Tips for online mass
Mark Poisler ’21
As the Catholic Church holds 25% capacity at Masses, many of us miss experiencing the Liturgies in person. We miss the heavenly choir and organs that please our ears. We miss the stained glass windows and beautiful art in the Church that pleases our eyes. We miss the sweet scent of incense. Switching to online Mass, some of us attempt to replicate the experience and feeling by watching masses with professional choirs, buying Catholic paintings and sculptures to place around the screen, or lighting candles so we believe that we are in the Sanctuary.
Desiring these customs for our personal satisfaction is all right ( I do not discourage these), but the Mass does not exist to charm or entertain us (these customs should glorify God anyway). In Catholic Theology, Jesus intended for us to view the Eucharist through the lens of a Memorial, Thanksgiving, and Communion with God and Church. As Catholics, we participate in the Mass for God, so we must remember that while we view Mass from our living rooms. At home, we should prioritize our connection to foundations of Mass, such as the Eucharist to fully serve God.
Before I discuss how we can view Mass and Eucharist through the lens intended online, I will quickly side-track to discuss a more generic issue: posture. We must correct our posture to give ourselves the full ability to participate in Mass for God. Many of us might feel the temptation to watch Mass while reclining in our couches or lying down in bed, but this lukewarm comfiness will sway our attention from the Mass, struggling to stay awake. For full capability of attention, we should find a chair that lets us sit straight up. We should practice the appropriate positions of our bodies during the specific times of Mass. For example, during the Eucharist, we should stand or kneel as we would in the Sanctuary. Although I stated that replicating certain “customs” of Mass does not reside in importance over engaging in the Mass for God, correct posture entitles us to focus on the readings and the liturgies. The Church encourages these positions to not only alert the faithful of the most important parts of the Mass, but also to show reverence to God.
When we see the Eucharist as a Memorial, we remember Christ’s Passover. This memory includes not just the past of Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, but includes a present and real sacrifice at the Mass. How do we concentrate on the Memorial when the present Sacrifice occurs in another building? We can still remember Jesus’ sacrifice anytime by reading about it or just remembering it. However, the Mass remembers the sacrifice by hosting a present Sacrifice, so just remembering Jesus will not suffice. To solve this problem, I would recommend finding a copy of “The Order of the Mass” and following along with the priest. While following along, reflect and contemplate on the words about the Sacrifice in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. While reflecting, pay attention to the Sacrifice on the screen. Ask God to help you recognize the parallelism of past and present. Although you and the Eucharist might occur in different buildings, you can still witness the Sacrifice through the screen and remember what Jesus does for us.
We should view the Mass and Eucharist online through the second lens: Thanksgiving. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Eucharist “is an act of thanksgiving to God” (No. 1329). Some of us may feel in online Mass that we did not get anything from the experience; however, Mass exists for us to give God something. Nothing in life comes without God, so even if online, thank God. Thank Him for dying for our sins and for letting us witness the Sacrifice via the internet. Thank Him for any blessings from the week or today. Online Mass does not give anyone an excuse to refrain from offering thanksgiving to God in the Eucharist.
The third lens we should view is that Mass, online or physical, is Communion with God (vertical) and the Church (horizontal). To assist in horizontal communion while separated from other faithful, gather with your family or household while witnessing online Mass. This not only builds Communion with the Church, but it builds up the “Domestic Church.” Online Mass gives a great opportunity to raise this forgotten part of the Church. Say the prayers out loud with your family and help each other reflect after Mass on the Readings and their time with God. Everyone comes from a Domestic Church, so appreciating this time to grow this sector of the Church will help the faithful and the Universal Church to come closer to God.
Vertical Communion may seem harder to have since of the current physical separation from the Eucharist, but it is possible. To help, first, acknowledge Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist. We must know that the Bread and Wine on the screen are Jesus’ Body and Blood. Knowing this, having the ability to call the Holy Spirit anytime, and seeing the Bread on the screen, online Mass becomes a “Divine Facetime.” Second, the Church offers prayers to receive Communion while away from Mass. Around the time of Communion distribution, slowly pray the “Prayer for Spiritual Communion” while engaging in the Divine Facetime. No substitute exists for receiving Jesus in the physical Eucharist, but this form of Vertical Communion is possible and recommended.
Finding God through online Mass can challenge us. Nevertheless, if we focus on the lens of the Eucharist while online, then we can spend quality time for God. At home, we can really dive into the purpose of the Mass, so we can then prepare ourselves for an approach face to face with Jesus in the Eucharist.