We continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s thoughts on participation from his June essay this year for L’Osservatore Romano. I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report.
I’m not sure why the Latin “participatio” is used so frequently in some circles. No doubt there are other liturgical and theological principles that don’t translate exactly into English. But it is likely that nearly all clergy and other leaders since the 60’s have read the Vatican II and other documents in the vernacular. When the English translation says “participation,” that’s how people read and understand it. I don’t think it’s far off from the intent of the original.
Liturgical “participatio” must therefore be understood as a grace from Christ who “always associates the Church with Himself” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). He is the one who has the initiative and the primacy. The Church “calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father” (no. 7).
Regarding this reminder of Christ’s primacy in the liturgy: maybe it goes without saying. No doubt, all of us can bear remembering this fact when our music or preaching or art gets a little too elaborate and too tied up with our personal egos.
Cardinal Sarah puts a lot on the priest-presider:
The priest must therefore become this instrument that allows Christ to shine through. As our Holy Father Pope Francis recalled recently, the celebrant is not the host of a show, he must not look for sympathy from the assembly by setting himself in front of it as its main speaker. To enter into the spirit of the Council means, on the contrary, to be self-effacing, to refuse to be the center of attention.
I know this is difficult for me as a music and liturgical leader. I recognize that people appreciate the selflessness of their leadership. Despite the drone of celebrity narcissists in our culture, church leaders are still admired for espousing the opposite values.
Note: I Wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site. Reader comments, however, are most welcome.