Friday, July 13, 2007

Fr. Noble: Anglicans in a Fix, Episcopalians in Flux

Fr. Bruce Noble, pastor of Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church (Anglican Use) here in Houston, opines on the state of the Anglican Communion and the reality of the Catholic Church in his article, Anglicans in a Fix, Episcopalians in Flux:
A prime example of a turn of phrase is a classic statement made recently in Houston, by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The remark left some of her fellow-bishop hearers somewhat bemused by it, and yet confused by the sheer relativism of her official stance.

Speaking to (and presumably for) the Episcopal bench of bishops, she was heard to enunciate the following principle: “We need to take a firm stand, somewhere between fixity and fluidity.”

The day after that (namely 18 March 2007) a certain Episcopal bishop appeared at my Walsingham parish, and unbidden, observed the Solemn High Mass from the back pew. He indicated that he simply had to get away from Camp Allen, saying, “I came here for sanity.”

His overriding concern was that, behind these Anglican antics lies a studied ambiguity, which is no basis for doctrinal foundation. Whatever ecclesiology was once present, has long since gone. The object of current Episcopalian endeavor seems to be grounded in the principle, ‘Simply buy time, till they (whoever they are) get used to the idea.’

On two counts, the Pastoral Provision of John Paul II of 1980 makes genuine allowance for facilitating transfer of whole communities of priest and people; while at the same time, creating an aura of encouragement by which individual conversions may duly take place. The Successor of Peter does not cast an opportunistic Net to catch people out, but an embracing Net to bring people in.
He later writes:
The best example to hand of proper exercise of duly constituted authority is the current Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI. After long consultation and reflective contemplation, comes the word from the Holy Father himself making available the traditional Tridentine Mass to meet the devotional requirements of the faithful.

The Anglican Use parishes of the Roman Catholic Church, of which Walsingham- Houston is one, stand ready to implement the Papal directives, at the earliest opportunity that their respective bishops allow.
Last May, Fr. John Berg, who is the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), visited Our Lady of Walsingham parish to offer the traditional mass and discuss the mission of the FSSP. I remember Fr. Berg from his days as pastor of St. Stephen the First Martyr parish (FSSP) in Sacramento, CA. These are interesting times, folks.
Fr. Christopher G. Phillips on ad orientem

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, pastor of the Anglican Use parish of Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, is fed up, as indeed I am, with the frequent negative and off-putting references to the ancient practice of celebrating the mass ad orientem:
It is called ad orientem or eastward-facing. Is that so hard to remember? The celebrant’s position is not in relation to the people; it is in relation to God. It is an ancient symbol when all of us – including the celebrant – face east as we celebrate the Holy Mass “in joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord.”

... All of our Masses in this parish – whether at the High Altar or in the Sacred Heart Chapel – are celebrated ad orientem. If you hear someone, in their ignorance, commenting on “the priest standing with his back to the people,” please correct them. Explain to them that we are really a forward-looking people. We’re looking forward to the final day, when Jesus will return in glory. And explain that we do it together. Explain that Father isn’t there to entertain. He’s there in the place of the shepherd, heading with his flock to that final destination: heaven.
It's nothing to be afraid of! Mass is also celebrated ad orientem at the Anglican Use parish of Our Lady of Walsingham here in Houston, and these are not Tridentine Latin mass parishes! The practice is also pervasive throughout the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Look to the East! The Mass and ad orientem

Over the last few years, I have become convinced that one of the major liturgical treasures lost during the last 40 years has been the common celebration of the liturgy facing East, otherwise known as ad orientem. What this typically means is that both the priest and the congregation face the same direction during worship, particularly during the Eucharistic Prayer (toward the actual "East", or a symbolic "liturgical East").

Contrary to what many Catholics have been taught, the Second Vatican Council never advocated for a change to this practice, yet today, as we know, it has become somewhat normative for the priest to face the people throughout mass in order to stress the communal nature of the liturgy. This is certainly valid, and the mass is still the mass, but it is my personal opinion that reclaiming the ancient practice of celebrating mass ad orientem in the modern liturgy would go a long way in restoring a greater sense of sacred mystery and eschatological anticipation. Now, I'm no liturgist. In the least bit, I know that a shift like this cannot happen without proper education and preparation. And, as those old enough to remember know full well, changing things willy nilly can often be very bewildering and even alienating. But can it be done?

Anglican theologian Peter Toon explains the practice a bit more:
“Ad orientem” is from [Latin] “oriens” meaning “the rising sun” -- thus “the East” or “the dawn” – and with the preposition “ad” ( “to” or “towards”).

In the Early Church the bodily posture of priest and people at the “Eucharistia” was a symbol of Christian hope. Jesus Christ was identified with the dawn and rising sun. And as such His dawn (rising from the dead and then coming in glory) marks the consummation of all things and the restoration of Paradise (Eden lies in “the east”). Not only the celebrant but the whole assembly, united in the one body of Christ, looked to the risen Lord who shall come in glory to restore all things. The eucharistic feast is in anticipation of the messianic banquet at the consummation.

So “ad orientem” is not the priest being bad mannered with his back to the people, but it is the whole people of God looking with awe and joy at the resurrected Lord Jesus and in expectation and hope looking for his coming in glory.

Celebration “ad orientem” does not mean that the celebrant and assisting ministers face East all the time. When they address the people in the ministry of the Word they face the people, for here they are the messengers of God to his people. But when the whole assembly prays they all, laity and priests, face the risen and coming Lord Jesus.

When a congregation is well taught in the content and meaning of the sacred Scriptures and the rich symbolism of the ancient way of celebration is explained to them, then the faithful can see that celebration “ad orientem” can be beautiful and well pleasing to God the Father through His Son and with His Holy Spirit.
Nowadays, you'll find the practice of celebrating mass ad orientem described in silly ways -- the priest "turning his back on the people", and so forth. A few years ago, I heard a priest at a conference refer to his many years celebrating the mass "facing the wall". Our own Holy Father has written extensively on the benefits of ad orientem, particularly in his work, The Spirit of the Liturgy. In his foreword to U.M. Lang's Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer, the Holy Father, then as Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote:
The Innsbruck liturgist Josef Andreas Jungmann, one of the architects of the [Second Vatican] Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was from the, very beginning resolutely opposed to the polemical catchphrase that previously the priest celebrated 'with his back to the people'; he emphasised that what was at issue was not the priest turning away from the people, but, on the contrary, his facing the same direction as the people. The Liturgy of the Word has the character of proclamation and dialogue, to which address and response can rightly belong. But in the Liturgy of the Eucharist the priest leads the people in prayer and is turned, together with the people, towards the Lord. For this reason, Jungmann argued, the common direction of priest and people is intrinsically fitting and proper to the liturgical action. Louis Bouyer (like Jungmann, one of the [Second Vatican] Council's leading liturgists) and Klaus Gainber have each in his own way taken up the same question. Despite their great reputations, they were unable to make their voices heard at first, so strong was the tendency to stress the communality of the liturgical celebration and to regard therefore the face-to-face position of priest and people as absolutely necessary.

More recently the atmosphere has become more relaxed so that it is possible to raise the kind of questions asked by Jungmann, Bouyer, and Gamber without at once being suspected of anti-conciliar sentiments. Historical research has made the controversy less partisan, and among the faithful there is an increasing sense of the problems inherent in an arrangement that hardly shows the liturgy to be open to the things that are above and to the world to come.
I hope to see a gradual return to celebrating mass ad orientem in the Latin Rite. There are a handful of churches throughout the world that do honor this tradition in the context of the modern liturgy. Will it grow? Perhaps the pope's motu proprio will help us appreciate our ancient heritage. Am I alone?
Archbishop DiNardo on Summorum Pontificum

I suspect he'll say more soon, but for now, we have this story from the Catholic News Service:
Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston spoke about the apostolic letter while attending the National Pastoral Musicians' convention in Indianapolis as the group's episcopal moderator.

"For musicians, it could produce an initial stretching of the heart and mind," he said. "Currently, we are aware of a wide variety of styles. Opening up more of what is the treasury of the Latin style will be good for musicians."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

CDF clarifies the Council's use of subsistit in

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church:
Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council. Paul VI affirmed it and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation". The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.

What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?

Response: Christ "established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community", that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him".

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

Why was the expression "subsists in" adopted instead of the simple word "is"?

Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity".

"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church".
Regarding the possible reasons why the CDF decided to release this now, Robert Moynihan (Inside the Vatican) speculates:
Why is the Congregation publishing this text at this time, so soon after the motu proprio? The answer is not clear. Perhaps the text, which has been in preparation for some time, was simply completed now, and so was published. But there is one scheduled encounter later this year, in Ravenna, Italy, in October, between Catholic and Orthodox theologians, where the identity of the Church and the role of the Pope in that identity will be at the center of the discussion. It is in a certain sense opportune, then, that this document appear now, before October.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum Released

Dear friends... don't rely on CNN and other news sources to tell you about the pope's latest motu proprio regarding the 1962 Missal (aka "Tridentine Latin Mass"). Read the document from the source.

Here's the document

While I am not personally heavily attached to the older (aka extraordinary) mass, I think this may go a long way to heal some division in the Church as well as bolster greater appreciation for the healthy celebration of the modern (aka ordinary) liturgy. But some folks have been anticipating the coming of this motu proprio almost as much as (and in same cases, more than) the Second Coming itself. I'm not in that boat. There's a problem there. I appreciate the gentle souls over at the New Liturgical Movement blog who love the older mass and desire others to appreciate it without tearing the Church down from the inside, in contrast to other Catholic bloggers (including some recent converts to Catholicism) who are given to throwing tantrums when things aren't just they way they desire or expect in their parish, diocese, or wider church. (Don't get me wrong - I am no fan of liturgical abuse, particularly when it is egregious. I just believe that sometimes we let silly things obscure our sight of what is intrinsic to the mass itself, and what God has done and is doing, and why indeed we are there). Ultimately it is an awesome mystery of grace. It is what nourished and captivated me when I entered the Church in 1997, and it does the same today.

Yet while the motu proprio has the potential to heal divisions, I'm not sure that this motu proprio will result in a lot of differences over night. It may be that most Catholics may not notice anything different. But I trust the Holy Father's sense of proper liturgy. If a wider celebration of the older mass helps bolster a desire for a more healthy, reverent celebration of the liturgy in general, then bring it on. My personal hope is that it will inspire greater appreciation for a number of elements of the modern mass that have fallen by the wayside, including: good vernacular translations, greater appreciation for the role of Latin in the liturgy, better appreciation for our Church's vast and rich treasury of sacred music, and, of course, celebration of the mass ad orientem. The Second Vatican Council never called for any of these things to be done away with in the first place. But, as I said, I am primarily just happy to have the opportunity to participate in the mass regularly and engage the sacramental life of the Church. That is something, sadly, that many Catholics in the world do not have regular access to.


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