Do you have trouble paying attention at Mass? Sometimes it’s hard—there are so many distractions around us, and inside our heads (cute babies, shopping lists, the ‘oh crud—did I remember to…?”). When we’re supposed to be singing a hymn, sometimes I catch myself looking at the notes and how some of them look like smiley faces. If we’re open to it, anything can become a distraction. And it seems like there’s a lot of “down time” in the Mass for that to happen—time when we are not speaking or singing…just sitting and the priest is doing his thing.
Lex orandi, lex credendi. It’s Latin for, “The law of praying, is the law of believing,” but basically means that what we pray is what we believe. A few years ago, as the Church in English speaking places was preparing for the changes to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, many pastoral ministers (including myself) attended various workshops on it. One of the things that came up at one of the workshops was this ancient notion of Lex orandi. I love it because it’s so true and it reminds me to really pay attention at Mass. The words we say and sing, and the words the Priest says are so informative to who God is, who we are and who we are called to be, and sometimes they become sort of a background noise instead of the transformative dialogue that they ought to be.
Sometimes in a homily we’ll have the Our Father or the Creed deciphered and picked apart for us; but have you ever listened carefully to the Eucharistic Prayer? Do you really hear what the Presider is saying while we are quiet? The prayers (not just the Eucharistic Prayer, either) are poetic, filled with imagery expressing God’s unfailing love for us, and what God knows we can be if we respond with authentic love. Many of the prayers have an almost romantic quality about them—God seeks us out, calls to us and wants us to answer in perfect freedom that we love God back. We come to worship God in Liturgy, first and foremost, but also to be nourished and transformed.
Often I hear Catholics say that they feel deficient in their understanding of what we believe and also about Scripture. If you are one of these people, take a close listen at Mass this week and hear what we believe…pray what we believe, and come to know it better. The readings for this 2nd Sunday of Ordinary time are all about hearing God and responding to His call. Be like Samuel—be quiet and listen and respond, “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening.” (1Samuel 3:9)