The Mass and How to Prepare For It
PRAYER BEFORE MASS:
As important as being physically present at Mass, is to be spiritually present. Ideally, we arrive a few minutes early to quiet our hearts and minds and to pray.
What to pray?
Meditate on these questions:
- Where am I struggling that I would like Jesus to give me strength, insight, courage, etc.?
- Who do I know that needs my prayers and what is it I wish for them?
- What am I hoping to experience in this Mass?
As I come to experience the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I ask You Lord: send Your Spirit to calm my anxieties and help me be attentive to all the ways You are at work: speaking to me in the Scriptures and inviting me into Your sacrifice to the Father. May I receive all You wish to give. Amen.
PRAYER AFTER MASS:
- What did God say to me in this Mass?
- What’s He calling me to this week?
Lord, as I depart from this place, may I take what I have experienced of You and reveal it by my life. Having been blessed and dismissed as Your Disciple, may I go forth, living in accord with Your Love, and advancing a little more, Your Kingdom. Amen.
WHY IS MASS AN OBLIGATION?
The easiest way to answer is to say, God said so. The 3rd Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day”. And so the Church is entrusted with upholding that command.
God created the world and all within it in six days, but then rested on the seventh day. He wants us to enter into that rest with Him and not make it just another day. Try to make it a day for and about God, but also the things God has principally entrusted to you: your family.
CHILDREN AT MASS?
- Relax! God gave them that active spirit. Consider sitting near the front where it’s easier for the little ones to see and hear what’s going on at the altar. Quietly explain what’s happening.
- If you have to leave Mass with your child, feel free to do so, but please come back. If your child is struggling to remain quiet for an extended period, feel free to use the Gathering Space.
- Remember: the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to the church, to God, and to one another. Let them know they are at home in this house.
A FEW REQUESTS:
- Please participate! It’s not a show. You’re one of us offering the prayer. And that includes the prayers that are sung. Sing!
- Please fast a minimum of one hour before receiving the Eucharist (except medicine and water). Please don’t chew gum during Mass if you intend to receive the Eucharist.
- Please stay until the end: allow the priest to reach the back of the church before you leave. Remember: In the Gospels, only Judas Iscariot left early!
- It’s God’s house: please dress appropriately.
- Try to develop the habit of prayerfully reading the readings of the Mass at least a day in advance. It will help you to absorb so much more. You can find the readings online here.
What is the Mass?
There are many good and right ways to answer that question. It is a prayer. But unlike every other way in which we pray, individually or communally, the Mass is foremost Jesus’ prayer to the Father. You and I have the privilege of joining him in his prayer (see Hebrews 7-10).
Believe it or not, before there was even a Bible, Christians came together to celebrate the Eucharist. Since that time and up to now, every time we celebrate Mass, we are part of a beautiful ancient ritual, an eternal prayer.
The Mass also can be described as a foretaste of heaven (see Revelation, chapters 4 and following). We are given a glimpse, as we step outside of time and space—joining the saints and angels, though unseen to us—in their heavenly activity.
But the Mass also calls to mind the Last Supper: that intimate gathering of Jesus and his Disciples at table, where he expressed his love in words and in his self-giving.
Again, the Mass is a prayer. As beings made body and soul, we pray with words, but also with our bodies: kneeling, standing or reverencing with a bow—all to glorify God.
The Mass is divided into four primary parts.
(You will find the basic responses of the Mass in the front flap of the hymnal. For a complete Order of Mass, refer to the hymnal, #202 through #222.)
I. THE INTRODUCTORY RITES
We begin Mass by preparing our minds and hearts to encounter God in the parts that follow. One way we do this is to ask for God’s forgiveness for any sins that would prevent us from being open and receptive. Kyrie eleison.
II. THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
Here, the faithful engage in sort of dialogue with God. Through the members of our parish who serve as Readers, proclaiming the readings from the ambo, God speaks to us, and we respond.
The readings reach their high point with the Gospel. We stand attentively and sing Alleluia in anticipation of the living Word from our Lord.
In our daily Masses and Sunday Masses, we use a cycle of readings that enables us to hear the majority of the Bible over the course of three years. The Scriptures are alive and every time we hear them, they present us with the opportunity to hear something new.
Then we stand and declare our faith, proclaiming the Creed, as well as offer our prayers for our Church, our community, our nation, and our world. Lord, hear our prayer.
III. THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
In this part of the Mass, the emphasis shifts from the ambo (where the readings are proclaimed) to the altar.
Bread and wine are brought to the altar and through the prayers of the priest and the working of the Holy Spirit, they are changed, becoming truly the Body and Blood of Jesus (see John chapter 6). From this altar, Jesus the great High Priest offers himself, like the Passover Lamb, as a sacrifice to the Father, for the benefit of us all.
Just as Jesus shared a meal with his Disciples as way of sharing his life, so he does with us, drawing us into communion with him and each other. Do this in memory of me.
IV. THE CONCLUDING RITES
Here we receive a final blessing from the Church and are sent out into the world to live in accord with God’s love and to share it with others. Ite, Missa Est!