28 October 2011

Liturgical Particpation, Again

During discussion on a recent post, about how the new translation might end up bringing in its wake as many problems as it might resolve, I quoted and said:

'"Assisting at Holy Mass you should have the four-fold intention of: Adoration, by which we acknowledge our dependence on God as the Ruler over life and death; of Praise and Thanksgiving for the benefits conferred on us; of Reparation for our sins and negligences; of Impenetration, to implore of Him the grace necessary for our salvation. If you desire to implore other benefits from God, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, very well, but do not forget the main intention."

This is how we "participate" in Mass, and if we do so by praying the Rosary, then fine, but always remember that the four-fold intention is a way of describing how we become part of the sacred action which is taking place in Church for us.'

Anagnostis replied from an Orthodox point of view and made some telling points which, while not relevant to what I'm writing about here, are none the less of great interest.  The bits I'm interested in here are:

"A couple of years ago, an RC poster asked me to provide a diagrammatic description of the Orthodox Church, equivalent to the familiar "pyramid" provided by himself: Pope at the apex, then a narrow tier of Card. Metropolitans, a larger one of diocesan bishops, then presbyters and deacons, with the mass of laity forming the base. I provided, to his bafflement, a diagram of the Divine Liturgy: the bishop on his cathedra, the presbyters in the altar, the deacons running between altar and nave (i.e. "ship"/Ark)where the laity, the readers and monastics together with the Mother of God, the Angels and Saints stand to unite themselves with the death, resurrection and glorification of the Lord."

"Anyway - the purpose of the Eucharistic liturgy is to make present the Body of Christ in both senses: in the Eucharistic gifts and simultaneously in the people - the WHOLE people, the Mystical Body of Christ. The "Mystery of Christ" is the Eucharistic Mystery which "generates" the Mystical Body. This is how the Church is constituted/made/realised - by, in function of, the Eucharistic Liturgy."

(I stress that I am extracting only part of something Anagnostis was writing for a different purpose.)

The Catholic who is properly at home with the scholastic explanation of what actuosa participatio really means in the context of the Mass will also be sympathetic to the Orthodox mystagogical explanation of the same event, even if he takes a few goes to begin to get his mind around some breathtakingly differently ways of thinking about the Liturgy and the Church. 

My point is that the number of people in the group "Catholics who will understand Liturgy in this way" is very limited and doesn't include anybody at all (as far as I can tell) in the Magic Circle.  This in turn means that the Benedict-inspired moves towards a restoration of the baby to the bath water are being met with opposition born of incomprehension.  This is not language and these are not concepts with which (for example) the average member of the Catholic Education Service can ever have engaged.

I tread lightly here, because I just begin to wonder how far a local Church which doesn't or can't engage with things like this at the conceptual level can in fact be Catholic.  If "being Church" is in fact a result of participation with the Sacred Liturgy on its terms rather than on ours, of being absorbed into the eternal Mystery of Atonement and Salvation rather than drinking Fairtrade coffee and collecting for CAFOD, then what is actually happening weekend after weekeend in our churches?

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