"Full and Active Participation"

For the Vatican II fathers, the full, conscious and active participation of the laity in the liturgy was mainly a “desire” (SC, 14) because at that time the liturgy was still in Latin. Moreover, for them the “liturgy” referred to the texts and rubrics to which the assembly can make no contribution. More clearly: “The sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church...  no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy” (SC, 21). The assembly may fully and actively participate in the singing, but people’s singing adds nothing substantial to the Mass as sacrifice of the Cross.

Totally different is the pastoral approach that sees the liturgy as the action of all the participants. Of course most of the liturgical action is based on the official liturgical scripts. The rubrics are very specific about what the priest must say and do, but the rubrics have little to say about the participation of the assembly, and they say absolutely nothing about what the assembly cannot do and say. In this latter perspective, the sky is the limit for the full, conscience and active participation of the assembly.

The Eucharistic prayer takes about 15 minutes. In a 30 muinute Mass the priest takes all the 30 minutes. If the Sunday worship lasts 60 minutes, the priest and his ecclesial ministers are also likely to dominate most of the time. In a Sunday service of 90-120 minutes, when there are creative lay leaders, artists and musicians working together with the priest, the assembly is likely to participate actively most of the time. This is the tendency I have seen in a few places: 2 hour Masses in which the assembly is given many opportunities to participate actively (see examples below). I call these creative liturgies “Eucharistic celebrations” to distinguish them from the priest-centered Masses.

   Three types of liturgies and theologies

1) Tridentine priests’ Masses (about 30 minutes)
- When the Mass was in Latin, the pious recited the rosary and the less pious waited stoically for the end. Attendance was mandatory and participation very limited.
- In a priest’s Mass, the celebrant does all or most of the praying. There is need for only one altar server. The presence or absence of the faithful makes no substantial difference to the Mass as sacrifice.
- A sacrifice only requires a victim, a priests, and sponsors. Attendance is not required; at the Jerusalem Temple the paying sponsors did not attend the sacrifices.
- The theology of the Mass as sacrifice emphasizes validity and efficacy. At the end of the Middle Ages it was common for the rich to "buy" hundreds of Masses for their  eternal rest, and hundreds more for souls in purgatory. Neo-Scholasticism taught  that Masses “give grace,” the more Masses the more graces.
- Priests’ Masses are still common in parishes during the week and at the Saturday and Sunday evening services which are often poorly attended.
       2) The Ministers’ Masses (about 60 minutes)
 - After Vatican II participation has been implemented as full and active participation of ecclesial ministers and the choir, often with the participation of the front pews.
- Choirs may produce quality performances, often in polyphony, with quality instrumental accompaniment. This reduces the assembly to an audience. When the choir production is exceptionally good, it is common to applaud like at a concert.
- Observation has shown that only the front third of the assembly sings, the second third mostly hums by moving the lips, and the back third remains silent.
- Ministers’ Masses are popular and satisfactory because they convey a sense of God through music and inner participation. They are also short (1% of weekly time) and inexpensive (the average donation is about 1% of one's income, half that of Protestants.)

3) Eucharistic celebrations (about 2 hours)
- Thanksgiving in songs and words (“eucharistein” as action) usually involves all the faithful at all times
- The songs of praise are usually taken from the contemporary culture, not just traditional hymns.
- In interviews people eagerly speak about their faith life.

                      Advantages and disadvantages

 Ministers’ Masses are most popular today. They are very satisfactory to those who attend, but less attractive to their children who may drop out. Their theology is standard Vatican II.
    The priests’ Masses are common throughout the week but not on Sundays. Being priest-centered they are most gratifying to priests. These Masses are treated as devotions for the pious; attendance is very limited. The theology tends to be Tridentine pre-Vatican II.
      Eucharistic celebrations are common among Protestant evangelicals, Catholic charismatics, members of the Neocatechumenal Way and many lay and religious communities; they are rare in U.S. parishes. They are very demanding on both the faithful and the clergy. They tend to be dynamic and missionary. Their theology is that of discipleship.


            Taize. There is probably no place in the world like the monastery of Taize. Every Sunday about 2,000 18-to-35 year olds arrive for a whole week of prayer (30 to 50,000 per year.) They must bring their own sleeping bags and tents. Everyday there are about 3 hours of prayer, 2-3 hours of teaching, and about 3 hours of group discussions.  If you arrive on time for the prayers in the church you will find no place except in the back. Most people stay some time when the prayer service ends. On Friday evenings the veneration of the cross continues until 2 or 3 am. The singing is enthusiastic from the very beginning. The Taize songs are of high cultural quality.
             St. Sabina, Chicago, broadcasts one of the few Eucharistic celebrations available on the web. It is of popular and ethnic inspiration. Before the discussion please watch excerpts from St. Sabina's Easter dance and prayer.

1. Mystery play & dance: "Why do you cry? (see:  youtube/Jhce3GOkvos)

Why do you cry?
He has risen. 
Why are you weeping?
He is not dead.
He shed his blood
(ohh ohh ohh)
For my transgressions
(ohh ohh ohh)
Why do you cry?
He has risen.
Why are you weeping?
He is not dead


2) Full and Active participation