The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it
everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure. It
remains the center of the Church’s life.
Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the
Paschal mystery of Jesus “until he comes,” the pilgrim People of
God advances, “following the narrowway of the cross,”
the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table
of the kingdom.
The Mass of all ages
As early as the second century we have the witness of St.
JustinMartyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebra-
tion. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great
liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus
Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:
On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the
city or country gather in the same place.
Thememoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets
are read, as much as time permits.
When the reader has finished, he who presides over those
gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these
Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .
and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be
found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the
commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine
mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of
the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek:
) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all
present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have
responded, those whom we call deacons give to those pre
sent the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them
to those who are absent.
171 St. Justin,
1, 65-67: PG 6, 428-429; the text before the asterisk (*) is
from chap. 67.