29 April 2010

Holy Mass and "Active Participation"

From Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.:

The best way of assisting at Holy Mass is the one which makes us participate most in the sublime action taking place at the altar. The liturgical method is especially recommended; by having us recite the same prayers as the priest, it makes us follow more closely the various parts of the Holy Sacrifice. However, instead of being preoccupied with the exact rendering of the words, which is obligatory only for the priest, we should penetrate the meaning of the different prayers, especially those said at the principal parts of the Mass, such as the Offertory, Consecration, and Communion.

Although the liturgical method is very good, it is not the only one; the Encyclical Mediator Dei expressly says, "The needs and dispositions are not the same in all souls, and they do not continue to remain the same in each one." It is not uncommon, for example, that, after the following the liturgical method for a long time with fruit, a particular soul might feel the need of closing the Missal in order to taste a little more profoundly the very substance of the Mass and to "penetrate" it further. This is not going backward but forward. Instead of focusing the attention in a special way on the various ceremonies and prayers, the soul feels the need of "getting into intimate contact with the High Priest" (ibid.), in order to unite itself interiorly with His action, His offering, and His immolation. By doing this, she follows the Mass in a simple "loving attention" which is the characteristic of contemplative prayer. Without necessarily following the development of the Sacred Rite in all its various parts, the soul fixes the mind and heart upon the Mass drama with a general glance, made keen by love. Thus we advance in an ever clearer understanding of the Holy Sacrifice.

However, it will be well to return to the Missal from time to time, especially to follow the liturgy on Sundays and feasts; each time our soul does this we will find new light, and a new sense, which will help us to penetrate the very substance of the Holy Sacrifice.


Athelstane said...

Hello Timman,

This passage is a wonderful tonic to some of the overheated complaints published in certain outlets over the last week complaining about the lack of "active participation" (never mind the poor translation from Sacrosanctum Concilium) in the pontifical high mass at the Shrine in DC last Saturday.

"...a particular soul might feel the need of closing the Missal in order to taste a little more profoundly the very substance of the Mass and to "penetrate" it further." I know this feeling well.

thetimman said...

Athelstane, thank you. It struck me forcibly, too, when I read it. I want to always keep this passage in mind when I hear someone knock a person who "mumbles her rosary" during Mass. Who could possibly know what meditation or contemplation is occurring in this soul?

The Mass is truly an inexhaustible source of riches for the spiritual life.