Called to the Reverent Stillness at Mass

Why as Catholics should we keep silence when we go to Mass? Because the King of Kings, the Lord of Hosts, Who is God Almighty, is present, truly present with us. We are entering into a “sacred space” set aside for prayer and worship, where we are preparing our hearts, minds, and souls for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Once we walk through the doors from the vestibule, we are now atop Mount Tabor, where we are about to experience the sweet taste of heaven on earth. It is where we are drawn into and experience a foretaste of the Kingdom to come. Every Eucharistic Liturgy is a Parousia of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in sacramental form. 1 It is where the members of the Body of Christ come together and our lives physically meet the Divine because the Eucharist augments our humanity in that we become more and more perfected into the image and likeness of God. 2

If we truly believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, that our God is physically with us, then we should want to quiet our interior and exterior, so that we can focus solely on Him and Him alone. We need to be able to seek Him in the quiet of our own hearts. When we are attentive to our Lord in silence, we are allowing the gate to God’s grace to open wide, where we ready ourselves to receive His Word and to receive Him in the Eucharist. We need to give our souls the time to disconnect from the “noise” of the world, so that we can free ourselves from the world’s distractions and become filled with a deep yearning for Christ.

When we are in the church in the presence of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is not the time for idle talk and chit-chat. The conversation about what one did last night or will do later in the day can wait until we exit the nave of the Church. When we are in the presence of our God, we should be in such wonder and awe with our gaze fixated upon our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is nothing in all of creation that should be more important than the Son of Man who dwells within the Tabernacle before us. Do we consciously choose to be a follower of Christ or do we worship mammon?

Before Mass begins, we need to take that time to ask God to help us to ready ourselves to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, True God and true man in His resurrected glory. At every single Catholic Mass a miracle takes place before our very eyes; the simple offerings of bread and wine by the power of the Holy Spirit are transformed upon the altar. The bread and the wine in substance cease to exist as they are transubstantiated into the actual Body and Blood of Christ, and it is only the accidents that remain before us. 3 The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where Jesus is freely offering Himself upon the altar in an unbloody manner to the Father, is the same sacrifice that took place at Calvary. 4 The Catechism states:

In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross . . . 5

The Tabernacle, in the sanctuary where Christ dwells in our midst, is our “Holy of Holies.” It is where, behind the veil, the golden sacred vessel is kept, which houses our Eucharistic Lord. In Jewish tradition the “Holy of Holies” was where God dwelled within the Ark of the Covenant, which contained a gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff, which had budded and the stone tablets, which were the Ten Commandments. (Hebrews 9:4–5) It was such a sacred place that only the high priest was permitted to enter, and he could only do so once a year on the Feast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And the high priest did not just saunter into the “Holy of Holies,” he needed to prepare a week for his service in the holy temple and to enter into God’s presence. (6–8) It was in the inner sanctum where he offered silent prayer to God.

When we receive the Lord’s Body and Blood, we become a living tabernacle. Jesus Christ truly dwells within us when we receive Him as spiritual food that which nourishes our soul. He is the “Bread from Heaven,” Who gives us everlasting life, and when we consume the physical Eucharist we become more Christ-like. (Jn 32–40) St. Thomas Aquinas writes:

Material food first changes into the one who eats it, and then, as a consequence, restores   to him lost strength and increases his vitality. Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the conversion of a man into Christ, so that he may no longer live, but Christ lives in him. . .6

We need to readily prepare ourselves to become a proper dwelling place for God. After we genuflect to Him in the Tabernacle and make our way into the pew, if we are able to do so, we should kneel for a time and offer ourselves to our Eucharistic Lord. Whether it be simply allowing our hearts to seek Him in the quiet, or praying the Rosary as we silently meditate on each mystery, we should use these precious moments to converse with the Divine before we approach the altar to receive Holy Communion. We want to come to Him with great faith, where we are able to reach out and touch the hem of His garment, which sparks an intimate connection that heals us and makes us whole.

The Eucharist is the greatest intimacy with God as the Sacrament of love, because hidden within the tiny, white host is the essence of God, and “God is love” (1 Jn 4:9). Pope Benedict XVI in his Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis discusses how the effect of Holy Communion is the manifestation of His Divine love, the fulfillment of the wedding banquet, for every man and woman. 7 When we consume the Body and Blood of Christ we become in communion with Him, and with the love we receive from the God-man we are able to share the “Mystery of Faith.” It is by eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood that one gains eternal life; the true heavenly bread descends from Heaven and confers eternal life on the world (Jn 6:32­–40).

A sacrament is a gift that God gives to us, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a channel that not only gives us grace, but the Author of grace Himself. But the amount of grace we receive depends upon our disposition when we use or receive the sacrament. Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., in The Triple Sacrament of the Eucharist, explains:

So, too, Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist — where it is the same identical Jesus — is a sacrament because it pours out, or emanates, or radiates divine power on everyone, to some degree, but in the greatest abundance on those who respond to this Eucharistic presence with faith and even external signs of piety. 8

We should want to receive all that God has to offer us. Why do we time and time again deprive ourselves of the complete grace that God desires to give to us by not giving ourselves totally and completely to Him in a spirit of self-surrender? When we are in His Holy Presence our hearts should burn with an incredible fervor and zeal to draw closer and closer to Him. Nothing else should matter to us when we are before the Holy One, Who is present to us in a wholly unique and mysterious way in the Blessed Sacrament. The Beloved Son of God is actually before our very eyes hidden behind a sacred veil.

Perhaps, the next time that we step into a Catholic Church to partake in the sacred liturgy, we can better prepare to receive our Eucharistic Lord by asking ourselves, “What if this Mass was the last Mass that I would ever participate in on this earth? What if this was the very last time that I would ever receive Holy Communion?” When we walk through the doors from the vestibule and enter into the body of the Church, let us make the decision to give Jesus, with great love, our whole heart, whole mind, and whole soul because we know and understand that we are coming into the House of God. It is in the Catholic Church where Christ awaits us in His golden dwelling place, where we witness the most incredible miracle before us, and receive the most precious treasure in this world, the Eucharist, the sweet taste of heaven on earth.

  1. See Catholic Bible Dictionary, Doubleday, pages 674–677.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1391.
  3. Catechism, 1374–1377; also Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: The Mercier Press, 1960), 380.
  4. Catechism, 1367.
  5. Catechism, 1365–1366.
  6. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Book IV of the Sentences, d.12, q.2, a.11.
  7. Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, accessed July 22, 2021, Vatican.va, 1.
  8. John A. Hardon, “The Triple Sacrament of the Eucharist” (Inter Mirifica, 1998).
Christina M. Sorrentino About Christina M. Sorrentino

Christina M. Sorrentino is a freelance writer and poet who holds a Master’s in Education, and later studied Theology at the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University and Religious Education at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She is the editor-in-chief of Ignitum Today, and regularly contributes to Radiant Magazine. In addition to those publications, she authored her first book in 2018, and has contributed to various faith-based blogs and websites, including Catholic Insight, Catholic Link, and Catholic Stand. Her own blog, Called to Love - A Listening Heart, is at https://cmsorr4610.wixsite.com/calledtolove.

Comments

  1. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    Christina,
    Yes, to stillness in awe of the real presence in the Eucharist. Reverent preparation before the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is great preparation.

    I did wonder if it might also be a time to reflect on how one has shared the gift with others. How have we met Jesus in the poor, the stranger, thirsty, hungry, ill, naked, prisoner? In Mt 25, Jesus speaks concretely of his presence among us in the world. How we are with the poor is the criteria for eternal life.

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