Our Participation in the Mass
by Theologian Father William G. Most
We begin with the fact that the Mass is
a sacrifice. In a sacrifice
there are two elements: the outward
sign and the interior dispositions
of heart. The outward sign is there to
express the interior, and perhaps even help it. But without the interior,
the outward is of no worth.
God once complained in Isaiah
29:13: "This people honors Me with their lips, but their
hearts are far from Me." The outward sign at the Last Supper was the seeming separation of body and blood
- bread and wine. On Good
Friday it was the physical
separation of body and blood. In the Mass,
it is the same as it was on the Holy
We may participate in both aspects. Our
participation in the exterior sign consists chiefly in our answering the prayers,
singing, and other externals. Unfortunately, many today
think that is all or the chief thing in participation.
We recall again Isaiah 29:13. Our interior
participation is the essential. It means that we join our interior dispositions to those of Jesus on the altar.
His dispositions center in
His obedience to the Father: cf. Romans 5:19: "Just as by the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of the one Man,
the many will be constituted just." At the Last
Supper He said: "Do this in memory of Me," precisely so we should join
with Him. He desires that the offering
be that of the whole Christ, Head and members. We
are the members. How do we
carry it out? One way would be this. Before the Mass
take a few moments to think back to what I
have done since the last Mass,
in obeying the will of the Father. If I have done well, I have something to join with His
obedience. If some things are poor,
I add apologies. I
could also look ahead to the time soon to come, and sometimes I will see something in
which I do not like to obey. I ask
myself: Do I really mean to obey? If
not, this is not the place for me.
First step of the
It is precisely at the time of the double consecration, which expresses the obedience of Jesus again, that I should join my offering of obedience to His. Of course, this can be extended somewhat, but
that is the essential
moment. I prepare for it in advance.
What of the kiss of peace? It is an optional part -- the rubrics
in the Missal say it is used or not used according to the custom of the
place. It is good if done correctly. In some places it is done to excess.
There is a variety of spiritual
attractions. Not all are moved by the same things in the same way. There are two levels of principles in
the spiritual life. The basic level is that which no one can violate without taking a loss. But there is room for great variation on the
secondary level. Compare for example Saint
Francis de Sales (Gentleman) with Saint Benedict Joseph Labre
(Beggar). Therefore in matters of the second level,
even though one thing may be objectively better to have than not to have - this is true of
the kiss of peace if done rightly -- we need to respect the
differences in people. Charity calls for
Reverence at Mass
Why do some not show signs of reverence
at Mass? It may be that they have deep interior reverence, but do not show it. Some are more demonstrative than others. But
it is also true that respect for the Blessed Sacrament
is far down today. Some even leave at once after receiving and go out. They should learn
that Holy Communion is not
like magic -- we
must cooperate with it.
John Paul II, in his first
Hominis, §20 said this: "Without this
constant renewed effort for conversion, partaking of the Eucharist would lack its full redeeming effectiveness,
and there would be a loss, or at least a weakening of the special readiness to offer God
the spiritual sacrifice." That is, frequent Communion
may not only not bring any gain, but may cause spiritual
loss if one does not work at it - preparation and thanksgiving.
The Real Presence lasts as long as the species
of bread last. That may be about 15
minutes after the time of receiving. Therefore there should be special thanksgiving and reflection
during that precious time.
Why do some not show a communitarian type of attitude at Mass?
There is as said before a variation in the graces
of different people. Not all can profit equally from all external means.
Prayers before the
by Saint Thomas Aquinas and Archbishop
Fulton J. Sheen