It is not uncommon to hear among Roman Catholics, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” The sequence of stand, sing, pray, sit, stand, and repeat can seem like a lengthy exercise routine. Moreover, the gestures and verbiage of the Mass is set sometimes with little variation from Sunday to Sunday. Some Catholics, for this reason, long for the services of other Christian communities that are more free-flowing and spontaneous. However, let me propose a question, “What is our approach the Mass?” An answer, I believe, can be gleamed from Moses of old.
At daily Mass, this past Wednesday, we read of Moses before the burning bush. (Ex. 3: 1-12) The patriarch was told by the Almighty to remove his sandals as he stood on holy ground. When Moses asks to see the divine glory, his face is covered lest he die. In the New Testament, the face of God is manifested in Jesus Christ. When the apostle Philip asks Christ to show him the Father, our Lord replies, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn. 14:9). At the Mass, we not only stand on holy ground, but also, by Word and Sacrament, encounter glory.
The Church proposes that we cultivate a rich prayer life outside of the Mass. This will look different for each of us. Some will pour through their Bibles, reading both testaments backwards and forwards; others will pray the Rosary or recite novenas invoking blessed Mary and the saints. For as many people there are in the world, there are different methods of prayer. My own prayer life is shaped by the Liturgy of the Hours. Every day, I recite and meditate upon the psalms, the very prayers our own Lord, a pious Jew, treasured.
Before we approach the holy ground of our parish churches, I would like to propose the following. First, let us observe the time-honored practice of fasting before receiving Holy Communion. Older Catholics recall abstaining from food and drink the evening before Sunday Mass. Presently, the Church calls us to fast one hour before Communion barring advanced age or sickness. The sacrifice of fasting unites us, in a sense, to the supreme sacrifice of Calvary brought forward in the Mass. Secondly, when we stand in our churches, let us foster silence. God is often not heard in earthquakes and fires, but in a gentle whisper. (1 Ki. 19:12)
To get something out of Mass, we must put our hearts, minds, and souls into it. Without this exchange the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic Christian lives, becomes nothing more than vain and empty ritual. Allow me to leave with you with the words of the English writer, G.K. Chesterton, who once wrote, “The Mass is very long and tiresome unless one loves God.”
Fr. Daniel O. Kingsley