In this Year of the Eucharist we’ll be looking at the many aspects of this central part of our faith; its theology, history, and spiritual power. But perhaps we might begin our reflections with the more superficial aspects of our mass attendance . . . the giving and receiving of hospitality.
Ancient biblical times placed great importance on the inner meaning of “The Banquet”. It was a very spiritual affair which bonded families and tribal relationships. Strict rules about hospitality made visible how important were these friendships and how not to offend either as a host or as a guest.
First off, if you were the host, you would make sure that proper invitations were delivered. Guests were greeted at the door with ceremonial hand and foot washings. Per- fume was applied to the head and a kiss was bestowed upon their cheek. The finest food and wine was brought forth on the best table settings available. Everything was arranged so as to honor the guests and the occasion that brought them all together.
There were rules too for those invited to the dinner. Prop- er clothes were required for the occasion. (There was a “wedding garment” to be worn if you came to the reception. Mt. 22:14). The seating arrangements were specially set to honor each guest. Please sit where you are told. And of course a guest was expected to enter into the joyful festivities . . . food, wine, conversation, music . . . as a sign of fellowship with the host whose deepest wish is that “you share my joy!”
These rules of hospitality apply in somewhat simpler form in the wedding celebrations of today. Consider the occasion when you dress your absolute best . . . a wedding right? Why? I think it’s a way to “bring our best selves”. To add to the brightness of the occasion as best we can. The bible would say we “give glory” to the gathering.
So what about going to Mass? (You knew this was coming didn’t you?!) Are there things we do that add “glory” to the Sunday Eucharist? Of course there are.
- The way we dress is a sign of the importance we place on our weekly worship. We don’t treat it like a fashion show but “cleaning up” is a good way to hon- or the Lord.
- Our willingness to smile and greet others (yes even strangers) as a prelude to beginning mass. (Perhaps you might even become a parish greeter (call the parish office).
- Or, if you’re really in the spirit, you may slide over in your pew giving them your spot, rather than making someone crawl over you. Imagine that?!
- The way we participate at mass . . . by responding to the prayers, by really listening to the readings and homily, by singing! (“But I don’t sing.” Yes you do. You sang Happy Birthday at your niece’s birthday. So bring your Happy Birthday Voice to mass.)
- Lastly . . . and I have to tell you, this really bugs me . . . we need to stay at mass until it’s over. (I understand there are occasions when you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. I promise I will never ask you why you are leaving and always presume it is for a good reason.)
Picture yourself just finishing a great meal at some banquet. The Guest of Honor is about to speak words of thanks and encouragement to all who have come. And you decide to head out the side door to be home in time to watch “Dancing With the Stars”. Why? The world is always there waiting to jump on. Why do we leave so early the very gathering that helps us face our world and its problems?
Please stay with us. You’ll know when it’s time . . . “Go in peace, the mass is ended.”
God loves you . . . no matter what.