THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
"O God, you are my God Whom I seek; for You my flesh pines and my soul thirsts." —Psalm 63:2
"In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained'" (Catechism, 1374).
Jesus' flesh is real food; His blood real drink (Jn 6:55). He lives in us, and we in Him (Jn 6:56). Therefore, to receive Jesus in Holy Communion is one of the greatest privileges possible for a human being. Communion is the highlight of our days and the center of our lives.
Many believe this, for at this moment thousands in the Christian underground risk their lives to go to Communion. But here in the "free" world, Communion with Jesus is still "the hidden manna" for many Christians (Rv 2:17) and largely unappreciated. Most are content to go on Sundays only, and even that is seen as a mere obligation and even a burden. This pamphlet is intended to deepen our faith-relationship and Communion with Him.
"IN GOD WE TRUST"
"Trust in Him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before Him." —Psalm 62:9
Trusting our Father to meet our basic needs is the basis of all prayer, including the greatest prayer, the Mass. Every Mass is directed to the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. When Jesus taught us to pray, He first emphasized that we must be aware of the loving Abba we are calling upon (Mt 6:9). Before Jesus revealed Holy Communion to us, He taught us not to work for perishable food (Jn 6:27) but to trust in Abba for our basic needs. We must experience the manna of our Father's daily provision before we can fully appreciate the new manna, Holy Communion (Jn 6: 31-33).
Therefore, the greatest prayers and Masses in the world are by those who have learned to trust in God, their Father. If you want to see a glorious celebration of the Mass, look to Africa, "basic communities" in South America, South Korea and the Philippines, or "home churches" in China and Russia. Many of these people live by faith to receive their most basic needs. They know the fathering of Abba.
To transform your prayer and celebration of the Mass, simplify your life-style. Give your Father the opportunity to father you, and Mass will come alive because your relationship with Dad is alive.
"You, however are 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people He claims for His own.'" —1 Peter 2:9
To celebrate the Mass to the full, we must not only realize we are children of God the Father but also a "royal priesthood" (1 Pt 2:9; Rv 5:10). Although you may not be the priest leading the eucharistic assembly, you are a priest nonetheless (see Catechism, 1546-1547). You became one when you were baptized.
Because you are a priest or priestess, you must approach Mass accordingly. The primary work of a priest is to sacrifice, to set something apart for God. In the old covenant, something was set apart for God by putting it to death. In the new covenant, sacrifice meant not only putting the sacrifice to death but also putting the Priest, that is, Jesus, to death.
Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary was the once and for all sacrifice (Heb 10:12). Therefore, we don't need any more priests of the old covenant. However, Jesus wants all to be priests in the new covenant, to share in His priesthood by continuing to celebrate and apply the sacrifice of Calvary (see Rm 12:1; 15:16; Heb 13:15-16). Priesthood in the new covenant still entails dying, dying to self and uniting with Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary. We must proclaim with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:19-20).
PREPARE TO PLEASE
"My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, You will not spurn." —Psalm 51:19
In the following four ways our heavenly Father will help us trust Him and exercise our priestly ministry as we die to ourselves. This will prepare us to celebrate the Eucharist in a way more pleasing to the Lord.
1. CONFESSION (the Sacrament of Reconciliation)
In times past, some felt they should go to Confession before every Communion. While this is not necessary, there is a direct connection between the Eucharist and Confession (see Redeemer of Man, Pope John Paul II, 20). Repentance and Confession open our hearts to the forgiving Father. We should go to Confession specifically in preparation for a certain Communion or a series of Communions.
The Lord through His Church requires a one-hour communion fast before receiving Communion. But it's so easy to do this that we usually aren't aware of doing it. However, we can certainly fast for a longer time. We should fast so that we're conscious of fasting. For example, fast the evening before, if you're going to morning Mass. Or, if a meal is scheduled shortly before Mass, fast by eating lightly or not having dessert. Fasting frees us to trust in our Father and enables us to cooperate with the Lord's will (see Is 58:6).
3. PRAISE AND THANKS
Many come to church at the last second and leave before or immediately after the final hymn. This practice is much more harmful than we realize. Before and after Mass, we should "enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise" (Ps 100:4). As a royal priesthood, we should offer "a sacrifice of praise" (Heb 13:15). Praising and thanking the Lord a few minutes before and after Mass will dramatically improve our celebration of Mass and Communion.
We should go to Mass with the idea that we have the responsibility to share any blessing, insight, consolation, healing, or encouragement we receive at Mass. We should read and pray the Scripture readings before coming to Mass. We may need to take notes before and during the Mass to prepare to share God's grace and word. If we put God's word on the lampstand, the Lord will keep lighting our lamps (Lk 8:16). The Father is pleased when His children share His blessings and when His baptismal priests take responsibility in sharing His word.
"On that day I will respond, says the Lord; I will respond to the heavens, and they shall respond to the earth; the earth shall respond to the grain." —Hosea 2:23-24
After taking pains to prepare ourselves for celebrating the Mass, we then, in the first part of the Mass, can receive the living words of God with such intensity that we overflow with gratitude for His love revealed and received in the liturgy of the word. Then the second part of the Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharist (Greek for "thanksgiving"), is the response of gratitude for the grace received in the first part of the Mass.
We must first receive and then respond. Without receiving God's word, we have little basis for response. Many people rarely have a deep Communion because they have not first received the word in depth. Many may give a half-hearted response in the "breaking of the bread" because the priest has not broken the word in a life-changing way in his homily. On the other hand, without the Eucharist, the love aroused by receiving God's word is stifled. Mass, is a two-part movement of God's grace: receiving and responding, word and Eucharist.
WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH
"Authentic worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Indeed, it is just such worshipers the Father seeks." —John 4:23
We receive the word and respond in thanksgiving not by human power but by the Holy Spirit (Zec 4:6). "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rm 8:8). When we worship in the Spirit, we worship using spiritual gifts. (See our booklet, Seek the Gifts of the Spirit.)
Many of us, even if we are well-prepared for Mass and are docile to the Holy Spirit, have difficulty using our spiritual gifts at the typical parish Mass. However, we can worship in the Spirit under any circumstance no matter what the priest and congregation does. Only our lukewarness, laziness, or lack of faith can prevent us from worshiping and using our spiritual gifts. For example, consider the spiritual gift of healing. There are many opportunities in the Mass for healing prayers: the penitential rite, opening prayer, consecration, sign of peace, Communion, and final blessing. On several occasions, Jesus touched people or took them by the hand to heal them. We can do the same at the sign of peace. Thousands were healed when they looked at the bronze serpent (see Nm 21:9). Even more so, great healings are to be expected at the elevations of Jesus' body and blood during the consecration, the great amen, and before Communion. God may lead us to watch those coming forward to receive Communion so we can pray a healing prayer for a particular person.
Most of these suggestions can be done, no matter what the participation of the priest and congregation. And these are only a few suggestions about the use of one spiritual gift. The Spirit will teach us how to use many spiritual gifts at various parts of the Mass. Then we will worship in Spirit and truth.
ENTER GOD'S THRONE ROOM
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise." —Psalm 100:4
As we worship in Spirit, especially in the Eucharist, we must realize we are priests participating in the heavenly worship at God's throne room. Our brothers and sisters in the Eastern rite and in the Orthodox Church have always emphasized the heavenly place of our earthly worship. Our earthly worship is described by the Bible as the incense of the heavenly worship (Rv 5:8). As we read through Revelation 4 and 5, we see the heavenly worship is characterized by constant praise. To fit into this heavenly worship, we must emphasize praise in celebrating the Eucharist by extending the praises in the Mass whenever possible. "By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God" (Catechism, 2639). For example, after the response "thanks be to God," we can continue to thank God quietly. We can express the responsorial psalm from the depths of our hearts. Our "holy, holy, holys" can echo, our acclamations acclaim, and our "great amens" be "great" instead of perfunctory. We can extend the praises of the Mass anytime we have faith to do so. Praise is not a matter of volume but of the heart. It does not depend on anything other than our openness to the Spirit.
Praying in tongues is an ideal way to praise God at Mass. Our minds can be occupied, but we can simultaneously pray in the Spirit. We can pray and praise always, no matter what else is requiring our attention. This sacrifice of praise is the essence of our priestly ministry.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name." —Psalm 103:1
These are examples of worship in the Spirit during the various parts of the Mass.
|Entrance Song||Pray quietly in tongues before, during and after the song|
|Sign of the Cross||Expect someone to be delivered from the devil at this time.|
|Greeting||Slightly extend your hand and pray for the priest.|
|Penitential Rite||Ask the Spirit to convict you of sin.|
|Gloria||Pray in tongues again.|
|Opening Prayer||Make prayer requests as personal as possible.|
|Responsorial Psalm||Besides the vocal response, silently express the response of your heart in your own words.|
|Creed||Focus on one phrase.|
|Intercessions||Jot down and pray these petitions throughout the day.|
|Presentation of the Gifts|| |
How does the Lord want you to give yourself to Him today?
|Preface||Recall when you accepted Jesus as Lord and received the Spirit.|
|Holy, Holy, Holy||See yourself at the throne of God.|
|Eucharistic Prayer||Put this prayer in your own words.|
|Consecration||Say and pray the name of Jesus.|
|Eucharistic Acclamation||Think about Holy Communion.|
|Great Amen||Pray in tongues again.|
|Our Father||Look around and choose a person to pray for.|
|Sign of Peace||Touch someone and expect a healing.|
|Breaking of Bread||Pray a faith-filled prayer for the multiplication of the effects of this Mass.|
|Lamb of God||Strike your breast and bow your head.|
|Holy Communion||Expect a miracle.|
|Silence after Communion|| |
Listen for a prophecy in the quiet of your heart.
|Last Blessing||Bless someone in the congregation.|
|Dismissal||Decide to share your faith with a particular person.|
|Final Song||Praise the Lord for an extended time after the song.|
"Thus have I gazed toward You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory." —Psalm 63:3
"Listen to the petitions of Your servant and of Your people Israel which they direct toward this place." —2 Chronicles 6:21
Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist as the Last Supper before His death on the cross. He had the second Eucharist on Resurrection Day. "Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes!" (1 Cor 11:26) Jesus intentionally connected the eucharist with the Paschal mystery and the central events of His plan of salvation. Therefore, the eucharist is not just another prayer but the central prayer of our priestly life of worship. We can express this centrality by spending our entire day preparing for or following up on the eucharist. We should read the eucharistic readings before and after the Mass. We might write down the intentions mentioned at the "prayer of the faithful" and continue throughout the day praying for these intentions.
Adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is the ideal way of extending the communion of the Mass. We can visit the Blessed Sacrament at church and center our day on the eucharist. Eucharistic adoration and praying the Liturgy of the Hours are eucharistically centered ways of daily prayer. The Church teaches: "The mystery of Christ, His Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, 'the divine office'" (Catechism, 1174). "The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the eucharistic celebration, does not exclude but rather in a complementary ways calls forth the various devotions of the People of God, especially adoration and worship of the Blessed Sacrament" (Catechism, 1178).
If we centered our lives on the Mass, we would see repentance, reconciliation, evangelization, healing, discipleship, etc. "For the holy Eucharist contains the entire spiritual treasure of the Church, that is, Christ Himself" (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, Intro, 1). Therefore, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the eternal High Priest and the Way to the Father, use our spiritual gifts, and not give in to lukewarmness and laziness. May we be directed by the Spirit rather than distracted by others, the parish priest, or ourselves. Instead of looking at the storms of sin and confusion, let us walk on the water (Mk 6:48 ff) and worship in Spirit and in truth. "To the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise and honor, glory and might, forever and ever!" (Rv 5:13)
Nihil obstat: Reverend Giles H. Pater, August 20, 2001
Imprimatur: † Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 27, 2001
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.