Liturgy: The Work of the People
Lumen gentium (Light of the Nations), known by its English title as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church was promulgated on November 21, 1964. This important constitution laid the foundation for many of the documents that followed in Vatican II. Lumen gentium explained:
• the Church’s nature and historical existence (chapters I and II),
• the different roles in the Church (chapters III and IV),
• the universal call to holiness and religious life (chapters V and VI),
• and the saints and Mary (chapters VII and VIII).
When infants or children are baptized, they are also chrismated (anointed with Chrism on the crown of the head). Immediately prior to that the priest or deacon says, “Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has freed you from sin, given you new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and joined you to his people. He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation, so that you may remain as a member of Christ, Priest, Prophet, and King, unto eternal life” (Order of Baptism of Children, 98, emphasis added). Lumen gentium in Chapter II sought to remind each member of the faithful that they are kingdom priests—“a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9)—taking part in Jesus’s priestly ministry. What is the function of a priest? To offer sacrifice and worship the Lord. Lumen gentium says:
Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. … The faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. (§10)
Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; … Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It. Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. (§11)
So when we come to Mass, all members of the faithful take part in offering the Eucharistic sacrifice along with the ministerial priest who functions in persona Christi capitis—in the person of Christ the head. By our “fully conscious and active participation” (Sacrosanctum Concilium [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy], 14) in the Mass and other liturgical celebrations, we truly make leitourgia (“liturgy”) what it is and what it means: the work of the people. Each person present has a part to play and a role to fulfill. In liturgy, there are no spectators! Going one step further, since the liturgy is ultimately an offering of oneself for the other (sacrifice) and to God (worship), what each person contributes in the liturgy is not done for oneself, but for the service of his or her neighbor. Lumen gentium says:
All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity. … In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. …They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. (§40)
With that, I want to encourage each of us to prayerfully consider two things:
1) Is my participation in the liturgy “fully conscious and active?” Have I prepared myself by reading the readings ahead of time? Do I respond? Do I sing? During musical meditations or moments of silence, am I lifting my heart and mind to the divine in prayer? Do I do my best to focus entirely on God or am I distracted with other things on my to-do list?
2) As we see many of our ministries beginning again this weekend, ask yourself how you can most fully serve the parish in the liturgy. God has given each of us gifts to build up his kingdom! We are always in need of choir members, bell ringers, vocalists, instrumentalists, cantors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, ushers, greeters, servers, lectors, gift bearers, mass coordinators, livestream operators, and more! Remember, what we do in the liturgy is not done for self, but for others. Is God calling you one of the ministries listed above so you can offer a sacrifice and gift of yourself for your brothers and sisters? If you would like information on any of these ministries, please contact me! May God bless you!