3 Jun 2011

Exploring the Mass (Part 2)

On this weeks show we continue exploring and for some rediscovering the Order of the Mass led in our reflection by Noirin Lynch from Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre where we reflect on the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Concluding Rites. (Last weeks show on Exploring the Mass - Part 1 can be read here or listened to here).

Saints of the Week

June 6th - St Norbert
June 7th - St Coleman of Dromore
June 8th - St William of York
June 9th - St Columba (Colum cille) Co-patron of Ireland
June 10th - St Ephream of Syria
June 11th - St Barnabas - Apostle

Exploring the Mass (Part 2)

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is so rich that we could spend weeks taking it line by line. But for tody, I have three points to reflecton together. It's a beginning, no more. So lets consider: Preparation, Participation, Transformation.

We start the Liturgy of the Eucharist by preparing ourselves and the Table of the Lord.

What are we preparing for? If I invite 4 people for dinner in my home & I prepare the dining room for a buffet for 20, or only lay the table for 2 people … my guests might be confused. Does our preparation reflect what is about to happen?

So, what's the best way to prepare as we begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

  • "The Preparation of the Altar marks the fact that the altar now becomes the focus. It is appropriate that at this point items required for the celebration should be placed on the altar to signify that a new element of the celebration is beginning".
    Don't clutter the altar – the symbols and actions of the Rite are all well thought out and important - they should be seen by everyone from every part of the church at every Mass.
    "On particular occasions such as funerals, First Communions and Confirmations, symbols might be placed close to the altar, but not on it. This should be done at the beginning of Mass rather than at the preparation of the altar or of the gifts." Symbols of a group or a person help us to remember who we pray for – but they are not part of the offertory at the Lit of Eucharist
  • Personally – Am I totally present, prepared, or is my mind cluttered with things that may prevent me from seeing whats on offer? After the collection and offertory, can I take a moment to realise where we are now, and what we are being invited into?!

Participation: The Eucharistic prayer as a dialogue

Maybe we have come to think that the Eucharistic Prayer is 'Fathers prayer' - but in fact it belongs to us all. "The Eucharistic Prayer is "the centre and summit of the entire celebration" (GIRM, 78)
. … addressed by the celebrant in the name of the whole community to God the Father through Christ his Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.". In his priestly role, our priest stands – in persona Christi - with & for the people of God gathered, calling down the Holy Spirit on these gifts and this congregation – that they may become the Body & blood of Christ. At the start of the Eucharistic prayer we pray 'the Lord be with you … lift up your hearts'. This "makes it clear that… (he)… prays the Eucharistic prayer on behalf of all, so all are invited to lift up their hearts and to give thanks to the Lord their God" This is why "the Prayer is always expressed in the first person plural, 'We come to you, Father…' "

"St Jerome speaks of the faithful of Rome who pronounce the word 'Amen' so loudly and so repeatedly that "it sounded like a roll of thunder"." Their voices told of their commitment, their faith and their real presence at Mass. So too, we are called to join in this great prayer - through our awareness, alertness and presence; but also aloud in the opening dialogue, at the Sanctus (Holy holy), after the consecration (procaimation of faith), and in the Great Amen.

So, the Eucharistic prayer – our united prayer - begins after the Offertory and ends with the Great Amen. This Amen is a high point in the Mass as it is the opportunity for the whole congregation to affirm all that has happened – prayers of thanksgiving, consecration, petitions for the church, those who have died etc – with a loud and clear Amen – Yes, we believe! Sometimes people join in the doxology (Through him, with him), and start to stand early for the Our Father. Thus one of the most important Amens in the Mass gets lost in a clutter of movement. Asking people not to say the doxology isn't stopping prayer – it's pointing to our most important role – full participation in the WHOLE Eucharistic prayer, finishing with a 'roll of thunder' Amen!

What is transformed?

Bread & Wine – yes. But oh so much more is transformed when we gather at Eucharist – if we allow Gods transforming grace into our hearts and our lives.

Let me share one of my favourite reflections with you – In about 400AD, St Augustine was a Bishop who was speaking with newly baptised adults about what Eucharist is. He said to them:

What you see is the bread and the chalice - this is what your eyes tell you.

But what your faith needs to be informed of - the bread is the body of Christ, the chalice is his blood. …
If you wish to understand the body of Christ, listen to what the apostle says to the believers, 'You are the body of Christ and his members.'
If, therefore, you are the body of Christ and his members, it is your own mystery that has been placed on the table of the Lord. It is your own mystery that you receive. To this which you are, you respond Amen and in responding you accept it
What you hear is 'the Body of Christ' and to this you respond 'Amen'.
So, be a member of Christ's body, that your Amen may be true.

Be what you see and accept what you are.

And that is what Jesus means to us. He wants us to belong in him, to pour into him as one. It is the mystery of our peace and unity which he consecrates on his table.

Heavy stuff isn't it ….but then the best of truth is powerful and deep and blows your mind a little!! ;-)
Heres the life altering, empowering, charasmatic truth: In Eucharist, the bread and wine is transformed by God into the Body & Blood of Christ … and the People of God gathered are also invited into that transformation. We are invited to let God transform us, just as God transforms bread & wine so that we – the People of God gathered – might be the Body & Blood of Christ in this time and place. That we might be Christs hands and feet, Christs heart, Christs visible presence in this community.

God offers transformation - invites us to be full members of Christs Body – this is what we say Amen to. So this morning perhaps reflect – what areas of my life are in need of Gods transformation: what relationship, what memory, what feeling or experience can I bring to God this morning asking for healing, and transformation. – how can I take up Gods call to be Christs hands and feet in this parish? Where can I be the visible sign of Christ's heart for this community?

Look and see what God is offering – Be a member of Christs Body so your Amen may be true.

Receiving the Body of Christ

A brief moment to mention a few points about our reception of the Body of Christ. Again this comes from 'Celebrating the Eucharist' – the booklet I have recommended as a simple introduction/reflection about the Mass.

  • Reverence. What we have spoken about – even in this brief time – is clearly sacred, precious and not to be taken lightly. So too, the reception of Jesus truly present in Holy Communion should be approached with the greatest reverence. Our Mass has built in several clear signs of respect to help our awareness – for example, before receiving Communion people should be fasting for at least an hour. After the invitation, priest and people together recite words based on the prayer of the centurion whose servant was ill (Mt 8:8; Lk 7:6,7), "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…"
  • A procession not a queue: "Moving towards the altar or other Communion station should be seen not as a mere queue. It is a procession, which symbolises our journey towards our destination where the Risen Christ awaits us, our approach to receive the Food for which we hunger."
  • "When the priest says, "The Body of Christ" he is calling on the communicant to express his or her faith that Jesus Christ is really present, body, blood, soul and divinity; he is also calling for an expression of faith that those who share Christ's Body are themselves his Body. If the Body of Christ is received in the hand, this is not a gesture of taking but of receiving. The two hands should form a throne for the reverent reception of the King of Heaven."
Concluding Rites

We began with Rite of introduction to ensure that we are fully present. Now we finish with concluding rites to ensure that we link liturgy & life. If we simply received communion and walked out the door, we would miss the moment. The Church creates this time of conclusion to bring together all that has been experienced and received, reminding us that we now go out to our families and our community – not as individuals but as members of Christ's Body.

First a practical point: The Liturgy of the Eucharist does not end when we receive Communion. It includes the prayer the priest leads us in after Communion. Only at that point do we enter the Concluding Rites – so the time of reception is surrounded by

Only at this point should any announcements or notices be read. They should not interrupt the time of thanksgiving; they are not part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Concluding Rite:

"The Priest's Greeting echoes the opening, 'The Lord be with you'. The community gathered in the Lord's presence, now, still in the presence of Christ who promised to be always with his people, they go out to bear that presence into their whole lives. The Eucharist which has just been celebrated is the summit of the Christian life; it is also the source from which we derive the strength to live and share the faith we have received and celebrated.

The Blessing reinforces the awareness that God goes with us. Several Prayers over the People and more solemn forms of Blessing are provided.

In the Dismissal the priest or deacon sends the congregation out to love and serve the Lord. Christians are called to evangelise and to be witnesses.
"Given this, the Prayer after Communion and the Concluding Rite – the Final Blessing and Dismissal – need to be better valued and appreciated, so that all who have shared in the Eucharist may come to a deeper sense of the responsibility that is entrusted to them (JOHN PAUL II, Dies Domini, 45).

The Mass concludes with the congregation praising and thanking God for their encounter with the Risen Christ in the mystery of the Eucharist, 'Thanks be to God'.

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