It is interesting to listen to the discussions about ‘participation’ at Mass. There are those who think things need to be done by as many people as possible and there are those who think about participation as our interior activity during the Mass. All you need to do is go around to many of the churches in our diocese to see the wide range of understandings.

Cardinal Sarah, in his inaugural speech this month at the 2016 Sacra Liturgia in the United Kingdom spoke about this and the current state of celebrating the Mass and mentioned a maybe more foundational cause of what has happened in the past 50 years to the liturgy: ‘Too often we assume that knowing things about the liturgy is all that is required for liturgical formation, when what is more important is an immersion in the depths of the liturgy, a living out of a truly liturgical life.[1]

His comments and this discussion go much broader than just the ‘doings’ of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; it dives deep into the understanding of prayer as well.  To which we should ask ourselves: Do we just do prayer or are we immersed into prayer?

This question, of course, strikes to the heart of our participation in the Liturgy of the Hours.  If we are not careful we run the risk of only ‘doing’ the hours (specific prayers) and not allowing our conversation with God to come from deep within and allow His response to enter back deep within.

My friends in Christ, our understanding of liturgical action should be based on the realization that the physical actions, either in the Mass or the Divine Office, are not the goal of our participation. Among other reasons, they are meant to focus us and calm our physical being from the chaos of our life so that the spiritual effects of opening our minds and hearts to God is all the more fruitful.

If we come to the Mass to offer our participation in Christ’s sacrifice to His (and our) Father by opening ourselves to God’s transcendent reality then this should also be our attitude in prayer. Our participation in the Liturgy of the Hours should be more than the recitation of printed prayers that we do at certain points of the day; it should be part of an organic flow in our lives where we flow from our dialog with God into our daily activity then flow back into our dialog with God.  It really doesn’t matter if we understand everything about the Liturgy of the Hours if we don’t allow our prayer to immerse us into the cosmic reality of the Triune God. It doesn’t matter how exact, punctual and consistent we are in our daily prayer regime if it doesn’t affect our lives, and our lives doesn’t affect our next prayer. Of course there will be times that our prayer seems dry, seems mechanical, and we need to persevere through these times; not giving up, always praying, because that is what our faith calls for; but we need to cultivate our participation to make those times fewer and farther between.

Brothers and sisters let’s remember that we are both physical and spiritual, we need both physical and spiritual aspects of our faith, but don’t let the ‘doing’ of prayer crowd out what prayer can do for us.
[1] New Liturgical Movement – article on the Cardinal Sarah’s inaugural speech at the Sacra Liturgia UK gathering