"MOTHER CHURCH earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy ...
"In the restoration and promotion of the liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is to be considered before all else: for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit ..." (Constitution on the Secred Liturgy.) I ask:
To what extent has your parish been involved in liturgical renewal in the past 12 years? Have you welcomed liturgical renewal or merely accepted it? What value do you place on such things as lay readers, the use of Latin, offertory processions, Signs of Peace, Bidding Prayers from the people, House Masses and Folk Masses?
To 'what extent have you discovered in your parish that the celebration of the Eucharist is the centre of the whole Christian life? How better could it be made clear that it is a parish rather than an individual celebration?
If preaching is to influence the mind of the listener more fruitfully, such preaching must not present God's Word in a general and abstract fashion only, but it must apply the perennial truth of the Gospel to the concrete circumstances of life. (Decree on the Ministry and the Life of Priests.) Does this happen enough? What popular devotions would you like to see restored or introduced? What place does your parish give to such things as the Rosary, Benediction, Services of Penance and Bible Services?
How could your parish be more fully instructed on the importance 01 the liturgy (including the value and place of music) and the significance of the new rites of baptism, penance and marriage?
This emphasis on participation is again shown in the "General Instruction on the Roman Missal." In this it states
that the Mass should be so arranged that ministers and people may take their own proper part in it, and that details of the celebration should be so organised as to lead to "full, active and conscious participation."
In addition, the particular character and circumstances of the community in which the Eucharist is celebrated have to be considered. It is for this reason that Bishops' Conferences are empowered to lay down norms which suit the traditions, temperaments or particular groups of people of which they are the leaders.
Participation by all in the liturgy is once more encouraged by the light thrown ever since Vatican 11 on "the royal priesthood of the faithful". 1 his is different from that of the ministerial priesthood, but even so an increased avt'areness of its meaning on the part of many in the past few years has meant that certain features of the Mass have received greater attention.
Congregations are no longer intended to be mere spectators at the celebration of Mass but active participants of dynamic communities. It should now be clearer that "the celebrating people are in fact the People of God, purchased by the Blood of Christ, convened by the Lord, nourished by his word, a people called on to lay before God the entreaties of all mankind."
In practice this requirement of increased participation entails careful thought and preparation on theparts of both priests and people. Genuine renewal in a parish's liturgical celebrations demands more than simply asking lay people to take part in an offertory procession, act as readers or play a guitar at a youth Mass.
The place and value of silence during a Mass needs to be properly gauged. Bidding Prayers from the people should be encouraged to reflect their actual and specific needs and those of other people. The homily is intended to apply Scripture to the spiritual needs of those present.