Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Divine Liturgy on EWTN

EWTN is broadcasting a Divine Liturgy from the eparchy of Lebanon this morning at 9 AM (ET).  I look forward to watching it while I work!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Apparent anachronism in Exodus 16

What follows is from an email I wrote a year ago while taking part in the Great Adventure Bible Timeline study.  Someone brought up the mention of the ark of the covenant in Exodus 16, several chapters before it is created.  I sought to investigate the matter and resolve the apparent anachronism.

In my reading [of Exodus 16] I had failed to catch the apparent anachronism of Aaron placing the jar of manna "before the testimony" (RSV) or "in front of the commandments" (NAB).

The issue might be one of punctuation. The RSV and the NAB and the KJV render verses 33 and 34 of Exodus 16 as two distinct sentences.
RSV: [33] And Moses said to Aaron, "Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout your generations." [34] As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony, to be kept.

NAB: [33] Moses then told Aaron, "Take an urn and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD in safekeeping for your descendants." [34] So Aaron placed it in front of the commandments for safekeeping, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

KJV: [33] And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. [34] As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.
However, the Douay-Rheims (a 1609 English translation of the Latin Vulgate) has a slightly different structure. Here, the beginning of verse 34 is the conclusion of the sentence in verse 33 (note the comma at the end of verse 33):
DR: [32] And Moses said: This is the word, which the Lord hath commanded: Fill a gomor of it, and let it be kept unto generations to come hereafter, that they may know the bread, wherewith I fed you in the wilderness, when you were brought forth out of the land of Egypt. [33] And Moses said to Aaron: Take a vessel, and put manna into it, as much as a gomor can hold: and lay it up before the Lord to keep unto your generations, [34] As the Lord commanded Moses. And Aaron put it in the tabernacle to be kept.
Whatever the punctuation should be, the "issue" can be resolved with the following explanation:

Re-read chapter 16. Note that verses 1-30 deal with events which are happening during the first week when the manna appeared. Now note the tone of verses 31-35. I would propose that these later verses are describing an event that took place later (at or after Sinai, since they expect the existence of the covenant), but they are not at all insinuating that these events actually happened before Sinai at all. I will support my proposal with Scriptural evidence:

In Exodus 16:31, the Hebrew phrase bayith Yisra'el is used for the first time. It literally means "the house of Israel". The phrase ben Yisra'el ("sons/children/people of Israel") is used plenty in chapter 16 (verses 1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 12, 15, 17, and 35). But here for the first time bayith Yisra'el appears in Scripture, in verse 31. Why is the phrase "House of Israel" used this time instead of "sons/children/people of Israel"?

I think we can come to the answer by looking for the next time "House of Israel" is used in Scripture. "House of Israel" appeared first in Exodus 16:31, speaking of them calling the substance "manna". The next time that "House of Israel" appears in Exodus 40:38, the very last verse of the very last chapter of Exodus: "For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel." By Exodus 40, the covenant has been made; the tabernacle and the ark and other elements of worship have been constructed. It is here that the context of Exodus 16:31-35 makes sense. Certainly the Israelites, when they first encountered the stuff, said "man na", but Exodus 16:31 is saying that "manna" is what it was "officially" called by the house of Israel, meaning those who were in covenant with God through Moses. My point is that "House of Israel" is a "covenant name"; it describes the Israelites in their covenant with God. As such, Exodus 16:31 is referring to something at or after the time of Sinai.

The language of Exodus 16:33-34 makes it clear that there was now "the presence of the LORD" and the tablets of the covenant. Exodus 16:35 is even more helpful: it is clearly written after the forty years had ended: "the people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land".

So if Exodus 16:35 was written to describe an event that took place much later than Exodus 16:1-30, I would argue that Exodus 16:31-34 are describing a later event as well. They are not "placing" the later event earlier in history than it happened, but they are describing the later event in the context of the rest of the chapter about the manna, and using contextual clues (such as the phrase "House of Israel") to indicate that. To further the point, Exodus 16 is the only place where "manna" is mentioned in the whole book of Exodus, and only in those last verses is the word "manna" (in English) used. It makes sense to have included the "future" of the manna in the same part of the story where it was introduced, especially since it simply never gets mentioned again.

Monday, December 28, 2009

All washed up

For the second time in less than a month, there was water in the (unfinished, thank God!) basement of our new home.  About the same amount of water both times.  Both after significant rainfalls.  No sump-pump, very uneven concrete floor, very shallow French drains, and some suspicious cracks and stains on the floor.

At least it's easy to clean up with the wet-dry vac that my wife bought the first time this happened, but still, this is a problem which needs solving.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas - Today's Collect

Being familiar with the Roman Missal in both Latin and English, as well as in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms, often provides me with a little bonus when I pay close attention to the prayers of the Mass.

The Collect (commonly referred to as the "opening prayer") of the Mass of Christmas during the day sounded familiar to me.  The English translation I heard had to do with God wonderfully creating man and then even more wonderfully restoring him in Christ, and asking that as Jesus shared our weakness, so too we might share His glory.  While the translation could have been better (and is elsewhere during the Mass!) it caused me to recollect another prayer.  But first, the Latin text of the Collect:
Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem
et mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti,
da, quaesumus, nobis eius divinitatis esse consortes,
qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps.
This is very similar to the prayer over the water and wine during the Offertory in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, some of which (the bolded part) is retained in the Ordinary Form:
Deus, qui humánæ substántiæ dignitátem
mirabíliter condidísti et mirabílius reformásti:
da nobis, per hujus aquæ et vini mystérium,
ejus divinitátis esse consórtes,
qui humanitátis nostræ fíeri dignátus est párticeps,
Jesus Christus, Fílius tuus, Dóminus noster:
Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus:
per ómnia sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
The prayer is about how God wonderfully created man and even more wonderfully restored him (in Christ), and how the mingling of the water in the wine represents Christ sharing our humanity as a pledge that we will share His divinity.  St. Peter wrote about that!  The latter half of this Collect was translated better (not having to do with "weakness" and "glory" but, accurately, with "humanity" and "divinity") during the Offertory:  "By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

As for the mingling of water and wine, the inimitable Fr. Z offers this commentary:

The Christmas Collect was adapted for the preparation of the chalice by the priest during every Mass. Before the priest raises the chalice upwards in offering, he mingles with the wine a very small quantity of water, just drops. The mingling of water and wine underscores three things.

First, it reveals how the Divine Son humbly accepted human nature.

Second, it shows how we will be transformed by Him in the life to come. Indeed, we who are baptized into Christ and who receive the Eucharist are already being transformed, like drops of water in His wine. In the mingling of the water and wine, the water loses itself, becoming what the wine is (though in God’s transforming embrace we do not "lose" ourselves, but rather find ourselves more perfectly!). "O admirabile commercium! O marvelous exchange!" as the Church sings at Vespers and Lauds on Christmas Octave. As Fathers of the Church expressed it the Son of God became the Son of Man so that we might become the sons of God. This "holy exchange" is the heart of Holy Mass. Bread and wine are given to us by God and we, in turn, collect them, work them, give them back to God who transforms them through the power of the Holy Spirit into the Real Presence of Christ (Body, Blood, soul and divinity). In turn the species of the Eucharist transform us, making us also into acceptable offerings to God. In this marvelous exchange earthly and temporal things mysteriously, sacramentally, become vehicles of the eternal.

Third, the mixing of those few (human) drops into the (divine) wine in the chalice (an image of sacrifice and oblation) reveals how lay people must unite their prayers and sacrifices to what the priest offers at the altar: "Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God the almighty Father." There is a distinction made regarding the way in which the priest and the people offer their sacrifices. The people offer good and acceptable sacrifice to God from their "baptismal priesthood", as members of Christ, who is High Priest. But the priest makes a very different kind of sacrifice, as alter Christus… another Christ. So, the people at Mass must unite their good offerings to those of the priest. The mingling of the water and wine is a good moment to make a conscious effort to do precisely that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Word Study: Being "sent" in the Gospels

I should read the Gospels and pay close attention to every occurrence of the word "sent" (or any variation thereof).  The word "sent" (or "send", "sends", "sending") appears in the RSV of Matthew 33 times, in Mark 24 times, in Luke 44 times, and in John 61 times.  I would expect that it is in John's Gospel that it is used the most times in reference to Jesus being sent by the Father, and the disciples being sent by Jesus.

This is being filed away for later study!

Fr. Corapi and Bp. Nickless: identity and mission

I was listening to EWTN radio this morning in the car as I drove to work, and Fr. Corapi was speaking about the nature and mission of the family:  the nature is holiness, and the mission is to sanctify.  Nature and mission, or, identity and mission.  It struck a cord with what I had re-read and blogged about last night from Bp. Nickless' pastoral letter.  Fr. Corapi even went on to quote the Latin adage nemo dat quod non habet ("one cannot give what one does not have") which Bp. Nickless himself quotes later in his letter.

It seems that yesterday was a good day to write about that part of the letter, since Fr. Corapi spoke about the very same thing this morning.  He has also reminded me that those two concepts (identity and mission) apply to all areas of life.

He also talked about consecration and profanation, which I'll use next month as I begin to teach 6th graders about Moses and the Exodus.  (It took us September through December to finish Genesis, and now I only have from January through May to finish Salvation History.  That'll take some creative condensing on my part!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Pastoral Magisterium: Bp. Nickless' pastoral letter (part 4)

(I apologize for the delay between the last post and this one.  Things got busy at work, and then at home – my wife and I bought our first house and are finally fully moved into it.  After Christmas and the New Year, I'll get back to regular posting.  In the meantime...)

This is part four of a ten-part series on the recent pastoral letter of Bishop R. Walker Nickless for the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.  I will be providing the full text of this letter (slightly edited for formatting) with emphasis and commentary.

Remember that Bishop Nickless is fundamentally focusing on two aspects of the Church:  her inward identity and her outward mission.  Concerning her inward identity, utmost importance must be given to the pursuit of holiness, of the divine life.  Concerning her outward mission, utmost importance must be given to engaging the world by sharing the Catholic faith and serving as a herald or minister of Christ's call to holiness to each and every human being.

With that in mind, let us turn our attention to Section III, The Current Context:
There was a great excitement immediately after the Council: excitement for innovation, change, freedom, renewed dynamism. There was a great desire to implement the Council immediately, with the best of intentions. In doing so, the Church after the Council achieved many things. The Council’s aggiornamento brought about a great breath of fresh air, a new freedom and excitement about being Catholic.  However, this era of change and freedom took place during a most tumultuous time. The 1960’s and 1970’s brought about a wholesale change within our culture and society, so that it seemed that everything was “up for grabs.” The Church seemed to be going the same way as society, suggesting that nothing was certain or solid. If the Church could change some things, it could change anything and everything. Sometimes we set out to convert the world, but were instead converted by it. We have sometimes lost sight of who we are and what we believe, and therefore have little to offer the world that so desperately needs the Gospel. A pendulum effect began in the Church and has not yet stopped swinging. In the effort to correct exaggerations or one-sidedness in various areas, the reform often times swung to the exact opposite pole.
It can be argued that the Second Vatican Council could not have happened at a worse time.  Just as the world is undergoing multiple revolutions — sexual, political, racial, etc. — the Catholic Church convenes a Council seeking to update her methods of reaching modern man.  The door was opened for change, and it appears that some used that open door to usher in change of anything and everything!  There was a widespread loss of identity (manifested in a drop in the number of priests and consecrated religious, not to mention lay faithful leaving the Church) leading to confusion as to our mission as the Church (misguided attempts at ecumenism, "kumbaya" liturgies, focusing on the body and neglecting the soul).  The pendulum swung so wildly to the left that some who sought to compensate went too far right.
This pendulum swing can be seen in the areas of liturgy, popular piety, family life, catechesis, ecumenism, morals, and political involvement, to name just a few. It seems to me that in many areas of the Church’s life the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” has triumphed. It has manifested itself in a sort of dualism, an either/or mentality and insistence in various areas of the Church’s life: either fidelity to doctrine or social justice work, either Latin or English, either our personal conscience or the authority of the Church, either chant or contemporary music, either tradition or progress, either liturgy or popular piety, either conservative or liberal, either Mass or Adoration, either the Magisterium or theologians, either ecumenism or evangelization, either rubrics or personalization, either the Baltimore Catechism or “experience”; and the list goes on and on! We have always been a “both/and” people: intrinsically traditional and conservative in what pertains to the faith, and creative in pastoral ministry and engaging the world.
The last sentence of this paragraph is addresses yet another false dichotomy, that the Church cannot look both inwardly (identity) and outwardly (mission).  It is presumed that if she tends to herself, she will neglect the poor, the hungry, the marginalized; but if she concentrates on ministering to others, she'll overlook the flaws of her own members.  To this, Bishop Nickless clearly says no:  the Church can and does look inward and outward.  It would seem that the lens between those two gazes is none other than Christ Himself:  it is Christ by Whom we know ourselves as Catholics and as the Church, and it is Christ who impels us to go out to the whole world and make disciples.
My brothers and sisters, let me say this clearly: The “hermeneutic of discontinuity” is a false interpretation and implementation of the Council and the Catholic Faith. It emphasizes the “engagement with the world” to the exclusion of the deposit of faith. This has wreaked havoc on the Church, systematically dismantling the Catholic Faith to please the world, watering down what is distinctively Catholic, and ironically becoming completely irrelevant and impotent for the mission of the Church in the world. The Church that seeks simply what works or is “useful” in the end becomes useless.
Remember, this section is about the "current context" of the implementation (and interpretation) of the Second Vatican Council.  His Excellency makes it clear that the wrong interpretation is one which emphasizes discontinuity with and rupture from the past.  It fails to retain the "both/and" approach regarding identity and mission and instead discards the identity (the Catholic faith) in favor of engaging the world at any cost, at the world's terms.  If we forget who we are, what we believe, and how we are called to live, our message to the world can be as changing and ephemeral as the current trends and fads:  in other words, the world itself can dictate our message!  While it is reasonable that the present condition of the world should influence our approach and emphasis, it is irresponsible and unfaithful to let the world dictate what we will and will not say.

Regarding "usefulness" leading to uselessness, Cardinal Ratzinger had the following to say:  "A Church which only makes use of 'utility' music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless." (Feast of Faith, p. 126)  This quote will be used again in the next section of the letter.
Our urgent need at this time is to reclaim and strengthen our understanding of the deposit of faith. We must have a distinctive identity and culture as Catholics, if we would effectively communicate the Gospel to the people of this day and Diocese. This is our mission. Notice that this mission is two-fold, like the Second Vatican Council’s purpose. It is toward ourselves within the Church (ad intra), and it is to the world (ad extra). The first is primary and necessary for the second; the second flows from the first. This is why we have not been as successful as we should be in bringing the world to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ to the world. We cannot give what we do not have; we cannot fulfill our mission to evangelize, if we ourselves are not evangelized.
The repeated theme of these first three sections has been this healthy tension between the inward gaze and the outward gaze.  Here the two gazes are necessarily prioritized, and the Bishop notes their urgency:  the members of the diocese of Sioux City (and truly all Catholics, but especially American Catholics) must rediscover their identity and culture as Catholics (and this will certainly come with growing — and fasting — pains) in order to be to the world who God is calling us to be.  The axiom about not being able to give what one does not have will be brought up again later in this letter.

Our mission in the world is more than just humanitarian aid, more than just social justice.  To reduce the Gospel, the good news, to a mere temporal release for captives and liberty for the oppressed, we are forgetting that Jesus came to earth ultimately to save us from our sins, which have not only temporal ramifications but eternal ones as well.  To evangelize without paying attention to the spiritual end of man is not the true Gospel.
With all this in mind, how do we, the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, reclaim and strengthen our faith, identity and culture as Catholics so as to engage more effectively in our mission?
The first end (identity) is ordered towards the second end (mission).  I cannot make it any more clear than Bishop Nickless has, and I have a feeling the reason he repeats this so many times is because he wants to avoid any Catholic soul under his care from forgetting one or the other.  While the Church has cloistered communities in her membership, that is not the calling of every Catholic.  The Church is a city on a hill which cannot be hidden; she is a light to be set on a lampstand, not covered by a basket.  For her members to seek the divine life, a life of holiness, and sequester themselves away from other sinners who are just as in need of the same saving knowledge of Christ is a terrible failure to obey our Lord's great commission.

The next post will deal with the first of the five priorities for the diocese of Sioux City:  to renew an authentic Eucharistic spirituality.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pray for us, Venerable Popes!

It's official.  Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII have been declared "venerable", meaning that it has been shown that they lived lives of heroic virtue.

Venerable Pope Pius XII, pray for us!
Venerable Pope John II, pray for us!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Excellent Scripture resource from

Side-by-side Greek, English, and Latin texts of the Bible.  Very useful, very well presented, and just cool.

Check it out!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

St. Francis Xavier

I owe St. Francis Xavier an apology.  Today is his feast day and I plum forgot.  I chose the name Xavier for my Confirmation name, and to be honest, while I've learned a bit about him since then, I haven't really gotten to the point where I have a particular devotion to him, and forgetting about his feast day hasn't helped.

Pray for his intercession in my life, if you would.  Thank you.

Also, prayers for my younger brother Jonathan on his 24th birthday would also be appreciated.

Reason #12,943 why we need the new English translation of the Roman Missal

Fr. Z presents the current translation of today's Post-Communion prayer:
may our communion
teach us to love heaven.
May its promise and hope guide our way on earth.
Here's the Latin:
Prosint nobis, quaesumus, Domine, frequentata mysteria,
quibus nos, inter praetereuntia ambulantes,
iam nunc instituis amare caelestia et inhaerere mansuris.

He quips, "When the English is shorter than the Latin, friends, you know there’s trouble."  He then provides these two far more content-rich and accurate translations, showing us what the prayer really says:
We beg You, O Lord, may they be profitable for us,
these oft celebrated sacramental mysteries,
by which You established that we,
walking amidst the things that are passing away,
would now in this very moment love heavenly things
and cleave to the things that will endure.

May these mysteries we so often celebrate
redound to our benefit, O Lord, we entreat You,
since by them You instruct us,
as we journey in the midst of this world which is passing away,
to love the things of heaven and cling to what endures.
Read the whole post!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Pastoral Magisterium: Bp. Nickless' pastoral letter (part 3)

This is part three of a ten-part series on the recent pastoral letter of Bishop R. Walker Nickless for the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.  I will be providing the full text of this letter (slightly edited for formatting) with emphasis and commentary.

In this post, we will look at Section II, The Second Vatican Council and the New Evangelization:
As is well known, Blessed Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to be the moment of renewal for the Church in the modern world. The world had changed a great deal since the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the so-called Enlightenment, and the secular revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Church now found herself beset on all sides by a world that could no longer understand her, and from within by an unfortunate tendency to isolation, fearing engagement with the rapidly changing world.

In opening the Council, Blessed John stated that the “greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council” was twofold: “that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be [both] guarded and taught more efficaciously.” (Pope John XXIII, Oct 11, 1962) Later in the speech, he elaborated on this: “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.” (Ibid.) The teachings of the Church, our identity and culture as Catholics, must be loved and guarded, yet brought forth and taught in a way understandable to the modern world.
The opening speech of Bl. Pope John XXIII is perhaps not as widely read as it should be.  It provides the clear context for the Council's goals, work, and documents.  The Council was not called to change teaching but to safeguard that teaching and present it more effectively to the world.  As Bishop Nickless wrote in the preceding paragraph, the Church's inward gaze was becoming insufficient in the face of a rapidly progressing world:  the Church needed to look with loving, motherly concern to the world and engage the world.

But in the midst of this outward gaze (to present the doctrine), perhaps the necessary inward reflection (to safeguard the doctrine) was weakened or passed over.  Bishop Nickless will address the state of catechesis and knowledge of the faith later in his letter.
Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul the Great constantly preached the same thing in calling for a “New Evangelization” of the faithful, our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, and all those who do not know Jesus Christ or the Church. This New Evangelization was to be “new not in content but in ardor, methods, and expression.” (Address to the Assembly of CELAM (March 9, 1983), III; cf. Ecclesia in America 6)
The "new evangelization" is a direct response (in theory, at least) to the safeguarding of the Church's doctrine and the need to present that doctrine, unaltered in substance and meaning, to the modern world.  To allay fears, this does not mean we can no longer speak of transubstantiation, but rather that we must explain this doctrine in a way that can be grasped by faith and reason.  We cannot change what it means, or introduce words which do not mean the same thing, as some tried in the 1960's with transignification and transfinalization (cf. Mysterium Fidei 11).

Not only non-Christians, but Catholics and other Christians must be evangelized again today, with great zeal and fervor.  This is not because God has changed, for "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8), but because we are changing and losing sight of Who God is and what He calls us to.
It is readily apparent from his teaching and ministry that for Pope John Paul the Great, the New Evangelization was the true fruit of the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, the Council was the beginning and blueprint for evangelization in the modern world. He explicitly stated this as his particular mission at the time of his election, and he lived it to the end. (e.g. Inaugural Address of Pope John Paul II, October 22, 1978)  He spent his entire pontificate interpreting and implementing the Council’s documents according to the light of the Holy Spirit, given in virtue of his office, amid the changing circumstances of the Church and the world.
You will find in the rest of this document that Bishop Nickless is firmly grounding himself and this letter in the recent papal magisterium of the Church:  Bl. John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.
We now find ourselves forty-four years since the close of the Council. Many questions still need to be asked and answered. Have we understood the Council within the context of the entire history of the Church? Have we understood the documents well? Have we truly appropriated and implemented them? Is the current state of the Church what the Council intended? What went right? What went wrong? Where is the promised “New Pentecost”?
These are very important questions to ask, and none of them can be tossed aside as frivolous or academic.  Asking these questions and seeking their answers are necessary for the Church's continued vitality and mission.  Without asking them, we move forward without direction or reflection.  Without answering them within the Church's tradition, we risk scrapping the first 1900 years of the Church and starting over with a blank slate, which would have destructive results for the Church and the whole world.

Pope Benedict XVI reflected on these important questions in an address to the Roman Curia in December, 2005:
The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult? Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform,” of renewal in the continuity of the one subject – Church – which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council.

Pope Benedict asks similar questions and begins by pointing out that there are two approaches to the Council, one which inevitably leads to the wrong answers, and one which leads to the right answers.  If the Council is perceived to be a split from tradition, from the past, from our heritage, we will reap only confusion, discord, and obstacles to holiness and the mission of Church.  If, on the other hand, we recognize the sense of continuity and reform, we will be better equipped to determine how well we have met the goals of the Council, what is left to be implemented, and what has been poorly or wrongly implemented.

And, of course, we must remember that the spirit of the Council is not "trapped" in its letter, waiting to burst free and progress wildly beyond the intentions of the Council Fathers.
Notice, first, Pope Benedict’s honest acknowledgment that the implementation of the Council has been difficult and is not complete. Notice also his clear-sighted grasp of how two rival interpretations have led to different “camps” within the Church. This division has weakened our identity and mission.
In drawing attention to the division which is a produce of these two hermeneutics, Bishop Nickless returns to the two gazes of the Church:  inward (identity) and outward (mission).  When the Church is divided, there are perceived to be two identities and two missions (at least); such lack of unity cannot be an effective witness of faith to each other nor to the world.
It is crucial that we all grasp that the hermeneutic or interpretation of discontinuity or rupture, which many think is the settled and even official position, is not the true meaning of the Council. This interpretation sees the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church almost as two different churches. It sees the Second Vatican Council as a radical break with the past.
The Bishop states decisively that this interpretation of rupture cannot be recognized as the true approach to the Council, despite popular opinion.  This was not the interpretation used at previous Councils, and it is not the one to use now.  Separating the Church now from the Church then is a dangerous proposition which would lead to a Church without roots, without a trajectory to maintain.
There can be no split, however, between the Church and her faith before and after the Council. We must stop speaking of the “Pre-Vatican II” and “Post-Vatican II” Church, and stop seeing various characteristics of the Church as “pre” and “post” Vatican II. Instead, we must evaluate them according to their intrinsic value and pastoral effectiveness in this day and age.
I hear in these words a faint echo of Pope Benedict's words in the letter which accompanied Summorum Pontificum:  "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."
Therefore, we must heed the Holy Father’s point that one interpretation, the “hermeneutic of reform,” is valid, and has borne and is bearing fruit. This hermeneutic of reform, as described above, takes seriously and keeps together the two poles of (1) identity (the ancient deposit of faith and life) and (2) engagement with the world (teaching it more efficaciously).
Yet again the Bishop mentions the inward concern ("identity") and the outward concern ("engagement with the world") in relation to the proper hermeneutics of interpreting and implementing the Council.  Remember, as we progress through this document, these constant themes:  inward concern ("identity", "pursuit of holiness") and outward concern ("mission", "engagement", "fidelity to [our] mission").
Lastly, the Holy Father, going into greater detail later in the address, explains that the “spirit of Vatican II” must be found only in the letter of the documents themselves. The so-called “spirit” of the Council has no authoritative interpretation. It is a ghost or demon that must be exorcised if we are to proceed with the Lord’s work.
Those are bold and blunt words from a bishop!  Praise be to God that he has the courage to write them to the members of his flock, let alone think or say them.

The next post will deal with the current context of the implementation of Council.

Article: "Bringing Back Latin" (Homiletic & Pastoral Review)

Dr. Mark J. Clark has written an article in the December 2009 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) entitled "Bringing Back Latin."  Here is an excerpt from the beginning:
When [the Council Fathers] ultimately decided to endorse the use of the vernacular in the Mass it doubtless never occurred to them that the facility in Latin that they took for granted—Latin, after all, was an integral part of their own intellectual patrimony and would remain the official language of the Church—would largely disappear within half a century.

Yet disappear it did, and quickly. How and why merits our attention, as does the question of what can be done to revivify the tradition of living Latin within the Church. For if living Latin dies, the consequences for the Church are grave. What is significant about the fact that the Fathers of the Council spoke readily in Latin is that they thought in Latin, which gave them easy access to the length and breadth of the Catholic tradition. The Church’s treasury of writings spanning the centuries is like a large chest in the attic, to which Latin is the key.
I suggest you read the whole thing.

Here is the prayer mentioned at the end and my attempt at rendering of it into English:
Actiones nostras, quaesumus, Domine,
aspirando praeveni, et adjuvando prosequere,
ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat,
et per te coepta finiatur.

Precede our actions, we beseech You, Lord,
with Your inspiration, and accompany them with Your aid,
that our every prayer and work may always begin in You,
and through You find completion.
[H/T: Ignatius Insight Scoop]

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Pastoral Magisterium: Bp. Nickless' pastoral letter (part 2)

This is part two of a ten-part series on the recent pastoral letter of Bishop R. Walker Nickless for the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.  I will be providing the full text of this letter (slightly edited for formatting) with emphasis and commentary.

In this post, we will look at Section I, Introduction:
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! It has now been almost four joyful years of being your bishop. It has been a time of learning and growth for me as a priest, called beyond my desires and talents, not without God's grace making up for all that is lacking in me, to be the shepherd for the flock in northwest Iowa.
One might wonder why it has taken Bishop Nickless four years to produce his first pastoral letter, but His Excellence will provide the explanation himself in a moment.  Suffice to say, he realizes that the episcopacy, while being the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, is not itself a plateau of spiritual growth.  Rather, he has continued to learn and grow during his years as their bishop.  He also makes it clear that he is their bishop by God's grace, not by his own merits or talents.
As shepherd, I am called to "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), the truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, inseparable from His Church, "at the same time holy and always in need of renewal and reformation." (Lumen Gentium 8)
Bishop Nickless derived the title of his letter from an English translation of Lumen Gentium, the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.  The Latin text reads "Ecclesia [...] sancta simul et semper purificanda."  He refers to St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, whence he drew his episcopal motto ("Speak the Truth in Love") found on his coat of arms, and in doing so also calls to mind Pope Benedict's recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate in which the Pontiff links "charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate (Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate." (CV 2)

In order to do this, I have traveled to meet the priests and people of the diocese, always listening, asking questions, studying and, of course, praying about the current state of the Church. Now I offer my understanding of the state and direction of the Church, both universal and particular, at this juncture in her history. I propose this pastoral plan — a vision, so to speak — for the future of our diocese, and some practical guidance for achieving our goals.
Over the preceding years, Bishop Nickless was learning about his diocese so that he would be able to address his flock with knowledge, rather than in mere generalities.  The result of his study and discernment is this pastoral letter, with which he shares his understanding as their pastor, designed to plot a course for the future of the diocese and keep them on track.
My understanding begins with these personal reflections. I studied and was ordained a deacon and priest during the exciting, almost intoxicating, time of the Second Vatican Council. I am thoroughly a product of that momentous time, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in centuries. It has formed the context and culture of my entire ministerial life.
No one can accuse Bishop Nickless of being some "traditionalist" who wants to "turn back time" to before Vatican II.  He makes it clear here that this most recent Council is a particularly cherished part of his spiritual heritage, having formed him into the pastor he is today.
Like Pope John Paul the Great, I have no other desire for my ministry than seeing the hopes and reforms of the Second Vatican Council fully implemented and brought to fruition. (e.g. Christifideles Laici 2) Like Pope Benedict XVI, I know that, while we have worked hard, there is still much work to do. (Homily of 8 December 2005)
He clearly aligns himself with the authentic Magisterium of the Church, especially as manifested in the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
My understanding of this work has grown and deepened over the past forty years. So it must be for all of us. The Church is always in need of renewal because it is made up of us, imperfect human beings. This is the deepest reason: as individuals and as a Church, we are always called to grow, change, deepen, repent, convert, improve, and learn from our successes and failures in the pursuit of holiness and fidelity to Jesus Christ and the mission He has given us. Moreover, we need to do this in the midst of an ever changing world, culture and society.
He brings up holiness again (from the preface), linking it with faith, with fidelity to Christ and His mission, the same mission now entrusted to the Church as a whole and to each of her members.
I have experienced this as a priest and now, through the biggest change of all for me, as a bishop. Despite my own unworthiness, I have been blessed abundantly by the Lord Jesus Christ in his call to me, in the graces of my episcopal ordination, and in your support and cooperation. I am happy and blessed to be your bishop. Having been called by God and the Church, I want to do my part to fulfill His mission among you. Thus, we need serious reflection and evaluation of the current state and direction, challenges and opportunities, for faith and ministry in our Lord Jesus Christ in our Diocese.
Closing the introduction, he explains the need for this pastoral letter:  "serious reflection and evaluation."  This letter is part of his contribution to the mission of Christ carried out in the diocese.  In order for the diocese to carry out Christ's mission, they must know who they are, what the mission is, and how they are (or are not) succeeding in fulfilling it already.