Friday, February 13, 2009

Corporate Worship & Individualism

Lately I’ve read various literature from the earlier part of the 20th century that, for a pseudo-trad like me, draws helpful attention to the needs (perceived or real) that led to Vatican II. The corporate, liturgical worship of the lay community in the early Church had faded for the Catholic mind on account of Eucharistic piety developed in the middle ages and perhaps a conservative reluctance to move one way or the other on those issues (particularly liturgical) that were firmly established as an answer to the Protestant Reformation. It is clear that something went wrong when the Church aimed to address this problem, but what was it?

Vatican II sought to re-emphasize the corporate worship in liturgy – the part of people. This participation was never reducible to verbal assent to what, in essence, only the priest did. The ecclesia offered themselves along with the non-bloody sacrifice of Christ (this is ancient terminology, not medieval) although the president uniquely acted in persona Christi.

I’ve often lamented the fact that liberals have destroyed the word “community”; I’m afraid to use it, and I shouldn’t be. “Community” has been emphasized, not to the correction of over-emphasis on individual piety, but to its exclusion. Whereas in the middle-ages, corporate participation in liturgy faded in the Catholic mind, in our time what has faded is individual piety. Though both are mistakes, the latter is the more dangerous.

One of the major problems is that the catechists force-fed corporate participation in the liturgy to a culture that doesn’t understand corporate participation in anything. Individual Eucharistic piety may have been stressed in the middle ages, but it was stressed in a culture that didn’t learn about “community” from a Catechism or from an impotent homily on Sunday morning, it was a culture that lived as a community. Because of this, emphasis on the corporate aspect of liturgy was more or less unneeded.

We are in the midst of a supremely challenging situation. The laity, who live and breathe individualism, have been corralled into communal expression to the exclusion of individual piety. When everything is seen through the lens of the universal, the particular tends to be lost or obscured. The result of all this is that they understand neither the liturgical role of the community nor of the individual. They do not actively participate in the liturgy (they think this means to say “amen” loudly). They don’t understand individual culpability (they think ‘sin’ is a rupture in the communal harmony). And least of all do they balance these polar truths of Christian life.

This is where the proposed solution would come in a well thought out post. I don’t have the wisdom for such a proposal. Perhaps readers would like to offer their thoughts.


Rob said...

Tim something i thought you would like to read

Blessings Rob

Tim A. Troutman said...

Thanks for passing that along. I read that and I think he's right. Good to see you.

The Catholic Journeyman said...

This provokes a variety of thought on my experience. I will type as it becomes coherent but forgive if I go off your main point.

I recently taught in RCIA (with heavy emphasis) on the natural Law of Communion, in the context of the Mass gathering laity being one of the 4 ways Christ is present in the Mass. While some of the 40 Candidates/Catechumens glazed over a bit (demonstrating your point well)at least 30 of the 40 "got it". Early on last year, we instructed this point with gravity and asked them to start attending Mass with a confident knowledge that the Liturgy actually draws this Unity out to a visible extent, showing the rites and intents in sequence. Then, reinforcing it along the way along since Sept., it has paid off for me as well.

I agree then that the currently un-involved, non catechised(read "rote") Catholics have the majority appearance of spiritual absence comparatively. Is this a result of Liturgical apathy, ignorance or as you say inherent individualism.

Either one requires a fire to be set, one on one, in order to shed the light sufficient to Catechise on the real benefit, personally, of uniting liturgically.

I have another related observation.
My wife joined her adult siblings and parents on a trip to Croatia, the birth place of her father, back in 1998. His family (brothers/sisters/and extended family) never imigrated. They are all Catholic btw.

After a 5 legged flight from Tampa to Dubrovnik, and a 3 hour ride through Serbian war-torn areas to Zagreb, she arrived at a Bus station to find a shuttle to a ferry, to take her to meet up with the rest of her family on an island call Sali. (hang with me...)

Standing next to an info kiosk where 5 or 6 non english speaking Croats stood waiting for the Bus/Shuttle, one of them managed to squeek out "where you to go?"

She said "Sali".

At that second all of the people (strangers) that heard the word "Sali" ran to her and embraced her, she was quite startled...they were smiling and saying "Yes Go Sali" as if she had tickets to the Super Bowl. Other Croats came to her and shook her hand congratulating her on her trip saying, Sali was "something like beautiful". She noticed one woman spoke english and asked her what all the affection was about.
The woman told her that Sali was the place of sacred family. If you have family on Sali, you are one of us.

Once on Sali, my wife lived this culture of Communal Family for a couple weeks (including daily Mass), as it has been for millenia. She has never been the same since...thankfully.

From a cultural exposure standpoint we all become individualists here in USA and it is a fight to grow and maintain an identity of unity with anything. Growing this specifically from an inside the Church perspective takes tactful tenacity, I had to get in the DRE's office and push this (your point) and cut my Catechetical teeth, display some credibility in order to start waking up the laity to the beauty and grace they are sleeping through with there eyes open. Individual one on one misistry and classes geared to transition from culture to community are now happening. In RCIA, we are seeing substantial majority of 20 and 30 yr olds soaking this up.

Ultimately, they have to want it to reach back at the hand presented.

Our work is cut out for us, but I dont see it as babysitting, it is a result of /spiritual & cultural complacency

Tim A. Troutman said...


Thanks for all the work you're doing in your parish. That's exactly what we need! Fires need to be lit!

BTW, great story about your wife's visit to Croatia. That's exactly what I was talking about - those people LIVE community, they're not taught it. I have a good friend from Croatia btw.

I just think we need to find a balance between emphasizing community and reiterating individual piety & personal culpability. My son watched a video on reconciliation and the video only spoke of the community and how your sin ruptured the community (if they even used "sin" I cant remember). That might be true enough but that is absolutely secondary. First and foremost, sin turns you away from God and if mortal, it sends you to hell. Thats what we need to understand first about sin, not anything about community. And that's whats missing.

I think if we fix the individuals (and their piety), the community will fall in place. Let me give you an example, go to a Traditional Latin Mass if you ever get a chance, especially a dialogue mass. What you'll find (what I found anyhow) was 100% active participation in the liturgy. 100%. These people understand what the mass was first on an individual level, and as a result, their communal participation was natural.

What do you think?

elm said...

They do not actively participate in the liturgy (they think this means to say “amen” loudly). They don’t understand individual culpability (they think ‘sin’ is a rupture in the communal harmony). And least of all do they balance these polar truths of Christian life

Could nonparticipation in the liturgy be compared to nonparticipation in marriage, either in fear of commitment, or in artificial contraception? Since the Trinity is a marriage, with the outpouring, the Holy Spirit, how can those who persist in a false marriage understand and enter into a true marriage in the Sacrifice of Mass. The Trinity is being community only in the way it is life giving and true to the purpose of the meaning of community.
Forgive my ramblings, I am not educated in the common meaning of education, but have read voraciously and love the Lord.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Elm - great point. I think you're dead on and I hadn't thought about it from that angle yet.

And as far as education goes, I'm in the same boat.

Tiber Jumper said...

"I think if we fix the individuals (and their piety), the community will fall in place'

Tim, I agree. Sometimes, Attempts to "grow" community are artificial and forced at best if the individuals are blinded to the fact that the Mass and sharing of His blood and body makes us a community.
There is a false construct in protestantism that judges the piety of a christian community by the warmth of its "fellowship." Therefore, the Catholic CHurch is immediately judged as cold and lifeless because people aren't backslapping and handshaking on sunday morning.
The pious Catholic knows what community is based on his/her participation in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in every Catholic Church there is a core of daily communicants who know and practice this well. Also, there are huge communities, socially speaking, in the Church , as religious brothers, nuns, sodalities, societies, knights, etc etc. But Sunday morning Sacrific of the Mass, is not the time to manifest "social" community.
Do you know what I mean?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Good points TJ.