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1. BEING PRESENT
BEING PRESENT AT MASS
Our preparation for Mass begins long before Mass begins. Preparation begins at home. As well as getting ourselves ready it may involve getting children ready. Sometimes this can be a challenge, especially in the teenage years. Do it firmly but gently. Remind them that this is the Lord’s Day. It is the day we give to God, not just narrowly the time spent going to Mass. Purposefully begin the day with the right spirit.
Is there an elderly neighbour to whom you could give a lift to Church?
Arrive for mass in good time.
When we get to church we prepare ritually as we enter the church. We need to pay attention to these rituals and their meaning or they can become just habits. Give the children time to perform these rituals themselves and explain the meaning to them.
1. We dip our hands into holy water as we enter the church to remind ourselves of our Baptism; the day when we became part of the People of God. Our baptism calls us to gather with God’s people to worship on this day.
2. We make the sign of the cross over our bodies. Do it deliberately and prayerfully; mark and touch your body with the Life-Giving Cross of Christ. This marks you as a Christian. It is the mark of Christ’s love for you - his body given for you, his blood poured out for you.
3. We genuflect before entering the pew in reverence to the Tabernacle and also respecting the Altar. Be conscious of the Altar. On this Altar the bread and wine will be transformed. We receive the ‘Bread of Life’ so that we too might be transformed into Christ’s Body.
4. We take our place. Sometimes we might acknowledge fellow parishioners but the time before Mass is a time to talk to God. We are in the church physically but we need to place ourselves in church spiritually - being present. The presence of our neighbours should not distract us from the Real Presence.
Being present spiritually at Mass is a challenge to give attention to our inner lives. We need to develop an inner silence. This silence is not just an absence of speech and action, but the recognition of the Real Presence of Him who is within – within the church and within us.
HELPFUL DO’s & DON’T’s
THE INTRODUCTORY RITES
• When you genuflect at Mass to the Tabernacle also recognise the Altar. The Altar is the focus of our prayer during Mass.
• Wouldn’t Mass be completely different if the majority of the congregation joined in the singing? What is stopping us?
• ‘Good mornings’ are said before entering the Church or in the sacristy not at the beginning of Mass. As Mass begins, we greet each other with liturgical language – the Lord be with you.
• The priest enunciates the sign of the cross; the people say Amen. The priest should not say Amen; the people should not enunciate the sign of the cross. These are dialogue prayers and they create a rhythm between priest and people.
• When the priest says ‘let us pray’, there should be quiet time to pray - a silent pause for a few moments before the opening prayer.
• If able, the congregation should stand from the Introductory Rites until after the Opening Prayer.
LISTENING TO THE WORD
Listening to the Word of God is something we do long before we come to Mass. God speaks to us in so many different ways - through the events of life and death, in personal prayer, in the sacraments and through the Scriptures.
His speaking to us is never in doubt. We are told of this in the Scriptures and are shown it in the lives of the saints. More in question is our ability to listen to Him and our readiness to respond to what we hear.
Not many of us are good listeners. Hearing comes naturally but not listening. We can hear words, we can hear what is being said but listening involves something more. It requires us to be attentive to the person speaking to us.
Listening to the person means making a commitment to be attentive to the person speaking. This is true of our relationships with each other and with God. This attentiveness begins not just when the Scripture is proclaimed. We need to develop it as part of our life – some call it active listening.
Have our churches lost something of that culture of quiet attentiveness to a mysterious presence?
Has the chattiness of the street displaced the silence needed for inner attentiveness in our churches? How can we recover this?
Could we keep our chattiness, which is also important, to the end of Mass?
In the quiet times before Mass begins maybe we could read over the readings for that Sunday.
• Note that the first reading and the psalm and the Gospel should all share a theme.
• The second reading tends to stand by itself. It is part of a continuous reading from one of the New Testament letters over a number of Sundays.
• Sometimes the response to the psalm can give you a clue to the theme of the Scriptures for that Sunday.
Become familiar with the different books of the Bible: where are the readings from?
• The Old Testament is made up of historical books, books of poetry (e.g. the Psalms) and books of sayings or wisdom literature. There are also the teachings and the warnings of the Prophets. Notice the names of the Prophets.
• The New Testament readings are from the letters written to congregations in the early Church; Christian living in Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Colossus etc. In Eastertime they are from the Acts of the Apostles.
They were written for Christians thousands of years ago but they also speak to us today.
HELPFUL DOs & DON’Ts
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
• So much depends on the readers. It is a demanding ministry. READERS, it is vital to prepare. Make sense of the reading with your mind and with your voice. Take your time. Don’t be afraid to pause.
• Start using the phrase THE WORD OF THE LORD at the end of the reading instead of THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD. This will be the new translation, similar to when the priest declares THE BODY OF CHRIST at Communion.
• During the responsorial psalm DO NOT SAY ‘Response’ after each verse. Just look up at the people and if need be say the first word of the response to encourage them to respond.
• Give some time in between the readings, especially if there is only one reader. Do not run one reading into the next.
• The readings are best read by different voices if possible. Two readers are always preferable at Sunday Masses - not always available though!
3. OFFERING & SACRIFICE
OFFERING & SACRIFICE:
Offering is something we do long before we come to Mass. People sometimes begin their day by saying ‘The Morning Offering’. We offer our day to God. We offer our lives to God but we can do so only with His help; by His Spirit dwelling within us.
Raising a family, providing for your home, caring for the elderly, sharing with the poor are all ways of offering worship and thanks to God.
In the Mass we join our offerings to the supreme offering of Jesus Christ, when he gave his life on the cross for the life and salvation of the world.
This is why in every Mass, even weekday Masses if possible, the gifts of bread and wine should be carried forward in procession. Some of the congregation present to the priest the bread and wine to be offered during the Eucharistic Prayer. This procession is a deeply symbolic gesture and begins the people’s participation in the Eucharistic Prayer.
We participate in the great Eucharistic Prayer by following the prayer as the priest prays it and by speaking or singing the appropriate responses - Holy, Holy, Holy, the Proclamation of Faith and the Great Amen. If choirs alone sing these parts and people do not participate, the congregation’s part in this great prayer is obscured.
The priest prays twice for the Father to send the Holy Spirit during the Eucharistic Prayer - the epiclesis.
The first epiclesis is over the bread and wine to make them holy and they truly become the Body and Blood of Christ: the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. In the second epiclesis the priest asks the Father to send the Spirit upon the people who will share in the Bread of Life so that they too may become holy - the Body of Christ.
We are transformed by Body of Christ into the Body of Christ. We are re-created by Christ’s love.
The Eucharistic Prayer reveals to us the depth of Christ’s love for us. “This is my body given for YOU, this is my blood poured out for YOU and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Hearing these words each Sunday we know that we are loved and forgiven. These are the two greatest needs in a person’s life. They guide us in life and save us in death.
HELPFUL DOs & DON’Ts
THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST.
• The gifts presented before the altar are BREAD & WINE ONLY. Church collections can be carried forward in procession.
The practice of bringing forward group insignia or personal memorabilia, while well intentioned, is a misunderstanding of the Liturgy.
• As far as is practical the majority of hosts to be distributed at Mass should be consecrated at that Mass. This would draw our attention to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in each Mass.
• If practical during Sunday Masses - but certainly during some weekday Masses - Holy Communion should be distributed under both species: take and EAT, take and DRINK.
• The priest says the Doxology: Through him and with him and in him etc, the people say Amen. The priest should not say the Amen and the people should not say the Doxology. It is a dialogue prayer and creates a rhythm between priest and people.
• The people should stand immediately once they proclaim the Great Amen.
4. BECOME WHAT YOU RECEIVE
BECOME WHAT YOU RECEIVE
Going to Holy Communion is a twofold action. It involves receiving and becoming. St. Augustine often instructed his congregations,
“Receive the Body of Christ
and become what you receive”.
In receiving Holy Communion we ponder on the depth of Christ’s love for us. In becoming the Body of Christ we respond to that immense love.
So much of modern society defines us by what we do or by what we have. What do you do for a living? What is your income? What kind of car do your drive? Communion defines us by ‘who we are becoming’ – the kind of person we are becoming. Receiving Holy Communion should lead us to ask of ourselves – what kind of person am I becoming?
St. Paul, in his famous passage on love in his first letter to the people of Corinth in Greece, describes for us the kind of person we should strive to be. As you read his words replace the word ‘love’ with the word ‘Jesus’,
Love is always patience and kind;
Love is never jealous;
Love is never boastful or conceited;
Love is never rude or selfish;
Love does not take offence and is not resentful.
Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth;
Love is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever ends. (1 Cor. 13: 4-7)
Imagine meeting such a person as Jesus. Imagine becoming such a person! Read it again and replace Jesus’ name with your own name!
Don’t be discouraged. Many of us may not reach such heights of personal growth, self-control and inner integrity but isn’t it worth striving for? Maybe that is why St. Paul begins this section of his letter, “Be ambitious for the higher gifts”. Wanting to become such a person is the first step and even if we can live only moments of such love in our lives then all the effort would not be in vain.
However, remember even such moments of love are not something we can achieve by our own will. It requires the ‘indwelling of the Holy Spirit’ in our heart and soul. The ‘becoming’ always returns to the ‘receiving’ – receiving His Body; receiving His Love in Holy Communion enables us to live such love.
So the next time you put out your hand or your tongue to receive Holy Communion, know what you are asking for and know what you are receiving.
• Take your time as you walk, with the rest of the congregation, to the Altar in procession.
• Prepare yourself spiritually before you come before the priest or the extra-ordinary minister of Holy Communion.
• Receive the Eucharist with great reverence and devotion.
HELPFUL DOs & DON’Ts
RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION.
• Be attentive to the moment of receiving Holy Communion and pray the action. Try not to let it simply become a habit – albeit a good habit.
• Speak out the Amen consciously and clearly and teach your children or grandchildren to do the same. Amen means ‘so be it’ and it is your assent to receiving this spiritual gift.
• Children who have not yet made their First Communion can receive a blessing or the sign of the cross. Tell them to cross their arms across their chests to indicate that they would like to receive a blessing and to say Amen.
• When you return to your pew make a conscious effort to spend some time in quiet prayer either kneeling or seated and teach your children or grandchildren to do the same. We need to savour what we have received in inner silence.
• Communion time is not a break in the Liturgy and certainly not a time to start chatting or leaving. It is a time for quiet reverence and inner silence.
MISSION: GO TO LOVE & SERVE THE LORD
The temptation for every Christian is to ‘live in the world and go to Church’. The challenge of every Christian is ‘live in the Church and go to the world’.
A good reason to go to Mass is to be better prepared to ‘go to the world’. Jesus told us that we are “salt of the earth and the light to the world”. We go to mass to hear the Lord’s call, to be filled with His serenity and peace, so that we might love and serve Him in the world. He is really present in the Church. Our call is to be His real presence in the world.
In the new translation of the Missal, this truth will be emphasised with new additions to the dismissal from Mass;
“Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or
“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
Those who live their lives by worldly standards and simply keep a religious duty of going to Mass, are like the Pharisees in the Gospels. If they think that this is a kind of ‘heavenly insurance’ they should re-read the ‘policy’ – the Scriptures.
Jesus teaches His disciples that those who try to save their lives will lose them and that only by losing our lives can we save them. He means losing ourselves in love - with God. We are to forget ‘self’ and lose ourselves in love: the unselfish and self-giving love that we celebrate in the Eucharist.
However, if we do not first recognise that He loves us; if we are not truly nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of His Suffering, then all our giving will simply wear us out and wear us down. If our faith has become a burden and not a joyful sacrifice then all we will take to the world is our unhappiness.
To recognise His love and allow ourselves to be touched by His love, we must participate in the Eucharist not just at a physical level - being there and saying the prayers - but at a spiritual level also. Pray what we say and mean what we pray.
The new translation of the Missal invites us to re-discover the importance of spiritual actions and the Church’s spiritual language in the Liturgy.
HELPFUL DOs & DON’Ts
THE CONCLUDING RITE & BLESSING.
• We should not be in a rush to conclude the prayers as soon as Holy Communion is over. We spend too much of our lives rushing and where does it get us? We should take some quiet time to savour what we have received.
• The missal envisages the announcements after the concluding prayer.
• If the solemn blessing for special occasions is used, it invites the people to “bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing”. Time should be given for the people to bow their heads and pray before the blessing is said.
• The priest does not bless the people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. He blesses the people directly; or rather God blesses them through him.
“May almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
The people respond Amen. The priest should not say the Amen and the people should not say the blessing. It is a dialogue prayer.
• The blessing is NOT
“May almighty God bless us, the Father and...