Over the years, I have become a more frequent daily Massgoer. The more I go, the more I want to be there. That’s how it is with relationships — the more you love someone, the more you want to be with them. St. John Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”
If we really understood what was happening at Mass, we may have a different attitude. Instead of “I have to go,” we transform to “I can’t wait to go!”
Posture: There is a reason why we stand, kneel and sit at Mass. We are body and soul. Our body’s position transforms our soul’s disposition. By standing, we show honor, respect and humble gratitude as we pray. By kneeling, we adore and worship God and show contrition for our sins. When we sit, we are in listening and meditation mode, being educated and formed.
Gospel: At Mass, the priest is “in persona Christi Capitis,” or in the person of Christ the head. When the priest proclaims the Gospel, Jesus is talking to us. Let me repeat that — Jesus is talking to each of us directly. Becoming a more active listener and not merely a passive bystander helps us hear God’s response to our prayers. If you want to be friends with someone, you need to listen to what they say to you.
Offertory: This is not our weekly financial transaction with Jesus. This is our opportunity to unite our complete selves — mind, body and soul (not just our money) — with Jesus. We “offer” ourselves with Jesus to do the will of God, our Father.
Eucharistic Prayer: This is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, and we are there to witness it. The priest invokes the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. The priest repeats the words Jesus said: “This is My Body. This is My Blood. Do this in memory of Me.” We are witnessing a miracle.
After the consecration of the bread and wine, the priest prays for the saints’ intercession and then for our Church leaders on earth. Here, and throughout the Mass, we witness the communion of saints, heaven and earth, converging to worship God.
At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest raises the consecrated Body and Blood of Jesus and says, “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, forever and ever.” God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are present before us.
Holy Communion: Jesus, the Son of God, invites us to receive Him in the holy Eucharist. We physically receive Jesus into our bodies to make us more Christ-like. Christians talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus. As Catholics, it doesn’t get more personal than this. We receive the greatest gift of all — the Body and Blood of Jesus!
Dismissal: The priest or deacon says, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our life.” This is our call to share the joy of what we just experienced with others. Just like we share other good news with family and friends, we are called to share the joy of our faith.
Mass is our opportunity to experience the joy of heaven on earth. Mass is different than what we see and hear in the secular world because it brings the visible and invisible together. Mass is supposed to lift our hearts, minds and souls to God. And, even though every pew may not be filled, we are not alone. The church is packed with all the angels and saints every time Mass is celebrated. Look up the next time you are at Mass, and you may be able to see them.
David Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Assumption in south St. Louis County.