Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pt. 2

God who "wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4), "who in many and various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1), when the fullness of time had come sent His Son, the Word made flesh, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to preach the the gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart [Cf. Is. 61:1; Luke 4:18], to be a "bodily and spiritual medicine" [St. Ignatius of Antioch, To the Ephesians, 7, 2], the Mediator between God and man [Cf. 1 Tim. 2:5]. For His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation. Therefore in Christ "the perfect achievement of our reconciliation came forth, and the fullness of divine worship was given to us" [Sacramentarium Veronese (ed. Mohlberg), n. 1265; cf. also n. 1241, 1248].

A couple of fun facts here. The Veronese Sacramentary is an old liturgical book that was compiled sometime between 558 and 600 AD. At least some of the prayers are attributed to Pope Leo the Great, so that's kind of neat.

The full passage from St. Ignatius, chapter 7, reads:

For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom you must flee as you would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom you must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured. There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible— even Jesus Christ our Lord.

Maybe the conciliar citation is wrong because the reference to "medicine" is in Chapter 20:

Especially [will I do this ] if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Continuing . . .

The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He achieved His task principally by the paschal mystery of His blessed passions resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension, whereby "dying, he destroyed our death and, rising, he restored our life" [Easter Preface of the Roman Missal]. For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth "the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church" [Prayer before the second lesson for Holy Saturday, as it was in the Roman Missal before the restoration of Holy Week].

This is significant, I think, in these times, but maybe for different reasons than what might come to mind for many. Every now and then, you see Catholics who have been caught up in some variety of Protestant rapturism. These folks look forward to the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem so that Jewish people can start making sacrifices again. While the Council doesn't say that such a belief is blasphemous (nor was there any need to), it is clear that these OT sacrifices were just a set-up for the real deal, namely, Christ's Passion.

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. 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.

Weird. No mention of committees here.

Thus by baptism men 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 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."

One thing that has always surprised me about the post-conciliar era is how baptism has become an after-thought. You have people who don't even baptize their kids anymore. VII stresses baptism all over the place, including here and other places that we'll look at in due time. This is all very good though for demonstrating the huge chasm of difference between the baptized and the unbaptized.

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.

Here's the context of the statement from Trent:

The holy Synod declares, moreover, that very piously and religiously was this custom introduced into the Church, that this sublime and venerable sacrament be, with special veneration and solemnity, celebrated, every year, on a certain day, and that a festival; and that it be borne reverently and with honour in processions through the streets, and public places. For it is most just that there be certain appointed holy days, whereon all Christians may, with a special and unusual demonstration, testify that their minds are grateful and thankful to their common Lord and Redeemer for so ineffable and truly divine a benefit, whereby the victory and triumph of His death are represented. And so indeed did it behove victorious truth to celebrate a triumph over falsehood and heresy, that thus her adversaries, at the sight of so much splendour, and in the midst of so great joy of the universal Church, may either pine away weakened and broken; or, touched with shame and confounded, at length repent.

When was the last time you saw a Eucharistic procession?

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.

The whole Trent quote is:

And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propritiatory and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgives even heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits indeed of which oblation, of that bloody one to wit, are received most plentifully through this unbloody one; so far is this (latter) from derogating in any way from that (former oblation). Wherefore, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified, is it rightly offered, agreebly to a tradition of the apostles.

Show this to a too-large percentage of Catholics these days, and they'd probably wonder where you pulled such archaic, unenlightened language from. The Mass is a sacrifice. Not only is it a sacrifice, it is THE sacrifice. The only difference is the manner of the offering. And you can even have an offering for someone in purgatory.

By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man 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) .

Augustine's full comment:

Before He came to the river, while many people were running together to John to be baptized, he says to them, I indeed baptize you with water; but He that comes after me is greater than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose; the same shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. Already he knew this also. What then did he learn from the dove, that he may not afterwards be found a liar (which God forbid we should think), if it be not this, that there was to be a certain peculiarity in Christ, such that, although many ministers, be they righteous or unrighteous, should baptize, the virtue of baptism would be attributed to Him alone on whom the dove descended, and of whom it was said, This is He that baptizes with the Holy Ghost? Peter may baptize, but this is He that baptizes; Paul may baptize, yet this is He that baptizes; Judas may baptize, still this is He that baptizes.

Valuable lessons for those who would let scandal bring them to doubt the sacraments.

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

Who is the Bride? The Church. The logical consequence of this is that those who are not the Church are not the Bride. If the Bride offers worship to the Father through the Son, what other worship can be regarded as legitimate?

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man 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.

Which reminds me of something that has always bothered me. I hear a lot about how the pre-conciliar era was one dominated by clericalism and how the liturgy wasn't how the people wanted it. Does it not seem commonplace, though, that now the liturgy is dominated by a committee of people who ostracize those who do not share the clique's views on what a Mass should look like? Yeah, it happens.

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is 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.

Which brings us back to something that we have forgotten. Nothing you do will ever be more important than the sacraments. So, yes, you should try to show up for them. Even moreso, if you don't show up, they are still important. The Sacrifice does what God wants whether 5 people show up or 5000. The Mass is greater than receiving communion.

1 comment:

Convenor said...

It would be very kind of you if you could let your readers know about the December issue of CHRISTVS REGNAT, a journal of Catholic heritage from Ireland:


We'd also be delighted if you linked to/followed/blogrolled our blog:


Pray for me!

God bless you!

St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association