Happy Easter! This Wednesday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
My wife and I were recently on vacation in Mexico with our two sons (the girls being in school) and my Dad and Step-Mom. We attended Palm Sunday Mass at a local parish. It was in Spanish and, alas, we are not fluent in the language!
No worries! I knew that the Mass would follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, albeit in Spanish. I am familiar enough with the structure of Mass to recognize the various parts. When I recognized a specific prayer (e.g., Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc.), I did my best to follow along in English (not too loudly as to disrupt my Spanish-speaking brethren).
More importantly, I could tell the precise moment when the bread became Christ’s body because I recognized the priest’s gestures. Likewise, I knew exactly when the wine became His blood. Because of this, I could participate in this Mass, which is the same Mass celebrated throughout the world.
I understand that when the priest—acting in the person of Christ—lifts the host and utters the words, “this is my Body” and “this is the chalice of my Blood“, regardless of the language, he is united with priests throughout time and space—with Christ Himself at the Last Supper! And the alter at la Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia becomes the table in the Upper Room, in union with every other alter!
Scott Hahn tells us that “the Mass ushers us into the presence of the Father and the Lamb, and into worship with the four living creatures, the elders, the saints, and the myriad of angels.” So, when my family joined in communion with the Spanish-speaking congregation, our illiteracy was no obstacle to our participation in Mass.
All too often, I hear complaints about Mass: “I just don’t get anything out of it!”
Sometimes the complaints target the priest: “he’s so boring! His homilies are too long!” (Or too intellectual, or too . . . you get the point!) Sometimes the complaints target the music (I’m guilty of this): “I hate the guitar!” “That was too folksy!” “The choir was too stiff!” Maybe the incense was too strong, or the AC was too cold.
All these elements are important in contributing to a proper celebration attitude and atmosphere. But they shouldn’t detract from the importance of the Mass itself.
Participating in the celebration of Mass in a foreign tongue has allowed me to focus on the truly important aspects of the Mass in the Universal Church.
Admittedly, in my arrogance I sometimes keep track of moments when a celebrant seems to stray from the GIRM. The Spanish Mass helped me on this, too, keeping my focus on the sacrifice and celebration at hand.