Making Church Matter

Do This….

August 14, 2011

This weekend we kick off a new four week series all about the Mass, we’re calling it “Do This” because the Mass is something Jesus told us to do.  In fact, it’s the last thing he told us to do before he died.

The series also anticipates the new Roman Missal (if you need to catch up here, the Missal is the book of prayers the priest uses at Mass, it is written in Latin and a new English translation is being introduced in November….and with this new translation comes changes, large and small). I am just going to go ahead and say it: the new Roman Missal is of keen interest to churchpeople and of little or no interest to the rest of the people.  (I will probably have a separate post on the topic at some point).  But preparation must be made nonetheless.

Anyway, our new series is all about taking a closer look at what we do, and what we should be doing in the Mass. Today we start at the beginning, with the Opening Rite. (In subsequent weeks we’ll look at the Liturgy of the Word, the Offertory and the Eucharistic Prayer; I’m speaking this week and next, Tom wraps up the series (and the summer) in weeks three and four.

The Second Vatican Council wrote about the full, conscious and active participation of the assembly in the Liturgy.  That sounds great, but it is awfully difficult to achieve. One of the goals of the series will be to continue to improve the level of participation on the part of our congregation by looking more carefully at what the Mass actually asks us to do.
First of all, the Mass asks us to assemble together, to form a community for worship. We are not a community just because we happen to be in the same place at the same time.  We are a community as we acknowledge and greet one another. For us, this starts in the parking lot. Our parking ministers actually introduce the weekend service by wordlessly communicating “we’re waiting for you, we’re glad you’re here, this is important to us.” Then our host team goes ahead and says that, so by the time you get to your seat you’ve been greeted perhaps twice or more. Those greetings should make you feel welcome and part of a community (even if you’re visiting).

Sometimes visitors are surprised that on coming into the sanctuary before Mass there is music, announcements on the screens, friendly greetings going on.  In their world view that is disrespectful, the time before Mass is only for quiet reflection.  Certainly we need to prepare for Mass, and if that is the value they are arguing for, good for them.  Another value is continuing to build that sense of community out of the assembled individuals (and finding another time for quiet time). A few years ago we went ahead and added a greeting before Mass, asking people to stand up, reach out and say hello to their neighbors. To our surprise it was instantly a hit.  We think it definitely sets the right tone.

Hopefully so does the opening song, which should knit together the growing unity of the community and begin to collectively put us in the same place before God: worship. Singing is the highest form of worship and the most effective.  It has the greatest ability to touch and move the human heart. More than that, we like to say that the liturgy is like transportation; if it’s working, it’s taking you somewhere; you are not simply in the same place afterwards.  Music is the water on which the liturgy sails. So, unlike many parishes, we don’t have a “quiet” Mass.  Mass should have music (the Last Supper wasn’t a “quiet” Mass, the apostles and Jesus sang (Mark 14.26). And unlike many parishes, we no longer have different music at different Masses, we use to think that was a good idea.  But now we think a better idea is having the congregation all singing the same music. And we do mean everyone.

Our level of congregational singing is currently quite good (for a Catholic church), but it’s not good enough.  Singing is what the congregation is suppose to do. If you’re not singing at Mass, you need to ask yourself why? What are you doing when the rest of us are singing? Whatever it is, it’s not what you came to do. Coming to Mass and not singing is like going to the gym and not working out…just watching everyone else work out.  Liturgy is work and singing is part of the workout.

The other major components of the Opening rite are the “Kyrie” and the “Gloria.” One acknowledges who we are (sinners in need of mercy) and the other proclaims who God is
(our savior). If you would like to hear to hear the whole weekend message, just hit the “watch a message” tab on this page.

If we’ll enter into them with confidence and humility, the Opening Rites of Mass really can prepare us for an encounter with the living Lord Jesus, who can change our life.  That’s why he told us to do it.

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  1. Fabulous. Can not wait to hear more about our Mass. Why we do what we do and where it came from. Imagine, still doing rituals from all those centuries ago. Thank you for our wonderful Church, who preserved all of this.

  2. Terrific topic. Looking forward to the rest of the series. It would have been nice if you had taken the opportunity to remind people that today is the Feast of the Assumption and encourage those who are able to attend Mass (even though it is not technically a holy day of obligation as it falls on a Monday). I cannot understand why there was no mention of it during the announcements nor in the bulletin.

  3. It is a good topic and an important topic. Doing things out of rote habit will soon make them meaningless. It's important to know why we say what we say and where/how it originated. That's why I always enjoyed the missalettes. Reading along, particularly during the Eucharistic Prayer, made the experience more personal.
    Also I agree with the importance of making people aware that today is the Feast of the Assumption. I would not have realized had I not read the previous comment.

  4. Church should never be done out of “obligation.” You should
    “want” to go to church. Holy Days of Obligation are just another “marketing catch” by the Vatican to get more Catholics in their churches.

  5. OUCH!!!
    Definitely don't agree with the last post. Just like we take time to remember important dates in our country's history it is especially important to remember important dates in the Church's history, to reflect and celebrate.

  6. I agree that ideally we should want to go to church however, I completely disagree that Holy Days of Obligation are a “marketing catch”. Just as one of the commandments is to keep holy the Sabbath (because God knows we don't always do what is good for us and right automatically, sometimes we need to be told what to do and hopefully, eventually, we actually want to do it on our own). Likewise, like the above post mentions, feast days and holy days remind us of important aspects of our faith and by attending Mass on those days we show God honor and respect and we open ourselves to His Spirit and grace by doing so.
    Mother Teresa received Communion daily and began each morning in prayer. Someone once suggested she could accomplish so much more in her day if she spent less time in prayer. Her response was that she was only able to accomplish all she did as a result of her prayers. Wouldn't it be awesome if everyone came to realize that?

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