Reverence for the Blessed Sacrament

This might be a good topic to consider on this feast, called The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  I fear we lose something important to our spiritual health when we’re too casual around Mass and the Blessed Sacrament.  Here are some observations and suggestions:

  • When preparing to come to Mass, dress as if you’re meeting someone important – you are.  (This is not to suggest we judge others’ choices of dress; I’m talking about our own decisions.)
  • Remember the space within the church is sacred – set apart from ordinary life as the place we meet God in the Risen Christ.  Any conversation should be in hushed tones and kept to a minimum (no talking at all during the five minutes’ silence before Mass); no food or drink should be brought into the church unless medically necessary or to quiet an infant or small child; cellphone conversation or texting within the church is never appropriate; and litter should never be left in church.
  • Gestures of respect matter.  It is customary to bless oneself with Baptismal water when entering the church; to kneel or bow before entering a pew and after leaving one, and when crossing the center line of the church (because of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle).  Men and boys take off their hats.
  • The five minutes’ silence before Mass is important.  We need to shift gears mentally in order to listen attentively to the prayers and to the Word of God; to set aside distractions, worries, to-do lists, and all the rest of the clutter of our daily lives; and to turn our minds and hearts toward God who is about to come to us in Word and sacrament.  Arrive in time for the silence if at all possible.
  • Singing with the assembly matters.  Most of us don’t have good or trained voices – so what?  Not singing is signaling, perhaps unintentionally, that we’re not going to contribute to the common work of prayer and praise of God.
  • Coming to receive Holy Communion is a procession, not simply a matter of “standing in line waiting one’s turn.”  Sing (bring a hymnal if necessary) until you’re at the front. When at the front of the line, bow to the altar, then step to the minister.  (Don’t genuflect; your risk tripping the person behind you. And besides, Communion is not a time for displays of private piety; we do what everyone does as a show of solidarity in Christ, even if we’d prefer to do something different.  Egoism has no place here. The bishops have directed that the proper gesture of reverence is the bow before; nothing after.)
  • Do not make the sign of the cross before or after receiving; you risk hitting the minister’s hand and spilling the Eucharistic Body or Blood of Christ.
  • Your “Amen” to the minister matters.  It is a profession of faith in what you’re about to do.  Don’t neglect it.
  • If receiving the Eucharistic Bread on the tongue, after saying “Amen” to the minister’s challenge “The Body of Christ,” open your mouth widely and put your tongue out.  Don’t try to grasp the Eucharistic Bread with your lips (yes, some do).
  • If receiving in the hand, put your non-favored hand, palm up and open, over your open favored hand; and watch where your thumbs are so they’re not in the way.  (I’ve been scratched more times than I can count by wayward thumbnails.) Don’t hold both hands out side by side, or intertwine your fingers; the minister needs to see a clear, safe place to put the Sacred Host. After saying “Amen” and receiving the Eucharistic Bread, take it with your favored hand and consume it right away.  Don’t walk away from the minister while holding the Sacred Host.
  • When receiving from the Eucharistic Cup take the Cup fully from the minister when it’s handed to you; take a sip (only – yes, there are some who over-indulge), and hand it back gently.
  • Continue singing as soon as you can.  There’s a time for private prayer later.
  • Stay for the blessing, and until the priest and other ministers exit.

Until next week, peace.

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