Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Actuosa Participatio--a Property of Traditionalists

So argues Michael Foley, quoted in Blosser.

Making both the texts and rituals of the liturgy comprehensible to the people was a high priority of the reforms mandated by Vatican II. It was the desire of Sacrosanctum Concilium that the “Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand the [the liturgy] with ease” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 21; cf. 48). Raising the mind to God, Sacrosanctum Concilium states, enables the faithful “to offer Him the worship which reason requires and [to] more copiously receive His grace” (33). Sacrosanctum Concilium even makes provisions for liturgical instruction to be given within the liturgy itself (ibid.).

Even without in-service instruction or a single change to their rite (a point to which we shall return later), traditionalists as a whole receive high marks in this category. During a Latin mass celebrated today the faithful are typically engrossed in the beauty of the sacred liturgy, usually with the help of their well-annotated missals. As a general rule the pre-conciliar “horror stories” about Catholics “obliviously” praying the Rosary during Mass no longer apply; if these stories continue to circulate, it is usually by people who have never been to a celebration of the old rite in the past fifteen years.

Here is a very pertinent quotation from Benedict XVI (when Ratzinger):

[i]n those places where the liturgical movement had created a certain love for the liturgy – in those places where this movement anticipated the essential ideas of the Council . . . there was greater suffering in the face of a liturgical reform undertaken in too much haste and limiting itself often to the exterior aspect.4

That is true. Many Milwaukee-area parishes were onstream with the "Dialog Mass" and all the other reforms of Pius XII and John XXIII. That activity was shaken, not stirred, with the Revolution of 1969.

Back to Foley:

Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that the more liturgically progressive the average American Roman Catholic is today, the less interested he is in actually learning either about or from the Mass. His goal is usually to “be creative” with the liturgy rather than understand it, and in general the zeal for the change which “creativeness” demands – be it personal, political, or liturgical – is rarely matched in this postlapsarian world by an eagerness to grasp what is being changed.

As I intend to show in a future article,12 the Church has always meant by active participation “actively engaged contemplation,”13 not an activist participation that effectively undermines the conditions for any real prayer. Hence most Latin Mass attendees are engaged in authentic active participation simply by virtue of their being prayerfully, lovingly, and attentively present in the Mass. This is especially true when they recite or chant the parts of the Mass proper to them, but it is important to note that it can be equally true when they do not. Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (aka Edith Stein) was a strong proponent of the participatory “dialogue Mass” movement of her day, through she herself spent the entire Mass in rapt, silent adoration. It would be foolish to conclude from this “undemonstrative” form of love that this great saint was any less a participant of the Mass than her more vocal pew-mates.

The term "actuosa participatio" when used with reference to the Mass, of course, means that one should "comport with Christ" Who offers Himself in self-sacrifice to the Father. To the degree that one achieves that unity with Christ, that is the degree to which one is "really participating" in the sacrifice...

Yet even if one accepts for the sake of argument the shallow conception of active participation as activism or mere external activity, Latin Mass congregations in general still participate more actively the Mass than Novus Ordo congregations in at least two ways.14 First, many traditionalists today do not just make the responses of the Mass (of which there are more in the Tridentine rite, incidentally) but its prescribed “actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes” as well, thus acting in accord with one of the professed goals of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 30). The frequent signs of the cross, striking of one’s breast, genuflections in honor of the Incarnation during the Creed and the Last Gospel or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus in the rubrics of the old rite are often enacted meticulously by the faithful at a Latin mass, thus making for a holy and holistic worship that involves both body and soul.

By contrast, several of the relatively few rubrics of the Novus Ordo are either ignored by the average congregation (with experience as one’s sole guide, one would never know that bowing at the Holy name and striking one’s breast at the Confiteor are still in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal; or they are supplanted by illicit gestures such as holding hands during the Our Father and aping actions reserved for the priest alone, innovations that are generically condemned by Sacrosanctum Concilium (22, §3,23) and that have been explicitly condemned by the Magisterium several times since.

(Or, worst, the priest "apes" the celebration of the Mass invalidly. How does one "participate" in THAT?)

A little food for thought.

1 comment:

Charles Ryder said...

Thanks, a very perceptive discourse on real vs. fake "participation". I've been telling anyone who will listen for some time now that the best way to measure the only kind of participation that counts, the deep inner kind that involves one's very soul, is to watch the faces, ie., at every traditional mass I've ever been to when I've been able to watch the faces of my fellow worshipers I have noticed a great beauty in them, joy and sorrow, longing and consolation, forgetfulness of self to an extraordinary degree, awe and wonder as if reflected in them was heaven itself as viewed "through a glass, darkly". These are the faces of those who have been striken by something very powerful and beautiful, the faces of those who are in love. If you set out to paint these faces or sculpt them, photograph or film them at their very best this would be the time to to it. This is as close as you can come on earth to seeing these faces as they would appear in heaven and in observing them, for they cannot lie as mere gestures might, one can begin to understand what real "participation" in the holy sacrifice entails.