More on Participatio

Liturgy posts guarantee a bump in traffic, and a few guests from the traditionalist camp don’t hurt things either. Let’s get right to the task and respond to some of the good questions posed yesterday in the “Participatio” thread.

First, I do think that traditionalists can and do resort to a bit of “revisionism” when they look at the Council through 2006 eyes and with the desire of what-they-would-have-hoped-to-be. I don’t discount it against them, except when they continue to miss the point. Even the big apologists for traditionalism concede the Latin actuoso has a meaning somewhere in the wilderness between “actual,” “active,” and a few other notions. For traditionalists to insist that “active participation” has long been mistranslated and misunderstood … sorry; I don’t buy it. Sacrosanctum Concilium 11 makes it clear we’re talking both interior and exterior. I don’t think there’s any need to look up what the bishops really meant in 1963. We know what they meant. We can read it.

Second, I agree with john about the post-conciliar Church losing its way in neglect of the Hours, especially Lauds and Vespers. I’ve waxed hot and lukewarm for over twenty years in developing a sensibility to this in parishes I’ve served. For the past two years, I’ve felt more lukewarm and out of fresh ideas. So if anybody has something constructive to offer, e-mail me and I’ll post on it.

George said I seemed “to criticize people who are really excited to have everybody be active, or priests be performers.” I think liturgical activity in roles of service is different from what Vatican II intended when the bishops wrote and approved SC 11. Lumen Gentium, as we read this past weekend, nods in approval of lay people undertaking a share in the ministries of the Church. A lay person reading at Mass is more of an ecclesiological issue or a discernment of gifts than a matter of “participation.” That’s how I see it. Liturgical participation is defined by the act of worship. A lay person–or priest for that matter–undertaking a role of service and/or leadership is another thing entirely.

When I browse photos of the traditional Mass, I see lots of images of priests in vestments. When I hear or read discussions of music, I note adventures in teaching a choir certain chants or pieces of polyphony. Rarely do I see pictures of laypeople worshipping in the Tridentine observance, nor do I hear many classical musicians discuss how their congregation picked up a particular chant. Some of these folks, though certainly not all, are indeed performers. Their attitudes, favorite topics, and writings betray them. It’s partly about God, of course. But it can also be about the individual. And too much individualism for my taste, at least when it comes to liturgical leadership.

Next, Richard’s 25 Sep 2:03 am post on the “Participatio” thread is quite apt. I would agree with those concerned that the liturgical movement has run aground in places where the basic principles were misapplied or misunderstood. I do not think rewriting SC 11 or appealing to the 1962 Rite solves the problem. I confess I do paint the reform2 folks with a broad brush. I’m more than willing to give their thoughtful advocates time and room for discussion. Often when we correspond directly, we can easily arrive at a common ground. I suspect if I were colleagues, parishioners, or directors with most any of them, we would have a fruitful situation for liturgical ministry in their parish, in mine, or somewhere in between.

Richard piled on still more questions, so let me tackle these:

How much of this is/should be inner activity…and how much outer, visible, physical activity?

Hard to say. I think a pastor should be attuned to the subjective and unique needs of a particular community. A “happy-clappy” parish might need more silence and reflection. An early morning Sunday Mass without music might need a sung Mass setting. A performance choir could be steered to focus on psalmody and the liturgical repertoire.

Overall, if parishioners from all ideologies squirm slightly at certain things they don’t like, but are willing to tolerate or even enjoy these because they think the community is otherwise terrific, I would take that as a sign of good health. Example: If my 7:30 parishioners know they’re not getting “longer” Masses because of singing an entrance and closing hymn, they might be okay with singing the Eucharistic acclamations. If we had mature realizations of the give-and-take of parish life–things like this example–that would be a positive sign, imo.

If it is indeed desired (and I think it is) that we are talking about more than just kneeling in your mantilla saying the rosary quietly all mass…how much direct physical, outward activity is essential?

This seems to be a matter of spiritual discernment. If the bad signs pile up for the parish: not only do people not sing, but they come to Mass late, sit in the back, leave early, don’t get involved in the parish, contribute little or nothing financially, and don’t volunteer, then a lack of outward activity might be a sign that faith (or something big) is lacking. On the other hand, suppose that except for liturgical involvement the parish is going great. That, in turn, might point out that something is amiss with a non-faith aspect, like the building acoustics, the music leadership, or the like. Rarely, people don’t sing because they lack the faith. But quite often they don’t like sticking out, they don’t like the hymns being too high-pitched, the organ gets on their nerves, their allergies are acting up, the pastor has alienated them, or some other non-theological reason.

Is there a point at which it becomes undesirable for more direct, outward participation by the laity?

I’d say generally when the contemplative side is neglected: no silence between the readings or before the orations, the presider and choir having no unique part in the Mass: things like that.

How is this to be distinguished (if at all) from that of the priest-celebrant? How much of the mass should be dialogue?

The priest is part of the tone and direction, if he’s doing his job. If I’m getting the question, the priest needs to balance between direct leadership and sometimes letting things go (like giving the people thirty seconds of silence a few times during the Mass) and see how they turn out.

Keith, thank you for posting this morning. I believe it was your first, so welcome to CS. As I mentioned with George, I don’t think the leadership involvement at the liturgy were intended by the council as part of it’s definition of active/actual/actuoso. I’m sure a few of my progressive colleagues might attach themselves to that understanding, but no progressive liturgical scholar (or seriously thoughtful liturgist) would. I would agree with you and Denis Crouan that the reform hasn’t been tried and found lacking. But I would disagree that any intentional discord with the desires of the church are significantly in play. And where the discord is actual, I might attribute that to the lack of leadership from the local bishop, and a genuine misunderstanding on the part of those who have tried, but failed to grasp the Church’s full intent.

And finally, the Roman Sacristan commented that I’m “looking at Sacrosanctum Concilium in too isolated a fashion.” I disagree. Prior to the Council, the Liturgical Movement was certainly moving in the direction of dialogue Masses, vernacular missals, and other outwardly active developments. These things pointed to a more open, participatory spirit from the pews. I’m sure religious communities were seen as one ideal to which parish laity could strive to emulate. The argument may be overused at times, but there’s also no doubt that the Holy Spirit was active after the Council as well as before. Vatican II was not a legislative event. However, what the traditionalists see as a great weakness, others admired for the freedom of discernment in gave bishops, pastors, and others working in the liturgy.

I would take issue to some of Father Z’s characterizations of progressive liturgists and their celebrations as well as some of his conclusions, but the link was an interesting one in that I was pleased to see he did not dodge the companion adjectives of “full” and “conscious.”

This is too darned lengthy, but I hope it covers the bases and responds in a more clear way to your questions. I might harp on my commentariat from time to time for leaving Lumen Gentium alone, but I do appreciate all my readers, and these liturgy discussions are lively, aren’t they?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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