7. Acclamations, Responses and Dialogues
What exactly are acclamations, responses and dialogues and where do they
occur in the liturgy? Let’s start with some basic definitions.
are shouts of joy by the assembly,
usually short, simple and easily sung. Some familiar examples include
the Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia), Sanctus/Holy, Memorial Acclamation,
and Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer.
together. The priest or deacon makes a statement to which the assembly
responds. An example of a simple response is “Amen” by which the
assembly gives their agreement to the prayer or action taking place.
Another example is the liturgical greeting “The Lord be with you” to
which the people respond “And also with you” creating a dialogue
between priest and assembly.
So, what does the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal
tell us about the purpose of these acclamations, responses, and
dialogues? Why are they important? For two related reasons:
participation and community.
The Church calls all the faithful to “full, conscious, active
participation” in the liturgy. These acclamations, responses, and
dialogues facilitate participation. The GIRM says that the
acclamations, responses and dialogues “foster and bring about the
communion between priest and people” (GIRM
no. 34). We are called to do more than just “attend” Mass. By our
baptism the Church expects us to actively participate by singing,
praying, responding to, and dialoguing with God and with one another.
When we come to Mass we gather as a community, not simply a group of
individuals. The celebration of the liturgy is something that we all do
together. We express this by joining our voices together in
acclamations. We show our unity by responding together. We participate
by joining in the dialogue. The GIRM
tells us that this is the level of participation “that the gathered faithful are to contribute in every form of the Mass” (GIRM
no. 35). It is by this active participation that we become a community of faith.
Why is this participation in community so important? This is how we
worship together. The Church tells us that just being present isn’t
enough. We are called to participation, to unite our voices in praise of
the goodness of God. This is how we become more and more a community,
brothers and sisters united in Christ.
Consider the everyday conversations of life. Imagine asking your spouse
how their day went and getting no reply; or inviting a friend to
dinner only to discover they won’t speak to you; or sharing good news
with a co-worker who simply ignores you and walks away. Our
participation in life is dependent upon dialogue with other people,
making responses to statements and questions, acclaiming and affirming
one another. So too, is our full participation in the liturgy dependent
upon our contribution to the dialogues, acclamations and responses
called for by the nature of the celebration.