On March 27, 1966, Paul VI presided at Mass at the Parish of Mary Immaculate in Rome. What follows are excerpts from his homily delivered on that day.
A second understanding of the Council is the reform of the liturgy, and in a most beautiful and fruitful direction. The Council has taken the fundamental position that the faithful have to understand what the priest is saying and to share in the liturgy; to be not just passive spectators at Mass but souls alive; to be the people of God responsive to him and forming a community gathered as one around the celebrant.
Look at the altar, placed now for dialogue with the assembly; consider the remarkable sacrifice of Latin, the priceless repository of the Church’s treasure. The repository has been opened up, as the people’s own spoken language now becomes part of their prayer. Lips that have often been still, sealed as it were, now at last begin to move, as the whole assembly can speak its part in the colloquy with the priest, at least during the preparatory and dismissal rites of the Mass. No longer do we have the sad phenomenon of people being conversant and vocal about every human subject yet silent and apathetic in the house of God. How sublime it is to hear during Mass the communal recitation of the Our Father!
In this way the Sunday Mass is not just an obligation but a pleasure, not just fulfilled as a duty, but claimed as a right. To be entitled to go to Mass, to rest from work on Sunday, to devote at least one hour a week to the aspirations of the spirit is an inalienable possession: the capacity to speak to God of one’s sorrows, hopes, toil, of every anxiety; it is to bring to God the experiences of the week with its daily trials and to offer all to him. At Mass the Lord transforms them all into himself, becoming in the Eucharist our food and drink, as the bread and wine are symbols of all human strivings. In the Eucharist, then, the Lord transforms our human existence into one that is divine.
Be then, fervent at the Sunday Mass; hold on to it jealously; endeavor to fill every corner of your parish church, to be part of a host of people surrounding the altar. Say to your priests: make us understand; open the book to us. And learn to sing. A Mass celebrated with the song of the people makes for the full rising up of the spirit. St. Ambrose—one of the first bishops to introduce sacred singing into the Christian community—expressed this striking thought: “When I hear an entire assembly sing with one voice ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God’ my spirit is flooded with happiness; nothing in the world can possess such grandeur and majesty.”
This is the sublime reality; humanity reaches the heights; it speaks to God and makes itself heard in heaven with the voices of all: of children, of men and women, of the suffering. Humanity sings a hymn to the glory of God “in the highest,” and asks for and receives “peace to his people on earth.”