By: Fr. Aaron Johanneck
(From a series found in The Prairie Catholic)
How do we enter in? How do we “go deep”? These are the questions we continue to ponder as we strive to understand better what it means for us to truly, actively, and consciously participate in the Sacred Liturgy of the Church.
We have said that true participation is not a matter of making sure that everyone “does” something at Mass; it is not about “mere external activity”, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us. Anything that we do exteriorly should form and reveal what is happening interiorly; our exterior participation should form and reveal how we are engaged in our hearts and souls.
In the last article, we ended with a great quotation from Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium that gives a very helpful description of what our participation at Holy Mass should include. The document states that when Christ’s faithful take part in the sacred action of the liturgy they,
“should be instructed by God’s Word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s Body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all” (SC 48).
There is a lot to this statement. First, the Council Fathers tell us that at Mass we should be “instructed by God’s Word.” This happens especially during the first half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. Here we listen attentively to the Word that is proclaimed in the First and Second Readings, in the Responsorial Psalm, in the Gospel, and in the homily given by the priest, or on occasion, by the deacon. This is God’s living Word to us today. We should listen with open hearts, asking the Holy Spirit to show us what our loving Father desires to reveal to us in our lives here and now. What is He asking of us? How is He inviting us to a deeper relationship?
We are to be “nourished at table of the Lord’s Body.” That is, we are to be open and disposed in such a way as to allow our reception of Christ’s Sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion truly to form and to strengthen us. We also need to be aware of what an intimate moment this is when we receive the Lord Jesus into our Bodies. He is so close to us. He shares Himself with us so completely. When we receive Holy Communion we should adore God who dwells in the Sacred Host, give Him thanks for this great gift, and share ourselves with Him. This is an especially appropriate time to “pour out our hearts before Him” as the psalms entreat us (cf. Ps. 62, for example).
Next, we are told that we should “give thanks to God.” Indeed, we know that in Greek the word, Eucharist, means “thanksgiving.” This serves as a reminder that we participate in the Mass not only for the great gifts that we receive, but to praise, worship, adore, and thank God for who He is and for all He has given us. As we proclaim almost every Sunday in the Gloria, “we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we give you thanks for your great glory!”
We have already run out of space for this month! In the next article, we will continue to unpack this beautiful statement from Vatican II. Until then!