A bishop gets it: doing things is not necessarily active participation

I have written before in these electric pages about His Excellency Most Rev. Robert Vasa, Bishop of Baker Oregon.  He has a column in The Catholic Sentinel, the instrument of the Archdiocese of Portland and the Diocese of Baker.  

His theme is of interest to your humble correspondent and I share it with my emphases and comments.

To understand liturgical changes, study meaning of liturgy

By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — I wrote very briefly last week about the presentation at our presbyteral assembly on the upcoming revised translation of the Roman Missal and I want to reflect a bit more on this topic. It will undoubtedly be a bit difficult for some to accept with peace and tranquility the changes and amendments which are forthcoming for the Sacred Liturgy. The possibility that there may be some difficulty understanding and accepting the changes is understandable. Unfortunately, it can often happen that the reason why we anticipate such a difficulty has less to do with the Sacred Liturgy than it does with our own attitudes. It will indeed be the case that the Church in approving changes to the texts for the Sacred Liturgy will also be asking that we change. In looking at myself, I must admit that I am much less affected by the fact that the sacred language may change than I am by the fact that this change affects me and perhaps, in some ways, also challenges me. [Unlike the inveterate enemy of Rome's norms for translation, Bp. Trautman, Bp. Vasa seems to have no problem with the idea that sacred language is used in the sacred liturgy.]

If there is one factor for the laity, in my estimation, which will impact on the ease with which changes are accepted or the strength with which they are resisted it is our [here we go...] fundamental understanding of the nature and purpose of the Sacred Liturgy. The frequency with which comments are heard such as, “I really like Father X’s Mass,” or “I find it very difficult to go to Father Y’s Mass,” [What about Fr. Z's Mass?] or “That Mass did not do anything for me,” or the most common, “I don’t get anything out of the Mass” are all indicators of a certain understanding of the nature and purpose of the Sacred Liturgy. Underlying these comments, and many more variations thereof, is a certain concept of the liturgy. The proposed changes present us an opportunity to reflect, even in a significantly self critical way, on our understanding, or misunderstanding, of the meaning and purpose of the Sacred Liturgy[Hear hear!]

In order to begin to reform or reshape our understanding of the Sacred Liturgy we need to go to the Church and to the catechism which she has given us. There we read and hear that: “Sunday is the pre-eminent day for the liturgical assembly, when the faithful gather ‘to listen to the word of God and take part in the Eucharist, thus calling to mind the Passion, Resurrection, and glory of the Lord Jesus, and giving thanks to God who ‘has begotten them again, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ unto a living hope.’” (CCC, 1167) Admittedly, the paragraph addresses the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass rather than Liturgy as a whole but the paragraph is instructive. On Sunday, when we gather for Mass, we do so to listen to the Word of God. While there are a number of other ceremonies which accompany the Liturgy of the Word, the reason we gather is to “listen to the Word of God.” [Attend:] There is thus an importance placed on what God gives to us, His Word. We gather to hear it. We also gather to “take part in the Eucharist.” This involves much more than simply being present and receiving Holy Communion. Centrally, it involves “calling to mind the Passion, Resurrection and glory of the Lord Jesus” and giving thanks to God for the salvation which Jesus has won for us.

These are participatory activities which include everyone without exception. Thus it is not only the reader or the servers or the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who participate in the Mass but rather everyone is able to fulfill the mandate of the council about “full, active and conscious participation.” This is so because an essential part of the “activity” is listening, offering, remembering, rejoicing, thanking. [NB:] These are all interior actions. [INTERIOR!] Without a doubt the participation also includes responding, singing, standing, kneeling, et cetera but these are to be external manifestations of the fact that we are participating interiorly because simply doing these things is not necessarily the same thing as actively participating[Exactly.  It is nice to read what a BISHOP writes about this.]

“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch. The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Finally, by the eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all. In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.” (CCC 1324-27)

I am particularly struck by the reminder that the Eucharist is the culmination of “God’s action sanctifying the world.” This is what we are called to participate in and belong to when we come to Holy Mass. It is, at the same time, the culmination of the “worship men offer to Christ.” I like to think of our participation in worship as being drawn up into the saving actions of God, being a part of them, remembering and experiencing them and coming away from them knowing that we have been in contact with Him Who is all holy. Ideally, the Eucharist changes us because we celebrate who God is and what he has done and is doing in our midst. As the catechism notes, “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist,” not vice versa.

The proposed linguistic enrichments of the Sacred Liturgy, or if you prefer, changes, give us the opportunity to reflect upon the Eucharist anew. They certainly give us the opportunity to listen with new ears to new language, to refresh our interior and reflective participation, and to enter more consciously into that which God is doing. If necessary, it provides the occasion for each of us to align our understanding and expectation of the Holy Mysteries more closely with the vision of the Church expressed in the Catechism.

 

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Vasa.

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21 Responses to A bishop gets it: doing things is not necessarily active participation

  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    How about the Mass does nothing for me, there is nothing about the mass I like, and the other comments the bishop made, if we understand them in the context of grace. If grace is not in us for whatever personal reasons and belief, then perhaps it is not as the greek philosophers wrote, “like is attracted to like”. A phrase used often by I believe by Irenaeus, how then can we have any relationship to the grace in the mass? The mass is a remembrance of the greatest act of charity God and Man did for others. If we are not charitable to the charity which should be present in us how then can we share in the grace of a “Holy Communion” to which the Mass leads us through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? We can’t and therefore the God above all gods who cannot share His Temple with His enemies does not illuminate our body, soul and spirit. The grace that sanctifies, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is a teaching so far from our understanding today

  2. ssoldie says:

    Save the liturgy, save the world,———–My belief; restore the liturgy, reclaim the Catholic faith.

  3. TNCath says:

    This is a keeper for future discussions with people regarding “participation.”

  4. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m sure I would like Fr. Z’s Mass! :-D

    Why do certain pages pop up with nothing but Slavonic on them?

    I really hope the tide is turning and all our bishops will wake up and we can get our Church back. I pray for the day when I can walk into any Catholic Church and trust that the Liturgy will be a reverent one. As it is, I enter the church suspecting that there will be abuses and am rarely happy to note that there weren’t any in such and such Mass.

  5. skeeton says:

    I literally just gave a presentation to our parish Adult Faith Formation class about “active participation” and how the dual interpretations of the Council (continuity v. rupture) affect our understanding about proper participation. Central to my presentation was Card. Ratzinger’s take on it from The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 171 and following, which parallels Bp. Vasa’s explanation today.

    It’s always nice when a successor to the apostles bothers to write an erudite article within 48 hours of my lecture on the same topic! What confirmation!

  6. Tominellay says:

    “…The proposed linguistic enrichments of the Sacred Liturgy…” – terrific!

  7. Ferde Rombola says:

    Anyone know where Bishop Vasa got started? Never mind. I’ll tell you. He was made bishop in Lincoln, Nebraska under that most Catholic of bishops, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (sp?). Surprise, surprise!

  8. “Nothing is worse than active ignorance.” Goethe

  9. AM says:

    No worries! In current practice (and mostly in keeping wiith the current rubrics) the introit is a hymn, the penitential rite is improvised, the gloria is a refrain setting from a song collection; the oration is taken from a book of alternative orations (i.e. not in the Missal), the readings are not in the Missal; the prayers of the faithful are improvised; the offertory chant is not in the Missal. Once we get used to saying “and with your spirit” instead of “and also with you” we’ll be all set.

  10. Tom Ryan says:

    We should not hesitate to praise His Excellency especially since he has matured so much in his views since the release of Summorum Pontificum.

    http://www.catholic.com/audio/2007a/mp3/ca070718a.mp3

    Please God, may he offer the mass according to the Extraordinary Form soon.

  11. Gail F says:

    “These are all interior actions. [INTERIOR!] Without a doubt the participation also includes responding, singing, standing, kneeling, et cetera but these are to be external manifestations of the fact that we are participating interiorly because simply doing these things is not necessarily the same thing as actively participating.”

    AMEN!!!!!!

  12. Gabriel Austin says:

    It seems to me that the bishop passes over the nature of the Eucharist: it is a sacrifice.

    We are permitted to offer that sacrifice of Our Lord’s body and blood just as the Israelites and the Greeks and Romans and the others offered sacrifices of animals.

    The bishop seems to forget that the bread and wine are the actually body and blood of Our Lord.

  13. EXCHIEF says:

    Re Tom Ryan’s post it would indeed be a good thing if the Bp would celebrate in the EF or, failing that, if he were more supportive of Priests who do.

  14. Jakub says:

    “I really hope the tide is turning and all our bishops will wake up and we can get our Church back. I pray for the day when I can walk into any Catholic Church and trust that the Liturgy will be a reverent one. As it is, I enter the church suspecting that there will be abuses and am rarely happy to note that there weren’t any in such and such Mass.”

    Dr. Eric I agree, I remember back when it was so…

  15. Copernicus says:

    Without a doubt the participation also includes responding, singing, standing, kneeling

    That is, active participation necessarily includes doing things. Well said, His Excellency.

  16. AndyMo says:

    “Active participation” is a terrible rendering of participatio actuosa to begin with.

    As a music director and organist, believe me when I tell you that constantly doing things during the liturgy hurts my participation immensely. I have to make sure I am very thoroughly prepared for Mass just so I can participate myself. I frequently envy those in the pew that can actually participate instead of just actively participating.

    It’s the difference between “engaged” and just “busy.”

  17. Copernicus says:

    “Active participation” is a terrible rendering of participatio actuosa to begin with.

    This is an old chestnut of the blogosphere. Let’s lay it to rest: actuosa particpatio is a Latin rendition of the phrase used by Pope Pius X in 1903. He wrote in Italian: partecipazione attiva. How to translate this is not in doubt: active participation, and the meaning is clear from the context of Pope Pius X’s motu proprio: people doing stuff.

    Only a fool would think that exterior participation precludes interior participation. What Pope Pius was arguing is that interior participation is aided by exterior participation.

  18. Liz F says:

    I literally “laughed out loud” when I read “What about Fr. Z’s mass?” Hee hee. I made my 16-year old daughter stop her movie so I could read her that part. Thanks, Father, for the laugh. We need that now and again.

  19. Hooks says:

    Sorry, just some quotes: St John of the Cross:’One human thought alone is worth more than the entire world, hence God alone is worthy of it.’; ‘for the knowledge of God is received in divine silence’; Yehudi Menuhin, ‘[Silence] is the founding element of all thought: it links us to the universal, to the infinite and to the vital centre of our own being’; St Teresa of Avila, ‘Without Holy Mass, what would become of us? All here below would be lost, since only This can stay the hand of God’. Without It, certainly the Church would not endure and the World would be lost without hope. St Bernard, ‘One obtains more merit assisting at Mass with devotion than giving all one has to the poor, and traversing the whole world in pilgrimage’ and finally, St Pius X:’ The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the cross and repeated every day on the altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart and mouth all that happens at the altar. Further you must pray with the priest the holy words said by him in the name of Christ, and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass.’
    These are the dots of ‘active participation’; now join them up. (And note in doing so, you will use two great Catholic inventions: silent reading, and a book.)
    Hooks

  20. MichaelJ says:

    Copernicus

    FWIW, the google translator lists effettivo as a synonym for attiva. Effettivo does, in fact, translate (again using google) to actual. What the latin actuosa literally translates to, I am not sure, but since Latin is the official language of the Church, I would think that the Latin translation would take precedence.

    That being said, count me among the fools. While I agree that interior participation can be aided by exterior participation, to think that exterior participation does not preclude interior participation is, in my mind, well… foolish.

  21. Copernicus says:

    to think that exterior participation does not preclude interior participation is, in my mind, well… foolish.

    MichaelJ,

    Just a thought, but I’m guessing you don’t actually know the meaning of the word preclude. ;-)