Mass is a beautiful experience for all those wishing to grow closer to Christ and share in His life. For me, mass has become so much more powerful the last few years after understanding why we do certain things during it as well as learning the meaning behind all the parts of the mass. I was astounded to see all the biblical routes of the entire mass while reading The Lambs Supper by Scott Hahn and watching him speak on the origins of the mass
For this post however, I thought I would look into more of the motions at mass, especially the ones I saw at the Newman Center my freshmen year that were different than I was used to in my home parish. I have gathered explanations about some of these things such as holding hands, how to receive the Eucharist, as well as why to pray after mass from a few people who are much more knowledgeable about the mass.
Silence before/ coming early to mass
Sacred Silence be observed in our churches prior to the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy to allow the clergy and the faithful to properly prepare and dispose themselves for the Sacred Mysteries to which they are about to participate.
>The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reminds us: “Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times.... Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence is observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (GIRM 45)
Used when making the sign of the cross to remind us of our own baptism, the promise we made to Christ, and an outward expression of the new sinless life you are trying to living because of Him.
Scott Hahn notes, “a North African theologian named Tertullian mentions the custom of symbolically cleansing one’s hands before lifting them in prayer. It was a Jewish custom that predated the coming of Our Lord, and it may be what St. Paul was referring to when he wrote to Timothy: “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands” or “pure hands” (1 Tim 2:8)”
Tracing the cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts before the gospel
Fr. Mateo offered the following explanation for this ritual: "For the word which Christ brought and which is set down in this book we are willing to stand up with a mind that is open; we are ready to confess it with our mouth; and above all we are determined to safeguard it faithfully in our hearts."
Not holding hands during the Our Father:
Bishop of Covington, Roger Foys:
“Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.”
It is a theological argument that Pope Benedict XVI made in his book, Spirit of the Liturgy. The point of holding hands is a sign of community and communion. Since this is the case, it is a misplaced sign, because we aren't truly in communion until we have exchanged the sign of peace. this is why Communion happens after the Sign of Peace, because it is the sign of communion par excellence.
Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue:
When I was younger and preparing for first communion, they told us that we received on our tongue because it was like rolling out a red carpet for God because He is a king. While it is acceptable to receive on the tongue or with the hands according to the church, receiving on the tongue reminds me that I am unworthy to even touch Jesus, but yet he still chooses to come to me. On Marc Barnes blog, BadCatholic, he does a good job explaining his reason behind his choice for communion,
As a baby bird lifts its head for food, or as an infant seeks its mother’s milk, so we open our mouths. There is no action between the administration of the Eucharist by the priest and my reception of the very same. In this posture of helpless receptivity we conform our bodies to the authority of God, and to the reality that we are dependent on his action — manifested in the Church — for our salvation. We recognize by our bodies that the Eucharist is gift, pure gift."
After Communion/ Praying After Mass
So many people go up for Holy Communion simply to go through the motions and think nothing of it, and yet, St. Pius X said that “if the Angels could envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion.” And St. Madeleine Sophie Barat defined Holy Communion as “Paradise on earth.” (more saints quotes on the beauty of Holy Communion)
St. Alphonsus Liguori once wrote that “there is no prayer more dear to God than that which is made after communion.” He continued that our loving thoughts and prayers after communion mean more then than otherwise “because they are then animated by the presence of Jesus Christ, who is united to our souls.”
“You envy,” said St. John Chrysostom, “the opportunity of the woman who touched the vestments of Jesus, of the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears, of the women of Galilee who had the happiness of following Him in His pilgrimages, of the Apostles and disciples who conversed with Him familiarly, of the people of the time who listened to the words of grace and salvation which came forth from His lips. You call happy those who saw Him ... But, come to the altar and you will see Him, you will touch Him, you will give to Him holy kisses, you will wash Him with your tears, you will carry Him within you like Mary Most Holy.”
Jesus once complained to St. Faustina, the Polish nun to whom He first gave us the Divine Mercy Chaplet, of people who "treat Me like a dead object" after receiving Him in Communion.
The Catechism teaches Christ remains physically present in us, in the Eucharist for 15-20 minutes, until the accidents (observable qualities such as taste, appearance, smell, ect) of bread and wine subsist. The same time it takes the digestive juices in the stomach to work on the Host before it is no longer recognizable as bread.
This being said, think of the amazing grace that comes from spending extra time in prayer after mass has ended instead of rushing out of the building.
“While God is everywhere, and we can pray to Him at any time or place, what better time is there to give Jesus our love, thanksgiving, and concerns than during our special time with Him after receiving Him in the Eucharist?”
"Another point to be emphasized is the importance of staying during the entire Mass. There are many plastic images to illustrate this, but most can grasp that if their boss, or the local mayor, summons them to a meeting, they would not dare leave before their host has formally brought it to a close. If we behave thus before mere human authority and relationships, then how much more should it be true when our host is the Father who created us, the Son who died and rose for us, and the Spirit who gives us life?"
When you rush in and out of Mass as if the world can't wait another ten minutes, you are showing God you have other priorities more important than Him.
One Priest once made the comment, "Please remember when you receive, that the Mass is not ended yet. Give thanks to God for His gift of the Eucharist. Let us not imitate Judas. He was the only one who left the Last Supper early, and you know what happened to him, don't you?"
So next time you are at mass, really think about all the things you are doing, and don't be like Judas, stick around to spend some intimate time in prayer with Christ.