I was almost seven years old the first time I experienced Mass celebrated in English. My memory is fuzzy, but I looked up the date—First Sunday of Advent, 1964.
In a previous post, we looked at some of the circumstances of the 19th and 20th centuries that led to a desire for greater participation of the baptized priesthood in the celebration of the liturgy. The underlying goal was not exactly participation itself, but the renewal and restoration of society.
The early liturgical movement was disrupted and transformed by the Second World War. After the war, the focus of the liturgical movement became more internally focused, with a strong emphasis on the participation of the people in the liturgy.
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred 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 of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 14)
What reforms did we see?
The methods for fostering that “before all else” concern for liturgical participation seem commonplace now, but were revolutionary for Catholics in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the reforms include:
- The celebration of the liturgy in the language of the people
- The reform of the lectionary with a vastly greater exposure to scripture
- The restoration of the dialogic nature of the liturgy
- The retrieval of the liturgical year as the framework for worship
- The restoration of Sunday as a “little Easter”
- The restoration of the Triduum as the climax of the liturgical year
- The restoration of the catechumenate as the normative way of initiating disciples
- The encouragement of more frequent communion
- The restoration of the cup for the entire assembly
- The active engagement of the baptized priesthood in the ministries of the liturgy
It is difficult to overstate how much these changes in the liturgy have transformed the church. On the whole, Catholics are not only participating more at Mass, they are also participating more in the life of their parishes. That was the goal of the Second Vatican Council.Pope Francis has repeatedly urged Christians to go out to the peripheries of society to bring healing and good news to those most in need. How will the baptized priesthood be equipped and energized for such a monumental mission? Click To Tweet
What remains to be accomplished is moving that robust Catholic participation out into society. Virgil Michel’s maxim, “The liturgy is the indispensable basis of Christian social regeneration,” has yet to be realized.
Going out to the peripheries
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged Christians to go out to the peripheries of society to bring healing and good news to those most in need. But given that few Catholics pay attention to Catholic media and even fewer read papal exhortations and encyclicals, how will the baptized priesthood be equipped and energized for such a monumental mission?
The answer is a renewed commitment to even deeper participation the liturgy. “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 10).
In a future post, we will discuss what that deeper participation looks like.
See also these related articles:
- Four things the bishops expect us to know about liturgical participation
- The joy of the feast of the Presentation of the Lord
- After a 1,500 year gap, the church recovered its ancient method of joining believers to Christ
- Prepare to tell the whole story
- Moving from technique to artistry: Three levels of liturgical participation
- Do you remember the liturgical revolution of Vatican II?
- Liturgical participation: if you’re not doing, you’re not learning
- Nurturing a servant attitude in liturgical music
- Do not grow tired. Sing with joy!
- True Hospitality
Image credit: Perry Grone, Unsplash