18/7/10 – Unity, Hierarchy, Order and Ministry

At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process.  Having considered active participation, we now consider the third principle, namely:

Unity, hierarchy, order and ministry

This principle is a reminder to us that every person has a role; a part to play in the life of the parish community, especially in its liturgical celebrations.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (see article 28) insisted that in the liturgy, each of us should do all, but only those things that our role requires us to do.  In other words, there should not be one or a few people doing everything.  Furthermore, as we’ve emphasised recent weeks, the celebration of the Mass is not task of the priest, but is an action of Christ and his Church (AKA: us!)

This means that our parish needs to have a full range of ordained and lay ministers who are properly formed and prepared to carry out their duties.  To celebrate the Mass, we require a large number of people – sacristans, art and environment ministers, altar servers, acolytes, music ministers and projector/computer operators, ministers of the word, collectors and ushers, people to present the gifts, extraordinary ministers of communion and the like.  These are a very significant way in which lay people can participate in the life of our community.

It also means that when someone is engaging in one of these ministries during Mass, they should not be doing any other ministry.  In our parish, for example, a number of Ministers of the Word are also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  It is fine for these people to carry out these ministries on different occasions.  Yet, when they are required to read or commentate at Mass, they cannot minister communion during that same celebration.

The various liturgical ministries of our parish are necessary for the effective celebration of the Mass.  They reflect our belief that we, the entire assembly gathered to worship, celebrate the Mass in unity with Christ and with each other.  We all have particular ways in which we participate in the celebration of Mass, and we need to encourage others to find ways in which they can serve the community through liturgical ministry.

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.”

13/6/10 – The Whole Body of Christ Celebrates the Liturgy

This weekend, our parish is having its second meeting with Fr Stephen Hackett MSC in regards to our Church Renewal Process.  We will be working together to develop guiding concepts to inform those who will work on developing plans for our church.

This work, as Fr Stephen informed us at our last meeting in March, is underpinned by some key liturgical principles.  Over the coming weeks, we will explore each one in turn.  Let’s take a look at the first one now.

The whole Body of Christ celebrates the liturgy

Liturgical celebrations are not private acts.  Every liturgical celebration is a public action of the Church.  Even celebrations where there may be few “regular parishioners”, such as baptisms, weddings or funerals are considered by the Church to be public celebrations.

So who celebrates them?  Is Mass something which the priest celebrates and we observe?  The Second Vatican Council very clearly disagrees with this.  In the past, we may have had a sense that we couldn’t see or perhaps even understand the priest, and thus he celebrated or “said” Mass in our presence… or without us present if he so desired.

The Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stated that the liturgy is celebrated by the entire body of Christ – that is, by Christ and his Church.  That means that all of us gathered together celebrate the liturgy united in and with Christ.  Through this, the Church becomes the sacrament (or symbol) of unity.  This means that we represent through signs that we can perceive with our senses our belief that the liturgy unites all of us as members of the Church.  It is the Church that calls forth and ordains ministers to serve as leaders of the liturgical celebration.  Both the priest and all of us gathered together to celebrate the liturgy make Christ present amongst us.