The Timelessness of the Mass

From Prodigal Daughter:

But what was “this” that Jesus had commanded his apostles to “do” in his remembrance? To understand his action – and the action of the Mass – requires some knowledge of the worship of the Jews in Jesus’ time. For the early Christians believed Jesus’ Last Supper – and in turn, the Mass – to be the culmination of all the worship of ancient Israel.

The Mass of the Early Christians, Mike Aquilina

When I read that word, “worship,” I immediately thought about the typical church service today. Worship is a noun that is oftentimes misunderstood. What most churches experience during that time which proceeds the sermon is praise. A few songs are sung (and admittedly, half-heartedly more often than not), then the children are dismissed for “children’s church”, then announcements and some teaching. What passes as worship for most people is relegated to a few upbeat tunes and if you have a great worship team (or praise team), applause afterward.

So what is worship?

Worship is different from praise. Praise can be easily given to a delicious meal as well as a person. Praise is expressing a favorable judgement of something or as an intransitive verb, glorifies, especially by attribution of perfection. (Source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary.) But worship is something different and I think most people would agree that to worship God as opposed to praising Him, requires one to go much deeper than catchy tunes.

Worship is slowly descending into the hiddeness of the soul, the place where you are the core of who you are, and meeting God. It is the place where you approach His throne “boldly” (according to St. Paul in Ephesians 3:12) but yet with solemn awareness, as you would in approaching Niagara Falls. The roar of those waters – the magnitude of power behind the force – causes everyone to take a slight intake of breath as they contemplate the grandeur and complete audacity of nature, God’s handiwork.

That is what I’m reminded of when I think of worship and God. There is a magnitude of His provision in Jesus Christ that is awesome, fearful, and just plain “turns-my-world-inside-outness.” To contemplate on His mercy, His divine judgement, and His extreme love would cause any thinking man or woman to fall upon their knees and worship Him.

But how can we contemplate such greatness, such supremacy when there is so much noise? A person here leads the congregation to “practice” a response, a large band there blasts out music at high decibels. Weary spiritual leaders fast-forward through their words in order to get everyone out “on time.” There is a constant thrust to it all, as though we had some gigantic hand pressed upon our backs, scooting us through a church service so we can get to the more important things of life – like lunch at the food court inside some crowded mall. (Which, of course, has more noise.)

Worship is reverent. And what is reverence? Honor and respect. I’ll go so far as to say reverence is acknowledging that someone exhibits traits that I wished I had but don’t. Or I may not have it to the degree to which I desire. For God, it is honoring and respecting His “otherness.” He is separate, holy – and we only may approach that holiness upon the bridge Christ has built.

These types of thoughts do not come easily. In fact, there is a great deal of opposition to having such thoughts. Once you sit down for a church service, how many times does your mind start racing to what you need to do after the service? Or during the upcoming week? How many times are you annoyed with the family next to you that can’t control their kids or the young people sitting behind you talking incessantly? There are barriers – constant barriers to clear in order to enter into worship of God.

This is one of the reasons I have gravitated toward the Traditional Latin Mass. As I’ve said often to my family and friends – no one could be more surprised than I that I’ve come to quickly love this type of Mass. But one of the reasons (and it’s a mighty big one, at that) is because there is silence built into the Mass. It gives me time to contemplate God’s holiness and His amazing love for us. I can ponder what Christ did for us when He willingly gave Himself up to pay the price of sin. It is in those moments of silence that I can confess to Almighty God my own sin and give Him thanksgiving for forgiveness.

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