The New Gasparian
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A journal dedicated to the life and mission of St. Gaspar del Bufalo, and to a life lived in response to the call and the cry of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our on-going mission is to share good news of hope and communion.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

There are a few bloggers and other pundits out there denigrating “full, active and conscious participation” even reducing it to an unintelligible acronym, FACP. Okay, maybe the phrase has been
"invoked to justify all sorts of cringe-inducing stupidity from chubby liturgical dancers in spandex.” Still, it is something to which the Church has invited us and challenged us. The Liturgy is not a mindless exercise, nor is it simply entertainment to be attended and inspired by. In spite of its beauty , if we fail to immerse ourselves in the Liturgy and allow it to form and change us, we fail to immerse ourselves in a relationship that is life itself.

We take what we learn here at this table, and spread it into the world in which we live, especially in the significant relationships in our life. Dying and rising is an essential element in every liturgy, in our every act in this liturgy, and in our every act in this world. This table is where we learn how to be in the world, and where we learn how to love in the world.

We would never sit by and simply attend a relationship. No we would enter into it. This applies to individuals AND to the community as a whole.

So what it Full, Active, conscious participation?

Gathering for liturgy is important, silence, prelude, courtship, flattery, song. How does any relationship begin? The Greetings and invitations at the beginning of Mass reflect the beginning of any courtship. Any developing relationship is going to experience trial, difficulty, recognition of lack, incompleteness. The Penitential rites of the Mass teach us that honesty and humility are important for any relationship, especially with this most important relationship. Some days and times are simply given to praise, and with the Lord we sing together this ancient Gloria.

The readings from Scripture are so many "love letters" telling of the Groom's eternal passion for the Beloved. When the Scriptures are proclaimed, we are privy to the intimate exchange of thought and feeling between the divine Spouse and his Bride. Through the pens of prophets, apostles and evangelists, the Spirit whispers into our ears the "sweet nothings" of the deep things of God. Like the Bride in the Song of Songs, we pay close attention, saying with her, Let me see you, let me hear your voice, For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely. . . . I was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil; I heard my lover knocking. . . . My heart trembled within me, and I grew faint when he spoke. (Song 2:14,5:2a,4b) And we respond to the Word of the Spouse in the same way lovers do when they're told once more, "I love you." For we say "Thanks be to God" and speak our wonder in the praise of a psalm. We express our joy by singing "Alleluia" and, at last, say "I believe" in the love that has been told.

But words are not enough. It is now time for deeds. So begins the Liturgy of the Eucharist when tokens of love are presented in the offertory. For love that is mere talk is no love at all. Lovers must show each other they mean what they say. Thus we bring our lives to the altar, represented by the gifts we bring. And Christ the Spouse receives our offering. It pleases him. Like the Groom of the Song, he exclaims, I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride; I gather my myrrh and my spices, I eat my honey and my sweetmeats, I drink my wine and my milk. Eat, friends, drink! Drink freely of love! (Song 5:1) With these words the lovers are encouraged to enjoy the delights of their love. The nuptial bed is ready.

Thus the Eucharistic Prayer begins when Christ unites himself once more to the Bride. The Preface leads to singing "Holy, Holy, Holy", reminding us we are about to enter the Inner Sanctum, the nuptial chamber, where the wedding of the Lamb and his Bride will be consummated. But before he gives himself to her again, and she to him, the "marriage vows" are repeated. He says to her, "This is my Body, This is my Blood", words of total self-giving. And she gives her consent by speaking the great "Amen."

Now the time for Communion is at hand. The climax of the liturgy takes place as Bridegroom and Bride consummate their love in the union of Body with body. They become "one flesh" in the great mystery of the Eucharist: the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride. In this Communion the womb of Holy Church becomes fruitful. We receive the seed which yields a harvest of life eternal. The lovers' ecstasy foreshadowed in the Song of Song is now fulfilled. Christ the true Bridegroom sings, How beautiful you are, how pleasing, my love, my delight! And the true Bride responds, I belong to my lover and for me he yearns. (Song 7:7,11)

Such is the Liturgy. Perhaps like you've never heard it described before. I did not make this up. You will find the relationship described like this in many of the saints.

Liturgy and a spirituality of liturgy is, above all, a way of life. It is not some idea about how we do liturgy or do this or that liturgical gesture. It is not a particular like or dislike for a particular song or banner. It is not about how we are going to re-arrange the furniture. Spirituality has to do with how we live our lives. Liturgy is connected with life or we are somehow disconnected or cut off from the relationship that is life itself.

We may appropriately disagree on the choice of music; the church has made many options available. Please do not denigrate full, active, conscious participation. Without it, we might as well stay home.

posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. on 9:45 AM link
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