In the eternal love relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to offer himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We come to Mass to join our sacrifice to that of Jesus. Jesus offers himself to his Father through us. Amazing isn’t it, to realize that at Mass as we join ourselves to Jesus in his sacrifice, we are caught up into the very life of God.
So how do we join the sacrifice of Jesus at the Mass? The first response might be to focus on the role of the priest. He is Christ present at Mass leading us, the body of Christ. We say “the priest offers (that is sacrifices in) the Mass.” The priest is self-sacrificing in his role and so is the whole assembly.
We are all baptized, joined to Jesus Christ and we receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is present in us. We are his body. He continues his sacrifice in us. The simplest way to express how we join the sacrifice of Jesus is with the following phrase. We make room, speak out, listen up, sing out and believe that is what we are doing.
We make room in our lives for each other. That is as literal as it sounds, but it is also attitudinal. We are asked to slide down in the pew, to look at each other, to smile, to greet one another. We come to the Mass from a variety of backgrounds, dispositions, interests, needs, and wants. We need to be attentive to each other. This can be self-
sacrificing in that we have a general tendency to think “me first.” Making room is both literal and internal.
We are invited to speak out. Through the responses and prayers, we are asked to give ourselves. We speak these prayers in a way that manifests our conviction and belief. We mean what we say. We also speak out to support one another. There is strength in numbers. We encourage others by our enthusiasm to voice their own prayer if they can hear us. Some might prefer to pray quietly. There are moments for silence in the liturgy. However, when we are called to
vocalize a prayer, we are self-sacrificing in our willingness to be heard.
We listen up. There are several times when listening attentively can be a real sacrifice. We focus on the proclaimer, the presider or the cantor. We must not only hear what they are saying but take it in and let it sink into our lives. We all know the challenge of being attentive to someone when they are speaking to us. The mind wanders. The effort put forth to really listen is participation in the self-sacrifice of Christ.
Finally, we sing out. Singing is praying. We join our voices together in sung prayer. This is an area where many of us need to be challenged. We think of the music as an “extra”; something that isn’t necessary to the Mass but singing and music are essential liturgical action. Our voices joined in song, elevate our spoken prayer and enhance our giving of self. Some say, “I can’t sing.” They mean that they do not have a good singing voice. We also have different speaking voices and different capacities for hearing. If my voice is not as pleasing as another’s, should I not speak the prayers at Mass; if I do not listen as well as another, should I not listen at all? No. Why then do we decide not to sing if our voice is not wonderful? For some self-sacrifice will come in bending our stubborn wills, in accepting that singing is important. Once we understand that singing, like speaking and listening is essential for joining our sacrifice to Christ’s, we will sing.
All of these ways of activity in the Mass become conscious not simply by our doing it, but more importantly by our believing. Conscious participation involves knowing why we do what we do. It is believing that my participation in the Mass is a genuine sacrifice. My sacrifice is joined to Jesus’ sacrifice through my faith.
With this basic understanding of what we are doing in the Mass, I will, in the subsequent months, look at each part of the Eucharist and explore how we encounter Jesus in his sacrifice during the Mass.