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One of the most important things we do as Catholics is to come to Mass and pray. I’d like to reflect on the prayers of the Mass, in particular the Eucharistic Prayer. They’re good guides to prayer at Mass, but before reflecting on the prayers themselves I want to say something that has to be said today.
Praying at Mass begins with us being there. Praying at Mass begins with us showing up.
Someone once said “Most of life is showing up.” I don’t think we realize how much we need each other “showing up” in church. Suppose the music ministers didn’t show up, the readers, the ministers of communion, the altar servers, the ushers, the deacon, the priest didn’t show up?
We notice people at Mass week after week, year after year. We encourage each other. I often feel in awe watching someone coming into church in a wheelchair or on oxygen support, or mothers and fathers dragging their kids in. Showing up together is a key to praying at Mass.
We’re at Mass to give thanks. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” the priest says at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. When we celebrate Mass, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we give thanks to God together.
What does it mean to thank God? The English writer, C.S. Lewis, has a wonderful reflection on thanking God in a little book he wrote on the psalms. (Reflections on the Psalms) Lewis turned away from God for awhile. When he returned and began to pray again he was bothered by the way our prayers urge us again and again to thank God. Why do we keep on praising God, he wondered? Was God a “prima donna” or a dictator looking for our adulation?
After thinking about it, Lewis said he realized that thanksgiving and praise are embedded in ordinary human life. To be thankful and to praise are actually signs of a healthy life. Ordinary life rings with praise and thanksgiving, he wrote:
There’s “…praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians and scholars.”
Healthy people praised most, Lewis noticed; cranks and malcontents praise least. He came to the conclusion that praise and thanksgiving are indications of an “inner health made visible.”
That’s true, isn’t it? People who are inwardly healthful praise most; cranks and discontented people praise least. The self-absorbed see only themselves and their little world. Those who lose an appreciation of life because of hurt, loss, or disappointment can lose the ability to enjoy and give thanks and praise.
When we come to Mass, it seems to me, we’re looking for the inner health God wants us to have. It’s so easy to sink in smallmindedness, self-absorption. It’s so easy to let the hurts and sufferings of life get us down. We need to be lifted up to a higher vision of things.
That’s what happens in the mystery of the Eucharist. Do you remember the prayers at beginning of our Eucharistic prayer, the little dialogue that introduces the prayer?
“The Lord be with you.” “And with your spirit.”
“Lift up your hearts.” “We have lifted them up to the Lord.”
“Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” “It is right and just.”
The Lord is with us, lifting up our hearts and minds to a greater world that God wants us to see. Like the water poured into the wine, we enter the prayer and vision of Jesus Christ and are lifted up into another, higher world, the world of God’s creation. We give thanks to the Lord, our God in that world, and it’s the right thing to do.
In the Eucharistic Prayer we give thanks for the special gift of the God of Creation: Jesus Christ, who came into the world as God’s Son. Remembering the mysteries of his birth, his life, his death and resurrection, we give thanks for him. And he blesses us with the blessings of his birth, his life, his death and resurrection.
He refreshes us by these mysteries. We’re fed by them. They’re food from heaven that gives us a heavenly vision.
Listen carefully to the prayers of the Mass and make them your own