What is Active Participation in the Liturgy?

“I attended the Mass.” “I participated in the Mass.” Which is correct? The Constitution on Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II (first chapter) is Participation in the Mass. Participation could mean as passive or active. Passive participation means simply sitting in the Mass, not responding to the Mass prayers or being a part of any external activities of the Mass. Active participation is mostly understood as external activities such as responding Mass prayers, singing or serving as usher, lector or extraordinary minister etc. Ways to Paricipate at Mass

As a matter of fact, these external activities in the Mass by a person are good and they are needed, but they are secondary. As stressed by the Council, active participation means prioritizing the people’s hearts in the true spirit of the liturgy. How and when does it happen?

Action is primarily receptive. To be active does not mean to do stuff. It primarily means to be still and receive. It is a conscious recognition of what is happening to you, not what you are doing. This is a fundamental principle of the spiritual life. We grow in holiness by receiving Christ’s grace.

When angel Gabriel appeared to Mother Mary she responded “may it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:31). God took this receptive spirit and made it the most fruitful activity in the world history. Mother Mary conceived the second person of the Trinity. She contemplated

these events in her heart and responded to the mission of the Son till the end. She teaches us the real basis of active participation: to consciously recognize God’s presence and peacefully allow his will to inform our action.

Hence active participation means to be contemplatively and prayerfully engaged in the liturgical action of the Mass. When the word of God is proclaimed and Eucharistic prayer offered by the priest, the faithful are invited to actively contemplate them.

This kind of participation could bring profound change not only individually but to the parish community on the whole. We are so fortunate to participate in the liturgy in our own language so that one can truly contemplate on what is happening in the liturgy.

 If someone says “the Mass is boring”, “I go for a short Mass” or one is passive or distracted, then he/she is not actively participating in the Mass. There may be some, with this mind, attend the Mass for years, nothing happens to them. Because, they have not received the rich and meaningful actions in the liturgy consciously and peacefully. Thus when they have not enjoyed the true spirit of the liturgy, they just wait to get out of the church.

 We hope and pray that this Lent helps us to participate in the liturgy actively.

In the Service of the Lord,
   Father Thainese Alphonse



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St. Bernadette Catholic Church