Cinquant’anni Dopo 17-18: A Mystical Liturgy

Fr Ev farewell MassWe continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano.

The liturgy is a fundamentally mystical, contemplative reality, and consequently beyond the reach of our human action; even our “participatio” is a grace from God. Therefore it presupposes on our part openness to the mystery being celebrated. Thus, the Constitution recommends the full understanding of the rites (cf. no. 34), and at the same time prescribes that “the faithful… be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (no. 54).

I don’t see the connection between these. I agree with the insight that liturgical participation is a grace. SC 34 suggests “noble simplicity,” a principle that finds some resistance in traditionalist circles. SC 54 endorses lay participation in the Mass, which in 1963 was conducted in Latin. The operating principle of the council bishops was that the people enter into a vocal response for the Mass Ordinary. If the language changes, then the principle of SC 54 is still satisfied. It does not require an unfamiliar language to form a faith community in the idea that their act of worship is due to the initiative of God.

Indeed, understanding the rite is not the work of unaided human reason, which would have to grasp everything, understand everything, master everything. The understanding of the sacred rites is that of the “sensus fidei”, which practices a living faith through the symbol and knows by being attuned more than through concepts. This understanding presupposes that one approaches the mystery with humility.

This paragraph is quite sound. The council never recommended a “full understanding” as cited earlier in the document. I think a “deeper” encounter with the Lord is laudable. But even the clergy don’t need to understand everything that goes on at the liturgy.

Unfortunately, we live in an age both skeptical and rational. Skeptics don’t want to enter into mysteries without a blueprint. The age of reason informs us that everything (or at least many things) can be known. Again, a matter of prudence: just because knowledge and information is available, it doesn’t mean it will be helpful.

Notes: I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. I wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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