A Little More on Participation

One of the temptations of blogging is to comment (often loudly) on subjects about which one knows relatively little. I will resist the temptation here. I don’t have the erudition to provide an interpretation of “actuosa participatio” in Sacrosanctum Concilium. It does seem as though we might need to distinguish between “active participation” and being “involved” or “drawn in” to the liturgy (e.g., see Fr Virgil Funk, as quoted by John Allen at the end of the May 5 Word From Rome).

I will give in to a slightly lesser temptation of blogging: to repeat oneself. I hope that I will not do so too loudly. Here is a paragraph from a May 2005 post on the late Pierre-Marie Gy’s 2003 Père Marquette Theology Lecture. The principal architects of Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy) were Johannes Wagner, Aimé-Georges Martimort, and Père Gy. Père Gy, a French Dominican, passed away in 2004. This paragraph from my post concerns “active participation” and might be helpful for our conversation. (I should note that the Pecklers quote is not directly from the lecture):

Père Gy also helps us clarify the question of “active participation.” Before Vatican II, it was thought that the sole celebrant of the Mass or Divine Office was the presiding priest or bishop. This was understood according to Canon Law’s incorporation of the Roman notion of a public person – persona publica – who had the power to act in the name of the people, the populus. Furthermore, the first liturgist to apply the word “celebrant” in an exclusive sense to the priest was Lothario di Segni. And he just happened to become Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). A bit later, “the chief novelty of the Tridentine Missal, according to (the great Austrian Jesuit liturgist) Jungmann, was the way in which it considered the private Mass as the fundamental form, the Grundtyp, of all eucharistic celebration.” In a recent article in America, Fr Keith Pecklers, SJ, writes that, “the priest had become such a predominant figure in the celebration of Mass that several bishops at the Council of Trent (1545-63) went on record with a startling proposal. Perhaps it would be better, they suggested, if the laity just stayed at home and let the priest say his Mass without the distraction of a congregation.” At least their proposal wasn’t adopted.

Vatican II restored the idea of the Ecclesia, or Christian community, as the integral subject of the liturgy. This restored the importance of the text of the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the grammatical subject has been in the plural – “we” instead of “I.” The new Roman Missal in 1975 consequently replaced the word “celebrans” (celebrant), with “sacerdoscelebrans” (priest-celebrant), a specification that emphasizes that the laity too are celebrating, “offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him” (SC 48).

About catholicsensibility

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