The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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A-Z of the Mass: Gospel

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the proclamation of the Gospel. The one who announces the gospel prepares to do so by prayer, and if he is a deacon, he seeks a blessing. The congregation stands, and the Book of the Gospels is carried in procession by the deacon, accompanied by lighted candles and the singing of the Alleluia verse. This verse is a greeting of the Gospel and a welcoming of the Lord who speaks to his people in the gospel reading. Other rites serve to distinguish this reading from all others: the greeting and response at the beginning, the sign of the cross made with the thumb on forehead, lips and breast, the incensing of the book, the final response, and the kissing of the book.
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A-Z of the Mass: Faithful, Prayers of the

Saturday, July 24, 2010
At one time the prayers of the faithful (also known as the bidding prayers) marked the transition into a new phase of the liturgy. This was the point at which the catechumens departed leaving only baptized Catholics of good standing to continue the Mass. For a number of reasons, this custom has been abandoned. Yet if we reflect upon why early Christians thought it appropriate to separate full and potential members of the Church at this moment, the ecclesial dimension of our prayers of intercession comes more sharply into focus. The liturgy of the word culminates in the Church as one body interceding for the world. In the process the members of this body exercise their baptismal priesthood.
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A-Z of the Mass: Eucharistic Prayer

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The Eucharistic Prayer forms the centre of the Mass, opening with the dialogue between priest and people in which we are called to ‘lift up [our] hearts’ to the Lord as we begin this most solemn prayer and continuing up to the great ‘Amen’ which precedes the Our Father. First of all, the priest praises God, acknowledging in what is known as the ‘Preface’ of our Prayer of Thanks (for ‘Eucharist’ is the Greek for thanksgiving) that we do well always and everywhere to give God thanks and praise. This section, which can vary in accordance with the particular feast or celebration, concludes by recalling that, in this praise and worship of God in which we are engaging, we join already in the activity of the saints and angels in heaven, and so we are called to join in the Sanctus, the heavenly song (cf. Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Read more

A-Z of the Mass: Doxology

Thursday, July 15, 2010
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A-Z of the Mass: Communion

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In the Summa Theologiae, St Thomas reminds us that, since the Fall, mankind has had to rely upon receiving God’s grace through material things which are perceivable to the senses (ST III 61,1) It is in this way, by the very things we know and which are familiar to us, that God reaches out to us and ultimately draws us back to him. Of all these material things, or sacraments, which God uses to draw us ever closer to him, Holy Communion or the Eucharist is the greatest.

The reality which we call Holy Communion or Eucharist is established at the Lord's Supper. As we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus first offered the apostles that which He was about to change, bread and wine - ordinary staples as familiar to the disciples as they are to us. He then changed or consecrated the bread and wine and gave to them that which had become His own Flesh and Blood, as Communion: “Jesus took bread and blessed and broke and gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take you and eat, this is my Body.’ And taking the chalice He gave thanks and gave it to them saying’, ‘Drink you all of this. For this is my Blood of the New Testament which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28).

In Chapter Six of St John's Gospel, we see most clearly how Christ emphasizes the complete necessity of being nourished by His Body and Blood if the supernatural life we receive at our Baptism is to be nourished and sustained. It is worth quoting at length; “I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in Him” (John 6: 53-56).

In this pivotal moment - the institution of the Eucharist - Christ gave us His own Body, and His own Blood shed in establishing the New Covenant. This was a single act in history but one which Christ commissioned the disciples, and thus His Church, to re-enact. This is so that this one ultimate sacrifice in history remains constantly efficacious and constantly made effectual for us all in each legitimate celebration of the Eucharist. It is re-presented through the sacrifice of Mass performed by the historical entity which is the Church of Christ through its validly ordained priests and bishops.

Holy Communion is therefore not simply a liturgical tradition instituted by Christ, it is Christ – His own Body and Blood - made really and truly present for us under the ‘species’ of bread and wine. It is important to emphasise that this consecration is to be understood as a genuine change of one substance – bread and wine – into another – the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ. (More on Transubstantiation later in this series …)

In partaking of the Eucharist, the individual in communion with the whole Church realizes and declares that grateful response to God’s offer of grace, his self-communication, which preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. Thus the principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus; therefore as Christ said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6: 56).
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A-Z of the Mass: Berakah

Thursday, July 08, 2010
Knowledge of the Jewish prayer, the berakah, can help to shed a lot of light on our understanding of the Mass. The berakah derives its name from the Hebrew verb barak, ‘to bless.’ Such prayers of blessing occur throughout the bible: ‘Blessed is the Lord for ever’ (Ps. 89.52), ‘Blessed be the Lord who has given his people Israel rest as he promised: not one of the promises he made through his servant Moses has failed’ (1 Kings 8:56), ‘Blessed be God’s name from age to age for all wisdom and power are his’ (Dan 2:20).

Often such blessings occur with other elements such as a supplication or a thanksgiving (hodayah). For instance, Solomon’s berakah above continues with a supplication: ‘The Lord our God be with us as he was with our forefathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us’ (1 Kings 8:57). Daniel’s berakah continues with an expression of thanks: ‘To thee, God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for thou has given me wisdom and power.’ (Dan 2:23). And of course, Jesus is recorded as saying the blessing and giving thanks during the Last Supper.

It is likely that in the 1st Century AD, it would have been very typical for Jews to say a grace at the end of meals that contained a berakah together with a hodayah (a thanksgiving) and a supplication. Praising God is a blessing for those who bless him. The Jews blessed and thanked God for his past actions such as their liberation from Egyptian slavery, but they also looked to the future. The nation was not yet fully liberated and Israel still continued to suffer, so the people expressed the hope that God would bring to completion what He had begun.

God’s act of redemption reached its fulfilment on the Cross when Jesus said ‘It is accomplished.’ The Eucharistic celebration is a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving and it is a commemoration of God’s saving act in which He gives Himself totally to us. So the Mass is the fulfilment of the berakah. Not only does the Church continue Israel’s prayer of blessing and thanksgiving, but in the Eucharist we also have the definitive answer to the prayer ‘May God never leave us nor forsake us.’
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A - Z of the Mass: Altar

Monday, July 05, 2010
Adoro Te devote latens Deitas Read more

A-Z of the Mass - He Placed Himself in the Order of Signs

Thursday, July 01, 2010
During the summer months we will be offering an A-Z of the Mass, a series of reflections on different aspects and moments of the Mass. Here we give a general introduction to the sacramental system which is at the heart of the Catholic faith. Read more
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