The celebration of Mass on weekdays is an established part of the liturgical life of our parishes. Even though nowadays, with declining numbers of priests, it is not universal, some form of daily liturgical celebration based on the scripture readings and prayers appointed for each day is to be recommended. It guarantees that our Churches are places enlivened by a heartbeat of liturgical prayer in union with the whole Church.
Weekday Mass should never just be a “routine”. When one examines the texts the Church has selected for weekdays, it is often easier to enter into a particular Season. There is a richness in the changing texts of weekdays which should never be underestimated. This is a “treasury” that the Church offers to us, and of which we in parishes and other communities should make full use.
In the very earliest days of the Church there was no such thing as “weekday Mass” – Mass (the Eucharist) was only celebrated on a Sunday, in memory of the resurrection of Jesus. This did not mean that people did nothing during the week! The earliest tradition was that they would take Holy Communion home from Sunday Mass in order to receive it each day during the week. So even in the early Church there it was important to celebrate the Eucharist, in some way, every day of the week if possible.
As the centuries passed, gradually Mass began to be celebrated on certain weekdays; before too long Mass was being celebrated on every day of the week, and people would be able to receive communion daily in church.
It was only after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that daily Mass was given a real boost: previously it was up to the priest to choose the texts for the daily Mass (unless it was an important feast): this would often mean the same Votive Mass for the Dead being celebrated every day! The Council gave a new importance to daily Mass, by allocating Bible readings and prayers for every day of the year, and by reorganising the Calendar of Saints so that they too could be celebrated.
So the situation today is that the Church considers it a wonderful thing (if possible) to celebrate Mass every day: people are encouraged to go day by day, to follow the reading of the Scriptures and celebrate the saints and feasts through the year. When we celebrate Mass it is called “nourishment”: to celebrate day by day with hearts open to God’s word, and spirits open to Christ’s presence is surely one of the greatest ways of growing in the strength and grace of God!
As well as being an opportunity to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, daily Mass is also a chance for the parish community to be strengthened. We come together to this daily celebration, forging friendships and bonds of care and concern for each other: we grow as the Church. It is wonderful when other activities (such as coffee mornings, days out, lunches) flow from the daily Mass in a Parish.
Daily Mass is also a privileged place for the community to exercise other functions: funerals, for example. The presence, example and prayers of “ordinary” parishioners are of great practical and spiritual help to priests and families at a Funeral Mass: it is also a rich symbol of what we are meant to be as the Church – a community of faith, prayer and concern. Those who worship regularly can make a wonderful place where mourners are welcomed.
If prayer is to be a heartbeat of our private lives, then daily worship (especially the Mass) is a “public” heartbeat of our Parish communities.
It is not always possible to attend Mass daily: many cannot do so, because they work during the day, or find it difficult to travel. In the present time fewer priests inevitably means fewer Masses: many Parishes in our Diocese will not have Mass every day of the week. As always, the rule here must be: “do what you can”. Realise the value of the Mass whenever and wherever it is celebrated. If you can be part of that celebration, rejoice in it! If not, then find a moment each day to “spiritually unite yourself” with the Mass being celebrated.