"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

Saturday 30 November 2013


AD TE LEVAVI (click)
the Introit for the 1st Sunday ofAdvent
with music, translation & commentary

 First Sunday of Advent
For us Catholics, the new Liturgical Year commences with the first Sunday of Advent. In this new liturgical year, the Church not only wishes to indicate the beginning of a period, but the beginning of a renewed commitment to the faith by all those who follow Christ, the Lord. This time of prayer and path of penance that is so powerful, rich and intense, endeavors to give us a renewed impetus to truly welcome the message of the One who was incarnated for us. In fact, the entire Liturgy of the Advent Season, will spur us to an awakening in our Christian life and will put us in a ‘vigilant’ disposition, to wait for Our Lord Jesus who is coming:

‘Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.’1

The Season of Advent is therefore a season of vigilant waiting, that prepares us to welcome the mystery of the Word Incarnate, who will give the ‘Light’ to the womb of the Virgin Mary, but essentially this time prepares us not only to welcome this great event but to incarnate it in our lives. We could say that the true light enters the world through the immaculate womb of Mary but it does not stay there. On the contrary, this light flows out into our dark, obscure, sinful lives to illuminate them, so that we can become the light that illuminates the world. For this reason, let us live this time of waiting not only to celebrate a historical memory but to repeat this memory in our lives and in the service of others. To wait for the Lord who comes, means to wait and to watch so that the Word of Love enters inside us and focuses us every day of our lives.

As Blessed John Henry Newman reminded us in a homily for the Advent Season: “Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the necessity, the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait’. To make all this happen, then we need to wake up, as we are warned by the apostle to the Gentiles, in today's reading to the Romans: ‘Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rm 13:11).

We must start our journey to ascend to the mountain of the Lord, to be illuminated by His Words of peace and to allow Him to indicate the path to tread. (cf. Is 2:1-5). Moreover, we must change our conduct abandoning the works of darkness and put on the ‘armor of light’ and so seek only to do God’s work and to abandon the deeds of the flesh. (cf. Rm 13:12-14). Jesus, through the story in the parable, outlines the Christian life style that must not be distracted and indifferent but must be vigilant and recognize even the smallest sign of the Lord’s coming because we don’t know the hour in which He will arrive. (cf. Mt 24:39-44)

1 Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration of First Vespers of Advent, Vatican Basilica, December 2006


Thursday 28 November 2013


Salvation through Mary 

 A friend of mine of a protestant tradition asked me recently about my feelings about Mary. I did not go into great detail but, for starters, I agreed that there is often a misconception that Catholics worship her. In doing this I pointed out, however, that in the English dictionary the word worship has different meanings. Not only can it mean reverence offered to a divine being but it can also mean an extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem. Based on the meanings that this word has, I pointed out that I worship God in a unique way, as the scriptures demand, but I also worship in a differentl way my wife and other people like Mary who we Catholics believe to be very much involved in salvation. What I did not have time to go into with my friend is why we give her a special kind of worship, which I will now do from a Byzantine Catholic perspective.

 To begin, Mary or, as we of the Byzantine tradition call her, the Theotokos [gr.birth giver of God] is like all of us,  a person who needs to be saved. The thing is that with salvation we all experience it in different ways. There are even times when people who after living a life of evil find Jesus Christ in the last five minutes of their life. They obviously did nothing to earn salvation but through their human freedom accept the gift in their final moments. In addition, there are also times when God, for sake of all humanity, gives people the chance to experience salvation in unique ways.

 Just looking through the Old Testament we find people like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and the Jewish people who were given this opportunity. Just how they experienced salvation is a mystery but their experience of it was something that generated results. For example, we read that holy men like the prophet Elijah were taken up into heaven, which was something that is often hard to understand before the coming of Christ (2kings 2:11). It is important to point out that at no point did the special people of the Old Testament lose their human freedom. Nor did they find themselves outside of the realm of the fallen condition when offered the experience of salvation. In fact, we do read in many places where the gift that God presented to them was rejected. Never the less, even in the experience of rejection, God continued to work with humanity (Rom. 11:29). From the perspective of God's saving humanity you could say that it was essential that the chosen people responded to God when they did. The need for this response to some degree is best expressed in the prophecies concerning St. John the Baptist and Forerunner of the Lord. The scriptures specifically say that he would “prepare the way” for Christ (Malachi 3:1).Consequently, it is possible to think that the Lord’s coming into the world would not take place apart from the contributions of not only St. John but also all those that came before him. This is especially true of the Lord’s mother who could be said to be the recipient of all the contributions of those that came before her. In fact, an early Church father named St. John of Damascus referred to the Theotokos as the one who “contains all the history” of God working salvation in the world before Christ (On the Orthodox Faith, 3:12). 

 So far we can begin to see why the Theotokos is a special person for Catholics. In her we find that God had been bringing humanity along in order that human nature might be ready to receive all of what God is in the Incarnation. This is where my protestant friend might have trouble because in being able to receive all of what God is we hold that the Theotokos was pure of sin. This is based on the fact that she received a gift that allowed her to enter into such a state, which has its foundation in the holiness of those that came before her. This does not mean that she did not need to be saved but like those that came before her she was given a unique privilege that would lead to the salvation of all. In her case her gift allowed for her to achieve purity to the extent of what was humanly possible before Christ. This is another reason why we hold her is such high regard because through great struggles the Theotokos continued to say yes to God. Out of every human being born to this world it was only in the Theotokos that God became man. Never finding herself outside of the need to be saved we find that she participated in salvation in a special way. When it comes to the gift of her purity I think it’s important to realize that it cannot compare to the purity that we now experience in Christ. Her purity was essential but alone it was not enough to bring about the salvation of the human race. It is only through Christ that we see the power of sin ultimately defeated. Just like us the Theotokos had to say yes to not only the gift that made salvation possible but also to the gift that would allow her to become a partaker of the divine nature(2 Peter 1:4). In the end like us she needed to be saved even though she helped through her gift of herself for all to be saved.

 On the other hand, unlike us she was the first to participate in the fullness of the experience of salvation. Based on her life, and who she is now, she is for us Catholics the one truly worthy of all human veneration.

Wednesday 27 November 2013



Michael Voris makes me feel very uneasy, and I want to explore why.    I believe the same dogmas of the same Church as Michael Voris, just as much as he does, but our Catholicism could not be more different.  

 The impression I get from his videos is that people have to accept his brand of Catholicism and his "cowboys and Indians" approach to theology or be accused of being caught up in "lies and falsehoods". Everything is black and white, and there are no greys.  Not only do we have to agree with the Pope, but we need to accept his version of what the Pope says in the context in which he quotes him.   He applies to the Pope his own pre-suppositions which often disort the Pope's meaning.   All other interpretations of our Faith  he views with nothing but contempt: it is Catholicism looked at through the eyes of a sectarian.   

I could have chosen many of his videos to prove my point  but have decided to concentrate on just two, the first on a "personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ", or a "relationship with Jesus", which is an absolutely central theme; at least, it is to me. 
Before criticising what he says, let us look at what he doesn't say.   What have Popes John Paul II, Pope Benedict II, and the present Pope Francis said about the Charismatic Movement?   He requires us to agree with the popes, but, when talking about "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ" which is part of the normal vocabulary of the Charismatic Renewal, no mention is made of the fact that all three popes have expressed agreement on the value of that movement.  It is as though the Charismatic Renewal does not exist. Pope Francis only said recently that the Charismatic Renewal is God's gift to the Church, along with many others as well, of course.

Then there is ecumenism, something of great importance to all three popes, as well as the Vatican Council.   He quotes Pope Francis that we cannot have Jesus without the Catholic Church; but this must be seen in the light of the strong relationship he had with evangelicals in Buenos Aires and his clear commitment to ecumenism as pope, especially with the Orthodox.   When ecumenism is ignored, then these statements from the pope about the necessity of the Church are simply misunderstood.  

 Pope Francis was actually prayed over by Evangelicals at his request before leaving Buenos Aires to be elected pope, certainly the first pope-to-be ever to do this.

One incident in the World Youth Day in Rio that did not get into the papers was told me by some Dominican Sisters who were there.   The Pope was going from one WYD activity to another, and they happened to pass an Evangelical chapel that was in full swing.   He stopped the car and entered.   They must have been surprised to see the Pope enter the chapel.   He spoke a few words to the congregation and asked them to pray for him and then left to continue his journey.  At least, that is what two American Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia told me, as they travelled back to America via Peru.

 Here is a short article from First Things on the relation between Pope Francis and Evangelicals - there are other similar articles by both Catholics and Protestants.

Luis Palau, an Argentine-born evangelist who has in many ways taken up the mantle of Billy Graham, speaks of his friendship with Pope Francis:
One day I said to him, ‘You seem to love the Bible a lot,’ and he said, ‘You know, my financial manager [for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires] … is an evangelical Christian.’ I said, ‘Why would that be?’ And he said, ‘Well, I can trust him, and we spend hours reading the Bible and praying and drinking maté [an Argentine green tea].’ People do that with their friends, share and pass the mate, and every day when he was in town, which was often, after lunch he and his financial manager would sit together, read the Bible, pray, and drink maté. To me, he was making a point [about his relationship with evangelicals] by telling me that: trust and friendship.
Palau predicts that Pope Francis’ facility with Evangelical-style spontaneous prayer will shape his papacy:

You know he knew God the father personally. The way he prayed, the way he talked to the Lord, was of a man who knows Jesus Christ and was very spiritually intimate with the Lord. It’s not an effort [for him] to pray. He didn’t do reading prayers; he just prayed to the Lord spontaneously. It is a sign that good things will happen worldwide in the years of his papal work.
Francis’ spontaneity—already on display in the first days of his papacy—resonates with Evangelical Protestants but is in its way deeply Catholic. As R.R. Reno observed on Francis’ election, Jesuits “break the rules,” which helps explain why Francis “took the name of the most severe critic of the papacy before Martin Luther [and] bowed to receive the crowd’s blessing.” Protestants see one of their own in the new pope, which might prompt a Catholic to say that much of what we see as Protestant can be found more fully realized and rightly oriented in the heart of the Church.
 Such a statement as that quoted by Michael Voris that it is impossible to have Jesus Christ without the Catholic Church can be interpreted in two ways.   It can be interpreted exclusively, that only in the Catholic Church as an institution is there grace, and outside there is none.   This view was condemned by Pope Pius XII when he excommunicated Fr Feeney, a Jesuit, for saying exactly that.   The other is Catholic teaching, the one held by Pius XII and Vatican II, and is inclusive.   It is that anyone who has a relationship with Christ is also related to the Church, even if he does not realise this, even if he can't stand the Catholic Church, because the Church is Christ's body inseparable from its head. Hence, we are all brothers and sisters and already belong to one another, whether we like it or not: it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not ours.   Pope Francis treats Protestants as brothers and sisters in this way, and he finds it natural to ask them to pray for him as he prays for them.

  Because Michael Voris does not make this distinction, his statement is - to use his own vocabulary -  ambiguous and murky.   We are now ready to comment directly on this video.

He says that we must treat the phrase "a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" with much caution because, in it, there is more emphasis on the human being than on Jesus Christ.

This is not the case if the "personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" is genuine, authentic.  I am sure that Michael Voris will recognise that a person talking of this relationship with Jesus can do so authentically.  It is of the very nature of a relationship with Christ that we put Christ first, so that "Christ lives in me".   It is also true that great emphasis on Christian Joy can be authentic too: there was joy in the eyes of the Roman martyrs as they went to their deaths.   There was a wild, "happy clappy" joy at the beginning of Sunday Mass as the congregation greeted the entrance of St Basil and St Augustine in the time of the Fathers, so much so that they had difficulty starting!   Joy is the theme of the first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

 That both the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus" and the emphasis on Christian joy are used authentically has been recognised by Pope Francis and his two predecessors in their approval of the Charismatic Renewal and the World Youth Day, both of which are characterised by expressions of joy.

However, I must admit that there is a relationship with Christ that is too egocentric to be real; and there is a joy that is a mere reaction to being immersed in a crowd, with sentimental music, preachers with great acting skills, a holy atmosphere etc, conversions that don't last; but there are real, stable conversions too, even in evangelical mega-churches.

   Once is is admitted that there are people with a profound Christian joy that arises from a genuine relationship with Christ, whether they be Catholics, Orthodox or Protestant, who is Michael Voris to judge?   In fact, the Desert Fathers were very much afraid of the sin of judging others.   They knew that, in our way to sanctity, each level of Christian life has its own typical sin.   The same God, they said, who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not judge."   We do not have the authority to judge others , but it is the typical sin of those who are seeking holiness without yet loving God  with everything they have and are, and without yet loving their neighbour as Christ loves him, and that means us.   They taught that it is one of the easiest sins to commit, but that it can render our own Christianity inauthentic.   So, watch out, Michael Voris!

Another question I would like to put to Michael Voris is, why pick on those who speak of a personal relationship with Christ for criticism?   What can be said of evangelical campaigns can also be said of Lourdes - though, for me, I love the authenticity of Lourdes; but that does not mean I believe in every pilgrim who goes there; and people can be moved in a superficial way on pilgrimage.  Moreover, conservative, traditionalist Catholics can also live inauthentic Christian lives. We all can!

  It is quite usual for someone who begins his spiritual life with a superficial imitation of other people; but, when the moment of grace arrives, becomes authentic.   It is true, in fact, that all of us are inauthentic to the degree we are not yet saints.  We move from inauthentic to authentic as we grow in holiness, as do "faithful Catholics".   We are not in a position to say we are not like other people: we are, but know God loves us!   That is the only thing we can be sure of, but it is Good News indeed.

In the light of all this, people who talk of "we traditional Catholics" as though they are a cut above the rest are, at best, simply immature and, at worst, pharisees.   When our religion is not shot through with humble love, the fruit of prayer, it becomes, as Pope Francis has said, a mere ideology. St Gregory of Nyssa puts it more strongly, "Orthodoxy without charity is the religion of the devil."   Think about it: the devil KNOWS the whole Catholic faith, but he knows it without love.   This love embraces the whole of the human race, and is completely incompatible with contempt for whole classes and groups of people.

In my next post on "What is wrong with Michael Voris?"   we shall look at his version of Pope Francis as found in a recent video.

Tuesday 26 November 2013


     Understanding the great need for spiritual renewal, Blessed John Paul the Great called the Church once to reconnect with the mystical traditions. In doing so, he encouraged reading the teachings of saints associated with the western contemplative traditions. The holy father even said that those who would bring spiritual renewal in our churches would be contemplatives(the New Evangelists). There has been a strong response to his call in the Catholic Church over time. In fact, the resources to tap into the western contemplative teachings since then almost seem endless. However, its important as Byzantines that we respond to this call by also looking at our own mystical traditions. We have a rich tradition called Hesychasm and it has much to offer to the spiritual renewal of our churches.

     In its traditional understanding Hesychasm is defined as the pursuit of stillness(hesychia) in Jesus Christ. It's also commonly known to be a tradition that has flourished in the context of Byzantine monastic communities. Basically, Hesychasm is a way for the (whole) person to experience God by achieving stillness (hesychia). In the teachings associated with Hesychasm, such as in the Philokalia, there are different systems that incorporate mental as well as physical activity. These systems help to purify a person, making them able to achieve 'stillness' and experience God continually. For example, in the most common practice associated with Hesychasm, the Jesus Prayer, the body as well as mind are engaged in the work of purification. The purification takes place in the body through recitation and in the mind by its focus on God. Its in hope that through these continual actions the (whole) person will grow in their experience of God.

     The activities used for purification in the tradition of Hesychasm are very diverse. You will find different fathers speaking about different activities to use in prayer and in daily life. However, even though there is diversity its important to understand the activities as synergistic, and not just as mere methods. Every action in purification, physical or mental, has a dual character. On one end its your own effort, but, on the other it is the work of God. This goes to demonstrate that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit(1 Corinthians 3:9), since in a temple there are always two at work, both God and man. This is a vital distinction to have because many times the actions Hesychasts employ are equated to practices in non-Christian religions or even therapeutic techniques. The difference rests in the fact that by working with the Holy Spirit we can give divinizing power and meaning to any action.

     In contrast to what can be found in the western contemplative traditions there are a few things worth noting. The activities used to prepare one for encountering God are not always of the same nature. In fact, in the west discursive techniques are often abandoned ,such as meditation, when a state of contemplation is achieved. The activities used are even often referred to as "the work" to get to the state. In Hesychasm the activates used in the traditions do not have the form of preparing a person for a state. As I said they are synergistic and remain a normal part of a lifestyle of ongoing purification and encounter. On the other hand, what the two traditions do have in common are moments of immersion in God where our activities do cease. It's in these moments that St. Seraphim of Sarov once said that we "cease to pray" and enjoy the presence of God.

     There will always be moments in the life of prayer in any tradition when God chooses to bless us as St. Seraphim described. However, these moments are not the goal in Hesychasm. The goal is to grow daily in experiencing who God is by becoming what He is through grace. The ongoing purification practiced by the Hesychast allows for a more and more richer experience of divinity in every aspect of what we are. For example, when my mind looks to Christ it is becoming Christ and when I do many prostrations my body is becoming Christ. In essence, Hesychasm is a very special way to live out our Byzantine tradition of Theosis. In fact, Hesychasm itself was birthed overtime from Byzantine spirituality and remains our most developed spiritual tradition.
     In his vision Blessed John Paul the Great saw the renewal of our Church coming from modern contemplatives. In translating this vision into our Byzantine tradition we can say that the renewal of our churches will have their foundation in the New Hesychasts. The New Hesychast unlike the old must be a person who can learn to incorporate this spirituality into all modern circumstances. This can only happen if we learn to take the teachings of Hesychasm, such as in the Philokalia, beyond the walls of the monastery and into ordinary life. It was never to be a tradition for specialized monastic and needs to be rediscovered and renewed in order to fuel the spiritual renewal that we all wish to see.
     Just like the western contemplative tradition, that Blessed John Paul the Great spoke of, Hesychasm can be a vital resource for renewal. Also, Hesychasm can be very simple. You can even be someone who works in front of a computer all day, stay at home parent, or even a garbage man. All you have to do is ask God to purify you through the action. It then becomes synergistic. You are exercising hope doing your best in the task (seeking hesychia) and He is making a way for you to become what HE is. This is no different than when we stand for long hours in prayer except in that there is a different level of intensity or intimacy. There is no part of the day that cannot lead us to encounter God! When St. Athanasius wrote "God became man so that men might become gods" he did not add "only on Sundays" or "clergy only". This was a saying for all people, of all times, and every moment. Through the practice of Hesychasm we can become what God is and be the vessels of renewal our churches desperately need.

(Note: for those who don't understand the Byzantine tradition on divinization. Man does not become another person of the Trinity. He participates in what God is making him a god by grace and never by nature. We are not born eternal beings but become so by participation in what God is. As it says in 2peter 1:4 "you may become partakers of the divine nature")

Sunday 24 November 2013


Christ the King                                                                     Oxford, 24th November 2013
Homily by Dom Alex Echeandía

“This is the king of the Jews”
As we come to this final Sunday of the Church’s year, the Church herself gives us the vision of Christ as King of the Universe. 
Let us start by asking what kind of king Christ is and how he exercises his power. “The King of the Jews”, as it was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, and proclaimed to the world at the crucifixion, was the title given by Pilate to Jesus after his discussion with him. Jesus admits that he is a king in reply to Pilate’s question: Yes, I am a king, and he continues:  I was born for this: to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of the truth listen to my word. However, people did not listen to Jesus and refused this truth because they were expecting a different kingship. This is reflected in what the priests said, “We have no king but Cesar.” So, this authoritative public figure of kingship, the Messiah announced by the prophets, was conceived as highly worthy of the highest dignity.
The first reading not surprisingly talks about a king coming from the house of Israel. Here the people see David as leader, shepherd and king, the role given him by God. They identify with him when they say, “Look, we are your own flesh and blood.” Is this figure of kingship the same as that of the One hanging on the cross? 
The problem lies in that Jesus seems powerless. The prophet Isaiah foretold that the events of the passion would leave him no dignity at all. He was dressed as a king in royal purple, but only to show mockery; he was crowned with thorns rather than gold and jewels; instead of a triumphant procession, he carried a cross; and instead of sitting on a throne, he was hung and nailed to that cross and people looked upon him from afar.
It is at this point that he manifests the fullness of his new kingship as shepherd, leader and king, and it is far greater than David’s. In one of his sermons, St Augustine contrasts the attitude of hopelessness among Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion with the Good Thief's eagerness to learn to hope in Christ. Augustine says that the disciples had forgotten their Master whereas the Good Thief had found his. He says, “That cross was a classroom; that is where the Teacher taught the thief; the cross he was hanging on became the chair from which he taught.” So the cross becomes a throne for the king, teacher and shepherd of his people.  
What we see in the cross is a man mocked as king. The posing of a worldly kingship is mocked, but as the Crucified, Jesus reigns from the cross and reveals his self-giving love to the last drop of his blood. It is the crucified Lord, the worthy Lamb slain of the Apocalypse, who receives power, strength, honour and glory from God. The Firstborn of all creation set us free from slavery to sin and has the power to draw all mankind to Himself and to his kingdom. 
With a king comes a kingdom, because Christ the King cannot be inseparable from the Kingdom of God. This kingdom is not of this world, he tells Pilate, and now, from the cross, he tells the thief that he will be with him in paradise. The King, Shepherd and Master leads his people, leads us all, not to a new political period or a new age of earthly riches and prosperity, but to a kingdom of light, truth and love, where things are restored through the King of the Universe. He is the True King, as St Paul tells us in the second reading, not only because he is the first-born of all creation, but because he is the first-born of the re-creation as well. He rose from the dead, making everything new. A divine and human reality has begun for us through Christ’s death on the cross. 
By acknowledging the Crucified Lord, by whom we were created and re-created, may God bring us the fruits of this reconciliation throughout the new liturgical year and enable us to share in his kingship, that began at our baptism, to serve our God and Father. On our part, let us allow the King of the Universe make us new here and now through his Body and Blood, shared at this Eucharist.

Saturday 23 November 2013



The royal banners forward go,
The cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.

Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood,
Where mingled water flowed, and blood.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old,
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and triumphed from the tree.

O tree of beauty, tree of light!
O tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest.

Blest tree, whose chosen branches bore
The wealth that did the world restore,
The price of humankind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

Upon its arms, like balance true,
He weighed the price for sinners due,
The price which none but He could pay,
And spoiled the spoiler of his prey.

O cross, our one reliance, hail!
Still may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

To Thee, eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done:
As by the cross Thou dost restore,
So rule and guide us evermore.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - 
We commonly hear Protestants--usually of the Evangelical or Southern Baptist tradition--proclaim the dogma of "once saved, always saved." This doctrine is called the doctrine of the "preservation of the saints" or the doctrine of "eternal security." It is usually traced to the Protestant Reformer John Calvin. For many Protestants, the "once saved, always saved" dogma is a sincerely felt--but deeply erroneous and unscriptural--belief that the Gospel teaches that accepting Jesus as one's Lord and Savior gives one what they call the assurance of salvation. A corollary of this unfortunate doctrine is that nothing one does from that point--even a heinous sin--can take away that salvation. Nothing. Since we didn't earn salvation by being good, we can't lose salvation by being bad. Basically, it is the view that once we say "yes" to God, we can never say "no." Either that or the "nos" to God make no difference in our relationship with God at least insofar as it relates to our salvation. John Henry Newman--even while Protestant--rejected this doctrine, calling it in one of his sermons an "error," a "deceit," one stemming from the "shallowness of religion," or even "a blinded conscience." These are very harsh words by a verbal craftsman who was of a very judicious bent. Even while still a Protestant, Newman rejected a Christianity that revolved around "any particular time when you renounced the world (as it is called), and were converted." This is a reference to a "once saved, always saved" theology of salvation. Newman, a man deeply sensitive to the inner life of conscience and deeply versed in scripture understood within the light of tradition, emphatically rejected the "once saved, always saved" dogma with very strong words. This is a dogma which points to a "particular time" where salvation is got, and then leaves it at that. For Newman who had his feet surely planted in the Gospel and in the inner promptings of conscience which was the voice of God found within man, salvation is not a painting, a still picture, an instant in time in one's life--but a drama, a series of pictures, a process in time throughout one's whole life. We must constantly be converted to the Lord Jesus, not just once, but daily. In the Lord's Prayer, we ask for our "daily bread," our panem quotidianum. Is our turning to Christ, the giver of that bread of life, to be any less quotidian? It is not sufficient to say "yes" to Christ once and then take leave. Our task is to become incorporated into Christ himself so as to develop in us the mind, the attitude which was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). And what is this mind of Jesus, this attitude of Jesus to which we must strive? Jesus, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "was not 'yes' and 'no,' but 'yes' has been in him." Non fuit est et non, sed est in illo fuit. (2 Cor. 1:19) Christ's being was all in God, was in fact God. There was no part of his being, including his human nature, which was not in God. He was all "yes" unto God. The Gospel insists that as Christians we must strive like Christ to be all "yes" unto God, so that there be no admixture of "yes" and "no" in us. St. Paul tells the Philippians that to live is Christ and to die to oneself is gain (Cf. Phil. 1:21). To live is Christ is to say all "yes" to Christ. To die to self, to say "no" to self which means to say "yes" to Christ, is gain. Among all mankind, Mary most perfectly imitated Jesus. She, "our tainted nature's solitary boast," was all "yes" unto God. Her "yes," which lasted from the first moment of conception until the end of her earthly life and assumption into heaven never had the least "no" to it. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum said the one whose name was "full of grace" and who was worthy to bear God and give him the mantle of human flesh. "Be it done unto me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) These words of Mary are the words of someone who is all "yes" unto God. These are the words of someone who understood that to live is Christ. It is this attitude which was in Christ the Redeemer and in Mary, the one perfectly redeemed, which must be in us. None of us can say we are all "yes" unto God throughout our lives. If we say we have no sin in us, if we say we have not said "no" to God, we deceive ourselves. (1 John 1:8). Every time we sin, especially a mortal sin, we say "no" to God. A mortal sin is a categorical "no" to God which entirely negates any prior "yes." A venial sin is a lesser "no" which mars, but does not negate the "yes" unto God. Anyone who has examined his conscience honestly after a fall into a mortal sin will recognize how the "no" to God involved in choosing a particular act, whether out of weakness or, worse, intentionally, shuts God out of the picture. We close the door on God, and he has been excluded from the drama of our life. Does a man who looks at pornography on the internet to assuage his lust, or one decides to have an adulterous affair, or one who talks his wife into aborting their child have any "yes" to God left in him when he makes such choices and acts upon them? If such a man looks honestly into his soul and does not rely upon some shallow dogma of "once saved, always saved," he will confront the horrible reality that engaging in mortal sin, with knowledge and consent, is an entrance into a horrible darkness that leaves a damned spot in the soul. And that darkness, that dark spot, stays in the soul, though one may neglect it or even forget it. And there the spot festers, suppurating, befouling the soul. "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" says the conscience, and yet it can do nothing about it on its own. The conscience cannot forgive itself. And the furies of conscience whirl about the iner mountains of the soul, the cliffs of fall as Gerard Manley Hopkins called them, while the fate of our soul, which has said "no" to God, hangs at the balance. But forgetfulness, either through neglect or through suppression, does not out the spot. Reliance on a past "yes" of ours is of no avail. The darkness can only be overcome by a return, by a renewed "yes," to the merciful God to whom one has said "no." While we have the ability to say "no" to God--which is something with us till our dying day--we cannot have assurance of salvation, unless through some sort of special revelation. And yet we are not therefore compelled to despair. This is because God gives us the grace to say "yes" anew to him. "In one sense, indeed, you may take comfort from the first," Newman says, as "from the first you know [God] desires your salvation, has died for you, has washed away your sins by baptism, and will ever help you; and this thought must cheer you while you go on to examine and review your lives, and to turn to God in self-denial." But this cheer and this hope we have is different from assurance of salvation. Newman continues to tell his flock that "you never can be sure of salvation, while you are here; and therefore you must always fear while you hope." To believe in "once saved, always saved" is not authentic Christianity, but a corrupt form of it, one rejected by the Church in various ways, but most notably by the Council of Trent in its Decree on Justification. As Aidan Nichols explains it in his excellent book The Shape of Catholic Theology, the Council of Trent saw the "supernaturalized life," as "life lived under grace in faith, hope, and love," and therefore presented "a more complex and subtle picture," than the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of the Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin. As Aidan Nichols explains it, the life of a Christian travels between "two poles." In the drama of the Christian life, one pole is "absolute confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, mediated to us through Christ via the sacraments of the Church." The other pole is "a fearful recognition of our weakness, the permanent possibility that we may reject this goodness and mercy." For this reason, the "Catholic experience of justification would consist in an unconditional trust in the help of God, but within this trust, a genuine fear of separating oneself from God." This leads to "a conscious effort of union with God in prayer and penance." This is authentic Christianity, in the words of Newman, "the true Christian state" of life. As Newman describes it, an authentic Christian life will have the following dramatic elements: "A deep resignation to God's will, a surrender of ourselves, soul and body, to Him; hoping indeed, that we shall be saved, but fixing our eyes more earnestly on Him than on ourselves; that is, acting for His glory, seeking to please Him, devoting ourselves to Him in all manly obedience and strenuous good works; and, when we do look within, thinking of ourselves with a certain abhorrence and contempt as being sinners, mortifying our flesh, scourging our appetites, and composedly awaiting that time when, if we be worthy, we shall be stripped of our present selves, and new made in the kingdom of Christ." Look at the action words that Newman uses: resigning, surrendering, hoping, fixing our eyes upon, acting, seeking, devoting, working, looking within, thinking, mortifying, scourging, awaiting . . . . This is a marriage with Christ, not a one-night stand with Christ. That's the true Gospel, a dramatic life in Christ, not an instantaneous "once saved, always saved" experience. Newman famously said that "in heaven, love will absorb fear; but in this world, fear and love must go together." And for that reason, "fear and love must go together; always fear, always love, to your dying day." These are the words of a true Christian sentiment, and they are at the heart of the Christian drama: always fear, always love, to your dying day

. ----- Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com. ---


my source: Adoremus
  The Foundations of Liturgical Reform

by Francis Cardinal George

Editor's note: As we reported in the December-January Adoremus Bulletin , in observance of the anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium , the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Liturgy, a day-long conference sponsored by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) was held at the Vatican on December 4, 2003.

The conference, which featured several speakers, opened with the reading of the new Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, which begins with the phrase from the Book of Revelation, "The Spirit and the Bride" . The Letter, published in AB February 2004 , calls for an "examination of conscience" concerning the reception of Sacrosanctum Concilium . The Holy Father asks bishops and liturgists to build on the "riches" of the reform while also pruning "serious abuses" with "prudent firmness".
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago gave the initial address at the conference. Cardinal George, who heads the US Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, is a member of the CDW and is US representative to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which provides English-language liturgical texts. His address, which focuses on the philosophical background and foundation of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, is reprinted here with the cardinal's kind permission.
The fortieth anniversary of the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium has prompted a flurry of meetings, discussions and symposia. It remains a document of keen interest to us because of the central and crucial role of the Liturgy in the life of the Church. The subject is broad and vast, however, and difficult to summarize in a forty-minute presentation. Other bishops, extremely competent in the field of Liturgy, have already treated this topic: I am thinking in particular of Bishop Tena Garriga, auxiliary of Barcelona, who gave a masterful address on Sacrosanctum Concilium in this very aula in the year 2000, in the context of the Jubilee Year celebrations.1 Quite recently, Cardinal [Angelo] Sodano, in a letter to the participants of the Italian National Liturgy Week (August 25-29, 2003) also gave an overview of Sacrosanctum Concilium, listing a number of areas of research that remain to be explored, namely, the relationship between:
1. creativity and fidelity
2. spiritual worship and life
3. catechesis and the celebration of the Mystery
4. presiding at the Liturgy and the role of the congregation
5. seminary formation and the continuing formation of priests.2
There remains yet another aspect of the liturgical reform that requires further study, the anthropological aspect. For this presentation, I think it might be fruitful to sketch out some of the main questions that present themselves in the philosophical and anthropological areas of the liturgical reform. It is my hope that the questions thus formulated might spark investigations that are more scholarly and in-depth in an area that requires inter-disciplinary collaboration. This approach also brings to the fore many pastoral considerations that have arisen from liturgical change.
My own belief is that liturgical renewal after the Council was treated as a program or movement for change, without enough thought being given to what happens in any community when its symbol system is disrupted. The liturgical calendar, for example is the place where time and eternity meet, when our experience or duration transcends itself through contact with the Creator of time and history. To change the liturgical calendar means to change our way of relating to God. Since time also conditions thinking for embodied spirits, whose reasoning entails a return to a phantasm, the doctrines of the Church's faith, the thinking of the Church, will also be considered differently when liturgical time is changed. Pastorally, every bishop has been asked: "Since we no longer recognize certain saints on the Church's calendar, why can't the Church correct her teaching on sexual morality, on women's ordination and on other difficult doctrines?"
A change in space, in architecture and in the placement of altars and other liturgical furnishings, has similar effect, as has a change in language, which carries and conditions our thinking and evaluating. A change in Liturgy changes the context of the Church's life. Recently, introducing the changes mandated by the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal (third typical edition), I remarked that the changes were "minor". A lay woman of the Archdiocese of Chicago corrected me: "Cardinal, there are no minor changes in Liturgy". She is correct.
I would like to raise the question here in order to clarify the presuppositions of liturgical change and so to advance the liturgical renewal with self-conscious attention to the pastoral context as well as to liturgical theory. The questions are raised not to bring the renewal itself into question but to strengthen its call to the Church and its effects in the Church. This presentation will be guided by two questions: 1) Who is the subject of the Liturgy? and 2) How does that subject participate in the Liturgy? I will look at the subject from three more or less different angles: theological, philosophical and anthropological, in each case asking what has yet to be explored.
The subject of the Liturgy considered from a theological point of view
A. Who is the subject of the Liturgy?
Sacrosanctum Concilium 7, continuing in the tradition of Mediator Dei [Pope Pius XII's 1947 encyclical on the Liturgy], defines the Liturgy as the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. Hence it is the whole Christ, Head and members who are the subject of the Liturgy. The text goes on to say that the earthly Liturgy is a participation in the heavenly one (SC 8); this affirmation expands the subject of the Liturgy to include the heavenly host of angels and all the saints. Since the first section of Sacrosanctum Concilium (the nature of the Liturgy and its significance in the life of the Church) is deliberately brief, these very important points are not further developed. Aspects of the theology of the Liturgy were taken up again in Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum, and the area of liturgical theology has been the subject of serious reflection in the last forty years.
The greatest magisterial development of this issue, however, can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This surely fits under the category of development of doctrine, because the Catechism's treatment of the subject of the Liturgy takes a significant step forward that is at once disarmingly simple and wonderfully profound. The Liturgy is Opus Trinitatis, the work of the Holy Trinity (CCC 1077, title).3
While Sacrosanctum Concilium focuses on the Christological aspect of the Liturgy, the new Catechism meditates at length on the role of the Father and of the Holy Spirit as well. In fact, it is the relatively lengthy section on the Holy Spirit (CCC 1091-1109) which makes a remarkable contribution to a new Trinitarian understanding of the Liturgy. While the Catechism cites Sacrosanctum Concilium 8 verbatim on the heavenly Liturgy (CCC 1090), it also goes a step further by devoting nine paragraphs (CCC 1136-1144) to the question "Who celebrates the Liturgy?"
First of all there are the celebrants of the heavenly Liturgy: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the persons of the Trinity are the primary actors in the Liturgy. Then come the heavenly powers, all creation, biblical saints, the martyrs, the all-holy Mother of God and the great multitude of the elect. The earthly Liturgy exists not by itself, but in relation to the heavenly Liturgy. The celebrants of the sacramental Liturgy include the entire Body of Christ extending through time and space, then the local celebrating assembly, ordered hierarchically in such a way that each person has his proper role.
Clarity about the theological subject of the Liturgy is crucial. In the post-conciliar period, a limited understanding of the "People of God" has often led to a limited, horizontal concept of the subject of the Liturgy. Hence it is extremely important that this wonderfully complete vision of the Liturgy, earthly united to heavenly, become better known and then internalized and lived.
B. Theologically, how does the earthly Liturgy participate in the heavenly Liturgy?
The question of participation is perhaps the overriding preoccupation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. The text refers over and over again to a participation which is sciens, actuosa, fructuosa, conscia, plena, pia, facilis, interna, externa, and so on. But how does that participation take place?4
Here the conciliar document is rather reticent. Here also the last forty years have given us examples of participation which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Once again, it is the Catechism which makes significant strides in this area. The Church participates in the Liturgy by synergy. This idea comes from the fruitful synthesis of Father Jean Corbon, whose insights in his book The Wellspring of Worship5 ... appear later in the Catechism. Participation is the common work or synergy between divine initiative and human response. The agent who makes participation possible is the Holy Spirit. "When the Spirit encounters in us the response of faith which He has aroused in us, He brings about genuine cooperation. Through it, the Liturgy becomes the common work of the Holy Spirit and the Church" (CCC 1091).
The Holy Spirit prepares the faithful for the reception of Christ (CCC 1093-1098), recalls the mystery of Christ (CCC 1099-1103), makes present the mystery of Christ (CCC 1104-1107) and brings about that communion which is an anticipation of the fullness of communion with the Holy Trinity (CCC 1107-1109). In fact, the most intimate cooperation, or synergy, of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the Liturgy (CCC 1108). Without insistent reference to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Eucharist might easily come to be imagined as a recreation of the Last Supper, a sort of memorial tableau, rather than a re-presentation in unbloody, symbolic forms of the sacrifice of Calvary.
In the Magisterium of the Church -- in particular in Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church -- the liturgical subject is clearly delineated from a theological point of view, and the question of participation at its most profound theological level is wonderfully illustrated. Much remains to be done to communicate this teaching more effectively and to internalize it, but the teaching itself is clear.
What is less clear is its philosophical underpinnings. Under this rubric we will consider the nature of the human person who celebrates the Liturgy.
The subject of the Liturgy considered from a philosophical point of view
A. Who is the personal subject of the Liturgy?
The human person as the subject of the Liturgy can be considered philosophically from three points of view. First, Sacrosanctum Concilium refers to the individual subject of the Liturgy simply as homo. It is clear that the text is referring to man as such, in a generic sense. The fields of study here are the philosophy of man and epistemology. The questions are: what is the nature of the human person and how does he know? These are areas which the Council did not have explicitly on its agenda.
Secondly, Sacrosanctum Concilium also uses the term fidelis [faithful], or man as a Christian believer. The discipline here is theological anthropology; the conciliar constitution, Gaudium et Spes, took some first steps but their use of terms such as "modern man" and "the modern world" lack a clearly defined framework for their interpretation, a lack that has had unfortunate effect for the development of liturgical forms in the postmodern mass culture (See Tracey Rowland, Culture and the Thomist Tradition after Vatican II, pp. 18-21, 168). In this situation the question becomes more specific: how does the believer know divine realities?
Thirdly, anthropologists have coined the phrase homo liturgicus, since we are dealing with man as he lives and acts in a liturgical context. This is a new category of philosophical investigation, unknown to the Council Fathers, where the waters are not yet completely charted. The philosophical question now is: how does man, who believes, know divine realities as communicated in the Liturgy?6
These questions point to vast and complex fields of study, the investigation of which is urgently needed in order to be in a better position to address contemporary questions of liturgical reform. We can do no more than give a brief historical sketch here of some of the main themes in these areas of philosophical anthropology and note the questions they raise.
1. Pauline anthropology
Saint Paul's letters reveal a sophisticated anthropology, although difficult to put into a system. He speaks of the various constitutive elements of the human person as soma (body), sarx (flesh), psyche (soul), pneuma (spirit), nous (mind), and kardia (heart). How does the Christian, considered under these polyvalent aspects, know the world around him? How does he grasp the things of God?
2. Patristic anthropology
In patristic ascetical theology, one frequently finds a description of the soul as tri-partite: the logikon or rational part, the thumikon or irascible part, and the epithumikon or concupiscible part. How does man, understood in this way, respond to the exterior world? How does he apprehend reality, if not by means of reason, emotion and sense perception? Here is a classic synthesis that will remain a constant point of reference throughout the centuries.
3. Thomistic anthropology
When Saint Thomas asks the question of the specific powers of the soul (I, q.78, a.1), he takes the triple distinction of the tradition (the soul described as rational, sensitive and vegetative) and develops it with extraordinary subtlety and insight. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, we can say that the vegetative part includes nutritive, augmentative and generative elements; the sensitive part includes the five exterior senses as well as five interior senses (common sense, fantasy, imagination, and the estimative and memorative senses); and the intellectual part includes such aspects as memory, understanding, and will.
It would be worthwhile for his tightly ordered reasoning to be unpacked and explained for the sake of the non-specialist, for here is a very sophisticated analysis of how man knows, how he perceives both interior realities and the exterior world in which he lives. This kind of philosophical reasoning could be very helpful in trying to understand how homo liturgicus perceives natural and supernatural realities.7
4. Enlightenment anthropology
In terms of epistemology, the Enlightenment rationalist position affirms that reason alone is the source of knowledge and the ultimate test of truth. Revelation as a specific source of knowledge is denied. Human powers other than reason, such as sense perception, imagination and intuition are downplayed. While positive elements of rationalist thought can be seen in a rejection of prejudice, ignorance and superstition, the logical consequences of the rationalist position sooner or later lead to the profound secularization experienced in the western world today.
A moderate Enlightenment position would grant worship some role in human life, since religion has as its purpose, according to this point of view, the inculcation of moral virtue. Thus religious instruction, not the worship of God, was seen as the central point of church services. The Liturgy thus risks being reduced to a pedagogical aid.
There are studies today in German8 and English9 which argue that the roots of the 20th-century liturgical movement, and hence of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms as well, lie in the Enlightenment, with all the attendant positive and negative consequences. These studies merit serious attention.
For our purposes, the question here is how man, understood in this rationalistic sense, interacts with the world and understands supernatural realities.
5. Romantic anthropology
It is not surprising that the extraordinary force of Enlightenment thought would provoke an equal and opposite reaction. The Romantic response was to emphasize all those things that rationalism denied: sense experience, imagination, intuition, sentiment. This experiential emphasis became the hallmark of a new movement in art and literature. In the life of the Church, the positive aspects of this movement were a rediscovery of the Medieval period, a new God-centeredness, and a high theology of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. Romanticism is not without its negative consequences, however, such as piety without dogma, subjectivism, an exaggerated emphasis on feeling, and a kind of deification of "cosmic nature". How does man know? The romantic answer might be: He feels.
6. Contemporary period
The contemporary period seems to be heir to this dichotomy between the Enlightenment and Romantic movements. The dominant view is still a rationalist one, but the vigor of the romantic reaction is striking. It is ironic that the Holy Father, in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, would have to defend reason itself in the face of a massive movement of popular culture toward New Age spiritualism. In the area of the Liturgy, this same dichotomy finds expression in a multitude of ways. The reality is a complex one, different in different places, but liturgical polarization between a rationalist and a romantic position is common, and few people have the tools necessary to move beyond the present impasse.10
A curious concept which seems to be in the air we breathe, an idea born of evolutionary theories and the experience of scientific progress in the 19th and 20th centuries, is that man is always progressing, getting better and better. The myth of human progress replaces salvation history. It is said that modern man is more advanced than in ages past, and therefore cannot be understood according to categories of earlier times. While it is true that technological changes have revolutionized the way we live, how true is it that the nature of man has changed?
Sacrosanctum Concilium can give the impression of ambiguity in this regard, referring frequently to the need to adapt liturgical structures and forms to the needs of our time (SC 1), to contemporary needs and circumstances (SC 4). It is also necessary to explore the question of how man needs to adapt to the demands of the Liturgy, as well as how Liturgy adapts to the demands of modern man.
B. How does the personal subject participate in the Liturgy?
Given the polyvalent reality which is man, and the difficulties of formulating how the individual subject knows, it is with some caution that we approach the topic philosophically of how the human person participates in the Liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium appears to set up a dual approach. First of all, the Christian people must understand, then they will be able to participate.
Words most frequently used for understanding are intellegere and percipere. To foster this understanding, there is a heavy emphasis on catechesis and instruction (cf. SC 35/3). Our understanding of the Liturgy should be readily accessible or easy (facile) (cf. SC 21, 50, 59, 79, etc.). If we apply the tri-partite anthropology discussed earlier, it seems that the conciliar text is emphasizing a rational understanding of ritus et preces. The aspect of intuition and imagination is not discussed, nor the apprehension of reality by sense experience. In all fairness it should be said that Sacrosanctum Concilium does not pretend to give an exhaustive treatment of liturgical epistemology, nor could the Council Fathers have possibly imagined the pastoral situations that would arise in subsequent years which would require a more nuanced and sophisticated treatment of this topic.
By understanding the Liturgy more easily, so the reasoning goes, the Christian believer is better able to participate in it. While the conciliar text mentions interior as well as exterior participation (SC 19), and states that sacred silence is also a form of participation (SC 30), the emphasis is on verbal response and physical gesture (SC 30), and in fact, the post-conciliar experience is one of an extremely verbal Liturgy with much activity going on. The more profound understanding of participation, not in the external, visible sense, but in the sacramental, internal and invisible dimension11 is not elaborated by Sacrosanctum Concilium.
What is needed, therefore, is a more unified vision of man and a more profound understanding of liturgical participation. The human person understands the Liturgy by means of reason, without a doubt. The best and brightest intellect has ample material for reflection in the rich complex of truths which the Liturgy expresses. At the same time, the human person experiences the Liturgy through emotion and feeling, through an aesthetic appreciation of beauty, through the intuitive making of connections, through associations which take place on the subliminal level. This kind of human knowing should not be undervalued. And finally, man experiences the Liturgy through the five senses, which is the human foundation of the sacramental system. This sensory experience has the capacity to open up spiritual realities, as the famous text of Tertullian says:
The body is washed so that the soul may be freed from its stains; the body is anointed, so that the soul too may be consecrated; the body is signed, so that the soul too may be strengthened.12
In addition to a renewed philosophical investigation of the nature of man and how he participates in the Liturgy, a third field of study which is extremely important is that of cultural anthropology.
The subject of the Liturgy from the point of view of cultural anthropology
A. Who is the subject of the Liturgy?
The cultural anthropologist examines not only the individual subject, but also the communal subject of the Liturgy, that is, the ritual assembly. In the Liturgy the celebrating community is usually a heterogeneous gathering of people: old and young, rich and poor, "male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile" (as Saint Paul would say), from every level of society, gathered together not because of some common human element, but because God, who transcends every human category, calls them together. For such an unlikely combination of people to act together as one, something extraordinary must take place. From the theological point of view, what happens is the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church which we spoke about earlier. From an anthropological and sociological point of view, what happens is a specific kind of ritual behavior.
B. How does that subject participate in the Liturgy?
The ritual assembly participates in the Liturgy according to a complex set of rules and roles. The activity is ceremonious, formal, repetitive. What happens this Sunday is the same as what happened last Sunday, for authentic ritual functions according to disciplined patterns of habit and continuity. This kind of participation avoids spontaneity and on-the-spot adaptation in favor of the predictable and the familiar. The vehicle of expression includes words, but relies more heavily on symbols and symbolic actions. The more profound symbols have many levels of meaning, are "opaque" in that sense, are not susceptible to superficial and easy understanding. Symbols are always self-involving, objective in a way that incorporates the subjective. The qualities of beauty and holiness are communicated by signs which are the product of the highest cultural achievement. Immersion in the ritual action takes the participants out of themselves and transforms them.
On the other hand, numerous and rapid changes in ritual forms can produce estrangement and anomie; an experience reported by many of the faithful in the post-conciliar years.
In recent decades, ritual activity has been the object of study by the relatively new discipline of social anthropology. This discipline began to come into its own a decade or so after the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and thus the valuable insights of social anthropology simply were not available at the time of the drafting of the conciliar text and the formulation of the liturgical reforms, although we can see perhaps an oblique reference in the assertion that liturgical change must respect the general laws of the structure and mens of the Liturgy (SC 23).
Aidan Nichols observes: "The postconciliar Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia was wound up in 1975 through absorption into the Congregation for Divine Worship, that year coinciding more or less with a real turning point in the anthropology of religion as new schools of thought began to emphasize meaning, not explanation, the non-rational as well as the rational, and ritual's transformative power: all of which led to a new respect for the formal, ceremonious ordering of rite"13.
From the point of view of social anthropology, it is not self-evident that simplicity in ritual form is more effective than complexity. It is not clear that a sign which is immediately intelligible will be more effective than a multi-faceted symbol which reveals its meaning only over time. In short, simplifying ritual action will not necessarily bring about the greater understanding and more active participation desired by the Council.14
Further work in the area of social anthropology, then, could provide insight into the many open questions concerning liturgical participation.
We must hope that forty years of experience since the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium will lead us from a kind of naïve innocence to a wisdom shaped by pastoral shrewdness. The difference between the two, of course, is the knowledge of good and evil. Experience teaches us that in this area, which is so vital to the Church's life, an interdisciplinary approach can bear much fruit. While much work has been done in the area of liturgical theology, not enough has been done in the fields of philosophy, epistemology and cultural anthropology. In addition to wise pastoral action in liturgical matters, what is also necessary is renewed theoretical study, serious and in-depth, of these open questions which I have tried to delineate. This has to be part of a critical re-reading of the Constitutions and other documents of Vatican II in light of such development in understanding and of the experience of the past forty years. Thank you.
1 Tena Garriga, Pere. "La sacra liturgia fonte e culmine della vita ecclesiale" in: Il Concilio Vaticano II: Recezione e attualità alla luce del Giubileo, Roma 2000, 46-65.
2 Angelo Sodano. "For the celebration of Italian National Liturgy Week" in: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition 39 (September 24, 2003) 4.
3 Father Jeremy Driscoll throws light on this with his comment that the Christian taking part in the Liturgy is "a person who can participate in the community of Divine Persons", indeed who is "created for this in the image of the Divine Persons" (Jeremy Driscoll, "Liturgy and Fundamental Theology", in Ecclesia Orans, Anno XI, 1994/1, p. 79).
4 Contrary to popular, and sometimes academic, misconceptions, active participation in the Liturgy is not first of all saying, reading or taking part in rites. It is primarily, essentially and indispensably the devotion of mind, heart and will elicited and brought into vital contact with Christ through the rites. The Latin word "devotio" signifies consecration to God (O. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship, p. 36). For the Liturgy to be fruitful in a person's life there has to be a subjective dimension; those taking part must cooperate with and accept inwardly the act of Jesus the Priest by their devotion (cf. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 28, 29; CCC 2563).
5 Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship, New York 1988.
6 The implications of this question, though not as yet fully taken account of by many liturgists, have begun to be spelled out by anthropologists such as Victor Turner who writes, "If ritual is not to be merely a reflection of secular social life, if its function is partly to protect and partly to express truths which make men free from the exigencies of their status-incumbencies, free to contemplate and pray as well as to speculate and invent, then its repertoire of liturgical actions should not be limited to a direct reflection of the contemporary scene" (Victor Turner, "Passages, Margins and Poverty: Symbols of Communitas" in Worship 46, [1972] p. 391). Traditional Liturgy, precisely because of its archaic quality, has power to modify and even reverse the assumptions made in secular living; the archaic is not the obsolete".
7 See Jeremy Driscoll, "Deepening the Theological Dimensions of Liturgical Studies", in Communio 23, Fall 1996, pp. 513-4. This article shows how pre-rational instincts and rhythms make possible an expression of God's Word in human words.
8 Waldemar Trapp. Vorgeschichte und Ursprung der liturgischen Bewegung: vorwiegend in Hinsicht auf das deutsche Sprachgebiet, Regensburg 1940.
9 Aidan Nichols. Looking at the Liturgy: A Critical View of its Contemporary Form, San Francisco 1996.
10 A noteworthy exception to this is the paper delivered by Stratford Caldecott at the Fontgombault Liturgical Conference in July 2001, entitled: "Liturgy and Trinity: Towards an Anthropology of the Liturgy" in: Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, Farnborough 2003, pp. 36-48.
11 Cf. the masterful analysis of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem's theology of sacramental participation by Enrico Mazza, Mystagogy: A Theology of Liturgy in the Patristic Age, New York 1989, pp. 150-164.
12 Tertullian, De Carnis Resurrectione 8.
13 Nichols, Looking at the Liturgy, 57.
14 Further and well-documented evidence for this is given by Dr. Tracey Rowland (Culture and the Thomistic Tradition, pp. 27-29, 168, n. 69 on p. 175) where she outlines the dilemma created when, in the wake of Vatican II, and because of some assumptions of the architects of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the forms of the Liturgy come to be dominated by the postmodern mass culture.

The Anglican bishop and scholar N. T. Wright has said that God created the universe as a temple where he dwells, expressing his Presence through his Image which is human beings.   It was never meant for heaven and earth to be separated, this coming about through the Fall.    We have listened to him telling us how God's kingdom has been established through Christ's death.   We have heard Bishop Kallistos Ware who agrees with Cardinal Newman that we are not saved once and for all in this life, but that we are "in the way of salvation".   Bishop Kallistos then tells us that the union between heaven and earth is accomplished in the Christian life in general and especially in the Eucharist where the angels and saints in heaven and we on earth share in the Liturgy of heaven.

Just as the Incarnation of Christ was completely functional during Christ's earthly life but did not reach its full potential until the Resurrection, so the unity of heaven and earth have been accomplished in essentials, being effectual both in the Church's celebration and within the hearts of Christians, but it is yet to reach its full potential at the Second Coming.   God, and heaven too, is present at every moment of our earthly life, but it is yet to transform the universe  as we know it.  Meanwhile, we see Christ in every circumstance of our lives and acknowledge him as King. 

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