Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Active Participation

Lots has been said about "active participation" at Mass, arguably one of the prime goals of the liturgical renewal of Vatican II. It is by now trite to point out that "active" does not mean activity: lectoring, ushering, extraordinary-ministering, foot washing, hand holding, etc. So what follows should be a nice restatement (or prestatement) of what is obvious to everyone.

Today I flipped open Divine Intimacy, the pre-Conciliar classic of Carmelite spirituality. The first words I read (the first I've ever read from this classic) were these on "Participating in Holy Mass":
The encyclical Mediator Dei [Pius XII on the liturgy, 1947] exhorts all the faithful to "participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, not passively, carelessly, and with distractions, but with such ardor and fervor that we shall be closely associated with the High Priest." It is not enough to be present at Mass; we must take part, "participate" in it. In Holy Mass, Jesus continues to sacrifice Himself for us, and to offer Himself to His Father, in order to obtain divine blessings for us. It is true that Jesus offers Himself through the ministry of the priest, but the priest makes the offering in the name of all the faithful, and they, in union with him . . . . This means that the faithful also are invited to offer the divine Victim with the priest. . . . On Calvary, Mary did not take a passive part in the Passion of her Son; she united herself with his intentions, and offered Him to the Father. In the same way, when we are present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we, too, can offer the Father the divine Victim who is ours, because He offered and immolated Himself for all of us.
That is active participation: like Mary at the Cross, involved.

(Incidentally, this is also maybe a corrective to the undo, almost substitutionary, passivity of St. Faustina's chaplet. "For the sake of his sorrowful passion," sure, but only to the extent that we are penetrated by it.)