Monday, November 12, 2007

Bp Trautman and his view of active participation

(Note: scroll down or click this link to see pictures from Grotto's 40 Hour's Devotion)

Something interesting has emerged at the blog of Fr. Martin Fox, who is listed in the sidebar section under blogging priests, religious and deacons. He shares a publicized address given by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania. Bishop Trautman is also the chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Liturgy. His Excellency is probably the greatest proponent among US Bishops of banal translations and inclusive language in the liturgy.

What is often at the root of conflict in many liturgical matters is an understanding of the expression "active participation". In a very thorough look at the issue in a March 2006 post, Fr. Z explains the difference between the latin word actuosa and activa (emphasis mine in bold):

In the materials the seminarian sent me, especially a handout their loony liturgy instructor distributed, it was argued that exterior active participation was the first and primary thing that the Council Fathers were after. The prof observed first that the Council’s document Sacrosanctum Concilium never employs the term participatio activa. That is correct, of course. And he was correct that the use of actuosa rather than activa is very significant regarding the sort of participation the Fathers desired for “the people”.


In philosophy, (not philology) philosophia activa refers to the practical, in contrast to philosophia contemplativa. NB: activa is contrasted with contemplativa. Activus contrasts also with spectativus (“speculative”). Activus and actuosus have connotations respectively of outward, practical activity on the one hand and, on the other hand, lively interior and spiritual activity. Make it simple. Activus = exterior. Actuosus = interior. This is why the Council Father’s chose to describe their goal of “active” participation as actuosa.


Let’s put things together now.

By actuosa we mean primarily that interior receptivity which comes from the baptized person making an act of will to unite himself with the sacred action being wrought in the liturgy by the real “actor”, Jesus Christ the High Priest. This actuosa (“active” in an interior sense) is distinguished from activa (“active” in an exterior sense).

What the Church wants for us first and foremost is the interior participation, founded on our baptism, which integrates the whole human person and then comes to be expressed also in activa participatio.

This is all manifest in what happens during Mass. For example, we are actively receptive to the proclamation of the Gospel. We are not asked to read it aloud together with the priest. At the offertory there is a procession of gifts to the altar. Not everyone in Church comes to the altar. Everyone is then called upon by the priest, who as alter Christus is the Head of the Body of Christ gathered there, to unite their offerings and spiritual sacrifices to his. This they do interiorly, with an act of will, not by physically going up and grabbing hold of the chalice, etc.

I wonder how many "expert liturgists" were listening when Pope John Paul II said in his 1998 ad limina address out west. I have more in bold than not, so do read it slowly and carefully in it's entirety:

3. Only by being radically faithful to this doctrinal foundation can we avoid one-dimensional and unilateral interpretations of the Council's teaching. The sharing of all the baptized in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Council's call for full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14). Full participation certainly means that every member of the community has a part to play in the liturgy; and in this respect a great deal has been achieved in parishes and communities across your land. But full participation does not mean that everyone does everything, since this would lead to a clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the priesthood; and this was not what the Council had in mind. The liturgy, like the Church, is intended to be hierarchical and polyphonic, respecting the different roles assigned by Christ and allowing all the different voices to blend in one great hymn of praise.

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. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. 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.

Conscious participation calls for the entire community to be properly instructed in the mysteries of the liturgy, lest the experience of worship degenerate into a form of ritualism. But it does not mean a constant attempt within the liturgy itself to make the implicit explicit, since this often leads to a verbosity and informality which are alien to the Roman Rite and end by trivializing the act of worship. Nor does it mean the suppression of all subconscious experience, which is vital in a liturgy which thrives on symbols that speak to the subconscious just as they speak to the conscious.

Now we come to some troubling words in an address given by Bishop Trautman, where he seemingly applies the errant understanding of active participation in the name of Vatican II.

"My words to you in that address [i.e., on October 9, 1996] are still true today. I said to you then, and I say again: 'A pre-Vatican II liturgical theology and practice have no chance of speaking to a post-Vatican II world... The full, conscious and active participation of all the people is the goal in the reform and promotion of the liturgy.' Do we accept this teaching of Vatican II? If we do, we should not be calling for a retreat from the reform of the liturgy of Vatican II. There should be no backsliding" (bolding added).

There is no retreat from Vatican II, your Excellency, just a misunderstanding and misapplication of active participation in your foundation.

Some excerpts from the commentary of Fr. Martin Fox:

And since he brought it up, who exactly does he accuse of proposing to "retreat" from the Council's vision? This is a dressed-up version of a polemic one hears in parishes: "oh, you just don't accept Vatican II"--directed at people who: like bells at Mass; use "old fashioned" vestments; use Latin and chant; sing the prayers; don't sing the prayers; use incense and so forth. I'm sorry to say you hear it from priests, who should know better; but then, we hear a version of it here from a bishop who ought to know better. The truth is, what's actually going on is people label as "pre Vatican II" things they don't like, aren't used to, or associate with the past. The great irony is that any number of things I've seen or heard dismissed as "pre-Vatican II" are, if anything, post-Vatican II. I will give you two examples:

(a) A priest singing the Canon of the Mass. This simply was not done, in the Roman Rite, in the years leading up to the Council. Right or wrong, the priest said it sotto voce.

(b) Using a Scripture- and Missal-based chant refrain, either Latin or English, for the opening procession in preference to a vernacular hymn. Using vernacular hymns in place of the proper chants for the entrance, offertory and communion is a practice that long predated the Second Vatican Council, displacing chant--resulting in Pius X calling for restoration of chant; it was the Council that called for restoration both of chant and of a greater use of Scripture texts in the Mass.

What I think we see here is exactly the sort of "hermaneutic of rupture" that the holy father has identified and faulted in relation to Vatican II. Of course, Bishop Trautman may be able to explain this better and who knows, maybe he will show up here and give that explanation; but it really looks like he has this idea that Vatican II marks the beginning of "full, conscious and active" participation.

Go read the post of Fr. Martin Fox on Bishop Trautman's address

h/t to Fr. Z on the same subject, with his comments and emphases.

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