Laudato Si 71: God Offers Renewal

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Noah was just, and through the grace of God, was the cornerstone of a fresh start for humankind:

71. Although “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Gen 6:5) and the Lord “was sorry that he had made man on the earth” (Gen 6:6), nonetheless, through Noah, who remained innocent and just, God decided to open a path of salvation. In this way he gave humanity the chance of a new beginning. All it takes is one good person to restore hope!

Not only did the Pentateuch offer a Sabbath every seventh day, but God also provided for the renewal of sabbaticals and jubilees:

The biblical tradition clearly shows that this renewal entails recovering and respecting the rhythms inscribed in nature by the hand of the Creator. We see this, for example, in the law of the Sabbath. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath, (cf. Gen 2:2-3; Ex 16:23; 20:10). Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land (cf. Lev 25:1-4), when sowing was forbidden and one reaped only what was necessary to live on and to feed one’s household (cf. Lev 25:4-6). Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated as a year of general forgiveness and “liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (cf. Lev 25:10). This law came about as an attempt to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked.

I can only imagine if countries who styled themselves as loyal to the Judeo-Christian tradition were to adopt such measures in their working life. In addition, those who emptied their lands of produce were considered lawbreakers:

At the same time, it was an acknowledgment that the gift of the earth with its fruits belongs to everyone. Those who tilled and kept the land were obliged to share its fruits, especially with the poor, with widows, orphans and foreigners in their midst: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after the harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner” (Lev 19:9-10).

It would be interesting to see how many supporters of the Ten Commandments were likewise supportive of these cultural efforts to provide for the needy. I think especially of those who criticize the socialist instincts of modern society by suggesting that somehow, the poor had it better when relying on the random generosity of churches and other givers, rather than on law and culture.

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Open Thread on Monotheism

Way_of_Worship_may_be_Different_-_but_God_is_One__NubraMax takes exception to a certain certainty I espouse, that Abraham and his God are at the root of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Why are you so certain this is true? why are you being so forceful about it?

I suppose I’m insisting Max is wrong in the same way I would argue against something patently false like the flat earth. If Max read the Bible and the Qur’an more carefully instead of using so much ctrl-v, it would seem obvious. But then again, if a person attended an astronomy convention and tried to argue for a young Earth, I suppose there would be a combination of laughter, insistence, and walking away with shaking heads on the part of various conventioners.

The more apt question is why a non-religionist like Max would insist on separate gods–like he cared.

If it were true, why wouldn’t these three religions have identical rituals and theologies?

Heck, the two Roman Catholic parishes in my new town don’t have identical rituals. And theology? I’m tempted to suggest that many aspects of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are human fabrications.

Why is the God of Abraham insisting on rivalry between them?

How do we know God insists on rivalry? What if it’s just the human condition? Wherever two or more are gathered, there is often inevitable contention. Why should people of faith be different? We aren’t perfect–that’s what the field hospital is for.

Why did God create these three religions to look designed by tribes of men – instead of by Him?

Easy. If religion were undeniably designed by God, faith would be out the window. It would be a matter not unlike astronomers versus flat earthers.

Image credit.

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Locating The Choir

Beauvais Cathedral organIn the comments today, Ld offered some thoughts on the placement of music ministry. Check the comment and the citations, most of which we’ve discussed on this site over the past nine years. I’d like to respond to some specifics:

The choir is supposed to be part of the worshipping community. Is there anybody who thought that because the choir was in a choir loft the members weren’t really at Mass?

I think it depends. You can be at Mass when you are in a loft. The question offered by the GIRM is different: are they part of the worshipping assembly? Choir lofts may be perceived as places apart from the assembly. In one choir loft I once knew, the sanctuary area was invisible to the choir when they were seated. Additionally, the library staff would often use the homily time (since they couldn’t see the preacher) to sort, file, and distribute music. Not only were they not part of the assembly, I might wonder if a few folks were really at Mass.

If choir lofts can accommodate regular parishioners–family members of choristers, latecomers, etc., then I would say the loft satisfies the requirement. My grad school parish had good visibility lines and full naves for weekend Mass. People felt welcome to go up or down–even little kids fascinated by the pipe organ.

I do think that in some churches, lofts on one end are the optimal location for sound projection.

The sanctuary is reserved for the ministers of the Mass. Ministers here refers to bishops, priests, deacons, acolytes, readers and cantors, not to the congregation or the choir.

Regarding the choir, this would be an interpretation that could easily go the other way. Indeed, in some churches, the “front” end of the long nave is just as good for sound projection as the “rear.”

The reality of the choir is that if it can be seen, it serves as a distraction to the faithful at Mass.

Agreed–which is why all choristers should be well-trained not to do distracting things.

Another consideration to note when placing the choir is that when a choir is in front of the congregation and facing the congregation, it appears that the choir is giving a concert instead of fulfilling its proper role at Mass. Also, if the choir is facing the congregation, it isn’t directing its music towards the proper focal point. In fact, it will have its back to what is most important, namely, the Eucharist.

Another advantage to antiphonal seating for the entire assembly.

Ld, feel free to chine in. As well as any others.

Image credit.

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Cinquant’anni Dopo 9: Toward The East

Fr Ev farewell MassLet’s continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano. The translation, is here, from Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report.

Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, and quite in keeping with the conciliar Constitution, it is altogether appropriate, during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic prayer, that everyone, priest and faithful, turn together toward the East, so as to express their intention to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of celebrating could possibly be implemented in cathedrals, where the liturgical life must be exemplary (cf. no. 41).

The only appeal for me connects with the notion of pilgrims on the move, facing their direction of travel. On the other hand, neither sacrifice or banquet are conducted “on the road.” This consideration makes the argument for facing East often tiresome. Tradition for tradition’s sake, in other words.

Even when the clergy are turned around, the worshipping community faces a common direction: the center, where Christ is present. There is no less an impetus to participate in the action of Christ in a radial format where attention is directed from all sides, rather than just from the West.

Note: I Wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site. Reader comments, however, are most welcome.

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Laudato Si 70: Cain and Noah

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Pope Francis uses the story of Cain’s murder of Abel to illustrate the connection between justice for people and justice for the environment:

70. In the story of Cain and Abel, we see how envy led Cain to commit the ultimate injustice against his brother, which in turn ruptured the relationship between Cain and God, and between Cain and the earth from which he was banished. This is seen clearly in the dramatic exchange between God and Cain. God asks: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain answers that he does not know, and God persists: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground” (Gen 4:9-11).

Do you remember the curse from the earth? The meaning is that we cannot compartmentalize our lives, our interactions. A break in a relationship spreads to other aspects. We cannot isolate pieces of our lives, especially our injustices, our sins.

Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbor, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered. We see this in the story of Noah, where God threatens to do away with humanity because of its constant failure to fulfill the requirements of justice and peace: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them” (Gen 6:13).

What meaning do these tales of early Genesis have?

These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.

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Dives in Misericordiae 15g: Conclusion

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4Vatican II is the contemporary basis for the effort of mercy. The impulse it gave was for a deeper self-awareness within the Church. The nudge to get outside of ourselves, too:

In continuing the great task of implementing the Second Vatican Council, in which we can rightly see a new phase of the self-realization of the Church-in keeping with the epoch in which it has been our destiny to live-the Church herself must be constantly guided by the full consciousness that in this work it is not permissible for her, for any reason, to withdraw into herself. The reason for her existence is, in fact, to reveal God, that Father who allows us to “see” Him in Christ.(Cf. Jn. 14:9) No matter how strong the resistance of human history may be, no matter how marked the diversity of contemporary civilization, no matter how great the denial of God in the human world, so much the greater must be the Church’s closeness to that mystery which, hidden for centuries in God, was then truly shared with (people), in time, through Jesus Christ.

And the final blessing:

With my apostolic blessing.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, on the thirtieth day of November, the First Sunday of Advent, in the year 1980, the third of the pontificate.

It’s a stirring conclusion. Certainly from the pen of a man who urged his Church to make for the deep waters and not fear the shadows or self-doubts. Any last comments, my friends? It’s a fitting way to launch ourselves into the Jubilee of Mercy, isn’t it?

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Cinquant’anni Dopo 7-8: A Grace From Christ

Fr Ev farewell MassWe continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s thoughts on participation from his June essay this year for L’Osservatore Romano. I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report.

I’m not sure why the Latin “participatio” is used so frequently in some circles. No doubt there are other liturgical and theological principles that don’t translate exactly into English. But it is likely that nearly all clergy and other leaders since the 60’s have read the Vatican II and other documents in the vernacular. When the English translation says “participation,” that’s how people read and understand it. I don’t think it’s far off from the intent of the original.

Liturgical “participatio” must therefore be understood as a grace from Christ who “always associates the Church with Himself” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). He is the one who has the initiative and the primacy. The Church “calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father” (no. 7).

Regarding this reminder of Christ’s primacy in the liturgy: maybe it goes without saying. No doubt, all of us can bear remembering this fact when our music or preaching or art gets a little too elaborate and too tied up with our personal egos.

Cardinal Sarah puts a lot on the priest-presider:

The priest must therefore become this instrument that allows Christ to shine through. As our Holy Father Pope Francis recalled recently, the celebrant is not the host of a show, he must not look for sympathy from the assembly by setting himself in front of it as its main speaker. To enter into the spirit of the Council means, on the contrary, to be self-effacing, to refuse to be the center of attention.

I know this is difficult for me as a music and liturgical leader. I recognize that people appreciate the selflessness of their leadership. Despite the drone of celebrity narcissists in our culture, church leaders are still admired for espousing the opposite values.

Note: I Wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site. Reader comments, however, are most welcome.

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