Dear Friends in Christ,
Here at St. Mary’s, one of the distinctive features of our celebration of the liturgy is the deliberate pace of each part of the ritual. Nothing is hurried at Mass, and the reverent speaking or singing of every text helps all of us enter into the sacred time of prayer which lifts our minds and hearts to God. The need for careful and deliberate speech is true most especially of those prayers we say at every Mass, because texts which are regularly recited can too easily become the rote mumbling of words without meaning, and that is the first step on the path to irreverence and casual disregard for the sacred things of God.
In this spirit, I invite everyone to be attentive to the meaning of the words spoken by the congregation. We should resist the urge to hurry things along by attempting to rush onward to the next line. Instead, let the meaning of the words take root in our hearts and minds, so that we may understand the mysteries we celebrate. In particular, we should be mindful of two essential texts of the Mass: the Creed and the prayer of humility which begins the Communion Rite.
The Creed is a long and complicated text filled with dense theological language, and because of its length and complexity – along with the challenge of praying this text each Sunday – it is easy to turn the Creed into a race to the finish line. But please notice that I say “praying” the Creed because that is precisely what the Church intends. This is our great confession of faith, and we are asked to speak (or sing!) these words every Sunday precisely because the Creed is a summary of the essential truths of the Gospel. The mysteries confessed in the Creed lead us to salvation and to a Christian understanding of the very nature of existence, and we should therefore speak the words of the Creed slowly and reverently, as a prayer of faith to the glory of God.
The other text over which we should linger is the prayer of humility we say before approaching the altar to receive Holy Communion. The priest elevates the sacred Host and precious Blood and proclaims them to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Our response to that proclamation contains four phrases, each of which should be followed by a brief pause. In too many places, these four lovely phrases become two breathless lines, but here we want to speak these words with reverence and love:
Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed.