At every celebration of the Eucharist, guests will find a small container of hosts and a paten on a table near the guests’ seating. Anyone intending to receive communion would put a host in the paten–their offering to the gifts prepared after the Liturgy of the Word. On some Sundays, especially during holidays and certain parts of the summer when many strangers join us for a first, and maybe last, time there’s also a sign on that small table. It says: A Gentle Reminder. The monks pray at a SLOWER PACE than in parish liturgies. We ask our guests to be aware of the monks’ needs. Thank you!
What is that about? Or when the sign isn’t on the table, many newcomers may wonder, “Why do they say the responses so slowly?”
One glib answer could be: because we have all the time in the world.
Of course anyone familiar with the number of responsibilities we cover and the amount of work we do in any given day, wouldn’t believe that. We’re always on the go. And yet it’s true: when we stop for the liturgy, when we interrupt our work to celebrate God’s presence, we do have all the time in the world. Why rush to get more work done? No matter how much work we squeeze into the day or how much time we take out for prayer, we never make a dent in what still needs to be done. It’s always there. You’re life is probably not much different, right? We didn’t come here to finish all that work; we work to support our monastic life here. We came here to adore God, to pray for the needs of those we share this planet with, to witness to the Gospel though our community life and to celebrate God’s presence among us, the sacramentality of the everyday. When we worship together, we step out of deadlines, the tyranny of the clock and productivity; in an almost palpable way, we leave time for eternity. So why rush the words of the liturgy?
To recite the prayers and responses of the Mass reflectively is to say that they are important and have something important to tell us. This is celebrating who we were created to be and measure the distance between that and who we have been up to the moment. To see that takes time. To take time, means I can listen to the responses and understand what I’m saying. I think that we are collectively so aware of that, that we seem to always succeed in slowing down everyone while we profess the Creed after the homily. Each week, it’s worth the trouble to say, to pray the creed at a pace allowing us to hear again the words, to understand them and affirm them–and announce them to one another. What’s the point of rushing through the Creed like a parrot spitting out words it cannot understand?