Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


The Eucharist, a thanksgiving, a commemoration with an injunction, a sacrificial meal, a sacrament, is a rite of worship of Catholicism and, to a lesser extent, of Anglicanism (Emminghaus 1978, Martimort 1986).

The ritual form and ceremonial shape of the Mass have oscillated from the simple to the complex according to theological preference and cultural circumstances. It can be said publicly or privately. It is rarely said in Latin nowadays, although that was for at least a thousand years the standard form among Western Christians, more usually now being said in the vernacular of the congregation. Embodying horizontal and vertical properties, it is a ritual transaction in community that requires a priest, servers, and sometimes choir; it services four other sacraments covering life stages of a community of believers.

The Mass marks sacred time, the main periods being Advent and Lent, Christmas and the Easter tridium, but also feast days and commemorations in a calendar that is universal in the Catholic Church, with some diocesan variations for local memoria. A variety of musical styles are employed, almost every major classical composer having written settings for the six parts of the Mass that permit choral rendition. In Catholicism, the authority for the recent form of the Mass is derived from the Roman Missal , promulgated in 1970. Recent efforts to simplify and to renew have led to much dispute since Vatican II.

Kieran Flanagan


J. H. Emminghaus, The Eucharist (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1978)

A. G. Martimort, The Church at Prayer , Vol. 2 (London: Chapman, 1986).

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500