DPPL 234: Celebration of the Eucharist

STA altar at night smallLet’s look at the intersection of saints with the actual celebration of Mass. We’re moving beyond feast days as we read that saints are united with us as part of a universal Church:

234. The celebration of the feast of a Saint or Beatus is not the only manner in which the Saints are present in the liturgy. The celebration of the Eucharist is the singular moment of communion with the Saints in heaven.

As the Scriptures are proclaimed, figures from both before Christ and in the apostolic era are recalled:

In the Liturgy of the Word, the Old Testament readings frequently refer to the great Patriarchs and prophets, and to other persons distinguished by their virtue and by their love for the law of the Lord. The New Testament recounts the deeds of the Apostles and other Saints who enjoyed the Lord’s friendship. The lives of the Saints sometimes reflect the Gospel so closely that their very personality becomes apparent from merely reading the pages.

Well, one needs good lectors for that to happen. In the prayers of the Mass, qualities of the saints are drawn into the texts:

The relationship between Sacred Scripture and Christian hagiography, in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist, has given rise to the composition of a number of Commons which provide a synopsis of a particular biblical text which illustrates the lives of the Saints. With regard to this relationship, it has been said that Sacred Scripture orients and indicates the journey of the Saints to perfect charity. The Saints, in turn, become a living exegesis of the Word.

In every Mass, at the Eucharistic Prayer, saints get some mention. And there are those lists in EP I.

Reference is made to the Saints at various points during the celebration of the Eucharist. The Canon mentions “the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham our father in faith and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek”(Roman Missal, EP I). The same Eucharistic prayer becomes an occasion to express our communion with the Saints, by venerating their memory and pleading for their intercession, since “in union with the whole Church, we honor Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, we honor Joseph her husband, the Apostles and martyrs: Peter and Paul, Andrew […] and all the Saints, may their prayers and intercession gain us your constant help and protection”(Roman Missal, EP I. Provision is made for a memorial of the Saint or patron of the day in EP III).

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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On My Bookshelf: A Natural History of the Piano

a natural history of the pianoStuart Isacoff’s book–I could call this a biography–is a hugely enjoyable read. Great combo of historical information, personal testimony of artists and by artists, and the occasional supporting illustration.

Mr Isacoff starts with the ancient history of the instrument, early efforts to improve it, and how it became mainstream in classical music by the end of the 18th century.

The author doesn’t progress straight from A to Z, but addresses various styles of playing (like the Combustibles and the Melodists), a few select nations (like Germany and Russia), and moves freely between various genres, mainly jazz and classical periods.

You don’t need to be a pianist or a musician to appreciate this book, but it helps a bit.

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Mutuae Relationes 43: Too Tolerant?

SenanquecloisterRemember to refer to the full document Mutuae Relationes here. With this section we wrap up the first part of Chapter VI, discussing the pastoral mission of the Church.

In this section the Church gives a case for harm. But is it harm always, or sometimes just institutional alarm?

43. Great harm is done to the faithful by the fact that too much tolerance is granted to certain unsound initiatives or to certain accomplished facts which are ambiguous. Consequently bishops and superiors, in a spirit of mutual trust, in fulfillment of the obligations incumbent upon each and in keeping with the exercise of each one’s responsibility, should see to it with the greatest concern that such errors are forestalled and corrected with evident decisiveness and clear dispositions, always in the spirit of charity but also with due resoluteness.

Certainly, there can be acts of harm. Our tradition also reminds us of the sins of when we fail to do something. Deciding to do nothing, or to refuse to change is itself an active decision that likewise has the potential for serious consequences.

Liturgy gets attention:

Especially in the field of liturgy there is urgent need to remedy not a few abuses introduced under pretexts at variance one with another. Bishops as the authentic liturgists of the local Church (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium 22; 41; Lumen Gentium 26;Christus Dominus 15; cf. Part I, ch. II), and religious superiors in what concerns their members should be vigilant and see that adequate renewal of worship is brought about, and they should intervene early in order to correct or remove any deviations and abuses in this sector, which is so important and central (cf. SC 10). Religious, too, should remember that they are obliged to abide by the laws and directives of the Holy See, as well as the decrees of the local Ordinary, in what concerns the exercise of public worship (cf. Eccl. Sanctae I, 26; 37; 38).

You might guess I would differ with the tone here. “Adequate” renewal is insufficient. This was the case in the 70’s as it is today. Are we satisfied with adequate when excellence is possible? Thoughts or comments?

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DPPL 233: Problems With A Saint’s Day

STA altar at night smallThe Church offers some cautions. Don’t let the party get too wild, or too disconnected from “Christian content.” Do you think they overstate the case? Saint Patrick being the exception.

233. From a religious and anthropological perspective, several elements serve to undermine the genuine nature of the “Saint’s day”.

In a religious perspective, the “Saint’s feast” of the “patronal feast” of the parish, when emptied of the Christian content that lies at its origin – the honor given to Christ in one of his members – becomes a mere popular observance or a social occasion, serving, in the best instances, as little other than a social occasion for the members of a particular community.
In an anthropological perspective, “to celebrate”, not infrequently, is defined by the behavior assumed by particular individuals or groups which can be widely at variance with the true significance of the feast. To celebrate a feast is to allow (people) to participate in God’s lordship over creation, and in His active “rest”, rather than in any form of laziness. It is a expression of simple joy, rather than unlimited selfishness. It is an expression of true liberty rather than an occasion for ambiguous amusement which creates new and more subtle forms of enslavement. It can safely be said that: transgressions of the norms for ethical behaviour not only contradict the law of the Lord, but also injure the anthropological fibre of celebration.

Joy, liberty, and union with God against laziness, selfishness, and slavery: a proper caution. But would you agree saints’ feasts are the prime occasions these days for “transgressions”? If anything, most modern Christians neglect all but the secular holidays. Or perhaps there is commentary from other parts of the world.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.

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Sex, Gender, and Such

Lisa Fullam has a terrific summary at dotCommonweal on the basics of sex and gender. It rubs against the Gospel of ToB, but largely seems to be spot-on with what I’ve learned about people. Predictable hand-wringing in the commentariat about the Hermeneutic of Gender Complementarity, but I ever found that principle particularly convincing beyond the realm of wishful thinking.

Pope Francis seems not to be on board about all this. No biggie, in my estimation. The Temple Police are all over him for talking to and hugging a trans person the other week. Not sure: I don’t follow these stories deeply.

Anyway, good summation on the link.

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Mutuae Relationes 41-42: Innovations and Experiments

SenanquecloisterWhat about innovations? What happens when a long-standing effort must be blown up or replaced?

41. Apostolic innovations, which are later to be undertaken, should be planned with careful study.

Can the Church say it too much? Be exceedingly careful. Sometimes, it seems as if we are too timid, and the opportunity, the moment is lost. How to reconcile that? The bishops aren’t likely to listen to me–and I feel as if my enthusiasm for the effort has been blunted by three decades in the trenches.

On the one hand, it is the duty of the bishops through their office not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good (cf. 1 Thes 5:12 and 19-21; Lumen Gentium 12), in such a way however, “that the spontaneous zeal of those who engage in this work may be safeguarded and fostered” (Ad Gentes 30); religious superiors, on their part, should cooperate actively and dialogue with the bishops in seeking solutions, in arranging the programming of choices made, in launching experiments, even completely new ones, always acting in view of the most urgent needs of the Church and in conformity with the norms and directives of the Magisterium and according to the nature of their institute.

More dialogue. Yada yada yada. Conform to the Magisterium. Ditto. Sometimes spontaneity happens and later the Magisterium races, out of breath, to catch up. Maybe those lines of communication are pretty essential after all.

Bishops and superiors together monitor those experiments and innovations that can so easily go off the track.

42. The commitment to a mutual exchange of help between bishops and superiors in appraising objectively and judging with equity experiments already undertaken should never be disregarded. In this way, not only evasions and frustrations but also the dangers of crises and deviations will be avoided.

Sure. But it seems just as likely that old, ossified programs can easily hit crisis and/or deviation.

Periodically, therefore, such undertakings should be reviewed; and if the endeavor has not been successful (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 58), humility and at the same time the necessary firmness should be exercised to correct, suspend or direct more adequately the experiment examined.

So this means bishops and superiors must be working together. What happens when a prelate thinks something is going swimmingly and the superior sees sharks in the water? Or vice versa? Is there a level of trust between people in the Church to navigate these waters?

Thoughts or comments? Don’t forget that you can read the full document online here.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Nehemiah 9:1-20, A Psalm of Memory

mary-the-penitent.jpgWe pick up on the long passage in #110 of the Rite of Penance. In yesterday’s post, we looked at the role of memory in reconciliation. We also viewed an introduction of ritual and liturgy into the Israelites’ of return from Exile. This long section of verses (6-20) reminded me of Psalm 106, a hymn recounting the events of the Exodus, and God’s saving plan for his people.

Note the direct similarity between Psalm 106:48 and Nehemiah 9:5. Then we get to the text of remembrance; I can imagine it sung:

Then Ezra said:
“It is you, O LORD,
you are the only one;
You made the heavens,
the highest heavens and all their host,
The earth and all that is upon it,
the seas and all that is in them.
To all of them you give life,
and the heavenly hosts bow down before you.

“You, O LORD, are the God
who chose Abram,
Who brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees,
and named him Abraham.
When you found his heart faithful in your sight,
you made the covenant with him
To give to him and his posterity
the land of the Canaanites,
Hittites, Amorites,
Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites.
These promises of yours you fulfilled,
for you are just.

“You saw the affliction of our (ancestors) in Egypt,
you heard their cry by the Red Sea;
You worked signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
against all his servants and the people of his land,
Because you knew of their insolence toward them;
thus you made for yourself a name even to this day.
The sea you divided before them,
on dry ground they passed through the midst of the sea;
Their pursuers you hurled into the depths,
like a stone into the mighty waters.
With a column of cloud you led them by day,
and by night with a column of fire,
To light the way of their journey,
the way in which they must travel.
On Mount Sinai you came down,
you spoke with them from heaven;
You gave them just ordinances, true laws,
good statutes and commandments;
Your holy sabbath you made known to them,
commandments, statutes, and law you prescribed for them,
by the hand of Moses your servant.
Food from heaven you gave them in their hunger,
water from a rock you sent them in their thirst.
You told them to enter and occupy the land
which you had sworn to give them.

“But they, our (ancestors), proved to be insolent;
they held their necks stiff
and would not obey your commandments.
They refused to obey and no longer remembered
the wonders you had worked for them.
They stiffened their necks and turned their heads
to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But you are a God of pardons,
gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in mercy;
you did not forsake them.
Though they made for themselves a molten calf,
and proclaimed, ‘Here is your God who brought you up from Egypt,’
and were guilty of great effronteries,
Yet in your great mercy
you did not forsake them in the desert.
The column of cloud did not cease to lead them by day on their journey,
nor did the column of fire by night cease to light for them
the way by which they were to travel.

“Your good spirit you bestowed on them,
to give them understanding;
Your manna you did not withhold from their mouths,
and you gave them water in their thirst.”

This chapter, and this song of Ezra the Scribe, continues for seventeen more verses. These cover the essence of the experiences contained in the Jewish Torah. Everything that defines Israel is contained in the tale of the Patriarchs and their covenant, plus the experience of liberation from Egypt, including the Law.

It is good for a Christian to remember this. God made us. God entered into covenant with Abraham. God saved his descendants from slavery. God marked us as his own. Everything else in the Old Testament is derived from that essential identification as God’s people. Including our rebellion and subsequent contrition, confession, and restoration–and I would see that as personal as well as communal.

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