Friday, February 3, 2012

Abbot Vonier on "Participation" in the Eucharistic Sacrifice

In the "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" (#14), the Vatican Council II fathers famously declared "that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people' (1 Pt. 2:9, 4-5) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism."   Debate over the meaning of "active participation" has been going on ever since.  To many, active participation requires moving about, clapping, or, at the very least, holding hands.  Others take participation in a very different sense.  Although he was writing many decades before the Council, Abbot Vonier addressed participation in the Eucharist by the faithful in his masterful text "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist:"

"If the sacramental character of the priest enables him to be the sacrificant in Christ's Person, sacramental character also enables the multitude of the faithful to join in that sacrifice in their own way.  The sacramental character of Baptism first, and then the sacramental character of Confirmation, are with the sacramental character of Order, though in a lesser degree, figures and resemblances of Christ's Priesthood; and therefore every baptized person is radically fit to communicate in that great sacrifice, to be a sacrificant - at least by participation.

"The sacramental character is a certain participation of the priesthood of Christ in His faithful, in the sense that as Christ has the full power of spiritual priesthood, His faithful also are made like Him in this, that they share in a certain spiritual power with regard to the sacraments and to those things which belong to the divine cult." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q, 63, a. 5)

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