose of supplying the things necessary for Mass and for his own support.
Q. 931. Is there any difference between the sacrifice of the Cross and the sacrifice of the Mass?
A. Yes; the manner in which the sacrifice is offered is different. On the Cross Christ really shed His blood and was really slain; in the Mass there is no real shedding of blood nor real death, because Christ can die no more; but the sacrifice of the Mass, through the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, represents His death on the Cross.
Assisting at Mass
Q. 946. How should we assist at Mass?
A. We should assist at Mass with great interior recollection and piety and with every outward mark of respect and devotion.
Q. 947. Which is the best manner of hearing Mass?
A. The best manner of hearing Mass is to offer it to God with the priest for the same purpose for which it is said, to meditate on Christ's sufferings and death, and to go to Holy Communion.
Q. 948. What is important for the proper and respectful hearing of Mass?
A. For the proper and respectful hearing of Mass it is important to be in our place before the priest comes to the altar and not to leave it before the priest leaves the altar. Thus we prevent the confusion and distraction caused by late coming and too early leaving. Standing in the doorways, blocking up passages and disputing about places should, out of respect for the Holy Sacrifice, be most carefully avoided.
Q. 951. How do we show that the ceremonies of the Church are reasonable and proper?
A. We show that the ceremonies of the Church are reasonable and proper from the fact that all persons in authority, rulers, judges and masters, require certain acts of respect from their subjects, and as we know Our Lord is present on the altar, the Church requires definite acts of reverence and respect at the services held in His honor and in His presence.
Q. 952. Are there other reasons for the use of ceremonies?
A. There are other reasons for the use of ceremonies: (1) God commanded ceremonies to be used in the old law, and (2) Our Blessed Lord Himself made use of ceremonies in performing some of His miracles.
Q. 954. What is Vespers?
A. Vespers is a portion of the divine office or daily prayer of the Church. It is sung in Churches generally on Sunday afternoon or evening, and is usually followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Q. 955. Can one satisfy for neglecting Mass on Sunday by hearing Vespers on the same day?
A. One cannot satisfy for neglecting Mass on Sunday by hearing Vespers on the same day, because there is no law of the Church obliging us under pain of sin to attend Vespers, while there is a law obliging us under pain of mortal sin to hear Mass.