I don’t know how many of y’all aren’t Catholic, maybe recently Catholic, or just want to learn more about the Catholic Mass. So I figured it would be fun to write this post.*
Firstly: Everything in the Mass has a meaning. Nothing is there just for the fun of it. One example I had explained to me a while ago was the use of the bells during the consecration and elevation of the Body and Blood of Jesus. The person/people explaining said that the tradition began to signal to the people that something special was happening in those moments. Another example are the liturgical colors and the coordinating colors of the priest’s vestments. Red (often) signifies either a feast for/of the Holy Spirit or the feast of a martyr (having had their blood shed for the faith). White is often used for non-martyr feast days and seasons like Easter. And purple is used as a sign of repentance. I’m uncertain of why we use green during Ordinary Time, but I’m sure there’s a reason it’s used.
Second: There’s going to be a lot of movement. Throughout the Mass, there’s going to be quite a few transitions from sitting to standing to kneeling. And holding and shaking hands may even be involved. If you’re unable to participate in any of the moving, I’d suggest either trying a supported version of the movement (like kneeling while leaning against the seat of the pew) or remain sitting. All I can ask is that no matter your range of motion, please remain respectful of what’s going on and the people around you.
Third: There’s going to be several verbal exchanges between the priest and the congregation. The entire Mass is a form of prayer, and these verbal exchanges are a vital part of that prayer. These exchanges also allow the congregation to become involved in the celebration of Mass instead of simply being observers.
Fourth: There will often (but not always) be singing. In the typical Sunday Mass, there will be several chances for the congregation to join the cantor and/or choir in singing. Some of the times that we sing during a Sunday Mass include: the Gathering, the Responsorial Psalm, the Offertory and Preparation of the Gifts, Communion, and the Recessional. Although music isn’t used in all Masses (such as daily Mass), it does help to get us more involved in the celebration of Mass.
And fifthly: There are two distinct parts of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word, I believe, goes from the beginning of Mass until roughly when the Creed is spoken and the intercessions are offered up. And if this is the case, then the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins at that point until the end of Mass. Since there are two parts of the Mass, prepare for a bit of a shift in the atmosphere of the celebrations.
If you have any questions about or would like to learn more about what I brought forward in this post, I’d recommend asking your/a priest about it or check to see if you can learn more at you church’s parish office. There are a lot of things to learn about the Mass, and I am far, far from knowing about much of it. What I listed today are some of the simpler aspects of the Mass.
If you have a favorite part of the Mass, leave them down in the comments below. I’d enjoy hearing about it!
*All information used in this post is my own understanding of why we do what we do in Mass. If I have gotten any information wrong, please let me know in the comments below. I’d like to learn from any mistakes made. Thank you.