We attend Mass to participate, not merely observeQ: I was surprised by a recent note in our Church bulletin that suggested that, during Mass, the priest is the director, the people are actors and God is the audience. It seemed odd that the sacred liturgy of the Mass was compared to the theater of a play.
14. Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quae ab ipsius Liturgiae natura postulatur
Now, the notion of actually participating in Mass without talking all the time may be foreign to many of us. Yet, in the Liturgy as it was handed down from apostolic times until 1969, the notion of participation took in concepts of comprehension, yes, but focused primarily on a deep interior participation. If you are interested in this idea, check out the work of a good Catholic blogger who is not a so-called "traditionalist", Phil Blosser, here and here.
Worship, silence, meditation and contemplation (inherent in the EF, yet nearly impossible to find in the OF as it is commonly celebrated) work in harmony as a total, actual, participatory effort. This participation is not the role of a passive spectator, and it is a great disservice to Catholics to insinuate that it is. This actual participation in no way blurs the line between the action of the priest and that of the faithful, which is of necessity secondary. The priest doesn't need us to celebrate Mass, but we sure need him. This is as true, whether the participants acknowledge it or not, in the most sacrilegious "clown Mass" as it is in a Pontifical Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
The documents of Pius XII and St. Pius X, cited by the Monsignor, were written of actual participation by Catholics in the pews in the Mass we now call the Extraordinary Form. The idea of actual participation did not arise in 1962.
[At this point, some may point to the emergence of the so-called "dialogue Mass", which brings some of the vocal responses and prayers of the High Mass (where most are sung) to the Low Mass. You may have a preference for it, or against it, but this vocalization is not the essence of "actual participation". I don't want to turn this post into the "I like/I despise the dialogue Mass" debate, so end of digression.]
Monsignor goes on to state that the high point of the liturgy occurs at the "Eucharistic prayer" (I would further narrow this down to the moment of consecration). And this insight gives rise to a question I have asked my OF-attendee friends for years now when they talk about "active participation"-- "At what point of the Mass (i.e., their parish Ordinary Form Mass) are you most intensely participating?" Ninety-five percent of them say, "At the consecration." To which I respond, "And what are you saying at that time?"
Even those five percent who answer "When I receive Communion," are forced to admit that they are "passively" (to use the modern parlance) receiving Christ from the hands of another (we can only hope it is a priest) while merely saying "Amen." To me, one of the great flaws in the typical parish Mass is that the silence of the consecration and reception of communion give one a total of maybe two minutes of silence in which to contemplate and worship in peace without enduring the cacophony of noise that is omnipresent in most parish Masses.
Finally, I wish that anyone responsible for parish music would really, really read Sacrosanctum Concilium and Tra le Sollecitudini and tell me that there is any hope for actual participation while the faithful endure Gather Us In and its ilk.
This post is already too long, so I'll end. I am glad that the bulletin insert struck someone else as deficient, and I pray that the priests of our parishes will read the documents that Monsignor McCumber cites and implement this new translation according to the mind of the Church.