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The Sacred Liturgy . . . Lay Participation

October 8, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Part 2

In the previous article, I pointed out that the Sacred Liturgy of the Church of Jesus Christ, however impressive in its beauty and sacredness it may be, is not a theatrical spectacle attended by onlookers, but an act of divine worship by ministers and faithful alike.
Our Holy Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and actual participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Peter 2:9), have a right and duty by virtue of their Baptism.
Of course, we are referring here to the dignified celebration of the Holy Mysteries, especially in its traditional Rites, both Eastern and Western, not the clown Masses or every other form of ridiculous improvisation we have found in recent times, with dancing girls and clapping and shouting nonsensical sounds.
The lay faithful participate in the Sacred Liturgy by performing their particular actions, such as saying or singing the hymns, psalms, and parts of the liturgy that are proper to them; following the other texts; listening to the readings and sermon, but always by offering themselves to God in union with the sacred action taking place at the altar in the presence of God, His angels, and His saints.
The active participation necessarily demands, above all, the inner participation in silence, stillness, listening, and contemplation. In the Mass, for example, the laity joins with the priest in offering the saving Victim to God, and themselves along with Him. Their highest form of participation is to receive the Lamb of God in the Sacred Banquet.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote an apostolic exhortation titled Sacramentum Caritatis, which I strongly recommend to our Wanderer readers: You can either purchase a copy or download one from the Vatican website to read.
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that the primary function of the Church is not to promote social issues like immigration or providing medical care. Her primary function is to perform and lead the people to worship God and to save their souls.
Just as the function of a fire department is to put out fires but not to do fund-raising for the poor in Third World countries; just as the purpose of medical doctors is to heal the illnesses of their patients and not to provide soup kitchens for the homeless; just as the function of nurses in a hospital is to assist the doctors and not to hear Confessions and celebrate Masses: Therefore, it would profit nothing for bishops and priests to use their influence and authority to bring about social change if the souls of those who benefit from such changes end up in Hell, together with those bishops and priests who helped them change society.
The Church has a supernatural purpose, and the natural purpose of helping people comes as a consequence of the first purpose.
The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, and, at the same time, the fount from which all her power flows. So, the Church prays, “Grant us, we beseech thee, O Lord, to frequent these mysteries worthily, for, as often as the commemoration of this sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our redemption is accomplished.”
Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the person of His minister, who stands in His place. He is present in the congregation, for He has promised, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
He is present in His Sacred Word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present in the sacraments, for when anyone baptizes, it is really Christ Himself who baptizes.
He is especially present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for He who once offered Himself on the cross, now offers Himself through His priests in an unbloody manner. And He is above all present in the Eucharistic Species of His Body and Blood. As St. Leo the Great says, “What was visible in our Redeemer has passed over into His sacraments.”
As an extension of the Incarnation, the Sacred Liturgy uses the matter created by God, and involves four elements: 1) persons, 2) places, 3) things, and 4) times.
Persons and actions: By persons is meant the people involved in the celebration, that is, the bishop, priest, deacon, acolytes, lectors, readers, cantor, choir, and members of the congregation all have their distinctive role in the sacred liturgy. Man’s soul is active in prayer and adoration, and his five senses are employed, as is his whole body in gestures and sacred movements, such as making the Sign of the Cross, processing, standing, bowing, genuflecting, and kneeling.
Music and language must be truly worthy of the Sacred Liturgy. Sacred music and singing make the celebration of the sacred mysteries more dignified and solemn, help lift the hearts of the faithful to God, and are conducive to rendering glory to God.
Through sacred music, “prayer is expressed more pleasantly, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly manifested, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem” (Musicam Sacram, Vatican II).
In plain English, the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is an act of divine worship, directed to God, and must be done in an honorable and befitting manner. Unfortunately, today many parish liturgy committees wreck the liturgy with improper innovations that debase the ceremony.
No wonder that, today, a growing number of young people choose the Traditional Latin Mass, because of its power to elevate their souls to God, even though such young folks may be labeled “rigid.” They are aware that the cross in Calvary was also “rigid,” and delight in the sacredness of the Catholic liturgy.
In the Roman Rite, Gregorian Chant is the perfect and proper expression of sacred music, and should be given pride of place. The Second Vatican Council insisted on this point (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 14). But with the invasion of modernism among the liturgists, both Gregorian Chant and the Latin language were expelled from the Mass. But, of course, there is a place for other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony. The traditional language of the Latin Rite is Latin, with sprinklings of Greek (“Kyrie eleison”) and Hebrew (“amen,” “alleluia,” “hosanna”).
Next article: The languages, places, and sacred things used in the liturgy.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is available to speak at Catholic events anywhere in the free world in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Please email Sacred or visit or phone 507-450-4196 in the United States.)

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