Friday, September 16, 2011

Liturgiam Authenticam

As I listened to Cardinal Burke in this video I was reminded of  then Cardinal now Pope Benedict XVI explanation of God's action in the liturgy (See Spirit of the Liturgy).

 A brief explanation of Participatio Actuosa or active participation is in order. This phrase is a gift from the Second Vatican Council. Unfortunately it was co-opted after the council. A superficial understanding of the liturgy and the word participation along with a disdain for what is sacred and holy led many to give an external explanation for this term. This superficial understanding caused many well intentioned people to believe that the more physical movement during the liturgy the more one "participates." This has unfortunately become the standard understanding of most of the faithful. It is an understanding that is perpetuated in many parishes by many priests. It is however, deficient. Participation refers to the common actions of which all of the faithful present have a part. Therefore, if some external action were necessary we would need to create more jobs for people to perform during mass. We must ask ourselves what is the primary action of the liturgy? Is it in fact ours?

As I stated there is a superficial way to view this term. That superficial understanding can also become a great source of pride. It can lead to the proclamation that "we" somehow do liturgy. That "we" or "I" am somehow responsible for the principle action of the mass. This attitude which often prevails is a failure to comprehend the magnitude of the liturgy. The principle action of the liturgy is really Actio Divina - the action of God. At the last supper Jesus utters the words of institution "this is my body" "this is my blood." He then gives a command "do this in memory of me."  Through the power of the ordained priesthood a man is changed forever. A supernatural end cannot be accomplished through merely natural means. We do it in memory of Him but certainly not without Him.  He is a priest forever like Melchizedek. He now stands in the person of Christ at the alter of God. His voice is no longer his own. Pope Benedict XVI says "He knows that he is not now speaking from his own resources but in virtue of the Sacrament that he has received, he has become the voice of Someone Else, who is now speaking and acting (Spirit of the Liturgy pg. 173)"

The real action in the liturgy in which we are all called to participate, has little to do with being the choir, or liturgical dance, being a lector, or Extraordinary minister of Holy communion. No, the principal actor is God Himself. God Himself, acts, He preforms the essential work of our salvation. He draws us to Himself and ushers in a new creation. That new creation is the sanctification of every faithful recipient. God makes Himself accessible to us, so that through the things of the earth, we can continue to communicate with Him in a deeply unitive and personal way. It is in a sense pro-creative. He becomes consubstantial with our soul, pouring into us His grace or His very life. Man and God are once again fully united. As a result, of that union, we receive and are drawn into the mystery of God's undying, lifegiving, sacrificial love. We are re-created in His love and we participate in the very act of our own salvation through faith.

So we come to the fundamental point. There is nothing that we can do in mass to create a better experience. The experience is a salvific action performed directly by God which we are called to cooperate with. This is where are mind should be during mass, not tapping the watch in hopes that we will be home in time for the kick off. There certainly should be an eagerness but it should be one of joyful anticipation of the coming of the Lord. When we understand this we will stop trying to hold each others hands we may not even want to be disturbed to shake hands at the sign of peace. You see the deeper we are drawn into this truth, the more we cooperate with God's action, the more drawn our heart, mind, and will, will be to the alter. For that short period of time we are journeying together not toward each other but toward Jesus Christ. Not to the priest and his charm, rather to the Lord and His majesty.

This is just one of the many reasons that I think the New Translation is a truly monumental step in rediscovering the mystery of God's action in the liturgy. Thank God for the New Translation, pray for a peaceful and smooth implementation in your parish and your diocese. 

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