As exalted as such theology may seem, we also have to contend with our experience of the Liturgy, or Mass. Often, we bring many expectations and concerns to the Mass, some of which can lead us to become disappointed or frustrated. In addition, parish liturgies are a meeting point of different points of view and different tastes in aesthetics, and this can cause the liturgy to become a place of conflict and confrontation. I have no intention of “solving” any perceived or real problems with the liturgy. However, I would offer a few suggestions that might help to make for a fruitful participation.
I recommend that you not worry about “remembering” everything that happens at Mass. Many well intended people tend to think that full, active participation means that you can explain all the readings and the Homily with precision. Maybe such people have a greater ability to focus than myself, but I found such an attitude to be an incredible source of anxiety and frustration.
Instead of trying to “pay attention” to every detail, I recommend a general attitude of receptivity to what the Holy Spirit wants to speak within us. I think that we should allow the liturgy to flow over our consciousness, not seeking to grasp or to hold on to what is coming. As inspirations arise, we can feel free to respond to the inspiration in the silence of our interior dialogue. We can speak to Jesus and the saints and allow them to pray the liturgy with us.
People often beat themselves up for those times when the concerns of the world seem to flood our imaginations during Mass. Although we do not want the weeds of this world to choke our devotion, I recommend that we not fight so hard against them. Everyone, including even the saints, will have times when their mind wanders during the liturgy. The art of entering into the liturgy is not about having an iron will in which we are able to drown out the concerns that populate our consciousness.
Rather, by allowing ourselves to gently enter the liturgy, we experience a playfulness in which we recognize that our prayer is a reality deeper than our limited perspectives. Ultimately, we do not know what is “good” vs. “bad” prayer. We often make such subjective evaluations based on a limited criteria which in no way is infallible or perfect. Thus we also have to learn to let go of our desire to judge and evaluate, and let ourselves simply rest in the reality of what God wants to do in our lives.
This article is the second part of Chapter 3 in my book Christian Meditation: Discovering the Light of Mt. Tabor