instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The liturgy is the action of Christ

In an article in L’Osservatore Romano, Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, put it clearly:
"The liturgy is essentially the action of Christ."
In this statement, "essentially" doesn't mean "sort of" or "in a manner or speaking." It means "in its essence" or "in its very nature."

Now, I'm not a consultant for the Congregation for Divine Worship, and I don't play one on the Internet. "Give me my blocking and my lines" about sums up my concern for what goes into liturgical books. I prefer it when people say the black and do the red -- Fr. Zuhlsdorf's formula for speaking the words to be spoken (printed in black) and performing the actions to be performed (printed in red) -- but I'm not a liturgy police at my parish, or a liturgy secret police on my blog.

Nevertheless, I want toe echo Cardinal Sarah when he goes on to say:
"If this vital principle is not received in faith, it is likely to make the liturgy a human work, a self-celebration of the community."
There is middle ground between liturgy as "the action of Christ" and as "a self-celebration of the community." The community might, for example, celebrate Christ.There's nothing wrong with a communal celebration of Christ, but that isn't what the Mass is. A communal celebration of Christ is what happens in Protestant churches -- and in Catholic churches, too, sometimes, when the liturgy isn't being offered.

If you want to say that's what happens in Catholic churches while the liturgy is being offered -- that the Mass is both the action of Christ (in a primary and essential manner) and the community's celebration of Christ's action (in a secondary manner) -- I won't object. But I'm concerned that people might react against Cardinal Sarah's second point ("Oy! We aren't celebrating ourselves!") without quite getting the first point ("Yeah, whatever, that 'action of Christ' business is theology-speak mumbo jumbo for cardinals. We'll keep doing what we're doing.")

In the same article, Cardinal Sarah gives us another vital principle, which shows us the degree to which a liturgical celebration is being celebrated as an action of Christ:

"The participatio actuosa [active participation as called for in Sacrosanctum concilium] should not therefore be understood as the need to do something.... It is instead to let Christ take us and associate us with his sacrifice."
More Latin, ad orientem, introits instead of hymns of gathering? Sure, fine, whatever the Church says. But please please please preach and teach the need for us  to be associated with Christ's sacrifice.