Summary: Both clergy and congregation should have ample time to participate in the Mass by praying in their hearts.
Monday of 19th Sunday in Course
August 8, 2011
As we stand impotent before the withering rays of the August sun, the Church gives us two back-to-back gifts, followed by a week of the most amazing saints. On Saturday, we saw Jesus transfigured refulgent in the blinding light of Trinitarian love. On Sunday, we were transfixed with the vision of the Son of God walking on the water, calming our terror with the words, “Fear not–it is I.” Today St. Dominic, tomorrow St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, then the martyr deacon Lawrence, the Franciscan foundress Clare, Blessed Jakob Gapp and St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyred by the Nazis. The bookend to this week of unimaginable spiritual riches is the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption a week from today. And so, with the Holy Father, my theme for today is the awed silence we should experience in the presence of the Holy Eucharist.
Yesterday’s OT reading told us how Elijah spent forty days in silent retreat, journeying to the mountain of God. The encounter with God was not in the cacophony of the earthquake, fire or hurricane, but in attentiveness to the still small voice, a voice drowned out by any noise. That’s why when we come to Mass we should spend time in silent prayer, before, during and after the Holy Sacrifice. That’s why cell phones and i-phones and MP3 players and Tees with secular slogans should be left outside, why we dress modestly and act reverently. We are in the Holy of Holies with the very God of creation, salvation and sanctification.
The Holy Father commends the practice of engaging in silent prayer during the time of the Preparation of Gifts. He calls our participation there “an essentially interior practice. We need to see that we ourselves are, or should be, the real gift in the ‘Word-centered sacrifice’ through our sharing in Jesus Christ’s act of self-offering to the Father.” During this time after the Prayer of the Faithful, “we are disposing ourselves, preparing the way, placing ourselves before the Lord, asking him to make us ready for transformation.” Because if the only change that takes place at Mass is the bread and wine becoming the very body and blood of Jesus, the Mass is a human tragedy. The transformation for which we pray, for which the decision is in our own hands, is the transformation of me into an image of Christ.
Another time of silence is “the silence of the Consecration at the elevation of the consecrated species. The bells are celebration and signal, but they are also “an invitation to direct our eyes toward Christ, to look at him from within, in a gaze that is at once gratitude, adoration, and petition for our own transformation.” Here the medieval Church has given us a great gift–the Great Elevation–which should last for some time and stir our hearts toward affective prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. After this, the revised Missal has the priest finish the proclamation by saying mysterium fidei–the mystery of faith–and we respond with one of three acclamations. You can hear these chants on YouTube–just Google “new memorial acclamations.” They are very beautiful chants and are complementary to the silent listening we have been discussing.
There are prayers in the Mass that are to be said silently by the priest and deacon. We have a silent dialogue before the Gospel. The deacon has a prayer after the Gospel–as we kiss the Scriptures we pray “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.” As we pour the water into the wine we pray “by the mystery of this water and wine may we become sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” The problem with being a cleric is that we can get to where we are doing holy things without becoming holy. These silent prayers constitute a challenge to us to remember what we are doing, and especially what Christ did and does for us. The priest is offered two different prayers to help him prepare for communion. They are to be prayed silently. The purpose is the same, to encourage the priest’s engaged participation to conquer the tendency to disconnect from the awesome reality of what Christ is doing in him.
When we pray silently, that is a cue for you to pray with us and for us, to engage yourself in your deepest reality to hear the Gospel of Christ and let it change you, to receive the body and blood of Christ and let Him change you.