From a reader:
I have been attending the TLM almost exclusively for four years now. Where I used to live the responses were always given by the servers and we were expected to unite ourselves silently. However I’ve just moved and here there is a bit of tension around whether the congregation should say the responses or not. Is there any reason they should or shouldn’t?
I think people should make the responses.
Popes of the 20th century were speaking about “active participation” before the Second Vatican Council. They advocated making responses. The Holy See then clarified the different ways or “levels” of vocally active participation, depending on the sort of Mass being celebrated and the occasion.
In a nutshell, before the Council, it was strongly encouraged that people make responses, especially at Solemn and Sung Masses. This applied often to Low Masses as well, the so-called dialogue Mass.
Is there a good reason why not to respond? Why not to respond “Et cum spirit tuo“, for example?
It is hard for me to think of one.
As a matter of fact, it would be great for congregations who are capable of doing so to sing the Ordinary chants (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.), though that takes a while to learn.
I don’t think people should be bludgeoned into responding by someone with a microphone waving her hand around, as often happens with affliction liturgy in the Novus Ordo.
The argument is sometimes made that since all the responses are texts of Mass they should therefore be spoken by clerics or those who substitute for clerics (such as a choir).
That said, if no one else at the place you are going makes responses – at all – then I don’t recommend making them loudly all by yourself.
I think it would be good for congregations to make responses. People don’t have to shout, but they should not just sit there when they have been addressed by the priest.
The bottom line is, however, that the first and foremost way of active participation, which should give rise to any exteriorly active participation, is the interiorly active receptivity we should foster during every Mass. Active participation begins within and then gives rise to outward expression.