To be present is to listen first and then—immersed in the grace which God provides to those disposed to His grace—to respond wholeheartedly to God's invitation to holiness. Our response is first and foremost a response of the heart. Following the movement of the heart, the worshipper embodies the heart's inclination to adore. The body goes where the heart leads. (Obviously, the mind can be strengthened to choose a better part through the disciplines of fasting and prayer. Posture can condition in us the right mind for prayer. The Church rightly offers orthodox spiritual devotions or disciplines to help us train both the body and the mind to make us receptive to grace.) So, cognizant of the fact we are in the Presence of God, we kneel (at the Consecration). Recognizing we are in the company of the Lord, His angels and His saints, we bow (at the mention of the Name of Jesus and at the mention of the name of His Mother, and at the Holy Trinity). We bow or genuflect at the mention of the Incarnation (in the Credo). We sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross (at the beginning of the Mass as we affirm the great Mystery into which we are about to enter). We Sign ourselves again, thrice, at the Holy Gospel, the constitution of man's salvation in Christ. We make the Sign of the Cross once again as we receive the blessing of Almighty God at being sent forth to bear witness to the Holy Gospel: Ite Missa Est.
Many priests and laymen would have us believe that "a full and conscious participation" in the Liturgy means we must do more in a physical manner. That sense of 'full and conscious' participation is wrongly derived from a mistranslation of the original Latin—participatio actuosa. Our participation, if it be anything, is first and foremost actual, intentional, motivated by our intention to cooperate with God and be docile to the Holy Spirit.
If mere external activity was the goal, the word used in Council documents would have been activa, not actuosa. Intention is an action of the heart that "incarnates" in our ritual gestures that are responses to God's grace. This art of embodiment is graced action, an affirmative response to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to participate in the Sacrifice of Calvary.
Each baptized Christian bears the spiritual marks of the Crucifixion. We are called to live as "other Christs" bearing the Good News of salvation to a world that hungers for authenticity, life, hope, joy, love and faith. Ritual action teaches and forms us in the way of right action—graced action. Our acts must be configured to the grace of God.
The democratization of the Liturgy has resulted in a loss of depth in the music of the Mass. Sacred polyphony—truly sacred polyphony which is capable of bearing the message of the Gospel and capable, therefore, of bearing the soul deeply into the Mystery of God—has been marginalized by people who decry any high art as "performance music". Sunday to Sunday, we are forced to bear unsingable melodies set in registers hardly conducive to the congregation and barely singable by amateur choirs. Add to the weekly horror show singers who perform with a mile-wide vibrato and you have the reason why Catholic liturgical practices are ridiculed, and rightly so, by trained Catholic musicians who, not appreciated in their own communities, offer their talents for non-Catholic communities that honour skilled musicians and support them financially.
If we want to retain our best musicians, we must
- configure the celebration of the Liturgy to the music which is lauded by the Council: chant and sacred polyphony. In other words, priests and people must necessarily get with the Second Vatican Council program!
- offer qualified musicians (cantors and organists) a decent stipend. Professional or near-professional quality cantors should be employed (paid!) to present the music of the Mass. The Mass is meant to be sung, and there are parts of the Mass which require a trained cantor. So, let's train more cantors and pay additional qualified cantors to elevate the level of sung prayer from the level of the cheap, crass and mundane to the level of the true, the good and the beautiful. Let us offer our best to God, the One Who made us and Who redeems man from the grave. The Holy Trinity Who is deserving of all our praise and thanksgiving!