How do you participate when you go to Mass? Don’t worry, this isn’t a trap. But there are a lot of ways that we participate when we go to Mass. Singing is one of the most obvious ways, although that’s sometimes easier said than done. Saying the responses at Mass, even if they’re melded versions of the old and new translations such as “And also with your spirit.” Being and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, a lector, a server, or an usher. All these things are important responsibilities, and it would be much more difficult to celebrate Mass without them, but the most important participation, and the kind of active participation the Church means when you hear that phrase is a spiritual participation.
One of the changes in the translation invites us to that in particular. After the gifts are prepared and the altar is ready, the priest will say “Pray brethren (or brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” This seems like a pretty simple change, and yes, it reflects what the Latin text says more clearly, but it also helps us remember an incredibly important truth about the different ways that we participate.
The priest of course offers the sacrifice that is physically present there on the altar: the bread and wine that will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This sacrifice is a re-presentation (not representation) of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary in an unbloody way, which is offered on behalf of everyone present, but also on behalf of the whole world.
But this doesn’t mean that those sitting in the pews are simple spectators watching the same thing week after week. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that we’re all supposed to be conscious participants, by “offering the Immaculate Victim not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves.”
So what does that mean? What can you and I offer? Well, the best answer to that is whatever you’re dealing with, whoever you are. Your sacrifice could be some hurt or pain in a family relationship. Or it could be worries about a job or finances. It could be concern about children, even those who have fallen away from the Church. It could be our own personal habits of sinfulness that we’re dealing with. It could be the fact that the priest is so monotone, and you can’t seem to pay attention. Our individual sacrifice is all the joys, sorrows, fears, blessings, and sufferings that we hold in our hearts. We offer them on the altar, at the foot of the Cross, and we place them next to the Body and Blood of Christ, uniting our sacrifice with His.
And that way, we can truly mean it when we say, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and the good of all his holy Church.”