The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ~ “full, conscious and active participation”

We are in the third of a series of reflections on the premier document of the Second Vatican Council ~ The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  

Last time, we said that “the Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation that is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy (no. 14).

Today, we want to look at the implications of this amazing statement.  It indicates a dramatic change from the way we used to worship before Vatican II when we were mostly silent in Church and the priest was up there doing something we couldn’t see with his back towards us in a language we couldn’t understand.  Moreover, we didn’t look to the right or the left of us and the choir sang everything, usually, Mother, Dear, O pray for Me or other hymns in a solemn, pious voice.

Full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy brings us together in community.  

That was the reason they turned the altar around.  The Eucharist became an experience of family, of communion.   Our worship was no longer individualistic – between me and Jesus, me and God.

We were to find God in each other – to experience the horizontal dimension of the Cross, as well as the vertical.  All this becomes evident when we sing together.

Do you really pray when you go to Mass?  Do you listen to the readings and the homily?  Do you sing?

We Catholics were not known for our singing like the Protestants, but singing is an act of praise.  St. Augustine taught that the one “who sings prays twice,” though apparently he did not have a great voice himself.  So, you see, you can sing from your heart, even though you can’t carry a tune in a bucket!

Give praise to your God for what he’s done for you this past week.

When you say the “Our Father,” do you say it by rote, or do you pray it mindfully? 

When you offer the sign of peace to someone, do you look them in the eye and smile; in other words, do you do that well – or do you do it only because you’re supposed to?

The Liturgy Constitution also wanted dioceses to set up liturgy commissions (no. 44).  I recall right after my ordination driving the 68 miles from Orlando back to my parish in Satellite Beach late at night on a dark two-lane highway every few weeks for two years to set up the Diocesan Commission and then, as I said, the bishop appointed me Director of Liturgy.

I was all over the diocese giving training sessions for both priests and lay folk for four years, hoping that I could help them be “imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy.  I’ve had that spirit all my life and though I had to attend to my own ongoing liturgical education and training,  I did the best I could to set the Diocese of Orlando on a solid foundation in liturgical renewal.

One of the achievements I’d especially like to note is to this day almost every parish in the diocese offers communion from the chalice whereas some other dioceses do not.

We had to work hard to improve the music in the parishes. When I started, I had to wean the organists off of the “tremulo” that had the funeral parlor effect. So, early on I brought in Lucien Deiss for a workshop and later Alex Peloquin and others.

Today, most parishes have competent music directors and the hymn books are much improved as well. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians with my friends Dr. Michael McMahon and Dr. Gordon Truitt provide excellent support for parish musicians across the country.

The Council also restored the catechumenate for adults (no. 64). I was very interested in getting hands-on experience with the new Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  A few years earlier, I had attended a seminar led by Father Aidan Kavanagh who was the leading American authority on the catechumenate in those days.  I had the opportunity for two years to work with the new Rite and to form a catechumenate in a large parish in our diocese from ’66 – ’68 and then again in another parish in 1980.  We made a lot of mistakes in those early years.

The last quote I’d like to give from the SC is this:

“The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetition; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation (no.34).

 The reasoning that Pope John Paul set forth in calling for the revisions of the English translations of the Mass was to be more faithful to the Latin.

For example, the 2010 translation of the Gloria,

“and on earth peace to people of good will” is a literal translation of

                        “ et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.”

The 1970 translation has:

“and peace to his people on earth.

For most of our people the meaning of the sacred texts now is murky, not clear; encumbered, not simple.

And for many who’ve not known any of the old church, much of it is beyond their powers of comprehension – especially children. Jesus used plainspoken words in his parables and in prayer.

Our people seem resigned to the literal and arcane vocabulary “oblation,” “beseech,” “prevenient grace,” venerable”.

Let’s compare a few phrases from the 1970 translation (in red) and the present one (in black).

The Lord be with you . . .

And also with you. 

And with your spirit.

We Americans are used to being quite direct.  “And also with you,” connects with us better than “with your spirit,” that comes from the Latin “et cum spiritu tuo”.

From the Creed

one in being with the Father 

consubstantial with the Father

Most ordinary folks haven’t the slightest idea what the heck “consubstantial” means – and a child would stumble over it. They might think it was a special sandwich! (When I came home from first grade, I told my Mom I learned the Apostles Creek today.


born of the Virgin Mary

incarnate of the Virgin Mary

Why not speak simply?


He suffered, died and was buried. 

He suffered death was buried.


The Sanctus:


Lord God of power and might

Lord God of hosts.

The former is more understandable, more powerful.


Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Lord. I am not worthy for you to come under my roof but . . .

I realize that the latter reflects the Scripture story of the centurion and the formula from the old Latin Mass but it is weird, again, for children and just sounds odd to the American ear. If you have children, ask them what that calls to mind.  OK, that’s all for today.  We’ll tackle the priests’ parts ~ the Eucharistic Prayer that is a bit more problematic in our next section.

But before you go, here’s one of our beloved songs that came later in our repertoire of American liturgical music by the famous St. Louis Jesuits with a beautiful slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. CLICK HERE.

With love. 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer



One thought on “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ~ “full, conscious and active participation”

  1. Ray Blush October 16, 2012 / 4:22 am

    Thanks again Father Bob. Reminds me a lot of when we were altar boys at St. Johns back in the 50’s!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s