Cardinal Eijk sanctions a priest for excessive liturgical creativity, so why is the cardinal the bad guy?

eijk

Cardinal Eijk is the media’s bad guy again. He sanctioned a priest for ‘forgetting’ a few words at Mass. Well, as it often is when secular media try to report on Church business, reality is a bit different.

It is true that the priest, a Dominican who assists at a parish northwest of Utrecht, has been forbidden to publicly offer Mass for a year. It is also true that he forgot some words. And then some more.

A Mass in which the Kyrie, Gloria, all three prescribed readings, the preface and the entire Eucharistic Prayer were either skipped or replaced is, quite frankly, not a Mass. The bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the faithful do not partake of Communion with God and Church, and the priest flouted his oath and duty. A previous “misstep”, as the Archdiocese calls it, in the same parish, prompted the cardinal to re-emphasise the liturgical rules in force in the Church.

Is this reason for the sanctions as described above? That can be debated, of course, but the fact is that this is exactly why Cardinal Eijk wanted to focus more and how the liturgy is celebrated in his archdiocese. It is also fact that the liturgy of the Church is not just a collection of rules for their own sake.

In the words of the archdiocese’s own explanation of events (which is altogether more reliable than the reports of secular media):

“[Replacing or skipping the Eucharistic Prayer’] is most serious, since this invalidates the celebration of the Eucharist. It means that faithful came to the celebration, to receive the Body of Christ, in vain. The Eucharist (which refers to the Last Supper of Jesus Christ) is the most important sacrament, in which the faithful celebrate their unity with God and each other. All the more painful in this context is the fact that, on Maundy Thursday, the Catholic Church celebrates the institution of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood. Cardinal Eijk thinks that faithful should be able to rely on valid Masses being offered in the churches of the archdiocese. Not without reason the Vatican instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum states that the complete omission of the Eucharistic prayer is “objectively to be  considered among grave matters […] that puts at risk the validity and  dignity of the Most Holy Eucharist”.

Priests have considerable freedom in the pastoral care they perform for the faithful under their care, in the way they teach and proclaim the faith. They do not, however, have the freedom to change or ignore what God, through His Church, instituted. The sacrament of the Eucharist is the single most precious treasure we have been given: it is Christ Himself. By changing what He wants to give us every single day, we place ourselves above Him. True, we are very important, also to the Lord. But we are not Him.

The priesthood is the channel through which Gods grace, in the sacraments, comes to His people. The channel can not change what it is given to safeguard and pass on.

So, yes, Cardinal Eijk is very correct in taking steps to correct this abuse. No one with a basic understanding of Catholic theology and understanding of the sacraments has any excuse not to realise that. Sadly, none of these people work at newspapers and television stations.

Photo credit: afp

The bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer – a first step?

missal altarThe bishops today sent out a memorandum with the adaptations to the Eucharistic Prayers during the sede vacante. Also included are prayers for the success of the conclave and the new Pope. And in the midst of it all, they have introduced a lasting change to the Roman Missal. From now, the sixth Eucharistic Prayer will include the name of the diocesan bishop, in addition to the name of the Pope and a reference to all the bishops, as is standard in the other Eucharistic Prayers. Explaining the decision is a short sentence: “The diocesan bishop should not be left out of the Eucharistic Prayer (cf. Redemptionis sacramentum, 56).”

The document they refer to was and Instruction released in 2004 by the Congregation for Divine Worship “on certain matter to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist”. Paragraph 56 of that document has this to say:

“The mention of the name of the Supreme Pontiff and the diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer is not to be omitted, since this is a most ancient tradition to be maintained, and a manifestation of ecclesial communion. For “the coming together of the eucharistic community is at the same time a joining in union with its own Bishop and with the Roman Pontiff”.”

Considering that, the new decision fits well with the desire expressed several years ago by Blessed Pope John Paul II that the various translations of the Missal be brought into better accordance with the Latin original text. Although there is commission, which includes several Dutch and Flemish bishops, tasked with reviewing and improving the Dutch translation, very little has come out of it as yet. But this is a nice start. Now let’s hope that the change takes effect in practice, and can usher in more progress towards a new translation.

Photo credit: Diocese of Lancaster

Giving no quarter: Cardinal Eijk on the offensive

In a letter dated to the fifth of March, Cardinal Wim Eijk has informed the priests, deacon, pastoral workers and others with a mission from the archbishop of Utrecht that he will be focussing more closely on how the liturgy, especially that of the Eucharist, is celebrated in the Archdiocese of Utrecht. It is a letter with a rather harsh tone, as the passage quoted below illustrates. One can debate if such a tone is justified, but the cardinal does address a serious concern: a worthy celebration of the Eucharist in union with the world Church is not a given in many Dutch parishes. When he was bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden, Cardinal Eijk saw himself faced with the same problem, and it seems clear that he intends to use the same tried and tested method that worked in the past.

“Out of my office and responsibility as archbishop of Utrecht I [..] urge all priests, deacons, pastoral workers and spiritual caregivers who are working with a pastoral mission in the Archdiocese of Utrecht to know and carefully follow the liturgical regulations which are in force for the Holy Eucharist as well as for other liturgical celebrations (as established in the Code of Canon Law, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal and the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum).

[…]

Should it happen that in the future I will have to conclude that the liturgical regulations which are in force for the Holy Eucharist and/or other liturgical celebrations have once again been violated, I will not hesitate to impose, or have imposed, canonical sanctions on those responsible, not excluding retraction of their pastoral mission.

I very much hope that it will not have to come to this and that you, from your various offices and duties, will all continue to contribute loyally to a dignified and correct celebration of the liturgy, especially the Holy Eucharist, in our archdiocese.”

Will hackles be raised? Will people feel attacked and will there be protests? No doubt. But the fact remains that there is a major problem in how too many people treat the liturgy of the Church: as outdated rules that are out of touch with modern faithful, a burden on the people’s spirituality. But where the liturgy of the Church is given a chance, spirituality becomes a mature faith.

Photo credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi