Lay participation in the traditional Mass

Although the original thread was closed due to some uncharitable posts, I thought that Pug brought up a good topic that deserves some actual discussion and clarification

The topic was regarding the participation of the laity in the Classical Latin Mass and what qualifies as assisting or participation in the Mass.

First, I would like clarify and expand my thoughts on the subject from my original post in the other thread. When we think of lay participation in the Mass we often think of the “extraordinary” lay readers and ministers of Holy Communion, the cantors (no, not the ones that are supposed to lead the choir- I’m talking about the ones that stand at the lectern with their hands raised in the orans posture singing the versicles and trying to get a response from the congregation), and various other Liturgical roles passed off to the laity in the Novus Ordo. However, the traditional definition of lay participation in the Mass is quite different, and I think the preface to my 1955 St. Joseph’s Daily Missal says it well:

“To follow the priest in saying the prayers of the Missal is the most fruitful way of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: “they are to be praised who with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the Roman Missal so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray in the very words and sentiments of the Church” (Mediator Dei).”

So basically, to participate in the Mass one needs only to follow along in their Missal book and (as a fine traditional priest once told me) pray the responses (given vocally by the server and/or the choir) silently in preparation for Holy Communion (in the TLM, the server responds on behalf of the congregation). Vatican II called for active participation of the laity and, contrary to some traditionalists, this was something called for by Pius XII and even St. Pius X. Up until the late 1960s, after Vatican II, did active participation begin to take on the new meaning it has today. St. Pius X called for the laity to Gregorian chant so that at Sung Masses the congregation might join the choir in singing some of the Ordinary prayers that held important meaning for the congregation (I believe these were the Kyrie, the Gloria and the Credo, with the rest of the Ordinary and the Propers left to the priest and the choir- these are simple chants that can easily be learned by the congregation).

Another thing to keep in mind when considering lay participation is that the Mass was not directed to the people, but to God. Many Novus Ordo Masses today are performances- it is from this mindset that we get liturgical dancers, bad music and worse. The average parish church today has the priest wearing a clip-on microphone, sometimes with other mics around the sanctuary, even fixed to the altar, so that the congregation can hear every word that comes out of his mouth. In the traditional Mass, it matters little whether the congregation hears the priest or not- in fact; some Low Masses (Masses which are completely spoken rather then Sung) are entirely inaudible. The prayers of the Mass are directed to God and the congregation can pray by themselves.

Now, some people might get a little angry to know that some in the congregation might be praying some private devotions during Mass. A fine traditional priest once explained to me however, that these devotions are fine if prayed with the Mass- for example, one might pray the rosary while contemplating the actions of the priest in the Mass. That is- have private devotions if you wish, but do not let them distract you from the greater devotion and worship happening around you.

And finally, let me say that only the priest celebrates Mass. To say that the laity celebrates Mass is even incorrect in the NO. Only the priest may offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just as only Christ offered Himself up as that Sacrifice.

Active participation in the mass was called for long before Pius X. His reforms were not out of thin air, nor were his intentions limited to the Breviary.

Many Novus Ordo Masses today are performances

Are they really? I haven’t noticed this.

I think that the Church is trying to find ways for people to participate more actively, and in the search, some things have gotten out of hand.


It seems–our Holy Father has noticed–since he brought this up in response to priests on the liturgy.

zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=95563

Code: ZE06092722

Date: 2006-09-27

Pope’s Response to Priests on the Liturgy

“We Ourselves Must Interiorize the Structure, the Words”

Thus, the fundamental element of the true “ars celebrandi” is this consonance, this harmony between what we say with our lips and what we think with our heart. The “Sursum corda,” which is a very ancient word of the liturgy, should come before the Preface, before the liturgy, as the “path” for our speaking and thinking. We must raise our heart to the Lord, not only as a ritual response but as an expression of what is happening in this heart that is uplifted, and also lifts up others.

In other words, the “ars celebrandi” is not intended as an invitation to some sort of theater or show, but to an interiority that makes itself felt and becomes acceptable and evident to the people taking part. Only if they see that this is not an exterior or spectacular “ars” – we are not actors! – but the expression of the journey of our heart that attracts their hearts too, will the liturgy become beautiful, will it become the communion with the Lord of all who are present.

Thankyou, Caesar, for posting this. I was hesitant to retry my questions. You begin to touch on one of them by your use of Mediator Dei. I had just stumbled upon it, but I didn’t know to what era it belongs. From your post I gather it is not traditional, but part of an evolving idea of participation, one that had started to change slightly before Vat2, but that it is not part any idea that the laity must have roles like cantor and lector.

Was the idea of having the laity follow the missal (ie the parts and prayers of mass) during mass an evolution from the purely traditional? Or is it only the idea of the laity vocally responding that is the evolution?

It is clear to me that Mediator Dei itself knows that it is part of a growth or more fullness:

  1. We are very pleased to learn that this teaching, thanks to a more intense study of the liturgy on the part of many, especially in recent years, has been given full recognition. We must, however, deeply deplore certain exaggerations and over-statements which are not in agreement with the true teaching of the Church.

I don’t think I’m done commenting, but this is to start.

Well, I went to my very first traditional Mass today (offered once every two months in the diocese of Savannah), and I was amazed at how little the laity appeared to be involved. Still, it was a very educational experience.

Caesar,

I’m a little sorry to see that you disregarded authority in order to repost this thread. (Is that tradtional catholic teaching?)

Nevertheless, since you rehash the old argument, then will I respond with more detail regarding this incorrect statement:

And finally, let me say that only the priest celebrates Mass. To say that the laity celebrates Mass is even incorrect in the NO. Only the priest may offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just as only Christ offered Himself up as that Sacrifice.

This is not the Church’s teaching, albeit you may have been instructed with this idea from your tradtional pastors or from private studies that are false, which is why I asked how you understand the Orate Frates. In the vernacular it is clear. “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and YOURS may be acceptable to God…”

Maybe our point of disagreement is not really that at all, for I do agree that only the priest is the celebrant, but the people as participants are able to offer the Mass. We do not simply occupy a pew in passive private prayer. Review this present mind of the Church in her teachings from the CCC:

I. WHO CELEBRATES?

1136 Liturgy is an “action” of the whole Christ (Christus totus). Those who even now celebrate it without signs are already in the heavenly liturgy, where celebration is wholly communion and feast.

The celebrants of the heavenly liturgy:

1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: "the Lord God."1 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one "who offers and is offered, who gives and is given."2 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.3

1140 It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates. "Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is ‘the sacrament of unity,’ namely, the holy people united and organized under the authority of the bishops. Therefore, liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of the Church. They manifest it, and have effects upon it. But they touch individual members of the Church in different ways, depending on their orders, their role in the liturgical services, and their actual participation in them."7 For this reason, "rites which are meant to be celebrated in common, with the faithful present and actively participating, should as far as possible be celebrated in that way rather than by an individual and quasi-privately.8

1141 The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who, "by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices."9 This “common priesthood” is that of Christ the sole priest, in which all his members participate:10

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active 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,” have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism.11

1142 But "the members do not all have the same function."12 Certain members are called by God, in and through the Church, to a special service of the community. These servants are chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the person of Christ the head, for the service of all the members of the Church.13 The ordained minister is, as it were, an “icon” of Christ the priest. Since it is in the Eucharist that the sacrament of the Church is made fully visible, it is in his presiding at the Eucharist that the bishop’s ministry is most evident, as well as, in communion with him, the ministry of priests and deacons.

1188 In a liturgical celebration, the whole assembly is leitourgos, each member according to his own function. The baptismal priesthood is that of the whole Body of Christ. But some of the faithful are ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders to represent Christ as head of the Body.

Joysong, permit me to be pompous for a minute…

PLEASE can you give your side of the argument without resorting to the tone? It makes for a more pleasant discussion.

Ceasar has not disregarded authority or anything. Leastways, I can see it. The last thread was closed because certain people turned it into a private argument thereby depriving the forum of a good topic that ought to be discussed whether one takes whatever opinion, yours included. If that thread had been left alone it would have turned into private war, and spiralled out of control. I have no idea whether Jo Benedict follows the same moderating style but I remeber in L&S how one moderator (don’t even know if it was Marian Carrol spoke of how it is not easy to go on deleting posts and the mods sometimes opt for closing the htread)

What happens if you post with this tone? Someone else will reply with a similarly tone statement and this threads will go the way of the other one. Which serves absolutely no purpose.

I concur. This is a good topic and I do not want it to be locked again.

Joysong,

Could that (CCC) be viewed as uniting your prayers to the priest’s? That is participating. As well as speaking the responses. What more is required than that? I see nothing there stating we MUST sing/lector or what have you for full and active participation.

After all, the laity had never done these things until recently (save High Mass for the singing). So Holy Mother Church cannot declare that those things are REQUIRED, because if she did the Masses for the last few thousand years would have led many people astray for not “fully” participating.

And what of a private Mass with just the priest? How can that liturgy be a community celebrated by the people?

I’m sorry you folks saw it as a tonal infraction, but I saw it as disobedience. AJV and I were just involved in a thread last week where traditionists upheld the right to disobey even the Pope, if they felt he was wrong. In overriding the forum rules advising us not to reinstate closed threads, it appeared to me that if one’s reason was a good one, they are free to disobey.

My words were more or less a hint that the witness for traditionalism is being compromised by this action.

Yes, it was sad to see the thread closed, for there were loose ends that needed clarification. I would hope Caesar obtained permission from the Administrators?

I will get back to you shortly, Unfinished, for there were some gray areas that you opened up which were not previously discussed and require more references.

I get so much more out of the Mass when I’m able to silently pray during the Mass, while still following along with what’s going on at the altar. After one attends the Latin Mass several times and becomes familiar with it, it is not necessary to flip through the Missal to know what’s going on (although I still like using the Missal in order to pray the Mass with the celebrant and follow along with his words). But as far as knowing what the priest is doing, that becomes second nature after attending several times.

I went to the Latin Mass this morning (low daily Mass), and prayed my Rosary during it. I found it absolutely beautiful. As I was praying to Our Lady (who was surely present at the altar with the priest, angels, saints, and holy souls), I was contemplating the Joyful Mysteries, meditating on Our Lord’s incarnation and birth, as the priest was consecrating the Eucharist. It was incredibly edifying. I felt rested and renewed afterwards. When I used to attend the Novus ordo, I would feel like I had just been to some noisy convention with no time to pray. Hardly edifying.

Thank God for the True Mass!

Dear UKcatholicGuy,

I enjoyed reading your post, and I have had the same feelings after having attended the normative Mass. I had trained myself to forget all that was going on around me and to focus on Jesus only. And then I finally had the courage to attend an indult Traditional Latin Mass, and felt free to worship with my whole body, rather than just my heart–my other senses ceased being assaulted by chatter and socializing.

Not being able to attend the TLM daily–it’s a bit too far to make the drive daily (gas is so expensive these days)–I so look forward to Sundays, and hope you might remember me sometimes in your prayers at the daily Mass.

We all participate differently at Mass, and your participation, or my participation is no better or worse than the other’s. I understand perfectly your sense of peace after Mass.

I loved following along with the Missal at Mass yesterday, my second TLM, and my first with a full Missal. I was so happy to be able to participate in not only the Priests prayers, but also in the completeness of the Scriptures that are prayed both aloud and silently during Mass. There is a sense of the eternal in the Rituals of the Mass that is lacking in the normative Mass, in my opinion only, that makes me feel connected to not only the Apostles and our Church Fathers and the first generations of Christians, but to David and to Abraham also–I don’t know if that makes any sense.

Yesterday, I had a sense of what Peter (and James and John) must have experienced at the Transfiguration. You gotta love Peter, for all of his bumbling humanity…

I suppose this is what I love most about the TLM. The connections to our past, our present and our future.

Joysong, I am sorry that you feel this is an act of disobedience to the forum mods, but I was under the impression that it was the uncharitable posts (I could point fingers, but I wont) in that thread which resulted in it’s closure, not the topic. I can see no reason why this thread can not be left open if the posters refrain from getting into personal arguments. And since I am of the opinion that this is an important issue which needs some more discussion, I am politely asking you (and everyone else) to leave the unchaitable posts and personal vendettas at the door. Thank you.

[quote=Pug]Thankyou, Caesar, for posting this. I was hesitant to retry my questions. You begin to touch on one of them by your use of Mediator Dei. I had just stumbled upon it, but I didn’t know to what era it belongs. From your post I gather it is not traditional, but part of an evolving idea of participation, one that had started to change slightly before Vat2, but that it is not part any idea that the laity must have roles like cantor and lector.

Was the idea of having the laity follow the missal (ie the parts and prayers of mass) during mass an evolution from the purely traditional? Or is it only the idea of the laity vocally responding that is the evolution?

It is clear to me that Mediator Dei itself knows that it is part of a growth or more fullness:
[/quote]

As any of the older members of CAF who grew up with the TLM can tell you, with regular attendance at the traditional Mass one can easily learn the latin prayers of the Ordinary of the Mass and understand what is happening at the altar.

The idea of the congregation giving the responses with the server was started by Pius XII, although I wont hesitate to say the idea predates his reign, and is possibly a throwback to the early Church. So yes, the allowance for Missa Recitatas is the product of the evolution of lay participation in the Mass. However it is important not to confuse this idea with the idea that the laity should participate in the offering of the Mass itself at the Altar- Pius XII certainly never meant to have laity holding hands around the altar during the consecration ;).

Could that (CCC) be viewed as uniting your prayers to the priest’s? That is participating. As well as speaking the responses. What more is required than that? I see nothing there stating we MUST sing/lector or what have you for full and active participation.

After all, the laity had never done these things until recently (save High Mass for the singing). So Holy Mother Church cannot declare that those things are REQUIRED, because if she did the Masses for the last few thousand years would have led many people astray for not “fully” participating.

And what of a private Mass with just the priest? How can that liturgy be a community celebrated by the people?

Excellent point.

Besides, also present at the Mass are the choirs of Angels and the Saints themselves wh offer up their prayers in union with the entire Church in the continuing Sacrifice.

Actually, I generally find them FAR more involved that at most N.O Masses I’ve seen.

I think you misunderstand exactly what the involvement of the faithful is supposed to be.

The Active Participation is our willful joining with the Actio of the minister.

In the case of the Liturgy of the Word, we actively participate to the the extent that we listen and take to heart the lesson of Scripture and the Homily.

In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the faithful actively participate to the extent that they offer themselves ALONG with the Sacrifice offered by the priest.

In both cases, silence is Mandatory to achieve the most active participation.

I would hightly recommend Pope Benedict’s “The Spirit of the Liturgy”. He describes this in substantially more detail. :thumbsup:

Ratzinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy is a great resource for this contemporary perversion of “participation”.

I have said it before, but as long as we persist in letting lay people pass out communion all the while calling them “Eucharistic Ministers” (something that applies only to those who can confect the Eucharist, namely bishops and priests), as long as we constantly refer to “apostolates” as “ministries”, as long as we speak of priests and “lay ministers” in the same breath, NO ONE WILL FIND THE PRIESTHOOD ATTRACTIVE! Why is it that we shoot ourselves in the foot by insisting on laypeople doing priests’ jobs, and then we don’t care about the priest shortage? Is it because no one wants to make the sacrifices that the priesthood demands when they can just be a “lay minister” and do the same thing? Is it because the existing “lay ministers” see an ordained person as a threat to their “identity”.

Here’s gas for anyone who likes to raise an eyebrow: tell your friendly, neighborhood “Eucharistic Minister” that they should be praying for the day when they can happily relinquish their “role” to an ordained priest or deacon. The sad thing is, this is their idea of “active participation”, and a priest would get into more trouble getting rid of the habitual use of EMHC’s than he would for denying the Creed.

This brings to mind a change. In the 1917 code, is it the case that the priest was not supposed to celebrate mass without a server (at least) to say the responses? If you read Latin, you want canon 813 to check. I don’t read Latin, but I think that is partly what it says.

But nowdays, the rule is more like the priest is to have some member of the faithful there, except in the case of that ever typical “just cause” phrase.

What does this change represent, especially as it might relate to the topic of the thread? Did the old canon have the “just cause” thing on it also?

Interesting point.

I believe this may be “forbidden” now under the new law (I could be wrong), but this was most certainly allowed prior to the Council. It was understood that even when the priest was celebrating alone, he was not truly alone, as the angels, saints, and the holy souls in purgatory were there with him (and indeed they are at every Mass!). That’s why he would still turn and say, “Orate, fratres . . .” That is, “Pray, brethren . . .” It was understood that he was asking the saints, angels, and holy souls to pray. Very, very beautiful. We’ve completely lost the supernatural aspect of the Mass under the Novus. It’s all about the “people” now. How sad.

It is not forbidden under the current canon law. It is allowed, but only in the case of a “just and reasonable cause”. To look it up you want number 906, oh, well, here it is:

Can. 906 Except for a just and reasonable cause, a priest is not to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice without the participation of at least some member of the faithful.

Thank you for the clarification.

God bless.

Thanks for the information! Hopefully I can go to the next TLM in April.

Also, when I speak of involvement, I am thinking more of the responses the laity give during the Novus Ordo Mass. I don’t know much about EMHC’s, though I can see potential for abuse in that area.

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