At St. Stephen’s we are steeped in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition. Thus, when we have a service of Holy Communion (also called the Holy Eucharist or the Supper of the Lord) we call the service Mass. At St. Stephen’s we exclusively use the 1962 Book of Common Prayer for our service orders. For music we use the 1938 Book of Common Praise for hymns and the English Gradual for the propers of the Mass.
This page is for those have never attended the service of Holy Communion in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition. At Stephen’s we feel that visitors to our Parish can feel lost as to what is going on around them. And that is completely okay. If this is your first time attending Mass we highly encourage you to:
- Sit back
- Relax, and
- Take in what is going on around you.
Gathering of the Community
It is important that as Mass begins the assembled community which has come to hear the Word of God and to partake of the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood be united.
Ringing of the Bell
The Service of Mass begins (albeit unofficially) with the ringing of a small bell announcing the beginning of Mass.
Once the bell has rung then begins a processional hymn during which the Choir, Altar Party and Sacred Ministers will proceed from the Sacristy to the Chancel and the Sanctuary at the East end of the Church.
The Procession will normally be composed of
- The Thurifer carrying and swinging a Thurible in which incense is burning
- A Crucifer carrying a large, brass, processional cross
- Two Torchbearers
- The Choir
- Members of the Altar Party, and
- The Sacred Ministers, namely the Sub-Deacon, Deacon and Priest.
When the Altar Party has reached the Altar the Priest will sprinkle Holy Water onto the Altar and the members of the Altar Party. The Priest will then proceed to the Nave of the Church to bless the congregation by sprinkling Holy Water on them as well. Don’t worry; You shouldn’t get very wet at all.
Censing of the Altar
After the Asperges the Priest will return to the Altar and Cense it with incense from the Thurible in preparation for mass.
Mass formally begins with the Introit (from the Latin introitus for entrance) which will be sung by the choir. The Introit usually consists of:
- The Antiphon, which is usually a verse or two of scripture,
- A verse or two of a Psalm, and followed by
- the Gloria Patri, also known as the Lesser Doxology (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost…), finally
- The Antiphon will be repeated
The Lord’s Prayer
Then the Priest will say a shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer that does not contain “For thine is the kingdom…”. If you looked in the maroon Book of Common Prayer you can find this on page 67.
The Collect for Purity
This prayer is fairly unique to Anglicans having it’s origins in the early English Church. Before the English Reformation it was said by the Priest alone before the procession. Now, it is said by all the faithful.
Summary of the Law
The Priest will now recite the Summary of the Law, which is taken from St. Matthew 22.37-40 and St. Mark 12.28-34. The Faithful will respond asking that God imprint these two commandments mentioned by Our Lord on their Hearts. On some Sundays this is replaced by the reading of the Ten Commandments.
Then is said or sung the Kyrie where the faithful call for God’s mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
After the exchange of the Mutual Salutation between the Priest and the People
The Lord be with you
And with thy Spirit
The Priest will say one or more Collects. Collects are short binding prayers, and they usually speak to a particular theme of the Mass being conducted on that day.
Liturgy of the Word
Now that the Community has been gathered and united together we move onto the portion of Mass in which we listen and respond to the Word of God.
A reading, usually from the Old Testament, will now be said by a member of the congregation.
A reading, usually from one of the New Testament books from Acts to Revelations, is now said by a member of the congregation or by the Sub-Deacon.
Then will be sung the Gradual Hymn, also called the Gospel Hymn.
The Gradual is a short musical setting, usually composed of one or more verses of a Psalm. It is immediately followed by the
Alleluia (or Tract)
Before the proclamation of the Gospel a Chant called the Alleluia will be sung. Normally contains a portion of Psalm or other Scripture. During certain times of year the Alleluia is replaced with a Tract due to the Penitental nature of the season. For some Feasts the Alleluia will be followed by a musical chant called the Sequence.
The Holy Gospel
The Gospel reading will now be said or chanted, usually by the Priest, or the Deacon.
The Faithful now respond to the Gospel by proclaiming their faith in a chanted version of the Nicene Creed.
The Homily or Sermon
The Congregation will now listen to the Homily, based on to the readings they have just heard.
Liturgy of the Sacrifice
The service now moves into the portion were Bread and Wine are offered to God so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
A short Chant called the Offertory will be sung.
During the Offertory Hymn Bread and Wine are brought to the altar by the Faithful, along with monies collected. The Priest (or Deacon) will prepare the Altar. Finally the Altar with the Bread and Wine will be censed.
The Priest will lead the Congregation through the Intercession which is a series of Prayers for the Church Militant, that is, the Church here on Earth.
The Priest will now invite the Faithful to Confess their sins to God. The Priest, in the name of God, will absolve the Faithful of their sins.
A series of four scripture passages will now be said to remind the faithful that their sins have been forgiven.
The Priest now goes through a series of sung and spoken prayers so that the Bread and Wine present will become the Body and Blood of Christ
Once the Consecration by the Priest has been completed, the Peace of Christ will be exchanged. Unlike more contemporary services were the congregation will generally move around to give each other the Peace, in our more Traditional service the Peace is exchanged only verbally between the Priest and the Congregation.
Prayer of Humble Access
Once the Peace has been exchanged the Priest will lead the people through the Prayer of Humble Access. This is a prayer in which those intending to Commune will meekly ask God to receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Before beginning the Communion of the Faithful there is a short Chant that is called the Communion Chant. It usually consists of short sung refrain taken from scripture.
Communion of the Faithful
The Faithful will now come forward to the Altar Railing to partake of the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Body of Christ is received in a small, thin piece of bread called a host while the Precious Blood is received through wine in a Chalice.
St. Stephen’s, as a Parish of the Anglican Church of Canada, practices a form of “Open Communion”. If you are a Christian that has been Baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit you are more than welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament. If you wish to kneel to receive the Blessed Sacrament you are more than welcome to do so, however, you can remain standing as well. You will receive the Host directly into your hand at which point you can place it in your mouth to consume. You will receive the Wine in a Chalice. While it is a common cup it is made of precious metal and wiped each time so it is actually very hygienic.
Please do NOT dip the Host into the Wine as germs on your fingers can get into the Wine. This method of receiving the Blessed Sacrament, better known as Intinction, is not allowed per a Diocesan directive because it is unhygienic.
If you have not been Baptized or do not wish to receive the Blessed Sacrament you can still come forward to the Altar Railing to receive a Blessing.
The Lord’s Prayer
Once the Communion of the Faithful has been completed the Priest and the Congregation will recite the more familiar version of the Lord’s Prayer that includes the Doxology “For thine is the Kingdom…”
Post Communion Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Priest will now a say a Prayer of Thanksgiving for those receiving the Blood and Body of Christ.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Then is sung the hymn “Glory be to God on High…” This is omitted during the seasons of Advent and Lent, and sometimes replaced with another short hymn during said seasons.
The Priest will then give a blessing to the Congregation
The Recessional Hymn
As at the beginning of the Mass we had the Procession of the Altar Party, the Choir and Sacred Ministers they must now recess and do so during the singing of the final hymn called the Recessional Hymn.
The Mass formally ends with the Deacon (or another Minster) giving a Dismissal thus sending the assembled Congregation into the world for the week until they assemble next. Usually the Dismissal is the Second Collect for Maundy Thursday:
O GOD, who in a wonderful sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy passion: Grant us so to reverence the holy mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that we may ever know within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.