Sunday 13 April 2014

Palm Sunday actual participation

So, another Holy Week has begun. Over recent weeks I've once again been encouraging the people to attend the Sacred Triduum. How odd it is that so many people go straight from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection on Easter Day, thus missing out all the steps between! 

Fr Z has a post about the prayers for today and makes an interesting note of one of the rubrics which make it perfectly clear that "participation" in the liturgy means primarily interior participation. In other words,we do not need to treat the congregation like primary school children, where everyone has to have a little job to do so as not to feel left out. 

In relation to that, for several years now, I've chosen the shorter Gospel to be read on Palm Sunday (either by priest or deacon) rather than endure the miserable doling out of parts to various readers and the "crowd" voice to the slightly embarrassed congregation, with the attendant inconsequential mutterings of, "cru - ci - fy Him, cru - ci- fy Him" echoing underwhelmingly around the church.  

Here's a bit of Fr Z's point:
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.  The Sacred Triduum (triduum from tres dies – “three day space”) were once days of obligation when people were freed from servile work so that they could attend the liturgies, once celebrated in the morning.  In the 17th century, however, the obligation was removed under the influence of changing social and religious conditions.  As a result, the faithful lost sight of these beautiful liturgies and in general only priests and religious in monasteries knew them.

In 1951 Pope Pius XII began to restore the Triduum liturgies to prominence by mandating that the Easter Vigil be celebrated in the evening.  In 1953 Mass was permitted in the evening on certain days.  A reformed Ordo for Holy Week was issued in 1955 and took effect on 25 March 1956.   That is when the Sunday of Holy Week came to be called “The Second Sunday in Passiontide, or Palm Sunday”.  Matins and Lauds (Tenebrae, “shadows”) was to be sung in the morning.  Holy Thursday Mass was not to begin before 5 p.m. and no later than 8 p.m.  The idea was to make it easier for people to attend these all important liturgies.
Also in the rubrics there is something helpful for our understanding of “active participation”:
“Then as is customary the priest greets the people; and then there is given a brief admonition, by which the faithful are invited to participate actively and consciously (actuose et conscie participandam) in this day’s celebration.” 
Those words actuose et conscie are very important.  The Second Vatican Council, when using the term actuosa participatio or “active participation”, meant mainly interior participation, the engaging of the mind, heart and will.  The Council Fathers did not mean primarily exterior participation.  Exterior participation should be the natural result of interior participation: we seek to express outwardly what we are experiencing within.  While the two influence each other, there is a logical priority to interior participation, which is by far the more important.


Jacobi said...

Thank you for that reflection, Father.

Today I felt a bit of a twit voicing the responses with the rest, and stopped, although I continued to read. It all seemed a bit contrived. My impression was that several others felt the same way although a faction became more assertive.

Why on earth can we not just have the priest read the Passion? That way you can truly participate without having to worry about coming in at the right place or how your voice sounds.

Anonymous said...

That's the easy way out Jacobi. leave it all to the priest! (if you're blessed to have one) Should you and 'the rest' feel a tad uncomfortable just imagine the discomfort and the chaos, not to mention the contrived trial our Blessed Lord endured for you and the rest of mankind. Happy Easter.

Simon Platt said...

I see that you belong to the assertive faction, er, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

If that's what you see Simon Platt, I suggest you might go to Specsavers! Happy Easter to you too.

Jim P said...

Well, for what it's worth, Anon, that's what I saw, too: boom time for specsavers?
I'm not against a semi-dramatisation of the Passion, myself, but I do think it's best done the old way, with just three properly rehearsed lectors.