The past five weeks, I wrote about the Sacrament of Marriage. Today I would like to reflect briefly on the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Vatican II referred to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the ‘source and the summit’ of our life in Christ. In other words, it is from the Eucharist that we receive the greatest Grace and the occasion at which we give the greatest praise to God. The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is the time when the whole community gathers to praise God together and to be strengthened by God. The order is important. The purpose of our participating in the Eucharist is primarily praise of God. The benefit from our participation at Mass is to be spiritually fed. Though we benefit from our attendance at Mass, we should make our focus the praise of God. Though standards for dress seem to be continually changing, we should still wear our best for God. “Dressing up” is a worthwhile Sunday ritual for the family preparing for Mass. Our conduct in church should also reflect our reverence for God (and respect for others). I encourage the practice – before and after Mass – of praying quietly in the church. To allow for your fellow parishioners to pray, and to demonstrate proper respect for the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, socializing should take place outside the church proper (outside or in the Holy Family Cenacle). How we participate in our worship of God and how we prepare to receive the Lord in Holy Communion is important. We should not be mere spectators at Mass but “active participants”. This means we should sing the hymns and respond to all the prayers clearly. And above all, be attentive and interiorly “present” to the action of the Mass. Stand reverently at the Gospel and listen to the Word of God with an open heart. Sit attentively during the first two readings and during the homily. Actively engage the Word of God, rather than passively receiving it. During the Eucharistic Prayer, when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, kneel reverently as you behold the great Mystery of our Faith. Remember to abstain from all food and drink an hour before receiving Holy Communion. (This does not apply to medicines, or for those persons who, for health reasons, must eat at particular times.) The ancient custom of receiving the Lord on the tongue is still the universal practice and a most worthy way to receive Holy Communion. If receiving Holy Communion in the hand, one should place one hand on top of the other, making a sort of “throne” upon which the Lord is placed. One should never grab the Sacred Host, but reverently receive the Lord. When coming forward to receive Communion it is customary to show some sign of reverence: bowing (the norm for the U.S.) or genuflecting. When one receives Communion kneeling, no other sign is necessary, since kneeling itself is a sign of reverence. I hope this short review will help you enter the upcoming Lenten season with renewed vigor.
May God Bless you!