When are we instructed to pray in the Mass?
Watch us as we arrive for prayer. We are early. We are late. We are settling down. We are moving. We are greeting. We are thinking. We are distracting. We just came to praise the Lord, but we also just came from someone or somewhere or something. Something has to pull us together, gather our thoughts, gather our words, gather our attention, gather us into one voice, one church, speaking to one God. THE COLLECT.
The instruction to pray is given three times in the Mass.
After a great song of joy that gets us in the Spirit we sign ourselves with the cross, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And the whole church says the first “AMEN” of the week. We manage our sins, expiation, and as a forgiven people, we give Him the glory and give Him the praise.
Now we can stop moving. Now we can pray. It takes time and effort to stop, to get ready and to pray. Don’t forget to stand still and know that God is near and listening in the silence, waiting for us to do what we claimed we came to do, to pray. THEN THE COLLECT SEALS THE DEAL! Through the mystery of the church, the collect brings all the prayers and all the people all over the world together in the twinkling of an eye.
This gathering of prayers happens again as we bring our gifts to the altar. The focus this time, that our gifts will be acceptable. That what we give to God best express what we believe, hope and trust. The words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts are made acceptable because they are not just words, but prayers, prayers of the church people gathered. We pray that the Father will receive our intentions as we await the blessings, the food that comes down. Or as the old folks say, “when the prayers go up, the blessings come down.” This liturgical flow is accomplished by these collects.
The final collect elegantly prepares us for the blessing and the dismissal of a people who have been taught, fed, encouraged and supported for the sole purpose of being sent out whole and holy.
Let us pray, a moment not to miss in the house of the Lord.