Our liturgical disputes have, I think, lined up between two parties: those who have a correct understanding and those who have a defective understanding of “active participation”.
Correctly understood, the “full, conscious and active participation” desired by the Council Fathers is rooted in our baptismal character, which makes it possible to receive graces and the other six sacraments. “Active participation” is first and foremost an interiorly active receptivity to all that God is offering. This interiorly active receptivity requires the person to make acts of will to stay focused and attentive to the mysteries of the sacred action. This interior receptivity at times manifests itself outwardly in physical expression, especially in the words people speak as responses, prescribed prayers recited in common during the liturgical action, certain gestures such as kneeling or standing of making the sign of the Cross, and at times walking in procession, as in the case of going forward to receive Holy Communion. In fact, reception of Holy Communion by a baptized person in the state of grace is the most perfect form of “full, conscious and active participation”, for its is the perfect harmony of the interior and the exterior of the person’s active receptivity.
On the other hand, some people – liberal liturgists for example – think that active participation means doing things, such as carrying stuff, clapping, singing every word of everything that could be sung, moving about, etc. They are abetted by clerics who think they are “empowering the laity” and helping their “active participation” by surrendering their own proper roles as clerics to any number of lay people. Liberal liturgists talk of baptism as the foundation of “active participation”. They see baptism as conferring rights, especially the right to do things during the liturgical action.
This defective understanding of “active participation” leads to terrible consequences for our Catholic identity and our liturgical worship.
The first way in which their false notions of “active participation” (saying everything and doing stuff because it’s my right) distort our worship is that, if some participation is good, then more participation is better. The more people get to carry more things, and the more everyone sings more notes, the more people are thought to be “participating”.
The flaw in this approach will be obvious to everyone with half a brain. There is only so much that can be sung or carried. The processional Cross can only be so big and only so many people can carry it at once. The ditties can only be so long, until people grow fatigued and the guitarist’s fingers bleed. The big puppets can only be so high before they can’t be carried. There are only so many clay beakers available and only so much sacramental “wine” to be distributed before other problems manifest.
When you have a correct understanding of “active participation” (the will to unite oneself interiorly and receive what is being offered), you can always pray with more intensity, long the more for the graces being offered, ponder more earnestly the mystery we encounter.
On the other hand, you can only clap your hands for so long. Therefore, what happens in the next logical move is that lay people have to start doing what the priest does and, if possible, where the priest does it. The distorted and defective notion of “active participation” eventually leads to the false conclusion that people have rights to carry things, say what the priest says, do what the priest does. Thus the herds of “eucharistic ministers” even when they are not really needed, the demand for “the cup”, the sense of empowerment to accept this rubric but not that, or this prayer or pericope, but not that. Hand-holding, entirely outside any traditional liturgical practice of the Church, becomes a right. Because why? Because we’re baptized, damn it! We are the empowered laity who have the right to do what we want to for the sake of “active participation”.
And as sure as the night follows the day, when a bishop or priest apply a corrective to their defective practices and distorted notions, they raise cain because they have fallen into the trap of thinking that, just because they are baptized, they have the right to do as they please. They subsequently protest against their priests and bishops with the same techniques as those who habitually create class conflicts. They use even Marxist or Alinskyite tactics of protest against the troglodyte traddy types who trample their baptismal rights.
The next thing the liturgy rights activists will begin to do is “Occupy Mass”. We have seen forerunners of this in, for example, the case of women who stand up during ordinations or activists who wear rainbow sashes during Mass.
A good example of this liturgy rights activism popped up on the site of the extremely liberal US cATHOLIC, penned by their perennially wrong Bryan Cones.
They are staging a nutty over there about the liturgical law issued by His Excellency Most Rev. Roger Foys for the Diocese Covington. HERE.
Among the issues addressed by the bishop is the liturgically bizarre and often liturgically abusive aberration of prompting people to hold hands and wave their arms around during the Our Father of Holy Mass.
Let’s have a glance with my emphases and comments.
Bishop of Covington: Stop holding hands!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
By Bryan Cones
So after all my drama about the new texts (still don’t like them), [And this was all about him?] I was going to take a break from writing about the liturgy. [sigh... if only writing it made it so ...]
And then a bishop goes and does something silly (thank you, PrayTell). Like order the daughters and sons of God [like] not to hold hands during the [like] Lord’s Prayer at Mass because it’s not in the third edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). You can read the decree here.
First, I want to ask The Most Rev. Roger Joseph Foys, D.D., by the Grace of God and the Favor of the Apostolic See, Bishop of Covington: Are you completely out of your mind? [I have been tough on some bishops who took a stand against Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum, but this just snotty.] What harm does this practice possibly do? And how would you like to be the poor pastor who has to enforce your stupid rule? And it is stupid.
Foys’ argument is that, since no one can change the liturgy, and the book says only the priest extends his hands during the Lord’s Prayer, no one else can do it. (And obviously the book says nothing about anything as profoundly human as holding hands.)
This is wrong for all kinds of reasons - – one of which is the general canonical rule that what is not explicitly forbidden is permitted. [There are a lot of things that are not explicitly forbidden but which for reasons of decorum and common sense we should not do. I'll leave the visuals out for the sake of the same decorum.] There is nothing in the law that forbids people from holding hands or extending them as the priest does, so as long as they aren’t hitting their neighbors or otherwise distracting them, [That is part of the problem: it is, in fact, a distraction.] I can’t imagine the canon lawyer who would argue the bishop actually has the authority to prevent a baptized person from doing so in the liturgy, unless they were spinning around like Wonder Woman or something. [More aptly, perhaps one of those dancing hippos from Fantasia.]
But beyond reading the law, Foys completely misses the pastoral dimension of the liturgy - – as most rule-minded bishops do – - and the people are telling all us liturgists [Ooooo... he's a liturgist.] something by holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. They see the Lord’s Prayer as an expression of unity–”their” part of the prayer. [Is that, in fact, what the Lord's Prayer is about in the context of Mass? It is "their part"? It belongs to them? The Mass cannot be divided into priest's parts and people's parts. Just because, for example, the priest is the only one to pronounce the consecration, that doesn't mean that people don't participate in that prayer by an act of will even though they don't say a word or move their arms about. It would be as if to say, "If I don't get to say or do something, it isn't mine."] Which should also tell us that they don’t feel like the rest of the liturgy belongs to them (even though it does). So even if the Lord’s Prayer isn’t exactly the high point of the Liturgy of the Eucharist liturgically speaking, the people are telling us it is. Doesn’t that count for something? [So, effectively, liturgy is about making people feel good about themselves and what they get to do? No... in fact.. what they have the right to do!]
The most ancient Christian prayer posture is the “orans” position – - hands extended – - the priest assumes when he proclaims the “presidential prayers.” And at one time, everyone in the assembly used it. [I think it would be good to see some evidence for that as a liturgical posture for the laity. And you can read THIS.] But, like so much liturgy, it has been clericalized, so much so in fact that a bishop is insisting only the ordained make us of it during Sunday Mass. I’m for no holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and instead all of us extend our hands when the priest does, since the same GIRM says that, as much as possible, the people and the priest should share the same posture. Any takers?
If not, then I think we can let God’s people hold hands if they want to.
You know… I don’t like that article. I don’t think you should like it either. I noticed at the bottom of the page there were “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons. I’m just sayin’ …
The problem here is really not about whether or not people should hold hands during the Our Father.
The real problem is a mentality which can be teased into two strands. First, there is a defective notion of “active participation” which devolves into an endless spiral of people thinking they have to do more in order to participate at Mass until there is no longer a distinction between what priests and people say and do. Parallel to this is a defective understanding of rights. This manifests itself in open protest against bishops who try to promote liturgical norms, or who try to correct abuses.