The great mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is found in how deeply it exposes two of the greatest limitations of our human nature.
First, it exposes the gruesome fact that we needed a Savior. We are sinners created for holiness who cannot make ourselves holy. Therefore, we gather, weak and humble as we are, in the Presence of our Christ, who first humbled Himself so that we might become great through His lowliness. Second, the climax of the Mass, when the Christ becomes the Flesh and Blood that we consume so that we might commune In Him occurs in a space imperceptible by our senses and in a moment incalculable by the measures of time that all of our understanding is bound to.
More clearly I say, at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, He who is not bound by any of our limitation of sense and time, comes to free those who are bound by those things of pertaining to sense and time.
It is a paradox that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a great Mystery that demands our whole self to be captured by so that our whole self might be set free. Yet, how difficult it is to always be offering the full self at all of the Mass? Granted, it may be more difficult for some than others, but below are Three Ways Anyone Can Better Enhance Their Ful Immersion into the Mysteries of the Mass:
Ritualize Your Pre-Mass Warmup:
Every great professional in the arts and athletics have developed some sort of routine they engage in before their performance. Some, like Frank Sinatra, have a very simple ritual. According to his relatives, he would have Bill Miller come into the dressing room and run the scales with him before every show. Then there are those like the great Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt who likes to be extroverted and waves to the crowd and talks to his rivals as part of his pre-race ritual.
The benefits of pre-performance rituals are that they function as a countdown to remind the self that, “I’m going to need all of you very shortly to do something special – what we’ve been training for.”
If artists and athletes use pre-performance rituals to get their whole-self ready to do something very special, how much more should Catholics prepare themselves for the Mass?
I recommend using that required hour of fasting before Mass to start whatever pre-Mass ritual that will better help you attune your whole self to the great mystery.
Being comfortable in the spiritual life is never a good idea. Repeatedly throughout sacred Scripture, God is always pushing, courting, and calling His people to temporary zones of discomfort and suffering, and it is precisely in those places where we end up growing abundantly in our faith.
If you’ve been around long enough, I’m sure you too can attest to that time(s) in your life when what you thought was the most uncomfortable thing ended up bringing about one of your greatest blessings. So, if we know this, then why do we try to make ourselves as comfortable as we can for that hour or so at Mass?
I recommend you get uncomfortable in your worship at the Mass. Stop using the kneelers if you are physically able to, dress in an appropriate way that is different from how you dress ordinarily, sing if you don’t usually sing, keep your hands in prayer position whenever you are standing, sit in a different pew every time. Whatever you’ve gotten comfortable doing at Mass, stop doing it and suffer in the discomfort as you offer it up.
Listen to Every Word of the Liturgy:
Listening is difficult. I don’t care who it is; your spouse, kids, parents, television, or whatever – It is difficult to capture every word being spoken to us. Our minds wander, we start thinking about what we need to say or do, something distracts us, something is going on in our life that keeps drawing our attention away.
The truth is that the more of ourselves that we pour into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the more we will get out of. Surely, that can be said with just about anything in life, but even more so the Mass, because they’re what we are receiving is truly God and His grace. Therefore, it is so important for us to cleave to the Mass, just as man cleaves to his wife. This is why man leaves his parent’s home to be joined to his wife, and this is why we leave our home to be joined to Christ in the Mass.
I recommend to two things that will help you stay focused on the powerful prayers being said in the liturgy:
- Every time you hear the name ‘Jesus Christ’ being said or sung by the Priest or Choir at Mass, make the sign of the Cross. This practice will cause your mind to focus on every word being prayed and sung. This is actually a tradition you’ll find in some of the Eastern Rite Churches, and
- Try to keep your eyes fixed on whatever image of Christ your Church has of Jesus in the sanctuary, and contemplate the meaning of the prayers being said in union with the Cross. This practice will cause you to fall in awe of Christ throughout the Mass.