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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

ULLATHORNE AND NEWMAN

openlibrary.org/a/OL225497A




http://www.newmanreader.org/

A Sermon given by Abbot Paul at Birmingham Oratory.

"I will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth."
In 2006 the Church in England and Wales, and the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the English Benedictine Congregation in particular, celebrated the the bicentennial of the birth of William Bernard Ullathorne. To mark the occasion we have been especially blessed with the publication of Dr Judith Champ's excellent biography "A Different Kind of Monk", a long overdue re-appreciation of the life, work and importance of Ullathorne, founding father of this great Archdiocese and greatest among the many great bishops of the Catholic Church in 19th century Britain.
Ullathorne was a different kind of monk if you consider the romantic movement for monastic reform spearheaded by Solesmes, Beuron and Subiaco to be the norm, and yet in so many ways he is absolutely typical of the English Benedictine Congregation. Since its re-emergence on the continent at the beginning of the 17th century the EBC was fired on the one hand with love for the monastic ideal, yet at the same time accepted a fourth vow of obedience to the Holy Father to return to these shores, like St Augustine of Canterbury, to reconvert the English and the Welsh to the Catholic faith. Many of our young men, missionary monks, were destined to become martyrs and saints, while others, through the pastoral work of a lifetime, helped rebuild the Church in our land while looking forward to the day when she would be free again.


 Trained in the cloister at Downside, Ullathorne was prepared for the solitary life of a missioner through the daily practice of mental prayer and spiritual reading. Whether in Australia or in the West Midlands, he became, through work and prayer, a man of God, a holy man. Bishop Cuthbert Hedley of Newport, an Ampleforth monk (Belmont Abbey was his cathedral), gave his homily at Ullathorne's Requiem at St Chad's Cathedral the title "A Spiritual Man", and so he was. This too is a homily and not a lecture, so I must limit myself to commenting briefly on the scripture readings we have heard, applying them to Ullathorne and to his good friend Cardinal John Henry Newman. In many ways they were very different - in family background, early upbringing, education, work experience, character and churchmanship. In many ways they were also very similar - with a deep devotion to the Church, to God's people and to Rome, a tender love for Christ, an overpowering interest in theology and an intensive life of prayer. Such similarities and differences, taken together, show how catholic the Church can and should be.
"On him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." What unites Christians to God and to each other is that sense of vocation and conversion, which comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Likewise the efficacy of a priestly vocation derives ultimately from that profound experience of the Spirit of the Lord who transforms our hearts and minds and brings about the metanoia that leads one to acknowledge with St Paul that, "it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me." What makes both Newman and Ullathorne truly great as Christians, priests, pastors and communicators of God's will and love for mankind is that total self-giving or humility which allowed the Holy Spirit to do Christ's work in them.



"Truly the fear of the Lord was their breath." They were both acutely aware of Christ's saving presence in the Church and in the sacraments, in their neighbour and in themselves. In awe they worshipped the living God.
"The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness; when we cannot choose words to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that cannot be put into words." Prayer, vocal and intercessory, the Prayer of the Church, the Mass and the Breviary, these were daily bread for Newman and Ullathorne, and both in their own way had a gift for words, whether spoken or written. Both were theologians, men who spoke of God to others because they spoke with God in prayer. No-one, of course, would compare Ullathorne with Newman, who is undoubtedly the greatest theologian of the 19th century, yet Ullathorne was well aware that a bishop's primary task is to read widely and to pray constantly, and only then communicate the depth and purity of the Church's teaching in an intelligible way to his people.



 Both Newman and Ullathorne were men of prayer and both knew that ultimately God reveals himself in the prayer of silent adoration, in contemplation. Ullathorne, as a monk, a missionary and a bishop, and Newman, first of all in his Anglican days and then as a Catholic and as an Oratorian, throughout his life as a scholar and a thinker, were both contemplatives, for both knew that their strength lay in walking with Christ to a lonely place and there passing the night in prayer. Just as the Lord Jesus revealed his divine sonship in that personal and intimate relationship with the Father in the prayer of solitude and silence, so Newman and Ullathorne reveal their true identity as disciples of Jesus in their assiduous and faithful practice of mental prayer, so loved by the English Mystics of old and practised in their day and in ours by the Benedictine nuns of Colwich and Stanbrook, following the teaching of Dom Augustine Baker.
There can be no theology which is not the fruit of prayer and suffering. Both Newman and Ullathorne knew the suffering of rejection and misunderstanding, and both were keenly aware of their personal weakness and need for God


"If you love me you will keep my commandments." As a young man Ullathorne had taken the three traditional monastic vows of obedience, conversatio morum and stability. He had also made that fourth promise of specific obedience to the Holy Father to work on the missions, a promise which he fulfilled both as Vicar General in Australia and as Vicar Apostolic and Bishop in the heart of England. His obedience was neither blind nor childlike, but rather intelligent and objective. He was a pragmatist and a realist. Newman, on becoming a Catholic, pledged obedience to the Pope and to the Church. He promised to profess her faith and uphold her teaching. Later, when he became a priest, he promised to teach that faith in obedience to the Magisterium, yet his obedience too was intelligent and adult, an obedience that always searches for the Truth, the Truth who is Christ himself, the Truth that sets us free.


"You know him because he is with you and he is in you." In the final analysis a saint is a Christian who knows God, for to know God is to see him and to love him. Ullathorne and Newman knew God and that is what still attracts us to them today. In their lives and in their work we see hand of the living God. All those who love Cardinal Newman and long to see him raised to the altars have recently been overjoyed by the news of a possible miracle. Tonight I would propose, and I know that is it right and just to do this, that we should begin to work as well for the beatification of William Bernard Ullathorne. What more attractive and worthy a candidate could there be? If we were the Church in Spain or in Italy Newman and Ullathorne and Manning too would all by now have been canonised. Now they didn't always get on nor were their views always appreciated by their fellow bishops or even in Whitehall. They certainly weren't plaster model saints, but they were real men and certainly, all three of them, outstanding in holiness, the great fathers of the modern English Church and an example we can follow today. How I wish they were with us still.



"I shall ask the Father and he will send you another Advocate to be with you for ever." The presence of these great men, thanks to the Holy Spirit, is still with us in the Church today. May they now intercede for us in heaven and help us reap new blessings for the Church they loved so passionately and love still, the Church they served so faithfully and serve still. Britain is ripe today for a Third Spring. May their prayers and example, and our willingness to follow in their footsteps, hasten that great Catholic Revival for which we long, work and pray.
To Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God, be all honour, praise and glory, world without end. Amen


Friday, 2 October 2009

Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) on Liturgy







Cardinal Ratzinger on the old and the new Mass


Contents - Feb 1999AD2000 February 1999 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Tackling the Church's problem areas - Michael Gilchrist
John Paul II throws down the gauntlet to Australia's bishops - AD2000 Report
News: The Church Around the World
'Absolute Truth': another media 'job' on the Catholic Church - Michael Gilchrist
Liturgy: Cardinal Ratzinger on the old and the new Mass - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Brompton Oratory: London's liturgical oasis - Joanna Bogle
Bob Billings (1915-1999): outstanding Catholic layman - Peter Westmore
Reflection: Catholic identity and 'reading the signs of the times' - John Kelly

On 23-26 October 1998, the tenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's motu proprio 'Ecclesia Dei' was celebrated in Rome by thousands of supporters of the traditional Latin Mass (Missal of 1962). 'Ecclesia Dei' had called on the world's Catholic bishops to make generous provision for those Catholics preferring celebrations of the old form of the Latin rite liturgy and since that time there has been a steady increase in the availability of traditional Latin Masses throughout the world.
A highlight of the 10th anniversary celebrations in Rome was an address by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was delivered at the Ergife Palace Hotel, Rome, on Saturday 24 October, to an audience of almost 3,000 traditional Catholics. In his address, the Cardinal weighed up the respective roles of the old and new forms of the Latin rite in the modern Church in the light of the teachings of Vatican II.
'AD2000' is indebted to Michael Davies for the text of the Cardinal's address, a shortened version of which is published here.


Ten years after the publication of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, what sort of balance-sheet can one draw up? I think this is above all an occasion to show our gratitude and to give thanks. The divers communities that were born thanks to this pontifical text have given the Church a great number of priestly and religious vocations who, zealously, joyfully and deeply united with the Pope, have given their service to the Gospel in our present era of history.
Through them, many of the faithful have been confirmed in the joy of being able to live the liturgy, and confirmed in their love for the Church, or perhaps they have rediscovered both. In many dioceses - and their number is not so small - they serve the Church in collaboration with the bishops and in fraternal union with those faithful who do feel at home with the renewed form of the new liturgy.
However, it would not be realistic if we were to pass-over in silence those things which are less good. In many places difficulties persist, and these continue because some bishops, priests and faithful consider this attachment to the old liturgy as an element of division which only disturbs the ecclesial community and which gives rise to suspicions regarding an acceptance of the Council made "with reservations", and more generally concerning obedience towards the legitimate pastors of the Church.
We ought now to ask the following question: how can these difficulties be overcome? How can one build the necessary trust so that these groups and communities who love the ancient liturgy can be smoothly integrated into the life of the Church? But there is another question underlying the first: what are the deeper reasons for this distrust or even for this rejection of a continuation of the ancient liturgical forms?
The two reasons which are most often heard, are lack of obedience to the Council, which wanted the liturgical books reformed, and the break in unity, which must necessarily follow if different liturgical forms are left in use.
It is relatively simple to refute these two arguments on the theoretical level. The Council did not itself reform the liturgical books, but it ordered their revision, and to this end, it established certain fundamental rules. Before anything else, the Council gave a definition of what liturgy is, and this definition gives a valuable yardstick for every liturgical celebration.
It is in the light of these criteria that liturgical celebrations must be evaluated, whether they be according to the old books or the new. It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow.
The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer and the very life of whole generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man. Such rites can die, if those who have used them in a particular era should disappear, or if the life- situation of those same people should change.


Latin Rites

The authority of the Church has the power to define and limit the use of such rites in different historical situations, but she never just purely and simply forbids them. Thus the Council ordered a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not prohibit the former books. The criterion which the Council established is both much larger and more demanding; it invites us all to self-criticism. But we will come back to this point.
We must now examine the other argument, which claims that the existence of the two rites can damage unity. Here a distinction must be made between the theological aspect and the practical aspect of the question. As regards what is theoretical and basic, it must be stated that several forms of the Latin rite have always existed, and were only slowly withdrawn, as a result of the coming together of the different parts of Europe.
Before the Council there existed side by side with the Roman rite, the Ambrosian rite, the Mozarabic rite of Toledo, the rite of Braga, the Carthusian rite, the Carmelite rite, and best known of all, the Dominican rite, and perhaps still other rites of which I am not aware. No one was ever scandalised that the Dominicans, often present in our parishes, did not celebrate like diocesan priests but had their own rite. We did not have any doubt that their rite was as Catholic as the Roman rite, and we were proud of the richness inherent in these various traditions.
Moreover, one must say this: that the freedom which the new order of Mass gives to creativity is often taken to excessive lengths. The difference between the liturgy according to the new books, how it is actually practised and celebrated in different places, is often greater than the difference between an old Mass and a new Mass, when both these are celebrated according to the prescribed liturgical books
An average Christian without specialist liturgical formation would find it difficult to distinguish between a Mass sung in Latin according to the old Missal and a sung Latin Mass according to the new Missal. However, the difference between a liturgy celebrated faithfully according to the Missal of Paul VI and the reality of a vernacular liturgy celebrated with all the freedom and creativity that are possible - that difference can be enormous.
With these considerations we have already crossed the threshold between theory and practice, a point at which things naturally get more complicated, because they concern relations between living people. It seems to me that the dislikes we have mentioned are as great as they are because the two forms of celebration are seen as indicating two different spiritual attitudes, two different ways of perceiving the Church and the Christian life. The reasons for this are many.
The first is this: one judges the two liturgical forms from their externals and thus one arrives at the following conclusion: there are two fundamentally different attitudes. The average Christian considers it essential for the renewed liturgy to be celebrated in the vernacular and facing the people; that there be a great deal of freedom for creativity; and that the laity exercise an active role therein. On the other hand, it is considered essential for a celebration according to the old rite to be in Latin, with the priest facing the altar, strictly and precisely according to the rubrics, and that the faithful follow the Mass in private prayer with no active role.
From this viewpoint, a particular set of externals [phénoménologie] is seen as essential to this or that liturgy, rather than what the liturgy itself holds to be essential. We must hope for the day when the faithful will appreciate the liturgy on the basis of visible concrete forms, and become spiritually immersed in those forms; the faithful do not easily penetrate the depths of the liturgy.
The contradictions and oppositions which we have just enumerated originate neither from the spirit nor the letter of the conciliar texts. The actual Constitution on the Liturgy does not speak at all about celebration facing the altar or facing the people. On the subject of language, it says that Latin should be retained, while giving a greater place to the vernacular "above all in readings, instructions, and in a certain number of prayers and chants" (SL 36:2).
As regards the participation of the laity, the Council first of all insists on a general point, that the liturgy is essentially the concern of the whole Body of Christ, Head and members, and for this reason it pertains to the whole Body of the Church "and that consequently it [the liturgy] is destined to be celebrated in community with the active participation of the faithful". And the text specifies, "In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or lay faithful, when fulfilling his role, should carry out only and wholly that which pertains to him by virtue of the nature of the rite and the liturgical norms" (SL 28). "To promote active participation, acclamations by the people are favoured, responses, the chanting of the psalms, antiphons, canticles, also actions or gestures and bodily postures. One should also observe a period of sacred silence at an appropriate time" (SL 30).


These are the directives of the Council; they can provide everybody with material for reflection


Amongst a number of modern liturgists there is unfortunately a tendency to develop the ideas of the Council in one direction only. In acting thus, they end up reversing the intentions of the Council. The role of the priest is reduced, by some, to that of a mere functionary. The fact that the Body of Christ as a whole is the subject of the liturgy is often deformed to the point where the local community becomes the self-sufficient subject of the liturgy and itself distributes the liturgy's various roles.
There also exists a dangerous tendency to minimalise the sacrificial character of the Mass, causing the mystery and the sacred to disappear, on the pretext, a pretext that claims to be absolute, that in this way they make things better understood. Finally, one observes the tendency to fragment the liturgy and to highlight in a unilateral way its communitarian character, giving the assembly itself the power to regulate the celebration.
Fortunately, however, there is also a certain disenchantment with an all too banal rationalism, and with the pragmatism of certain liturgists, whether they be theorists or practitioners, and one can note a return to mystery, to adoration and to the sacred, and to the cosmic and eschatological character of the liturgy, as evidenced in the 1996 "Oxford Declaration on the Liturgy" (see August 1996 AD2000, p. 7).
On the other hand, it must be admitted that the celebration of the old liturgy had strayed too far into a private individualism, and that communication between priest and people was insufficient. I have great respect for our forefathers who at Low Mass said the "Prayers during Mass" contained in their prayer books, but certainly one cannot consider that as the ideal of liturgical celebration. Perhaps these reductionist forms of celebration are the real reason that the disappearance of the old liturgical books was of no importance in many countries and caused no sorrow. One was never in contact with the liturgy itself


Liturgical Movement

On the other hand, in those places where the Liturgical Movement had created a certain love for the liturgy, where the Movement had anticipated the essential ideas of the Council, such as for example, the prayerful participation of all in the liturgical action, it was those places where there was all the more distress when confronted with a liturgical reform undertaken too hastily and often limited to externals.
This is why it is very important to observe the essential criteria of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which I quoted above, including when one celebrates according to the old Missal. The moment when this liturgy truly touches the faithful with its beauty and its richness, then it will be loved, then it will no longer be irreconcilably opposed to the new Liturgy, providing that these criteria are indeed applied as the Council wished.
If the unity of faith and the oneness of the mystery appear clearly within the two forms of celebration, that can only be a reason for everybody to rejoice and to thank the good Lord. Inasmuch as we all believe, live and act with these intentions, we shall also be able to persuade the bishops that the presence of the old liturgy does not disturb or break the unity of their diocese, but is rather a gift destined to build-up the Body of Christ, of which we are all the servants.


Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 12 No 1 (February 1999), p. 10


Ratzinger Junior on liturgical reform at Vatican II



After each of the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, Joseph Ratzinger published a pamphlet with reflections on the events and achievements of that session. These were then gathered together and translated into English as Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966).
Given the discussion in several threads of the possible action of Pope Benedict XVI with regard to the Tridentine Rite, some may find it interesting to know how the young conciliar peritus saw the question of liturgy at the time. (Page numbers are given from that English edition.)
In his review of the first session, he had a number of comments:
“The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct6 move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church wi8th her Lord, actualized in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfills its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated … the main theme of the entire Council–its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the ‘hierarchological’ Congar) narrowness’ of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins” (14).
Ratzinger pointed to five important elements in the liturgical schema. (1) “the return to Christian origins and the pruning of certain accretions that often enough concealed the original liturgical nucleus; examples: priority of Sunday over saints’ days; of mystery over devotion, of “simple structure over the rank growth of forms”; “defrosting’ of ritual rigidity; restoration of the liturgy of the Word; “the dialogical nature of the whole liturgical celebration and its essence as the common service of the People of God; “reduction in the status of private Masses in favor of emphasis on greater communal participation.”
(2) a stronger emphasis on the Word as an element of equal value with the sacrament:” new arrangement of biblical readings.
(3) “a more active participation of the laity, the inclusion of the whole table-fellowship of God in the holy action”.
(4) “the decentralization of liturgical legislation,” which represents “a fundamental innovation.” Conferences of bishops now will have responsibility for liturgical laws in their own regions and this, “not by delegation from the Holy See, but by virtue of their own independent authority.” This is to introduce “a new element in the Church’s structure, … a kind of quasi-synodal agency between individual bishops and the pope. This decision may even have “more significance fore the theology of the episcopacy and for the long desired strengthening of episcopal power than anything in the ‘Constitution on the Church.’”
(5) the language of the liturgy. Behind this vigorous debate lay the need for a “new confrontation between the Christian mind and the modern mind. For it can hardly be denied that the sterility to which Catholic theology and philosophy had in many ways been doomed since the end of the Enlightenment was due not least to a language in which the living choices of the human mind no longer found a place. Theology often bypassed new ideas, was not enriched by them and remained unable to transform them” (14-18).
In a talk delivered in October 1964, Ratzinger remarked “that the first real task of the Council was to overcome the indolent, euphoric feeling that all was well with the Church, and to bring into the open the problems smoldering within” (83). An example was the question of the liturgy, which represented a “profound crisis in the life of the Church.” Its roots lay back in the late Middle Ages, when “awareness of the real essence of Christian worship increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out the whole.” Trent’s reaction to Reformation challenges was inadequate, even if it eliminated a number of abuses. It did not sufficiently deal with Reformation difficulties with the notions of adoration and sacrifice. It did cut back the medieval overgrowth and took measures to prevent it in the future. But the main measure was to centralize liturgical authority in the Congregation of Rites.
“New overgrowths were in fact prevented, but the fate of liturgy in the West was now in the hands of a strictly centralized and purely bureaucratic authority. This authority completely lacked historical perspective; it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters. This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy had become a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety the more attention was paid to its prescribed forms. We can see this if we remember that none of the saints of the Catholic Reformation drew their spirituality from the liturgy….
“The baroque era adjusted to this situation by super-imposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archeologized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera in which the chants of the priest functioned as a kind of periodic recitative. The entire performance seemed to aim at a kind of festive lifting of the heart, enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered over with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. Even Leo XIII recommended that the rosary be recited during Mass in the month of October. In practice this meant that while the priest was busy with his archeologized liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. They were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him and by entrusting themselves to the sacred power of the eucharistic sacrifice” (85-86).
After the baroque period, it was clear that the efforts of the Congregation of Rites had resulted in the total impoverishment of the liturgy. If the Church’s worship was once again to become the worship of the Church in the fullest sense-i.e., of all the faithful-then it had to become something in movement again. The wall of Latinity had to be breached if the liturgy were again to function either as proclamation or as invitation to prayer… It was now clear that behind the protective skin of Latin lay hidden something that even Trent’s cutting away of late medieval ornamentations had failed to remove. The simplicity of the liturgy was still overgrown with superfluous accretions of purely historical value. It was now clear, for example, that the selection of biblical texts had frozen at a certain point and hardly met the needs of preaching. The next step was to recognize that the necessary revamping could not take place simply through purely stylistic modifications, but also required a new theology of divine worship. Otherwise the renewal would be no more than superficial” (87).
His concluding comments: “If we view the Council’s initiatives for liturgical reform in their historical context, then we may well consider them a basic reversal. The value of the reform will of course substantially depend on the post-conciliar commission of Cardinal Lercaro and what it is able to achieve3. The problems and hopes of liturgical reform anticipate some of the crucial problems and hopes of ecclesiastical reform in general. Will it be possible to bring contemporary man into new contact with the Church, and through the Church into new contact with God? Will it be possible to minimize centralism without losing unity? Will it be possible to make divine worship the starting point ofr a new understanding among Christians? These three questeions represent three hopes, all bound up with liturgical reform, and all in line with the basic intentions of the recent Council” (88)
From The Spirit of the Liturgy.
The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer, excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy. Art, Image and Artists: Sacred art, inspired by faith, both reflects and informs the culture Art & Liturgy: The Question of Images, excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy Music and Liturgy: How does music express the Word of God, the Vision of God?, excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy. Ignatius Press, 2000. The Theology of Kneeling, excerpt from a chapter, "The Body and the Liturgy", in The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ignatius Press, 2000. What Does 'Rite' Mean in the Context of Christian Liturgy?. pp. 164-167.





MY COMMENTARY ON HH POPE BENEDICT XVI'S POST ON THE LITURGY


On the one hand, we have a liturgy which has degenerated so that it has become a show which, with momentary success for the group of liturgical fabricators, strives to render religion interesting in the wake of the frivolities of fashion and seductive moral maxims. On the other hand, there is the conservation of ritual forms whose greatness is always moving but which, when pushed to extremes, manifests an obstinate isolationism and leaves, ultimately, a mark of sadness
 Consequently, the trend is the increasingly marked retreat of those who do not look to the liturgy for a spiritual show-master but for the encounter with the living God in whose presence all the "doing" becomes insignificant since only this encounter is able to guarantee us access to the true richness of being

There is no doubt that between these two poles there are priests and parishioners who celebrate the new liturgy with respect and solemnity. But they, too, are made to feel doubtful by the contradiction of the two extremes and, in the final analysis, the lack of unity within the Church makes their faith seem - and wrongly so in most cases - just their own personal version of neo-conservatism.

Pope Benedict is such a great theologian that it is a very rewarding task to separate his theology of liturgy from his conservative tastes.   If I were Bavarian, I too would be conservative.   I spent Christmas in Ottobeuron Abbey once, and Chrstmas meant the Misa Brevis by Mozart.    The music, and hence the liturgy, was in the very bones of the people who would hum the melodies in anticipation.   I have only had a similar experience once since, on January 7th last year when I concelebrated at the Ukrainian Catholic Christmas Divine Liturgy.   As each part sung by the people came up, they smiled at each other with delight and sang with gusto.   Several of them told me afterwards that they had no books, that it was all known by heart, and that they had sung these parts of the liturgy since they were children.   In both cases, the Mass was completely formal and spontaneous at the same time.

The pope spends far too much time condemning abuses    You would think, from what he writes, that most priests and people abuse the freedom given them in the "new Mass", that the sacrificial dimension of the Mass has largely been forgotten, that the Mass has become de-sacralised practically everywhere, that people do not normally go to Mass for an encounter with God.   This has not been my experience.    He also looks at the past with rose-coloured spectacles.    Once, when I taught at Belmont Abbey School, a number of boys were in revolt - as is their wont - against the new  Mass but had never actually been to the old Mass.   Then the good Lord sent us a guest, an old Irish Franciscan.   The combination of "Irish" and "Franciscan" provided me with an opportunity too good to miss.    I asked him to celebrate the old Mass for these boys, which he did willingly.   He could not have been a better choice.   He charged through the Mass like a rugby forward through a scrum.   He slurred over the Latin; his actions were careless; his posture ungainly: it wasn't like what they expected at all.   I said to them, "Lots of Masses were like that in the old days.   As they were in Latin, nobody noticed."   The pope talks about modern Masses being a show.   This was not unknown in the old days either.   In fact, it could be argued that what has made a mess of the reform, where there is a mess, is the bad effect of a scholastic theology of the sacraments which has been divorced from the liturgy, and the low place that liturgy has had in the minds of students for the priesthood coupled with poor teaching.    There is also the effect of a basicly legalistic view of the Church and of the liturgy where everything is either allowed or permitted, and jurisdiction and law are more basic than the sacraments and sound theology.   These are continuities with the past and not the fault of Vatican II.

When all this has been said, the Pope still has an argument.   It is true that there are abuses,more than people realize, in the celebration of the new Mass, and there are also priests and people who celebrate the old Mass as though Vatican II hasn't happened.    I attended a Mass for a society of priests who celebrate according to the "extraordinary form".   I went to sing Gregorian chant for them with the best will in the world.   I accept fully the Pope's argument that neither he nor the bishops have the power to abolish the old rite because it is an expression of living Tradition, the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.  Yet, at the end, I was angry.   It had nothing to do with Vatican II.    The reading was sung in Latin with the reader's back to the people.   It was like Anglo-Catholicism at its worst; all birettas and outward form.   The Pope's wish is very different.   He puts it this way:

 This is why it is very important to observe the essential criteria of the Constitution on the Liturgy, ...., including when one celebrates according to the old Missal. The moment when this liturgy truly touches the faithful with its beauty and its richness, then it will be loved, then it will no longer be irreconcilably opposed to the new Liturgy, providing that these criteria are indeed applied as the Council wished.

What are these criteria to be observed by both those who celebrate the new Mass and those who celebrate the old.    He singles out the following:


The actual Constitution on the Liturgy does not speak at all about celebration facing the altar or facing the people. On the subject of language, it says that Latin should be retained, while giving a greater place to the vernacular "above all in readings, instructions, and in a certain number of prayers and chants" (SL 36:2).
As regards the participation of the laity, the Council first of all insists on a general point, that the liturgy is essentially the concern of the whole Body of Christ, Head and members, and for this reason it pertains to the whole Body of the Church "and that consequently it [the liturgy] is destined to be celebrated in community with the active participation of the faithful". And the text specifies, "In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or lay faithful, when fulfilling his role, should carry out only and wholly that which pertains to him by virtue of the nature of the rite and the liturgical norms" (SL 28). "To promote active participation, acclamations by the people are favoured, responses, the chanting of the psalms, antiphons, canticles, also actions or gestures and bodily postures. One should also observe a period of sacred silence at an appropriate time" (SL 30).

While we are looking at the outward form of the Mass, there is one point where, I believe, Cardinal Ratzinger was wrong.   He bases his argument on another great theologian-liturgist, Louis Bouyer.   It is about the altar.   If priest and people are meant to be facing the same way, when the priest faces across the altar in order to face east, as in St Peter's in early Christian Rome, why did not the people face east too, with their back to the altar?   If it is said that they did, where is the evidence that they did?   A weakness of Cardinal Ratzinger's treatment of the question is that he has no theology of the altar.   In the Eastern Byzantine rite, the altar is called the "throne".   It is the mercy-seat where God is present because it is the place where the sacrifice of atonement takes place, as in the Holy of Holies in the temple (see my post on "The Altar").    The centre of the church is the altar, as the centre of the temple was the Holy of Holies.   We assemble before the altar where the tri-une presence of God is concentrated in the covenanted relationship.   In that presence God speaks to us in the Word, just as truly as he spoke to Moses; as we speak to God, sharing in the very intimate prayer of Christ because we are his body.   We are taken up into that presence by participating in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ by means of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and we pass through the veil of the heavenly holy of holies which is the flesh of Christ in communion.   The altar, in another set of biblical images, is the Holy Table where Wisdom provides a Banquet for her children, where the Marriage Feast of the Lamb is celebrated, where we share in the paschal meal.   Above all, it is the place of the Presence, precisely because it is the altar of sacrifice.   It is not, in itself, orientated in any direction: all things and people are orientated towards it.   It is what some liturgists call "the liturgical East".  When the Orthodox bow three times when entering a church or touch their forehead on the floor during Lent, they are ackowledging the presence of the Tri-une God on the mercy-seat, as in the Temple.   The altar is the true centre of attention, more than any icon, even of the Crucified.    The crucifix is associated with the altar because it reminds the faithful of the two ways the Church is associated with Christ's passion, by its memory down the ages, and its eucharistic presence in the sacrifice of the Mass.   All the evidence suggests that the  Priest and people faced each other in St Peter's, but both were directing their attention towards the altar.  The altar makes sure that priest and people do not form the closed circle condemned by Cardinal Ratzinger because,on its surface, heaven and earth are joined.   This is true in the old and in the new rite.   Look at a modern church like Clifton Cathedral, Worth Abbey,  Liverpool Cathedral or Leyland parish church.   What is the central feature?    It is not the priest, nor is it the people: it is the altar.   What is the most marked feature a a Neo-Catechumenate church?   It is the altar.   Because he has no theology of the altar, Cardinal Ratzinger misinterpreted the reason why the altar was "turned round".   I have seen priests celebrate Mass as though they are talking all the time to the people, and I have always put it down to liturgical ignorance; but the first time I ever saw it written down by a reputable theologian that the Mass is celebrated versus populum so that priest and people can look at each other was when I read Cardinal Ratzinger's criticism of the practice.   I have always taken it to be because it allows the people to see what is on the altar; which is why the crucifix is moved to one side: all can see the chalice and paten.   When I concelebrated  at the Byzantine Christmas Mass, the priests surrounded the altar, even though the principle celebrant faced East.   We were all facing different points of the compass, but we were all facing the altar.     In the modern Western Mass the sanctuary is the whole church and all are invited on the other side of the iconstasis.

A Deeper Look At The Mass In Pope Benedict's Thought

 “The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct6 move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church with her Lord, actualized in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfills its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated … the main theme of the entire Council–its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the ‘hierarchological’ Congar) narrowness’ of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins”
What Fr Joseph Ratzinger wrote here is absolutely identical to the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI.  His whole ecclesiology is liturgical because the Mass is the Church's constitution and the liturgy is the source of all the Church's powers and the goal of all its activity, as the Constitution on the Liturgy states.   This forms a new paradigm for understanding the whole of Catholicism.   Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church is present.   When this is carried to its logical conclusion, everything looks different.   Such is the foundational position of liturgy in the Church, the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church, that it's texts cannot be abolished by pope or episcopate, nor can it be simply fabricated out of nothing: it is THE main expression of Apostolic Tradition.  The infallibility of the Church arises from the Holy Spirit who is invoked in the Liturgy; and dogmas are proclaimed to protect the integrity of our Christian lives and the truth of our worship in which our Christian lives are offered up.   The centrality of liturgy gives liturgical texts an enormous authority.   In this I would like to quote Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, quite confident the the Pope will agree with every word of it.   It is the reason why the substitution of other hymns and prayers, that often happens in South America, is a liturgical abuse.   He writes:

 
Liturgical texts as a school of theology
May I now turn to the theological and dogmatic significance of liturgical texts. In my view, liturgical texts are for Orthodox Christians an incontestable doctrinal authority, whose theological irreproachability is second only to Scripture. Liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, even higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fullness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the other hand, have been accepted by the whole Church as a “rule of faith” (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox churches over many centuries. Throughout this time, any erroneous ideas foreign to Orthodoxy that might have crept in either through misunderstanding or oversight were eliminated by Church Tradition itself, leaving only pure and authoritative doctrine clothed by the poetic forms of the Church’s hymns.
This holds true above all for the daily cycle of services prescribed by the Orthodox Typicon, as well as for the weekly and yearly cycle found in the Octoechos, Lenten Triodion, Pentecostarion and Menaia, whose liturgical texts contain interpretations of and reflections on many episodes from the life of Christ and aspects of His teaching. In this sense one can say that liturgical texts are a “Gospel according to the Church”

What Archbishop Hilarion would say about Orthodox liturgical texts and their relationship to the Orthodox Church, Pope Benedict says about the traditional Catholic liturgy, and he has come to accept of the liturgy as it has been reformed since Vatican II.   They have become the "ordinary" and "extraordinary" forms which, in their variety, show the richness of liturgical Tradition.   As the source of all the Church's powers and the goal of all its activity, the Eucharist has replaced papal jurisdiction and papal teaching authority as the true source of the Church's unity.  Hence, a papal or conciliar dogma is not the highest expression of the Church's acceptance of the Truth: the liturgy is.  The goal of a dogmatic pronouncement is to protect the liturgy so that it remains orthodox ("orthodox" means both "right teaching" and "right glory or worship"); and, as the liturgy is the goal of the pronouncement, it needs to be expressed liturgically in some way for it to have really done its job.   If a truth is already expressed in the liturgy and believed by the faithful, to define it in a dogmatic pronouncement is a waste of time.   As the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is present at every Mass by the power of the Holy Spirit because it is  an act of the whole Church, then every patriarch, bishop and priest, with their flocks, are also mystically present.

Here is another quotation from the young, reforming Joseph Ratzinger  is clearly an abiding opinion of Cardinal Ratzinger:

“New overgrowths were in fact prevented, but the fate of liturgy in the West was now in the hands of a strictly centralized and purely bureaucratic authority. This authority completely lacked historical perspective; it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters. This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy had become a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety the more attention was paid to its prescribed forms. We can see this if we remember that none of the saints of the Catholic Reformation drew their spirituality from the liturgy….
“The baroque era adjusted to this situation by super-imposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archeologized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera in which the chants of the priest functioned as a kind of periodic recitative. The entire performance seemed to aim at a kind of festive lifting of the heart, enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered over with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. Even Leo XIII recommended that the rosary be recited during Mass in the month of October. In practice this meant that while the priest was busy with his archeologized liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. They were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him and by entrusting themselves to the sacred power of the eucharistic sacrifice”





This is Cardinal Ratzinger's opinion:

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the celebration of the old liturgy had strayed too far into a private individualism, and that communication between priest and people was insufficient. I have great respect for our forefathers who at Low Mass said the "Prayers during Mass" contained in their prayer books, but certainly one cannot consider that as the ideal of liturgical celebration. Perhaps these reductionist forms of celebration are the real reason that the disappearance of the old liturgical books was of no importance in many countries and caused no sorrow. One was never in contact with the liturgy itself
Hence the need for reform and for liturgical movement.   The young Joseph Ratzinger and the present Pope  was and is to break through what he calls "the wall of Latin" so that people can become participants in the liturgy, receiving spiritual sustenance from the liturgical texts, drawing their piety from the liturgy itself like the Ukrainian Greek Catholics who attended the Christmas celebration in Gloucester.   Why then is he not satisfied?   Because the liturgical texts have been replaced in too many celebrations.     Again, Archbishop Hilarion puts it very succinctly:


I have had the opportunity to be present at both Protestant and Catholic services, which were, with rare exceptions, quite disappointing. Protestant services as a rule are comprised of a series of isolated, incoherent prayerful actions. At first the officiating clergyman (or clergywoman) says a benediction, then everybody opens a hymnal to a certain page and begins to sing. After a pause the clergyman reads a passage from Scripture, then gives a sermon, followed by communal singing, organ playing, etc. The congregation is usually seated, now and then standing in order to sit down again after some time. The services are interspersed with explanations by the clergy, who tell their congregation in which hymnal and on which page a certain hymn is to be found, and whether they should sing it while standing or remaining seated. Such services do not normally last longer than thirty or forty minutes, and in certain parishes even rock music is used, to which the parishioners dance.
One can add that after the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, services in some Catholic churches have become little different from Protestant ones. They often share the same lack of wholeness and the same alternation of incoherent, unrelated prayers and hymns

There is a lack of wholeness with the "alternation of incoherent, unrelated prayers and hymns", with much piety but little theology.   The Pope's solution is the co-existence of the ordinary and extraordinary rites, with each rite trying to put into practice the teaching of Vatican II.   He hopes this will lead to cross-fertilization.   After all, the same Holy Spirit is functioning in both forms of the rite.   However, some priests celebrate as though the whole liturgy is a kind of cosy chat between him and the congregation, and one wonders where God fits in; while others seem to revel in the pre-Vatican II rite from which all influences of Vatican II have been completely excluded.

On the other hand, I live in a small monastery of seven monks on the outskirts of Lima.   We have Mass "facing the people" according to the reformed rite.   Although no one is tone deaf, we are nothing special and make mistakes.   During the week the Mass and Lauds are integrated: on Sunday Mass is celebrated on its own.   Visiters have exclaimed, after the Mass is over, "How is it that there is such a sense of the presence of God!" and some have said, "I did not know whether I was in heaven or on earth!" to which I reply, "I think I have heard that somewhere before."   Yet we don'y feel "neo-conservative" as the Pope has suggested.   It is just Mass.  I have taken part in many Masses which could compete, any day, with the most sumptious Tridentine Masses for splendour and with a sense of the sacred, without being neo-conservative.   The liturgy at Belmont is a great improvement on what went on before.   I would like to see the Pope make a comparison between the reformed rite celebrated at its best, and the Tridentine Mass well performed.   If he has done this, I haven't seen it.   It might give us a clearer idea of what he is seeking to do.
 


 


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