By Fr. Michel Mulloy
Eucharist — Part III
In the love relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus eternally offers himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We come to Mass to join our sacrifices to Jesus’ eternal sacrifice. 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.
Priest and people are joined to Jesus Christ in baptism. We receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we gather for Mass, we are Jesus Christ present. The priest is Jesus leading his body, the people. He continues his sacrifice in, with and through us, each in our distinctive roles. The simplest way to express how we join the sacrifice of Jesus is with the following phrase. We make room, speak out and believe in 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 dispositions, interests, needs and wants. Being attentive to one another can be self-sacrificing in that we tend to be self-serving. Making room is both physical and internal. We also make room in our lives for one another by wanting to be present and by participating with the community in the action of the Mass.
We speak out. Through the responses and prayers, we give ourselves. We pray in a way that manifests our conviction and belief. We mean what we say. We also speak out to support one another. 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 all know the challenge of being attentive to someone when they are speaking to us. Our mind wanders. 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. The effort put forth to really listen is participation in the self-sacrifice of Christ.
We sing out. Singing is praying. This is an area where many of us need to be challenged. We think of the music as “extra,” something that isn’t necessary to the Mass. Singing and music are essential liturgical action. Our voices joined in song, elevate our spoken prayer and enhance our self-giving.
Some say, “I can’t sing.” They mean 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 means bending our stubborn wills and accepting that singing is important. Singing, like speaking and listening is essential for joining our sacrifice to Christ’s.
All this activity at Mass is sacrificial not simply by our doing it but more importantly by our belief. It is essential that I believe that Jesus is present, that he is offering himself to God the Father, and that I am participating in his sacrifice through understanding what is happening and consciously engaging in the sacrifice of the Mass.
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.