How can someone participate actively at the Eucharist?
The step from going to Mass because our parents force us to, to going on our own initiative can be a huge difficulty for young people. Out of reluctance, ignorance, or perhaps a lack of consciousness regarding what is celebrated during the Eucharist, they abandon the practice of Faith. They say that they are “believers,” yet do not practice, in spite of the inconsistency that this implies.
For several reasons, among those aforementioned, we need a model to learn how to live the Eucharist the best way possible, and to participate at Mass in an active manner. There are two ways: follow they theory, that is, the rules; the other is having a model to follow, someone to look at in order to know how we ought to do it.
Active participation at Mass consists of an internal act of offering of ourselves to God. However, we must know that there is one sacrifice alone: Jesus’ on the Cross. This sacrifice took place once and for all. In Him there is one victim alone, Jesus, and He is offered by one Priest, Jesus Himself. Therefore, we can be victims with the Victim Christ, priests with Christ, the High-Priest, and offer the sacrifice through Jesus’ hands. To do this we can learn from the Virgin Mary because there is no one who offers Jesus to the Father or who offers oneself to the Father better than She does.
The first point to consider is the way we attend Mass. We cannot participate as if what we are going to experience had no importance whatsoever in our life. Wherever we go, we always prepare ourselves: to hang out with friends, go to a football game, a concert... In the same way, and even more rightfully so, we must prepare ourselves for Mass. At this point we should also go to Mary. We must recognize her as our model of prayer to the Holy Spirit, so that He may help us enter into the Mystery of the Eucharist, for it implies all of one’s life. It’s no good to simply be at Mass, and that’s it. No, you have to become aware of what is being celebrated and take part in it. It’s not even worth sitting the in front pews if we really are not conscious of or making an effort to participate in what is being celebrated.
How each person participates at Mass is not indifferent. Just remember the Gospel quote that says, “the Almighty has done great things for me.” The Virgin Mary is speaking about Herself, yet all of us could apply it to ourselves. God has done everything for me, for love of me, and his greatest work is the Paschal Mystery. He sees our heart, participation, and gratitude at each Mass. That is why it is very important to join the Prefaces and Eucharistic Prayers, which we seldom pay attention to, and make them our own to give thanks to God like the Virgin Mary would.
Regarding the Word of the Lord, when it comes to the Readings, there is no one better than the Virgin Mary to teach us to listen in-depth and thoroughly to what is being read. God speaks to each one of us particularly at each Mass, and His Word is living and effective. He can transform us, but only if we let Him. The Word must turn into life in us like It did in Mary’s life. She always has the attitude to meditate, letting the Word penetrate into the depths of Her being, and letting It act in Her. For us, the Word is the same thing and bears the same infinite fruit, yet there are two ways to make it sterile: by either trying to do good works without being in communion with the Lord, or by not letting God’s work flourish in our life, in spite of having had an experience of God at Mass.
On the other hand, the most important part of the Mass is the Consecration. Our heart must yield itself in adoration to the Lord, who becomes present on the altar at that moment, and join in his sacrifice like Mary at the foot of the Cross, dying to ourselves to resurrect with Him to new life. No one like Mary can show us how to adore Jesus, God and man under the appearances of bread and wine. We have to ask her to grant us a penetrating gaze to contemplate and unite ourselves to the Father on Calvary.
Each person can bring his or her joys and troubles to Mass each day. That way they can be transformed and thus acquire an infinite worth, because they cease to be something that is simply mine or ours to become something that belongs to the Lord, to Christ, who on the Cross offers it to the Father.
So, then we can receive Him in Communion with as much fervor as possible. To do so, we can imagine the Virgin Mary receiving the Eucharist at the first Masses celebrated by the Apostles. She, who held Him in her arms, carried Him in her womb, taught and raised Him, and loved Him so much, teaches us how to receive Communion and how to recognize her Son under the appearances of bread and wine.
This bread is not just any nourishment; it is God Himself. It is Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity. How can we dare to receive Him upon our unworthy hands? In this way, we can also avoid particles on our hands that could be lost. And since it’s the Lord who we are receiving, how can we conform to doing “the minimum?” That is why there are people who receive Communion on their knees, in a gesture of complete adoration toward God. They do not simply bow. We ought to think about how the Virgin Mary would receive it with so much love.
The moments after receiving Communion should also be taken advantage of. A few minutes after Mass has ended, we should stop to take a moment and soak up the love of God, Who is alive, within us, and Who suffers when we receive Him unconscious of what we are receiving. The way I treat the Lord in the Eucharist is how I will treat others. When we make the effort and try to see Him in the Eucharist, even though at times we don’t feel anything, so we will see Him in others. The presence is different, of course, but in the way that we live adoration and Communion, we will treat others, seeing Jesus in them. We will look upon them with reverence without letting ourselves be led by a habit, and being aware that without Him we can do nothing.
To find Jesus, always go through Mary.
From notes taken in a talk given by Fr. Peter, SHM, on “The Virgin Mary as Model of Active Participation at Mass.”