I recently wrote about how the call of Vatican II to for the faithful to participate fully andactively in the liturgy has been misunderstood as a call for the laity to take over the role of ordained clergy during the Mass. The misguided perception is that to be fully engaged in the Mass, on must be physically involved in every action that takes place during the liturgy – especially the focal point of the consecration. As many have rightfully pointed out to me, it is possible to be fully engaged and participate actively in the Mass without being the ordained minister leading, even when attending the pre-consular Latin Mass.
This got me to thinking of some ways that I use to get the most out of Mass every Sunday. These are practices that I do to help prepare my heart, mind and soul to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, and I would hope that they are helpful to you. That said, they might not be for everybody, and others may have other suggestions – I’d love to hear them in the hopes that they will help my own on-going journey with the Eucharist.
Engaging in the Mass begins happening long before we slip into the pew. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a bit of a neurosis regarding punctuality and get a little worked up if things aren’t flowing like a Swiss train schedule. The Sunday’s where we’re running late and peel into the church parking lot on 2 wheels, I find it takes me until the sign of peace before I’m even remotely ready to participate properly in the Mass. By starting my day in a prayerful state and maintaining it until the opening hymn, I’m much more disposed to being open to the Word of God and the saving grace of the Eucharist.
I never know if I’ll be reading at Mass on Sundays (I generally check the schedule on the fly) so I read through the Mass readings – including the psalm and gospel, while eating breakfast. I find this helps me understand the scripture while it’s read at Mass, whether I’m the scheduled lector or not. Even if you don’t have the time to go over the readings ahead of time, listen attentively, read along in your missalette or close your eyes to limit distractions. I always try to take one thing away from each reading – a phrase or an idea to meditate on. Regardless if the priest focusses on this idea during the homily, I find this helps me to focus on the readings and gives me a reason to dwell on sacred scripture before, during and after Mass.
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian Life.” (Lumen gentium 11) As such, receiving Christ in the Eucharist should not only be the highlight of our Mass, but of our lives. As Matthew Kelly so rightly puts it in Rediscover Catholicism –if Muslims believed that they could receive Allah in the Eucharist, just imagine what they would endure to receive the Eucharist each week. As Catholics, we too should have that passion. What can you do to heighten your experience in the reception of the Eucharist? Get to know Christ through this sacrament. It was only in deepening my own knowledge and understanding of the Eucharist (read about it here) that I found my heart begin to burn when receiving the Body and blood of Christ; my chest physically drawn towards the Tabernacle.
Like I said before, these are my simple and humble ways to approach the Mass to get the most out of this beautiful spiritual experience. Yours might be different, and as a unique creation of God it should be. I would be grateful to hear of how others approach the Mass, as I’m continually evolving on my journey home to God.