I am away from my home parish today. I attended Holy Mass with my wife at a church where no one knows me. We enjoyed one of the very rare opportunities to sit together in the pews during Mass. Normally I am serving in the Sanctuary in my role as deacon.
Anyway, this morning I was both a member of the family of God offering worship from the nave and an observer of what took place in the Sanctuary. For those of you who never serve in the Sanctuary, let me just say that for me and most priests and deacons I know, we are aware of what takes place in the nave, but only in a general way. But this morning, finding myself in the pew, I was totally aware of the altar servers, the deacon and the priest… to the point of distraction. Let me say that this was my fault, not theirs, for their part was performed humbly, reverently, attentively and subliminally. The altar servers, in particular, had a very prominent role, and they performed it to perfection, every one of the four knew exactly what they were to do and did it perfectly.
Indeed, the example set by those leading the liturgy was done so well, that before I knew what was happening, I turned within and joined, interiorly, my prayers, sacrifice and thanksgiving to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirt.
Vatican II called us to a renewed understanding of active participation. Too often we mistake “doing things” that can be seen or heard (reading, singing, welcoming, ushering, etc.) for active participation. While those external things are very important, they must only serve and cannot take the place of true active participation which is at its essence an interior act of communion with our God through liturgy.
May God Bless the parish family I visited today and may its pastor continue in his good work.