Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fully Conscious and Active Listening


Wednesday has dawned beautifully here in the windy city. Crisp and cool. After my morning spin class, got stuck in lots of traffic, but arrived here safely to my desk.

I'm at St. Edna's parish tonight in Arlington Heights, IL, to give a talk on living the word of God (exterior of St. Edna's shown above). This is a great parish with lots of activity. I'll be speaking to those in music and liturgy ministry there. I'm planning on giving them a good dose of some inspiring church documents, including snippets from Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, a bit from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and even something from the General Directory for Catechesis. I find that most Catholics do not even know of the existence of some of these documents. As a liturgist, I find that both the General Directory for Catechesis (the document that guides and inspires catechesis in the Catholic Church worldwide), and the National Directory for Catechesis (the document that guides and inspires catechesis here in the United States) are well worth reading. There has been a general dissolution of the wall that has existed between catechesis and liturgy over the past few decades, due mainly, I believe, to the restoration of the catechumenate worldwide. This has been one of the major gifts that the restoration has been to the Church. 

My plan for tonight is to do a little adjustment to this section from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy."

My rework:
"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active listening in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy."

My hope is to talk to these ministers about what active listening is in the liturgy; and not necessarily just listening to the readings. I'll share some stories about how active listening has shaped my own experience of the liturgy and how that has helped transform my own life. I think Catholics in general need to shake off the malaise that can creep into the worship experience. There is such rich fare every single time we celebrate the Eucharist. Please say a prayer for the dedicated ministers at St. Edna's tonight.

Gotta sing. Gotta Pray.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Active listening sounds much closer to the participatio actuoso of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Many latin scholars (and even some like myself who are not totally scholars) have long been aware that this term translates as actual participation, not active participation. This actual participation includes both internal and external participation, which involves more listening than doing. Is this the lines along which you are thinking?

-Chironomo

Todd said...

Sometimes there's too much focus on the particular adjective and neglect for SC 30, which describes more explicitly what participation in the Roman Rite should look like. Listening is a part, a vital part, of participation. But it is not an excuse for musicians to usurp the rubrics of the liturgy and install choir-only music.

Todd

Anonymous said...

Yes... but...Art. 30 takes on a bit of a different meaning depending on how that little adjective is translated. Actual participation in the liturgy implies that whatever our participation is, whether interior or exterior, it is directed towards the liturgy. Active participation implies that exterior participation is the primary type of liturgical participation. However, this makes SC Art. 19 into a nonsense statement in which active would have to mean both internal and external, a bit of a stretch for the commonly accepted meaning of "active".

Todd said...

"Active participation implies that exterior participation is the primary type of liturgical participation."

That's an interpretation I've never heard before.

In context, the Church teaches about participation that is "full, conscious, and active."

"Full" would seem to cover all bases: interior and exterior. "Conscious" would seem to indicate that believers approach liturgy as an act of will. And SC 30 is careful to say that active participation doesn't consist of singing, actions, gestures, and attitudes alone. But that these external aspects lead to the "active" expression.

As a liturgist and pastoral musician, I have no power over the internal life of worshipers. One hopes that people come to Mass prepared to engage God actively by whatever means appeal to their spirituality. All clergy, liturgists, musicians, and other ministers and volunteers can do is develop an environment in which both the outward expression and the inner spiritual life is cultivated.

I've heard the active/actual argument offered. I have to admit I'm singularly unimpressed with it. SC, the GIRM, and the rubrics for Mass assume people come to liturgy with the internal motivation to be open to God's grace, and to reinforce the communal experience of worship. In other words, both the external and internal, rather than being in competition with each other, are complementary expressions of the human worship of God.