From a reader…
Question: I have heard it said that during the Latin Rite Mass [Be careful with your terms. “Latin Rite Mass” also means Novus Ordo.] the laity should NOT be heard in their responses. I really have no idea if this is the case or not, but I will probably err on the side of being silent for all responses from now on, but I’ll feel badly about it. What, if any, parts of the Latin Rite Mass should include vocal responses from the people? Is it necessary at all? I’ll be happy to clam up.
This is a tough one. Some congregations are accustomed to make responses and some have been – well – pretty much silenced.
Popes of the 20th century were speaking about “active participation” (and they meant both interior actual participation and outward vocal participation) well before the Second Vatican Council. They advocated making responses. The Holy See 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”.
It seems to me that had this been fostered as Popes indicated, there would not been a vandalic rampage through the Roman Rite in the 60’s.
There are various goods in tension. I’ll leave aside the whole issue of having only clerics speaking the texts of Mass as a non-factor.
First, especially for a Low Mass, there is a lot to be said for stillness and silence, especially in our increasingly noisy world.
However, there is a lot to be said also, during the Missa Cantata or the Solemn Mass, for the outward manifestation of interior participation by the baptized who also share, in their own way, in Christ’s Priesthood.
Are there good reasons, in a Sung Mass or Solemn Mass, not to respond to “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 have an experience of such a congregation at my home parish. On Saturday mornings, they could sing whatever Mass was appropriate for the day. It took some years to get them there, but they could do it.
At the same time, I don’t think people should be bludgeoned into responding by someone with a microphone waving her hand around, as often happens with Novus Ordo affliction liturgists.
I occasionally wonder what it would be like to have a Solemn Mass for a church full of good choir members, amateur or pro. What would it be like to have the whole congregation burst into the Kyrie of the, say, Missa Brevis of Palestrina?
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 and stare when they have been addressed by the priest.
If alter Christus says something to you directly, you don’t just sit there and mutely stare or look around.
Each community has to work this out over time.
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.