Is the Sunday Missal meant to be read during Mass?
By Christopher Yeo
DID YOU KNOW that people have three kinds of learning styles - auditory, visual and kinesthetic? Auditory people prefer listening, visual people prefer reading, and kinesthetic people prefer doing.
I would like you to try an experiment. Are you able to play the famous Alleluia chorus from Handel's messiah in your mind? If you don't know the tune, just use the gospel acclamation in your church. Try it.
Can you 'hear' the Alleluia?
Now try replaying it while reading the following words:
A-lle-luia. A-lle-luia. Alleluia, Alleluia, A-lle-lu-ia...
Did you fare better or worse you think?
Now, this is the observation I make about the Catholic Mass - throughout the eucharistic celebration, at every reading, psalm, prayer and song, we are reading it. The vast majority of the congregation have their heads buried in the missals and are reading along. (Sadly, the remainder seems not to be following at all!) Does this constrain our experiencing of the Eucharist, you think?
Having studied some scripture during my time in NUSCSS, I found some time back during mass that I could follow some of the gospel readings, especially from Luke. I then begun to experiment listening to the gospel without looking at the missal and experienced a whole dimension to the proclamation of the Word that till then I never had. I was really quite a difference between following the sunday missal and hearing and feeling God's word, flowing and working inside you.
A few times, my choir mates standing beside me saw that I was not looking at the missal during the readings and offered me their books. I remember smiling at them, lifting my hands and showing that I already have the missal in hand, even opened to the right page. I was simply choosing to listen and look rather than read along. They appeared quite shocked initially, since this practice appears to be so unusual! Today, my dear choir mates to my left and right also prefer to listen to the proclamation of the Word without looking at the missal. Try it yourself!Come early for some quiet time before mass and read the passages first, then spend the time during mass reflecting and feeling. I pray that your experience of mass may be enriched by this 'tip'.
There is still some more to this point that I would like to share:Don't be afraid to do something new in church
Is it so strange that I don't read the missal during mass? Why be afraid to do something different? Although our mass seems to not have changed for as long as we remember, the way we celebrate mass is actually open to a lot of flexibility, and over time, change has occured even though you may not have noticed it. This is so, for example, in the music liturgy. Faith is something that is alive and constantly seeking new ways of expression and fulfilment. Since our buildings have been renovated, it is also time that we renew the way we look at and celebrate the mass. Don't be afraid to personalise your experience of the eucharist, try new things, ask questions, and grow.
Readers and psalmists rarely proclaim the word of God, but only read.
Once you start looking and listening to the readers and psalmists instead of just reading along, I am sure you will realise like I have that some readers are totally inadequate in the way they proclaim the word of God. I try to ask myself how St. Paul or the early church leaders would have proclaimed their experiences of Jesus to their audiences. If the word holds meaning to you, there is just no way to stop your body, your tone, or your expression from coming forth on the pulpit. I think the problem is that readers have spent all their lives experiencing the word with their heads buried in the missal. When they proclaim, they end up reading the word in the only way that they have experienced it, which is why the more we open up to listening and feeling, the better I think our eucharistic celebrations will become.
Priests need to engage visual and experience during homilies
Not only readers suffer from the pitfalls of focusing on the visual text. Priests do it all the time when reading the prayers. I do not think that it is too much effort to memorise certain portions of the repeated prayers so that they can be said with much more heart, rather than always reading them off the book and constraining the full expression of the prayer. When delivering homilies, priest also put themselve into a mental pigeonhole and engage only one of our senses, in this case our auditory sense. Walk around, show us examples, engage our feelings, experiences and memories. Homilies, and everything about the mass will become more engaging and alive if we just remember that there is not just one, but three styles of learning to cater to.
Christopher Yeo is a member of the Genesis Choir at the Church of St. Francis Xavier which sings at the 6pm evening mass. He believes that we can enhance our eucharistic celebrations by learningfrom our protestant brothers and sisters .