By Elizabeth Harrington
WHEN we gather for Christmas Mass as a community of faith, it is not to listen to lovely music or to watch a splendid ritual, but to meet and worship the Lord, who is God’s great gift to the world.
What can we, as individuals and as communities, do to make Christmas Masses something special? Here are a few suggestions:
• Lend a hand. Those who prepare liturgical celebrations in parishes have a lot of additional work to do leading up to important celebrations like Christmas. Perhaps you could offer to help decorate or tidy the church, collate worship booklets or get music folders ready for the choir.
• Arrive early. There are plenty of things to be organised before Mass starts, especially with the extra crowds that attend at Christmas time. The regular ushers and hospitality people would welcome assistance with opening windows and turning on fans, giving out hymn books and newsletters, and all the other jobs that need doing.
• Be hospitable. Extend a welcome to everyone you encounter at Mass, not just those people you know. Make visitors feel at home by making sure they have worship aids and by not glaring if they choose to sit in “your” seat or if their children make a noise during Mass. Sit near the front of the church so that back pews are left free for latecomers. Don’t occupy the end of an otherwise empty pew so that people have to climb over you to get a seat.
• Participate enthusiastically. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that liturgy is the work of the whole Church, the Head and members. Model “full, conscious and active participation” by taking part enthusiastically in the entire celebration. Listen attentively, join in the responses and singing, share the sign of peace with feeling, engage with the symbols, sounds, smells and tastes of the celebration.
• Show gratitude. A word of thanks to preachers, presiders, musicians, sacristans, greeters and other liturgical ministers will be greatly appreciated.
• Spread Christmas cheer. Our celebration of Mass continues as we live out our mission as the body of Christ in our homes, communities and workplaces.
Every parishioner at Christmas Masses can seize this once-a-year chance to evangelise simply through their joyful celebration of Christmas. A week after Christmas is the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Church’s most ancient and most important festival related to Mary. It is also New Year’s Day.
What liturgical New Year resolutions might we make to extend this season of peace and goodwill throughout 2014?
Perhaps to support those who prepare and lead worship in parishes by offering positive feedback rather than only criticism when we don’t like or agree with something, or to enter wholeheartedly into parish liturgical celebrations by being attentive and welcoming, and by singing and responding enthusiastically, or to use our time and talents by taking on a liturgical ministry in the parish.
“May God, who willed that the great joy
of his Son’s saving Birth
be announced to shepherds by the Angel,
fill your minds with the gladness he gives
and make you heralds of his Gospel.” (from Solemn Blessing, The Nativity of the Lord)
Elizabeth Harrington is the education officer for Liturgy Brisbane. Her Liturgy Lines columns are available at www.liturgybrisbane.net.au