Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview on Relevant Radio on Tuesday

I'll be interviewed on Relevant Radio on Tuesday, May 4th, on the Drew Mariani show around 4:15 PM (Eastern).  It'll be on the topic of the new English translation of the Mass, of course, and my book.  You can listen live here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

English translation to receive approval today?

From Fr. Tim Finigan:
Edward Pentin, who reports for the National Catholic Register and for the Catholic Herald, reports this morning  that the Congregation for Divine Worship will approve the new ICEL translation of the Missal later today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pope Pius XI on the Holy Trinity

The mystery of the most Holy Trinity, which is inscrutable to human understanding, is rich in the splendor of its revelations.  For while the revelation of the mystery does not relieve the impenetrable obscurity it presents to us, nor lift the veil that renders it inaccessible to every created mind, it is nevertheless a revelation that surpasses all others in what it discloses to us of God's being and existence, his essence and his inmost life.  When it comes to these aspects of God, no other mystery tells us so much, nor lends so much assistance to the created intellect in its probe of God.  And yet it remains the inviolate secret of God, infinitely removed from all that is not God.

"Notwithstanding that it conveys only the bare essential of the mystery, what would we, what could we conceive of God without this revelation of his unity and trinity, unity of nature and trinity of Persons?  We should imagine a God isolated and alone, lost in an infinite solitude — a truly frightful, supremely frightful thought, if we may put it so.  It is precisely the mystery of the Trinity that scatters this specter of infinite solitude and, without the least prejudice to God's unity, introduces fellowship, which consists in an infinite communication of infinite goods, and effusion beyond measure of the divine Being itself that goes from the Father who conceives the Son to the Son conceived by the Father and to the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from both.  Truly, an infinite inundation, this ineffable communication of thought and love."
(From A Commentary on the Prefaces and the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal by Msgr. Louis Soubigou, p. 148)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Excellent resource on the Eucharistic Prayers and many Prefaces

I bought a copy of A Commentary on the Prefaces and the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal recently and started reading it yesterday.  It's part of my research for my second book on the Mass, Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priest.  It's out of print, but I bought a copy through Eighth Day Books.  The book is by Msgr. Louis Soubigou, translated by Rev. John A. Otto in 1971 for The Liturgical Press.  The content seems quite orthodox, and many of the comments in the text present a decent picture of the liturgical and reform-related turmoil of the late 60's and early 70's:

"Constant recourse to the official Latin text [of the Prefaces] is particular necessary in this commentary because it is a translation from the French.  The author develops his observations from the official Latin readings and the French version, which normally remains very faithful to the original.  After comparing the American ICEL version of the Preface of the Holy Trinity (page 144) with the original Latin text, one may decide for himself the degree of its fidelity." (Introduction, p. 4)

"P.S. This Preface [for the Sacred Heart] (and for that matter the feast as a whole) has its gainsayers among the 'litniks.'  For them an aura of uncongeniality seems to haunt its thought and expression, particularly the effort 'to offer homage of reparation to the disdained and disregarded love of Christ.'  It may be difficult to see how this motif fits into traditional liturgy — but why make this appeal to tradition when traditional liturgy as such is likewise being discredited and discarded?" (Preface of the Sacred Heart, p. 125)

I'm skimming the Prefaces; I'll be reading in detail the second part, on the Eucharistic Prayers.  I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the doctrinal and spiritual content of the Prefaces and Eucharistic Prayers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not a fan of the NAB's footnotes...

In a month's time, we will hear about the miraculous event which took place on the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles (and probably the Mother of our Lord and 100+ other disciples) received the Holy Spirit in the manifestation of tongues of fire.  Then, emboldened by the Holy Spirit, they went out to preach about Jesus Christ, and Jews from more than a dozen locales understood them in their native tongues.

Or not.
Footnote 1, verses 1-41:  Luke's pentecostal narrative consists of an introduction (Acts 2:1-13), a speech ascribed to Peter declaring the resurrection of Jesus and its messianic significance (Acts 2:14-36), and a favorable response from the audience (Acts 2:37-41). It is likely that the narrative telescopes events that took place over a period of time and on a less dramatic scale. The Twelve were not originally in a position to proclaim publicly the messianic office of Jesus without incurring immediate reprisal from those religious authorities in Jerusalem who had brought about Jesus' death precisely to stem the rising tide in his favor.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Sacrament of Confirmation: Catechism of Trent

The following are excerpts from the Catechism of Trent (also called the "Roman Catechism").

Importance Of Instruction On Confirmation

If ever there was a time demanding the diligence of pastors in explaining the Sacrament of Confirmation, in these days certainly it requires special attention, when there are found in the holy Church of God many by whom this Sacrament is altogether omitted; while very few seek to obtain from it the fruit of divine grace which they should derive from its participation.

Lest, therefore, this divine blessing may seem, through their fault, and to their most serious injury, to have been conferred on them in vain, the faithful are to be instructed both on Whitsunday, on which day it is principally administered, and also on such other days as pastors shall deem convenient. Their instructions should so treat the nature, power, and dignity of this Sacrament, that the faithful may understand not only that it is not to be neglected, hut that it is to be received with the greatest piety and devotion.

Name of this Sacrament

To begin with the name, it should be taught that this Sacrament is called by the Church Confirmation because, if there is no obstacle to the efficacy of the Sacrament, a baptised person, when anointed with the sacred chrism by the Bishop, with the accompanying solemn words: I sign thee with the sign of the cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, becomes stronger with the strength of a new power, and thus begins to be a perfect soldier of Christ.

Sponsors at Confirmation
A sponsor is also required, as we have already shown to be the case in Baptism. For if they who enter the fencing lists have need for some one whose skill and counsel may teach them the thrusts and passes by which to overcome their adversaries, while remaining safe themselves; how much more will the faithful require a leader and monitor, when, sheathed, as it were, in the stoutest armour by this Sacrament of Confirmation, they engage in the spiritual conflict, in which eternal salvation is the proposed reward. With good reason, therefore, are sponsors employed in the administration of this Sacrament also; and the same spiritual affinity is contracted in Confirmation, which, as we have already shown, is contracted by sponsors in Baptism, so as to impede the lawful marriage of the parties.

Dispositions For Receiving Confirmation
From this, therefore, it follows that persons of mature age, who are to be confirmed, must, if they desire to obtain the grace and gifts of this Sacrament, not only bring with them faith and piety, but also grieve from their hearts for the serious sins which they have committed.

The pastor should take care that they have previous recourse to confession of their sins; should exhort them to fasting and other works of piety; and admonish them of the propriety of reviving that laudable practice of the ancient Church, of receiving this Sacrament fasting. It is to be presumed that to this the faithful may be easily persuaded, if they but understand the gifts and admirable effects of this Sacrament.

The Effects of Confirmation

Pastors, therefore, should teach that, in common with the other Sacraments, Confirmation, unless some obstacle be present on the part of the receiver, imparts new grace. For we have shown that these sacred and mystical signs are of such a character as to indicate and produce grace.

The Grace Of Strength

But besides these things, which are common to this and the other (Sacraments), it is peculiar to Confirmation first to perfect the grace of Baptism. For those who have been made Christians by Baptism, still have in some sort the tenderness and softness, as it were, of new-born infants, and afterwards become, by means of the Sacrament of chrism, stronger to resist all the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil, while their minds are fully confirmed in faith to confess and glorify the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence; also, originated the very name (Confirmation), as no one will doubt. For the word Confirmation is not derived, as some not less ignorantly than impiously have pretended, from the circumstance that persons baptised in infancy, when arrived at mature years, were of old brought to the Bishop, in order to confirm their faith in Christ, which they had embraced ill Baptism, so that Confirmation would seem not to differ from catechetical instruction. Of such a practice no reliable testimony can be adduced. On the contrary, the name has been derived from the fact that by virtue of this Sacrament God confirms in us the work He commenced in Baptism, leading us to the perfection of solid Christian virtue.

Increase In Grace

But not only does it confirm, it also increases (divine grace), as says Melchiades: The Holy Ghost, whose salutary descent upon the waters of Baptism, imparts in the font fullness to the accomplishment of innocence, in Confirmation gives an increase of grace; and not only an increase, but an increase after a wonderful manner. This the Scriptures beautifully express by a metaphor taken from clothing: Stay you in the city, said our Lord and Saviour, speaking of this Sacrament, until you be clothed with power from on high.

If pastors wish to show the divine efficacy of this Sacrament — and this, no doubt, will have great influence in affecting the minds of the faithful — it will be sufficient if they explain what occurred to the Apostles themselves. So weak and timid were they before, and even at the very time of the Passion, that no sooner was our Lord apprehended, than they instantly fled; and Peter, who had been designated the rock and foundation of the Church, and who had displayed unshaken constancy and exalted magnanimity, terrified at the voice of one weak woman, denied, not once nor twice only, but a third time, that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ; and after the Resurrection they all remained shut up at home for fear of the Jews. But, on the day of Pentecost, so great was the power of the Holy Ghost with which they were all filled that, while they boldly and freely disseminated the Gospel confided to them, not only through Judea, but throughout the world, they thought no greater happiness could await them than that of being accounted worthy to suffer contumely, chains, torments and crucifixion, for the name of Christ.

Character Of Soldier Of Christ

Confirmation has also the effect of impressing a character. Hence, as we before said of Baptism, and as will be more fully explained in its proper place with regard to the Sacrament of Orders also, it can on no account ever be repeated.

If, then, these things be frequently and accurately explained by pastors, it will be almost impossible that the faithful, having known the utility and dignity of this Sacrament, should not use every exertion to receive it with purity and devotion.

The Sacrament of Confirmation: Compendium of the Catechism

These are the relevant questions from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

251. How is Christian initiation brought about?
Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.

266. Why is this sacrament called Chrismation or Confirmation?
It is called Chrismation (in the Eastern Churches: Anointing with holy myron or chrism) because the essential rite of the sacrament is anointing with chrism. It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.

267. What is the essential rite of Confirmation?
The essential rite of Confirmation is the anointing with Sacred Chrism (oil mixed with balsam and consecrated by the bishop), which is done by the laying on of the hand of the minister who pronounces the sacramental words proper to the rite. In the West this anointing is done on the forehead of the baptized with the words, "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit". In the Eastern Churches of the Byzantine rite this anointing is also done on other parts of the body with the words, "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit".

268. What is the effect of Confirmation?
The effect of Confirmation is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost. This outpouring impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of Baptism. It roots the recipient more deeply in divine sonship, binds him more firmly to Christ and to the Church and reinvigorates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his soul. It gives a special strength to witness to the Christian faith.

269. Who can receive this sacrament?
Only those already baptized can and should receive this sacrament which can be received only once. To receive Confirmation efficaciously the candidate must be in the state of grace.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Praying the Mass on the radio again!

I will be on my local Catholic radio station — WFJS 1260-AM — today at 1 PM (Eastern), talking about my book and about Catholic radio (during the Wednesday-through-Friday Catholic radio-thon).  Listen here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why clerical celibacy?

This post is a response to Ray Grosswirth's "40 Theses on Mandated Clerical Celibacy" from his Toward a Progressive Catholic Church blog. (Note: this blog is not something I regularly read, but it was brought to my attention today, and this post in particular caught my eye.)

The numbers preceding my comments relate to his individual theses.  I'm not repeating his theses, and I try to make my responses self-contained, but you may need to read his post for mine to make sense.

1. In Luke 18:29, Jesus says that some of them have left even their wives to follow Him.  So while He did not require them to do so, it seems clear that some of them did.  (This should not be interpreted to mean that married men should separate from their wives to seek ordination, but that the demands of discipleship sometimes require us to make great personal sacrifices.)

2. What "natural law" does mandated celibacy violate? See Matt. 19:8-12 and 1 Cor. 7:32-34.

3. The argument that clerical celibacy "celebrates a male hierarchy and diminishes the role of women" is baseless, because you have provided no evidence for it.  In addition, this argument would fail immediately if celibate women could be ordained:  no longer would male hierarchy be celebrated and the role of women be diminished.

4. Celibacy is a gift from God and requires co-operation with His grace.  It can lead to other graces and good things; it is meant to be a spiritual help. (cf. Catechism 915)  On the other hand, celibacy can have disastrous results if the person attempting it is not disposed to practice it.  But just because something (e.g. celibacy) can lead to a negative result (e.g. sexual frustration and even abuse) among other positive results, that does not mean the thing is negative or bad or evil in and of itself.  Take free will as a more general example.

5. I'm not sure what you mean by the "primary beneficiary of mandated celibacy" being the hierarchy.

6. Not everyone is called to the ordained priesthood (cf. Catechism 1599); put another way, there are more vocations than simply the ordained priesthood.  Although these vocations differ, and some vocations are "higher" than others, a layman does not have less dignity (spiritual or otherwise) than a priest simply because one is a priest and the other is not.  Indeed, some laymen have more dignity than priests.

7. Celibacy is a higher calling than the married life, it is true.  Vatican II said as much:  "[Seminary students] ought rightly to acknowledge the duties and dignity of Christian matrimony, which is a sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Let them recognize, however, the surpassing excellence of virginity consecrated to Christ, so that with a maturely deliberate and generous choice they may consecrate themselves to the Lord by a complete gift of body and soul." (Optatam Totius 10)  But what does it mean for marriage to have a "secondary status"?  Is there something wrong with marriage, then, because it is not the most excellent?

8. It is true that during the first millennium of the Church there were married priests; there were also married bishops.  But the whole Church eventually moved away from married bishops (seen in both the East and the West) and the Western Church eventually moved away from married priests as well.  I would not call this "obscur[ing]" the past.  Could it be that the Church is closer to attaining something now than it was in its first millennium?

9. The commandment to "love one another" does not take on a "love only thy self" dimension in the midst of celibacy; this is another baseless claim.  Can you only love a person to whom you are married?  Can you only love another person well if you are married?

10. It is true that with less priests, the Eucharist is offered less frequently (both to God as a sacrifice and to the people as Holy Communion), and this is a very sad thing. But the solution is not necessarily to increase the number of people who can be priests; perhaps we are not nurturing those whom God is calling to the priesthood.

11. How is clerical celibacy a "state of subjective pacifism" for priests? How is a life of celibacy opposed to "active participation"?

12. Mandated celibacy could, I suppose, create an unhealthy fear of women; I don't have the statistics. I bet it does create a healthy fear of sexual temptation, though.

13. What about the married-and-divorced-and-remarried Catholics who are "on the sidelines" because of their decisions? Should the "policy" on remarriage be changed to accommodate them?

14. Same as #13. It should be pointed out that the Church has, to my knowledge, never permitted men ALREADY ordained to then marry. Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) priests were married before they were ordained. The men who enter the priesthood should have been informed of the life they were entering and its demands; if they were not, shame on those in charge of their formation.

15. What evidence can you supply to support your claim that the "leadership roles" of women in the first four centuries were "distort[ed]" by the 5th century Church Fathers, let alone for the purpose of allowing a future mandate of celibacy?

16. Luckily, celibate priests need not be the "primary source" for marriage counseling. We have other married couples (include permanent deacons and their wives) to turn to. But still, a celibate priest could have some wisdom to share with those who are married. St. Paul did. (cf. Eph. 5)

17. Whatever St. Thomas Aquinas (or any other Church theologian -- Father or Doctor or whatever!) said about women being "misbegotten males", or other such nonsense, patently ignores the fact that God made man male and female in the beginning before there was sin at all. While the discipline of celibacy may have led to this conclusion, it does not strictly follow from it.

18. I do not know how well the "Fishers of Men" campaign succeeded (or how badly it failed). If it was "a dismal failure", there could be any number of reasons. Again, just because celibacy is counter-cultural or hard (to fathom or to live!) does not mean it is bad and should be done away with as an obligation of the priesthood.

19. Through the "pastoral provision" of Pope John Paul II, some married ministers from Protestant denominations who, upon entering the Catholic Church, discern that their ministry in their prior community was a response to a true priestly vocation, may request ordination in the Catholic Church. Some, not all, who request this receive it. I do not consider this "hypocrisy" any more than the fact that the Eastern Churches have married priests "hypocrisy".

20. It is not merely by the pope's authority that clerical celibacy is an obligation for priests in the Western Church; centuries of tradition, Scriptural admonitions, and experience also come into play. I personally think that the avenue of allowing individual bishops to permit married men to the priesthood is a poor one; maybe allowing individual bishops' conferences is better, but still, I am wary of it.

21. Women's ordination is completely out of the question, and advocates of a change in the discipline of clerical celibacy would do well to detach themselves from advocacy of women's ordination.

22. Scripture seems to say that Jesus was dining with "the twelve disciples" (i.e. the Apostles), not with His whole retinue. (Matt. 26:20; cf. Mark 14:17,20; Luke 22:14,30) These men were (by virtue of His words) priests. Married priests can confect the Eucharist too.

23. The miracle of turning water into wine at Cana was interpreted by the Church Fathers as a "blessing" of marriage (as a sacrament) by Jesus. Apart from His disciples who were present, I do not think the wedding guests recognized it as "a witnessing event" to "go out and preach the good news as an inclusive discipleship." This event has absolutely nothing to do (as far as I can see) with celibacy or the priesthood.

24. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes has a Eucharistic character to it. Nevertheless, it itself was not the Eucharist. The feeding of the spiritually hungry is not solely the task of priests; celibacy is not a prerequisite for it.

25. The Holy Spirit descends upon the bread and wine when a validly ordained priest prays the epiclesis.

26. Again, women's ordination is out of the question.

27. Why did men stop feeling called to the priesthood? What caused the drop in vocations?

28. Some seminaries are experiencing growth. And men who are entering the seminary should be made aware early on (if they are not aware already) of the celibate life expected of a priest. (cf. Catechism 915)

29. Priests are not selected "on the sole basis of promised obedience to a bishop and a promise to live a celibate life." Seminary formation is far more comprehensive in breadth and depth than that.

30. No one says that mandated celibacy "give[s] a priest a special status" in God's Kingdom.

31. You can frame your desire for a policy of optional celibacy however you wish.

32. Not all priests are "victims of burn-out", and a married priest is not immune to burn-out either.

33. The Vatican's answer to the parish-closing situation is to challenge all of us to foster priestly vocations in our young men all the more fervently.

34. Clerical celibacy does have to do with theology, as any balanced reading on the topic would reveal. See Vatican II's documents for a start: Lumen Gentium 42; Optatam Totius 10; Perfectae Caritatis 12; Presbyterorum Ordinis 16.

35. Not being based on the Bible alone, the Catholic Church's tradition has taught us that Jesus was celibate; I would not expect He is a homosexual. But priestly celibacy is based not only on Jesus' example but on His teaching (see Matt. 19:8-12) and on that of St. Paul (see 1 Cor. 7:32-34).

36. I do not know how many priests are secretly living double lives of clandestine relationships, but they shall answer to God for it, whether or not their situation is revealed to the Church. Perhaps the question should be: why do some priests have such great difficulty with celibacy? Could there be some cultural or societal pressures or defects which cause or worsen this problem?

37. St. John the beloved Apostle was also at the foot of the cross. Jesus did not make St. Mary of Magdala, nor His Mother, a priest. Was Jesus committing acts of "injustice" thereby? Why is it necessarily injustice for the priesthood to be instituted for men only? Is it an injustice for motherhood to be instituted for women only, or fatherhood for men only?

38. Clerical celibacy is a discipline (or, as you put it, a "policy"), not a doctrine nor a dogma. Nevertheless, it is a discipline which demands our adherence to it. It is not forbidden to discuss the matter of celibacy, but that discussion cannot be carried out by/in disobedience. I agree that open and honest dialogue on this topic should be encouraged; but that dialogue requires honest education and catechesis.

39. "We want change, and we want it now!" is quite a revealing battle cry. It is certainly not one which sounds ready for "open and honest dialogue" which requires one to listen and learn. The Church could change its stance toward clerical celibacy, but it seems as though "those of [you] committed to reform" in the issues of clerical celibacy are completely unwilling to change your stance.

40. I do not believe that "mandatory celibacy is a hindrance" to the Gospel. I think that society (modern or not) is a hindrance far more than Church disciplines are or could be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sacrificial language in the documents of Vatican II

It might surprise you how much Vatican II speaks of Jesus as the "Divine Victim" and how often it referred to the Eucharist as the "(Holy) Sacrifice of the Mass".

"Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, [the faithful] offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It." (Lumen Gentium 11)

"[Bishops] are the original ministers of confirmation, dispensers of sacred Orders and the moderators of penitential discipline, and they earnestly exhort and instruct their people to carry out with faith and reverence their part in the liturgy and especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass." (Lumen Gentium 26)

"[Priests] exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass by which acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming His Mystery they unite the prayers of the faithful with the sacrifice of their Head and renew and apply in the sacrifice of the Mass until the coming of the Lord the only sacrifice of the New Testament namely that of Christ offering Himself once for all a spotless Victim  to the Father." (Lumen Gentium 28)

"After this manner the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth." (Lumen Gentium 58)

"[Members of religious communities] should celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass, with both lips and heart as the Church desires and so nourish their spiritual life from this richest of sources." (Perfectae Caritatis 6)

"So priests must instruct their people to offer to God the Father the Divine Victim in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and to join to it the offering of their own lives." (Presbyterorum Ordinis 5)

"Priests act especially in the person of Christ as ministers of holy things, particularly in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ who gave himself for the sanctification of men." (Presbyterorum Ordinis 13)

"To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross', but especially under the eucharistic species." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 7)

"This is why we ask the Lord in the sacrifice of the Mass that, 'receiving the offering of the spiritual victim,' he may fashion us for himself 'as an eternal gift'." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 12)

"[The faithful] should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 48)

"For this reason the sacred Council, having in mind those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the faithful, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation, has made the following decrees in order that the sacrifice of the Mass, even in the ritual forms of its celebration, may become pastorally efficacious to the fullest degree." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 49)

"Before offering Himself up as a spotless victim  upon the altar, Christ prayed to His Father for all who believe in Him." (Unitatis Redintegratio 2)

Vatican II and the Sacraments: Penance

This is the third in a series of posts on Vatican II and the Sacraments. What did the Council say regarding the sacrament of Penance (i.e. Reconciliation, Confession)?  It certainly did do away with it, although the Council did call for its form to be revised to better express the sacrament's reality.  The Council did not recommend renaming the sacrament (which it consistently referred to as Penance) in any way; that is not to say that "Reconciliation" or "Confession" are bad or opposed to Vatican II, but that we should not eschew the name "Penance".


Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

72. The rite and formulas for the sacrament of penance are to be revised so that they more clearly express both the nature and effect of the sacrament.


Lumen Gentium (1964), Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

11. Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion.

26. [Bishops] regulate the discipline of Penance...


Orientalium Ecclesiarum (1964), Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches

27. Without prejudice to the principles noted earlier, Eastern Christians who are in fact separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, if they ask of their own accord and have the right dispositions, may be admitted to the sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick.


Christus Dominus (1965), Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops

29. Pastors should also be mindful of how much the sacrament of Penance contributes to developing the Christian life and, therefore, should always make themselves available to hear the confessions of the faithful.


Presbyterorum Ordinis (1965), Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests

5. By Baptism men are truly brought into the People of God; by the sacrament of Penance sinners are reconciled to God and his Church; by the Anointing of the Sick, the ill are given solace; and especially by the celebration of Mass they offer sacramentally the Sacrifice of Christ. ... In the spirit of Christ the Shepherd, they must prompt their people to confess their sins with a contrite heart in the sacrament of Penance, so that, mindful of his words "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mt 4:17), they are drawn closer to the Lord more and more each day.

13. This is true in a special way when in the performance of their duty in the sacrament of Penance they show themselves altogether and always ready whenever the sacrament is reasonably sought by the faithful.

18. The ministers of sacramental grace are intimately united to Christ our Savior and Pastor through the fruitful reception of the sacraments, especially sacramental Penance, in which, prepared by the daily examination of conscience, the necessary conversion of heart and love for the Father of Mercy is greatly deepened.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Talking about the new English translation

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show next Monday (the 12th) at 7:45 AM (ET) to talk with Brian Patrick about the new English translation of the Roman Missal — what are some of the changes, and how might they be implemented.

If there's any specific change you'd like mentioned (and briefly discussed), sound off!

Magisterial references to the sensus fidei

1964, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium
12. The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name. The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

35. Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life. They conduct themselves as children of the promise, and thus strong in faith and in hope they make the most of the present, and with patience await the glory that is to come. Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling "against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness.

1965, Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam
36. It is through faith that we gain this awareness of the mystery of the Church - mature faith, a faith lived out in our lives. Faith such as this gives us a sensus Ecclesiae, an awareness of the Church, and this is something with which the genuine Christian should be deeply imbued.

1980, John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae
11. The other table of the Eucharistic Mystery, that of the Bread of the Lord, also requires reflection from the viewpoint of the present-day liturgical renewal. This is a question of the greatest importance, since it concerns a special act of living faith, and indeed, as has been attested since the earliest centuries, it is a manifestation of worship of Christ, who in Eucharistic Communion entrusts Himself to each one of us, to our hearts, our consciences, our lips and our mouths, in the form of food. Therefore there is special need, with regard to this question, for the watchfulness spoken of by the Gospel, on the part of the pastors who have charge of eucharistic worship and on the part of the People of God, whose "sense of the faith" must be very alert and acute particularly in this area.

12. Upon all of us who, through the grace of God, are ministers of the Eucharist, there weighs a particular responsibility for the ideas and attitudes of our brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to our pastoral care. It is our vocation to nurture, above all by personal example, every healthy manifestation of worship towards Christ present and operative in that sacrament of love. May God preserve us from acting otherwise and weakening that worship by "becoming unaccustomed" to various manifestations and forms of eucharistic worship which express a perhaps "traditional" but healthy piety, and which express above all that "sense of the faith" possessed by the whole People of God, as the Second Vatican Council recalled.

1987, John Paul II, Christifideles Laici
14. Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, "who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his world", the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil. United to Christ, the "great prophet" (Lk 7:16), and in the Spirit made "witnesses" of the Risen Christ, the lay faithful are made sharers in the appreciation of the Church's supernatural faith, that "cannot err in matters of belief" and sharers as well in the grace of the word (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rev 19:10). They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age their hope of future glory even "through the framework of their secular life".

1993, Directory of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism
179. When the results of a dialogue are considered by proper authorities to be ready for submission for evaluation, the members of the People of God, according to their role or charism, must be involved in this critical process. The faithful, as a matter of fact, are called to exercise: "the supernatural appreciation of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people, when 'from the Bishops to the last of the faithful' they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals. By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (magisterium), and obeying it, receives not the mere word of men, but truly the Word of God, the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The people unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life".

1995, John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint
80. While dialogue continues on new subjects or develops at deeper levels, a new task lies before us: that of receiving the results already achieved. These cannot remain the statements of bilateral commissions but must become a common heritage. For this to come about and for the bonds of communion to be thus strengthened, a serious examination needs to be made, which, by different ways and means and at various levels of responsibility, must involve the whole People of God. We are in fact dealing with issues which frequently are matters of faith, and these require universal consent, extending from the Bishops to the lay faithful, all of whom have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Spirit who assists the Magisterium and awakens the sensus fidei.

1997, Ecclesia de Mysterio 
Premise. Sacred Pastors are extremely grateful for the generosity with which numerous religious and lay faithful present themselves for this specific service, carried out with a loyal "sensus Ecclesiae" and an edifying dedication.

2.2 The non-ordained faithful, according to their proper character, participate in the prophetic function of Christ, are constituted as his witnesses and afforded the "sensus fidei" and the grace of the Word.

2003, John Paul II, Chirograph on Sacred Music
12. Only an artist who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae can attempt to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Sacrament of Confirmation: Canon Law

In a little over a week's time, I will be attending the Confirmation of my eldest niece, for whom I am sponsor.  I thought a refresher on the sacrament of Confirmation might be in order for me.  I'll do this in three parts:  first, Canon Law; second, the modern Catechism (and its Compendium); third, the Catechism of Trent.

Canon Law, 879-896 (excerpts)

Can. 879. The sacrament of confirmation confers a character. By it the baptised continue their path of Christian initiation. They are enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are more closely linked to the Church. They are made strong and more firmly obliged by word and deed to witness to Christ and to spread and defend the faith.

Can. 890 The faithful are bound to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially parish priests, are to see that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the opportune time.
Can. 892 As far as possible the person to be confirmed is to have a sponsor. The sponsor's function is to take care that the person confirmed behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfils the duties inherent in this sacrament.

Can. 893 §1 A person who would undertake the office of sponsor must fulfil the conditions mentioned in can. 874.

§2 It is desirable that the sponsor chosen be the one who undertook this role at baptism.[!]

(Can. 874 §1 To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must:

be appointed by the candidate for baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it;

2° be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made;

be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken;

4° not labour under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;

not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptised.

§2 A baptised person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism.)

From the playbook of Bl. Pope John XXIII

This is from Bl. Pope John XXIII's opening speech to the Second Vatican Council.  These two paragraphs are under the heading of How to Repress Errors.  I would add:  with Charity.
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.

Not, certainly, that there is a lack of fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts to be guarded against an dissipated. But these are so obviously in contrast with the right norm of honesty, and have produced such lethal fruits that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life. They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person and of his perfection as well as of the duties which that implies. Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them.

That being so, the Catholic Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her. To mankind, oppressed by so many difficulties, the Church says, as Peter said to the poor who begged alms from him: "I have neither gold nor silver, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6). In other words, the Church does not offer to the men of today riches that pass, nor does she promise them merely earthly happiness. But she distributes to them the goods of divine grace which, raising men to the dignity of sons of God, are the most efficacious safeguards and aids toward a more human life. She opens the fountain of her life-giving doctrine which allows men, enlightened by the light of Christ, to understand well what they really are, what their lofty dignity and their purpose are, and, finally, through her children, she spreads everywhere the fullness of Christian charity, than which nothing is more effective in eradicating the seeds of discord, nothing more efficacious in promoting concord, just peace, and the brotherly unity of all.
Now, Bl. Pope John XXIII was not addressing liturgical mistakes here, but I think the principles apply to such issues.

Can you understand what the prayer is saying?

I would like to carry out a simple experiment.  Please listen to the sound clip below (which comes from a prayer on Monday of the 5th Week of Lent) and follow its instructions, providing your response as a comment to this post.



I have turned comment moderation on so that no comments will appear until I've closed the experiment.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Christ in the Paschal Candle

Pope Zosimus established that a large candle be blessed on the Holy Sabbath of the Pasch, which the deacon blesses after benediction has been received from the priest.

This candle designates Christ: in the wax humanity, in the fire divinity; and as it illuminates it precedes the catechumens to baptism, just as once a column of fire preceded the children of Israel as they crossed the Red Sea, illuminating by fire and shading by a cloud. (Hugh of St. Victor, De Sacramentis, 2.9.5, Deferrari's translation)
H/T to Fr. Charles (not my brother)

More on facing east: latent desire?

The following is derived from a thread on the Catholic Answers Forum. The regular text is from soflochristmas, the italics text is from other commenters, and the bold text at the end is from me.



My sister is the ONLY person in my family that has maintained a solid practice of her Catholic faith; probably because she's the only one with a family (two girls). She's at a very heterodox parish in Tampa but she at least attends Mass fairly regularly and my nieces are receiving the sacraments. ...

When I spoke with my sister on Sunday, she mentioned that she attended a "sunrise service on the beach". I was stunned because I was certain the Catholic Church on St. Anastasia island does NOT have such a service. She must have picked up on my "pause" and silence and she offered, "it wasn't a Catholic service...but....".

My heart sank. ... If my sister had a choice between receiving Christ in the Eucharist on the most holy day of the Christian calendar, or attending a "sunrise service on the beach", why would she choose one over the other? What is it about the "sunrise service on the beach" that would make her choose it over Christ in the Eucharist?

On another note why would one have a Easter service on a beach? What connection does the Resurrection of Christ at have to do with a beach in Florida? Were they there to glorify the Lord or just there to be in a really "neat" place?

Well, other than it's as far east as you can get (i.e., the first place the sun rises).

Look at that! People want to worship "in the east"! It's funny, but Catholics have been doing that for 2000 years. It's called worship ad orientem, facing the east. (Traditionally, the altar is at the eastern end of the church; this is still the standard, although it's not as common in the Latin Church as it is in the Eastern Churches.)

As Pope Benedict pointed out in a book he wrote back in the 80s, once upon a time church architecture was such that the light from the rising/risen sun would shine in through the eastern side of the church building during Mass in the morning. This allowed even the architecture and the sun to join in the worship of God. He called it a "cosmic liturgy".

How sad that we don't have that anymore in our Roman parishes and people have to walk out to the beach to try and satisfy that latent desire!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Liturgical Orientation: Why Face East?

This post, which will appear in chapter 2 of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priest, is greatly inspired by two essays by Cardinal Ratzinger: “Eastward- or Westward-Facing Position? A Correction” (in Feast of Faith, pp. 139-145) and “The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer” (in The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 74-84).



Perhaps the most commonly misunderstood element of liturgical worship in the Ordinary Form of Roman Rite – second only to the use of Latin – is the direction which the priest faces during the Mass.  If you are familiar with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, you are well aware that for the majority of the Mass, the priest is not facing towards the people, but away from them.  This orientation has been described in numerous ways, some of which are inaccurate and misleading:  some say the priest has his back to the people (or worse, has turned his back on the people) or that he is facing the wall, others that he is facing the altar or the tabernacle.
First, if the priest “has his back to the people,” then the same must be said of all the people in the church (except those sitting in the back), but I know of no one who takes offense to the fact that the people sitting in front of them aren’t looking at them!  Just because the priest is not facing the people does not mean he is being rude or is ignoring them.  Those who see the gesture as the priest “turning his back on the people” are simply deriving the wrong symbolism, one of moral injustice, from this posture.  Second, if the priest is “facing the wall,” then the same should be said of the whole congregation.  Yes, the congregation is also facing the priest and the altar, but they’re facing the wall beyond the priest and altar as well.  Third, many modern churches are built such that when the priest is “facing the altar” he is also facing the people, so this description is not very specific.  Fourth, the tabernacle is not necessarily on (or behind) the altar, so the priest is not necessarily facing it; and again, the tabernacle should not be the focus of the priest’s attention at Mass. (cf. Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, p. 139)
All these descriptions focus on the wrong center of attention.  What is the proper center of attention during the Mass?  The Mass is a prayer to God; the “direction of the Eucharist [is] from Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father.” (Feast of Faith, p. 140; cf. Catechism 1073)  This means that liturgy should be directed spiritually ad Deum, that is, “towards God.”  Ancient Christian tradition has manifested this spiritual orientation[1] by facing ad orientem, to the east (whereas Jewish worship faces Jerusalem).
Why the east?  As they say in real estate:  location, location, location!  The east is the direction of the rising sun, which is a biblical (not pagan) symbol of Christ; thus, the east is associated with His Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming.

The Incarnation

God is often identified with light in both the Old and New Testaments:  the psalmist calls God “a sun and shield” (Ps. 84:11) and St. John says that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)  So too Christ is likened to light and the sun, especially in His Incarnation, the first coming.
St. Jerome, in his commentary on the book of the prophet Ezekiel, saw the east gate of the Temple in Ezekiel’s vision as a sign of the Virgin Mary’s womb.  Ezekiel saw that “the glory of the God of Israel came from the east” (Ezek. 43:2) and that “no one shall enter by it” except the Lord. (Ezek. 44:2)[2]  This Scripture was interpreted as a prophecy of the Incarnation, so its association with the east is particularly important.
The prophet Isaiah foretold a time when a child would be born who be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6) and who would sit on the throne of David and have a never-ending kingdom.  Of that day Isaiah said “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Isa. 9:2)  St. Matthew tells us that this was fulfilled by Jesus’ preaching throughout the regions of Zebulun and Napthali. (cf. Matt. 4:12-16; Isa. 9:1)
The prophet Malachi foretold that the “sun of righteousness” would rise. (Mal. 4:2)  The Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” also invokes Christ as the Oriens, the “Day-Spring” or dawn.[3]  The Canticle of Zechariah (the Benedictus, Luke 1:68-79), which the father of St. John the Baptist proclaimed upon the birth of his son, ends by describing God’s mercy being manifested as “the dawn [oriens] from on high” which would “shine on those who dwell in darkness,” alluding to the Incarnation.
Finally, St. John the Evangelist refers to Jesus as the “light” in the prologue of his gospel (cf. John 1:4-9), and Jesus spoke of Himself in the same way. (cf. John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46)

The Resurrection

At Christ’s crucifixion the sun was darkened (cf. Luke 23:45) and with the setting of the sun:  Golgotha is on the west side of Jerusalem, and Jesus was buried in the evening. (cf. Matt. 27:57)  On the contrary, His Resurrection is associated with the rising of the sun.  Cardinal Ratzinger explains that “the rising sun, the east – oriens – was naturally [a] symbol of the Resurrection” (Feast of Faith, p. 140)
Jesus rose from the dead at (or just before) sunrise. (cf. Luke 24:1; John 20:1)  His Apostles captured a glimpse of His resurrected glory at His transfiguration when “he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” (Matt. 17:2)  St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, quotes an early Christian baptismal hymn:  “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Eph. 5:14)

The Ascension

St. Luke records in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives (cf. Acts 1:9-12), which was located to the east of Jerusalem.  The Roman liturgy associates Psalm 67:33-34 with the Solemnity of the Ascension; the Latin Vulgate reads “psallite Deo qui ascendit super caelum caeli ad orientem,” which the Douay-Rheims Bible renders as “Sing ye to God Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, to the east.”

The Second Coming (Parousia)

Cardinal Ratzinger points out that the rising sun, the oriens, was not only a natural symbol of the Resurrection, but also of “a presentation of the hope of the parousia.” (Feast of Faith, p. 140)  Indeed, “every Mass is an approach to the return of Christ.” (Feast of Faith, pp. 140-141)
The angels at the Ascension told the Apostles that “Jesus … will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)  Jesus Himself prophesied His return from the east:  “as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” (Matt. 24:27)  When Jesus returns, His appearance will probably be like that seen by St. John as recorded in the book of Revelation:  “his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (Rev. 1:16)  In the heavenly Temple, Jesus is the lamp. (cf. Rev. 21:23; 22:5)

The East and the Cross

We also read in the book of Revelation that St. John “saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God” (Rev. 7:2)  The seal of God is believed to be the sign of the Son of Man, which is the cross. (cf. Ezek. 9:4; Rev. 7:2-3)[4]
The early Christians marked the eastern wall of their meeting-houses with a cross first as a sign of hope for Christ’s return and only later as a reminder of His Passion. (cf. Feast of Faith, p. 141)  This tradition was the origin of the rubric, still present in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, which required there to be a crucifix on the altar, so that Mass would be celebrated not only facing east, but also facing the cross.  In the Ordinary Form of the Mass, a crucifix is still required, but it can be near the altar if not on it. (cf. GIRM 117)
The east, the oriens, signifies the whole Christian concept of time:  the Lord is “the rising sun of history.” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 84)  So while it is not proper to say that the Eucharist is celebrated facing the tabernacle or even facing the altar, it can be said that the Eucharist is celebrated “facing the image of the cross, which embodied in itself the whole theology the oriens.” (Feast of Faith, p. 141)

Liturgical Significance

So what value is there in celebrating the Eucharist facing the east?
First, we can express our spiritual worship through our bodies.  When the priest says “Lift up your hearts” before the Eucharistic Prayer, and the congregation responds “We lift them up to the Lord,” there is an internal orientation towards the Lord being spoken of.  This internal reality should also be expressed by external signs if possible.  Celebrating the Eucharist facing the east is an external manifestation of being directed to the Lord, of our hope for His return, for the new dawn and the endless day of Heaven.
Second, this posture should not be misconstrued as the priest having his back to the people, but as the priest and the people facing the same direction together.  At the end of his sermons, St. Augustine would often say “conversi ad Dominum” (“let us turn toward the Lord”), which had both a spiritual (conversion) and a literal (orientation) meaning in the liturgy, as priest and people would face the east together for the Eucharistic portion of the liturgy.  In this way, we resume the shared posture of the entrance procession by which we express our pilgrim state on earth, on a journey to the Lord. (cf. The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 80)
Third, churches were traditionally built facing the east, that is, with the altar at the eastern end, so that the Eucharist could be celebrated in that direction.  Cardinal Ratzinger refers to this as being mindful of the “cosmic dimension” or “orientation” of the liturgy (Feast of Faith, p. 140) by which the whole of creation can be included in worship of God.  This architecture “stand[s] in the cosmos, inviting the sun to be a sign of the praise of God and a sign of the mystery of Christ.” (Feast of Faith, p. 143)  Cardinal Ratzinger suggests that if our buildings were oriented this way, it would facilitate the recovery of a spirituality which embraces creation in a traditional manner.
Fourth, while it is reasonable for the Liturgy of the Word to be celebrated face-to-face as an exchange between the one proclaiming the Word and those hearing it, this orientation is not as suited to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  The communal character of the liturgy is a positive and necessary one, but it should not be emphasized to the point that the Eucharist is regarded merely a communal meal.  The Eucharist is offered first to God as a sacrifice, from Whom it is received as spiritual food.
Fifth, there is sometimes confusion about the various ways in which Christ is present in the liturgy.  He is present in the priest in a particular way, and He is also present in the congregation, for where two or three are gathered in His name, He is present in their midst. (cf. Matt. 10:10)  But the congregation does not pray to Christ-in-the-priest, nor does the priest pray to Christ-in-the-people.  God is present in nature, but we do not worship a rock or a river as God; likewise, we do not worship one another as Christ.  The manner of God’s presence is not the same in all things.  The Church is not a community closed in on itself, but is open to “what lies ahead and above,” to God. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 80)  The Eucharist is not a “dialogue” between the priest and the congregation but between the Church and the Lord.

Historical Continuity

The Church, in both the east and west, has traditionally prayed facing the east.  If you attend a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, you will see that the priest prays the majority of the anaphora (i.e. the Eucharistic Prayer) facing the east, and probably behind an iconostasis, a screen with doors decorated with icons of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints and angels.  The priest will from time to time turn to speak to face the congregation to speak to them; this happens in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as well.
Eastward posture is the traditional posture of the Latin Church as well, although changes started occurring in the middle of the 20th century, even before the Second Vatican Council.  The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy said nothing about “turning altars around.”  Still, the practice of priests celebrating Mass “facing the people” (versus populum) – standing on “the other side” of the altar – became more and more prevalent so quickly that it became the perceived norm, to the point where Mass celebrated ad orientem seemed to be incompatible with the Ordinary Form.  However, as Pope Benedict XVI has shown by his example, the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite can be celebrated ad orientem; in fact, the Roman Missal anticipates that the priest will be celebrating Mass in this manner because on several occasions its rubrics instruct him to turn toward the people or toward the altar, instructions which are redundant if those two directions are the same.[5]
An unfortunate “Latinization” of the Eastern Rites, by which they adopted traditions and characteristics particular to the Latin Rite (often at the expense of their own), has occurred at times during the Church’s history.  In 1996, the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches put out a document on Eastern liturgical worship, Pater Incomprehensibilis (PI).  The document praises the “the inalienable value of the particular heritage of the Eastern Churches” (PI 7) and stresses the need for preserving the Eastern liturgical traditions.  One such tradition, prayer facing east, was being endangered by “a new and recent Latin influence” (PI 107) which spread in the years following the Second Vatican Council.  After quoting St. John of Damascus at length (who provided numerous proofs from Scripture of God’s hallowing of the east[6]) and addressing that the priest is “guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom” rather than has his “back turned to the people,” the document calls for the retention and safeguarding of prayer facing east as “truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality” and having “profound value.” (Ibid.)

The Cross as East

Pope Benedict XVI, both before his election to the papacy and after, has suggested an alternative approach to facing east:  “the cross can serve as the interior ‘east’ of faith.” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 83)
Because the Liturgy of the Eucharist is not about a dialogue between the priest and the congregation, but between the whole church and God, the cross can serve as a focus point when the priest and the congregation face each other:  since the cross can be placed on the altar, rather than just near it, it serves to distinguish the Liturgy of the Word from the Liturgy of the Eucharist. (cf. Feast of Faith, p. 145)  This is the arrangement found on the altar at most papal Masses.
An objection to this is that the cross can be regarded as a “barrier” or “obstruction” to the act taking place on the altar.  Cardinal Ratzinger asks in reply, “Is the cross disruptive during Mass?  Is the priest more important than the Lord?” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 84)  His response to this objection is that “the cross on the altar is not obstructing the view” and is “an open ‘iconostasis.’” (Feast of Faith, p. 145)


[1] The word “orientation” comes from the Latin oriens, meaning “the east; sunrise,” which in turn comes from the verb orior, meaning “to rise.”
[2] That this gate “shall remain shut” was seen by many (e.g. Tertullian, Methodius, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, John of Damascus) as a prophecy of Mary’s perpetual virginity, that she bore no other children besides Jesus.
[3] This hymn comes from a series of prayers said during the Liturgy of the Hours on the days concluding Advent, the season in which the Church celebrates the first coming of Christ and anticipates His second coming.
[4] This link is described in Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, pp. 28-29.
[5] When a church’s architecture does not place the sanctuary and altar in the eastern end of the building, one could treat that part of the church where the altar is located as a “liturgical east.”
[6] Among these are:  God is light (cf. 1 John 1:5), Christ is the “sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), Christ as “the East” (Zec. 3:8 in the Septuagint), the location of Eden “in the east” (Gen. 2:8), the east-facing gate of the Temple (cf. Ezek. 44:1), Christ ascending toward the east (cf. Acts 1:11), and His statement about His return “from the east.” (Matt. 24:27)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first;
he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
just as to him who has labored from the first.
He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first;
to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you!
The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into hades and took hades captive!
He embittered it when it tasted his flesh!
And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed,
"Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions."
It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

It took a body and, face to face, met God!
It took earth and encountered heaven!
It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!

"O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?"

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Prophecy of the Cross

It is your will that works of your wisdom should not be without effect; therefore men trust their lives even to the smallest piece of wood, and passing through the billows on a raft they come safely to land. For even in the beginning, when arrogant giants were perishing, the hope of the world took refuge on a raft, and guided by your hand left to the world the seed of a new generation. For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes. (Wis. 14:5-7)

The Paschal Triduum - How long is it?

I hear and read many people talking about the Paschal (or Easter) Triduum as "Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday/the Easter Vigil."  Little do they realize that, unlike the "three days and three nights" which the Lord prophesied He would be buried, the Paschal Triduum is actually 72 hours:  three days and three nights... or rather, three nights and three days.

But, as Levar Burton would say on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it:  ask the Church!
The Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the passion of the Lord and Holy Saturday, to reach its summit in the Easter Vigil, and concludes with Vespers of Easter Sunday. (Paschalis Sollemnitatis 27)
Just thought I'd clear that up for you.

(By the way, is the document Paschales Solemnitatis or Paschalis Solemnitatis?  Does Solemnitatis have one l or two?  I've seen it written in various ways, although I've never seen the original Latin document.)

P.S. Thanks to Greg for correcting the spelling. It turns out the Adoremus Bulletin corrected its filename to correspond to the proper document title.