04 August 2011

The Liturgical Problem in a Nutshell, part 2

You may recall a recent post where I lamented a bulletin entry on the upcoming, more accurate translation of the English language Ordinary Form Mass.  Reread it at the link above, I'll wait.

Back?  Good.

All analogies about something as transcendent as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are going to be imperfect, but the director-actor-audience one seemed especially limited.  In any event, the idea that the faithful are the "actors", to the exclusion of the priest, who is confined to the role of "director", while God is the popcorn-munching "audience", is flat-out wrong, no matter which pre- or post-conciliar lens one uses to view it.

In the combox for that post, a savvy reader pointed out that this insert was not written by the priest or staff of that particular parish, but instead came from the Archdiocesan Office of Sacred Worship.  That didn't make me feel any better, somehow.

This week the St. Louis Review has published the following letter regarding this particular insert, and the response was penned by the Director of the Office of Sacred Worship, Monsignor William McCumber.  I will reprint the entire letter and response below, followed by my comments:

We attend Mass to participate, not merely observe

Q: I was surprised by a recent note in our Church bulletin that suggested that, during Mass, the priest is the director, the people are actors and God is the audience. It seemed odd that the sacred liturgy of the Mass was compared to the theater of a play.
A: Over the years the liturgy has been compared to a play, a musical and even sports simply as a way to make the point that the laity are not spectators as if attending one of these events, but the laity are to be involved by full, active and conscious participation. The laity are not spectators, they are participants, or "actors." Even in their silence the laity are assenting to what the liturgy is about in their hearts.

The word "liturgy" comes from the Greek word "leitourgia," which means "the work of the people." The work of the people to do what? To bless God and for our salvation. As stated in the document "Sacrosanctum Concilium" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Dec. 4, 1963) [2], the liturgy is to bless God, and to bring about our redemption.

As pope, Blessed John Paul II echoed this teaching in his address on the 40th anniversary of "Sacrosanctum Concilium" when he said that sacred music, being an integral part of the solemn liturgy, participates in the general purpose of the liturgy, which is the glory of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful ("Spiritus et Sponsa [3]," 2003).

The Church is always concerned that the faithful understand the liturgy is not something they get but give. Pope Pius X, as far back as 1903, wrote in "Tra le Sollecitudini": "Sacred music is to add greater efficacy to the text, in order that through it the faithful may be the more easily moved to devotion and better disposed for the reception of the fruits of grace belonging to the celebration of the most holy mysteries." This was written at a time in the Church when more operatic style music was being introduced into the Mass and the faithful were sitting back to enjoy it as if it were spending a night at the Muny.

The 1947 encyclical "Mediator Dei" (Mediator of God) [4] by Pope Pius XII reminds us: "That all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and daydreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, according to the Apostle, 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.' And together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves."

Again, in "Sacramentum Concilium," we are instructed that "... the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members."

But even now this tension continues when we see people arriving after the Gospel and just before Holy Communion. These people may be there to get communion, yet the Church teaches us that the high point of the liturgy is the Eucharistic Prayer, in which we offer to God, our Father, the sacrifice of ourselves with the perfect sacrifice of Christ. The "General Instruction of the Roman Missal" states: "Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: namely, the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification."

Rather than standing on the sidelines, the Mass, like a cool pool on a hot summer's day in St. Louis, invites us to jump in with both feet and swim for our lives, because our lives do depend on it.
First, I think there is much to like in the response-- the mere fact that the Monsignor cites to Papal documents issued before Vatican II is a victory of sorts.  So often when discussing the liturgical malaise of the Church, as is the case in discussing many other real problems, the Catholic of today has no sense of the unchanging and timeless teaching of the Church that Christ founded.  It is as if one could imagine that the Church was born in 1962, as a new entity untrammeled by the past 1900+ years.  I think this actually is the position, stated or assumed, of the modern progressive.  But, let's stick to talking to Catholics.

Even though the pre-conciliar documents merit citation in this response, I don't think that the import of them is adequately expressed by the author.  First the concept of "active participation" is capable of a misunderstanding sufficient to kill the very notion of what that should mean to a Catholic assisting at Mass.  

Why?  Speaking of translations, the more accurate translation of the phrase used in Sacrosanctum Concilium is "actual participation", not "active participation".  Consider the Latin in SC, Part II, para 14:  

II. De liturgica institutione et de actuosa participatione prosequendis

14. Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quae ab ipsius Liturgiae natura postulatur

This is rather curiously and incorrectly translated at the English language page as follows:

II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation 

14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.

Now, the notion of actually participating in Mass without talking all the time may be foreign to many of us.  Yet, in the Liturgy as it was handed down from apostolic times until 1969, the notion of participation took in concepts of comprehension, yes, but focused primarily on a deep interior participation.  If you are interested in this idea, check out the work of a good Catholic blogger who is not a so-called "traditionalist", Phil Blosser, here and here.  

Worship, silence, meditation and contemplation (inherent in the EF, yet nearly impossible to find in the OF as it is commonly celebrated) work in harmony as a total, actual, participatory effort.  This participation is not the role of a passive spectator, and it is a great disservice to Catholics to insinuate that it is.  This actual participation in no way blurs the line between the action of the priest and that of the faithful, which is of necessity secondary.  The priest doesn't need us to celebrate Mass, but we sure need him.  This is as true, whether the participants acknowledge it or not, in the most sacrilegious "clown Mass" as it is in a Pontifical Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

The documents of Pius XII and St. Pius X, cited by the Monsignor, were written of actual participation by Catholics in the pews in the Mass we now call the Extraordinary Form.  The idea of actual participation did not arise in 1962.

[At this point, some may point to the emergence of the so-called "dialogue Mass", which brings some of the vocal responses and prayers of the High Mass (where most are sung) to the Low Mass.  You may have a preference for it, or against it, but this vocalization is not the essence of "actual participation".  I don't want to turn this post into the "I like/I despise the dialogue Mass" debate, so end of digression.]

Monsignor goes on to state that the high point of the liturgy occurs at the "Eucharistic prayer" (I would further narrow this down to the moment of consecration).  And this insight gives rise to a question I have asked my OF-attendee friends for years now when they talk about "active participation"-- "At what point of the Mass (i.e., their parish Ordinary Form Mass) are you most intensely participating?"  Ninety-five percent of them say, "At the consecration."  To which I respond, "And what are you saying at that time?"  


Even those five percent who answer "When I receive Communion," are forced to admit that they are "passively" (to use the modern parlance) receiving Christ from the hands of another (we can only hope it is a priest) while merely saying "Amen."  To me, one of the great flaws in the typical parish Mass is that the silence of the consecration and reception of communion give one a total of maybe two minutes of silence in which to contemplate and worship in peace without enduring the cacophony of noise that is omnipresent in most parish Masses.

Finally, I wish that anyone responsible for parish music would really, really read Sacrosanctum Concilium and Tra le Sollecitudini and tell me that there is any hope for actual participation while the faithful endure Gather Us In and its ilk.

This post is already too long, so I'll end.  I am glad that the bulletin insert struck someone else as deficient, and I pray that the priests of our parishes will read the documents that Monsignor McCumber cites and implement this new translation according to the mind of the Church.


JBQ said...

Very good discussion. The EF is a form of "worship". The OF is a form of interaction. And never the twain shall meet. The worship faces the East and is a remembrance of the sun rising in the East as Christ has risen. The interaction is the remembrance of Christ's love for each one of us. It is also a presaging of world socialism.

Teak Phillips said...

Perhaps you felt as though the Monsignor did not adequately express the the documents or properly translate a Latin phrase, but at least he did so publicly and with his name attached.

If you wish to engage in public conversation that includes criticism, you might start with ending your cloak of anonymity. Aren't we called to live the Gospel publicly?

Anonymous said...

I still cannot get over the fact that our wonderful Archdiocese is still publishing those bulletin inserts which are childish and highly defective. The description of the Mass as a theatrical performance, no matter the identity of the parties, has done great damage in our time.

Although I agree that the response deserves praise from us for its heavy citation of documents with which WE may be familiar, it does nothing to elaborate on or explain them and it fails to provide any substantial answer to the question of the theatrical description of the Sacrifice of the Mass. What has this done but gratuitously thrown a bone to Catholics already angered by this trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy?

O, where has the Rome of the West of Cardinal Burke gone?

StGuyFawkes said...

Great discussion. I especially like the attempt to salvage the idea and ideal of interior contemplative participation.

Here's one way of looking at it.

Ask yourself if you were in fact witnessing Christ's suffering and death at Golgotha, how much "participating" would you be doing? What would be the character of the participation? The answer has to be "interior" and silent. Now ask yourself the same questions regarding the Last Supper. If you were at that table your "Participation" would be only slightly more interactive.

I think this proves the importance of the contemplative aspect of participation.

NOTE: Before this thread gets hijacked by reader reaction to JBQ's comment about "world socialism" let me protect his back.

A comparison between the contemplative spirit of the EF and the "interactional" quality of the Novus Ordo has a useful analogy in a shift in philosophy that took place with Kant the following German Idealists. Before Kant the model of the mind seeking and apprehending truth was essentially cotemplative and passive.

After Kant this the model of the mind was increasingly based on an analogy with "Praxis" or activity.

Out of this shift in epistemology there finally developed Marx's comment that "the purpose of philosophy up till now has been to understand the world, now the purpose of philosophy is to change it."

JBQ's comment is not as strange as it may seem. THe EF follows the classical / medieval model of how "mind meets truth." THe Ordinary form follows an epistemological model that is post-Kantian, and praxis oriented.

Please people, let's not get into a discussion of bridges and Hegel.

dulac90 said...

The anonymity of the author does not diminish the facts of the argument nor the importance of the discussion.

Furthermore, I don't read criticism of the Monsignor here but, perhaps, an opportunity for deeper examination of an issue than may be available within the limitations of a diocesan periodical.

jmgazzoli said...

I dont see what the Klingon moon Praxis has to do with this.

thetimman said...

dulac90, Thanks for the comment. I second your remarks; the same objection and response occur in the UCLX/veiling debate. The argument stands or falls on its own terms without regard to author.

Teak, point taken, but I will say that Monsignor's priestly vocation to proclaim the Gospel (combined with his official post as head of the office of worship) and my personal, non-vocational blog are two different kinds of things.

And yet, my name is on the blog-- if you are saying that I have an unusual first name that begins with the letter "T", then I can only plead guilty and ask for your understanding. Thanks for the comment, and keep up your fine work at the Review.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Mr. Phillips,

I'm so happy that you've come to preach to our throng of booger flickers about the cowardice of our hiding behind our poltroonish sobriquets.

I take your criticism seriously. However, I must say I am shocked, shocked, that you would raise the issue of anonymity and claim not to know the reasons for it. Let’s look at an inciteful remark you made in our “St. Louis Review.”

You recently wrote of Catholic cyber-journalists "They must allow readers to engage, interact and experience the news of our faith in ways that print media cannot. This is a perfect environment for proclaiming the new evangelization and being Alive in Christ, but we have been slow to adapt."

I agree. You have been very slow. That's why these anonymous blogs are important. Why? Because the official organs of Catholic journalism -- like “The St. Louis Review” fail under the very criteria you praise. “The St. Louis Review” neither "engages" nor "interacts" with "the news of our faith." In fact the Review is so dull and stalinoid that it will never treat a real, red blooded Catholic issue.

Why has your Review not written on the issues that gnaw away at every Catholic soul? For instance:

1.) Why did so many homosexuals enter the priesthood? And will Catholic parents ever encourage their children to become priests with that question unasked and unanswered?

2.) Another untreated story: why do prelates avoid the simplest matters of Church discipline. St. Louise Lears was told not to take communion after her punishment. The parishioners of St. Cronan's -- months later -- served her the sacrament by hand.

This blog broke that news. Yours looked away and hoped no one noticed that the parish had engaged in insulting Archbishop Burke again. Just as they did when their parish bulletin proclaimed the Archbishop a hippotomous. Your Review did not have the courage to expose the facts of schism and apostasy. This blog DID!

Here is another reason blogs like ours work anonymously while your brave broadsheet does not.

3.) The Bialczak brothers parking lot scandal has shocked every St.Louisan who cares about the police and the sanctity of our civic insitutions.

Yet, every Catholic in St. Louis has noticed that the same criminals who bilked the city of hundreds of thousands of dollars have also led the schism which stole St. Stanislaus Parish -- every brick and every soul of it – away from the Archdiocese, making Cardinal Burke look like a chump. While this churlish blog broke that story, your anemic publication failed to even connect the dots. "The St. Louis Review" won't do its job. Until that time all that is left of fact and opinion is to be found in blogs.

Here’s where the anonymity comes from. Everyone wants to be anonymous because if our religious leaders -- and their official journals --are too timid to tell the truth, then heaven help us who want to tell it and still get our kids through parochial schools. Cardinal Rigali had the nerve to tell me in his office ten years ago that the the Traditional Latin Mass was "mumble..mumble..mumble." And yet when the wind changed and "Summorum Pontificorum" was announced he was the first to publically praise it.

Who the hell wouldn't be hiding while telling the truth when our religious leaders check the wind before they say anything. In the meantime please thank our merry crew for all the leads we have given you your guys weren't able to dig up.

By the way Teak. When will you write on that apostate "Social Justice" parish Tim's blog exposed last week? When? Why not?

Tim give this guy my name and phone number. I've got lots more to say.

Anyone else want to take Teak to lunch? I can round up a bunch of people without cloaks who would really like to bend your ear.

St. Guy

Anonymous said...

"This post is already too long, so I'll end."

Best line in the whole post. Keep bringin' it Timman! Or whoever you are?

Anonymous said...

Bravo, St. Guy. You nailed it!

Long-SKirts said...

Guy said:

"Everyone wants to be anonymous because if our religious leaders -- and their official journals --are too timid to tell the truth, then heaven help us who want to tell it and still get our kids through parochial schools. Cardinal Rigali had the nerve to tell me in his office ten years ago that the the Traditional Latin Mass was 'mumble..mumble..mumble.'"

You go Guy!!!!! You hit the "nail", Christ's nails, right on the head!!














Anonymous 05 August, 2011 22:24said...

"'This post is already too long, so I'll end.'

Best line in the whole post."

"We think that we are more tolerant because we do not any longer bun people." (G.K. Chesterton)

Long-Skirts said...

"Christ's nails"...

BTW...by "Christ's nails" I mean that they were a part of proving the Divinity of Christ as He was not tied and/or just attached but the TRUTH was nailed and that's what you did, Guy.

"bun people"...

That quote of Chesterton's was supposed to read "burn" not "bun", but we don't "bun" anymore either and/or stone, it's all the same. Deo Gratias! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments about why anonymity is important in these discussions and particularly in this area. If I can add my own personal experience, to the list of things the Review shied away from covering . . .

Many Catholics of good faith experienced spiritual abuse as a result of their involvement with the Legion of Christ. Why was very minimal coverage given to the scandal as it broke, even though the order was active in our area and involved with the spiritual direction and education of children? The Review had the chance to warn parents and people in general about some of the things going on, yet only published wire service article and other very general things.

I was a journalism major and I must say, the Review is more like public relations arm of the Archdiocese vs. a newspaper. Investigative journalism does not seem to be a part of the Review's mission and it's a shame.

And damn straight, I'm anonymous!

Rory said...

Nice writing. Poetry too. Wow. Much good thinking. Anyway, I have modest aims here so perhaps my skills will be adequate. Most of us, whichever Mass we prefer, I think, have ample experience to substantiate the truth of what I am proposing.

We can say that the Mass is the Mass all that we want, emphasizing the formal validity of both Forms of the Roman Rite. But it is becoming more and more clear to me that philosophically and theologically, they are incompatible opposites.
Someone else compared them to East and West, never the twain meeting.

Behaving like actors at the Ordinary Form, or athletes at a sporting event, is one of many examples. The Extraordinary Form is decidely not a show. An exhortation to be actors could not but be disconcerting in a Traditional Mass setting. In contrast to the Novus Ordo, where camaraderie and mutual expressions of affection are important Traditionalists understand the Mass as a time to be subdued.

In the Extraordinary Form, personalities, rather being thrust forward, and put on display, are put aside so that we might concentrate on the supreme moment at hand. Our eyes are downcast, we do not so much as glance at the priest as we receive our Lord, often with eyes closed. If we are emotionally moved, we try to bring it under control. It isn't for our neighbor to see such moments. These habits aren't accidental, but spring from the rubrics and aims of the Extraordinary Form.

In chapter 8, The President as Actor, in his book, Pope Paul's New Mass, Michael Davies analyzes the extent to which seminarians of the 70's were taught that to be a priest was to some significant degree to be a part of performance. It shows exactly where and why this directing/acting analogy started. It isn't accidental either. It is all on purpose and develops from definite aims.

In contrast with the Mass as a vehicle to put histrionic talents on display for an audience, Davies writes of the Old Mass:

"Because the celebrant is acting in persona Christi, because he freely chooses to make himself Christ's instrument, it is not surprising that his own personality should be submerged into that of the Divine master during the course of the liturgy, the public work of Christ. In the traditional Mass the rubrics insured the celebrant subordinated his personality to the celebration."---p. 154, Angelus Press, 1980

I am not even arguing which of the Forms captures the truest and most authentic way of worship. I am arguing that the aims of each of the two Forms are so different that we cannot be surprised when adherents of either side tend to not get along. I am suggesting to both Traditionalist and adherents of the Ordinary Form to stop pretending that it is all a matter of taste and preference. Our profound differences are important. We may both agree that Christ is truly Present in the same way. (And we might not). But the different ways we perceive Mass and how we behave while at Mass are only reflections of cherished beliefs with far-reaching implications that are as incompatible with each other as east and west, like oil and water, or even perhaps right and wrong. They might collide, they will not meet.

A Happy Feast of the Transfiguration to all! And now the barbecue.


Anonymous said...

Rory may or may not have a point.

Anonymous said...

I do not see that Monsignor grasps what liturgy is. Liturgy is not the @work of the people"!He should have read http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09306a.htm
Liturgy is the "public service the Church renders to God". "People" is not correct. It is a duty and a service owed to God.

Anonymous said...

"Liturgy in a Nutshell":

Is this another "angels on a pinhead" analysis?


Anonymous said...

"Here’s where the anonymity comes from. Everyone wants to be anonymous because if our religious leaders -- and their official journals --are too timid to tell the truth, then heaven help us who want to tell it and still get our kids through parochial schools..." - Mr st.guy

No. I could care less about staying on the good side of the Church's 'religious leaders'. The actual reason for blogsite anonymity is an attempt avoid the anonymous telephone caller who, using rather colorful colloquialisms concerning my birth species, tells me that I will be spending my eternity in the flames of hell.

thank you so very much for your concern at 1:00AM in the morning.


StGuyFawkes said...

Dear CDG,

You are right of course. The other reason blogs accept anonymous comments is that contentious, argumentative people will frequently take their issues a little too personally and act out.

It's just as you were saying. I pray that whoever is calling you stops. You have a stalker. So do I by the way. Welcome to the club.

My point was that there is really no venue for Catholic investigative reporting outside of internet websites, and that's sad.

Until venues like "The St. Louis Review" open themselves up to covering things like the Legionaires of Christ scandal, they do a diservice to our Catholic people and earn our diminished confidence in their grasp of the fiduciary relationship between the Chancery office and the ordinary pewsitter.

An anon above said that "The Review" is basically just the public relations arm of the Chancery office. That's exactly right. And the whole behavior of "The Review" earns the unconscious scorn of St. Louis Catholics for not handling tough issues.

It used to be that "The REview" would at least pick up some of Dr. James Hitchcock's hard hitting columns.

My sources tell me that they reject a lot of columns for being too controversial. That's okay but in a bloody, difficult world most Catholics will look for a discussion elsehwhere. Like here.

To conclude, I agree with you cdg.

Blogs can get stupid and rough. But at least they escape the tameness of "The St. Louis Review."

St. Guy

Patrick Kinsale said...

A diocesan newspaper is only as good as its publisher. Whether it is the chancery generally or the archbishop specifically, that is where the blame goes. The editor of the diocesan paper in KC seems to have greater freedom to speak his mind. Because diocesan papers are owned and run by diocesan officials, they will never enjoy the independence that the privately-run Catholic media enjoy, whether it be Commonweal or the Wanderer. The independent Catholic media are all the more important in an era when, and in locations where, bishops are not as willing to take a public stand.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Patrick Kinsale,

Well said. However, I think the underlying questions are:

1.) Is there, or can there be a role for Catholic investigative journalism? If a Catholic paper, especially a diocesan paper had taken the lead in exposing the Legionaries of Christ fiasco it would have gone a long way to restore lay confidence in our bishops.

I suspect there have been some publications that have covered this and I just do not know of their work.

2.) WHat is the role of the curious institution called a Catholic blog? If we had a livelier Catholic press would we even need blogs?

St. GUy