In my second post on this year’s CMAA colloquium I touched briefly on the importance of the ars celebrandi of the Priest-celebrant as one of the necessary features of a renewal in the authentic participation of the faithful in the sacred liturgy. Today I want to develop that and say, the art of properly celebrating the liturgy – from the perspective of the sacred ministers, of music, of art and architecture and vesture – is necessary not only for a more profound participation of the faithful in an active or external way, but for the spiritual and interior communion with Christ for which every Christian longs.
The essence and implementation of the participatio actuosa of the faithful in the celebration of the liturgy, has been a source of unfortunate division since its inclusion in the conciliar constitution on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. At almost every level of the Church’s life, the ‘active participation’ of the faithful has been understood less as the interior conformity of the self – the intellect and the heart of the person – with the chief protagonist of the liturgy, that is Jesus Christ, and more with the vocal or physical involvement of individuals (more often token individuals) in roles previously reserved to ordained ministers.
Far from a new concept at the time of the council, however, this renewed and positive effort to encourage the participation of the faithful in the liturgy, was already well known when it was include in the conciliar constitution in 1965. Inspired by the earlier work of the liturgical movement, in 1903 Pope Saint Pius X used these exact words in his Instruction on Sacred Music, Tra le Sollecitudini, whilst Pope Pius XI spoke in 1928 of the restoration of the Church’s chant tradition (already well under way in the monasteries) as a means for the faithful to “participate in divine worship more actively (actuosa)”. The Venerable Pope Pius XII, too, spoke of this participation in both Mystici Corporis (1943) and Mediator Dei (1947), in the latter clarifying that:
‘The conclusion that the people offer the sacrifice with the priest himself is not based on the fact that, being members of the Church no less than the priest himself, they perform a visible liturgical rite; for this is the privilege only of the minister who has been divinely appointed to this office: rather it is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving with prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest himself, so that in the one and same offering of the victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father. It is obviously necessary that the external sacrificial rite should, of its very nature, signify the internal worship of the heart’.