‘Going to Mass’, ‘Attending Mass’. What an inadequate way to begin to describe the weekly experience of people as they gather on Saturday evening and Sunday morning for the weekly Eucharist! Many older people grew up with the Precept of the Church: ‘to attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays’. Attending means only being physically present. Yes, you may believe that the priest consecrates the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, you may believe Jesus is present in the Consecrated Bread in the tabernacle, but it could be like having the radio on in the background as you think of cooking lunch.
Active Presence: to be actively present at the Mass is so different. To listen to God’s Word, receive the Bread of Life, join in the responses, sing the hymns,to stand respectfully, to kneel in reverence, to sit attentively, try to take in the homily and add your own intentions to the formal Prayers of the Faithful…. These are all a part of active participation. Much more than just being there, fulfilling a duty, or because family and society pushes you to. To be actively present doesn’t allow for boredom. It is to engage with and be a part of what’s happening.
Celebrating Mass Together: This is the ideal. Come as you are. Bring yourself, with joys and sorrows, ups and downs, tiredness, fears… and join with the priest in offering to God the Life Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Join with the other weak and vulnerable people around you, young and old, sinners and saints; unite yourself in communion with Jesus. Unworthy though we all are, we can offer a ceremony of thanksgiving and praise together. We don’t leave it all to the priest. He only leads us. The documents of Vatican 2 said Jesus is really present in four different ways as we celebrate the Eucharist together – in the consecrated bread and wine, – in the Word of God, – in the congregation who unite together, – and in the ministry of the priest (and of the people). The presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle is there for prayer and adoration. In the Mass itself, there is room for celebration, for joy. Very little about our lives is so secular that we cannot bring it to Church to celebrate.