The Ministry of the Assembly Part II


This column follows on from last week’s exploration of the role of the assembly in the Mass.

The procession with the gifts by members of the assembly is a powerful expression of our participation in the eucharistic action. It is the time when we prepare to unite ourselves with Christ’s offering.

The assembly prays the Eucharistic Prayer in unity as the Body of Christ. The people participate in the prayer through the opening dialogue and the three acclamations and by joining their personal praise and sacrifice to that of the Church. They approve and ratify the words and actions of the prayer by their resounding ‘Amen’ at the end.

The Lord’s Prayer is one part of the Mass in which everyone can and must participate fully, consciously and actively. This prayer is universal amongst Christians and no one should be left out.

The Sign of Peace is a gesture by which we impart to others the blessing of Christ’s peace, not a time for shaking hands and saying Hello to as many people as possible in the available time. It should take the form of an embrace or clasping of hands rather than a handshake. It is a symbolic gesture, so we need to concentrate on doing it deliberately and sincerely just with those immediately around us.

The communion procession is the action of walking and singing together to the Lord’s table where we eat and drink together, where we share communion with Christ and with one another. Receiving communion is not our private moment with Jesus but a public feast with the Risen Lord and his people. The silence that comes after all have received communion is the time to thank God for the gift of himself that we have just received.

The dismissal at the end of Mass is not so much an ending as a commissioning. We who have united ourselves to Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist have a duty and responsibility to live the mystery we have just celebrated, to be the Body of Christ in our homes, communities and workplaces.

Every member of the assembly plays his/her part in the celebration of the Church’s liturgy by:
· being hospitable and attentive towards those with whom we worship and extending a welcome to everyone, not just people we know.
· listening carefully, joining in the responses, sharing the sign of peace and being attentive to the symbols, sounds and smells of the celebration.
· praying our parts of the Mass as though every prayer depended upon our words. In the early Church in Rome the assembly’s response in the Great Amen sounded like the rumble of thunder! How does ours sound?
· joining in the singing whether we believe we have a good voice or not; singing is one way in which everyone can fully participate in the liturgy and join in the celebration of faith.
· extending our ministry as a worshipping assembly into the rest of our lives. In the words of the Leo Watt hymn: “Go now you are sent forth to live what you proclaim, to show the world you follow Christ in fact, not just in name”.


Elizabeth Harrington