Liturgy is Public Prayer

“Isn’t it enough that we show up at Mass?”

This is the line of defense that I often hear after a call for etiquette at liturgy.  The short answer is: Yes, it is always a delight to see that there are people willing to make any sort of effort in response to God’s invitation to gather and pray.  AND, the other, equally important answer is: No, it is never enough to just show up because if those gathered are not attentive, the grace-filled opportunities may be lost, not only for the one who is not attentive but also for how one’s lack of preparation and presence may have a disruptive affect on others.

Liturgy is always public prayer.  To enter into liturgical prayer is to enter the Body of Christ, which is to say that as we pass through the church doors into the assembly, we leave behind us, as much as possible, our individualism and our separateness.  Ritual actions and gestures are employed at liturgy which are a way to bring us into unison in order to symbolize the unity of the Body of Christ.  When we break from that harmony, we draw attention to ourselves and away from the Body.  We join the liturgical assembly engaged in prayer, through words or song or through our common posture.  When we are not engaged or take a different posture, we fail to understand one of the important goals of liturgical prayer: unity.  Listen for the frequency of the words “unity,” or union,” in the Eucharistic Prayer and Communion Rite as Christ, through the Church, calls us to be of one mind and heart when we gather together to pray.

Liturgy is a corporate and corporal experience, in the best sense of those words.  Liturgical prayer helps us remember that we are part of something much greater than ourselves: we are called and commissioned to be gathered, become and invite others into the Body of Christ.