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Mass and Daily Life
The most frequently requested topic for talks during my visits to deaneries this year was “Understanding the Mass”. It is clear that many people want to understand the structure, symbols, gestures and other aspects of the Mass more fully so that they can participate better and be drawn more deeply into the mystery.
I begin by tracing the development of the Mass and note how, through all the changes of history, the Church for 2000 years has continued to "do Eucharist" by taking, blessing, breaking and sharing bread as Jesus did with his disciples on the night before he died.
I go on to explore the connection between Mass and everyday life. Participants often talk about how sharing Eucharist with their parish community is central to how they live as Christians in the world. What they were describing is how liturgy is the "summit and source" of their Christian life, as it is referred to in the documents of Vatican II.
Assembling for liturgy is not some sort of “mini retreat” from the world, an escape from the harsh realities of life. When we come to Mass we bring ourselves and our lives as they really are – the experiences that make us who we are; our hopes, successes and failures, our times of joy and sadness; the accumulation of events and memories that make up life. We also bring the collective hopes, experiences, achievements and sins of the world in which we live.
The link between Mass and daily life is made explicit in preaching which deals with the real-life issues people are facing, and in Prayer of the Faithful petitions which bring to prayer the current events of the world and the pressing needs of the local community.
Mass is not a holy event that is separate from the basic building blocks of our Christian living but a sacred action which takes them up in a pleasing offering to God, along with the sacrifice of Christ. Our lives, just like the bread and wine, are blessed, broken and poured out for the life of the world. The Mass is a celebration of our lives because they become part of the Eucharist, part of the sacrifice, because Christ joins them to his and part of the thanksgiving because we recognise God’s love in the events of our lives.
This has practical implications for the way we live out our lives. If we have broken bread together at Eucharist and prayed that we might become "one body, one spirit in Christ", how should we treat one another afterwards? If we have feasted on this spiritual food, how do we respond to people who are hungry? Those who gather to share the Body of Christ are sent forth to be the Body of Christ in their daily lives – in homes, families, neighbourhoods, places of work, social gatherings, sporting clubs, wherever they find themselves during the week.
In his book “Worshipping Well”, Lawrence Mick compares the role of liturgy to that of a heart. Just as our hearts keep us alive by pulling in depleted blood and pumping life-giving blood around our bodies, celebrating the Eucharist pulls us in and sends us out to bring the life-giving love of the Lord into the world.