“…I think I’ll just stay home.”
I muttered those words often growing up. It was not until the Spring of 2016 that I was confirmed into the Catholic Church; before that, I grew up loosely Methodist and very rarely went to church on Sundays. For the past two years however, I’ve taken a dive into this Faith that the Holy Spirit guided me into and living liturgically has helped immensely with that. Mainly for two reasons: 1) living liturgically strengthens my catechesis and 2) it builds my excitement and confidence to mold my calendar around my Faith first.
So, while trying to keep a healthy spiritual detachment to all earthly things (emphasis on the word *try*), the first step to liturgical living – in my book – is to start with celebrating the feast we get 52-times a year: Sundays. But to reiterate: it’s not about living liturgically just to do it – the Heart of it is to bring us closer to God and in all things, attempting to abandon all parts of our life to Him. If you “live liturgically” truly, that will be the end result. We so often just group Sunday together with Saturday because our commercial calendars have trained us to. We no longer view Sunday as the Sabbath but simply one half of the weekend. Of all places to start living liturgically, this is one that needs to happen…yesterday. After all, it is a commandment (not a suggestion).
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
“The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.” (CCC 2176)
Whether you attend Sunday Mass religiously (pun intended) or not – which…you should, we could all use a refresher on treating Sunday like the Feast day it truly is. Below are the steps I am taking to “re-train” myself to center my week around this Holy Day. Keep in mind that it can take a few months to really acquire a new habit (or to take up old habits again). While attending Mass is obligatory and should be treated as such in all cases, give yourself grace if one Saturday you forget to pray preparatory prayers or your favorite dress/suit is in the wash so you go with the next best outfit although it’s not quite as dressy. As long as you’re showing up to Mass with proper deference and reverence to the Eucharist, that’s all that really matters!
Start on Saturday
Many people who attend Mass on Sundays may already do this subconsciously but what I’m urging here is an intentional and very conscious decision to utilize Saturday, yes as a weekend day, but also as a day of preparation for Sunday. Sundays are Holy – it is THE day designated for us by God to come into union with Him. Yes, there is daily Mass which is good and beautiful but Sunday was specifically written into the Commandments. I’ve been particularly inspired by Maria Von Trapp’s story in her book Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family of the old tradition in Austria where they would “ring in the Feierabend” (as she puts it – Feierabend is a term for “end of work day/work-life balance” but in this instance is used to designate the upcoming Sunday). Church bells used to ring across Austria around 3 or 5 PM letting people know that it was time to switch over and prepare for the next day. Work would stop, foods were prepared, baths were taken…you get the idea: imagine a whole country of people doing these actions together in protection and celebration of Sunday.
So, how can we bring this back? The answer won’t be popular nor easy but it is straightforward – set aside time on Saturday to dedicate towards preparing for Sunday. Maybe to start you focus on cleaning/tidying the house up, getting clothes set out for Mass the next morning, and preparing with prayer (more on that below). Make a point to go to confession (and go OFTEN – at least a once a month) so that you can truly be in a state of a grace to receive Jesus. As time goes on and this becomes more routine, maybe we all step it up a notch and decide to dedicate more of our Saturday evenings to preparing for Sundays, maybe we get a little more dressed up the day of, and maybe we invite more friends and family to join us to make it what it truly is meant to be: a feast.
Prepare with Prayer
This particular idea isn’t new but how often do we pass up the opportunity to truly emphasize an event or blessing in our life with prayer? Prayer is ultimately discussion with God and I can’t think of a better blessing there is this side of Heaven than the Mass – why not honor that and bring it to Him in thanksgiving? Ever since reading Theology of Home, my senses and drive to create a welcoming, Catholic home have been heightened. Once again, this starts with Sundays – in the book, one of the authors mentions a visit to a farm in Virginia where every Saturday, the family followed a similar tradition to the Von Trapp family from above. During their prayer, however, they would go around and mention their blessings from the week, they would literally break bread and have wine, and pray a set of prayers specifically intended to prepare for Sunday.
Prayer is a full body experience – it helps us enter into that relationship with God mentally, emotionally, physically, and of course, spiritually. Set aside time once you’ve done your Saturday routine or traditions to sit down and enter into that space with God. Pray a Rosary asking for a heightened devotion to the Eucharist, find prayer from your confirmation or patron Saints that inspire you, and spend time reflecting on the week’s blessings, practice gratitude! Ideally, do this later in the evening before bed so that it’s the last thing you do/think before falling asleep – when you wake up, you’ll be in a better mindset to continue that routine of preparing for Mass.
Treat Mass Like the Big Deal It Is
So, it’s finally Sunday. How do we keep this momentum going? Well, for one thing, it’s a feast day! While there’s something to be said for keeping a peacefulness before Mass out of respect of the reverence of the Eucharist, that doesn’t mean one can’t be joyful about it. More and more people are doing this by starting to really dress up again to go to Mass and I believe that that is a beautiful outward expression of what’s going on internally – a celebration that we’re about unite with our True Love. Wouldn’t you want to look your best for that? Perhaps, you make a big breakfast to start the day off right, just be sure to leave 1-3 hours before Mass where you don’t eat to properly fast for the Eucharist.
Get to Mass early and pray some preparatory prayers (St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Ambrose have really beautiful ones). Take some time to gaze at the tabernacle and imagine a piece of Jesus’ Heart lying in there – because that’s exactly what will happen after consecration. Try your best to maintain this image and meditation throughout Mass (if you have children that might be easier said than done, and that’s okay!) Slow down, enjoy Mass for everything it is, take it all in as if you’re seeing it for the first time, and let the Holy Spirit guide you through it all. At the end, do not leave early. Don’t. Spend time after Mass to thank God for this blessing of the Eucharist – reminder: we’re actually called to do this as Catholics but unfortunately, over time it’s a practice that has fallen to the wayside as many people are rushed to leave. Don’t leave: spend at least fifteen minutes and take up the tradition of reciting the Leonine Prayers if your parish doesn’t already to that.
Feast, Feast, Feast!
I want you to pick something to do on Sunday to make it feel like a Feast: invite family over, make a fancy or comforting dinner with favorite foods, have a game night, spend time outside…do something that is distinct from what you would do during the week to celebrate Sunday and then make that a standing tradition. Every Sunday try to do that thing! For some, that could be taking the whole day to be at peace in silence and truly rest. For others, it could be inviting family over and making that your weekly game or movie night. Perhaps it changes with the Seasons – during Holidays Sundays could be more quiet and during Ordinary Time it’s spent with more people or vice versa. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to make time to thank God for the blessing to be alive to celebrate Sunday! And get. to. Mass.
Every inch of my heart and soul has been craving a rhythm to life, one that offers peace, belonging, and security. The thing is: none of these are promised – this world is not our Home. It can be a lonely thing to live life constantly searching for Home knowing that you’ll never fully find one here. Yet, it is in that loneliness and fear that we find our trust in God and complete abandonment to His Heart. This has also led me to realize that the closest thing to a true “home” I’ll ever experience this side of Heaven is Mass. We need to do everything in our power to not take it for granted, to see it for the true beautiful Mystery that it is. We need to protect it and uphold it. We need to re-claim the Sabbath, not just for us, but for Jesus. It is the least we could do.