This post has two titles, one concrete but loose and the other abstract but very precise.
They are: “I got distracted by the lousy music and missed a treasure” or “External and Internal Negative and Positive Values in the Mass and in Our Participation in It.”
Examples of external negative values in the Mass that we have been subjected to during the last fifty years are ugly architecture, banal music, and every kind of liturgical abuse.
Examples of external positive values in the Mass are visually beautiful architecture, furnishing, and vestments; aurally beautiful appropriate music; pungent-smelling incense; and obedience to the rubrics on the part of the celebrant and every other person who has a liturgical role.
Internal positive values of the Mass are many (to make an understatement). The Mass lets the People of God give thanks, express sorrow, offer adoration, and make petition to God. It presents the written Word. It makes Christ really and truly present. It gives us Holy Communion.
There is no internal negative value in the Mass. It is all good.
Examples of external negative values we bring to our participation in the Mass are inappropriate casual or immodest dress, poor posture, not genuflecting toward the tabernacle before and after Mass, and chatting aloud when others are trying to prepare for Mass or to make a thanksgiving after.
External positive value we can bring to our participation in the Mass are being well-groomed, having proper posture, using the missal, keeping silent when we should, singing when we should, and so on.
Internal negative values we bring to the Mass could be distraction, a critical spirit, and an inappropriate interest in the other people there.
Examples of internal positive values we bring to the Mass are recollection, thankfulness, contrition, adoration, a desire to help others, and above all love.
Most of us have little control over the external aspects of the liturgy. But the unlimited internal positive values of the Mass are always there, waiting for us.
We do have control over our own external and internal participation in the Mass. A positive external participation can assist us in our internal positive participation in this august Sacrament, as, for example, a good genuflection (external) can help one be more recollected (internal). The effort to be recollected will also help us be more positive in our external participation, as praying for others (internal) helps us be more interested in their true well-being rather than in how they look or what they are wearing (external).
It is a shame to be so bothered by something over which we have no control that we miss some great good which is accessible to us. It is a waste when after Mass one realizes, “I got distracted by the lousy music and missed a treasure.”