The Mass has four objectives that are oriented to God: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Atonement and Petition. One way to remember these objectives is the acronym, “ATAP” or “a tap”. You can open yourself to tap into the Grace of God at Mass in the following ways:
- “Time of Night”
The night before you go to Mass, begin to thank God for all Masses celebrated around the world. Due to time zone differences, there is literally a Mass every hour somewhere in the world. This is mind-blowingly beautiful. It is a fulfilment of Scripture which predicted that from the rising of the sun to its setting, a pure sacrifice will be offered to the Lord Malachi 1:11.
- Reconciliation (Confession)
Go to Confession prior to going to Mass.
If you are not clear whether you need Confession then go up and receive Communion with an honest resolution to go for Confession at the earliest opportunity.
If you are clear that your need Confession, you may abstain from receiving Communion and do a spiritual communion at your seat.
In some parishes, you may go up for a blessing from the Priest in the place of receiving Communion. In any case, do not feel pressure to go and receive communion just because everyone on your pew got up. If you receive communion unworthily, you commit more sin (1 Corinthians 11: 27) .
- Do the Readings before Mass
If you have no time, then read the gospel at the very least. Invest in a Missal or Missalette. You can buy a paper copy or download any Missal Apps that exist in your country. It is important to buy the one from your country because there may be a few feast days that your country observes which the Universal Church might not.
- Fast before Communion
The Church encourages a one-hour fast before receiving communion unless you are unable to fast e.g. you have diabetes or other illness. Fasting helps us prepare to receive the Lord because it creates a hunger that points to our spiritual hunger for the Lord.
- Dress modestly but nicely
Dress with the awareness that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. While our exterior may not be as important as our interior, our exterior is an important opportunity to show our interior disposition.
Modesty is also an act of charity toward others. It minimizes scandal and offense. It prevents distraction and in this manner you help people to pray. You may not be able to prevent all these issues by dressing modestly. However, you would have done your best which is better than not trying at all or intentionally hoping to draw attention when all attention should be on Our Lord.
- Be On time
If you happen to be late, wait in the back until the right moment to go and find a seat. Do not walk all the way from the back to the front during the reading or during the opening prayers or during the I confess.
You may go and find your seat when it is less conspicuous to do so e.g. during the Gloria or the Alleluia. Find a seat discreetly and hopefully in the back or middle to minimize distraction. The exception is if you need to be at the front because you have a hearing or visual impairment or the only empty seats are there.
- Use the Holy Water
Holy water is a sacramental or a sign very similar to a sacrament. It can keep evil at bay. It is also a reminder of your baptism and hence your adoption as a child of God and your Priesthood. Remember all this as you enter the Church and as you sprinkle the holy water on yourself. It will greatly help you to carry the objectives of the Mass in full form.
- Genuflect Properly
Try to genuflect every time you are going to turn your back to the Tabernacle. This means every time prior to leaving and returning to your pew. Lawyers do this in Court to the Judge who is a fellow human. Therefore we must do the same and more in respect of the Good King before us.
- Practice Silence
Before the Mass starts, try to maintain silence. Get on your knees and pray in silence. It is natural to acknowledge or greet friends but keep it short and wait until the Mass is over. Turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode. Politely ask noisy people around you to maintain silence (exception: children and people with disabilities. These may not be able to maintain silence).
What to do in silence:
Recollect yourself and contemplate all God has done for you (thanksgiving). Pray for your intentions and those of family and friends (petitions). Contemplate God in the Tabernacle, and the creation he has made all around (Adoration). Ask for mercy for your sins and those of all present before you (atonement). Pray for the Priest, all Clergy, the Pope, the Church.
- Pray for your “brothers and sisters”
Consciously pray for everyone around you. They are your brothers and sisters. We hear this several times during the Mass e.g. during the I Confess as well as during the liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Bible, we are urged to pray for one another (James 5: 16). The Mass is a perfect place to do so since our prayers are offered here with the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
- Talk to the Angels and Saints
The Mass is a participation in the heavenly sacrifice of Christ. Therefore the Angels and Saints are there with us. This is a good time to talk with your patron Saints, including Mary or Joseph, the parents of Jesus. Here at the Mass, we are all linked to Christ in every way including physically, through Holy Communion.
- Offer Sacrifice
Bring specific prayers and sacrifices such as problems you are facing to the Mass. Place these on the paten where the bread is laid for consecration. The Priest calls on you to do this when he says, “pray that my sacrifice and yours be accepted….”. Prayers made this way, in union with the prayers of consecration are powerful. Especially when you prepared yourself for Mass with confession i.e. you are in a state of grace.
- Thanksgiving after Communion
Take some few minutes after Mass to thank God for coming to dwell in you. Thank him for letting you and everyone participate in the heavenly banquet. Make prayers of atonement for yourself and for others who may have hurt the Sacred Heart of Jesus during the Mass. Ask for help to live by all the graces you have received. If you have nothing else to say, just sit there for the Lord for a few moments.
- Go Forth with a Resolution
When the Priest says “Go forth,” he is sending us out to be what we have just consumed i.e. Christ. So, before you run out the door after Mass, take a moment to contemplate that you are going forth to be like Christ. Pause and make a resolution: one small thing you are going to do to improve in your Christ-like behaviour. Ask Christ, the Angels and Saints to help you as you leave.