Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Word by Word, It Sounds Absurd"

Trautman on liturgy via John Allen. The whole address is here. A similar testimony is given by liturgical theologian Frank Norris in these words: One reason that the celebration of the Eucharist in the East and West was so splendid during this period (4th and 5th centuries) was that the liturgy followed the language of the people…There was no such thing, in East or West, as a sacred or hieratic language. Obviously, the language of the Holy Eucharist was never the language of the street. It was always a dignified, literary language…basically, the language of the people. It never occurred to anyone in the Church to create a “mystique” of a sacred language, to suggest that a sacred language was a sign of unity or that it added to the mystery of the Eucharist. Exactly. Latin is dead not necessarily because of its age or perceived relevance. It's dead because nobody is writing, speaking, and creating in it anymore. People need the transcendent dimension of liturgy, but employing archaic speech and ecclesiastical words may actually distance people from the transcendent God, rendering their worship more and more remote. We need to imitate the early Christians who did not have a sacred language but did have a transcendent understanding of God and manifested it in their liturgy.

In his usual fair-mindedness, Allen called upon ICEL head Bruce Harbert for a reply. Included was this tidbit:

We hear much about "active participation" in the liturgy as desired by Vatican II. I wonder whether that is the best possible translation of the Council's words. I can participate in an event without getting really involved, and I can get involved as a spectator at a game of football without participating. I think "active involvement" expresses better what the Council wanted: not merely "joining in," but being drawn in, heart and mind. For that to happen, the liturgy must express feelings as well as facts.

The Council mentioned "active participation/involvement" many times and in different documents. SC 11 for example, stressed three related notions:

"... the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects."

While I think it's possible to enjoy a football game by sitting in the stands and watching, if one really wants to be part of the sporting culture, one enjoys a tailgate meal, one wears the team colors, or in Europe, one sings the songs. When we're talking liturgy, is God edified by the minimalist? Hopefully so. But has Christ not asked each of us to pick up our cross daily and follow in his footsteps?

In Christus Dominus, bishops are charged to "constantly exert themselves to have the faithful know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist and thus become a firmly-knit body in the unity of the charity of Christ. 'Intent upon prayer and the ministry of the word' (Acts 6:4), they should devote their labor to this end that all those committed to their care may be of one mind in prayer and through the reception of the sacraments may grow in grace and be faithful witnesses to the Lord."

This strikes me as a development a bit more substantial than gluing one's butt to a stadium seat or a recliner chair.

Nobody's claiming outward involvement is the litmus test. Over and over again, the Church, through this Council, taught that the external faith witness of the people: charity, unity, and other virtues--these would be evident when worship is accomplishing the goal of sanctification.

Read over the links and add any comments, if you wish.

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