|H.E. Robert Cardinal Sarah|
THE SILENT ACTION OF THE HEARTPrefect for the Congregation for Divine WorshipL'Osservatore RomanoJune 12, 2015
Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI will the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council be read? “Sacrosanctum concilium “ is not de facto a simple catalogue of reform “recipes” but a real “magna carta” of every liturgical action.Actuating the liturgy is therefore nothing other than actuating the work of Christ. The liturgy in its essence is “actio Christi”. [It is]the “work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God.” (n.5) It is He who is the great Priest, the true subject, the true actor in the liturgy (n.7). If this vital principle is not accepted in faith, there is the risk of making the liturgy into a human work, a self-celebration of the community.By contrast, the real work of the Church consists in entering into the action of Christ, in uniting oneself to that work which He received as a mission from the Father. So, “the fullness of divine worship was given to us" since “His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation” (n.5). The Church, the Body of Christ, must therefore become in Her turn an instrument in the hands of the Word.This is the ultimate meaning of the key-concept of the Conciliar Constitution: “participatio actuosa”. Such participation for the Church consists in becoming the instrument of Christ – The Priest, with the aim of sharing in His Trinitarian mission. The Church takes part actively in the liturgical action of Christ in the measure that She is His instrument. In this sense, to speak of “a celebrating community”” is not devoid of ambiguity and requires prudence. (Instruction” Redemptoris sacramentum”, n. 42). “Participatio actuosa” should not then be intended as the need to do something. On this point the Council’s teaching has frequently been deformed. Rather, it is about allowing Christ to take us and associate us with His Sacrifice.
Contrary to what has at times been sustained, and in conformity with the Conciliar Constitution, it is absolutely fitting that during the Penitential Rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and Eucharistic Prayer, for everyone – the priest and the congregation alike – to face ad orientem together, expressing their will to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of doing things could be fittingly carried out in the cathedrals where the liturgical life must be exemplary (n. 4).
To be very clear, there are other parts of the Mass where the priest, acting “in persona Christi Capitis” enters into nuptial dialogue with the congregation. But this face-to-face has no other end than to lead them to a téte-à-tète with God, who through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will make it ‘a heart to heart’. The council offers other means to favor participation [through] “the acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes.” (n.30).An excessively quick reading and above all, a far too human one, inferred that the faithful had to be kept constantly busy. Contemporary Western mentality formed by technology and bewitched by the mass media, wanted to make the liturgy into a work of effective and profitable pedagogy. In this spirit, there was the attempt to render the celebrations convivial. The liturgical actors, animated by pastoral motives, try at times to make it into didactic work by introducing secular and spectacular elements. Don’t we see perhaps testimonies, performances and clapping in the increase? They believe that participation is favored in this manner, whereas in fact, the liturgy is being reduced to a human game.We run the real risk of leaving no space for God in our celebrations. We risk the temptation of the Hebrews in the desert. They attempted to create worship according to their own stature and measure, [but] let us not forget they ended up prostrate before the idol of the Golden Calf.It is time to start listening to the Council. The liturgy is “above all things the worship of the divine Majesty” (n.33). It has pedagogic worth in the measure wherein it is completely ordered to the glorification of God and Divine worship. The Liturgy truly places us in the presence of Divine transcendence. True participation means renewing in ourselves that “wonder” which St. John Paul II held in great consideration (Ecclesia de Eucharistia” n. 6). This holy wonder, this joyful awe, requires our silence before the Divine Majesty. We often forget that holy silence is one of the means indicated by the Council to favor participation.If the liturgy is the work of Christ, is it necessary for the celebrant to introduce his own comments? We must remember that, when the Missal authorizes an intervention, this must not turn into a secular and human discourse, a comment more or less subtle on something of topical interest, nor a mundane greeting to the people present, but a very short exhortation so as to enter the Mystery (General Presentation of the Roman Missal, n.50). Regarding the homily, it is in itself a liturgical act which has its own rules.“Participatio actuosa” in the work of Christ, presupposes that we leave the secular world so as to enter the “sacred action surpassing all other” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.7). De facto, “we claim, with a certain arrogance, to stay in the human - to enter the divine.” (Robert Sarah, “Dieu ou rien”, p. 178).In such a sense, it is deplorable that the sanctuary (of the high altar) in our churches is not a place strictly reserved for Divine worship, that secular clothes are worn in it and that the sacred space is not clearly defined by the architecture. Since, as the Council teaches, Christ is present in His Word when this is proclaimed, it is similarly detrimental that the readers do not wear appropriate clothing, indicating that they are not pronouncing human words but the Divine Word.The liturgy is fundamentally mystical and contemplative, and consequently beyond our human action; even the “participatio” is a grace from God. Therefore, it presupposes on our part an opening to the mystery being celebrated. Thus, the Constitution recommends full understanding of the rites (n.34) and at the same time prescribes that “the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (n.54).