Saturday, September 2, 2017

What Exactly Is "Active Participation" and "Noble Simplicity" in the Context of Holy Mass?

Kind of piggybacking of of Pope Francis' comments (which really were a non-story, and were not controversial at all), I got into a bit of a discussion on elements of liturgical worship. The usual charges against traditional liturgical worship were bandied about, unfortunately. Charges that the extraordinary Form of the Mass didn't reflect "noble simplicity" or had too many "useless repetitions". Below is the conversation that I and several others had on the subject.

There are some good citations from same great essays that I do not want to be lost, so I'll post links to everything here as well for posterity's sake. My words will be in blue, with the others' in various, different colors. The whole conversation "began" when one person found it inaccurate to say that Latin encourages a camaraderie among the faithful.

Harry: The common Latin language encourages a bond of brotherhood between Catholics of all countries, rich and poor, far and wide. 

The problem is that perhaps memory of the pre-reform period has to pass before we can change attitudes to Latin. People will then come to see it not as a mysterious and alien language that shuts them out of the litugy, but as their liturgical language in which is expressed their universality of rite, their brotherhood with their fellows Catholics and not least, their intimacy with Almighty God, for whose worship this language is set aside in their lives. 

The argument that people won't understand the words of the Sanctus and Gloria in Latin when they say them every single week, and read from a Missal with both languages side by side, is just nonsensical. 

We have failed Vatican II when it comes to Latin. It should play a greater role in the reformed liturgy, where it can do all kinds of good without impeding active and conscious participation, if it is employed proportionally and only to the unchanging parts of the Mass. 

''Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.''

Completion of the liturgical reform of Vatican II as referred to by the Holy Father this week, must involve this. Otherwise we have only a 'partial revelation'.

Tom: The only common bond was that the laity were equally disconnected with the Mass. The Mass prayers were said by the priest and altar boys and the people sat and stared. 

You mentioned Hong Kong, and it reminds me of how the Vatican once held that nothing of Chinese culture could be brought into the celebration of the Mass.

Thankfully, that was lifted and Chinese can and do bring their culture into parts of the Mass without changing the consecration itself. 

Ed: I have no idea where some people went to Church before Vatican II. It was mandatory at our Catholic school to go to Mass one day a week (not counting Sunday), it was in Latin and we responded in Latin. There were parts where we all kneeled, all stood and all sang. Our participation was quite active and we knew what was going on.

Tom: I don't recall the people having response in the Latin Mass before Vatican II.

All responses were done by the altar boys. 

There was a choir which sang the songs in Latin, or as in my case when I went to Catholic School, the children sang the hymns in Latin. It was all very disconnecting over all, which is why Pope Francis is asking to look back at Vatican II and understand WHY the reforms were called for.

Harry: And indeed we can look back, see why the reforms were necessary, and not seek to emulate the Vetus Ordo at all but rather seek to bring out the fullness of Catholic faith in our reformed liturgy, informed by Vatican II as we do so. 

That includes seeing where we can include Latin, to the benefit rather than the detriment of the faithful, in a way which emphasises of our universality of rite but does not hinder full, active and conscious participation in the liturgy. It's clearly important not to create an experience like the Low Tridentine Masses of old which you speak of. That would be contrary to the clear and consistent aims of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

But it does not mean that it is good to go the other extreme and entirely kill off the sacred language of Latin in our reformed liturgy. There can absolutely be a role for Latin in the post-concilliar worship life of the Church. This is allowed for, indeed arguably envisaged, by Sacrosanctum Concilium and is not something like a 'reform of the reform', but rather a full realisation of the liturgical reform in compliance with the constitution which directs it.

Tom: In home parishes there is no need to see where we can include Latin. What for ?

Mass is to be celebrated so people of all levels of intellect can participate. Add Latin at a Mass in an English speaking parish and you begin to leave people behind with regards to participation. Understanding Latin my be easy for you, but it's not for others, trust me.

At the Vatican when Mass is celebrated with people from all various parts of the world, Latin makes sense, but then, English is more widely understood than Latin is. Jesus didn't institute the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharists to make people feel more Catholic. He did so as a sacrifice that would endure for all time for all people of faith.

Tim: Dialogue Masses, where the people did say the responses (in Latin), did exist prior to Vatican II... they were being promoted in some locales as part of the Liturgical Movement- the same movement that led to the Vatican II reforms ultimately.

Nicholas: Tim is right on.  Pope Pius XII got the ball rolling with Mediator Dei, and by the 1950's many parishes were utilizing the Dialogue Mass. In fact, on September 3rd, 1958, the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued an Instruction greatly urging the use of the Dialogue Mass. The St. Joseph Daily Missal that I use when attending the EF (once used by my grandfather) was printed in 1959, and has all the parts for the Dialogue Mass listed.

Tom said: "Add Latin at a Mass in an English speaking parish and you begin to leave people behind with regards to participation."

I think this is an extremely narrow view of what active participation is. It has reduced the act of "participating" to responses in the vernacular. This view also makes it seem like people aren't intelligent enough to understand Latin, as other posters have pointed out here in the last couple pages.

To quote a bit from Pius XII's Mediator Dei, let's take a look at what it actually means to participate, and what it looks like. Such active participation (participatio actuosa) is not to be defined primarily by whether or not one can reply in the vernacular...
It is, therefore, desirable, Venerable Brethren, 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 day-dreaming, 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.'
A quick note, but suffice it to say that there are many people in North American parishes that are very clearly day dreaming or distracted during Mass, even with responses in English and not in Latin. Reintroducing Latin into certain places during the Mass would not leave people anymore behind than the uncatechized or uninterested already are.

Pope Pius XII continues...
[This] exhortation of the Apostle, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," requires that all Christians should possess, as far as is humanly possible, the same dispositions as those which the divine Redeemer had when He offered Himself in sacrifice: that is to say, they should in a humble attitude of mind, pay adoration, honor, praise and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God.  
Moreover, it means that they must assume to some extent the character of a victim, that they deny themselves as the Gospel commands, that freely and of their own accord they do penance and that each detests and satisfies for his sins. It means, in a word, that we must all undergo with Christ a mystical death on the cross so that we can apply to ourselves the words of St. Paul, "With Christ I am nailed to the cross."
To have this "same disposition" as our "divine Redeemer had"... that is how we most actively participate in the Mass. Not by our responses. Because if that were the case, I wouldn't be "participating" at all, because half the time I can't make any of the responses because my wife and I are busy wrangling our children! Yet our interior dispositions allow us to participate actively.

As for the claim that not being able to understand Latin is a hindrance to understanding the Mass and participating in it, Pius XII commented [emphasis mine]:
Many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman missal even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. 
Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them. (MD 108)
Pope Pius XII
I tend to do the same thing when I have to attend a Spanish or Polish Mass. I often had to serve the Polish OF Mass as an altar boy. That language barrier didn't hinder my understanding of the Mass in any way. I was catechized enough to know exactly what was going on, even before my teenage years.

But if we want the words of a more recent pope, look no further than St. John Paul II in an address to the US bishops in 1988:
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it.
...In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.
Tom: Nicholas said: "I think this is an extremely narrow view of what active participation is. It has reduced the act of 'participating' to responses in the vernacular."

Not my view alone, but of the father's of the Church and the reason for Vatican II reforms.

From Sacrosanctum Concilium:
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. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. 
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.
Even very intelligent people still have to go through gymnastics understanding Latin. Then there are people who do not have the intellectual capacity to do it at all. There are more than you think.

Also from Sacrosanctum Concilium;
34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation. 
The TLM was failing in so many ways before Vatican II, that it prompted Pope John XXIII to call for the reforms. Again, Pope Francis calls us to look at the reasons for the reforms.

Ed: The TLM was failing? That is totally false. Why did Pope John XXIII call the Council? [He linked to this speech given by Pope St. John XXIII at the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11. 1962.]

Tom: Yes it was failing, which is WHY it was replaced and is the EF today. This is not to mean that the TLM is not a legitimate format, but rather, the people had far less active participation. The [OF] is closer to the early Christian Church than the TLM was.

Nicholas: Tom said, "Not my view alone, but of the father's of the Church and the reason for Vatican II reforms."

Of course it's not your view alone, but I think you are mischaracterizing the views of the council Fathers. Your narrow view on "participatio actuosa" is not called for, or shared by, what is written in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

I totally agree with the selection you've posted from SC 14; but I have to ask, are you truly understanding what "active participation" is? Are you reducing it to the lowest common denominator, that is, external actions and responses? Could it be that the interior disposition is the main component for this active participation, this participatio actuosa?

Also, if many don't have the intellectual capacity for saying certain parts of the Mass in Latin like the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, or Our Father, as you claim, then our culture is doomed. Happily, I'm not as pessimistic as you are, though! There are many more people than you think who have the capacity to learn a smattering of Latin, as the Council instructed be done. Whether they are willing to, or have some sort of resistance to even try to do so, is another story.

Tom said, "Also from Sacrosanctum Concilium;

"'34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.'

"The TLM was failing in so many ways before Vatican II, that it prompted Pope John XXIII to call for the reforms. Again, Pope Francis calls us to look at the reasons for the reforms."

Pope St. John XXIII
I absolutely agree with you on your last sentence. But here come the ridiculous charges of the EF not reflecting "noble simplicity" or being outside the people's powers of comprehension. If the EF was such a failure and was so outside people's powers of comprehension, then how in the heck was the faith passed on for centuries, and how the heck did my grandparents pass the faith on to my parents and myself.... successfully?!

How much explanation does it really take to have the faithful say three or four parts of the Mass in Latin? It's made to seem as if it's an impossible task to even implement.

Now, I'm not denying that some reforms had to happen, but the inorganic changes that occurred in the liturgy have had deleterious effects on the faithful, both lay and clergy. Before he became pope, Benedict XVI wrote in the preface to this book:
We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it — as in a manufacturing process — with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.
Are people's hearts more united to God in the Blessed Sacrament than they were 50 or 60 years ago? 100 years ago? 500 years ago? The EF was basically the only way to worship in the Latin Rite during all of those times. We can at least say that today, participation by baptized Catholics in the sacramental life is at an all time low. Why is this? There are, assuredly, many factors. It may be time, as Pope Francis says, to look back at what the documents of the Council actually said and what they actually called for, because as Benedict XVI notes above, the way it was implemented and interpreted by many was not always correct. 

Tom said: "[To say the TLM was failing] is not to mean that the TLM is not a legitimate format, but rather, the people had far less active participation."

Like Ed, I think this charge is unfounded and incorrect, as I pointed out above and in my previous post. To quote that wonderful movie, The Princess Bride, "You keep using that phrase ("active participation" or participatio actuosa), I do not think it means what you think it means."

Liturgical scholar and historian Dom Alcuin Reid, OSB has a much better understanding, in line with the Second Vatican Council's teaching, on what "active participation" actually means [emphasis mine]:
The Council called for participatio actuosa, which is primarily our internal connection with the liturgical action—with what Jesus Christ is doing in his Church in the liturgical rites.  
This participation is about where my mind and heart are. Our external actions in the liturgy serve and facilitate this. But participatio actuosa is not first and foremost external activity, or performing a particular liturgical ministry. That, unfortunately, has been a common misconception of the Council’s desire.
As for "useless repetitions" and "noble simplicity", there was a great collection of essays put out by Four Courts Press from the proceedings of the Second Fota International Liturgical Conference in 2009, summoned by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Dom Reid had another great essay in this book entitled "Noble Simplicity Revisited". It's a wonderful essay, but I think this is especially pertinent to the conversation here:
It is perhaps telling that the 2007 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis does not use "noble simplicity" when speaking of the liturgy. Rather, it speaks of the ars celebrandi and asserts that "everything related to the Eucharist must be marked by beauty"... 
Perhaps, those "useless repetitions" had a purpose after all (as many priests who celebrate the usus antiquior with reverence and devotion today can testify)? Perhaps the problem was not so much with the rites, but with the formation of those who celebrated them and worshipped through them? 
...But if we return to the Baroque Chapel of St. John the Baptist in Portugal, and assist today at a celebration of the sacred liturgy according to the usus antiquitor... and ask whether this worship reflects the "noble simplicity" espoused by the Second Vatican Council, I submit that we are asking the wrong question. We ought to be asking whether this liturgical rite and the items that serve it in fact facilitate that actual participation in the Sacred Mysteries for which the twentieth century Liturgical Movement and Sacrosanctum concilium strove. If the answer in this instance... is indeed affirmative in spite of the Council's preference for "noble simplicity" having been set aside, then so be it; for the salvation of souls is the supreme law.
Tom said: "The [OF] is closer to the early Christian Church than the TLM was.

So what? Yes, some parts of the OF may be closer to the early Church; but other parts... not so much. What happened to the organic development of rites, which the TLM/EF was; an organic development of liturgy.

The sentiment quoted above is nothing more than antiquarianism. It's also known as archaeologism, which has been condemned by several popes of the last century, particularly by Pope Pius XII. Again, from Mediator Dei Pius XII taught [emphases mine]:
The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded. This notwithstanding, the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof... 
The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity... 
Assuredly it is a wise and most laudable thing to return in spirit and affection to the sources of the sacred liturgy. For research in this field of study, by tracing it back to its origins, contributes valuable assistance towards a more thorough and careful investigation of the significance of feast-days, and of the meaning of the texts and sacred ceremonies employed on their occasion.  
But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See... 
This way of acting bids fair to revive the exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism to which the illegal Council of Pistoia gave rise. It likewise attempts to reinstate a series of errors which were responsible for the calling of that meeting as well as for those resulting from it, with grievous harm to souls, and which the Church, the ever watchful guardian of the "deposit of faith" committed to her charge by her divine Founder, had every right and reason to condemn.
 Again, I'm all for the liturgy evolving, but we have to ask ourselves if many of the things done in the "spirit of Vatican II" were a legitimate evolution, or a "banal on-the-spot product."

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