Benedict XVI on “active receptivity”

AnnunciationWDTPRS has been sustaining for years now that "active participation" really means "active receptivity".  For the most part clerics and liturgists misunderstand this term.  I have argued this from documents and from semantic/philological grounds.

Today during the Holy Father’s sermon during the so-called "Mass of the Rings" celebrated on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation he said this (official trans. with me additions):

From generation to generation, the wonder evoked by this ineffable mystery never ceases. Saint Augustine imagines a dialogue between himself and the Angel of the Annunciation, in which he asks: "Tell me, O Angel, why did this happen in Mary?" The answer, says the Messenger, is contained in the very words of the greeting: "Hail, full of grace" (cf. Sermo 291:6). In fact, the Angel, "appearing to her", does not call her by her earthly name, Mary, but by her divine name, as she has always been seen and characterized by God: "Full of grace – gratia plena", which in the original Greek is kekaritomene, "beloved" (cf. Lk 1:28). Origen observes that no such title had ever been given to a human being, and that it is unparalleled in all of Sacred Scripture (cf. In Lucam 6:7). It is a title expressed in passive form (in forma passiva), but this "passivity" of Mary, who has always been and is for ever "loved" by the Lord, implies her free consent, her personal and original response: in being loved, Mary is fully active (Maria è pienamente attiva), because she accepts with personal generosity (accoglie con personale disponibilità) the wave of God’s love poured out upon her.

The Pope underscores the interior receptivity of Mary.  We logically know from this that the active receptivity of Mary is the perfect model of liturgical participation.

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3 Responses to Benedict XVI on “active receptivity”

  1. martin says:

    Fr. Z., as you saw in my comments on today’s collect, I do not need to be convinced that the concept “active receptivity” is comprised in the phrase “conscie, pie et actuose” (SS, n. 48 standing for the other instances). Nor do you on your side argue that there is nothing “outward” or external about the role of the lay faithful in the liturgy:-

    quote (1)”of course the Council desired exterior participation. However etc.”

    quote (2)”By actuosa we mean primarily that interior receptivity which etc.”

    The participation of the Blessed Virgin Mary did not stop at her “active receptivity” to the love of God, however. It expressed itself outwardly in her spoken “yevoito moi kata to phma sou”. Where we differ is (i) on the semantics of “actuose” in the Council documents (no point me going over that again); (ii) on Holy Communion as the point from which we work back in order to discover what “actuose” means “really”; and (iii) on your insistence on the primacy of the interior disposition:-

    quote (3)”interior participation is more than ‘also essential’, it is the sine qua non of participation.” [it follows on from quote (1)]
    quote (2)[see above]

    There is no justification for this primacy of one over the other. Unsurprisingly, a balance of the two must be struck: both are essential. Nor is there any temporal or logical priority involved. Sure enough, a proper disposition enables us to perform our outward role more authentically; but, by repetition, the meaning and effect of outward actions can impress themselves on our mind and understanding (as they necessarily do with children), and gradually wreak a change in our interior disposition. You acknowledge this psychological and pedagogical truth in your comment on the collect for Wednesday of the 2nd week “familian tuam bonis semper operibus eruditam”:-

    quote (4)” think of the Latin phrase, and I am sure you all do, fabricando fabri fimus or “we become carpenters by doing lots of carpentry work”. That is to say, as we do something repetitively, we ought to get good at doing it, or at least better at doing it.

    quote (5)”In describing us, God’s family or household, as erudita, we can be saying at the same time that he has polished us and instructed us for good works or, at the same time, that we are being continually polished by the very works He made us to perform.”

    The priestly role of the laity at Holy Mass, in its outward manifestation, is considerable: singing and chanting (with or without a choir); saying the allotted responses and prayers, including the “prayers of the faithful”; adopting the appropriate gestures and postures; performing the useful ministries of altar server, reader, usher, and assistant minister of Holy communion; and being attentive to the spoken Word and the spoken words, which is the primary locus of “active receptivity”. In this activity, there is nothing inherently wrong in it being “spirited” or boisterous for that matter. Sing out! Speak up! Mumbled hymns which only a scattered handful sing, and an unconvincing and shame-faced muttering of the creed are a major brake on the spirituality of Holy Mass. Here is where the emphatic element of “actuose” comes directly into play.

    So, in so far as you want to (and do) say that “actuose” equals “interiorly” or that interior disposition is paramount, you are simply and manifestly wrong, both as a matter of what the Council Fathers said in the phrase “conscie, pie et actuose”, and in explaining (a) the spoken “Yes” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and (b) the diverse actions of the lay faithful listed above. These outward expressions were (in Our Lady’s case) and are (for the lay faithful) by no means secondary or subordinate, but neither do they oust or pre-empt a proper interior disposition without which any Sacrament may be incapable of achieving its desired effect on the recipient.

    By the way, i bridle at the phrase “people doing stuff” (even when deployed in a controversy) as referring in any way to the exercise by the lay faithful of their allotted functions, all of which are referable to their priestly role conferred by baptism. I can only assume you have been so inured to the ins and outs of the argument that that phrase gets written unreflectingly, since you make no distinction between the proper acts (as to which there can be no dispute, surely) and the improper acts which you are castigating.

  2. Martin: You wrote: “I can only assume you have been so inured to the ins and outs of the argument that that phrase gets written unreflectingly, since you make no distinction between the proper acts (as to which there can be no dispute, surely) and the improper acts which you are castigating.”

    How nice it is that there is a blog wherein you can make so free and cavalierly with its author. This is offensive, sir.

  3. martin says:

    Dear Fr. Z. Offensive? Are you serious? Surely you cant be so thin-skinned when you invite frank commentary. Or is it only you who may be robust in argument? (and you are extremely robust about the “looney prof” and others of his feather: “specious claims”, “misinformation” when all I read is that he gives “actuose” its dictionary meaning). When the facts call for it, you do not hesitate to use the word “lie” (vid. your post of 26 iii 2006 on “viri”).

    The truth cant be offensive; but in pointing it out we may sometimes be guilty of intemperate language. In this spirit I have studied what I wrote and I see nothing offensive about my remark that in your word selection when re-running a piece on a longrunning issue, you might sometimes fall into a routine which, if you pondered it more, you might wish to change. We all make mistakes.

    There is no question but that you know all the arguments and counterarguments inside out. Maybe “people doing stuff” is a term in general use in these exchanges and nobody stops to think it is disparaging, or at best slighting. Its at least a fair point I make on the phrase. I dont get involved in these arguments over the Novus Ordo, and my comments are restricted to language.

    Please tell me you were kidding!