The Prayers of the Mass
How have you been using this time of the Stay at Home order? While all of us just want things to get back to normal, this can be a time for us to use wisely or we can use it poorly. Probably for most of us, it has been a little bit of both. No doubt there has been some stress, maybe some anxiety and some challenges to our coping well with things. Maybe the first few weeks, we were able to be attentive to things but as time passes, it may be getting more difficult. That is certainly understandable. I would like to encourage and invite all of us to recommit ourselves to using this time wisely. In particular, I would like to recommend that we take some time every day and devote it to prayer, study and reflection. Now I can hear the chorus, “Get Real! How is that going to happen with working at home, trying to keep the kids doing their school work, trying to keep up with everything in the house, trying to deal with everyone stuck at home and worried about if I am going to get laid off? Etc.” Yes, this is a crazy time and yes, some of the main ways that we normally cope are by coming together with others in the community and turning to God at Mass and that is precisely what we have not been able to do since March! Still, let’s try to take a little time for prayer, study and reflection.
Since we are not yet able to gather for Sunday Mass, I would like to recommend that you make an opportunity for yourself and look at the Mass. Under normal circumstances we should attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day. Obviously, this is a unique situation that we find ourselves in, so even though we can’t gather for Mass, let’s still take advantage of the beauty and power of the prayers of the Mass. Have you ever read through the prayers of the Mass? If so, great. If not, that’s ok. But maybe now is a time for all of us to read and read again and then reflect and ponder on what we probably take for granted. Read the prayers that we pray together (The Confiteor, Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Offertory exchange, Preface Dialogue, Sanctus, Our Father and Agnus Dei). Take some time with each of them. Read for understanding. Re-read them and slowly reflect upon the deeper spiritual meaning and then pray them by yourself. Take them one at a time, perhaps one a day. For the Gloria and Creed, we may wish to break them up into sections. After looking at the parts we pray together, pick up your missal or your device and look at the prayers that the priest prays during the Mass on our behalf, most especially the Eucharist Prayer. In the Roman Missal there are ten Eucharistic Prayers (four main ones, two for Reconciliation and four for Various Needs and Occasions). Priests are free to pray whichever prayer they choose. I normally reserve the 1st Eucharist Prayer (Roman Canon) for major holy days, while I know Fr. Richard likes to pray it more often. During Advent and Lent, I like to pray the prayers of Reconciliation and during the Easter and Christmas seasons, I will pray the prayers for Various Needs and Occasions. The structure to these prayers are all the same although they do have different words and phrasings. In Reconciliation Prayer I, which I normally use during Lent, I love the richness and beauty that we pray “Indeed, though we were once lost and could not approach you, you loved us with the greatest love; for your Son, who alone is just, handed himself over to death and did not disdain to be nailed for our sake to the wood of the cross. But before his arms were outstretched between heaven and earth…” What a picture of the eternity, humility and magnificence of Jesus on the cross and at the altar! What a true picture of our condition and the Father’s mercy! In Eucharistic Prayer II, which is the shortest of the prayers, there is the lovely and tender description, “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, and the font of all holiness. Make holy therefore these gifts, we pray by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall…” Now of course, this is moment (the Epiclesis) where the priest and the people pray for the coming down of the Holy Spirit on the gifts of bread and wine that they may become the Body and Blood of Christ.
In a real sense too, we are praying for ourselves, that the Holy Spirit may descend upon all of us gathered at the altar and the whole church and that we might become more fully the Body and Blood of Christ. Imagine how the Holy Spirit covers us and the gifts of bread and wine in holiness and grace as a fresh morning dew gently and delicately covers the blades of grass, the petals of flowers and the leaves of trees. Elsewhere in the same prayer, during the Memento, we pray, “Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face”. What a beautiful description of love and of heaven. Imagine what the splendor of being in the presence of God must be like, that God’s beauty is magnificent that our entire being is overwhelmed by the radiance of His pure love. That’s heaven!
This can be a gift if we let it.
In pace Christi,