When someone asks what your experience is of the Catholic Liturgy, the first thing that may come to mind is the Eucharist, and then you may recall your favorite hymns or Psalms. Of course you’ll begin to think about the smell of incense and the beauty of the vestments and the Altar; the People blending voices to sing Holy, Holy, Holy. There could be an unending reflection on the many things you’ve experienced through the senses. Every single moment of the Liturgy is meaningful. It is a feast not only of the heart, but of the mind, the eyes, ears & nose.
Most of what occurs during Mass was planned, but then there are those things that occur because, let’s face it, there are humans attending. A little one trying to escape the pew to make a beeline for the altar, and the desperate Mother trying to prevent this embarrassment from happening. The Father trying to calm his crying baby, because he so desperately wants to receive the Eucharist. The teenager, who either doesn’t understand the importance of what is occurring or just doesn’t understand in whose presence they are in. Not to say that they’re all unknowing, since you’re able to see many kids that attend your LifeTeen group with their eyes fixed to the Altar, anticipating what’s about to occur. This most important sacrament of the Altar, Christ in the Eucharist, is the center of life in the Christian. Without it we have no life within us.
Experiencing the movement of the Priest, as the movement of Christ at the last supper, is a gift given to us. God willed that we should be able to participate in Our Lords passion, death, and resurrection. This is what I experience, every time I attend Mass. I recall that I must die to myself, suffer the crosses of this life, knowing every Sunday and any day of the week, I can become a new creation once again, by reconciliation and communion with my Lord. When I receive the Eucharist, I feel alive in Christ. This is the closest we get to being united with God in this earthly life, and it reminds me of what is in store for the faithful when we leave this world, and are united to God in the heavenly realm. We are one with Him, as He is one with the Father. This is what it means when we recite in the Our Father, “on earth as it is in heaven.” We are experiencing Heaven on Earth. He is with us, now, here.
Then there are my brothers and sisters in Christ. My experience has always been that the people are intrinsically connected to the purpose of the Mass, and without them, the Mass is not complete. My favorite part of Mass, second to the Eucharist, is the greeting of one another with the sign of peace. It is a thing of beauty to see everyone, young and old, coming together in one voice and one body, to participate in communion with our Lord. Every time I watch the congregation hugging, shaking hands, sharing a smile, I feel joy in my heart. I recall also the Lords interaction with The Apostles, and then their interaction with those with whom they shared the Good News. This part of the Mass is about reconciling with all our brothers and sisters, before we present our gift at the Altar (Matthew 5:24), the Eucharist. We are the Body of Christ, so we cannot be one with Him, without also discerning the body. This means recognizing Christ within the Eucharist and the congregation. I realize that my experience of the Mass is directly connected to my understanding of its meaning, and so I can understand if some don’t have the same experience. Though, I also realize that this means we as Catholics are responsible for sharing this with others.
The Mass itself is a teaching action. In the Liturgy, Christ is opening the Scriptures to us once again as he did on the road to Emmaus. With the reading of the Scriptures: The Old Testament reading, the New Testament, and the Gospel; then the Homily, we are being given the Good News. Christ speaks to us through the voice of the priest. At this time, I often feel like those Apostles on the road to Emmaus, “Were not our hearts burning within us” (Luke 24:32). From start to finish the Mass is about Communion. With our brothers and sisters and with Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is evident during the entrance hymn, as we sing songs that announce to us all, we are here to worship. As the priest and the altar servers process to the Altar and the Priest greets the faithful, exclaiming, “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!” Our voices are one, our hearts are one. We are one with the Saints and our Lord God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What it means to be “in communion”, “unified” in Christ, is what I experience within the Catholic Liturgy.