This is the twenty-fifth year of publication of Ecclesia Orans. The journal has always tried to strike a balance between studies of the liturgy of the present and of the past. Liturgical texts and celebrations and their theology are a venerable heritage of former times but at the same time they enrich the actual context of the Church today. That is the sense and desire of the liturgical constitution of Vatican Council II and the inspiration of the professors of the Pontificai Institute of Liturgy who began this journal. We trust we are being faithful to our origins as we begin this new volume.
The first article of the present number is, therefore, on Sacrosanctum concilium and the liturgical reform that followed it. The liturgical constitution is viewed as a bridge between past and future. The perspectives of the Council are analyzed and then presented synthetically as the arches of a bridge to the future of the Church and of its liturgy.
The reform of the liturgy, no matter how positively and enthusiastically received by the majority of Catholics at its introduction, is not perfect. There are deficiencies and infelicities in texts and rubrics. Partly its lacks are also a result of the imperfect and often uninformed way it was and is applied by the clergy. Partly it comes from a misunderstanding of the “participation” expected from the part of the faithful. Old ways change only with the greatest difficulty! A romantic or neo-romantic nostalgia for a golden age of the past that had no such problems in liturgy hovers ever near in the wings. The tremendous amount of work done by the Council Fathers and subsequently by numerous popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops and experts for the actual renewal of the Roman rite appears not only unappreciated but also slighted in some recent controversy.
Without an honest appreciation of the liturgical Revisions already accomplished, however imperfect they may be, we have no way of moving toward the future. The past is a help in so far as it moves us ahead not back. It can also be a true light on the present for us.
The second article summons the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas to shed some light on the idea of “active participation” much discussed in present literature. Although Aquinas does not use the phrase, his theological reflections on participation remind us of the primacy of God’s grace and of the inner disposition of the “participant” in liturgical celebrations. The externally “active” participation has little meaning if it does not correspond with the inner attitude of the worshipper. The author, a leading figure among neo-thomists, presents “active participation” in the spirit of the living theological tradition of the great doctor communis.
The final artide, which we will present in two parts because of its length, takes a new look at the development of Confirmation in the West. Where does one find Confirmation in the western liturgies of the early christian period? The discussion remains as to which ritual gesture has been the more emphasized historically for the sacrament’s gift of the Holy Spirit: the imposition of hands or the anointing with chrism. The author investigates the reception of the Holy Spirit in the reconciliation of penitents and especially in the reconciliation of heretics. It is an original perspective that gives liturgical scholars a new way of approaching some of the unanswered and unanswerable questions about Confirmation in the ritual and theological tradition of the Latin West.
The next issue, which is in preparation, will concentrate on the Mass in the Roman rite from a historical viewpoint as well as the continuation of the artide on Confirmation. We hope as always the studies presented will be of interest and usefulness to the readers.
EPHREM CARR, osb