Friday, February 29, 2008

Liturgy: Baptism's proper form

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has laid down the law (of the Church) on the proper form of baptism:
VATICAN CITY, 29 FEB 2008 (VIS) - Made public today were the responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to two questions concerning the validity of Baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae.

The first question is: "Is a Baptism valid if conferred with the words 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier', or 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer'"?

The second question is: "Must people baptised with those formulae be baptised in forma absoluta?"

The responses are: "To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative".

Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the dicastery.

An attached note explains that the responses "concern the validity of Baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church. ... Clearly, the question does not concern English but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language".

"Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", the note continues, "obeys Jesus' command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. ... The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable.

"Variations to the baptismal formula - using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons - as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology", being an attempt "to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity".

"The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised. Hence, they must them be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of 'non-baptised'".
In other words, no one has the right to change the words of the formula of baptism, and an attempted baptism with an altered formula is, in fact, invalid.

(Source: In the Light of the Law, via WDTPRS)

Liturgy: Eucharistic Prayer II

You're probably familiar with Eucharistic Prayer II (and its preface). It's short (which means it's popular). It is based on a rather ancient anaphora from the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Let's compare the two side-by-side, and then I'll share a bit of the context of the ancient anaphora.

Anaphora of Hippolytus (4:4-13)
Eucharistic Prayer II

We give thanks to you God,
through your beloved son Jesus Christ,

whom you sent to us in former times
as Savior, Redeemer,

and Messenger of your Will,
who is your inseparable Word,
through whom you made all,

(see above)

and in whom you were well-pleased,
whom you sent from heaven
into the womb of a virgin,
who, being conceived within her,
was made flesh,
and appeared as your Son,
born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin.

(see below)

(see below)

It is he who, fulfilling your will
and acquiring for you a holy people,

extended his hands in suffering
in order to liberate from sufferings
those who believe in you.

(see below)

Who, when he was delivered
to voluntary suffering

in order to dissolve death,
and break the chains of the devil,
and tread down hell,
and bring the just to the light,
and set the limit,
and manifest the resurrection,

taking the bread,
and giving thanks to you,


"Take, eat,
for this is my body
which is broken for you."

Likewise the chalice, saying,

"This is my blood

which is shed for you.

Whenever you do this,
do this (in) memory of me."

Therefore, remembering
his death and resurrection
we offer to you
the bread and the chalice,
giving thanks to you,
who has made us worthy

to stand before you
and to serve
as your priests.

And we pray that you would
send your Holy Spirit
to the oblation of your Holy Church.

In their gathering together,
give to all those who partake
of your holy mysteries
the fullness of the Holy Spirit,
toward the strengthening of the faith in truth,

that we may praise you
and glorify you
through your son Jesus Christ,

through whom to you
be glory and honor,
Father and Son,
with the Holy Spirit,
in your Holy Church,
now and throughout
the ages of the ages.

Father, it our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere
to give you thanks
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

(see below)

He is the Word through whom
you made the universe,

the Savior you sent to redeem us.

By the power of the Holy Spirit
he took flesh
and was born of the Virgin Mary.

For our sake he opened
his arms on the cross

he put an end to death
and revealed the resurrection.

In this he fulfilled your will
and won for you a holy people.

(see above)

And so we join the angels and saints
in proclaiming your glory:


Lord, you are holy indeed,
the fountain of all holiness.
Let your Spirit come upon these gifts
to make them holy,
so that they may become for us
the body and blood
of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Before he was given up to death,
a death he freely accepted,

(see above)

(see above)

he took bread
and gave you thanks
He broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples, and said:

"Take this, all of you, and eat it;
this is my body
which will be given up for you."

When the supper was ended, he took the cup.
Again he gave you thanks and praise,
gave the cup to his disciples, and said:

"Take this, all of you, and drink from it;
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all
so that sins may be forgiven.

Do this in memory of me

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

[Memorial Acclamation]

In memory of
his death and resurrection
we offer you, Father,
this life-giving bread, this saving cup.
We thank you
for counting us worthy

to stand in your presence
and serve you.

(see above)

May all of us who share
in the body and blood of Christ
be brought together in unity
by the Holy Spirit.

Lord, remember your Church
throughout the world;
make us grow in love,
together with N. our Pope,
N., our bishop, and all the clergy.

Remember our brothers and sisters
who have gone to their rest
in the hope of rising again;
bring them and all the departed
into the light of your presence.
Have mercy on us all;
make us worthy to share eternal life
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with the apostles, and with all the saints
who have done your will throughout the ages.

May we praise you in union with them,

and give you glory
through your Son, Jesus Christ.

Through him, with him, and in him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
almighty Father,

for ever
and ever.


So we can see that EP II is very much based on this ancient anaphora. It's not the same prayer, but it's close, and it has some praiseworthy additions. For perspective, the Roman Canon -- Eucharistic Prayer I -- remained essentially unchanged for over 1300 years! The most recent change was in AD 1962 when Pope Bl. John XXIII added St. Joseph's name. The previous change was during the 7th century, most likely towards the end of the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great (AD 590-604). That's some 1300 years between modifications!

Now, you might say, "Yes, well, the anaphora of Hippolytus lasted even longer without being changed." That's true, but it also hasn't been in use in the Roman Rite since the Roman Canon became the Eucharistic Prayer (which seems to have been around AD 400); and that's assuming this particular anaphora was ever used: Hippolytus offered this as a model prayer, not as something to be spoken exactly. Having more than one Eucharistic Prayer is a novelty for the Roman Rite.

The biggest point I wanted to make is that the reference in the anaphora to standing and serving the Lord (cf. 4:11) is, to me, a clear reference to the priests and bishops. The use of this prayer was for a bishop who was just ordained (cf. 4:1-2) -- this wasn't the everyday Eucharistic Prayer of the early Church, although for many of us, it's the one we hear most weekdays, and many Sundays and holy days. That sentence of the prayer uses a plural pronoun ("we" or "us") because there were multiple bishops and priests present at the altar: it was a concelebration of sorts.

In EP II, the reference to "priests" has been excised, but the plural pronoun retained: this appears to cast it as speaking of the royal priesthood of the baptized, rather than the ministerial priesthood. Maybe that's why some priests say the people should be standing during the Eucharistic Prayer... or why they use the verb "be" instead of "stand".

(Much of the historical information on the Canon comes to me from the Catholic Encyclopedia.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Music: Memorare chant

I have absolutely no training whatsoever in chant, so I'm sure I'm going to butcher this project (when I get around to it), but I have half a mind to compose a Gregorian chant of the Memorare. I think it would be Hypolydian (Mode VI) which is classified as "devout" (D'Arezzo), "pious" (Fulda), and "tearful and pious" (Espinoza).
MEMORARE, O piissima Virgo Maria,
non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia,
tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia,
esse derelictum.
Ego tali animatus confidentia,
ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro,
ad te venio, coram te gemens peccator assisto.
Noli, Mater Verbi,
verba mea despicere;
sed audi propitia et exaudi.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Liturgy: I figured out my problem.

I am an amateur. I am just a lay faithful. I am not a seminarian, not an ordained minister of the Church, not a scholar. I have no formal education in the field, no degree on my wall, no letters of recommendation.

But I've done all this reading, and I have technical knowledge about the liturgy. But what "voice" do I have? Who would listen to me, a "liturgical police[man]", an "unqualified individual", an "axe grinder"? Most likely not those who are willfully disobedient. Possibly those who are simply ignorant. Hopefully those who are as concerned as I am and do have a weighty voice.

I don't know how to present myself properly, I guess. I'm very willing to help! It's not like I just want to go around pointing out liturgical deficiencies and condemning people.

Any advice on the matter would be appreciated.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Liturgy: The hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture

So I recently finished reading Pope Benedict's address to the Roman Curia from December 22, 2005 [HTML | MS Word]. In it, he refers to the "hermeneutic of discontinuity" and the "hermeneutic of reform", the two ways of looking at the documents of the Second Vatican Council. He paints a very clear (and stark) picture of the so-called "spirit of Vatican II" (my emphasis):
What has been the result of the [Second Vatican] Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? ... 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 quarrelled 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. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.

The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood.
Ouch. That's a rather scathing condemnation of the "spirit of Vatican II". Make no mistake, the Holy Father says that such a fundamental misunderstanding of the Counci is oriented towards a rupture between the Church as it existed before the Council and the Church as it exists after the Council, and that is not at all on the Holy Father's list of things to accomplish during the reign which God has blessed him (and us) with!

In a nutshell, he says that this mistaken hermeneutic assumes that the documents of the Council (e.g. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) don't contain the full intent of the Council Fathers, but rather are a compromise that reconfirms "many old things that are now pointless" simply to avoid mutiny and "reach unanimity"; this bad hermeneutic claims that the true interpretation ("spirit") of the Council is one which reaches far beyond the text, giving its adherents ample wiggle-room "for every whim".

So the two questions I have, since Sacrosanctum Concilium is a "Roman" document (see this previous post for details), are these:

Why was this document "realized" far beyond its actual contents in a very liberal way (in a rather short span of time), whereas documents like Redemptionis Sacramentum are not "realized" after so many years, and even publicly ignored?

And can those who feel strongly-drawn to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite be blamed, since they are just slow in their "realizing" of the liturgical reforms envisioned (and not envisioned) by the Second Vatican Council?

Allow me to explain further. The priest I am currently in correspondence with does not "suffer the belief that the words of the Sacramentary have to be reproduced exactly" and sees nothing wrong with omitting various elements of the Mass and inserting things of his own, despite the fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 22 §3 says very clearly: "Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority." Is SC, n. 22 §3 simply one of those "Roman laws" that is "a goal to be achieved (and not always realized)"? Perhaps, interpreting the document in the "spirit of Vatican II", one recognizes that SC, n. 22 §3 was simply a necessary evil, a compromise for the sake of getting the document past the vote: it's not actually what the Council Fathers meant, and they certainly didn't expect priests to be held to the "official" liturgy or any of its "approved" translations.

What would happen if I get pulled over for running a red light and tell the police officer I do not "suffer the belief that the traffic signal has to be obeyed exactly"? The officer would probably tell me that it's not a matter of belief, it's a matter of fact. (Oh, that's English Law, not Roman Law. Apparently, in the Roman system, laws are there as an ideal, and no one actively enforces them; those who do try to call attention to them (like myself) are ridiculed or belittled or simply ignored.)

This frustrates me; it vexes me; it is a near occasion to sin for me, since it saps me of charity. I'm going to pray a Rosary in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the chapel this evening, with two intentions: reparations for liturgical abuse, and petition for an increase of charity.

Lent: Sermon XLII of Pope Leo the Great: On Lent, IV

I. The Lenten fast an opportunity for restoring our purity

In proposing to preach this most holy and important fast to you, dearly beloved, how shall I begin more fitly than by quoting the words of the Apostle, in whom Christ Himself was speaking, and by reminding you of what we have read: "behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation." For though there are no seasons which are not full of Divine blessings, and though access is ever open to us to God's mercy through His grace, yet now all men's minds should be moved with greater zeal to spiritual progress, and animated by larger confidence, when the return of the day, on which we were redeemed, invites us to all the duties of godliness: that we may keep the super-excellent mystery of the Lord's passion with bodies and hearts purified. These great mysteries do indeed require from us such unflagging devotion and unwearied reverence that we should remain in God's sight always the same, as we ought to be found on the Easter feast itself. But because few have this constancy, and, because so long as the stricter observance is relaxed in consideration of the frailty of the flesh, and so long as one's interests extend over all the various actions of this life, even pious hearts must get some soils from the dust of the world, the Divine Providence has with great beneficence taken care that the discipline of the forty days should heal us and restore the purity of our minds, during which the faults of other times might be redeemed by pious acts and removed by chaste fasting.

II. Lent must be used for removing all our defilements, and of good works there must be no stint

As we are therefore, dearly-beloved, about to enter on those mystic days which are dedicated to the benefits of fasting, let us take care to obey the Apostle's precepts, cleansing "ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit:" [2 Corinthians 7:1] that by controlling the struggles that go on between our two natures, the spirit which, if it is under the guidance of God, should be the governor of the body, may uphold the dignity of its rule: so that we may give no offence to any, nor be subject to the chidings of reprovers. For we shall be rightly attacked with rebukes, and through our fault ungodly tongues will arm themselves to do harm to religion, if the conduct of those that fast is at variance with the standard of perfect purity. For our fast does not consist chiefly of mere abstinence from food, nor are dainties withdrawn from our bodily appetites with profit, unless the mind is recalled from wrong-doing and the tongue restrained from slandering. This is a time of gentleness and long-suffering, of peace and tranquillity: when all the pollutions of vice are to be eradicated and continuance of virtue is to be attained by us. Now let godly minds boldly accustom themselves to forgive faults, to pass over insults, and to forget wrongs. Now let the faithful spirit train himself with the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, that through honour and dishonour, through ill repute and good repute, the conscience may be undisturbed in unwavering uprightness, not puffed up by praise and not wearied out by revilings. The self-restraint of the religious should not be gloomy, but sincere; no murmurs of complaint should be heard from those who are never without the consolation of holy joys. The decrease of worldly means should not be feared in the practice of works of mercy. Christian poverty is always rich, because what it has is more than what it has not. Nor does the poor man fear to labour in this world, to whom it is given to possess all things in the Lord of all things. Therefore those who do the things which are good must have no manner of fear lest the power of doing should fail them; since in the gospel the widow's devotion is extolled in the case of her two mites, [cf. Luke 21:2-4] and voluntary bounty gets its reward for a cup of cold water. [cf. Matthew 10:42] For the measure of our charitableness is fixed by the sincerity of our feelings, and he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself. The holy widow of Sarepta discovered this, who offered the blessed Elias in the time of famine one day's food, which was all she had, and putting the prophet's hunger before her own needs, ungrudgingly gave up a handful of corn and a little oil. But she did not lose what she gave in all faith, and in the vessels emptied by her godly bounty a source of new plenty arose, that the fulness of her substance might not be diminished by the holy purpose to which she had put it, because she had never dreaded being brought to want.

III. As with the Saviour, so with us, the deviltries to make our very piety its own snare

But, dearly-beloved, doubt not that the devil, who is the opponent of all virtues, is jealous of these good desires, to which we are confident you are prompted of your own selves, and that to this end he is arming the force of his malice in order to make your very piety its own snare, and endeavouring to overcome by boastfulness those whom he could not defeat by distrustfulness. For the vice of pride is a near neighbour to good deeds, and arrogance ever lies in wait hard by virtue: because it is hard for him that lives praise-worthily not to be caught by man's praise unless, as it is written, "he that glories, glories in the Lord." [1 Corinthians 10:17] Whose intentions would that most naughty enemy not dare to attack? whose fasting would he not seek to break down? seeing that, as has been shown in the reading of the Gospel, he did not restrain his wiles even against the Saviour of the world Himself. For being exceedingly afraid of His fast, which lasted 40 days and nights, he wished most cunningly to discover whether this power of abstinence was given Him or His very own: for he need not fear the defeat of all his treacherous designs, if Christ were throughout subject to the same conditions as He is in body. And so he first craftily examined whether He were Himself the Creator of all things, such that He could change the natures of material things as He pleased: secondly, whether under the form of human flesh the Godhead lay concealed, to Whom it was easy to make the air His chariot, and convey His earthly limbs through space. But when the Lord preferred to resist him by the uprightness of His true Manhood, than to display the power of His Godhead, to this he turns the craftiness of his third design, that he might tempt by the lust of empire Him in Whom the signs of Divine power had failed, and entice Him to the worship of himself by promising the kingdoms of the world. But the devil's cleverness was rendered foolish by God's wisdom, so that the proud foe was bound by that which he had formerly bound, and did not fear to assail Him Whom it behooved to be slain for the world.

IV. The perverse turn even their fasting into sin

This adversary's wiles then let us beware of, not only in the enticements of the palate, but also in our purpose of abstinence. For he who knew how to bring death upon mankind by means of food, knows also how to harm us through our very fasting, and using the Manichæans as his tools, as he once drove men to take what was forbidden, so in the opposite direction he prompts them to avoid what is allowed. It is indeed a helpful observance, which accustoms one to scanty diet, and checks the appetite for dainties: but woe to the dogmatizing of those whose very fasting is turned to sin. For they condemn the creature's nature to the Creator's injury, and maintain that they are defiled by eating those things of which they contend the devil, not God, is the author: although absolutely nothing that exists is evil, nor is anything in nature included in the actually bad. For the good Creator made all things good and the Maker of the universe is one, "Who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them." [Psalm 146:6] Of which whatever is granted to man for food and drink, is holy and clean after its kind. But if it is taken with immoderate greed, it is the excess that disgraces the eaters and drinkers, not the nature of the food or drink that defiles them. "For all things," as the Apostle says, "are clean to the clean. But to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean, but their mind and conscience is defiled." [Titus 1:15]

V. Be reasonable and seasonable in your fasting

But ye, dearly-beloved, the holy offspring of the catholic Mother, who have been taught in the school of Truth by God's Spirit, moderate your liberty with due reasonableness, knowing that it is good to abstain even from things lawful, and at seasons of greater strictness to distinguish one food from another with a view to giving up the use of some kinds, not to condemning their nature. And so be not infected with the error of those who are corrupted merely by their own ordinances, "serving the creature rather than the Creator," [Romans 9:26] and offering a foolish abstinence to the service of the lights of heaven: seeing that they have chosen to fast on the first and second days of the week in honour of the sun and moon, proving themselves in this one instance of their perverseness twice disloyal to God, twice blasphemous, by setting up their fast not only in worship of the stars but also in contempt of the Lord's Resurrection. For they reject the mystery of man's salvation and refuse to believe that Christ our Lord in the true flesh of our nature was truly born, truly suffered, was truly buried and was truly raised. And in consequence, condemn the day of our rejoicing by the gloom of their fasting. And since to conceal their infidelity they dare to be present at our meetings, at the Communion of the Mysteries they bring themselves sometimes, in order to ensure their concealment, to receive Christ's Body with unworthy lips, though they altogether refuse to drink the Blood of our Redemption. And this we make known to you, holy brethren, that men of this sort may be detected by you by these signs, and that they whose impious pretences have been discovered may be driven from the society of the saints by priestly authority. For of such the blessed Apostle Paul in his foresight warns God's Church, saying: "but we beseech you, brethren, that you observe those who make discussions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you learned and turn away from them. For such persons serve not Christ the Lord but their own belly, and by sweet words and fair speeches beguile the hearts of the innocent." [Romans 16:17-18]

VI. Make your fasting a reality by amendment in your lives

Being therefore, dearly-beloved, fully instructed by these admonitions of ours, which we have often repeated in your ears in protest against abominable error, enter upon the holy days of Lent with Godly devoutness, and prepare yourselves to win God's mercy by your own works of mercy. Quench your anger, wipe out enmities, cherish unity, and vie with one another in the offices of true humility. Rule your slaves and those who are put under you with fairness, let none of them be tortured by imprisonment or chains. Forego vengeance, forgive offences: exchange severity for gentleness, indignation for meekness, discord for peace. Let all men find us self-restrained, peaceable, kind: that our fastings may be acceptable to God. For in a word to Him we offer the sacrifice of true abstinence and true Godliness, when we keep ourselves from all evil: the Almighty God helping us through all, to Whom with the Son and Holy Spirit belongs one Godhead and one Majesty, for ever and ever. Amen.


Liturgy: 2002 Missale Romanum Study Edition

Sigh. It's times like this when I wish I were a seminarian...

Midwest Theological Forum has a "Study Edition" of the 2002 Missale Romanum (yes, that's the official Latin version) for $150. That's a bit much for me to spend on a book right now (the chapel-sized 1985 English Roman Missal -- a.k.a. Sacramentary -- cost $55), given some of the expenses I've accrued in the past month (a trip to the Metropolitan Opera this Friday with my wife, and a trip next Saturday to Philly with my wife to hear/see Carmina Burana). But perhaps later this year I'll suck it up and purchase it. It'd help me grok Latin, since I don't have a Latin Breviary, and I've got a book which teaches Latin for reading the Missal and Breviary!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bible Study: Studying the Psalms II

Psalms 2 and 110
Dominus dixit Domino meo: "Sede ad dextris meis..."
Download this study [MS Word, 52 k, 4pp]

Liturgy: Liturgical Rights in Liturgical Rites

Let all Christ’s faithful participate in the Most Holy Eucharist as fully, consciously and actively as they can, (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 14; cf. also nn. 11, 41, 48) honouring it lovingly by their devotion and the manner of their life. Let Bishops, Priests and Deacons, in the exercise of the sacred ministry, examine their consciences as regards the authenticity and fidelity of the actions they have performed in the name of Christ and the Church in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Let each one of the sacred ministers ask himself, even with severity, whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred Liturgy at Christ’s command. (cf. S. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., III, q. 64, a. 9 ad 1) For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the Sacred Liturgy. (cf. GIRM, n. 24)
Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 186
This is simply a compendium of the rights of each Catholic regarding the liturgy, as they are found in Redemptionis Sacramentum.
  • the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline (RS, n. 11)
  • the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms (RS, n. 12)
  • the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium (RS, n. 12)
  • the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church (RS, n. 12; cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34; Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 52)
  • the right that ecclesiastical authority should fully and efficaciously regulate the Sacred Liturgy lest it should ever seem to be “anyone’s private property, whether of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated” (RS, n. 18; cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 52)
  • the right of the Christian people themselves that their diocesan Bishop should take care to prevent the occurrence of abuses in ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and devotion to the Saints. (RS, n. 24; cf. CIC, can. 392)
  • the right of the community of Christ’s faithful that especially in the Sunday celebration there should customarily be true and suitable sacred music, and that there should always be an altar, vestments and sacred linens that are dignified, proper, and clean, in accordance with the norms (RS, n. 57)
  • the right to a celebration of the Eucharist that has been so carefully prepared in all its parts that the word of God is properly and efficaciously proclaimed and explained in it; that the faculty for selecting the liturgical texts and rites is carried out with care according to the norms; and that their faith is duly safeguarded and nourished by the words that are sung in the celebration of the Liturgy (RS, n. 58)
  • the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice (RS, n. 92; GIRM, n. 161)
  • where the diocesan Bishop has sacred ministers or others whom he can assign to this purpose, the faithful have a right to visit the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist frequently for adoration, and to take part in adoration before the Most Holy Eucharist exposed at least at some time in the course of any given year (RS, n. 139)
  • the diocesan Bishop should acknowledge and foster insofar as possible the right of the various groups of Christ’s faithful to form guilds or associations for the carrying out of adoration, even almost continuous adoration. (RS, n. 141)
  • the Christian people’s right to have the Eucharist celebrated for them on Sunday, and whenever holydays of obligation or other major feasts occur, and even daily insofar as this is possible (RS, n. 162)
  • the lay faithful have the right, barring a case of real impossibility, that no Priest should ever refuse either to celebrate Mass for the people or to have it celebrated by another Priest if the people otherwise would not be able to satisfy the obligation of participating at Mass on Sunday or the other days of precept. (RS, n. 163)
  • if participation at the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible on account of the absence of a sacred minister or for some other grave cause,” (cf. CIC, can. 1248 §2; Christi Ecclesia, nn. 1-2)then it is the Christian people’s right that the diocesan Bishop should provide as far as he is able for some celebration to be held on Sundays for that community under his authority and according to the Church’s norms (RS, n. 164)
  • any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. (RS, n. 184; cf. CIC, can. 1417 §1)

"Jenga" Mass, part three: The priest's reply

This is the reply from Fr. X. to my letter from November. I copied the content of the letter exactly, except in the following cases: brackets [...] were turned to parentheses (...) so as not to be confused with my comments; a person's name was abbreviated; I left out the priest's name and his carbon-copy attribution to a third party; bolding and [comments] are my own.

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts about the Liturgy we shared a while back. I have been thinking about your letter and whether I should respond, and if so, how. As you can see, I have thought it best to respond, mostly because I feel some responsibility for the fact that you spent so much time at that Liturgy counting my faults, [I won't deny that I was paying attention to what the priest was doing during Mass, nor that I noticed many things I considered abnormal (based on my knowledge of the liturgy). I was uneasy from the get-go: the priest asked out loud whether he should put on vestments.] which must have been a distraction from your full, active and conscious participation. [It certainly was.] Being the kind of person I am, I have organized my response and will present it rather formally, but I think it is important that I make myself clear and understandable. So please forgive the formal presentation.

  • One of the things that one learns when studying Church documents, which I am sure you already know, is that they are written as Roman law, not English-based law. When I say "Roman" I mean that these laws are written from the point of view accepted as the one which the official Church in the Vatican has as its stance, not based on the old English form of common law. Roman law is seen as a goal to be achieved (and not always realized); English law express what is expected at the moment. Americans, in the English tradition, think that the law should be observed to its particulars. One most interpret Roman law as Roman law, recognizing that the English attitude is somewhat inappropriate, and may even be misleading. [Does this mean the Church puts forth laws without expecting them to be followed? That's probably an over-simplification, but seriously: if the Church puts forth a liturgical law, what's stopping a priest or bishop from carrying it out in a pastorally-sensitive manner?]
  • Of course, you have taken into account the principles of interpretation of law of Pope Urban VIII. [No, I haven't. I don't know what these are, and my initial research online has not yielded any results.]
  • The praxis ecclesiae is another factor that must be included in any serious thought about Liturgy, as you know. That praxis involves an awareness of what the Pope and the Bishops do at Liturgy, a point to which I will return later, as well as the praxis of the people. [But sometimes they also do things they aren't supposed to, although it's not always their decision.]
  • I am also aware of my role in the Eucharist. It is my responsibility, when I am the principle celebrant, to create an atmosphere in which people can come together in their worship of the Father. It is the task of the Assembly to enter into the Liturgy in a spirit of openness to the even as it unfolds within them and around them. All of us need the kind of humility that supports us in letting go of our own individual preferences [a point to which I will return later] so that we may enter into the pattern left us by Jesus and shaped by the Church.
  • Of course, liturgical law, like all other law, exists in a hierarchy of importance. The law against murder is more significant than the law of Stop signs. [Unless running a stop sign results in vehicular manslaughter.] The use of bread and wine is much more important than a manual gesture. One needs to see the elements of the Liturgy, like the parts of life, in perspective.
  • Before Vatican Council II Liturgical law was the province of canon lawyers. The books of Liturgy for Mass stated up front that the Liturgy was in accord with the decisions of the canonists. The Vatican Council II made a very profound and fundamental change in things when it took the Liturgy away from the canonists and made liturgists responsible for the process of changing the Liturgy. [What does he mean by this? Is he referring to the Consilium that implemented the Constitution on the Liturgy? Or is he saying that even today liturgists are in the process of changing the liturgy as they see fit? Who are these liturgists? Do they adhere to the "hermeneutic of discontinuity" or the "hermeneutic of reform" as Pope Benedict calls them?] There are some who have not realized this shift made by the official Church in her most solemn teaching (the documents of an ecumenical council) and are still working at Liturgy as if it were simply a matter of doing ritual according to some precise legal standard. [Does that include the people in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments? They publish documents on the proper carrying-out of the liturgy and their official interpretations of the regulations of the liturgy.] The Liturgy, like our God, is a living thing. It exists in different communities, in different cultures and societies, in different kinds of buildings, in differing levels of awareness, in different Assemblies. Liturgy is the worship of real people, expressing their real self gift to the Father in union with Jesus the Lord in the power of the Spirit.
  • This kind of legal approach becomes extreme in what I will call Neo-Phariseeism. [I am not surprised this came up. I agree with what he says here, but I don't think my attitude in this case is the one he describes.] Such a person would see Liturgy as a set of rules and regulations to be accomplished with mechanical accuracy. [I see the liturgy of the Mass as the public corporate worship of the Father by the Church. As such, it does have rules and regulations, but they are there to guide us in orthopraxis and to prevent aberrations and falsities from entering into our worship.] They would pay lip service to the values and meaning of Liturgy, but would evaluate it only in terms of rubrics. [I don't do this, but I do acknowledge that a poorly celebrated Mass can diminish its perceived meaning and even foster incorrect attitudes.] Such people, as their scriptural ancestors were accused by the Lord, would tie up burdens of exactitude and do nothing to help others bear these man-made burdens. [I don't think I am requesting anything more than the Church requests (or demands, rather) of its priests. I am also more than willing to help!] I would imagine that the Lord Jesus feels the same about the Neo-Pharisees as he did about the originals.
  • I find another particularly subtle but equally dangerous dimension in the comments of some people who criticize the present Liturgy. A danger of being excessive about the details of liturgical law is that it suggests a kind of magic to me. Magic is a way of gaining power over a supernatural being (God included) by a ritually repeated action accompanied by the repetition of the proper incantation. The living Liturgy can never fall into this foolishness, since it responds to the people, the place, the occasion, and doesn't slavishly repeat the ritual action and speak the prayers with the exactitude that is akin to magic, to gain power over God. True worshipers believe that God is present among us because of God's choice to love us unconditionally, not because we have "forced" God into compliance with our wishes by accurate repetition of ritual and precise repetition of words. [But at the same time, the Church recognizes that the Sacraments have a proper form: e.g. baptism "in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier" is not valid. In place of the point of view whereby adherence to rubrics gives rise to magic, I see it as lex orandi lex credendi.]
As you know, and as I am sure you have done, there are a variety of source that you must be aware of when thinking about what happens at Liturgy. I repeat them here for my own sake, so I can be clear about what I think about when I make decisions about the Liturgy.
  • The document of the Vatican Council II on Liturgy. [That's Sacrosanctum Concilium.]
  • All the documents [including some of the ones I quoted in my letter] of the Church, both Roman and of the American Bishops, consequent to the Council. [What of the documents that preceded the Council?]
  • The documents in the front of the Sacramentary [such as the GIRM] and the Lectionary [I don't have a personal copy of the Lectionary, but I looked at one and noted it has documents pertaining to the meaning of the Liturgy of the Word, its proper carrying-out, etc. They mention the priest or deacon reading the Gospel, and the things done before and after the Gospel is read.].
  • The history of the Liturgy from the Early Church thru the ages, the history of the various books used in the Liturgy, perhaps with a special eye on the relevant documents of the XX Century (including those of the people who were studying the Liturgy with Roman approval and working on and experimenting with permission on changes in praxis) that helped shape the mind of the Church that prepared for the Council.
  • Following Urban VIII's principles, I had the opportunity in the past to speak viva voce with Bishops who were at the Council, including a member of the Committee that actually wrote the document. I am sure you have read enough of the work of such people to have the sense of their mind when they did the writing of the document.
  • It is very important to include the writings of recognized commentators on Liturgy, people whose opinions and suggestions are accepted in the living out of the Liturgy of the Church. Of course, that doesn't include every unqualified individual or axe grinder who opposes the Liturgy that is the living expression of the faith of the Church.
  • The praxis of the Pope, the Bishops, and the Church celebrating Liturgy. For example, blue is not one of the liturgical colors. But there are photos of John Paul II in America celebrating in blue vestments. [Yes, but was it his decision? There are pictures of Pope Benedict XVI in very tacky blue and yellow vestments as well. Then again, now that Archbishop Piero Marini is no longer the Master of Papal Ceremonies, we'll see things more in line with the constant praxis of the Church, not someone's innovation.]

With all this in the active background, let me comment on your specific observations.
  • Since the Mass was informal, and not a parochial Mass with an assorted Assembly in attendance, I felt free to adapt the Mass to the situation. You do not know whether I started with a kiss to the altar, hardly an essential element to the celebration of the Eucharist, which we need to see in perspective. [Kissing the altar is a sign of reverence to that which represents Christ, the altar on which he becomes present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. While it may not be "an essential element", I don't see the justification for its omission... perhaps the sake of informality?] You will also find [where?] that there is such a thing as the Rite of Welcome which can replace the Penitential Rite. And again, we were in an informal setting. As for C. [a layman] reading the Gospel, that is something I would not do at a regular Mass. [Because it's not permitted.] However, following the principle of ¶ 14 [I'll replicate this later] of the Council document on the Liturgy, I think it is a matter of freedom in some limited situations. [Whence in ¶ 14 does he derive that "freedom"?] I also know it is a practice [that doesn't make it licit!] in such informal Liturgies [Why must they be informal? What is the harm in a "formal" Mass? Doesn't a "formal" Mass allow for "active participation" without a layman reading the Gospel?], for the reason given in ¶ 14. [What reason is that?] The purpose of the Liturgy that night was not to set up situations in which people could ask questions. That would be totally improper. The Liturgy is for the worship of God the Father by the self-gift of those who are there. If questions come, fine. But Liturgy is not supposed to have other purposes.
  • As for standing around the altar [nevermind the Notitiae from the Congregation for Divine Worship], if you check the text of the Second Eucharistic Prayer in the Sacramentary, which was written by Pope Hippolytus [not exactly: EP II is based on the anaphora found in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus] in the second century [my research says the third century (AD 215), but whatever] and has been a treasure of the Church thru the ages [although since replaced in the Roman Rite (and probably every other Rite as well), until it was resurrected and revamped after Vatican II], it says clearly, and I quote, "We thank you for counting us worthy to STAND in your presence and serve." (p. 550 of the Sacramentary, emphasis mine) [The context from the original prayer is missing from EP II. More on that later.] As you know, standing at prayer is an act of profession of faith [yes, but in the Roman Rite, the proper posture of the faithful during the EP is to kneel] in the ANASTASIS. In so large a chapel, it seems better to have a small number of people close to the altar to enhance their participation (¶ 14 again) [How does he derive that from ¶ 14? than to keep them at a distance [of 15 feet, which is where we had been seated]. And there is a second point here. It is the official teaching, and the advice of commentators, that the unity which the Eucharist sacramentalizes is shown by the words and postures of the Assembly. This is specifically cited in reference to the posture and actions at the reception of Communion, but is a value thruout the Liturgy. Therefore, as a sign of unity, everyone should be standing when the group is standing, otherwise the experience of unity is lessened. [I think he is referring to two things here: 1) that since the priest was standing, it was proper for all of us to be standing, and 2) that I should not have knelt during the EP and after the Agnus Dei since no one else did. Point 1 is irrelevant; to point 2, the priest did not ask or tell us to remain standing throughout the EP, so I don't know why the others did not kneel. If he had asked us, I suppose I would have uneasily stayed standing, though he has no place asking people to stand for the EP.]
  • You're correct that you wouldn't be asked to hold the paten and offer yourself as part of the gift at a regular parish Mass. So? [So it was an illicit addition that he decided to introduce.]
  • I would never agree that the people join their prayer to mine in the Liturgy. [Maybe the priest didn't understand my point (from Mediator Dei). The presidential prayers belong to the priest to pray; the EP is one such prayer. We join our personal prayers of self-offering to the prayer of the priest (the EP).] The Liturgy does not belong to the priest, but to the Church. The Assembly is not a group of spectators, but the Body of Christ, the Church! I am a minister, a servant of the Assembly, with my role to play. But the faithful play a very important active part of the Liturgy.
  • I am sure you know that the basic word musterios is not best translated by "mystery" (in the usual American sense of something unknown) but rather the opposite, a revelation of divine truth. The word in Latin to translate it is sacramentum [Except when it is translated as mysterium, such as in "mysterium fidei". I see in the writing of Pope St. Leo the Great, the two words are interchangeable at times (here and here); there's also Trent XXII where sacramentum is translated as "mystery". But that's besides the point, as I mention below.]. I do not use the word "mystery" because I think it is misleading. [What about "the kind of humility that supports us in letting go of our own individual preferences"? I'll talk about mysterium fidei below.] There is nothing hidden or unknown about our salvation [but we celebrate the "sacred mysteries" (Sacramentary, Penitential Rite: p. 360, option C -- which happens to be the first/only option in the Latin) at Mass] - it has been lovingly and unconditionally given by God to us all in response to the self-gift of Jesus in his passion, death, and Resurrection. (I suggest Ephesians 1:3-14 as an interesting text on the word musterios.) Nor do I suffer the belief that the words of the Sacramentary have to be reproduced exactly. [What a relief!] Twice in my life I have been in situation in which someone complained that a priest (and it wasn't me) had changed the words of the Eucharistic Prayer. In both situations, the person that was called in to comment on the case was the diocesan head of the Liturgy Committee. In both cases, these officials approved of the changes in words and found no fault in the reasonable flexibility of the celebrants. There is another principle operative in the mind of this celebrant, called the principle of proportion. A daily Mass should not be celebrated with exactly the same solemnity as a Sunday Eucharist, nor are the Ordinary Sundays of the year supposed to be celebrated as we do Easter or Christmas. This is an application of our awareness of hierarchy - some days are more solemnly celebrated than others. The celebrant, musicians, and other ministers, should show this variability in their ministry. Small group Liturgies aren't the same as Sunday Liturgies in a large church. [Well, I'm not sure I follow this. Certainly, there are degrees of solemnity in the liturgy: solemnities, feasts, memorials, and ferials. But I don't see why fewer people present should mean that we render our worship to the Father with less solemnity and reverent gusto.]
  • Your footnote 7 (interesting in a "letter") is not to the point. [That was the footnote that explains that it is not appropriate for priests to use non-approved Eucharist Prayers, nor to change the approved texts. It was to the point, I thought.]
  • Your final accusations that I am "care-free" in my attitude to Liturgy and "disobedient" is, if I may be honest, very offensive. [I apologize for using those terms. I was giving my perspective on the situation.] Be careful when you become judgmental - the Lord Jesus says that you will be judged as you judge others.

May the Lord Jesus draw us ever deeper into the humble gift of self that makes us one with him in worship of the Father.

This is n. 14 of Sacrosanctum Concilium:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.

Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless the pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it. A prime need, therefore, is that attention be directed, first of all, to the liturgical instruction of the clergy. Wherefore the sacred Council has decided to enact as follows:
So that's what the Church said: the means to achieving the "full and active participation" of the people is "the necessary instruction in all ... pastoral work". Not "letting them read the Gospel".

I have a post I'm working on for this blog about the Second Eucharistic Prayer (the shortest one, and the one the average parishioner hears most, I'd bet) and the anaphora found in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Let me spill the beans here. The anaphora (which Hippolytus said was a model) was not used in the Roman Rite (at the latest) since the adoption of the "Roman Canon" (which was, at the latest, during the reign of Pope St. Gregory the Great at the end of the 6th century)... until it was modified and injected into the new order of Mass in 1969 (even though Vatican II did not call for more Eucharistic Prayers to be rediscovered and polished -- like EP II and IV -- or created -- like EP III). In the context of the Apostolic Tradition, the anaphora is used by a bishop at the Mass of his ordination, not by a priest every day of the week. The part about being worthy to stand in the presence of the Lord and serve Him demands some attention. Here is a translation of that part of the anaphora:
Therefore, remembering his death and resurrection,
we offer to you the bread and the chalice,
giving thanks to you, who has made us worthy
to stand before you and to serve as your priests.
Compare that with the corresponding section of EP II:
In memory of his death and resurrection,
we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup.
We thank you for counting us worthy
to stand in your presence and serve you.
See the difference? It is my understanding that the anaphora spoke of the bishops and priests serving in the ministeral priesthood and standing at the altar, not of the entire assembly in the royal priesthood of all baptized believers.

As for mysterium fidei, the context of these words in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is during the consecration of the wine, becoming the Precious Blood: Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, novi et aeterni testamenti: mysterium fidei: qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. That is: "This is the chalice of my blood, the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith: which is shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins."

Pope Paul VI wrote this in the opening of his 1965 encyclical Mysterium Fidei: "The Mystery of Faith, that is, the ineffable gift of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church received from Christ, her Spouse, as a pledge of His immense love, is something that she has always devoutly guarded as her most precious treasure, and during the Second Vatican Council she professed her faith and veneration in a new and solemn declaration."

No matter what the theological interpretation of what the "mystery of faith" is in the Eucharistic Prayer, the fact remains that the Church translates mysterium as "mystery" in this instance, and so "mystery" must be said.

Humor: It's like looking into a mirror...

Duty Calls
[Source:] (Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Aside: "Pagan Christianity" on

Hrm, I think someone at B&N exercised their Photoshop finger. Take a look at these two pages: vs.

Now, click on the picture of the book to see a larger image. Look for a difference between the enlarged images. From the cover of the book I have, the word in the upper-left quadrant of the book should be "Exploring". Barnes & Noble has a different word. Early copy or Photoshopping?

Update: And the winner is... Early copy; I just received this reply from one of the authors:
Hi there. Thanks for alerting me about this, I do appreciate it. It looks like they got the earlier version of the cover and never switched it. Good catch by the way! I would guess that you are a superb proof-reader ;-)
Many blessings,

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pagan Christianity: Preface

(This is the first in a series on the book "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna. I quote the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (1943) of Pope Pius XII a fair amount here, and I expect I will quote it throughout the rest of the series.)

The book's preface presents the current state of Christianity as that of Judaism in the time of Christ: it suffers from additions (like the Pharisees added to Scripture) and subtractions (like the Sadducees removed from Scripture) that cloud and obscure the proper head-ship of Jesus Christ in His body, the Church. Could it be that the majority of practices in our Christian life come, not from the New Testament, but instead from "a pagan philosopher"? (p. xviii) The authors state that Jesus gave birth to the Church, the "body of Christ" in a post-resurrection world, by his Ascension: "That church was Himself in a different form." (ibid.) Catholics would agree: "the Mystical Body of Christ ... is the Church" (Mystici Corporis Christi [MCC], n. 1; cf. Col 1:24).

But the authors disagree that the Church is both "a spiritual organism" and "an institutional organization" (ibid., footnote 4), where as the Catholic Church recognizes both the spiritual (invisible) and institutional (visible) natures of the Church, just as Jesus himself had both a divine and a human nature:
On the contrary, as Christ, Head and Exemplar of the Church "is not complete, if only His visible human nature is considered..., or if only His divine, invisible nature..., but He is one through the union of both and one in both ... so is it with His Mystical Body" {Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum} since the Word of God took unto Himself a human nature liable to sufferings, so that He might consecrate in His blood the visible Society founded by Him and "lead man back to things invisible under a visible rule." {St. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 29, a. 4, ad 9} (MCC, n. 64)
Abc... The authors call the first-century Church "an organic entity ... a living, breathing organism" that "revealed Jesus Christ on this planet through His every-member functioning body". (p. xix) Of course the Catholic Church agrees with St. Paul on this, and believes the same thing even today:
Again, as in nature a body is not formed by any haphazard grouping of members but must be constituted of organs, that is of members, that have not the same function and are arranged in due order; so for this reason above all the Church is called a body, that it is constituted by the coalescence of structurally untied parts, and that it has a variety of members reciprocally dependent. It is thus the Apostle describes the Church when he writes: "As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another." {Rom 12:4}

One must not think, however, that this ordered or "organic" structure of the body of the Church contains only hierarchical elements and with them is complete; or, as an opposite opinion holds, that it is composed only of those who enjoy charismatic gifts - though members gifted with miraculous powers will never be lacking in the Church. That those who exercise sacred power in this Body are its chief members must be maintained uncompromisingly. It is through them, by commission of the Divine Redeemer Himself, that Christ's apostolate as Teacher, King and Priest is to endure. At the same time, when the Fathers of the Church sing the praises of this Mystical Body of Christ, with its ministries, its variety of ranks, its officers, it conditions, its orders, its duties, they are thinking not only of those who have received Holy Orders, but of all those too, who, following the evangelical counsels, pass their lives either actively among men, or hidden in the silence of the cloister, or who aim at combining the active and contemplative life according to their Institute; as also of those who, though living in the world, consecrate themselves wholeheartedly to spiritual or corporal works of mercy, and of those in the state of holy matrimony. Indeed, let this be clearly understood, especially in our days, fathers and mothers of families, those who are godparents through Baptism, and in particular those members of the laity who collaborate with the ecclesiastical hierarchy in spreading the Kingdom of the Divine Redeemer occupy an honorable, if often a lowly, place in the Christian community, and even they under the impulse of God and with His help, can reach the heights of supreme holiness, which, Jesus Christ has promised, will never be wanting to the Church. (MCC, nn. 16-17)
The authors then go on to "argue that on theological grounds, historical grounds, and pragmatic grounds, the first-century church best represents the dream of God" (p. xix); but this seems to preclude the idea that an organic Church could mature, could "grow up" as it were: changing from the model of the first-century Church is generally bad. They describe "an organic church [as] a church that is born out of spiritual life ... characterized by Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and nonhierarchical leadership" (ibid.), which I think is neglecting some New Testament witness (but I'll touch on the specifics as I comment on each chapter). It also neglects the fact that Israel's worship developed (under the direction of God) over time, from Abraham to Moses to David and Solomon to Ezra (although the authors disapprove of the Temple, as I'll cover later).

The core mission of this book is to "remove a great deal of debris in order to make room for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the fully functioning head of His church", where "debris" means those practices which are "foreign elements that God's people picked up from their pagan neighbors as far back as the fourth century". (p. xx) Here is what Pope Pius XII wrote about the functioning of Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church:
But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden {cf. Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum} or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. You know, Venerable Brethren, that after He had ruled the "little flock" {Luke 12:32} Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ's Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into Heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. (MMC, n. 40)

Books: "Pagan Christianity" and "The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith"

So I purchased two books at Barnes & Noble yesterday; they're probably polar opposites: "Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices" by Frank Viola and George Barna (details), and "The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith" by John Salza (details). Now, the former deals with the practices of "the church" in general, whereas the latter deals with the Catholic faith, so they're not entirely comparable, but think the juxtaposition of the two books was humorous. ("This guy must really be torn in two!" some B&N clerk must have been thinking.)

Why am I reading a book that claims that "most of what present-day Christians do in church each Sunday is rooted, not in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the Apostles"? Well, I had attended a mens' Bible Study at a local non-denominational Christian community regularly in the past (not so much lately), and I regularly get a weekly email update for the group's members. This week, the facilitator sent a link to the article I linked above for the book by Viola and Barna. I looked at the bullet-points in the article and responded to them in a reply email to the group. At the end of the email, I admitted I had not read the book, so I didn't know if the authors defended their position and refuted my explanations. I bought the book so I can read it and comment on it here.

It turns out the book focuses on "the central practices that define mainstream Christianity today" (page xx, bolding mine); footnote 7 on page xx clarifies this statement (bolding mine):
This book focuses on Protestant Christian practices. And its main scope is "low church" Protestantism rather than "high church" denominations like Anglican, Episcopal, and some stripes of Lutheran. By high church, I mean churches that emphasize the sacerdotal, sacramental, and liturgical Catholic elements of orthodox Christianity. The book touches on high-church practices only in passing.
I'd like to make two comments right away. First, the authors' definition of "mainstream Christianity" is "'low church' Protestantism", which is helpful to know. Second, I am pleased they consider the "sacerdotal, sacramental, and liturgical ... elements" as a part of "orthodox Christianity", recognizing at least Catholic practices as Christian. You can never be too sure who will call Catholics Christians, these days.

Anyway, I'll be responding to the claims of each chapter on my blog. My general statement is this:

The Church is (as the authors state) organic, and as such, it grows over time, not merely in membership (size) but also in its ability to convey the message of the Gospel and in its ability to better direct worship to God. I don't think it is practical to assume the first-century Church was the epitome or ideal or summit. Certain practices that have since come into the Church that are not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament (or the Old Testament) are not necessarily wrong for that reason. That they existed in pagan (i.e. non-Judeo-Christian) cultures does not necessarily condemn them either. Furthermore, after seeing a brief list of the "additions" to the Church's practices, I think the authors have failed to incorporate the (scriptural) Jewish worship practices and the contents of the New Testament epistles. In the end, it appears that if it wasn't written in the N.T., it wasn't done, even though the N.T. is not a manual for describing Christian worship. I am very interested to see if this book paints a picture of "true Christian Biblical worship", since genuine first-century Christian worship (for at least a dozen years) was done without any "New Testament" literature, and was done without Bibles.

And I'm betting (and I thought this before even opening the book) that the authors completely neglect the development (or even existence!) of Eastern Christianity.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Music: Crucem tuam Antiphon and Verse for Good Friday

[Source: NLM]

A beautiful new piece of polyphony, in the traditional style of classical polyphony, has been released just this week by Aristotle Aure Esguerra on CPDL. It's free to download and use. I listened to the MIDI (which does it no justice, of course) and it sounds beautiful.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bible Study: Studying the Psalms I

Introduction and Psalm 1
Beatus vir, qui non abiit in consilio impiorum...
Download this study [MS Word, 42 k, 2pp]

Lent: Sermon XL of Pope Leo the Great: On Lent, II

I. Progress and improvement always possible

Although, dearly-beloved, as the Easter festival approaches, the very recurrence of the season points out to us the Lenten fast, yet our words also must add their exhortations which, the Lord helping us, may be not useless to the active nor irksome to the devout. For since the idea of these days demands the increase of all our religious performances, there is no one, I am sure, that does not feel glad at being incited to good works. For though our nature which, so long as we are mortal, will be changeable, is advancing to the highest pursuits of virtue, yet always has the possibility of falling back, so has it always the possibility of advancing. And this is the true justness of the perfect that they should never assume themselves to be perfect, lest flagging in the purpose of their yet unfinished journey, they should fall into the danger of failure, through giving up the desire for progress.

And, therefore, because none of us, dearly beloved, is so perfect and holy as not to be able to be more perfect and more holy, let us all together, without difference of rank, without distinction of desert, with pious eagerness pursue our race from what we have attained to what we yet aspire to, and make some needful additions to our regular devotions. For he that is not more attentive than usual to religion in these days, is shown at other times to be not attentive enough.

II. Satan seeks to supply his numerous losses by fresh gains

Hence the reading of the Apostle's proclamation has sounded opportunely in our ears, saying, "Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation." [2 Cor 6:2] For what is more accepted than this time, what more suitable to salvation than these days, in which war is proclaimed against vices and progress is made in all virtues? You had indeed always to keep watch, O Christian soul, against the enemy of your salvation, lest any spot should be exposed to the tempter's snares: but now greater wariness and keener prudence must be employed by you when that same foe of yours rages with fiercer hatred. For now in all the world the power of his ancient sway is taken from him, and the countless vessels of captivity are rescued from his grasp. The people of all nations and of all tongues are breaking away from their cruel plunderer, and now no race of men is found that does not struggle against the tyrant's laws, while through all the borders of the earth many thousands of thousands are being prepared to be reborn in Christ: and as the birth of a new creature draws near, spiritual wickedness is being driven out by those who were possessed by it. The blasphemous fury of the despoiled foe frets, therefore, and seeks new gains because it has lost its ancient right. Unwearied and ever wakeful, he snatches at any sheep he finds straying carelessly from the sacred folds, intent on leading them over the steeps of treasure and down the slopes of luxury into the abodes of death. And so he inflames their wrath, feeds their hatreds, whets their desires, mocks at their continence, arouses their gluttony.

III. The twofold nature of Christ shown at the Temptation

For whom would he not dare to try, who did not keep from his treacherous attempts even on our Lord Jesus Christ? For, as the story of the Gospel has disclosed, when our Saviour, Who was true God, that He might show Himself true Man also, and banish all wicked and erroneous opinions, after the fast of 40 days and nights, had experienced the hunger of human weakness, the devil, rejoicing at having found in Him a sign of possible and mortal nature, in order to test the power which he feared, said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." [Matthew 4:3] Doubtless the Almighty could do this, and it was easy that at the Creator's command a creature of any kind should change into the form that it was commanded: just as when He willed it, in the marriage feast, He changed the water into wine: but here it better agreed with His purposes of salvation that His haughty foe's cunning should be vanquished by the Lord, not in the power of His Godhead, but by the mystery of His humiliation. At length, when the devil had been put to flight and the tempter baffled in all his arts, angels came to the Lord and ministered to Him, that He being true Man and true God, His Manhood might be unsullied by those crafty questions, and His Godhead displayed by those holy ministrations. And so let the sons and disciples of the devil be confounded, who, being filled with the poison of vipers, deceive the simple, denying in Christ the presence of both true natures, while they rob either His Godhead of Manhood, or His Manhood of Godhead, although both falsehoods are destroyed by a twofold and simultaneous proof: for by His bodily hunger His perfect Manhood was shown, and by the attendant angels His perfect Godhead.

IV. The Fast should not end with abstinence from food, but lead to good deeds

Therefore, dearly-beloved, seeing that, as we are taught by our Redeemer's precept, "man lives not in bread alone, but in every word of God," and it is right that Christian people, whatever the amount of their abstinence, should rather desire to satisfy themselves with the "Word of God" than with bodily food, let us with ready devotion and eager faith enter upon the celebration of the solemn fast, not with barren abstinence from food, which is often imposed on us by weakliness of body, or the disease of avarice, but in bountiful benevolence: that in truth we may be of those of whom the very Truth speaks, "blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." [Matthew 5:6] Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied. Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment. Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness: in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence. For no one's income is small, whose heart is big: and the measure of one's mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one's means. Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse. Doubtless the expenditure of the rich is greater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same.

V. And still further it should lead to personal amendment and domestic harmony

But, beloved, in this opportunity for the virtues' exercise there are also other notable crowns, to be won by no dispersing abroad of granaries, by no disbursement of money, if wantonness is repelled, if drunkenness is abandoned, and the lusts of the flesh tamed by the laws of chastity: if hatreds pass into affection, if enmities be turned into peace, if meekness extinguishes wrath, if gentleness forgives wrongs, if in fine the conduct of master and of slaves is so well ordered that the rule of the one is milder, and the discipline of the other is more complete. It is by such observances then, dearly-beloved, that God's mercy will be gained, the charge of sin wiped out, and the adorable Easter festival devoutly kept. And this the pious Emperors of the Roman world have long guarded with holy observance; for in honour of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection they bend their lofty power, and relaxing the severity of their decrees set free many of their prisoners: so that on the days when the world is saved by the Divine mercy, their clemency, which is modelled on the Heavenly goodness, may be zealously followed by us. Let Christian peoples then imitate their princes, and be incited to forbearance in their homes by these royal examples. For it is not right that private laws should be severer than public. Let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed, offences wiped out, designs of vengeance fall through, that the holy festival through the Divine and human grace may find all happy, all innocent: through our Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns God for endless ages of ages. Amen.