During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year. The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.
The constitution continued on naturally from the topic of participation to speak more specifically about liturgical ministry. It began by stating that any ordained or lay person fulfilling a ministerial role should undertake only the one role during a celebration, and undertake all the duties of that role. The importance of liturgical ministers as leaders of prayer was emphasised; that ministers should carry out their duties in an appropriate manner, and be properly formed and trained for their role.
Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, also noted the liturgical role of the assembly or congregation – that in fact all people have a part to play in the celebration. The constitution’s call for full, conscious and active participation was misunderstood by some people, who interpreted this as an insistence that everybody had to have a “ministry” to take part in. The role of the assembly, as articulated in the constitution, however, gives a clearer picture of what was intended:
To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 30)