Cinquant’anni Dopo 12-13: The Virtue of Silence

Fr Ev farewell MassCardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano had some great thoughts on silence. Let’s read, including words of caution for liturgy on his native continent:

“Silence is not a virtue, noise is not a sin, it is true,” says Thomas Merton, “but the turmoil and confusion and constant noise of modern society,” or of some African Eucharistic liturgies, “are the expression of the ambiance of its greatest sins—its godlessness, its despair. A world of propaganda, of endless argument, vituperation, criticism, or simply of chatter, is a world without anything to live for…. Mass becomes racket and confusion; prayers—an exterior or interior noise” (Thomas Merton The Sign of Jonas [San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1953, 1981], passim).

As it was true for 1953, it is today.

We run the real risk of leaving no room for God in our celebrations. We fall into the temptation of the Hebrews in the desert. They sought to create for themselves a form of worship on their own scale and of their own stature, and let us not forget that they ended up prostrate before an idol, the golden calf.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are two forms of silence. One happens when other people have their turn and the rest of the aseembly attends in silence. The other is when it’s God’s turn and everyone is silent. Both are important. Good leadership at the local level sets the tone. The factor Cardinal Sarah misses here is the need of the learned and leaders to fill every open space with something. Think about it–which is better: a ten minute speech with no silence, or an eight-minute oration with two minutes of quiet?

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. Reader comments, however, are most welcome.

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Laudato Si 72: Psalms

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

Pope Francis cites two psalms:

72. The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Ps 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.

Psalm 136 is one of the three common psalms for Easter. Psalm 148 appears in the Wedding Lectionary. I like Psalm 104–check Pentecost–for a significant litany from the natural world.

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Interesting thread on selecting Down Syndrome children for abortions here. Friend and occasional commenter Crystal has an insistent presence in the commentariat there. What do you think of her assessment here:

… given the ferocity of the pro-life movement, abortions will almost never be done now by hospitals or doctor’s offices or other clinics … (Planned Parenthood) is what we have left and we have the pro-life movement to thank for that.

Planned_Parenthood_logo_svgI’ve heard Planned Parenthood does under 10% of women’s health services in this country but receives nearly all of the federal funding allocated for it. I hear the cry to defund, but no specifics on reassigning the $$ for women and the unborn. So the defund would seem to include people who want to save a buck or two. Economics, not morality, then. Right?

The young miss, as attentive readers know, was born with a serious genetic birth defect. She would not have lived for more than a few months without significant medical attention. I can see that parents might react with jitters and much worse when confronted with news of a child who might live a limited life with significant suffering. What should the consequences of abortion be in such a case? Prison time? The Max solution: blame God? What are the consequences for the supporting extended family and faith community?

In an ideal world, even the infants with the most severe conditions or illnesses would find ready support. But the world is far from ideal, isn’t it? The political pro-life movement suffers from the same defect, it would seem.

Making a decision to abort a child is largely legal, and totally beyond the control of even the most fervid activists. On the other hand, millions of the world’s children suffer diseases, languish in orphanages, and face lives of abject poverty. And they weren’t aborted. How much attention do they deserve? Is it worth fifty, ten, or one percent of the political pro-life energy, resources, picket-walking, and such?

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Who Saves

William Oddie struggles with being called out on some basic Christian theology:

I have been pondering on one response to a blog I wrote recently, the headline of which ended “Few understand this pontificate: but it’s the Church that saves us”. The response began “… Wrong! It is Jesus Christ who saves us”. I naturally assumed that this was written by a Protestant …

drillIt was a Catholic challenge, thank goodness, and spot-on. Dr Oddie scrambles to suggest that the Church is the tool through which Jesus saves, so therefore the Church saves. It’s also difficult to take “friendly fire” for one’s fuzzy theology, so naturally, only meaniehead Protestants attack “faithful” Catholics.

I suppose the distinction is apt as well for my power tool: I tighten and remove screws, but it is really my drill that does the work.

Does my drill get callouses and strains? Does it plug itself in and make adjustments with extensions?

When it wears out, can’t I just buy a new tool?

It is a fundamental Catholic principle that the unworthiness of the minister cannot effect the validity of the sacraments he celebrates.

Not only the sacraments. It is the strange and twisted affirmation of God that even a pope disliked for his “confusing” statements about traditional trimmings can actually restore credibility lost to the focus on the institution. A pope who just shows up for Mass and celebrates as a baptized person, not as a priest as such. A pope who suggests we must start with people rather than the law. A pope who identifies himself as a sinner–an admission that’s likely to get you put on a traditionalist’s hit list for ridicule, job loss, and (horror of horrors) identification as a Protestant–gasp!

Dr Oddie focuses on the sacramental life of the Church and sacramental efficacy. And well he should, as a good Catholic. But if the sacraments are so important to salvation, perhaps it is time to reassess sacramental practice at the margins. Somehow, I don’t think the whole supernatural edifice of grace will come crashing down if a few remarried Catholics are returned to the sacraments.

Does the church save? Maybe a little too much.

Image Credit.

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Cinquant’anni Dopo 10-11: In the Person of Christ

Fr Ev farewell MassWe continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano. I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. Others are out there.

The dialogues are among the most important parts of the Mass. I would suggest there are many dialogues at Mass that involve other persons. Responsorial psalmody is both the proclamation of the sung Word of God as well as a dialogue with the liturgical assembly.

Of course, there are other parts of the Mass in which the priest, acting “in persona Christi Capitis” [“in the person of Christ the Head”] enters into a nuptial dialogue with the assembly. But the only purpose of this face-to-face is to lead to a tête-À-tête with God which, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will become a heart-to-heart conversation.

That experience of cor ad cor loquitur would certainly be a prime grace hoped-for in the spiritual life of Christians.

Cardinal Sarah adds a citation from SC, but inaccurately, I think:

The Council thus proposes other means of promoting participation: “acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes” (no. 30).

The Constitution reads that encouraging these means will promote participation. It is the encouragement in context of the non-participating assemblies of the 1960’s that was deemed an important need. When the faithful engage in these spoken and sung words as well as bodily postures they are fulfilling the rubrics of the Missal with regard to their own participation.

A misinterpretation of good liturgy follows:

An over-hasty and all-too-human interpretation has led some to conclude that it was necessary to make sure that the faithful were constantly busy.

Post-conciliar liturgical reform also promotes silence. There is a difference between silent attention when other people are serving and biding one’s time for one’s next opportunity. Clergy are often, but not always, good role models for this. There are also collective times of silence: after readings, after the invitation to pray, and at other important moments.

The contemporary Western mentality, shaped by technology and fascinated by the media, tried to make the liturgy a work of effective, rewarding instruction.

Not only media, but also the Church’s misplaced catechetical instincts.

In this spirit, many have tried to make liturgical celebrations convivial. Liturgical ministers, prompted by pastoral motives, sometimes try to instruct by introducing profane, show-business elements into liturgical celebrations. Don’t we sometimes see a proliferation of testimonies, scenery and applause? They think that this will foster the participation of the faithful, whereas in fact it reduces the liturgy to a human game.

Often it does. Announcements, staging, and clapping all can reduce liturgy to something less than it could be. I tend not to worry over much about applause–it’s second dictionary definition is affirmation for an idea expressed. It’s not always about affirming performance. The local pastor is the best judge of the context of things such as testimonies and applause.

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

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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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