Friday, July 07, 2006

The Greatness of the Mass

I can recall as an almost-Catholic (by which I mean a Protestant who didn't know he was about to convert) approaching the Eucharist while attending Mass with some friends. I knew well enough not to receive, so I had my arms crossed to obtain a blessing from the priest, as per the instructions on the leaflet in the pew. I figured it couldn't hurt.

The priest did his thing, and as I turned to walk back to my seat, I remember thinking, "I was so close!" And then I scolded myself, saying, "Close to what?"

Obviously, since then I've realized exactly what - specifically, who - I was close to. The very person of Christ is present in that morsel. My soul reached out to the presence of Christ that day as a found child reaches out to its mother.

Now when I go to Mass and receive Christ in the same Eucharist that hooked me lo these eight years, it's difficult to tap into that child. Part of that may be due to having toddlers to manage, and the need to strap my guitar back on quickly so I can join the music group in the communion song.

Yet the richness is still there; the presence of Christ is always real, whether I perceive it or not. The beauty of the liturgy (despite the best efforts of enemies within the Church) is still beautiful. Yet it is often marred by an inappropriate interruption to the flow of the Mass, or by a lacklustre homily, or by a congregation refusing to sing.

Take for instance the final doxology within the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest elevates the consecrated host and the chalice, saying or singing, "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours Almighty Father, forever and ever."

The congregation is then to respond with what is referred to as "The Great Amen." Yet this particular Amen seems no greater than any other, if one listens to the tone of those speaking it. Think of it: we are giving the Father all glory and honour through the redeeming work of his son. This is the highest praise we can offer him! This moment is the pinnacle of the celebration of the Mass!

Christ himself told us to let our light shine before men, so that they may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). All we do on earth should cause our fellow man to glorify God. Jesus referred to his own crucifixion as the time he would be glorified (John 12:28), and he also said that when the Father glorifies him, he in turn glorifies the Father (John 17:1,5).

The Great Amen is when that glorification is perfect, yet most of the congregation responds with a half-hearted mumble. If it's not sung, then speak it loudly, with clarity, and with true praise in your voice. "Amen" means "so be it;" it is our way of proclaiming that we agree with what has just been said.

If you agree that Jesus glorifies the Father with us, and if you believe in his presence in that Most Blessed Sacrament, then say/sing it like you mean it.

When I entered the Church, I was guided through the Mass so I understood the symbolism within it. I don't pretend that I understand it all; it's a mystery far older than me, and it's been rather mistranslated into English from the original Latin. But it looks like that'll change soon.

For more information on the way Mass should be, feel free to review the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. It makes for a nice refresher.

1 comment:

  1. Amen to that! Good reminder. It was said in the early Church that this Amen rocked the pagan temples with its power. Wouldn't it be great to have that experience again.


Comments are welcome, but must be on topic. Spam, hateful/obscene remarks, and shameless self-promotion will be unceremoniously deleted. Well, OK, I might put on a little ceremony when I delete them.