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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Annual Check-Up
I've avoided it in a lot more places than I did it, but I still think it's a good idea: an annual check-up with each choir member. A director should track the ranges of the singers, getting a sense of where they can sing and how well. You can talk to your chorister about voice care: keeping hydrated, warming up on the way to Mass, things like that. I'd recommend talking about their favorite musical pieces. Ask people what they like to sing. Ask them about your own directing/conducting skills: when do they find you easy or hard to follow? If you have a forty-voice choir, that might mean 10-15 minutes each for a yearly visit. It seems like time well spent. Needless to say, I'm not a fan of auditions for parish choirs, generally speaking. That's not to say some people won't need to be helped to discern another arena for their talents.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 17
More on liturgical formation: In seminaries and houses of religious, clerics shall be given a liturgical formation in their spiritual life. For this they will need proper direction, so that they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them wholeheartedly; and they will also need personally to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as popular devotions which are imbued with the spirit of the liturgy. In addition they must learn how to observe the liturgical laws, so that life in seminaries and houses of religious may be thoroughly influenced by the spirit of the liturgy. "Liturgical formation in their spiritual life." What exactly does that mean, would you say?
Discipline and Spontaneity I learned from Whispers in the Loggia that, yesterday, the Trappist community of Mepkin Abbey elected Dom Stanislaus Gomula as the new abbot. Keep him in your prayers. The community's previous abbot, Dom Francis Kline, passed away in August. I posted a couple times from Francis Kline's writings after his death - here and here - and perhaps I should do so once more. In September of 2001, a conference met at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beach Grove, Indiana, to discuss the recently published Benedict's Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of St Benedict. Dom Francis Kline delivered a talk on the relationship of discipline and spontaneity, a theme of the book. In our own lives, I think that we tend to oppose discipline and spontaneity. We cling to the sure rigidity of discipline when we find ourselves disturbed by the vagaries of either the circumstances in which we find ourselves or our own subjectivities. Then - perhaps soon after - we grasp for spontaneity against the unbearable constriction of discipline. Francis Kline reminds us that "discipline itself prepares for surprise," and that we cannot encounter any real spontaneity until we have been prepared for it by discipline. Discipline and spontaneity go together. Kline noted that the word "spontaneity" was not often used in Western monastic literature. After his talk, Roger Corless, a professor at Duke who was one of the founders of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, noted that one can find a great deal of "spontaneity" in the idiorhythmic tradition of Eastern Christianity. I'm not sure about contemporary application of this tradition (please feel free to enlighten me), but I'll include an excerpt from Dr Corless after an excerpt from Dom Francis Kline: Another perspective, and I was very edified to see this in the book, is the experience of spontaneity within discipline. They’re really not opposed, as we all know. It’s unthinkable to have a kind of discipline that gets rigid to the point where we’re not alive to the things that are going on around us, and that’s exactly what Judith says: “We find in our practice a kind of natural discipline.” I’m interested in the definition of the word “natural,” even when she gets to the next page and talks about a “sacred character” to discipline. Because, in the Benedictine and Cistercian perspective, the idea of spontaneity is the liberation, I think, that we find at the end of Chapter 7 on humility: this total transformation experience, that what was a rule, what was counter to what we wanted to do, becomes natural, becomes so much a part of us that the love of virtue, the love of Christ, becomes who we are. Then discipline takes on a new meaning. But the word spontaneity is not used so much, as far as I know, in the Christian West, in monastic circles. I’m sure you can find it in places—but what I think it’s pointing to is the surprise in life, how flexible we can be in the face of situations that are bound to come up all the time. Here art may help us, because you never have a total surprise or something that’s totally spontaneous in true and great art. I mean, you do have it, but the one who is surprised is not the viewer or the listener so much as the one who’s creating the work. The discipline itself prepares for surprise. The Rule itself gives rise to something greater than itself, if we’re being honest and true to the practice. I point to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite were not able to be spontaneously compassionate. Perhaps they didn’t have the kind of preparation that was necessary to jump cultural boundaries, to be Jews and take care of whoever was injured in the pit. But the Samaritan, who wasn’t supposed to be generous to whoever was in the pit or suffering from the robber’s wounds, was the person who jumped all of these rigid rules and went to help the individual. And not only was he generous, but he was generous to an exaggerated degree—yet his generosity was not inappropriate, it was not unfitting, and I think that’s what I’m trying to say about this view of discipline and spontaneity. No matter how much of a surprise things may be and no matter how spontaneous they are, they’re still prepared for somehow, in the outreach that we may make to them. We come prepared to do this, even in mystery. ... Roger Corless: In the remarks we’ve just received from Father Francis, I was struck by his comment that spontaneity is not mentioned that much in the Western tradition. I think he was careful to say the Western tradition. And it struck me that if we were to have monks and nuns of the Eastern Orthodox tradition in this conversation, it would be enriched and different because of the idiorhythmic tradition in the Eastern Orthodox, which seems to have gone out in the West a little bit, though it appears to have been there in St. Benedict’s time. It seems that he lived as an idiorythmic monk, that is one who made up his own schedule rather than receiving it. In what I think is really one of the more amusing stories, he’s off on his own in the wilderness practicing by himself, and a raven comes every day with some bread and that’s all very nice. But one morning, no raven, no bread, and no breakfast. Oh well, that’s the breaks—and then along comes a human with a whole basket of bread, saying, “It’s Easter.” And he didn’t know that, so he wasn’t going to mass, and he wasn’t with the community; he was doing something else on his own. But that tradition seems to have been kept up in Eastern Orthodoxy, where a direct connection with God outside of the sacramental system is still regarded as something worthwhile and often made by people who are not priests—of course, St. Benedict was never a priest. He knew some priests, apparently, and wasn’t too impressed with them [laughter]. So I certainly don’t regret that in the book there is no mention of Eastern Orthodox Christians. The book is rich enough as it is, and it is helpful that it has the focus on the Rule of St. Benedict; it doesn’t get too broad. But I would like to ask that as we continue this conversation we find some way to bring in the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Monday, October 30, 2006

On the Bookshelf
After some heavy European history earlier this month, I had some fun this past weekend with Chris Roberson's Paragaea, reviewed here. I was reading the history mainly to get a sense of the Church's role in the Great War. I learned that the French almost pitched away victory because of their cultural anti-Catholicism. I read of how military leaders were snail-slow to take advantage of the advances in military technology, and how they continued to throw soldiers into harm's way simply by conducting a 20th century war with their brains (if not butts) in the Napoleonic Era. It made me wonder about Iraq even more.
Liturgical Rumblings
Talking with some colleagues over the past several days. You know: real world colleagues who have to deal with liturgy in parishes, some of whom are even priests. One friend had an interesting take on the end of the lay purification indult: it's not the pope; it's Arinze. On the Kansas City front, there's nothing afoot on implementation yet. But I did hear from a friend about a conservative pastor who wants to install Canticle: The Franciscan University Hymnal in his parish.
The hardcover hymnal, which is used daily in Christ the King Chapel, consists of a comprehensive selection of music styles including traditional hymnody and contemporary songs, as well as Gregorian chant and praise and worship songs.
I looked at it for about five minutes today. Lots of praise and worship songs. Lots. Five Mass settings by Jim Cowan. Only two by Marty Haugen. Some plainsong, but probably more bits from GIA's contemporary psalms. A good quantity of hymns with "questionable" theology, as they say. I'd be curious to know what my reform2 friends think of this. Or anybody else.
The Armchair Liturgist: Auditions for Choir Members
What do you think, liebchens? Good idea? Necessary idea? Pastoral disaster? I'll weigh in tomorrow with my opinion.
Dark Rings and Smooth Operators
Here's the latest full color image from Saturn, looking down on the dark side of the rings. The bright sliver on the lower left is the crescent of the day side of the planet. Looks like Blogger has its act together today. Let's see if I can replicate some of last Friday's lost post on moons. Blogosphere, meet Janus: Janus is one of Saturn's relatively small shepherd moons. Janus is 113 miles across--about the size and shape of Connecticut and Rhode Island put together. Old tiney space artists (as well as George Lucas) assumed that these small moons would be craggy, rocky bits. Yet the truth is not so. Check out this gallery of solar system moons ... First Telesto: And Mars' moon Phobos: These babies have craters, yes, but their contours are surprisingly rounded compared to what we thought we'd find in space. It turns out that we have erosion in space: radiation from the sun, solar wind particles, and the like. There's also a presumption that there are fine grains of dust covering these small bodies. Dust made of ice, as in the case at Saturn. Dust made of teeny particles of stone, as in the case at Phobos and our own moon. Static electricity is also a space event. Scientists are a bit worried about the possible effects of electric charge when astronauts go exploring. Will computers freak out? I blogged on this a few months ago, but all this dust in space is potentially hazardous to space travellers if it gets in their machinery, or especially, their lungs, where it can asphyxiate in minutes if it gets dragged back into the crew compartment. Anyway, that's decades in the future. For now, enjoy the pretty pictures.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 16
More on the study of liturgy: The study of sacred liturgy is to be ranked among the compulsory and major courses in seminaries and religions houses of studies; in theological faculties it is to rank among the principal courses. It is to be taught under its theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects. In other words, everything. Let me ask priest readers: were all five aspects covered in your seminary training? I would like to say that my training probably lacked something of the spiritual and a bit of the juridical. History and theology were heavily emphasized in my courses, but I also confess I don't have a liturgy degree. Moreover, other professors, while striving to expound the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation from the angle proper to each of their own subjects, must nevertheless do so in a way which will clearly bring out the connection between their subjects and the liturgy, as also the unity which underlies all priestly training. This consideration is especially important for professors of dogmatic, spiritual, and pastoral theology and for those of holy scripture. In other words, professors in these disciplines must see how their academic specialty relates to liturgy. Again I ask clergy readers: was this true? Any other comments?
Sacrosanctum Concilium 15
Short and sweet. Enjoy it; we don't get too many in the Vatican II department: Professors who are appointed to teach liturgy in seminaries, religious houses of study, and theological faculties must be properly trained for their work in institutes which specialize in this subject. In other words, a Roman collar is insufficient.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sacrosanctum Concilium 14
Chapter 1 continues with a new sub-section entitled, "The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation." Let's keep in mind the context of this: we've just completed a nine-part portion outlining the nature of the liturgy and its importance in the life of the Church. Continuing under "General Principles," we read:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

Naturally, post-conciliar liturgists take this to heart. The very nature of liturgy implies a dialogue inclusive of those who attend worship. It is more than a right. Vatican II describes it as a "duty." I think one can misapply this and demand literal, fundamentalist compliance, thus alienating the people one is supposed to be leading. Or we can apply the principle in general. If a community or individual steadfastly refuses to be engaged in any way at any time, that would be a matter of grave spiritual import.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.

The council bishops seem to suggest that the Roman Rite was in need of restoration, that somehow in its preconciliar state, it was failing to provide a full measure of sanctification to the faithful. Pastors--namely bishops and parish priests--are on the spot to provide the achievement of a full and active participation.

Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless the pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it. A prime need, therefore, is that attention be directed, first of all, to the liturgical instruction of the clergy. Wherefore the sacred Council has decided to enact as follows: And we'll read more about these points a bit later. For now, any thoughts?
Sacrosanctum Concilium 13
What did Vatican II say about devotions? Read it:

Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.

Devotions proper to individual Churches also have a special dignity if they are undertaken by mandate of the bishops according to customs or books lawfully approved.

But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them. It seems clear. Popular devotions are good if in harmony with the Church. If a bishop backs it, so much the better. But Mass and the liturgical year provide the framework. I think about the Divine Mercy observance at Eastertime. It's a prayer I've found fruitful for my collaboration with good friends at my parish. My friends are far from possessing an unbalanced focus on this devotion, on the contrary, they are deeply devoted to the Mass and the liturgical prayer of the Church. Does SC 13 get used too much as a club? Or are devotions a problem in some places?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sacrosanctum Concilium 12
This section gives a good perspective on external and internal participation. The council, while acknowledging the importance of participation in liturgy, also recognizes the aspect of the spiritual life which is internal: The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with (other believers), but ... must also enter into (her or) his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret (Cf. Matt. 6:6.); yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, (she or) he should pray without ceasing (Cf . 1 Thess. 5:17.). We learn from the same Apostle that we must always bear about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame (Cf . 2 Cor. 4:10-11.). This is why we ask the Lord in the sacrifice of the Mass that, "receiving the offering of the spiritual victim," he may fashion us for himself "as an eternal gift" (Secret for Monday of Pentecost Week.). From the context, one might say that for the Christian, interior prayer should be constant, as Saint Paul advises. Interior participation at church is just an extension of what the believer should be practicing everywhere, all the time. Comments?


"From Everlasting to Everlasting": Marilynne Robinson on Richard Dawkins You have probably come across reviews of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, but the best and most comprehensive review that I have read was contributed by Marilynne Robinson to Harper's. Robinson is best known as the author of the excellent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead. She is also a Reformed Christian who carefully reads John Calvin and is very attentive to the dangers of human pretension. Readers of her essays will not be surprised that she queries Dawkins' tendency to compare the worst of religion with the very best of science ("But eugenics is science as surely as totemism is religion," she protests), or that she notes that Dawkins' confident claims about an upward moral drift in history do not sufficiently explain why one should have preferred the Christian abolitionists to the learned racism of T.H. Huxley. Dawkins, Robinson says, is also a poor reader of Holy Scripture. His claim that Judaism is something of a "group evolutionary strategy" fails to account for Leviticus 19:34: "You shall love the alien as yourself." Here is Robinson on Dawkins' failure to account for God's not being subject to time (a point also made by Terry Eagleton):

The chapter titled “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God” reflects his reasoning at its highest bent. He reasons thus: A creator God must be more complex than his creation, but this is impossible because if he existed he would be at the wrong end of evolutionary history. To be present in the beginning he must have been unevolved and therefore simple. Dawkins is very proud of this insight. He considers it unanswerable. He asks, “How do they [theists] cope with the argument that any God capable of designing a universe, carefully and foresightfully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide?” And “if he [God] has the powers attributed to him he must have something far more elaborately and non-randomly constructed than the largest brain or the largest computer we know,” and “a first cause of everything.. . must have been simple and therefore, whatever else we call it, God is not an appropriate name (unless we very explicitly divest it of all the baggage that the word ‘God’ carries in the minds of most religious believers).” At Cambridge, says Dawkins, “I challenged the theologians to answer the point that a God capable of designing a universe, or anything else, would have to be complex and statistically improbable. The strongest response I heard was that I was brutally foisting a scientific epistemology upon an unwilling theology.” Dawkins is clearly innocent of this charge against him. Whatever is being foisted here, it is not a scientific epistemology.

Evolution is the creature of time. And, as Dawkins notes, modern cosmologies generally suggest that time and the universe as a whole came into being together. So a creator cannot very well be thought of as having attained complexity through a process of evolution. That is to say, theists need find no anomaly in a divine “complexity” over against the “simplicity” that is presumed to characterize the universe at its origin. (I use these terms not because I find them appropriate to the question but because Dawkins uses them, and my point is to demonstrate the flaws in his reasoning.) In this context, Dawkins cannot concede, even hypothetically, a reality that is not time-bound, that does not conform to Darwinism as he understands it. Yet in an earlier book, Unweaving the Rainbow, Dawkins remarks that “further developments of the [big bang] theory, supported by all available evidence, suggest that time itself began in this mother of all cataclysms. You probably don’t understand, and I certainly don’t, what it can possibly mean to say that time itself began at a particular moment. But once again that is a limitation of our minds.. . .”

That God exists outside time as its creator is an ancient given of theology. The faithful are accustomed to expressions like “from everlasting to everlasting” in reference to God, language that the positivists would surely have considered nonsense but that does indeed express the intuition that time is an aspect of the created order. Again, I do not wish to abuse either theology or scientific theory by implying that either can be used as evidence in support of the other; I mean only that the big bang in fact provides a metaphor that might help Dawkins understand why his grand assault on the “God Hypothesis” has failed to impress the theists.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

From the Archives of the Catholic World: Nostra Aetate, 1965 I hope that you've noticed that the Paulist Fathers have decided to continue the interrupted second century of publication of the Catholic World in an online format. One of their sections involves reprinting articles from the long past of the magazine. Currently, they feature an older article by Fr John Basil Sheerin, CSP, about Nostra Aetate - the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, and, more specifically, Catholic-Jewish relations. The article, originally published in December, 1965, is remarkably frank about the need for ecclesial "self-reform" ("the central theme of the Council"), the tragedy of the "course of history" in previous decades, and the unsurprising political context of the declaration. It is, I think, rather interesting. Here, then, is an excerpt:

In the case of the Jews, we have a sad record of violence. Catholic prelates launching pogroms, Catholic laity persecuting their Jewish neighbors, Catholic preachers spreading the myth of “deicide” – comprise a dark page in Catholic history. There was no anti-Semitism among the authors of the New Testament. They castigated certain Pharisees as blind guides of the people but they loved the people. A pagan element, however, began to creep into Christian writing and preaching after the time of Constantine who made paganism respectable among Christians. Today we blush to shame to read some of St. John Chrysostom’s diatribes against the Jews, especially against the synagogue, or to read St. Ambrose’s injustice to them when a synagogue was destroyed by Christian vandals and Ambrose threatened with excommunication the emperor who demanded restitution from the hoodlums.

In the Middle Ages, anti-Jewish violence was fed by popular preachers who pounded pulpits to denounce the Jews as a people under God’s curse, a deicide race, an immoral and treacherous band of social outcasts. How many lying fables about the Jews were seriously believed by devout Christians in the Middle Ages and later, both by Catholics and Protestants. Down to our own century, we find anti-Semitism in catechetical texts, in Catholic devotional manuals, in theological treatises and popular sermons. Until Pope John deleted it, there was even in the liturgy a reference to the “perfidious Jews.” Only God knows how much all this rancor contributed to the butchery of the Jews under Hitler. Said Cardinal Bea in introducing the Jewish statement at the third session, “In this age how many suffered. How many died because of the indifference of Christians, because of silence. There is no need to enumerate the crimes committed in our time. If not many Christian voices were raised in recent years against the great injustices, let our voices cry out humbly now.”

The Jewish declaration is then, as M. Abram, head of the American Jewish Committee, has said, “a long awaited act of justice.” At the same time, it represents the Church’s efforts to purify itself by getting the virus of violence out of its system. To most Americans the discussion about the “deicide” clause was puzzling. It is a term that is almost unknown in the United States but it seems to have been at the root of historical anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. I confess, however, that the Council debate on the “deicide” clause was mystifying and confusing. The 1963 text had said that it would be an injustice to call the Jews a “deicide people.” The 1964 text omitted “deicide” and simply forbade preacher and catechists to present the Jews as “a reprobate people.”

As to the omission of the “deicide” clause, Abbe Rene Laurentin, the distinguished French theologian, remarks that if anti-Semitism disappears, the omission of the word will appear to be only a minor incident in the Council. But if history dredges up a new persecution of the Jews, then the omission will be judged as a grave mistake. To forestall any future anti-Semitism, he asserts that all Christians must be vigilant and that the Church must speed up its efforts to expurgate books that implant in the hearts of children the seeds of contempt and hatred for the Jews.

In spite of the fact that the document renounces any political purposes of aims, the Arabs opposed it as an endorsement of the state of Israel. One Arab paper, Al Hayat of Beirut, predicted that the approval of the document was the first step toward recognition of Israel by the Vatican. One of the strange elements of the Arab hostility, however, was that many Arabs opposed the text on religious grounds. They held firmly to the position that the Jews were and are guilty of deicide. This contention is refuted even by the Koran itself. It says of the Jews in relation to Christ, “No, they did not kill him, they did not crucify him” (Koran Sourate IV). Some Christian Arabs mixed theological with political objections. La Croix (October 19) reports a Catholic source at Cairo as saying: “The vote on the text gives to the Jews a moral weapon which they can use against the Arab countries. We are sure and certain that the Jews are morally responsible for the death of Christ.”

The Jerusalem Post commenting on the approval of the document, said that the spirit and sentiments of the text have already found a profound echo among the Jews but that the real test will come in the practical application of the text. What does the future hold in store? At the First Vatican Council, two documents had been prepared regarding relations with the Jews, but the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war ended the Council and these documents were not discussed. One of them, a resolution signed by almost half the Council Fathers, recognized the primatial right of the Jews to the love and respect of the Church, in accord with the thoughts of St. Paul. One wonders how radically the course of history would have been changed had the German bishops been able to point to such a document in 1941.

The present document also cites St. Paul’s attitude toward the Jews: “According to the Apostle, the Jews are still dear to God because of their patriarchs and because of the gifts and the call of God are without repentance.” God has called the Jewish people in a special way and even though some have rejected his call, this people is still dear to God for he never withdraws his gifts or invitations.


Sacrosanctum Concilium 11
The council bishops recognized that the old legalistic/minimalist approach was a millstone around our necks. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain (Cf. 2 Cor. 6:1.) . Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects. This is also the introduction to the oft-repeated council sentiment of full, active, and enriching participation. The council is explicit in stating what is expected of the faithful. Let's review it carefully: - A proper disposition, which could be interpreted as an openness to the goal of sanctification. - Importantly, that their interior participation (minds) is attuned to their exterior participation (voices). This is the huge oversight on the part of modern critics of participation, those who suggest there's too much emphasis on the external. The middle way would suggest that, generally, the community is observing silence and engaged in meditation as well as singing and vocally praying. You can't get around it. Uncooperative believers still have an experience of grace, but the efficacy of the Roman Rite is called into question for those who persistently and stubbornly refuse to engage at the appropriate times. As spiritual guides, pastors are urged to see that their personal focus is not limited to the rubrics. Their responsibility is the full awareness of the people, their active engagement--external and internal, and that the faith community as a whole experiences spiritual growth as a result of liturgy.
How To Improve Church Music II: What the Diocese Can Do

Sacrosanctum Concilium 44 gives some direction here, if you'll pardon our getting ahead of our Vatican II study, and recommends an actual institute "consisting of persons who are eminent in these matters, and including laymen as circumstances suggest. Under the direction of the above-mentioned territorial ecclesiastical authority the commission is to regulate pastoral-liturgical action throughout the territory, and to promote studies and necessary experiments ..." For those territories concerned about "spending a fortune" on such things, Vatican II also suggested dioceses might want to merge resources and work together on such projects. The consensus is that liturgy is nowhere near where it could be, so my first question to a bishop is this: Where is your liturgy institute? I think it may be time to retire seminaries, at least in the sense of an institution devoted exclusively to educating priests. It would seem to me that institutional learning replacing seminaries would have many benefits: - Students in many disciplines would learn side by side with seminarians. Rather than set up a culture of separation, bonds of communion would be set up between students of liturgy and music and future priests.

- Future colleagues in parishes would form friendships and associations during the formative years of study. - Seminarians need training in singing and music appreciation. A music institute is a better location to do that than a seminary. - The obvious advantages for the diocese include economics (saving a bishop from supporting two or more higher learning institutions) as well as forming its ministry students in a common philosophy of ministry and a shared emphasis on theology. There's no way out of it. Every diocese should have at minimum an association of organists and other church musicians to serve as a model and as mentors for younger musicians and students. Music students in the institutes and Catholic colleges could be serving as assistants in parishes. We have to recognize that parishes organically develop large numbers of competent musicians in the volunteer ranks. An effort needs to be made to bring the opportunity for music learning to every parish music leader. A diocese should have, at minimum, a list of organists, pianists, voice teachers, guitarist, and other instrumentalists who are available to teach those who are willing to learn. In addition, the bishop must take the lead to instill a culture of improvement. Any serious musician is never satisfied with her or his own status quo. Steer the desire for novelty into a desire to learn new techniques, new repertoire, new ways of doing old things. Composer forums should be set up regionally, at the very least. I think publishers might do well to refuse publication to works which have not been tested in a parish and which have not been peer reviewed in a composer forum. Bishops and dioceses could be responsible for setting up such an effort. That's probably enough for now. Any other suggestions?


More Early Music
IU's great program, Harmonia, is a weekly listen for me. I often browse the archives and listen to some of the programs from the past several years. Here's last week's program on early funeral music. Be warned: those of you who think that early sacred music is all about organ and voice might be alarmed to know music for lute is included. Consider that a twist on conventional wisdom on traditional music.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sacrosanctum Concilium 10

Here's where we get "source and summit" in Vatican II, one of the most-quoted sections of the whole constitution:

Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made (daughters and) sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

Sacrifice and meal, right?

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness" (Postcommunion for both Masses of Easter Sunday.); it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith" (Collect of the Mass for Tuesday of Easter Week.); the renewal in the eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and (humankind) draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of (people) in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way. This seems fairly straight-forward: the two-fold purpose of liturgy, elucidated here: the sanctification of the believers, the glorification of God.
The Wisdom by which the World was Made I assume that we will continue to reflect on liturgy and music (and various astronomical phenomena) in the coming weeks and months, but we might also find ourselves considering the relationship of faith and reason, the real subject of the Pope's unexpectedly controversial lecture at Regensburg. Our subject is, as the Anglican Bishop of Durham, NT Wright, put it in a recent sermon, "the wisdom by which the world was made, the wisdom you need to be a fully alive human being, the wisdom by which the living God inhabits his world, breathes into it his own warm life, and brings about within it the fulfilment of his strange and beautiful purposes." Since we have also been reflecting on Asia and mission, it might be a good thing to remember a line from Pope John Paul II's post-synodal exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia, "Jesus could be presented as the Incarnate Wisdom of God whose grace brings to fruition the 'seeds' of divine Wisdom already present in the lives, religions and peoples of Asia." Here is a longer excerpt from Bishop Wright's sermon, delivered at the inauguration of a new principal of St John's College, Durham, on October 17th of this year. If you do not have the time or inclination to read the excerpt, please take this as an invitation to meditate on two of his texts, Isaiah 60:1-4, and Colossians 1:15-20. If, on the other hand, you wish to read more, I can point you to the rest of the unofficial NT Wright Page. The learned Bishop said: Of course, within [the three monotheistic traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam] there are competing visions of who precisely this one God may be and how precisely he has done, is doing, and will do, these things. Those debates are hugely important, and a university with its faith communities is an excellent place to engage in them, as Durham, thank God, has already begun to do. But within the specifically Christian tradition of this university and of St John’s College in particular we embrace the call to discover fresh light amid the paradoxical darkness of the so-called Enlightenment world, and to become a place to which people will come in a pilgrimage which brings together the thirst for rigorous knowledge and the longing for God. As the prophet put it, in calling Israel to stand up and be counted after the dreary years of exile: Get up, shine your light, YHWH’s glory is rising upon you; night still covers the earth, and darkness the peoples, but YHWH will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. That may seem a somewhat grandiose vision for a university or college; but if we are to embrace, and be embraced by, the vocation to seek and express a freshly integrated wisdom we are claiming nothing less. All that I have said so far points us forward to the spectacular passage we heard from Colossians, one of the very first and still one of the greatest Christian poems ever written. Colossians 1 encapsulates beautifully and movingly this vision of integrated wisdom, and gives it, breathtakingly, a human face: He is the image of God, the invisible one, firstborn of all creation. For in him all things were created, in the heavens and here on the earth. Things we can see and things we cannot, – thrones and lordships and rulers and powers –All were created both through him and for him. And he is ahead, prior to all else and in him all things hold together; And he himself is supreme, the head over the body, the church. He is the start of it all, firstborn from realms of the dead; so in all things he might be the chief. For in him all the Fullness was glad to dwell and through him to reconcile all to himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, through him – yes, things on the earth, and also the things in the heavens. The balance of the poem (very clear in both the rhythm and the words of the original), and its deep roots in the ancient traditions of Jewish wisdom, both highlight the stupendous claim that the God who made the world, with all its parts and pieces, is now active in remaking it, restoring it, healing it, and renewing it; and that the means by which he has done the first and is doing the second is the person, the man, we know as Jesus Christ. He is the mirror in which we discover who the creator really is; he is the one through whom all things were made, and through whom, by his death and resurrection, all things are now being remade. St Paul, in writing or quoting this astonishing and very early piece of poetic theology, is claiming for Jesus Christ what the ancient Jewish wisdom writers claimed for the figure of Wisdom – the wisdom by which the world was made, the wisdom you need to be a fully alive human being, the wisdom by which the living God inhabits his world, breathes into it his own warm life, and brings about within it the fulfilment of his strange and beautiful purposes. The to-and-fro in early Christian theology and poetry between creation and new creation, so underplayed in contemporary theology until very recently, offers in fact the matrix of understanding within which this freshly integrated vision of the task of a university and college can be understood. When, as has so often been the case, redemption has been understood in terms of escape from the world of creation, then of course Christian faith understands itself, and is understood by outsiders, in terms of a hiding away from the realities of the world. Faith and public life, religion and politics, private devotion and academic study, are then seen as antithetical. But where the fully biblical vision of God’s action in Jesus Christ is freshly understood in terms of God’s dealing with evil and corruption within the created order in order that the new creation may be born from the womb of the old – when, in other words, we embrace the vision of Colossians 1, built on the rocky foundation of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the way that this glorious Cathedral is built on the solid rock beneath us – then it becomes clear that those who claim that death and resurrection as the centre of their life, those who love Jesus and seek to follow and serve him, are called to be agents of new creation, and that this involves exploring, understanding and celebrating the old creation and discovering its inner dynamic in order the better to pioneer the new world in which the old is to find its glorious fulfilment.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 9

Is there more to life than liturgy? Vatican II suggests we also have evangelization:

The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before (people) can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: "How then are they to call upon him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15).

Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all (people) may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance (Cf. John 17:3; Luke 24:27; Acts 2:38.). And for those of us who believe and celebrate liturgy? 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 (Cf. Matt. 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 (all). It's a careful reminder that liturgy as we celebrate it on earth, is a means to an end. A glorious means, to be certain. The council bishops were well aware of the importance that liturgy be a source, a wellspring of the Christian life. It should lead us to holiness. It should be apparent to non-believers that we are special. Not because of our own finely-tuned acts of worship, but because Christ calls us to be witnesses to the world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sacrosanctum Concilium 8
This is a pretty straightforward piece. Liturgy binds us with the community of heaven: the saints and angels in their worship of God in glory. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle (Cf. Apoc. 21:2; Col. 3:1; Heb. 8:2.); we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory (Cf. Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4.). Probably little concern with who's doing dishes. Any other comments?
Dishwashing Duty
If it's not already, the Catholic blogotariat will be atwitter about this one fairly soon:
At the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion will no longer be permitted to assist in the purification of the sacred vessels at Masses in the United States.
The one thing it has going for it is to restore a stronger sense of service in the clergy. In practice, I suspect that parish priests will be bothered by the interruption of good pastoral time after and in between Masses. It's possible to delay purifying vessels till after Mass. Most often that takes place in the sacristy. I'd like to hear from the clergy in the readership here: do you guys see this as having any impact on the quality of the celebration of Mass? Or is this another shot in the foot for priestly morale?

How To Improve Church Music I
This is a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Without leadership and commitment from the bishops and pastors, good musicians won't be attracted to Roman Catholic parishes, at least not in the numbers we need. And if we lack top shelf musicians, the people will rarely, if ever, experience what good music ministry is all about. And if the people don't get it, they won't pressure the clergy to pony up for it. There's a lot of whining and complaining about the quality of church music. Some of the complaints are valid ones. Some of them reveal the usual log-speck-eye issues. Some of them are indeed matters of personal taste. What is lacking in most discussions is a plan to get from here to a future better than the present. What I'd like to do is look at the individual pieces that we need to fit the puzzle together and get to that future. I'd like to look at it first from what the diocese should be doing. Somebody has to start hatching the musical birds, so I'm going to put the pressure on the bishops from the get-go. From there, I'll describe what a church musician would like to see in a parish before committing to serve there. I can only testify as to why I accepted jobs where I did. So I'll rely on the input of other musicians to add their hopes and wants in the comment boxes. Pastors have a lot of work to do to make some of their parishes attractive to good musicians. Some of it will take money. But there are enough things to do outside of budgetary considerations. It just takes a little work and a direction. I'll also make a list of the skills a parish musician should have: what will make you attractive to employers; what will help you succeed in ministry; how you can sell yourself to your new pastor and the parishioners, what disciplines you'll need to adopt, if not master, to hit the ground running when you have diploma in hand. Some musicians, however, won't be in a position to get a degree. What then? Let's take a look at what parish volunteers can do to improve themselves. Next, I'll outline the ideal parish situation. Even if your budget can't pay the going rate for good musicians, there are way you can and should make your community attractive to your music director. What should the school personnel offer? How should the choirs adapt to and adopt their new leader? And finally, I'll outline what it should be looking like in twenty to thirty years: what we need to do to keep the machine humming.
Mission as Telling the Story of Jesus The blog looks a little strange today. Someone seems to have absconded with our left-hand column. (I can't do anything about it, but I trust that Todd soon will.) As many of you might have noticed, the 2006 Asian Mission Congress, meeting in Thailand from October 19-22, has just concluded. The theme of the congress was "Telling The Story Of Jesus In Asia: A Celebration of Life and Faith." I would like to provide an excerpt from the opening night's keynote address, delivered by the Most Rev. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Bishop of Imus in the Philippines, which is located at Manila Bay. The address directly concerns the theme of the Congress. Bishop Tagle notes that, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, Pope John Paul II wrote that, when presenting Jesus Christ in Asia, "narrative methods akin to Asian cultural forms are to be preferred. In general, the proclamation of Jesus Christ can most effectively be made by narrating his story, as the Gospels do." In telling Jesus' story, the Pope continued, the Church must also remain "open to the new and surprising ways in which the face of Jesus might be presented in Asia." Bishop Tagle briefly summarizes the theology of a "turn to narrative" in the Church's missionary efforts: The origin of the Church's mission is the Great Storyteller, the Holy Spirit, to whom it must listen so it can share what it has heard. The Church is God's Storyteller of Jesus Christ as it listens to the Holy Spirit. Bishop Tagle then goes on to share eight reflections on "mission as telling the story of Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." Here are a few of them (FABC, by the way, is an acronym for the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences): 1. The Church tells the story of Jesus from its experience of Jesus. Telling the story of Jesus in Asia is more effective if it springs from the experience of the storyteller. Pope Paul IV's observation in Evangelii Nuntiandi that people today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers is universally true but more so in Asia where cultures put particular emphasis on the experientially verified truthfulness of the witness. The earlier apostles, who were Asians, spoke of their experience - what they have heard, they have seen with their eyes, they have looked upon and touched with their hands concerning the Word of Life (1 Jn 1:1-4). There cannot be any other way for the contemporary Church in Asia. Without a deep experience of Jesus as Savior, how can I tell his story convincingly as part of my personal story? The experience of St Paul is truly the root of mission when he says, "it is not I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Telling the story of Jesus in Asia requires the Church's living encounter with Jesus in prayer, worship, interaction with people, especially the poor, and events that constitute the "signs of the times." 2. The story of Jesus manifests the identity of the Church among the poor, cultures and religions of Asia. Just as a story reveals personal identity, a story of faith in Jesus reveals also the identity of the narrator as a believer. A witness who tells his/her story of encountering Jesus cannot and should not hide his/her identity as a disciple of the Savior. But just as a web of relationships with people, culture and societal currents form a personal story or identity, so is Christian storytelling in Asia to be done in relationship with others. The Christian identity and story in Asia is always with and not apart from those of other cultures and religions. The story of Jesus is to be told by Asian Christians who are with and among the poor, the diverse cultures and the various religions of Asia that partly determine their identities and stories as Asians. This reality of Asia has prompted Jonathan Yun-Ka Tan to propose that missio ad (towards) gentes should be understood now according to the new paradigm of missio inter (among or with) gentes. But I hold that missio ad gentes should not be eliminated but rather be done inter gentes. There can never be a genuine mission towards people without it being at the same time mission with people. And genuine mission with people encourages mission towards people. With and among the poor, cultures and religions, Asian Christians are Asian. To and for the poor, cultures and religions, Asian Christians are Christian. The blending of these stories, I believer, can enrich the numerous reflections of the FABC on mission as dialogue with the poor, cultures and religions of Asia. 3. The Church keeps the memory of Jesus dynamically alive. Among and for other Asians, the Church tells the story of Jesus in the mode of keeping the memory of Jesus alive. Keeping the memory of Jesus does not mean locking it up in some untouchable realm of existence. It is kept when re-appropriated and shared. Trusting in the Holy Spirit and faithful to the memory guaranteed in the Tradition of the Universal Church, the Church in Asia should have the courage to rediscover new ways of telling the story of Jesus, retrieving its vitality and freeing its potentials for the renewal of the Asian realities. The story of Jesus, when guarded as a museum piece, fails to be life giving. In Ecclesia in Asia, Pope John Paul II poses the challenge of finding the pedagogy that would make the story of Jesus closer to Asian sensibilities, especially to theologians. He is confident that the same story could be told in new perspectives and in the light of new circumstances. 4. The Story of Jesus provides meaning to the Church's symbols of faith. We said that stories contain the meaning of the spirituality, ethics, and convictions embraced by a person. It can happen that the Church can be so identified with some "standardized" or stereotyped symbols of doctrine, ethic and worship that the story that gives impetus to them is forgotten. Then the symbols themselves lose their power to touch people. The symbols of faith must be rooted back to the foundational story of Jesus. For example the breaking of bread at the Eucharist should be seen in many stories of sharing, caring and communion, without which the ritual is deprived of significance. A bishop's ring should spring from a living story of service to the community, without which the ring is reduced to a piece of jewelry. A priest's symbolism as Jesus' presence should spring from a living story of availability to people, without which the priesthood becomes a status rather than a vocation. The symbols of faith must be traceable to the foundational story of Jesus. A return to the story of Jesus would also enable the Church in Asia to correct the impressions of foreign-ness attached to its doctrine, rituals and symbols (Ecclesia in Asia 20). Detached from the originating story of Jesus, the symbols of the Church might tell of a story foreign to Jesus Himself. 6. A listening Church tells the story of Jesus. Stories find their completion in the listener. But stories that are imposed are not listened to. The Church in Asia must trust in the vitality of the story it offers, without any thought of forcing it on others. It is already a beautiful story that will surely touch those who have even a bit of openness. Pope John Paul II tells us in Ecclesia in Asia that we share the gift of Jesus not to proselytize but out of obedience to the Lord and as an act of service to the peoples of Asia. Let the story speak and touch. Let the Holy Spirit open the hearts and memories of the listeners and invite them to transformation. The multitudes of poor peoples of Asia can find compassion and hope in Jesus' story. The cultures of Asia will resonate with the disturbing challenge to true freedom in Jesus' story. The various religions of Asia will marvel at the respect and appreciation towards those seeking God and genuine holiness in Jesus' story. The Church in Asia is called to humbly allow the Spirit to touch its listeners. As a storyteller of the Holy Spirit, the Church in Asia is to enter the worlds and languages of its listeners and from within them to tell Jesus' story just like at Pentecost. But that means the Church in Asia must be a good listener to the Spirit and to the poor, cultures and religions if it is to speak meaningfully at all. A storytelling Church must be a listening Church.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What Lies Beneath?
The remains of two Perth archbishops were exhumed from under the floorboards of St Mary's cathedral in the Western Australia capital.
(R)ecords from 1943 suggested the tombs had been moved to a newer section of St Mary’s, but did not provide the exact location. The puzzle began to take shape about three years ago when archdiocese archivist Sister Frances Stibi discovered one of the crosses carved into the floor near the altar. But the fate of the crypt remained unresolved until six weeks ago when the pews were removed for restoration work, and the three other crosses were revealed. Archeologists —helped by University of WA students — used a metal rod to probe under the floorboards until they discovered a metal cap covering a small, brick and plaster crypt containing two coffins. Sand and building rubble coating the coffins still held footprints left by workers who covered the graves almost 80 years ago.
A fiber-optic probe was inserted through a small opening of one coffin. Researchers found a skeleton and vestments. The bishops' remains will be interred in a crypt with Perth's other archbishops after the renovation at St Mary's is complete.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 7
This section is much-quoted since the council. A reading of SC 5 & 6 is helpful in giving it a wider perspective than traditionalist critics are willing to offer it. You'll remember that SC immediately began chapter 1 "General Principles ..." with a section entitled, "The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church's Life." Catholics see liturgy as Christ-centered. Everything about Christ--his preaching, his witness in time through the Scriptures, his Passion, eath and resurrection and how that Paschal Mystery roots the sacraments--all of this underlines a basic approach to the Church's liturgy. People might naturally ask, "Where is Jesus today?" Here's the answer: To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross" (Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. 2.), but especially under the eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a (person) baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes (Cf. St. Augustine, Tractatus in Ioannem, VI, n. 7.). He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) .

This multivalent presence is misunderstood. Christ's presence in the Church, in the priest, in the word, in the sacraments, in the people: these are not competing presences. They each manifest Christ in a different way, but as a whole, they offer a cohesive revelation to the believer. No sincere believer will isolate any of these to the exclusion of the others. Catholics believe that all of these offer a grace-filled encounter with the Lord. To get the fullest possible relationship with Jesus, one must consider all of these presences.

Here we have the explicit purpose of the sacred liturgy: the worship of God and the sancitification of the people:

Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and (people) are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father.

This next paragraph offers a suggestion as to the importance of liturgy as a communal experience, namely that human beings experience sanctification through the perception of the senses. When we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, etc., our human senses become the conduit through which God communicates grace and holiness. It's possible this was misinterpreted to lessen the importance of such things as Masses without congregations. And while we can say that the efficacy of prayer is vital, be it done by a priest alone in a chapel or by contemplative orders, or by friends or saints interceding for us with God, the truth is that the liturgy achieves its desired result by the direct, sensual participation of the faithful:

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the (person) is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members. Nothing surpasses the importance of liturgy in achieving this two-fold goal of the worship of God and the sanctification of the faithful. The natural result is that we ourselves participate in the priesthood of Christ through these various presences in the liturgical celebration:

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.

Comments?


Remembering Assisi The Most Rev. William F. Murphy, bishop of Rockville Centre, has an article in the October 23 issue of America on this theme. The twentieth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, when Pope John Paul II gathered various Christian and other religious leaders to Assisi "to be together to pray" for peace, will occur this October 26th (Thursday). Since Bishop Murphy's article is not online, I would like to quickly provide an excerpt of his description of "three moments" during that day in 1986: The planners divided the day itself into three "moments." In the morning, about 64 religious leaders gathered with the pope at the Portiuncula Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi. Here Pope John Paul II welcomed all and set the tone for the day of prayer and fasting - two practices that united us. Then the religious leaders, with members of their own faith, dispersed to select sites in Assisi to pray and reflect in accord with their tradition. Churches and chapels regularly used for the celebration of Mass were not used as worship space for communities other than Christian. Assisi is so rich in beautiful places for meeting that it was easy to find appropriate sites for each religious group. The Christians assembled in the cathedral church of the Diocese of Assisi. There the pope, flanked by the representative of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and by Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury, led a service of prayer, hymns and reflection. He proclaimed the commitment to peace of all who turned to Jesus, the prince of peace, and asked that he might make them "instruments of his peace." John Paul II's conviction was clear: "Peace bears the name of Jesus Christ." Our prayer to the Father is through Jesus Christ. In my judgment the pope's homily that day was one of the most beautiful reflections on peace he ever gave. He focused on John 20, which describes the appearance of the risen Christ in the Upper Room. The Lord shows his disciples the marks of his crucifixion, the pope noted, the marks now glorified that he carries with him into eternity. The pope then applied this image to us as disciples of Jesus, who must bring the marks of our efforts at peacemaking before the Lord on the day of judgment. By midafternoon rain was falling lightly, and the prefect of the papal household asked me to make a quick decision. The climax of the day was scheduled to be held outdoors in the lower piazza of the Basilica of San Francesco. Would the rain ruin it? Would going inside dissipate some of the impact of our witness? With trepidation, I decided to stay outdoors. So we started walking from the cathedral toward San Francesco. I have since seen videos that show what a moving moment it was. Believers in all the major religions of the world took to the streets of Assisi from various corners and buildings. We walked in prayer and silence to "be together to pray" outside the tomb of the Poverello. There on an immense stage - the backdrop was a frieze of the word "peace" in multiple languages - Pope John Paul II stood at the center of a semicircle of religious leaders, with Christians on his right and others on his left. Members of each religious tradition had an opportunity to pray in a separate squared-off area. As each religious group prayed, the rest of us on the stage or in the piazza followed the prayers attentively, silently. The prayers of each tradition, which had been ascending to God throughout the day, were now completed through the respectful witness we offered to one another's prayerful commitment to peace. Later we broke the fast and adjourned to the great refectory of San Francesco for a simple buffet. Byzantine bishops, the Dalai Lama, the Native American John Pretty on Top, Jains, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians - all mingled together to share this meal with John Paul II.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

WMS MIA and other Weekend Adventures
We missed World Mission Sunday at my parish. There was the 9.6 minute video presentation, "The Truth About Cloning" after Communion at all Masses. Homilies were shortened to get the folks out in an hour. I'm also the closest thing to a tech guy at the parish on Sundays, so it was left to me to make sure the hook-ups were in place for Bishop Finn and the various lawyers and mostly doctors assembled for the dvd presentation. My poor wife made two trips to a local site (which shall go nameless) to get the hardware for me to attempt to wire the dvd player & projector into the sound system. On trip one, the guy talked her out of getting what I needed and sent me a useless stereo adapter instead. Even so, the assembled hardware from trip two didn't do the trick either, so I was left with the Bronze Age solution of holding a microphone to the projector speaker. I laugh when people think of me as a liturgical nazi. I probably should've bowed to the pastor's wisdom when he suggested we might forego the presentation during Mass and do what the dicoesan RTL office said we shouldn't do: set the program up to run at coffee and donuts or something. But I thought that we owed our bishop some support on his first big public issue. I found it interesting that our vicar general didn't even know the video was being distributed to parishes this weekend. Communication is probably not one of our diocese's strong points this year. The Star's lead editorial today urged readers to vote for amendment 2. Interesting timing. Our parish has done a great deal to promote opposition to amendment 2, but I have to confess I'm picking up on some battle fatigue from the troops. I don't have a sense that this weekend we did much more than bring six celebrations of Mass to a crashing halt after Communion. (If any parishioners are reading this, please post here or e-mail me; I really want to know what you thought: bad and good.) And after a mass mailing, weekly articles in the diocesan paper, and at least two pulpit talks (I can't call them homilies, really) I suspect we've shot the wad on the issue already. Did anybody outside of Missouri have any success with World Mission Sunday? I'm not even going to ask about James and John imitating non-believers by lording it over the others. We'll come back to that in 2009. With any luck.
Ad Orientem
It's the former name of the spiffy Irish Elk blog (see sidebar). Oh yes; it's all the rage in the liturgy section of St Blog's this year, too. I was having a pleasant discussion with cantor on Cantate Deo about it this past weekend. It's been a topic here before on Catholic Sensibility. I think those who advocate it was the "best" or "only" proper orientation have a harder case to prove than they think. First, it is probably not the oldest orientation for Christians. Jesus celebrated a Passover meal at the Last Supper, and Leonardo not withstanding, they probably sat around on the floor or at a table. It would be surprising to me to learn the early house churches adopted a universal posture of facing east, though if memory serves, I do think they were aware of a liturgical east during the vigils kept before Sunday. At any rate, we know too little about the common practices of the Eucharist in Christian homes of the first three centuries. Christians adopted Roman public buildings to accommodate their growing numbers in the 4th century and these buildings also provided the natural acoustics for a bishop to preach to hundreds of worshippers. Vatican II promoted intelligibility. I can see why visually-oriented westerners might prefer a better glimpse of the altar and the Eucharistic species. I can see how the affective aspect of intimate home Masses, on floors, in small chapels, in homey surroundings, might have a certain appeal to some people. There's not so much an impulse to irreverence as much as a yearning for immediacy and intimacy in liturgical celebrations outside of churches. I'd submit that Catholic priests were already seen as performers before the Second Vatican Council. "Turning the priest around" was more about visibility, immediacy, and understanding than it was about a liberal cadre of Jack Paar wannabes taking over the Mass. In the worst of liturgical situations, the Mass has always been about the words the priest says anyway. That's what got the Tridentine observance into trouble: that we had too many minimalists concerned about saying the right words. Other aspects: music, art, architecture, and even the presence and sanctification of the faithful became irrelevant. Facing liturgical east meant something when churches were built to actually face east. Churches today are aligned in all sorts of directions. Pretending that a particular direction is east just because the reredo is aligned on a short wall is a deception, in my opinion. More than that, it potentially demonstrates a god-like arrogance on the part of liturgical leaders. "We didn't bother to build our church facing east, so we'll just reorder the universe to accommodate the way we're pointing. I do believe that ad orientem reflects the view of a priest leading the faithful on a pilgrimage. That's an image we surely don't want to lose. But not every Christian act of worship--not every Mass--is exclusively an expression of pilgrimage. Pilgrims break from their journey to share a meal, to rest, to reflect on where they are and where they are going. A church building that surrounds its worshippers with the images of saints, a foretelling of the heavenly banquet, is an equally powerful image. It would not be wrong to have many churches built to image that, assuing the zoning board didn't think to point the church east. But as an aside, I do wonder what would happen to ad orientem worship on a planet in which the sun did not rise in the east. Would they adapt, or would they reorder the universe to accommodate?
Sacrosanctum Concilium 6
The two-fold aspect of liturgy is contained in this section. First, we are reminded of the salvific nature of preaching and evangelization: Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also He sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This He did that, by preaching the gospel to every creature (Cf. Mark 16:15.), they might proclaim that the Son of God, by His death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan (Cf. Acts 26:18.) and from death, and brought us into the kingdom of His Father. ... and the sacramental life, particularly baptism and Eucharist: His purpose also was that they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves. Thus by baptism (people) are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him ( Cf. Rom. 6:4; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:11.); they receive the spirit of adoption as (daughters and) sons "in which we cry: Abba, Father" (Rom. 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks (Cf. John 4:23.). In like manner, as often as they eat the supper of the Lord they proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes (Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26.). For that reason, on the very day of Pentecost, when the Church appeared before the world, "those who received the word" of Peter "were baptized." And "they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread and in prayers . . . praising God and being in favor with all the people" (Acts 2:41-47). From that time onwards the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things "which were in all the scriptures concerning him" (Luke 24:27), celebrating the eucharist in which "the victory and triumph of his death are again made present" ( Council of Trent, Session XIII, Decree on the Holy Eucharist, c.5.), and at the same time giving thanks "to God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:15) in Christ Jesus, "in praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12), through the power of the Holy Spirit. The council bishops recognized the intimate relationship between the Word and the Sacraments. Also note that the council is not leery about using the language of eating, for it presumes the notion of "sacrifice" as part of the foundation of the Mass.

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