The Philosophy Behind True “Active Participation” – Crisis Magazine

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

If the Church desires active participation, then self-examination is in order.

While there is no shortage of commentary on the need for the “active participation” of the faithful at Mass, the issue is rarely approached philosophically. Yet if the Thomistic dictum holds true that God’s grace builds on and perfects nature, we should expect that philosophy would have much to contribute to the discussion.

Here I will offer two brief philosophical notes relevant to active participation: first, the emotional basis of such participation should not be overlooked; and second, participation requires likeness.

To see that active participation requires the support of certain emotions, we must briefly consider the nature of the Mass, or liturgical prayer more generally. While there can and should be contemplative moments during the sacred liturgy, on the whole liturgy is more of a “doing” than a “knowing.”

Liturgical prayer is an action: the Mass itself is the sacrificial action of Christ, an action to which the offering of the faithful can then be joined. The sacrifice of Christ is perfect and complete, so discussions of active participation are concerned with the “assistance” or contribution made by the faithful through the ministry of a priest. 

Yet since these contributions of the faithful are human actions, we should not expect them to come to perfection without emotional support. There is always an intellectual component to any moral virtue. The excellent way of acting that is virtue is defined by reason.


The Philosophy Behind True “Active Participation” – Crisis Magazine

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