The phrase “active participation” was conceived by the saintly Pope Pius X. He explained: If you wish to participate in the Mass actively, you must follow with your eye, heart, and mouth all that happens on the altar… You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings … and in this manner, you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass.”
Active participation entails participation of mind and heart expressed through bodily gestures, sacred signs, praying, singing in union with the whole assembly. During the Mass we take different postures like standing, sitting and kneeling down; Kneeling is an expression of our submission before the majesty of God and a sign of our adoration. It is by singing and responding to the priest’s prayers, we are taking active participation.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on Dec. 4, 1963. It explains: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation… such a participation is their right and duty by reason of their baptism…”
While celebrating the Holy Mass, the priest acts in the person of Christ, as the head of the assembly, present in the Church. While the priest performs the celebration, the assembled faithful are expected to be present as conscious and active participants, rather than mere observers. In other words, they should not be like silent spectators, on the contrary, they should involve themselves by praying, singing and consciously being present in the celebration.
With this column, I bring to an end my explanation about the significance of the Holy Mass. I hope that you have gained a greater understanding of what we celebrate. My earnest appeal to you, now, is that you take active participation from the beginning until the end of the Mass.
May God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V