Let me tell you about something that continues to concern me, although I don’t lose sleep over it. It is about our often-weak response or failure to respond to the prayers of the Mass. (This concern probably comes from my liturgy coordinator hat.) I often wonder how many Catholics really know the significance of saying “Amen” at the end of liturgical prayers and especially when receiving the Eucharist.
This was brought home to me again recently when I had the occasion to serve as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Many people came up to receive Communion and looked at me like they didn’t know what to respond when I said, “The body of Christ.” Some said nothing. Others said “Thank you” or words similar to that. Still others gave a weak “Amen.”
By now you might think I am being too picky, but it is very important to respond when we receive Communion and at other times during the Mass. When the priest or Eucharistic minister presents us with Holy Communion, our “Amen” is a public declaration that we believe that this bread and wine are truly the Body and Blood of the Lord, not just symbols of His presence. It is a statement of our faith in Christ and what our faith teaches.
When I served as a campus minister at a large university, students who brought friends to Mass at the Student Center often asked me why the Church did not want other Christians to receive the Eucharist, even though some truly believed in the real presence in the Sacrament. I tried to explain that when we receive Holy Communion we not only receive the Body and Blood of the Lord but it is also a statement of our belief in what the Catholic Church teaches. It is a sign of our unity as Catholics. This is why those preparing to become members do not partake of the Eucharist until they are received into the Church.
Our “Amen” is a statement of our faith. Any time we say “Amen” at the end of prayers or when receiving the sacraments we proclaim that we believe what is said or done. It is important to respond with some enthusiasm.
Each time we receive Christ in the Eucharist we are given another opportunity to proclaim our faith in a public way. Hopefully, understanding the meaning of all our actions during the celebration of Mass will help us become more conscious of what we do and why we do it. This awareness can prevent us from falling into the trap of just going through the motions of the liturgy and the Mass.
The Mass is the central and most important prayer of the Church. It is good to take some time to reflect on what we do each Sunday when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist.
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