The Church Assembles
Much is said these days of the primacy of the assembly in the celebration of the Mass. Yet there is confusion - surely the Priest has primacy? More surely Christ has primacy? The congregation surely is secondary? In understanding our nature as assembly it is helpful to think verb rather than noun.
We come to Mass from our various life situations, some from work and others from home, some alone and others with children in tow. As we come together we are assembling the parts of the one Body, with its diverse functions and gifts of the Spirit. It is this assembly that constitutes the Church as visible sign of the presence of the risen Christ in the world today. Without this "re-membering" of Christ there is no Church.
Coming in from the car park and through the porches, we greet each other. While kids are laughing and chatting, we become aware of our community and our communion with God in Christ. Some have already seated themselves; some are kneeling in quiet prayer. All have come for the one purpose - to celebrate our life in Christ. This process of assembly begins at the very first thought of Mass. It continues through the preparations at home and the walk or drive to the church.
We begin to take on the form of one body as we take our positions in the pews. We sit. We compose ourselves, and our thoughts start to turn to prayer. There is an announcement and all those seated rise to their feet. Music begins as we wander the pages of the hymnal to find the opening song. The Body begins to sing, male and female voices, young and old, somewhat trained and somewhat out of tune. As we sing, people are still entering through the porches and the ministers with special duties are processing in from the rear. By second verse we are still assembling; yet we are beginning to sense the unity that is taking shape in our midst. By third verse we are one. We can hear ourselves singing as one, we can see ourselves standing as one.
We end the song and there is a unity in silence. At the behest of our presider, we sign ourselves with the cross and proclaim "Amen!" in unison, signifying that what we are doing is in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. It is our baptismal calling to be here, an assembly of the one Body, celebrating the Mass in union with Christ, the eternal priest.
6. The Church Assembles
Why We Do the Things We Do at Mass © 2005 Paul Mason
Paul Mason is Pastoral Associate at Naremburn and Northbridge parishes. He is a member of the Australian Academy of Liturgy and the Diocesan Liturgical Commission of Broken Bay.
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