Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pt. 3

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; 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.

The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men 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).

This is significant, especially in this day and age of objections to closed communion. The Council is clear that participation in the liturgy is not some kind of right. There must be faith and conversion first.

Robert McAffee Brown in his account of the Council presents the problem as follows, while recollecting his attendance at Mass during Vatican II:

I have never felt closer to my Roman Catholic brethren than at those services. I have never felt more cut off from my Roman Catholic brethren than at those services. There is something terribly wrong about the fact that we can given and receive the peace of Christ (during the sign of peace) but not the body of Christ. And there is a terribly urgent and holy discontent lodged in the hearts of those who have given and received the first and then find that they can neither give nor receive the second.

He then spends a lot of time angsting about why we all can't get along and just commit a little sacrilege every now and then by having everyone receive communion. Sure, he hedges by giving examples of mass, imminent death (such as a war) as "beginnings of a breakthrough" on how we can make intercommunion happen. The over-arching point, though, is to start with such emergencies and then come to the time when we say, "If we can do it then, why not all the time?"

This contradicts what the Council actually says, not that Brown lets that get in his way. To be fair, he does say that Catholics are welcome to receive communion in Protestant arenas. WooHoo.

On a slightly different note, it would be interesting to see this line dragged out to deal with the politicians who vote for abortion rights and access.

Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance. 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, and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ's faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men.

Faith and penance. Penance and faith. All for the purpose of converting others. How many homilies have you heard on these topics?

When was the last time you saw McBrien and his ilk promote this aspect of VII?

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 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.

Does this sound like something that should be treated as a disco or a committee project?

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness"; it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith"; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man 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 men 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.

First, the quotes there are from the Postcommunion for both Masses of Easter Sunday and the Collect of the Mass for Tuesday of Easter week.

Second, notice the continued emphasis on faith.

Third, the concept of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as the sources of sanctifying grace.

Fourth, ALL activities of the Church being directed toward making men holy and glorifying God. Whether or not you are having fun or are entertained is not the Church's job.

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. 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 one point that folks will start trying to shoe-horn in weirdness.

"Fully aware of what they are doing" becomes defined as "abolition of Latin." By what rationale? Surely not that of the Magisterium (and, as we'll see, the Constitution itself). The "what" of the Mass has already been discussed in Section 2. Why not ask the Council Fathers what they thought they were getting with regards to Latin?

"Actively engaged" gets twisted into "says and does a lot of stuff." According to whom? Not the Constitution here, which has already said that contemplation is superior to action.

The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father, in secret; yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he should pray without ceasing. 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. 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."

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.

Probably one of the most widespread and vicious lies spread about Vatican II is that it wiped out traditional Catholic devotional practices. This has been used as the rationale for tearing out the high altars, curbing the saying of the Rosary, restricting prayers to the saints, and the general collapse of Catholic culture.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that my wife was in our Church's library and a fellow parishioner asked her who was the saint portrayed on a medal for sale there. My wife told her it was St. Michael. The response: "Oh, well, I don't think we're supposed to believe in him anymore." This parishioner labors under the illusion that Vatican II destroyed all these things.

Strange how an ecumenical council has been used to resurrect the heresy of iconoclasm. Especially given the language of the Council that is exactly opposite to what folks are saying.

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.

I don't think anybody argues with this. Who would do the Stations of the Cross on Easter? Who would deny that the whole point of devotions is to increase the piety of the faithful so that they are better disposed and desirous of the Eucharist?

But consider Gary MacEoin, a professed Catholic, writing at the close of the Council:

As liturgical reform progresses, further changes in the forms of worship will be introduced. . . There will be a parallel stress on the community aspects of worship, a trend to smaller church buildings to encourage active participation of the faithful, a relocation of altars to promote a union of the priest and people in the Eucharistic liturgy. Novenas to the Miraculous Medal and to St. Jude and other private devotions will be de-emphasized.

Where the hell did he get all this stuff? Not from what the Council actually says. That's for sure. Which is the whole point in looking at what the Council did say.

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