Friday, May 6, 2016

The Active Participation of the Faithful

In recent decades, scholars have called attention to the actions in worship and their meaning for building faith. Catherine Vincie gives us a brief review of the history of teaching that resulted in changes for both Roman Catholics and Protestants.  

When we think of the liturgical reform movement before the Second Vatican Council, we normally think of the work first done on the European continent primarily by the Benedictine monasteries and then later brought to North America and developed further there. Indeed, the Benedictine revival in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries holds inestimable importance for the evolution of the liturgy that came to a head in the Vatican II reforms. Prosper Guéranger (1805–1875) was singularly important to the revival of Benedictine monasticism and its work on the liturgy in the nineteenth century.

In 1837, Pope Gregory XVI constituted Solesmes as an abbey and named Guéranger its first abbot. The abbey became a center for liturgical exploration and study and is probably best known for its work on Gregorian chant. The abbey laid the foundation for generations of Benedictine liturgical scholars who worked on the historical, textual, and musical dimensions of the liturgy as well as on the popularization of correct liturgical celebration. Other abbeys, such as Beuron and Maria Laach in Germany, and Maredsous and Mont César in Belgium, were particularly important to the liturgical movement. The twentieth-century liturgical movement could stand on solid ground because of the historical and textual study of the liturgy done in these monasteries during the nineteenth century, even if textual analysis was in its infancy during this period.

The modern liturgical movement can be traced to Dom Lambert Beauduin’s address to the Belgium Malines Conference in 1909, titled “The True Prayer of the Church.”

. . . Beauduin thought that the piety of the church had become privatized and that it was divorced from the liturgy. In his mind, that piety could be renewed by a better understanding of liturgical texts made known through translation into the vernacular. This came to pass in the development of the many bilingual missals of the first half of the twentieth century. The theological underpinnings of Beauduin’s work were the church understood as the mystical body of Christ and the idea that the priesthood of the faithful equipped the laity for full and active participation in the liturgy.

Further study expanded our understanding of who we are as people of Christian worship.

. . . French and Belgium scholars, such as A-G. Martimort and Thierry Maertens. . . retrieved a biblical theology of the assembly as one gathered by God, who responded to the revelation of God in word and sacrament with thanksgiving and praise, and who participated with God in the gathering from the four winds of all people into God’s assembly. Not only was the assembly the subject of the liturgy, but the assembly was also differentiated into ministries, each of which had a distinct office to perform. This retrieval of a theology of the assembly in the 1950s and 1960s had implications for the revision of all the liturgical books after the council.

All of this work has resulted in assemblies for worship that truly involve the people of God, the Body of Christ, in many aspects of the liturgical action. The intent has been to enact a theological perspective that no longer sees the gathered people as an “audience,” but as worshippers.

Catherine Vincie, RSHM, is retired professor of liturgical and sacramental theology at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Missouri, and currently provincial councilor for her community, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, and a past president of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Catherine Vincie, “The RCIA and the Liturgical Movement,” Liturgy 31, no. 2 (2016), 3-10.

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