Since Father Hess and I have been here you may have noticed some adjustments in the way the mass is celebrated. For the priest’s part, you may have noticed a more solemn or subdued demeanor, especially during the canon of the mass (the canon is the prayers that the priest prays at the altar leading up to and including the words of consecration). This is intended to allow the priest celebrant to have deeper active participation in the reality of what is happening at mass. The way in which mass is celebrated by the priest influences the way in which everyone else present prays the mass. Hopefully, it is done in a way that reflects the reality of what is going on at mass. There is an old Latin axiom Lex Orandi Lex Crendi, which simply put means the way in which we pray influences and informs the way we believe. The prayer of the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the mass is a great mystery and many things all in one. At its core, it is our participation directly in the saving work of Christ. The documents of the Second Vatican Council say, “The Mass, the Lord’s Supper, is at the same time and inseparably: a sacrifice in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated; a memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, who said ‘do this in memory of me’ (Lk. 22:19); a sacred banquet in which, through the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the People of God share the benefits of the Paschal Sacrifice, renew the New Covenant which God has made with man once for all through the Blood of Christ, and in faith and hope foreshadow and anticipate the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father, proclaiming the Lord’s death ‘till his coming.’” (Eucharisterium Mysterium 3, a.)
Wow! The reality of what mass is too much to grasp. It is such a great mystery, one that our human intellects cannot fully understand! But, this is the reality of what is happening at the liturgy of the mass. It is all at the same time the sacrifice of the cross, it is a remembrance of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord, it is also a sacred meal at which we are given the great privilege of being fed with the Body and Blood of the living God, it is the renewal of the New Covenant between God and man-made by the shedding of Christ’s precious blood, and it is foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet.
So, when you see the priest at mass praying the prayers and doing all of the actions of mass in a more solemn, prayerful, and subdued way, know that he is trying to pray mass in a way that will communicate the gravity of what it is. The way in which we all pray will influence the way we believe and this belief will ultimately influence the way we live out our faith. In celebrating the mass it is important that we must all approach this great mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice with deep reflection, attention, devotion, reverence, respect, hope, and joy, actively participating in the great reality that it truly is. May the Mother of God, our mother help us always to grow closer to our Eucharistic Lord.