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“[T]he liturgy is the celebration of the central event of human history, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. Thus it bears witness to the love with which God loves humanity, to the fact that human life has a meaning and that it is through their vocation that men and women are called to share in the glorious life of the Trinity. Humanity needs this witness.
People need to perceive, through the liturgical celebrations, that the Church is aware of the lordship of God and of dignity of the human being. She has the right to be able to discern, over and above the limitations that will always mark her rites and ceremonies, that Christ “is present in the sacrifice of Mass and in the person of the minister” (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7).”
- Pope Benedict XVI to a group of French bishops on their ad limina visit,
17 November 2012
In the coming weeks I will be writing about the Sacra Liturgia conference that will be held in Rome from 25 to 28 June. The conference ”on liturgical formation, celebration and mission” is the brainchild of Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in France and draws its inspiration in part from the teaching and person of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who strongly encouraged Bishop Rey’s initiative.
Why a major conference on the liturgy, and why special attention to it in this blog? Pope Benedict has spoken about it many times, both during his pontificate and as priest, bishop and cardinal. The quote I chose to place at the top is only the most recent I could quickly find, but it does give an indication of the reason. Our faith comes from God; it is His gift to us. In the liturgy, centered around the sacrifice of the Eucharist, God comes very near to us, nearer than we can ever hope to come to Him if left to our own devices. Since God is near to us, we must take care to show that in how we celebrate and participate in the liturgy. And because this is the place where God is tangible for us, the liturgy takes up a central place in our faith and life as Catholics. That means that we can’t take it for granted, but should treat the liturgy as an opportunity to learn and grow, and that is what the conference wants to aid in.
During the conference, various speakers will address a proper selection of liturgy topics. Standing out for me, upon a reading of the list of speakers, are Cardinal Raymond Burke (Liturgical law in the Mission of the Church), Archbishop Alexander Sample (The Bishop: governor, promoter and guardian of liturgical life of the diocese), Monsignor Guido Marini (Ars celebrandi in the Sacred Liturgy), Monsignor Stefan Heid (The Early Christian Altar – Lessons for Today), Father Uwe Michael Lang (Sacred Art and Architecture at the service of the Mission of the Church), Father Paul Gunter (Academic Formation in the Sacred Liturgy), Father Nicola Bux (Liturgical catechesis and the New Evangelisation), Dom Alcuin Reid (Sacrosanctum Concilium and Liturgical Formation) and Mr. Jeffrey Tucker (The Liturgical Apostolate and the Internet), although any choice here is strictly based on the various topic titles. I will be profiling several of the speakers in the coming weeks, with, obviously, a special focus on their thoughts and actions regarding the liturgy.
All the relevant information regarding prices, accommodation and, certainly not least, the speakers and their topics can be found via the link I supplied above. Personally, I would have attended if it was within my means, but I’ll have to make do with a digital presence, via this blog and various social media.
In the past two days, Pope Benedict XVI released enlightening comments on two different, but related topics. The first was an address to the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation at their very first plenary meeting. In it, the Holy Father mainly discusses the need for new forms of proclamation of the Gospel. He describes the environment, “in which the developments of secularization have left heavy traces even in countries with a Christian tradition”, where this new proclamation will take place, and further concludes that the “mission has not changed, just as the enthusiasm and the courage that moved the Apostles and the first disciples must not change. The Holy Spirit who pushed them to open the doors of the Cenacle, making them into evangelizers (cf. Acts 2:1-4), is the same Spirit that moves the Church today in a renewed proclamation of hope to the men of our time.”
Apart from drafting a framework for the new Pontifical Council to work in, the pope’s address has also much to tell us lay faithful. After all, we all have our duty to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ and the salvation he brought in our world. Worth a read. My Dutch translation is here.
The second set of comments relate to sacred music and may be found in a letter from the pope to Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, grand chancellor of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. in this letter, Pope Benedict again underlines both the purpose of sacred music as well as the criteria to which is should keep. He mentions the recent tendency to dismiss these criteria as elements from a past that should be forgotten, and opposes that with a question: “Who is the authentic subject of the liturgy? The answer is simple: the Church. Not the individual or the group that celebrates the liturgy, it is first of all the action of God through the Church, which has her history, her rich tradition and her creativity.”
These comments are firmly related to the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council, a seeming paradox for those who claim the aforementioned tendency to dismiss the past was somehow mandated by the Council.
Read my translation here.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Over the past days I have been blogging less than usual, and the reason is due to this man: Msgr. Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda in Kazakhstan. In orthodox circles his name is not unknown, being the author of the book Dominus Est (It is the Lord) in which he powerfully advocates a return to Communion on the tongue. His is an educated and eloquent voice, very much the seminary professor (which he, in fact, is).
His latest work, which has made a moderate impact in the Catholic blogosphere, is an address he held in December at a conference about the Second Vatican Council seen in the light of the Tradition of the Church.
I have been working on a Dutch translation of that address, of which you may find an English translation here. In it, Bishop Schneider, expands on seven points dealing with the pastoral theory and practice, points which are listed on the Council’s Decree on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, which I’ll quote here:
The Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance [Jn. 17:3; Lk. 24:17; Ac 2:38]. To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded [Mt. 28:20], and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ’s faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men. (SC, 9).
Bishop Schneider takes each point in turn and, making extensive use of a number of Conciliar documents, as well as addresses and homilies by the Conciliar popes, Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI, uses them to explain the aim of the Council on various doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral topics. In this way, he not only attempts (and succeeds, I think) to explain the actual texts of the documents, but also the intentions of the popes and the Council Fathers.
Ultimately, his address leads to a call for a new Syllabus to counter the errors which have crept into the interpretation of the Council. He takes Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus Errorum (Syllabus of Errors) as a model for his proposed Syllabus. In contrast to the earlier Syllabus, Bishop Schneider’s proposal is triggered not solely by errors from outside the Church. He names both groupings who wish to ‘protestantise’ the Church “doctrinally, liturgically and pastorally”, and traditionalist groups who reject the Council, “submitting for now only to the invisible Head of the Church”.
Bishop Schneider’s scholarly approach to the subject makes that this address is not only food for thought in orthodox circles. It is a source of education for all Catholics about the Council, as well as a call to action, to fully understand what it means to be Catholic and act accordingly.
My Dutch translation will follow soon.
Carnival has long since become a mostly secular reason to party and as such it has come back to the churches. This time around, however, it is not organically linked to the period that comes after it, but it has become imposed on the church’s actions in that period. The sanctity of the liturgy, the music, the sacraments and even the priests have been replaced with dress-up parties, funny interludes, clowns and inappropriate music. These are just fine outside the church, but inside, Christ and His sacrifice on the cross are at the centre of attention.
Normally, I am sceptical about the SSPX. I don’t agree with their near-schismatic stance towards Rome and the Second Vatican Council, and I find it particularly ironic that they now cite one of the council’s documents and call upon the council’s authority to confirm their position. However, that does not take away the validity of their concerns in this matter.
The sense of the sacred has all but disappeared in western society, and these carnival Masses are both part of the result and reason of that. Party all you want outside the Church, but do not destroy the innate sense of the sacred that is present in Christ and His people.
The original press release, in German, may be found here, and below is my translation into English.
Carnival services are not authorised
The Priestly Society of St. Pius X points out that the carnival services currently taking place in Germany are not authorised, since they are in contradiction of the law as well as 2,000 years of Church Tradition. The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council reads: “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority”(22.3).
The things that go on during the time of carnival in the Churches go not only against the sanctity of the consecrated space, but also against every Catholic understanding of the sacrifice of the Mass. Sacrosanctum Concilium also reads: “[T]he sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty” (33). And: ”Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop” (22.1).
We therefore ask the German bishops, who are otherwise always keen advocats of Vatican II, to immediately order a stop to the unworthy spectacles in Catholic churches and to strongly affirm the regulations of the council regarding the liturgy, as their Swiss brother bishop Vitus Huonder has already done.
The culture of near-arbitrariness and banality that has entered the holy service to God certainly goes against the intentions of the Council fathers. Theatre and entertainment have replaced the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is renewed in the sacrament of the altar. Costumed priests have the same agenda as Catholics who dress up in fool’s caps and dance the polonaise in church.
Christ Himself did not even allow the seling of animals for the sacrifice in the anteroom of the old covenant’s sanctuary, the temple in Jerusalem, but expelled the traders and moneylenders as a scourge. What would He have to say about these abuses of the holy places and acts of the new covenant?
Berlin, 12 February 2010
Fr. Matthias Gaudron, Dogmatic of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X