Understanding active participation

Father Z responds to a question about the prayerful invitation by the priest to the faithful to : “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” An invitation given when the gifts of bread and wine are on the altar, have been prayed over and incensed.

In relation to this point in the order of Mass, Father Z offers a great way to help our active participation, to unite the actions of the priest and the needs and prayers of the congregation:

Here is something I can recommend for your deeper active participation in this invitation by the priest.

It can help to identify ourselves with the gifts placed on the altar for consecration.

The congregation is  invited by the priest to unite their sacrifices to those he offers in his manner of offering.

We all have both burdens and reasons to rejoice.  Therefore, when the priest or deacon is preparing the chalice, when he puts drops of water (the symbol of the human) into the wine (the symbol of the divine) to be mingled – the lesser being transformed within the greater – try consciously to  place into that chalice all your cares, aspirations, sentiments of gratitude, petitions, and all that you are.  Let it all be joined, before they are stupendously transformed by God.

Active participation can sometimes be a difficult concept. It does not mean that we should all have things to do during the Mass, as so many would often have us believe. Active participation is not about our duties as acolytes, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, choir members or whatever. Rather, it hinges on the active nature of our part in what Mass is really about: the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the salvation He has brought us, and continuous to bring.

When we think about how we take part in the celebration of the Mass – because it is an act by all the faithful joined together, priest and laity alike – we should not primarily consider the duties we take upon ourselves, not the outward ‘activity’ or our own busy-ness, but our conscious – active – participation in what Christ, through the order of the Mass and the priest, asks of us. We are there “through Him and with Him and in Him”, to hijack but another line from Ordo Missae, and what better moment is there to offer all our “cares, aspirations, sentiments of gratitude, petitions, and all that [we] are” to Christ? We are in more than conversation with Him, and that requires an active attitude in ourselves. Father Z’s helpful recommendation is an example of that and, I think, a great thing to try the next time you are at Mass.

Of course, this is but one part of the entire great order of the Mass, but we have to start somewhere. Try and consciously follow what the priest says and does, and then try and see how you can actively participate in that, for the priest’s actions are those of Christ, and Christ is the one who calls us to Him.