What is this participation?

Dr. Jerry Galipeau's recent excursion to a Mass in the Extraordinary Form has sparked some interesting discussion and reactions. Perhaps the most interesting is his attempt to reconcile the experience of an "unreformed" Low Mass with the notion of "active (actual) participation" called for by the Second Vatican Council. There are interesting and worthwhile ideas to explore here, and I hope no one simply dismisses this out of hand with some version of "Vatican II doesn't apply here!"

One related point I have been pondering a lot recently is- just what do we mean by participation?

I have written some of my thoughts on this matter in the past, and we all know that the ideas of participation range from the "active doing" advocated by many (so-called) progressive liturgists all the way to the "passive meditation" advocated by many (so-called) traditionalists.

But I wonder...

Both conceptions of participation - whether active or interior - seem overly focused on the individual person, and on a modern definition of "participation." It's as if we all agree on what "participation" means, we just have different ideas about what actions/activities rightly constitute appropriate participation in the liturgy.

But I've been reading Thomas Aquinas recently (this is a new experience for me). And I'm struck by how often he talks about "participation." God is good absolutely, but we are only good inasmuch as we participate in God's goodness. Fire is hot by nature, but something that isn't fire only participates in heat.

I don't have any conclusions yet- but I wonder what difference this theological conception of participation would make to our understanding of both the nature of liturgical participation and also the will of the Council in calling for participation of the faithful to be fostered.

Off hand, it seems to me that NEITHER active doing nor interior prayerfulness are "participation," but rather are contributing causes: things we can do in order to help foster participation or to better dispose ourselves to participation.

I ask the rest of our community of readers here - particularly those with a better understanding of Aquinas than me (which I have to think would be almost anyone) - to chime in here and help develop these thoughts a bit further.

Originally appeared at Chant Cafe on 23 October 2013.
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