Skip to comments.Mass participation—in body and spirit(Catholic caucus)
Posted on 11/16/2011 8:16:28 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
Mass participationin body and spirit
This column continues the Denver Catholic Registers New Roman Missal series.
Nov. 16 2011 - I have been thinking lately about Mary and Martha. We encounter these two sisters, who were friends of the Lord, when Jesus makes a visit to their home in the Gospel of Luke.
Most of us remember the story. Martha works actively to prepare the meal for the Lord, while Mary sits listening to Him at His feet. When Martha gets frustrated with her sister and complains, Jesus says that Mary, who is sitting in rapt contemplation, has chosen the better part.
In contemporary culture, contemplation is difficult for us to understand. We live in a Martha kind of a worlda world of anxiety, stress and frenzied activity. Its easy to believe that even our worship of God should be full of obvious, exterior activityrather than be a time of prayerful contemplation.
Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Councils decree on worship, calls each of us to a full and active participation in the liturgy. In our Martha mindsets we often confuse full and active participation with exterior participation in the liturgyservice as lectors, acolytes, ushers or extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
And many of us do participate in active exterior service in the liturgyand we should. Assisting the community in the worship of God is a generous service. But full and active participation is something much deeper and even more engaging than our exterior service to liturgy. Full and active participation is the Churchs invitation for us to join Mary, Marthas sister, in rapt contemplation at the feet of Jesus.
In simple terms, Pope Benedict XVI writes, active participation means a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life."
Growing in greater awareness of the mystery of the Mass isnt easy. Were quite often distracted, and contemplation doesnt come natural to most. The liturgy of the Church is designed to help us. The public worship of the Church invites us to engage our senses and our bodies, thus allowing us to be more easily drawn into the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice.
Each gesture, each bodily movement at Mass is designed to draw us into Gods presence. The gestures are familiar to usbut we may not think about their meanings. Each one expresses the reality of Gods love and each one reminds us that our religion is incarnational.
The Sign of the Cross is a confession of faith in the Holy Trinity. In tracing the Sign of the Cross over our bodies, we place ourselves under the protection of the Crucified One and express our desire to follow Him.
Kneeling is a powerful Christian expression of humility. Although foreign in modern culture, kneeling expresses our worship of Jesus, at whose name every knee should bow.
Standing is a posture of prayer, an expression of victory and of readiness, of anticipation of the glory that is to come.
Sitting is a posture that allows recollection and, through some relaxation, promotes a good disposition for a prayerful reflection and meditation.
Our gestures, movements and positioning also bespeak our role in the Mass and in the Church. At the consecration of the Eucharist, the congregation kneels, offering their own sacrifices with that of the priest and of Jesus, while the priest, acting in the person of Jesus Christ, stands, and uses his actions to recall the Last Supper.
At the Lords Prayer, the priest stands with arms outstretched in a gesture of supplication, the orans or praying position, on behalf of the people. The deacon, whose posture is governed by the liturgical rubrics, is instructed to stand with hands folded together in the same manner as the congregation. The faithful fold their hands, in a traditional posture of petitioning, to signify the humility of our congregation before God. Other gestures, such as extending arms or holding hands, are not found in the norms of the Mass. That our gestures are different does not mean that one role is more important than anotherrather it points to a diversity of parts to the body of Christ.(emphasis added)
Its easy to engage in the gestures of Mass without thinking about them, to literally just go through the motions. But as we move from one position of worship to another, we can be drawn into the mystery of God. Like Mary, who actively engaged Jesus by sitting and listening to Him, so we can express the presence of God in our bodies and thus truly love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.
Bishop James D. Conley is apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese.
**Other gestures, such as extending arms or holding hands, are not found in the norms of the Mass. **
I’ve always been Mary. My sisters—Marthas. I always felt I was truly filled up that way. The problem is Martha often shames Mary, but Mary doesn’t care. She’s with Jesus :).
I have always felt like Martha got a bum rap. The worker bees of the world many times work alone and unappreciated making things nice for others. Then they get rebuked.
The one thing I have often noticed is the they often have a hard time just being present as opposed to doing. It is a tough balance for anyone focused on making things nice for others as they often do not get much in the way of assistance unless they are wonderfully assertive and run a tight ship :-)