How Should I Participate at Mass?

In an entertainment culture he’s sitting there thinking…”What am I supposed to do?” This is because so many Catholic priests and people have no liturgical sense. None at all. The priests themselves don’t seem to know what they’re doing. Too many of them have turned Mass into a Protestantized version of worship which is a combination of a social club meet, a pep rally and a game show.

If we start at the basics we’ll soon pick up a bit more of what we’re “supposed to do” at Mass.

The basics I’m talking about is that the Mass is essentially an offering. It is a sacrifice of worship and praise to God.

Everyone who comes to Mass is making an offering. When you come to Mass, therefore you are offering to God your life, your soul, your body, your marriage, your mind, your heart, your joys, your sorrows, your children, your parents, your friends, your neighbors, your whole world.

Consequently, every action of the Mass is focussed towards his greater action of making a sacrifice–making an offering. Therefore when you make sure you get up early enough you’re offering your time. When you take the trouble to dress decently for Mass you’re offering your love and attention. When you enter church and cross yourself with holy water you are making the offering of your life–remembering your baptism and taking up the cross of Christ. When you kneel in prayer you’re offering God that hour of worship. When you read the lessons ahead of time you’re offering your heart and mind asking them to be renewed by the Scriptures.

When Mass begins you offer your attention. As the process comes down the aisle you offer yourself as the bride of Christ coming down the aisle to meet the groom. As you confess your sins you offer the dark side of who your are to God for cleansing and renewal. When the ministry of the Word begins you offer your thoughts and attention and your preconceptions and bigotry and small mindedness asking that the Scriptures will renew your mind. You seal this by reciting the creed with attention and fervor.

The prayers of the faithful are another sacrifice and offering–”Here are the cares and trouble of the church and the whole world” You imagine them being offered up on an altar of sacrifice. The offertory is a sign and gesture of the whole action of sacrifice and offering. Then as the consecration begins and the communion continues you pay attention and bring in your own heart and mind all these things that have gone before and you offer yourself, your soul and your body as the body and blood of Christ are being offered up. During the hymns and music you offer your voice and mind in praise. When you receive communion the whole sacrifice of the church is then applied to you personally.

This is not passive. As Sacrosanctum Concilium says, it is “full and active”

This is what worship is.

Finally, this cannot happen under one’s own power. This transaction between earth and heaven has to be graced. You have to ask God to work this transformation within you. Only as the Spirit makes the worship alive will all this begin to take place in the full and active way in which the church demands.


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