Thursday, January 7, 2010


After the publication of Sacrosanctum Concilium, liberal-do-it-yourself-liturgist trumpet "active participation" as some sort of a license to pick any Tom, Dick and Harry and Jane out of the pew to give them a more active role in the celebration of the Church's liturgy.  So you have liturgical dancers, female altar servers and what have you.

So for purpose of clarification, let us read what the not so known cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, wrote, in his not-so-like book The Spirit of the Liturgy.

The emphasis and comments are from the great Fr. Z.


Cardinal Ratzinger, from his fundamental study “The Spirit of the Liturgy”: “What does this active participation come down to? What does it mean that we have to do? Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action. However, the word ‘part-icipation’ refers to a principal action in which everyone has a ‘part’... [Not everyone’s actions as individuals, even if they are doing things in a coordinated way.  Remember: there is one true Actor in the sacred action.] By the actio of the liturgy the sources mean the Eucharistic prayer. The real liturgical action, the true liturgical act, is the oratio....This oratio—the Eucharistic Prayer, the “Canon”—is really more than speech; it is actio in the highest sense of the word.” (pp. 171-2) [And that is not a moment in which the congregation, for example, traditionally has an outwardly active role expect to kneel at the proper place and rise at the end.  I will leave aside the problematic issue of the "acclamation" after the consecration.] Christ is made present in all of his salvific work, and for this reason the human actio becomes secondary and makes room for the divine actio, to God’s work.  [Right.  The true Actor in the sacred action is Christ the High Priest.]

Thus the true action which is carried out in the liturgy is the action of God Himself, his saving work in Christ, in which we participate. This is, among other things, the true novelty of the Christian liturgy with respect to every other act of worship: God Himself acts and accomplishes that which is essential, whilst man is called to open himself to the activity of God, in order to be left transformed. [Again, we must be actively receptive to what God wants to give us and be transformed in our encounter with mystery.] Consequently, the essential aspect of active participation is to overcome the difference between God’s act and our own, that we might become one with Christ. [We can control our own disposition, by fasting and confession, and engaging our minds and wills, but God is the true Actor.] This is why, that I might stress what has been said up to now, it is not possible to participate without adoration. [I tend to stress the issue of having that encounter with mystery.  I think that the way the liturgy is carried out bears a great burden in this.] Let us listen to another passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium: “The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.” (n. 48)


I once went to Totus Bookstore at Greenhills with my brother.  The kind lady cashier told us that Fr. Diwa, the protege of master inculturator Anscar Chupungco bought a copy of "The Spirit of the Liturgy".  I asked my brother, "Is this a sign that they are re-orienting their liturgical agenda now that Papa Benny is in Peter's Chair?"  "I don't think so?"  he said.  "It is more of knowing the enemy."

Hmmm... After the intensive seminars about the liturgy that the dynamic duo of inculturation has been doing, my brother makes sense.

1 comment:

  1. "Active participation" has meant "singing Gregorian chant." See this from Fr. Fessio's "The Mass of Vatican II:"

    In any case, the first use of actuosa participatio, i.e., active participation, referred explicitly and exclusively to the restoration of the congregational singing of Gregorian Chant. In 1928, Pope Pius XI reiterated the point in his Apostolic Letter, Divini Cultus. Nineteen years after that, in the Magna Carta of liturgical reform, Mediator Dei, issued by Pius XII, the same term was used with the same meaning. So until the Second Vatican Council, the term “active participation” referred exclusively to the singing of Gregorian Chant by the people.