The Biblical Foundation of the Catholic Mass

The Biblical Foundation of the Catholic Mass

Many liturgical texts are like collages of scriptural verses. In this article, I specifically present the biblical foundation of the Catholic Mass. I am heavily indebted to the page compiled by Felix Just, S.J., which can be found here. There is also a helpful article by Karlo Broussard here.

Introductory Rites

The Introductory Rites constitute a preparation for the Holy Mass. They “ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.”1

Sign of the Cross

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).

Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark [taw] on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it (Eze 9:4).

"Amen."

5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands (Ne 8:5–6).

… to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen (Ro 16:27).

Liturgical Greeting

“By this greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.”2

"The Lord be with you."

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you (2 Ti 4:22).

I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).

"And with your spirit."

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters (Ga 6:18).

Penitential Act

"Brethren, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries."

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me (Ps 51:5).

"I confess to almighty God and to you …"

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed (Jas 5:16).

"Lord, have mercy."

… a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon” (Mt 15:22).

Glory

“The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb.”3

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will."

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors! (Lk 2:14).

"We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you …"

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven (Ps 148:13).

"Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son …"

… we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14).

"Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world …"

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29).

Liturgy of the Word

Then [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people (Ex 24:7).

Dialogues

"The Word of the Lord."

“… the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you (1 Pe 1:25).

"Thanks be to God."

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Co 9:15).

"The Gospel of the Lord."

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mk 1:1).

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages (Ro 16:25).

"Alleluia"

'Alleluia' is a transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning “Praise the Lord!”

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! (Ps 146:1; cf. Ps 146-150).

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God …” (Re 19:1).

Creed: “I believe”

“The purpose of the Creed or Profession of Faith is that the whole gathered people may respond to the Word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the Homily and that they may also honor and confess the great mysteries of the faith by pronouncing the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use and before the celebration of these mysteries in the Eucharist begins.”4

Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24).

[Martha] said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (Jn 11:27).

The Prayer of the Faithful

“In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all.”5

"We pray to the Lord."

22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” 24 Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me” (Ac 8:22–24).

"Lord, hear our prayer."

2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD: 3 “Remember now, O LORD, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah prince of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD (2 Ki 20:2–5).

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Preparation of the Gifts

“At the Preparation of the Gifts, bread and wine with water are brought to the altar, the same elements, that is to say, which Christ took into his hands.”6

King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High (Ge 14:18).

"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation …"

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things (Ps 72:18).

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them (Lk 1:68).

"Blessed be God forever."

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer … (Ps 66:20).

[Melchizedek to Abram:] … blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand! (Ge 14:20).

Holy

"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts …"

[Seraph:] Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory (Is 6:3).

[Four living creatures:] Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Re 4:8).

"Heaven and earth are full of your glory."

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise (Hab 3:3).

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork (Ps 19:1).

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth (Ps 57:5).

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD (Ps 118:26).

Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mk 11:9–10).

Words of Institution

“In the Eucharistic Prayer, thanks is given to God for the whole work of salvation, and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Christ.”7

Sources: Mk 14:22-24; Mt 26:26-28; cf. Lk 22:17-20; 1Cor 11:23-25

"Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you."

This saying is a combination of Mk 14:22; Mt 26:26; Lk 22:19; and 1Cor 11:24.

"Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."

This saying is a combination of Mk 14:24; Mt 26:27b-28; cf. Lk 22:17, 20; 1Cor 11:25.

"Do this in remembrance of me."

This saying is found in Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:24a, 25b.

Memorial Acclamations

"We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again."

Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come! (1 Co 16:22).

"When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again."

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Co 11:26).

Lord's Prayer

"Our Father in heaven …"

Sources: Mt 6:9-13; cf. Lk 11:2-4; Mk 14:36; Gal 4:6

"Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil … as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Tt 2:11–13).

"For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours …"

Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all (1 Ch 29:11).

Greeting of Peace

"Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, ‘I leave you peace, my peace I give you.’"

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid (Jn 14:27).

"The peace of the Lord be with you always."

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19).

Breaking of the Bread

“Through the fraction and through Communion, the faithful, though many, receive from the one bread the Lord’s Body and from the one chalice the Lord’s Blood in the same way that the Apostles received them from the hands of Christ himself.”8

"Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world …"

The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Re 5:12).

Preparation before Communion

"Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."

The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Re 19:9).

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

The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8).

Concluding Rites

Final Blessing

"May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, ⁜ and the Holy Spirit."

22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. 27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them (Nu 6:22–27).

Dismissal

"Go forth, the Mass is ended."

In Latin: “Ite, missa est.”

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15).


  1. General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), §46.
  2. GIRM, §50.
  3. GIRM, §53.
  4. GIRM, §67.
  5. GIRM, §69.
  6. GIRM, §72.
  7. GIRM, §72.
  8. GIRM, §72.