A central feature of the Vatican II reform of the liturgy was the recovery of the assembly’s key role. Those old enough to remember the old Tridentine Rite will recall that the assembly simply watched and listened. They had no voice. The servers or the choir responded to the priest’s greeting, “Dominus Vobiscum” (The Lord be with you). They alone responded to the invitation to lift up their hearts.
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy put it this way:
In the reform and promotion of the liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim 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 and therefore pastors must zealously strive in all their pastoral work to achieve such participation by means of the necessary instruction. (#14)
This goal has met with mixed success in the 50+ years since the Council, but I am very pleased with what I experience here at St. Thomas More. The assembly was quick to learn the sung responses of the liturgy, and they sing them with enthusiasm. Here is a favorite example…One very young girl has learned to sing the Our Father at Mass. The family went to Mass in a different parish one weekend where they didn’t sing the Our Father. She was so disappointed that she was difficult to console.
If I were the only one singing at Mass, there would be no sense in that. This is not about the priest celebrant; it is about the “full, conscious, active participation by all the people” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #14). Thank you all for taking your role in the liturgy seriously.
~ Fr. Frank Coady