AA4 takes a little time to digest. It sums up the first chapter which looks at the vocation of the laity. Starting with this baby bite:
Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord’s words, “He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I was struck that this applies to any serious religious person and was pretty much expressed in the documents on clergy and bishops we looked at earlier this year on CS. But this union, this profound intimacy: how many of our lay people are cultivated with this?
This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy.
This would be an example of what I would call the spirit of Vatican II: this stress placed on active participation in the liturgy. How one might define “active” seems a rather subjective judgment. But I think a lay person (or any Christian) must be looking to the liturgy as a source for personal prayer and spirituality. I think the texts and music of the liturgy can be a central (if not primary) source for prayer. And I think the actual celebration of liturgy by individuals, and the parish community, must be done with an eye to this union. This is why I believe the recent “retrenchment” or back-to-rubrics emphasis is misplaced a bit. Not that adherence to rubrics is wrong, but the foremost effort needed in most parishes I’ve been associated with is a spiritual and prayerful celebration of liturgy that informs the mystical lives of the celebrants.
These are to be used by the laity in such a way that while correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate union with Christ from their life but rather performing their work according to God’s will they grow in that union. In this way the laity must make progress in holiness in a happy and ready spirit, trying prudently and patiently to overcome difficulties. Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be irrelevant to their spiritual life, in keeping with the words of the Apostle, “What-ever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
How is progress in holiness manifested? AA4 spells it out: a happy and ready spirit, plus the virtues of prudence and patience. Patience is a supreme struggle for me, but in those few moments I have found the grace of it, I begin to see the wisdom in it. Not much in numbers of words, but I think AA sets an early tone by stating that striving for holiness is the proper primary effort for lay people.