Last week, I wrote about how Fr. Mike Schmitz explained why we don’t drink coffee at Mass. Essentially, he said that through our baptism, we share in the priesthood with Jesus when we were anointed with Sacred Chrism as “priests, prophets, and kings.” That makes us “kingdom priests,” while Fr. Todd and Fr. Tomy are consecrated (ordained) as “ministerial priests.” As kingdom priests, we do not go to Mass to watch and drink coffee. We go to actively participate in the worship of God. This week, let’s look at what “active participation” at Mass really means.
The Second Vatican Council called for “full, conscious and active participation” in the Mass by the people. Changes were made to the Mass to help make this happen. Among those changes were: turning the Altar so the priest faced the people, praying the Mass in the native language instead of Latin, using non-ordained people such as lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, including a dialogue of prayers between the priest and the people, and receiving Communion in the hands. All of these changes were designed to encourage and allow active participation of God’s people to come together in worship to celebrate God’s presence among us.
But active participation is more than these changes. Active participation means both our heart and mind are awake, alert, and engaged. It means on the inside, we participate with all the powers of the soul in the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial love. On the outside, we say and do things with sacred gestures, postures, speech, and song. Active participation develops the relationship between our soul and body to unite us with what is taking place on the altar. All of this so we can bear witness to our faith and share that experience with others.
Pope Benedict wrote that active participation in the Mass means being a part of something bigger and more awe-inspiring: that God dwells among us. If we truly believe God’s divine presence is everywhere, then why wouldn’t we actively participate as kingdom priests in the Mass?