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Our Worship

Our worship at St Mary’s is at the heart of our life as the Church of England in the Parish of Sundon, which seeks to serve the villages of Upper and Lower Sundon, and Sundon Park.

At the centre of our worshiping life is the celebration of the Eucharist, the service which Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted, when He took bread and wine, offered thanks to God, and shared these holy gifts with His Disciples at the Last Supper.

At St Mary’s we offer our worship according to the Catholic Tradition of the Church of England, and this page is designed to explain some parts of our worship, what is happening, and why we are doing and using certain things within our worship.

Before the service begins we say two prayers which prepare us for the worship we are to offer to God, these are known as the Collect for Purity (in which we seek to cleanse our minds and focus on being in church for worship), and the Prayer of Humble Access (in which we remember that we are not worthy to come before God, and realise that through His grace and mercy we come to Him, our loving Father).

On Sundays in Advent and Lent (and on some other Sundays) we use the Asperges (the rite of blessing with holy water).  The use of Holy Water reminds us of our own Baptism, in which we were washed with Christ and cleansed from our sins.  The Asperges serve as an alternative ‘Penitential Rite’ in which we seek God’s forgiveness for the wrongs that we have done.

When the priest enters the sanctuary (the part of the church where the High Altar is situated[1]), he first kisses the altar[2], and will then incense it[3&4]. Incense is to be found clearly in many parts of the Old Testament, and also in the New, and as it is used in our worship we are reminded of our prayers being raised to heaven.

In the Kyries[5] we ask God for His care and love to us – and we do this in the Trinitarian form, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Gloria[6] (which is omitted in Advent, Lent and Requiem Masses) is the Church’s song of praise and thanksgiving to God, celebrating the gift of Our Lord Jesus Christ to us.

The Collect[6] is the prayer which is set particularly for the day itself, and is followed by the readings.

The Holy Gospel is marked with the use of incense, because we are reminded that we are about to hear the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ – the Gospels telling us of what He did and what He said.  As the Holy Gospel is announced, it is customary to make the sign of the Cross on forehead, lips and chest.

The Peace is where we mark the end of the Liturgy of the Word and begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist.   

At the Offertory, the bread and wine which are to be consecrated are brought to the altar and prepared by the priest who offers words of thanks to God for them.[7]

In the Eucharistic act we remember that great sacrifice which Our Lord Jesus Christ made in His suffering and death on the Cross, and His rising on that First Easter Day. The Holy Sacrifice is marked again by the use of incense, as the bread and wine (which are to become Christ’s body and blood truly present upon the altar) are censed[8], and also the altar upon which the Holy Sacrifice is to be offered[9].  The Priest who offers the Holy Sacrifice is himself censed, and then all the people in church too, as we all share in that Holy and Sacrificial offering.

At the Pray Brethren, the Priest invites the whole people of God to share in that sacrificial offering.

The priest will say a short prayer over the gifts, and then sing the Sursum Corda [10 the Lord be with you] [11 lift up your hearts][12 let us give thanks unto the Lord our God], in which the people and priest join together in raising their hearts in praise to God.

The Preface (great prayer of thanksgiving) is then  sung by the priest and leads us into the singing of the Sanctus.

The Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) is where we celebrate the Sanctity (or Holiness) of God, as we prepare for the most sacred part of the whole service, the Canon.  

At the Canon, the priest may begin by saying the  traditional words of the canon in a low voice, but the actual Prayer of Consecration will be said aloud.  In this the priest calls the Holy Spirit to come down onto the gifts, and then uses those very words which Our Lord Jesus Christ said to His Disciples at the Last Supper; first He gave thanks to Almighty God for the gifts, and then He commanded that they eat and drink these gifts of bread and wine, in remembrance that they are His body and blood[13 & 14].  The priest will genuflect [15] (kneel) to adore the Most Holy Sacrament, then elevate it in one movement so that the people may see It [16 bread 17 wine], and then will genuflect a second time[18].  This is done for both the consecration of the bread and the wine.  They have now become Christ’s body and blood – even though they do of course still look the same.

The prayer of consecration continues with the remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, and His mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension, and the priest may then continue with the traditional Canon in a low voice.

At the Lord’s Prayer we remember that Our Lord commanded us to pray this particular prayer, and it concludes with the priest offering a further prayer in which we consider Our Lord’s coming again.

In the Agnus Dei  the priest makes the Fraction; this is where the priest’s host (or wafer) is broken in two, and a small particle is placed into the chalice.  The people are then invited to receive the Most Holy Communion[19].

After the people have received Holy Communion, the priest will make the Ablutions (in which all the remainder of the Holy Communion must be consumed, or placed in the Tabernacle to be taken to the sick.  The vessels are then cleansed with water and cleared away).

At the end of the Eucharist the priest will give the Blessing, in the Trinitarian form of Father , Son and Holy Spirit. [20]

To conclude the service, the Angelus is said at the Statue of our Patron, St Mary.  In the Angelus we remember that Mary said ‘yes’ when the angel of God asked her to be the mother of God’s son.  In the Angelus, we celebrate the wonder of Our Lord’s Incarnation, Our Lord Jesus Christ being made man, and living as we do, whilst still remaining wholly divine at one and the same time.

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