16/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Participation

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 spoke strongly about the importance of participation.  Participation in the liturgy was described not as something desirable or preferred, but as the right and duty of every baptised Christian.  The constitution called for everyone to be led to this “full, conscious and active participation”.  Participation in the liturgy was the goal to be “the aim to be considered before all else” when reforming and promoting the liturgy.

The constitution also strongly called for people to be provided proper formation and study in liturgy, so that they could participate in celebrations as fully, consciously and actively as possible.

The Eucharistic Prayer celebrated at Mass according to pre-Vatican II ritesThis was a significant change in thought for many in the Church at the time, who often believed that the liturgy was the almost exclusive duty of the priest.  In fact, the liturgy belongs to the entire Church, with each member of the Church participating in their own way.  It unites us together as the Body of Christ.  Every liturgical celebration is a public act of Christ and his Church, and is never to be considered a private function.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

10/7/10 – Actuosa Participatio

At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process.  Having considered the liturgical presences of Christ, we now consider the second principle, namely:

Actuosa participatio

The Second Vatican Council called for all members of the Church to be led to full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy (see article 14).  It reflected a desire for us to reclaim the sense that we all celebrate the liturgy as one body in Christ.  It reflected a desire for us to reclaim the understanding that Christ is made present not just in the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine and the priest, but also in the proclaimed Word of God and the entire assembly that gathers to celebrate.

The Second Vatican Council not only called for full, conscious and active participation, but also insisted that it was our right and duty as baptised Catholics.  We should not be denied the opportunity to experience the liturgy as the centre of our lives.

The phrase “active participation”, however, has been the subject of debate over more recent years.  It is not simply about outward actions that people can see, or about everybody “doing something” during the Mass.  Active participation, rather, leads to a deep engagement in the paschal mystery that we celebrate; the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We don’t simply just observe the liturgy taking place.  Through our singing, reciting of responses and prayers, our gestures, silent prayer, and attitude towards the celebration, we are transformed, and our faith and relationship with God deepens.

Finally, the transformation that full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy brings about should make a difference to our lives outside of the four walls of the church as well as within them.  Not only is the liturgy the summit of our lives, but also its source; it nourishes, sustains and inspires us to go out (as we are reminded by the priest each week) “in peace to love and serve the Lord.”