We have been reflecting on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” The previous weeks, we have reflected on the Eucharist as the Gift of Christ Himself, and on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Today I will start exploring our response to Gift of the Eucharist.
The U.S Bishops list thanksgiving and worship as our first response to the gift of the Eucharist. In order to properly give thanks to God in the celebration of Mass, the Second Vatican Council calls for a full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical celebration. We need to be conscious of the gift that is given to us in the Eucharist, namely Christ Himself. The U.S. Bishops write that “we become conscious of this gift when we actively engage our minds, hearts, and bodies to every part of the liturgy, allowing God through the words, actions, gestures, and even the moments of silence to speak to us.” (“The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” § 32)
Someone noted, many of our young people of the West have looked to the non-Christian religions for some kind of experience of God. They try to achieve this goal in vain by following a strict discipline, by remaining seated for hours, back straight, without moving, and so on. But if only they would consciously and actively take part in the celebration of Mass, the Lord would satisfy their spiritual thirst and hunger. Active and conscious participation in the celebration of Mass involves giving our full attention to the prayers being said, to the words of the Scriptures being read, to the homily being delivered. In addition, “we are actively giving thanks when we join in singing and in the responses; when we kneel, stand, and sit; and when we pay attention to the liturgical seasons where the entire history of what God has done for us, in and through his Son, is revealed to us.” (Ibid)
They are many practical things that we can do to prepare ourselves for a fully conscious and active participation in the celebration of Mass. For instance, we should try to be fully rested before Mass. If we are tired or not fully rested, it might be very difficult for us to consciously and actively participate in the Mass. We should also not try to fit the Mass to our schedule, but we should rather schedule our day around the Mass. By so doing, the Mass will not simply become a checkbox on our list of things to do. Likewise, that would mean putting God at the center of our Sunday, of our day, and of our life. Another practical thing to do to consciously and actively participate in the celebration of Mass is to read and meditate on the Mass readings beforehand, and pray to the Holy Spirit to open our mind and heart and set us free from any inner or external distractions. We will also benefit tremendously from studying the meaning of sacred signs and gestures, starting from the very beginning of the Mass and going all the way to the end. Knowing the meaning of the sacred signs and gestures during Mass will only make us appreciate the Mass even more.
May we be given the grace to always consciously and actively participate in the Eucharistic celebration.
Peace in Christ,