Sunday, June 29, 2008

The link between St. Paul and the Pope's call to revisit the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

At the close of the International Eucharistic Congress, the Pope called the Church (individually and in groups) to revisit Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Today (or last night, starting with vespers) marks the beginning of the Pauline year, celebrating the 2000th anniversary of his birth.

And there's a link between them.

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, reminded them of the traditions he had handed onto them, which he had received from the Lord. (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2,23). He gives them a reminder of the liturgical tradition (as it were) of the universal Church of which the church in Corinth is a member. The reason he felt urged to do so was because the celebration of the Eucharist was falling prey to abuses, and was becoming an occasion of division and sacrilege! (cf. 1 Cor. 11:18ff)

Sacrosanctum Concilium, which described the ways in which the Roman liturgy should be reformed and revised, speaks highly of the tradition the Church has received from the Apostles:
4. Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.

23. That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress Careful investigation is always to be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised. This investigation should be theological, historical, and pastoral. Also the general laws governing the structure and meaning of the liturgy must be studied in conjunction with the experience derived from recent liturgical reforms and from the indults conceded to various places. Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

106. By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ's resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day; with good reason this, then, bears the name of the Lord's day or Sunday. For on this day Christ's faithful are bound to come together into one place so that; by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the Passion, the Resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, and may thank God who "has begotten them again, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope" (1 Pet. 1:3). ...

107. The liturgical year is to be revised so that the traditional customs and discipline of the sacred seasons shall be preserved or restored to suit the conditions of modern times; their specific character is to be retained, so that they duly nourish the piety of the faithful who celebrate the mysteries of Christian redemption, and above all the paschal mystery. ...

111. The saints have been traditionally honored in the Church and their authentic relics and images held in veneration. ...

112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. ...

120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.
Now, there has been no little debate over the past 40 years (since the publication of that Constitution) about the "organic" nature of the reform of the Roman Rite that followed the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI hoped that the 1969 reform of the Roman Rite would "[put] an end to uncertainties, to discussions, to arbitrary abuses." But it appears that was not the case.

Many changes were introduced that were never mentioned in the Constitution. Some practices were illegally introduced and legalized (via indult in some occasions) after the fact. Elements traditional to the Roman Rite (such as Latin, chant, and worship ad orientem) were silently lost. And abuses crept in; some abuses barged in.

Consider the words of the late Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003):
10. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.

It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against "formalism" has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the "forms" chosen by the Church's great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.

52. ... I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. The Apostle Paul had to address fiery words to the community of Corinth because of grave shortcomings in their celebration of the Eucharist resulting in divisions (schismata) and the emergence of factions (haireseis) (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34). Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church.
This letter was followed by the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, one of the documents against liturgical abuses which, in the words of Bishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, "unfortunately have remained a dead letter, forgotten in libraries full of dust, or even worse, thrown into the waste basket."

The cry of the Church against these liturgical abuses has been going up for many years:
  • 2007: Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis: nn. 3, 54
  • 2004: Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Redemptionis Sacramentum
  • 2003: Pope John Paul II, Spiritus et Sponsa: n. 15
  • 1997: Congregation for the Clergy, Ecclesia de Mysterio: n. 4; Art. 6, n. 2
  • 1993: Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Applications of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism: n. 6
  • 1988: Pope John Paul II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus: n. 13
  • 1988: Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Paschale Solemnitatis: nn. 49, 78
  • 1980: Pope John Paul II, Inaestimabile Donum: preface; nn. 1, 4, 5
  • 1976: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Inter Insigniores: n. 4
  • 1973: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mysterium Ecclesiae: n. 6
Even before the Council, Pope Pius warned against abuses (and doctrinal errors creeping in because of them) in his encyclical Mediator Dei (in 1947).

The Pope liberated the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (also called the "Gregorian Rite"). He celebrated Mass ad orientem (well, ad Dominum, anyway!) and has re-introduced the placement of candles and crucifix on the altar. He has been distributing Communion to people on the tongue as they kneel recently (including today). He has restored the organic development of the Papal pallium (and has been restoring to use many traditional vestments and liturgical objects). There is a call from the Pope to revisit the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, to re-examine that tradition which was handed down to us through the centuries by the Church, by Her Apostles, and ultimately by the Lord himself. He hinted at this two and a half years ago, speaking to the Roman Curia at Christmas. The Pope is trying to tell us something. Perhaps it is time to recall the whole of our Catholic identity.

Let us pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to settle upon the Church and Her leaders and all the faithful, that we might again receive the sacred tradition and pass it on uncorrupted to the future of the Church.

The Exodus of St. Peter

Something hit me this morning at Mass. I was listening to the first reading -- from Acts -- and here is what I heard described (Acts 12:1-8 [RSV]):
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, "Dress yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your mantle around you and follow me."
It occurred to me that the message given to Peter by the angel of the Lord was very similar to that given to Israel a few thousand years earlier (Exodus 12:8-11 [RSV]):
"They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. ... In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's passover."
What providence! The Passover of the Lord was a foreshadowing of the Lord's Supper and the greatest paschal sacrifice in history... and the manner of the Exodus of the Passover was a foreshadowing of Peter's freedom from captivity!

(And they're both chapter 12.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Liturgy: Countdown to my first Catholic Divine Liturgy

Praise God! I'll be in Allentown, PA over the 4th of July weekend, and one of my growing desires will be satisfied (or temporarily quenched) on Saturday evening. I will be attending Vespers and the Divine Liturgy at St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church at 5:00pm that night. I've invited my family members to come along too, if any are interested.

Update: ooh, maybe I'll go Thursday and/or Friday mornings too, as preparation, and to introduce myself to the pastor. And just in case something goes awry on Saturday and I can't make it.

I am thrilled that I will finally be able to experience a Catholic Divine Liturgy. Ever since I attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy (last year!) and attended their Vespers services a couple times since then (including this evening), I have strongly yearned for the "best of both worlds", as it were: an Eastern Christian liturgy at which I could receive Holy Communion, where the priest and faithful are in Communion with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Please pray for me (and anyone who comes with me), that I might worship God fittingly and properly, and receive many graces from it. Please also pray for that parish, for its priests and deacons and faithful.

Solemni Hac Liturgia - 40th Anniversary

With this weekend, on which we celebrate the martyrdom of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and which inaugurates a Pauline year, celebrating the 2000th anniversary of his birth, I would like to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of a great work of orthodoxy and defense of the Catholic faith by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, may he rest in peace.

On June 30, 1968, Pope Paul celebrated the closing solemn liturgy of the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul. At this liturgy, the Holy Father gave a Catholic exposition of the profession of faith, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Although he made it clear it was not "strictly speaking a dogmatic definition" (n. 3), nonetheless he called it a "true confession" (n. 7) modeled after that of the apostle Peter at Caesarea Philippi, speaking "beyond human opinions" (ibid.); he would be giving "a firm witness to the divine Truth entrusted to the Church to be announced to all nations" (ibid.), and that this "profession of faith" would be "to a high degree complete and explicit." (ibid.)

This exposition on the Creed came to be known as "The Credo of the People of God" (Confessio Populi Dei, if my Latin is not mistaken). Earlier this year, I learned from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf's blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" that this document was, in fact, authored by the Pope's philosopher-friend Jacques Maritain.

I strongly encourage everyone to read this document. It provides the Catholic perspective on the Creed. I would reproduce it below with my emphases added, except that I would end up emphasizing nearly every sentence! That is how concise and thorough this profession has been presented. It is an astonishing defense of the Catholic faith in the midst of a tumultuous time of turmoil, explained to a T.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Forum Posts on is a Catholic community web site. They have a forum, and I've recently started using it. I wanted to share three posts I made on liturgical matters that are pretty thorough:
  1. Does the Church teach that the Real Presence is in the crumbs of the Eucharist?
  2. What's the deal with Communion under one kind?
  3. What parts of the Mass should the congregation know in Latin?

Quips and phrases

"I am proud to be Catholic, but I am Catholic to be humble."

"They say nothing gets you thinking more seriously about life than the death of a loved one. I disagree: nothing gets me thinking more seriously about life than the resurrection of Jesus."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Liturgy and the Eucharist: Pope invites study of Sacrosanctum Concilium

Update: Zenit has posted his complete homily.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. This will fall within the Pauline year (celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul the Apostle).

At the just-concluded International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, the Holy Father gave a homily from Rome. Here is what Zenit is reporting (emphasis added):
In his address, given in French and English, the Holy Father said, "'The Mystery of Faith': this we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council's text on the liturgy, 'Sacrosanctum Concilium,' so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery."

The Pontiff affirmed that such study would help each person "arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity."

"Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery," Benedict XVI continued. "I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it.

"I urge priests especially to give due honor to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: It is the Church's treasure."
I'll find a complete text of his homily soon. In the mean time, he has given us plenty of food for thought. He is inviting all the faithful to revisit and explore Sacrosanctum Concilium to better understand and witness to the Eucharistic mystery. I'm going to see (through the proper channels, of course) if there's any interest at my parish in organizing a study group (akin to a Bible study group) for this document for the Fall. (It might have to complete with the Pauline year...)

I think I'll do a blog study of Sacrosanctum Concilium sometime in the near future.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pope Paul VI - An enigmatic figure

I am continually surprised by Pope Paul VI. On the one hand, he authored encyclicals like Humanae Vitae and Mysterium Fidei, and preached about the Church's understanding of the Nicene Creed (in the speech Solemnia hac liturgia, on the "Credo of the People of God"). On the other hand, he was responsible -- directly or indirectly -- for some of disappointing liturgical changes that took place following the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

For instance, whereas the bishops of the Council affirmed that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (n. 36/1) and that "steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them" (n. 54) and that "Gregorian chant ... should be given pride of place in liturgical services" (n. 116), five years later Pope Paul VI lamented the loss of Latin (and subsequently Gregorian chant) as practically necessary sacrifices of the liturgical reform:
It is here that the greatest newness is going to be noticed, the newness of language. No longer Latin, but the spoken language will be the principal language of the Mass. The introduction of the vernacular will certainly be a great sacrifice for those who know the beauty, the power and the expressive sacrality of Latin. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance. We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant.

We have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment. What can we put in the place of that language of the angels? We are giving up something of priceless worth. But why? What is more precious than these loftiest of our Church's values?


But, let us bear this well in mind, for our counsel and our comfort: the Latin language will not thereby disappear. It will continue to be the noble language of the Holy See's official acts; it will remain as the means of teaching in ecclesiastical studies and as the key to the patrimony of our religious, historical and human culture. If possible, it will reflourish in splendor.
In an effort to reverse the immediate and regrettable obliteration of Latin from the Mass, he presented a gift to the bishops of the Church in 1974 (less than five years since the promulgation of the Pauline Rite): a booklet of a minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant for the faithful to be familiar with, Jubilate Deo. One wonders to whom the bishops "re-gifted" this booklet; it does not appear to have been received well (if at all). His hope that Latin would "reflourish in splendor" did not come to pass within his lifetime.

Anyway, this brings me to the latest gift/surprise from Pope Paul VI: his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, promulgated in the midst of the Council (in August of 1964, three months before the promulgation of Lumen Gentium, the Council's Constitution on the Church). The topic is the Church. I've only just started reading it (not like I don't have a hundred other things on my reading list) and already I can tell it will not be a disappointing read.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Theology: God, the Holy Trinity

This past week at RCIA, our topics were "The Image of God" and "The Trinity". I'd like to open the "floor" to a bit of discussion about the Trinity, primarily because I wrote a comment or two on The Weekend Fisher's blog a couple months ago and never got back to the subject -- and, being the selfish guy I am, I'd like to continue that train of thought on my blog rather than her's. Mea culpa!

How do you grasp (to whatever extent) the mystery of the Trinity? For a historical look at the matter, I strongly suggest you read the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult); in it, St. Athanasius -- the champion of Trinitarian Christianity against the oppression of Arius -- very clearly and explicitly describes the three Person, their relationships to one another, their substance, their nature, their being, etc. It sacrifices prolixity for unambiguity; it is verbose and unequivocal.

I'll supply a few sub-topics for conversation.
  • What verses in Scripture support the doctrine of the Trinity? Which verses seem to hinder it?
  • What do we mean when we say that God is three "persons"?
  • How can we infer that God is at least two "persons" from St. John's statement that "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16)?
  • Why are the canonical names of the three Persons in the Trinity -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or Ghost) -- the best names to use? That is, how are they better than names such as "Creator", "Redeemer", and "Sanctifier"?
  • How are the three Persons of the Trinity related to one another? Specifically, where does the Holy Spirit come into the equation? (St. Thomas Aquinas to the rescue! Preface, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Note)
I'll refrain from posting my (verbose) thoughts on the matter until there's some other chatter!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Liturgy: Timeless and Holy, or just a hill of beans?

I drove down to Maryland for a brief visit at my sister's (soon to be former) house, to give her a hand with moving. She and her husband and two kids are moving, and their house is large and has a lot of stuff. Our father was there helping too. I went down Friday after work and came back late last night. On the way, I listened to a few CDs. One was Thornhill by Moxy Fruvous, a band I came to like during my college years. The last song on that CD is titled "My Poor Generation", and I'd like to reproduce it here in full, and then quickly comment on a couple of lines that I think are relevant to the liturgical situation facing the Catholic Church (at least in the US) today.
My poor generation, we're on for the ride.
An ocean of choices pulled out on the tide.
We're handed a beach ball, and told to pick a side.
Drowned in information: my poor generation.

My poor generation don't know what it means:
The shock of the mountain compared to magazines.
Is it timeless and holy, or just a hill of beans?
Lost in Union Station: my poor generation.

Maybe we're just looking in a fun house mirror
and loving our reflection.
Maybe corporate raiders got too greedy in the 80's
and bought up all the direction.

My poor generation, airborne with nothing to land on,
Baffled by [B.S.], grounded with nothing to stand on.
Poor little fat cats... nothing anyone planned on.
Unique in all creation: my poor generation.
That's the song. The bolded lines speak to me about the crisis facing the "sense of the sacred" that is noticed by some Catholics today. "Is it timeless and holy, or just a hill of beans?" Do we see what happens at Mass (or rather, Mass itself) as something timeless and holy, or is just business as usual? "Airborne with nothing to land on ... grounded with nothing to stand on." This brings to mind images of burning our bridges behind us, bridges that connect us to our tradition. Without a sense of history, we isolate ourselves from those who have come before us, and doom ourselves to be isolated from a future which will seek to ignore us. We become trapped in a "now", a present moment that is far from being an "eternal now" or "eternal moment", but a truly and utterly temporal now. With no links to our past and no hopes to be linked to in the future, we're drifting, alone.

Does this song resonate at all with you?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Liturgy: A FAQ list from Fr. Philip, O.P.

Here's a helpful FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list on the liturgy by Fr. Philip, O.P., whose blog is called Domine, da mihi hanc aquam (which is "Lord, give me this water" from John 4:15).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Liturgy: What is sacred language, and why have it?

First, a bit of background. The Ordinary Form of Mass is currently in its third edition, published in Latin in 2002. The English Missal is from the 1975 Latin Missal, the translation of which is from 1985. Its translation is not a great one, because in overusing dynamic translation from Latin to English, a lot of rich theological content was lost. (Not to mention there's some outright failure to translate properly at all.) Others have written about this problem before and it's not my intent to go over this matter right now. What I am defending in this post is the use of a "sacral" language (whether Latin or vernacular) in the liturgy.

There are complaints being raised about the proposed new translation because it contains words and phrases that are not in the common parlance -- "ineffable", "wrought", "the gibbet of the Cross", and "ancient bondage" (instead of "old way of life") -- and because the sentence structure is modeled after Latin (rather than English) structures. This means a prayer that was once translated as three distinct sentences would be a single sentence with three clauses. One bishop argued that the translation used "should be the prayer of the people", that there should be an "elevated tone" (as opposed to "street language") without being "beyond the common comprehension". He called parts of the translation "archaic" (what does that mean... like an ark?). A parishioner in his diocese said that words like "ineffable" are "not in my daily language", and that the translation used should be "something we feel comfortable with".

Now, contrary to this is the belief that a sacred language helps us participate in the Mass better, and that a vulgar (that is, common) language detracts from our participation in the Mass. The idea that Mass should "feel comfortable" to us worries me, because we are constantly called to conversion, to repentance, to strive to be holy as He is holy... not to be comfortable with where we are. Mass should feel different from the rest of our lives in the world.

I will argue my case as a series of counter-points to a list of points derived from comments to the John Allen NCR article about the translation voting.

"Dynamic Equivalent" for translation of liturgical texts is a better option.

"Dynamic equivalence" is a method of translating a text concept-for-concept, rather than word-for-word (as much as reasonable). A prime example is the Domine, non sum dignus that is said before the reception of Holy Communion. The Latin text comes from Matthew 8:8, and a literal translation is "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." Compare this to the dynamic translation the ICEL has provided us with: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; but only say the word and I shall be healed." Biblical language was sacrificed, to what benefit? The replacement of "my soul" with "I" is also suspicious -- indeed, the word "soul" is scarce to be found in the English translation of the Missal, missing entirely from the Mass for All Souls.

Dynamic equivalence was encouraged by Comme le prévoit, a 1969 Instruction on creating vernacular translations of the impending 1969 Latin Missal. However, a more literal translation is now called for by the Church, thanks to Liturgiam Authenticam from 2001, which replaces Comme le prévoit. Why is a literal translation preferred to a dynamic one? I'll give two simple reasons, although there are many more (that are better than these).

First, it ensures that, despite praying in different languages, the people of the Church are praying the same thing. One thing that I value about the Catholic Church is its catholicity -- its universality. Theoretically speaking, Catholics in China, India, France, Brazil, and the USA are all praying the same thing. However, if you take dynamic translation too far, you can come up with completely new prayers. The English Missal has that problem right now, because in addition to translating the Latin Collect (the "opening prayer", but that's also a mistranslation) the English Missal provides an alternative prayer which is thematically based on the Latin, but a complete innovation. Thus, a priest in Kansas can be praying something that a priest in China will never pray.

Second, a "dynamic" translation is sometimes more static and rigid in interpretation than a literal one. What I mean is, dynamic translations are sometimes interpretations of the original and not just translations.

As an example, let's use the "ancient bondage" vs. "old way of life" example. Both are referring to our captivity to sin, but "ancient bondage" is a Scriptural reference not only to our bondage to sin but of Israel's bondage to Egypt, so it connects our salvation with the saving of the Israelites that God worked many millennia ago. Captivity to sin is not a "way of life" at all! On the contrary, it is an old way -- the oldest way, for sure -- of death. Using "old way of life" makes salvation sound like a career change; using "ancient bondage" impresses upon us the gravity of sin.

Another example is the translation of oblata ("offerings") as "gifts". The Oratio super oblata ("prayer over the offerings"), said by the priest at the very start of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is called the "prayer over the gifts" in the English translation. This is another failure to convey the whole meaning of the word oblata. To say "gift" makes it sound like a present we are giving God (or perhaps simply that they are gifts from God to us, end of story); to say "offering" provides both the sense of giving and the truly offertory purpose those gifts have: they are being offered to God that He, through His Spirit and the priesthood of His Son Jesus Christ, may deign to make them the Body and Blood of our Lord, and when He has done that, they are offered yet again to Him, as a holy and living sacrifice. Only then are they offered back to us as Holy Communion.

The ponderous style of language used in a previous age belongs in museums or ancient texts, not in living worship of our Loving Father.

What is wrong with "ponderous" language? Is there nothing to ponder anymore? Have all the mysteries been resolved and laid bare for us? Or could it be that our modern language fails to accurately convey the true majesty and glory and awe of the divine mysteries? The prayers of the Mass are also somewhat "ancient texts" (excluding those which were written expressly for the 1969 Missal), and the Bible is certainly an "ancient text", so why shouldn't they be prayed with the language proper to them?

And to say that the manner of expression of a previous age -- simply because it is older and not modern -- is unfit for the "living worship" God is to break a tie of communion with the Church throughout history; it is to sever ourselves from our heritage and to denigrate our fathers in faith.

The language used in the celebration of the Mass became discernible and allowed the laity to fully participate for the first time. Now, it appears that the American Church may well take a major step backward.

To claim that the vernacular was what "allowed the laity to fully participate for the first time" is utter balderdash. There was full, conscious, and active participation by the faithful throughout the centuries when Mass was said ad orientem in Latin. It is true that the Church sought to make achieving that participation easier by introducing the vernacular, although Vatican II did not imagine the removal of Latin from the Mass at all; in fact, She expressly desires that the faithful be able to chant much of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, as part of our full, conscious, and active participation. The revised translation will not be inaccessible; and if it does challenge some of us, we should meet that challenge with growth.

Rather than have people pray in their authentic language, the church would have them pray in a foreign highfalutin language that would be more "sacral." First, what's more sacral than real prayers in real language?

This dismisses sacral language as something not "authentic" and not "real" and even goes so far as to say that higher English is "foreign"! But a sacral language, one which addresses God in a manner not used for others, stresses the majesty and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father and reminds us how real His glory is: God is worthy of more than the ordinary. Re-reading the second part of this comment then as "what's more sacral than real prayers in ordinary language", my answer is: real prayers in extraordinary language. Language that is used specifically for the purpose of communing with God. Language that is not profane (profanus, "outside the temple") or vulgar (vulgatus, "common; conventional"), but is instead directed to the singular purpose of raising God above all else.

Mass is more than talking to God while wearing funny costumes (i.e. liturgical attire). The postures, attires, and words used at Mass need to be other. They need to draw us out of our everyday ordinary secular world and ensnare us in the glory of heaven as we hear angels singing "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts!" (Which, I might add, we don't hear in the English Missal.)

Two-thirds of church-going Catholics don't endorse the Church's articulation of the Real Presence (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity). Estranging the people from the language of the Mass will not change this. Good, effective catechesis will.

Perhaps the language currently being used by the Church to articulate the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is lacking. When traditional hymns like Panis angelicus and Ave verum corpus are supplanted by "Christ has no body now but ours" and "You and I are the bread of life", is it any wonder that Catholics don't see the Eucharist as Jesus Christ present under the forms of bread and wine? Good catechesis on the Real Presence requires sensitive language, sacred language. If we use secular terminology like "plate" instead of "paten" and "cup" instead of "chalice", eventually we'll use the word "picnic" instead of "banquet".

What I missed this weekend

Kristin and I drove (shudder) out to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, this weekend. She's staying there for six weeks to take two courses, one in Latin and one in paleography. I flew back on Monday. I didn't do much email-checking or blog-reading while I was out in Indiana. When I got back, I had over 100 blog posts to read, and I'm still making my way through them. But a handful have really caught my eye.

The English Translation of the 2000 Roman Missal
The US Bishops are meeting to discuss, among other things, the upcoming translation of the 2000 Roman Missal. Some bishops are not thrilled with the translation (such as Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA, and Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, FL) because the language used is not common or ordinary enough. Other bishops are pleased with it (such as Bishop Arthur Seratelli of Paterson, NJ). The translation uses such words and phrases as "ineffable", "the gibbet of the Cross", and "wrought". If you don't know these words, and the context they are used in does not help enough, I strongly suggest looking them up in a dictionary. I would also expect that a priest (or deacon) could, from time to time, speak about the Collect and other prayers in his homily (since the prayer is related to the celebration of the day) and in doing so, delve into its meaning.

See Fr. Z's take on this here (on an article from the Erie press about reactions to the translation), here (on an article by John Allen describing the discussion and voting problems), and here (on a diocesan "letter" from Bishop Seratelli in support of the translations). I suggest reading them in the order given.

The Tridentine, I mean Traditional Latin, I mean Extraordinary Form, I mean Gregorian Rite. In every parish!?
Two things here. First, Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos referred to the Extraordinary Form as the "Gregorian Rite". Now, it turns out he had used this term on several prior occasions (here, here, and here, at the least), but I admit to have glossed over it somewhat. The second thing, though, is that its use is coinciding with his statement that the Holy Father ultimately wishes that this Gregorian Rite be available in every parish. Now, clearly, that's not happening overnight, or next week, or next month, or next year even. But it's an important recognition that this older form of Mass is a treasure for the whole Church, and that some people simply don't know about it at all and are thus deprived of the graces it can provide. There's a long way to go: the liturgical and spiritual formation of priests, deacons, seminarians, and laity. But the wish of Pope Benedict is to have the two forms of the Roman Rite existing side-by-side, not just on paper, but in parishes.

Here's the blog posts I recommend: one from Fr. Z (on an article by Damien Thompson), one from the New Liturgical Movement (on an interview with the Cardinal), and another from Fr. Z (on that same interview).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Video: World's worst tornado chasers

This is that rare non-religion post you'll find here. But perhaps you'll let this one by. This is a video from KHOU Houston of two guys chasing a tornado in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

For those of you who choose not to watch the video (or can't), here's a brief summary:

They're in the tornado.
They're in the tornado.
They're in the tornado.
Their ears are popping.
Their ears are popping.
They're in the tornado.
They're in the tornado.
They're in the tornado.
It just went over them.
It just went over them.
They're in the core of the tornado.
They're in the core of the tornado.
It's going by them.
It's going by them.
It's going by them.
They just went through a tornado.
They just went through a tornado.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Moral Law vs. God

Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., answered a tough question on Threshold of Hope this week. Paraphrased, the question was: "Is the moral law which differentiates good from evil something that God dictates (and therefore what is good is good because He says so), or is God good because He conforms to this moral law (which therefore exists outside and before Him)?" In other words, is the moral law arbitrary because God invented it or is God subject to it because it was not created by Him?

I'll post his answer here later, but until then, does anyone want to try and give an answer? (Hint: think tertium quid.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Christianity's first church unearthed in Jordan?

[H/T to Inside Catholic's Steve Skojec]
Archaeologists in Jordan have unearthed what they claim is the world's first church, dating back almost 2,000 years, The Jordan Times reported on Tuesday.

"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD," the head of Jordan's Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan, said.

He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.
Read the whole article here.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Modern Liturgical Reform: The Good and the Bad

[I might submit this post -- slightly edited -- to the Adoremus Bulletin.]

I've read a fair number of books about the reform of the Roman Rite that took place in the 20th century. Most of the reform (or at least, most of what I read about) centered around Vatican II and its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (henceforth SC). Admittedly, there was liturgical reform in the 1900's before then: Holy Week was revised by Pope Pius XII, and Pope Bl. John XXIII made a minor revision to the Good Friday prayer for Jews and added St. Joseph's name to the Canon. However, the reform that occurred from 1963 through 1969 (and continuing afterward) is what I've read about the most.

The books I've read that deal with this matter are "Reform of the Reform?" by Fr. Thomas A. Kocik, "Reform of the Roman Liturgy" by Msgr. Klaus Gamber, "Spirit of the Liturgy" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and "Looking at the Liturgy" by Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P. I have (but have not yet read) "The Organic Development of the Liturgy" by Fr. Alcuin Reid.

So this post is about my impression of the modern liturgical reform, specifically that which followed the promulgation of SC and resulted in the "modern Roman Rite", the "Novus Ordo Missae", the "Pauline Missal", the "Mass of Paul VI"... which we know today as the "Ordinary Form" or "Ordinary Expression", from the Latin used in Summorum Pontificum Art. 1: ordinaria expressio. I will describe (in my estimation) three good things and three bad things about this reform. Now, I will state up front that, as I have pointed out before, not all the changes that took place were mentioned in SC, so I will qualify my statements when I think it is necessary to avoid giving the wrong impression. I will also make suggestions which I consider to be organically inspired, growing "from forms already existing". [SC 23]

Good Thing #1 - Certain elements of the liturgy that had fallen out of use have been restored. [SC 50]

I am speaking specifically of the Prayer of the Faithful (also known as the General Intercessions) [SC 54], the Responsorial Psalm [MR 12], and the sign of peace. The homily was also incorporated as "part of the liturgy itself" [SC 52].

The Prayer of the Faithful. This is a genuine means of "full, conscious, and active participation" [SC 14] and a genuine exercise of the priesthood of the faithful: a way of uniting the prayers of the community to the prayer of the priest during his action of the Mass. By "genuine" I mean it is not a fabricated nor extraordinary need being filled by the faithful, but part and parcel of what constitutes our baptismal participation in the Mass [GIRM 69]. Since the Mass can be seen as one long prayer (in many parts), the prayers offered during the General Intercession should not be seen as an interruption or an after-thought or an "aside". Rather, we should recognize these prayers -- by which the faithful are interceding "for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the entire world" [SC 53] -- as being presented to God the Father along with the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. In other words, the intercessions are not over and done with when the priest gives his concluding line of prayer, but are now themselves like incense rising to God, now that they have been stated by His Church.

However, I think there is a danger of too much creative license with the Prayer of the Faithful. I think that the model of this prayer should be the Good Friday intercessions: the purpose of the prayer is announced, silent prayer follows, the intention itself is announced, the people affirm it as their own. A few things are accomplished here: first, the Good Friday intercessions won't seem so different (except for their greater solemnity and constancy); second, because there is a brief time of silent prayer for each intention in addition to the stated intention, there is increased "ownership" of these intentions by the faithful, so that it becomes not only the prayer of the parish but their prayer too; and third, the intercessions remain intercessory in nature. That third one is important, because this time is not meant for offering prayers of thanksgiving or adoration or penitence, but supplication; they are "petitions offered up for various needs throughout the world". [EP 16] These intercessions "are to be prepared and written out beforehand and in a form consistent with the genre of the prayer" [LI 3]. This means intentions should not be called out by people in the pews.

The Responsorial Psalm. St. Augustine and Pope St. Leo the Great made reference to this on occasion in their sermons and writings (according to Pope Paul VI), and it is another means of participation, by which we pray a psalm as the response of the Church to the First Reading. Perhaps this is unknown to most Catholics: it's not called "responsorial" because the faithful respond to each set of verses with a "response", but because it is, as a whole, a response to the First Reading! I don't know how many of the laity regularly pray the Liturgy of the Hours or otherwise get around to praying the Psalms; the Mass provides this opportunity, and we should make the most of it.

However, I would like to see the Gradual incorporated as well! Perhaps a "common ground" could be found, whereby the Responsorial Psalm is sung by everyone in an antiphonal setting; that is, the antiphon, the verses all together, and the antiphon again. This does not seem to be precluded by the current GIRM. The choir would sing the antiphons on their own (which would have a more complex melody); then they would sing the first half of a verse (or pair of verses) and the congregation would complete the verse (or pair of verses), and so on, until the antiphon is reached, which would be sung by the choir alone. Standard psalm tones could be incorporated for the verses, of course. The only real trick to this, though, is that the faithful would need to know the words of the psalm to be sung, but this does not seem insurmountable. It might cost a bit in printing, but I think the liturgical and spiritual riches would outweigh the cost! I'm not thrilled by a lot of modern Responsorial Psalm settings that are overly (and overtly) repetitious as if to say to the faithful "this is all you're going to say, so say it a lot!" I am referring to "refrains" that simply say the same thing two or three times.

The Sign of Peace. This gesture (known also as the kiss of peace or the pax) is present in the Divine Liturgies of the East, and is even present in Solemn High Masses in the Extraordinary Form. It is somewhat stylized in the older liturgies. This act is attested to in Scripture by Paul many times, but also by Jesus who tells us to make peace with our brother before offering a gift at the altar. It reconnects us with our brethren and reminds us that our relationship with God, especially during Mass, is not a private one. If we are comfortable being "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" [Heb 12:1] as we unite our spiritual sacrifices to the one offered by our priests, we must also be comfortable -- and at peace -- with so great a crowd of imperfect witnesses (of which we are all members) standing around us.

However, while the concept is fine, the execution leaves much to be desired. As Matthew 5:23-24 informs us, such an act should be done before the offering of gifts. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom places this act just before the recitation of the Creed; the people are one in Trinitarian love and one in Trinitarian faith. Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the possibility of moving the Sign of Peace in his post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (see n. 49 and footnote 150). The pax should also be given with greater reverence (it is the peace of Christ you are offering to one another, not the peace of men) and self-restraint; priests should not leave the sanctuary except with good reason on special occasions [GIRM 154], and there's no real need for someone to see just how many he can share the sign of peace with, nor go out of his way to give it.

The Homily. Making homilies mandatory on Sundays and other holy days of obligation [SC 52] was a superb idea and was, in fact, a realization of what the Council of Trent had prescribed. [Session 22, chapter 8]

However, as Pope Benedict XVI said in Sacramentum Caritatis n. 46, "Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved." I find it ironic that in the Extraordinary Form, where the sermon is not part of the liturgy, the priest will often remove his maniple and/or chasuble and speak profoundly Catholic words of instruction, while in the Ordinary form, where the homily is part of the liturgy, some priests remain in full vestments but miss the mark doctrinally, exegetically, and pastorally. Even worse is the delegation of the homily to the non-ordained, which the Church rightly calls an abuse. [RS 64-66] The homily is not just an exegesis of Scripture; through it, "the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text" [SC 52] and can even provide liturgical catechesis! [GIRM 13]

Good Thing #2 - A renewed call for participation in the Mass by the faithful. [SC 14]

Vatican II repeated the call for true participation that Popes Pius X, XI, and XII had raised before. This actuosa participatio is not just external, but internal as well. It is not limited to making acclamations, responses, and gestures, and assuming postures; it requires spiritual participation and a prayerful disposition. It reaches its culmination when Holy Communion can be received. Such participation existed before Vatican II, even without lay readers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and female altar servers and a choir next to the altar. It existed even when the Mass was chanted in Latin! However, although it existed, it was not always taken advantage of. Vatican II sought to reinvigorate the faithful by means of encouraging this active participation. If successful, the faithful would be united ever more closely to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

However, along with this participation (and indeed preceding it) was supposed to be the liturgical instruction of the faithful by their pastors. [SC 14, 19] It would appear such catechesis never took place in many parts of the Church; in some places it might even appear to have been replaced by unbridled innovations and fabrications of further means of involving the faithful without ever explaining the meaning of the participation proper to them. The trend to use (and overuse) lay ministers during the Mass, although it followed Vatican II, was not sanctioned by it. The vocation of the laity has always been to work toward the sanctification of the secular world; ministering in the Mass is the vocation of the clergy.

Good Thing #3 - It introduced the vernacular into the Mass. [SC 36]

The use of the vernacular in some places of the Mass seems appropriate to me, as it did to the Council Fathers. The General Intercessions are one place where this seems acceptable, since they are the petitions of the local parish (albeit on behalf of the whole Church). Reading Scripture in the vernacular can be helpful, provided it doesn't eliminate the ability to chant the readings, and the translation is (of course) an accurate one. I would even consider the use of the vernacular for the Collect and Post-Communion prayers, although I would prefer to keep the Super Oblata and the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin, in order to create a continuous block of Latin prayer from the Orate, fratres through to the reception of Communion! I can accept this seeming inconsistent, though, to have two proper prayers in the vernacular and the others in Latin; it may not be the best solution.

However, we have had too much of a good thing. The vernacular has bullied Latin out of the Mass, and these vernacular translations are not always accurate. This leads to a concern that people praying the Mass in one language might be saying a substantially different thing from people praying the Mass in another language. It also impedes what many people would consider to be their active participation when they are in a foreign land. If an English-speaking Catholic with no knowledge of Tagalog is present at a Mass being celebrated in Tagalog, they very well might say the responses (if they can keep track of their place in the Mass) in English, and perhaps in a low voice. This is clearly inferior to an external participation whereby they can say the responses in unison with the rest of the congregation, in one clear voice. If Latin were retained (or reintroduced, as the case may be) for the Ordinary of the Mass, this universal participation would be more clearly manifested. As for the argument of "I don't know Latin", the Church is not asking us to know Latin, but merely to know the responses and a few common chants. If you know the place of these chants in the liturgy, and you know their vernacular translation, you know what they mean, and the only obstacle is the pronunciation of the Latin.

Bad Thing #1 - The theological reform that accompanied it.

The alteration of the teachings of the Church was, of course, was never the intent of the Council Fathers. Pope Bl. John XXIII said in his address at the opening of Vatican II that the purpose of the council was "to transmit [the whole of Catholic doctrine] in all its purity, undiluted, undistorted"; he continued to say that the Council was not convened "to discuss certain fundamentals of Catholic doctrine, or to restate in greater detail the traditional teaching of the Fathers and of early and more recent theologians". He called the Council for the purpose that "this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else."

And yet, with every altar rail torn out, with every word of Latin purged, with every altar turned around, and with every tabernacle hidden from sight, the truth of that old adage was proven again and again: lex orandi lex credendi: the law of prayer is the law of belief. With a variety of texts for the priest to use, we can conceivably never again use the Confiteor, and thus fail to invoke the Communion of Saints which we claim to believe in the Creed. The priest might never again use the Roman Canon, opting instead for Eucharistic Prayer II, the shortest one, which absolutely pales in comparison. The texts provided alongside the traditional ones rarely match them in theological richness. In the United States, there's even an entirely new Collect provided, found no where in the Latin Missal!

Even when the Ordinary Form is celebrated in a "traditional" manner -- using the Confiteor and Kyrie, using the Roman Canon, standing ad orientem, and chanting the Ordinary and Propers in Latin -- it does not present the faith with equal precision and clarity to the Extraordinary Form. The priest no longer stands at the steps and asks God for mercy and forgiveness (and the people likewise) before approaching the altar. The prayers have been "neutered" of certain themes. The word "soul" is conspicuously missing from the Mass for All Souls on November 2nd, and the Collect no longer prays for the faithful departed but for us.

The new Lectionary, while providing an abundance of Scripture, has been neutered as well. The important passage from 1 Corinthians where St. Paul warns the faithful about unworthily receiving Holy Communion (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29) has been excised from the readings for Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi. With all the Scripture added to the Mass, what with multiple-year cycles and an additional reading on solemnities, why did the Scripture previously proclaimed at (and contained in) the Mass have to suffer loss?

Why are we keeping the faith from the faithful?

Bad Thing #2 - The extent to which the reform was carried out.

Many changes to the liturgy that have occurred since Vatican II have laid claim to the Council's "spirit" while ferociously disregarding its "body". So many Catholics think these changes were initiated and supported by Vatican II, but the documents tell a rather different story. Pope Benedict, in his 2005 Christmas address to the Curia, contrasted the false "hermeneutic of discontinuity", which sees the Council documents as compromises that need to be courageously overcome to discover their true intentions, with the "hermeneutic of reform" which exists within the tradition and life of the Church and therefore interprets the documents of the Council within that living tradition, not as a departure from it.

These changes have actually hindered Sacrosanctum Concilium from being carried out:
for one thing, Latin and Gregorian chant are missing from most parishes; in the United States, they've been replaced by a flawed vernacular translation and music in any other conceivable style. The Council did not envision this catastrophe, [SC 36, 116] but sadly, Pope Paul VI conceded that the revised liturgy would cause us to "lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant" and give the vernacular language the primacy. [General Audience, Nov. 26, 1969] His gift to the bishops of the Church in 1974, Jubilate Deo, a handbook of chants in Latin representing the minimum repertoire a parish should know, fell through the cracks, it seems.

Other innovations, such as the abundance of lay ministers and the resurfacing of Communion in the hand, have blurred the line between the ordained and non-ordained. Communion in the hand reappeared as an abuse, and in the end, despite acknowledging that the universal norm is receiving on the tongue, an indult was allowed to permit reception in the hand where the illegal practice prevailed, a loophole that was certainly abused in the following years.

The composition of numerous new texts -- a dozen Eucharistic prayers, multiple Penitential Rites, and the Memorial Acclamation in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer -- was not called for, and one wonders if "the good of the Church genuinely and certainly require[d] them". [SC 23] Along with this came a general sense of creativity and improvisation; the 1985 English Missal provides additional texts and prayers not found in the Latin Missal, and often contains a rubric allowing the priest to use "these or similar words". (Even the Latin 2002 Missal contains such permissions, although only four times, and only during the liturgies of Palm Sunday, the Chrism Mass, and the Presentation of the Lord.) Such an invitation inevitably leads to exercising creativity where it is not permitted, such as in the Eucharistic Prayer.

It is as if the Mass as the Church prescribes it is simply not good enough and must be "massaged" by the priest in order to make it "relevant" to his parishioners. In place of "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world", we hear a variant based on the day's Gospel reading (or on the priest's homily). Are the words of St. John the Baptist simply irrelevant today? And instead of being told that "Happy are those who are called to His supper", how many of us hear "Happy are we who are called to His supper"? While the change may seem minute and insignificant -- and in that case, why even make such a change? -- it describes a closed community rather than a universal one, and might even suggest that all present are fit to receive Holy Communion. Perhaps the most embarrassing result of ad libbing prayers of the Mass is that the faithful don't know when the prayer has ended and their response is expected!

This attitude of constant innovation begs the question: if a centuries-old tradition can be discarded in the span of a few years, why should a 40-year-old tradition last through next week?

Bad Thing #3 - The discord it created between the Extraordinary and Ordinary forms.

The Latin Rite of the Mass as it was celebrated for over a thousand years was slowly being reformed and fine-tuned through the centuries. It produced hundreds of saints, inspired numerous religious orders, and exhibited truths of the Catholic faith in the face of heresies. But to hear some modernist reformers tell the story, you would think it was a spiteful machine designed to keep the laity silent and stupid and the clergy rich.

The tension that exists in the Church today between those who prefer the Ordinary Form and those who prefer the Extraordinary Form manifests itself in many ways. Sometimes this is a healthy tension that some, such as Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, refer to as a "gravitational pull" between the two forms, by which they edify each other. But sometimes this tension is dreadfully unhealthy. Because the two forms of Mass appear so different, some people have a hard time recognizing both of them as expressions of the same faith; consequently, either form has been called un-Catholic, and adherents to either form have been called heretics. The silence of the Extraordinary Form seems to be emptiness to people who are used to the Ordinary Form, and the audible prayers of the Ordinary Form seem to be deterrents to private prayer to people who are used to the Extraordinary Form. The differences are not only superficial but substantial at times; people form factions; people leave parishes to avoid abuses. This disunity is a lamentable outcome from a liturgical reform whose purpose was "to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ." [SC 1]

It can be stated truthfully that the Extraordinary Form is in need of reform; Sacrosanctum Concilium provides the means of effecting that reform. What is left to the Church over the next several decades is the organic implementation of this reform, building up this earthly liturgy to better reflect the heavenly liturgy, for the reverent worship of God the Father through the Most Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ His Son, and for the sanctification and edification of the faithful. Lessons can surely be learned from the Ordinary Form and the intermediate rites that existed between 1963 and 1969. No longer should the children receive stones instead of bread.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Attempts at Latin #1

I saw a signature in the Catholic Answers Forum: "Put your faith into others". I thought it was a clever play on "Put your faith in others"; instead of meaning "depend upon others", it becomes "give your faith to others".

So here is my attempt at writing, in Latin, "Do not put your faith in men: put your faith into men."

(You, singular) Non pone fidem tuam in hominibus, pone fidem tuam intra homines!
(You, plural) Non ponite fidem vestram in hominibus, pone fidem vestram intra homines!

I like it because it is repetitive, although I also have two shorter versions. Here's one shorter way ("Do not put your faith in men, but into men"):

(You, singular) Non pone fidem tuam in hominibus, at intra homines!
(You, plural) Non ponite fidem vestram in hominibus, at intra homines!

And finally, "... but into them":

(You, singular) Non pone fidem tuam in hominibus, at intra eos!
(You, plural) Non ponite fidem vestram in hominibus, at intra eos!

The verb ponere means "to place or put", and pone/ponite is the 2nd person imperative (singular/plural). The phrase fidem tuam/vestram means "your faith", and is in the accusative (because it is the object of the verb). The phrase in hominibus means "in men"; hominibus is in the ablative, as the preposition in requires. The phrase intra homines means "inside/within men"; homines is the accusative, as the preposition intra requires. The conjunction at means "but, on the other hand, on the contrary"; the pronoun eos is the third person accusative masculine plural ("them").

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

[What luck! On EWTN this morning, Fr. Mitch Pacwa is talking about Eucharistic Adoration, and is mentioning a couple of the complaints people raise over this devotion!]

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a long tradition in the Church, at least in the Roman Rite. Although it did not always exist in the form we know of it today, St. Augustine wrote that the Eucharist can not properly received if it is not first adored (Exposition on Psalm 98, n. 8):
And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eateth that flesh, unless he hath first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord’s may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping.
While the manner of this worship and adoration has changed throughout the centuries, the Church has always promoted it as proper: the Blessed Sacrament is, after all, the Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because it is Jesus Christ, whole and entire, under the appearance of bread and wine, it is completely appropriate to render unto It the same worship and adoration due to God Himself. In the Eucharist we recognize by faith the Real Presence of the God of the universe. Vatican II said nothing to the contrary, of course. (How could it?!) There is nothing in the documents of Vatican II that disparages, discourages, or otherwise speaks against Eucharistic Adoration.

So why do some people in the Church speak against it? To know why, we must first know what they say.

The first quote is from Fr. Richard Vosko, known for his "wreckovations" which are based on Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (and supposedly on the documents of Vatican II themselves).
"One reason why our churches are so susceptible to crime is because they are empty during the week. Maybe people who have organized vigils before the sacrament — that’s a wonderful practice to keep vigil — to take turns keeping vigil over the Blessed Sacrament that is primarily saved to take to the sick and dying — that is what the Church teaches us. I think that’s a wonderful practice, to take turns keeping watch, just in case your mother or father needs Holy Communion on their death bed. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can go to the tabernacle and find the Body of Christ in it?"
Fr. Vosko is reducing Eucharistic Adoration to "keeping vigil" to make sure the tabernacle stays safe, so that we can be sure that there will be Hosts available in case of emergency.

Now, there's nothing wrong with making sure the Eucharist is reserved for emergencies... I mean, when we adore Christ in the tabernacle, we're not adoring the tabernacle, but what is inside it. We know he is present (that there is in fact the Blessed Sacrament inside) because of the lamp burning nearby.

However, we are not merely keeping tabs on the tabernacle. We are there to adore Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. When the Host is enthroned in a monstrance and placed upon the altar, we aren't guarding the tabernacle, we're worshiping the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. Fr. Vosko seems to reduce "adoration" to "keeping vigil" (and not in the Gethsemane sense).

The Church says, in Eucharistiae Sacramentum, n. 5, that "[t]he primary and original reason for reservation of the Eucharist outside Mass is the administration of viaticum. The secondary ends are the giving of communion and the adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ present in the sacrament. The reservation of the sacrament for the sick led to the praiseworthy practice of adoring this heavenly food that is reserved in churches. This cult of adoration has a sound and firm foundation, especially since faith in the real presence of the Lord has as its natural consequence the outward, public manifestation of that belief." But just because Adoration was not the original reason for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament does not mean it is a disposable reason.

An article from America magazine says that one sentiment during the late 1960's was that "[t]he purpose of the eucharistic species, then, [was] not to be the object of adoration, but the daily food of God’s 'pilgrim people.'" If only it was the daily food! (But I'm not one to talk... I haven't regularly attended daily Mass since Easter of 2007...) But this again echoes the misconception that Vatican II put away the notion of the Eucharist as fit for adoration.

This concept of the Eucharist as (merely) an "object" also came up in two homilies (given last year and this year, on the feast of Corpus Christi) from the pastor of a parish in Illinois (which happens to have a Perpetual Adoration chapel):
"For many folks, the Eucharist was an object, a holy thing that you put in a gold container, and you kept your distance from the Eucharist. Oh, you had great reverence and respect as I said, but many people felt very unworthy of the Eucharist. So the Eucharist was an object, a holy thing, looked at and observed..."

"Right behind that wall where I'm pointing is the Sacred Heart chapel, and for years now we've had people doing Eucharistic Adoration 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are inviting you this weekend, if you feel so moved, to make a commitment to that kind of praying. Now I want to be clear about something. When we started Eucharistic Adoration some people got angry because they said 'you're treating the Eucharistic like an object, like a holy thing'. In the Middle Ages that became such a prevalent mindset -- the Eucharistic as a holy thing -- people stopped going to the Eucharistic, they just looked at the Eucharistic in a monstrance. Colin and Jim ... were reviewing some history for us: they used to have screens in front of the sanctuary, and sometimes the congregation would yell out 'hold it up higher!' so that the Host could be seen by people who were screened out. And Jim mentioned 'ocular' reception of Communion; that's how most people, many people in the Middles Ages received Communion: ocular reception, looking at it. Vatican II has tried to change all that. The value of Eucharistic devotion is in this busy, noisy world, to take time out for an hour, to be still, to be prayerful, to meditate, to contemplate in the presence of Jesus Christ present in a pre-consecrated or blessed piece of bread."
I'm curious what, exactly, this priest believes Vatican II "tried to change". Rood screens were already out of fashion for some time, ocular reception was handled before then (and Pope St. Pius X encouraged frequent reception of Holy Communion), and the Council certainly didn't speak out against Adoration. I'm not fond of the language used in the more recent homily: the pastor never mentioned adoration among the things to during the time of Eucharistic devotion, but describes it instead as "tak[ing] time out for an hour" (focusing on what it does for you instead of what it does for God, that is, render glory unto Him), and he uses the phrase "present in a pre-consecrated to blessed piece of bread" which I consider painfully vague.

The Real Presence web site offers a few objections that are frequently heard: it "is too private, too personal, or even too quiet"; or it takes too much time, and "wouldn't it be better to spend that time, say, visiting the sick?"; it is "too much 'Jesus and I' [and] tends to be selfish"; and, of course, that somehow private devotions (including adoration) "are discouraged and even forbidden by Vatican II". Each of these objections is refuted on that web site, so I encourage you to read the page I've linked to.

So now that I've provided numerous examples, what is my take on why people are discouraging Adoration? I have three possible reasons.

First, the misconception that the Church Herself actually discourages Adoration since Vatican II. This erroneous thinking places Adoration in the "pre-Vatican II" category, along with everything else old and medieval and backwards. But this conclusion is patently false; several documents from Popes and particular Congregations of the Roman Curia have spoken about it and provided regulations for it. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have praised and promoted Eucharistic Adoration, and lamented its decline and virtual absence following Vatican II:
"Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Hours of Adoration, periods of exposition - short, prolonged and annual (Forty Hours) - eucharistic benediction, eucharistic processions, eucharistic congresses." (1980 - Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, n. 3)

"After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament that has been solemnly reserved." (1988 - Paschale Solemnitatis, n. 56)

"There is a particular need to cultivate a lively awareness of Christ's real presence, both in the celebration of Mass and in the worship of the Eucharist outside Mass. ... During this year Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should become a particular commitment for individual parish and religious communities." (2004 - Pope John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine, n. 18)

"Indeed, in our age, marked by haste even in one's personal relationship with God, catechesis should reacquaint the Christian people with the whole of Eucharistic worship, which cannot be reduced to participation in Holy Mass and to Communion with the proper dispositions, but also includes frequent adoration - personal and communal - of the Blessed Sacrament, and the loving concern that the tabernacle - in which the Eucharist is kept - be placed on an altar or in a part of the church that is clearly visible, truly noble and duly adorned, so that it is a centre of attraction for every heart in love with Christ." (1999 - Responsum ad Dubium on Contempt for the Eucharist, n. 2)

"In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned. Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned." (2003 - Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 10)

"It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species." (2003 - Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 25)

"In the Most Holy Eucharist, Mother Church with steadfast faith acknowledges the Sacrament of redemption, joyfully takes it to herself, celebrates it and reveres it in adoration..." (2004 - Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 1)

"Therefore both public and private devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist even outside Mass should be vigorously promoted, for by means of it the faithful give adoration to Christ, truly and really present, the 'High Priest of the good things to come' and Redeemer of the whole world." (2004 - Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 134)

"It is moving for me to see how everywhere in the Church the joy of Eucharistic adoration is reawakening and being fruitful. In the period of liturgical reform, Mass and adoration outside it were often seen as in opposition to one another: it was thought that the Eucharistic Bread had not been given to us to be contemplated, but to be eaten, as a widespread objection claimed at that time." (2005 - Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Roman Curia, n. 30)

"A growing appreciation of this significant aspect of the Church's faith has been an important part of our experience in the years following the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council. During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. ... With the Synod Assembly, therefore, I heartily recommend to the Church's pastors and to the People of God the practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community." (2007 - Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, nn. 66-67)
Second, in over-emphasizing the Eucharist as a meal and under-emphasizing it as the Holy Sacrifice, the thought of reserving a Host for exposition and adoration seems silly. Why look at it when you could eat it? What good does the Eucharist do if we're not receiving (or taking) it and eating it? It becomes "an object" rather than "the object [recipient] of worship". I wonder if "spiritual communion" is at all preached in the parishes where the Eucharist is seen as a communal meal.

Third, and hopefully not true, it is an attack on the Real Presence. This flows somewhat from the previous reason: if we see the Eucharist primarily as a spiritual meal and ignore that it exists as efficacious food for us only because it is first the Holy and Perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then we run the risk of losing the understanding of the Real Presence. Offering bread and wine to God in propitiation for our sins is utterly useless; the only reason the Sacrifice of the Mass is worth anything is because it is worth everything, because it is the self-same sacrifice of Jesus Christ: his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, present under the forms of bread and wine. But if you stop seeing the Eucharist as a sacrifice, then Jesus doesn't need to be really present in it, he can be simply "spiritually" (whatever that means) present in it, present only in a subjective way, not a doctrinally defined way. Once you've done that, to worship the "Eucharist" would be to worship a piece of bread, and that would be idolatry (although idolatry is becoming less and less noticeable nowadays).

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