Carmel Bulletin, 15 February 2015

In time past, going to church looked different to what it does today.  Certainly a lot of that has to do with how the church looked and how the Mass was celebrated.  But it also has something to do with the “little things” that we do.

Dressing up in our “Sunday best” was just the beginning of a whole collection of gestures and actions that were considered signs of reverence for our God who we worship and who is present with us when we worship.

Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography
Photo © 2014, Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

Some people comment that such reverence is lost today, or at least not what it used to be.  Yet within our rituals, acts of reverence are still present and encouraged.  Genuflecting to the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle; bowing to the altar upon which Christ is made present, also to the Blessed Sacrament before we receive it; signing ourselves with the cross at the proclamation of the Gospel; the postures of standing and kneeling; observing periods of silence before, during and after Mass.  These are just some of the acts of reverence that we are asked to observe.

Now some people may rightly point out that observing such external acts of reverence doesn’t mean that a person is necessarily committing themselves to a reverent attitude or manner internally.  Only that person and God will ever know for certain.  That doesn’t mean, however, that they are irrelevant or unnecessary.

Parish Vision StatementMindful and well-informed encouragement of reverent actions from a young age helps to shape a reverent attitude.  Furthermore, movements, actions and visuals (for all, but especially for children) can instantaneously communicate a profound meaning that is often harder to successfully articulate in words.

2/10/11 – Postures, Gestures and the Gospel Proclamation

Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in duringMass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

While some of the gestures of Mass have fallen into disuse, one that has not been lost is the gesture prior to the proclamation of the gospel.

Once the priest announces the gospel reading, each of us signs ourselves with the cross three times; once each on the forehead, lips and chest as we say (or sing) the response, “Glory to you, O Lord.”  Signing ourselves with the cross these three times serves as a prayer or petition in itself.  Through signing ourselves with the cross we ask that the word of Christ be always in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.  In other words, we pray that all that we say and do in our lives may make the gospel of Jesus something very real for us today.

Posture is also an important part of the Liturgy of the Word.  During the Introductory Rites we stand, united as the Body of Christ that has been gathered and formed to share in the ultimate act of thanksgiving that is the celebration of the Eucharist.  Standing is also the typical posture for any time that the assembly prays during the liturgy, and the Introductory Rites include several different forms of prayer.

For the first and second readings, as well as the responsorial psalm, we sit and listen to the word of God.  The role of the assembly has changed here from praying, to listening to the scripture proclamations.  We stand again for the gospel, but not because we resume the role of praying.  We stand because the gospel is the high pointof the Liturgy of the Word.  God speaks to us through all of the readings, but Christ is particularly made present to us through the proclamation of the gospel.  The introduction to the Lectionary for Mass (book of readings) reminds us that “Christ himself is the centre and fullness of all of Scripture, as he is of the entire liturgy” (article 5).  Our standing for the gospel is a sign and acknowledgement of the particular importance of the gospel both in the celebration of Mass, and in our lives as Christians.

20/2/11 – What Happens At Mass, Part III

During the course of this year, we will gradually begin to use the texts of the revised translation of the Roman Missal.  This is not just a time when we need to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.  Here we will take a closer look at what happens at Mass.

Once the Entrance Procession and Hymn are finished, the priest leads the people in making the sign of the cross and greets them.  As we begin to use the new translation of the missal later this year, this greeting will include a simple yet noticeable change.  In response to the priest’s greeting, “The Lord be with you” or the like, we will respond, “And with your spirit.”

We have already looked at how the new translation of the missal will be a closer match to the Latin text.  This is evident in our response here, which is translated from the Latin phrase, “et cum spiritu tuo.” You can see how the English word “spirit” finds its origin in “spiritu”.

Yet the Latin phrase has a deeper, biblical origin.  St Paul in his letters greets his audience with “be with your spirit” on several occasions.  He also write in chapter 5 of his letter to the Galatians about the fruits of the spirit.  These fruits are identified by St Paul as the very characteristics of a person that most reflect God’s goodness and make us most open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When we greet the priest with the phrase “And with your spirit”, we also recognise (as explained by St John Chrysostom) the gift of the Spirit in the person of the priest.  This gift, given to the priest at ordination, allows him to preside at the Eucharistic celebration.  It is also a recognition of the presence of the Spirit amongst each of us, for it is only when the Holy Spirit is present within us that we can recongise its presence and work within others.

I must acknowledge that, in learning more about the meaning of “And with your Spirit”, I myself had to do my own research.  Much of what I have said comes from the very helpful explanation given by Monsignor Bruce Harbert on the DVD resource, Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ. Hopefully we will have opportunities to use it during this year to learn more about the Eucharistic celebration.