Savoring seems to be a lost art in our fast-food culture. We usually associate the word savor with food or drink. We savor a delicious bite of food or a sip of good wine. To savor literally means to “give oneself to the enjoyment of.” It means to be mindful of that which you are eating and drinking – to unite body and mind in the present moment of tasting.
I believe that we are called to savor the liturgy. Too often, we approach (and teach) the liturgy as something that we passively attend, expecting to be “entertained.” We tend to think that the only people really engaged in the Mass are those who have “special” roles such as liturgical ministers. I propose that one of the most powerful ways that we members of the assembly can participate fully, actively, and consciously in the liturgy is by savoring the various elements of the Mass.
I came upon this insight recently as I sat in church waiting for Mass to begin. I watched the server lighting the candles next to the altar and I found myself savoring the flame. At a recent funeral Mass, I found myself savoring the smell of incense. We can savor so many elements of the liturgy using all of our senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste. So, what are some of the things we can savor at Mass? I suggest the following:
- moments of silence
- lyrics to the hymns
- words and phrases from the Scripture readings
- words and phrases from the prayers of the Mass
- words and phrases from the homily
- gestures and movements of the Mass
- the taste of the Eucharist
- flowers and liturgical decorations
- the smell of incense and/or candles
- the sight of flames burning on candles
What else? What can we teach others to savor at the Mass? What do you savor most at Mass?
My favorite moment to savor is during the Easter Vigil mass when the church is completely dark and the Deacon enters with the new Easter candle and proclaims “Lumen Christi – Light of Christ”. As he moves up the center aisle of our church, the altar servers start to light the small candles everyone is holding and the light spreads throughout the church until we are no longer standing in the dark. This always moves me alsmost to tears because I think of how we lived in darkness until Jesus came to share his light with us. I also think of the Apostles and how those few people helped to spread the light of Christ to the world. Then I am reminded of how we help to spread the light by our lives and by our catechisis. We are all in this together and that moment really brings is alive for me. In weekly mass I especially savor when our pastor does the consecration. We are blessed with an incredibly spiritual and holy pastor and when he prays the words of consecration I can’t help but see Jesus at the Last Supper saying those same words. It moves me every time.
I like to be attentive to the Scriptural references in the Mass (there are more than I can keep up with): why the Church uses them at the moment they appear; and how the Mass connects thematically to the wider context of a given Bible quote.
For me, thinking, “You are here, Lord,” while I gaze at the tabernacle, moves me tremendously. Throughout the week, after receiving, I bring my attention to the region of my heart and say again, “You are here, Lord.” I’m struck with awe. It’s so simple and so astounding.
Thank you for this beautiful piece, Joe.