Friday, January 21, 2005

Liturgical Footnote #2
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

Mass, especially Sunday Mass, is not something that one should “just show up at.” Rather, it is important for the person to be prepared to enter into the celebration of the Mass. So how does one get ready for Mass?

It begins with recognizing that Sunday is not like the other days of the week. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and therefore the Lord should be our central focus for Sundays. The Sabbath rest is God’s gift to us because He knows that we can be prone to overwhelm ourselves with busyness. He wants us to rest, to be renewed, and to spend time with Him who is the source of our lives and the goal of our lives. This means that we should not “fit Mass” into our Sunday schedule, but rather Sunday Mass should be our first priority, and anything else is arranged around it.

Next we should make ourselves hunger for the Lord. In the “good old days” this meant that we had to fast from food and drink (except water) from Midnight (Sunday) until we went to Mass on Sunday morning. This extended period of going without physical food helped us really hunger for the Food from Heaven, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. While the Church has relaxed this extended fast before Mass, it did not eliminate it. All Catholics, especially those who plan to receive Holy Communion, are suppose to fast for one hour prior to Mass. This means one hour before the start of Mass, not when you think you will be receiving Communion. Obviously those who, due to age or medical condition, are excused from fasting in general are also excused from the Sunday fast as well.

Another thing that we should do to prepare ourselves for Mass is to make an examination of conscience. The Holy Father, in his 2003 Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church), and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in its 2004 Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum (The Eucharist, the Sacrament of Redemption) both says that just attending Mass is not sufficient reason for receiving Holy Communion. Rather all Catholics are to make a conscious, deliberate examination of conscience to be sure that they are in a State of Grace (have not committed a mortal sin), and to beware of their venial sins so to ask forgiveness for them in their prayer at Mass. Such a deliberate examination of conscience before Mass helps prevent developing a too casual attitude towards the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our lives.

Finally each Catholic should bring their intentions, their spiritual sacrifices, to the altar at Mass. In our baptism we were all made “Priest, Prophet and King,” and while the Ministerial Priesthood is distinct from the Priesthood of the Baptized, both, in their proper ways, are a participation in the One Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Just as the priest makes a specific intention before each Mass he celebrates, each member of the congregation should also make a specific intention for the Mass they are attending. They can bring a special need of their family, their friends, community, or workplace to the Altar, lifting them up in prayer to our one Mediator, Jesus Christ. The reason why it is important to arrive at church early is so that we can take some time for quiet prayer to examine our consciences, ask the Lord of Mercy for forgiveness, and to form our personal Mass intention. With this done, we are ready to begin the celebration of God’s love for us.
(happily posted on behalf of Fr. Garrett. due topreviously mentioned Blogger vs. Mac issues)

No comments: