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Hearing the unheard

When I first entered the Church I considered myself blessed to have a pastor who was intent to make sure we in the pews participated as actively in the Mass as we possibly could.  I chuckle now as I recall a few times when he joyfully chastised us at a daily Mass for not singing with much gusto – and then made us sing the Entrance Hymn again.  He also made sure that he said at full voice all the prayers, even those which normally are said in a low-to-inaudible voice by most priests, so that we all could know everything that was going on at the Mass.

Fast forward many years, I was reminded of this the other day on Google+ while reading a comment from someone who was likewise praising the opportunity to hear all the prayers of the Mass.  In the intervening years I’ve come to considerably moderate my original position on whether the priest praying so quietly no one in the congregation can hear the words is a good thing or bad.  I hadn’t really contemplated why my thoughts on the matter had changed, and really only upon reading her comment did I even notice how my thoughts at, say, the Preparation of the Altar have changed over the years.

Where once I would have been slightly annoyed if a priest prayed the Preparation prayers (“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation…“) I now find myself silently praying the prayers with the priest.  There is something even deeper though.  Recently I’ve been assisting at Daily Mass at a parish where the priest not only prays these prayers silently but there is a certain obviousness that there is a “dialogue” going on between God and His alter Christus.  Maybe I’ve just become a little overly sensitive to these things over the years but when I took a little time to reflect on these thirty seconds of silence it really hit me how great is the volume that is spoken in this silence.  Father stands at the altar, fully consumed in his role as priestly intercessor, about to perform the fullness of his role as priest – as alter Christus – and he takes just a short bit of time to pray in a special and private way, for his actions to come, for his work, and in a special and irreplaceable way for the people in front of whom this great miracle is about to take place at his hands.  There is something singularly beautiful about seeing a priest take hold of his role with both hands and, in a way only a priest can, offer it all to the Father.

As beautiful as it is to join in audibly with the priest, and as wonderful a catechetical tool as the Mass is, I’ve come to a new appreciation of late for allowing the priest to spend a moment (and I’m sure this isn’t the best way to say it) to be a priest in the most full way he possibly can.  There is such great beauty in both opportunities, and I can only hope priests take the time and energy to do both when and as propriety allows.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • MrsMontoya November 9, 2011, 11:47 am

    A priest who served his vacation in our parish would say the prayers audibly, though quietly, yet something about his manner showed that he was very clearly participating in a conversation with a Presence, not with us. And I felt that as a result my own awareness of that Presence was increased. It was ineffable.

  • Elisa November 12, 2015, 11:54 am

    Great to hear you enjoyed sittnig in on mass; it’s always better to go because you want to, rather than because you feel you’re obligated. And it can be tough when your parish is in the middle of a long fund-raising drive (to builid a new Church in my case). When you’re hit over and over with the message that you’re not giving enough, it can be discouraging from going.Also, you should never have to feel alone in Church. It seems (at least in the churches I’ll attend) that there are so many folks sittnig by themselves. So in one respect you’re not alone at all, but part of a larger group!

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