Sunday, December 27, 2015

Active Participation

On the Facebook page of Rome Sweet Rome, one of the participants posted the following video:

The "active participation" spoken of by Pope St. Pius X (PSPX) was not the same as the "full and conscious" participation encouraged by VCII. Rather, he PSPX, encouraged Gregorian chant be added to the Mass to add to the enrichment of the temple. At some Masses in the ordinary rite, I could fully relate to the frustrations of that woman Fr. spoke of. There were widespread abuses to the "active participation" in the Mass - and fortunately most (not all) of those abuses have fallen by the wayside. PSPX encouraged a deeper, more subconscious participation of a choir chanting Gregorian chant. Certainly those who know the chants, or even if they had hymnals to follow along were welcome to join in - but the use of chant in Mass introduces a subliminal participation where just being present before the Eucharist is enhanced by holy chanting echoing through the sanctuary. It is an "active participation" of mind, body and soul.

Now, that being said, the document referred to in the video is actually PSPX rebuking the abuses which had been creeping into the liturgy over the previous decade!  He was not encouraging more abuse - as we most certainly found in the years which followed VCII!  [1]  This is not to say that everything new is an abuse, but no one can legitimately say there were no abuses in the post Vatican II era.  Just look at some of the wording from the document cited:
Nothing should have place, therefore, in the temple calculated to disturb or even merely to diminish the piety and devotion of the faithful, nothing that may give reasonable cause for disgust or scandal, nothing, above all, which directly offends the decorum and sanctity of the sacred functions and is thus unworthy of the House of Prayer and of the Majesty of God. We do not touch separately on the abuses in this matter which may arise. Today Our attention is directed to one of the most common of them, one of the most difficult to eradicate, and the existence of which is sometimes to be deplored in places where everything else is deserving of the highest praise -- the beauty and sumptuousness of the temple, the splendor and the accurate performance of the ceremonies, the attendance of the clergy, the gravity and piety of the officiating ministers. Such is the abuse affecting sacred chant and music. And indeed, whether it is owing to the very nature of this art, fluctuating and variable as it is in itself, or to the succeeding changes in tastes and habits with the course of time, or to the fatal influence exercised on sacred art by profane and theatrical art, or to the pleasure that music directly produces, and that is not always easily contained within the right limits, or finally to the many prejudices on the matter, so lightly introduced and so tenaciously maintained even among responsible and pious persons, the fact remains that there is a general tendency to deviate from the right rule, prescribed by the end for which art is admitted to the service of public worship and which is set forth very clearly in the ecclesiastical Canons, in the Ordinances of the General and Provincial Councils, in the prescriptions which have at various times emanated from the Sacred Roman Congregations, and from Our Predecessors the Sovereign Pontiffs.  [2] (emphasis added).
My point in posting this article?  Well, the video appears to be saying that "active participation" as we have it today, was really PSPX's idea - and THAT is preposterous.  PSPX encouraged sacred music to compliment the Mass, not overtake it.  You don't have to sing the chants he recommended to be more active in mind, body and spirit - as the very presence of chant in the sanctuary draws one into participation through the senses.  The Motu Proprio he promulgated goes on to limit sacred music to that which is either a) Gregorian chant or b) based in Gregorian chant.  He is not sanctioning the sort of "active participation" which came out of Vatican II.  Sacred music in the Mass is NOT there for our enjoyment!  It is there to enhance the atmosphere of the liturgy and draw us in at a deeper level, as opposed to a carnal or "pleasure" level.  Sacred music can be and should be enjoyable, but there has to be limits to that enjoyment so that it does not take us to the more carnal.

IS there a place for the sort of "active participation" which has come in this post Vatican II era?  Perhaps one can make an argument for such, but one cannot use Pope St. Pius X's Motu Proprio to support such, for if anything it comes out against "profane" abuses.

[1] Abuses post VCII:
Clown Masses, Polka Masses, "Liturgical Dance,"  

[2] Tra le Sollecitudini -

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