What if we could live the Mass as our highest prayer no matter the circumstance? The stress from work, the drama with friends, the exams nearing at school, the list of errands and chores that don’t end would all take a backseat if we could enter the Mass and live it as if it were our last.
A Simple Prayer
Maybe that is exactly where we should start. I once heard a story told at our parish of an older man who assisted Mass every morning. He always sat in the first pew, covered in a holy web of scapulars with devotional books in hand. One day, the man went up to receive Holy Communion and when he got back to his seat to pray, died peacefully.
We so often partake in the Mass with lukewarm devotion because we assume that we will be at Mass again next Sunday to do the same routine all over again. We may even fool ourselves into thinking that it is no big deal if we miss a Sunday here or there. What if we could change our attitude towards the Mass by beginning to pray a simple prayer?
One that has greatly helped me is the following prayer: “Lord, help me to live this Mass as if it were my first Mass and also my last one on this earth.”
You can formulate it anyway you like. The point is that we must learn to ask for the grace to live the Mass better. We must desire to live it as our highest form of prayer since it is our “source and summit” as Catholic Christians (see CCC 1324).
By taking a moment before the start of Mass to say a short prayer such as this one, you give the Lord permission to take you deeper into the sacred mysteries and to experience the Mass as a lived prayer, not just empty recitations. This starting point flows into the second which is to take even just one minute–in between the chaos of arriving at Mass on time or barely making it through the door before the Gospel–to quiet yourself down. Remind yourself in Whose Presence you are in and that you stand before the Holy of Holies with the veil torn open (see Hebrews 6:19-20). Do not try to tune out the noise around you but precisely there, in the midst of it all, for one moment, allow your heart to remember.
The Mass itself is about remembering, a memory that is not dead or out of fashion but one that is living and ever-new. The Mass is where the Church as Bride remembers her Bridegroom, His sacrifice to the Father, and His command to “do this in memory” of Him (see Luke 22:19). That is, to make present once more the mystery of His Passion, Death, and Resurrection through the consecration of the bread and wine by the priest who stands in His stead. The bread and wine become what He Himself promised in the beautiful dialogue of John 6: “I am the Bread of Life…this bread is My body…” (verses 48, 51).
“Offer It Up”
As Catholics, we may be very familiar with this term “offer it up.” It may be easy for us to think about offering up to the Lord our moments of pain or humiliation. We may even be good about offering up our joys to the Lord. Yet, sometimes we forget to offer up the one thing that is the most valuable gift we have: Christ Himself in the Eucharist! When we slip into Mass, do we realize that this is the greatest prayer we can offer to the Father since it is Christ Himself–altar, victim, and priest–that becomes present? The very words of the Mass communicate this essence. Although the four Eucharistic prayers express this differently, the intention is the same: we offer to the Father, “[...] this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.”
Each time we go to Mass, we should be offering up this perfect sacrifice for something or someone. It is as if we have been given a precious jewel and wish to keep it safely in our hands, instead of extending our hands out to others so that they too may benefit from the beauty of the gem. We should not hold on to the graces of the Holy Mass for ourselves, but instead offer up this highest prayer for the countless intentions bogging us down: for the needy, the stranger, the orphan, the friend in depression, the priest on the verge of despair or mortal sin, and so on. This treasure house is ours for the offering.
Becoming What We Offer
In the third Eucharistic prayer, after the acclamation of faith, the priest prays a similar prayer of offering as the one mentioned above. It contains this beautiful line, speaking of Christ the Victim: “May He make of us an eternal offering to You…”
What we will discover is that the more we offer up the Mass as our highest prayer on behalf of others, the more we ourselves will be transformed into an offering. Instead of only offering Christ to the Father, we will wish to offer our very selves together with Him on that altar.
The Mass–if we truly allow these words to be more than just words but efficacious prayers–becomes the place where we ourselves become what we offer. We become Who we offer: victims with the Victim. We can pray with greater boldness, then, to the Father since we no longer rely on ourselves and our merits but on Christ.
How to Live the Mass More Fully, Practically
So if you would like to live the Mass more attentively, aware that it is your own place of offering to the Father, I invite you to join me in these practical steps in addition to what I have mentioned above:
- Take some time to pray with your favorite part of the Mass or the most striking line in a prayer. Perhaps journal down your thoughts or simply meditate on the words of the prayer that move your heart until they become your own.
- Study the parts of the Mass and take time to read about the meaning of the gestures and prayers. Here is a great book!
- Commit a prayer to memory that can help you meditate on the reality of Christ’s Eucharistic Presence within you after Holy Communion. This may be an age-old prayer like the Anima Christi prayer, a short prayer as the one the Angel taught the three children of Fatima, or one of your own.
- Make time before Mass to look over the readings. You can even make it a habit of doing lectio divina, as a group or on your own. It will make your heart and mind that much more attentive when the words are read out loud in the congregation.
What else would you add to the list?
Let’s pray together: Lord Jesus, help us to live each Mass as our first and our last as we remember You. Father, allow Your Spirit to make of us an eternal offering to You in union with Christ. Amen.