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An Introductory Course in Christian Spirituality

Paying attention to the Eucharist

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Course Instructor

The idea of mystagogy is for the participant to be fully engaged with the celebration of the liturgy—paying attention with contemplative mindfulness—and then reflect upon the experience.

The renewed Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) has brought the concept of mystagogy back into the awareness of pastoral leaders. Mystagogy is the last stage in the RCIA program. It is a time of shared reflection that takes place in the months following baptism. However, in recent years authors have stressed the on-going character of mystagogy in the life of the believer.

 

Mystagogy is not simply a form of catechetical instruction but goes much deeper appealing to the religious imagination. Mystagogy requires awareness, in which we open our whole being to the sights and sounds of the liturgical celebration as it unfolds. There is reflection as we allow the many symbolic languages of the liturgy to speak to us, probing our experience, finding resonance. Reception is the appreciation of what comes to us, not so much the insight per se as the One who inspired it. Gradually our consciousness of what we are doing -- and before whom -- begins to work a transformation in us.[1]

 

“Mystagogy includes not only the neophytes’ experience but also the life of the community and the teaching of the Church—aspects which are part of this reflection process for the assembly.”[2] Such reflection is part of the believer's on going entry into the mysteries of our faith. It draws upon the spiritual disciplines of contemplative awareness (mindfulness) and reflection (discernment), allowing us to enter more deeply into our experience of worship. It is a task that is never completed, as the circumstances of our lives change and the symbolic languages of sacrament and liturgy are able to speak to us anew.

 

What all of the theological terminology is trying to say is that the skills of paying attention that we have learned in the previous exercises can be applied to our participation in the public worship of the Church. The Liturgy is an experience rich in symbols and experiences that stir powerful association and emotions. It speaks to us without words. Much of what is said is lost on participants who are not really engaged in what is going on. The impact of the Mass can be much more powerful on those who participate if they are fully engaged with what is going on. The idea of mystagogy is for the participant to be fully engaged with the celebration of the liturgy—paying attention with contemplative mindfulness—and then reflect upon the experience. This allows a greater appreciation of the Mass for the participant and greater insight from the experience.

 

So, if you want an exercise, reread the instructions for walking on the previous page.

 

Then come to Mass early. Find a pew near the front of the Church so that you can easily see and hear what is going on. Take in the smells—incense, candle wax, and so forth. Then open all of your senses to the celebration of the Mass as it unfolds. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention to what is going on in the celebration of the Mass. Take in everything. Notice your reactions but don’t analyze them. Simply be open to what is occurring.

 

Then after Mass when you have time reflect on what you experienced. Consider what feelings and thoughts the experience evoked in you. Consider your reaction to what happened. If others are willing to take part in a group discussion, share your thoughts and insights with one another



[1] Kathleen Hughes, Saying Amen: A Mystagogy of Sacrament (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1999), 13-28.

[2]Sheila Marie O'Dea, A Mystagogical Reflection Process for a Liturgical Assembly (D.Min. paper: Catholic Theological Union at Chicago, 1995), 116-117.


Saying Amen: A Mystagogy of Sacrament
Kathleen Hughes

Come to the Feast: An Invitation to Eucharistic Transformation
Richard N. Fragomeni

The Gift of Eucharist, Family Guide
Rev. Richard N. Fragomeni

Click here to visit Along the Way, a site of reflections, homilies and stories by the author of this website.

(c)2005. Richard Shewman. All rights reserved. The contents of this website are the intellectual property of the author and may not be reproduced, aside from fair personal use for the purpose of individual study, without the written permission of the author.
 
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