Sunday, December 08, 2019

[Active] Participation


What is done in the liturgy is done by Christ, not by us. For the liturgy is the worship offered by Christ in His Church through the power of the Holy Spirit to God the Father. It is not something primarily that we do. We certainly, by right of our baptism, are able to participate in that offering. Indeed, it is our baptismal duty to do so to the best of our ability and according to our particular vocation. But the liturgy is first and foremost Christ acting in the world today through the rites of His Church. Because of this, through this, we are able to share in His saving acts—the Redemption He wrought for our sins on the cross, and the hope of eternal life made manifest in His glorious resurrection. In short, the sacred liturgy is Christ’s saving action in our world today. ...

The understanding that the liturgy is an action, not a text, and indeed that it is first and foremost the action of Christ Himself, is crucial if I am to participate in any liturgical rite, if I am truly to engage consciously and actually in that action, if I am in fact to pray the sacred liturgy. Otherwise I shall be a mere spectator, possibly a bored one, or maybe even a well-entertained one. But the liturgy is not a spectacle or entertainment to be watched. It is an action in which I must be engaged. It is worship. And it is prayer. ...

Therefore praying the liturgy, which is simply true or actual (sometimes called ‘active’) participation in the liturgy, is not so much saying the right words, ‘making the responses’ or ‘joining in the singing’ (these are means, not ends) as it is immersing myself in, losing myself in, allowing myself to be caught up in, the action of the liturgy.”

What is it to immerse one's self or to be caught up in the action of the liturgy if there is no act on my part? Is it simply comprehension and the proper will act? On the other hand, does this not undermine the traditionalist case against the reform if the main or essential acts of participation are to be found in the intellect and will? So long as these are present, what difference does it make if one says the "right words" or "makes the responses" or uses the EF? And who is to say that the subjective experience of the typical participant in the OF, in the vernacular and with contemporary worship music, cannot be ordered by these essential of participation? If those fundamental acts are present and sustained, then what difference do the means make? Would Reid argue that the some means are more proportioned to the end?

More importantly, what are these fundamental acts, if not the Son's knowledge and love of the Father, in which we participate thanks to Baptism and Confirmation/Chrismation? And is worship to be identified with these acts? A Thomist might respond that worship or prayer are acts of religio, not acts of the theological virtues but acts ordered by the theological virtues. I wouldn't disagree with that, though I would emphasize that Christian worship, our participation in the Son's praise of and thanksgiving to the Father, are secondary acts motivated by filial knowledge and love of the Father, and so Reid is incorrect on this point. However, if he does argue that the texts, singing, etc. are important in so far as they serve these secondary and some forms are more better suited than others (and at this point I don't have any reason to think that this is not his position, though I would disagree with him as to which forms are better suited, at least some of them), I think that part can be retained.