After the posts last week, I’ve been musing a bit over the nature of participation- what that means in a possible Thomistic sense, and how that conception affects what we do and how we do things.
One thing I have been turning over in my head and in conversation is the idea of community participation in the liturgy in and through the (ostensibly) non-liturgical actions and work of the parochial church as an organization and also the actions and of a parish’s members, individually.
There was a time when the substance of liturgical celebration came directly from the community: the baking of bread, the vinting of wine, the pressing of oil, the cutting of stones, and the working of precious metals were all done by craftspeople and artisans whose guilds supported the local cathedral, basilica, monastery, or parish church. Even the luxury goods that had to be imported – silk from China, dye from Turkey, incense from Arabia – represented not just a monetary expense but moreover the labor and cunning of merchants and traders.
I believe that a critical part of the new liturgical movement is the discovery or invention of new ways to re-establish a liturgical participation of the parish community in this traditional sense – a sense in which the day to day business of living, the work and labor of the people, is a part of the journey upward and flowing outward within which the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass is truly “the source and summit of the Christian life.”
By this I do mean the simple “participation” in which everyone “gets to do something” or “is encouraged to contribute.” I don’t (just) mean an environment wherein a kind leader finds a way to use the contributions and hobbies of parishioners for some ostensible good, and liturgy is a showcase for “what people are interested in.” I mean, rather, a sacramental culture, wherein the work of the people is fundamentally ordered to and formed by the Eucharist.
Obviously, the difficulty here is that we are not, for the most part, a culture of people who make things. While I do think there could be an important role for the Church in re-orienting our society towards the inclusion and development of a strong artisinal culture, we must still – today – find ways to connect the economic life of the people with the sacramental life of the Church.
I had been thinking about all of these things in a vague philosophical way recently when, thanks to Facebook, I found a perfect living example of just this very thing. And no surprise, it came from the Cafe’s own Fr. Christopher Smith.
Fr. Smith’s parish, Prince of Peace, just recently finished paying the debt service on their building. The video below is a celebration of that milestone, a celebration placed firmly at the center of the community, honoring the work and sacrifice of the people who contributed to the parish and its building fund over the last decade.
Congratulations to Prince of Peace parish on this amazing milestone! May God bless your continuing ministry and witness.