02 May 2010

Mary - the model for full conscious active participation in the liturgy

Well - the second Vatican Council placed a great emphasis in the need for the faithful to enter into the liturgy with full, conscious and active participation.  At the cross Jesus offered Himself, as the perfect and infinite sacrifice - being both priest and victim, or priest and lamb.

There were many and varied responses to this offering at the time:

First, there is the pharasaical one, which motivated by hidden jealousies, seeks to destroy such a gratuitous lover in order to protect a salvation that can be managed and organised, measured and assessed by us. As with all who do not penetrate beyond the surface of things, the cross is inpenetrable to them. They measure their own justice by externals and they measure Christ's condemnation by God by externals: "He trusted in God that He would deliver him, let Him deliver him if He delights in him".

Then there is the response of a Pontius Pilate. "I find nothing against this man" - but being political, being sufficiently 'pastoral' to know that he must do something to appease the crowd, being sufficiently sensitive to the pressures from the priests at one end and the emperor at the other, he sees fit first to scourge and then to crucify. He is a man of compromise - who puts his own survival and public face before what goodness and love require.

There are the soldiers, just following orders - though they see this man as a certain curiosity - and his extragant claims to be worthy of mockery.

There are the people who are swayed by the latest wave of propaganda - and they make their changing views known by democratic vote: "Give us Barabbas."

There are the apostles who would love to have followed if it wasn't going to cost them so much personally.

There is Mary Magdalen who clings to Him and weeps for Him - because she has been forgiven so much.

There is John , the disciple that He most loved, and he stands faithful to the end - in a contemplative gaze - yet his eyes are directed by the Master from the cross to "Behold his mother".

And this mother - here we see the person most united to the offering - the person whose soul is being peirced even as his heart is being pierced - the person whose 'yes' in joy at the Annunciation now has to become a 'yes' in annihilation at the cross, for she must trust despite all appearances that God is having his victory of love. She stands in silence. She doesn't seem to move. But she is the most active participant in this self-offering of Christ. She is totally united to it interiorly. She is living it and drawing life from it. She is united to Him and so in His peace during this agony. She is fully conscious - fully given, fully contemplative, fully in the annihilation of total trust in God. She lives it in the darkness of faith and in the sure hope that goes beyond all appearances. She lives it in the fullness of charity - and she most of all benefits from the grace that will flow from this offering. She most of all will let the Holy Spirit have His way in her - the Spirit that is breathed out upon her as Christ breathes His last.

When we can live the offering of Mass with this intensity, we will have reached full, active and conscious participation and the fruits of the objective grace present will be able to flourish in us to the maximum. The music that helps us enter this helps us to participate - even if we don't actually sing, even if we listen to the beauty of a polyphonic choir or of a Gregorian chant. The incense that rises to God symbolising our prayers helps us to participate, even if we are not the thurifer. The architecture of a church towering upwards, with majestic stainglass windows or contemplative icons helps us to participate, even if we were not the architect or artist. The beauty of the liturgical text, allowed to breath and free from banal improvisations helps us to participate, even if we are not the priest vocalising much of it. What doesn't help us participate so much is fighting our way to get to the sanctuary, or over who will help Father with the chalice, or over who runs the liturgy committee or over who sets up the banners or corny displays or over who hands out the pamphets - etc etc. A thriving parish is one where the people of God are drawn up into the great self-offering of Christ in the majestic contemplative dynamic of Mary at the cross. What helps this helps the liturgy. What hinders it hinders the liturgy.


1 comment:

Robbie said...

sorry - I meant to say "fighting" not fitting.