Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Presentation or Purification?

2nd February sees the celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Ordinary Form) and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Extraordinary Form). The name of Candlemass also applies, because of the blessing and procession of candles associated with the celebration of this feast.

So far as I can tell, the Liturgical texts, at least for the celebration of Mass and the procession of candles, are similar in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms. The Old Testament reading is from Malachi 3:1-4 and the Gospel is the account of the Presentation. I think the Collect is the same in both forms, too. This suggests a greater affinity to the title of the Feast in the Ordinary Form, which indicates it as being a Feast of the Lord rather than a Feast of the Virgin Mary.

However, in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary there is a Mass entitled "The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord". According to the introduction to this Mass given in the Sacramentary for this Collection:
In this mystery of  salvation, Our Lady:
- in accordance with the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 12:1-8) submitted to the ritual of purification after childbirth, although as the "purest of virgins" from her "chaste womb" she had "brought forth in purity the Son of the Eternal Father" (Entrance Antiphon);
-faithfully carried out the law of the firstborn (see Exodus 13:1-2), redeeming with the offering of the poor (see Luke 2:24; Prayer over the offerings) her Son, "the author of the New Law" (Collect), "the Redeemer of us all" (Prayer over the offerings), "the glory of" the "people Israel and the light of all nations" (Preface; see Luke 2:32), the "Lord, the Saviour of the world" (Communion Antiphon);
- as "the handmaid of (God's) plan of salvation" (Preface) saw in her Son "the spotless Lamb, to be sacrificed on the altar of the Cross for our salvation (Preface) and offered him to the Father.
The texts of the Mass also recognise the Virgin Mary as the "virgin daughter of Zion", and the exemplar of the faith and life of the Church, described in the Collect as the "chaste Bride of Christ". The Collection does not give any indication of the origin of the Liturgical texts used.

However, what the texts and introduction for the Mass in the Collection drew to my attention was that, whichever title is used for the Feast celebrated on 2nd February, and consequently whether it is seen as being primarily a Feast of the Lord or a Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the content of what is being celebrated is essentially the same. In particular, in adopting the title "The Presentation of the Lord" the Liturgy of the Ordinary Form has not turned aside from the elements of the celebration which would be expressed by the title "The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary".

Some quick thoughts that follow:

1. Is there an opportunity for "mutual enrichment", or of assimilation of this celebration in the two forms of the Roman Rite?
2. Theologically, what does this celebration offer in the discussion of the relation of Christian faith to Judaism?
3. Liturgically, what does this celebration teach about the origins of Christian Liturgy in the practices of the Jewish religion?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Norwich: Place and People

Zero and I visited Norwich Cathedral (here and here) a couple of weeks ago. The Cathedral has a West window with stunning colours, which we were fortunate to see when it was illuminated by bright sunlight. There is a lovely perspective view of the window looking back down the nave of the Church from the entrance to the choir. In the main frames of the window, scenes from the life of Christ are paralleled to scenes from the life of Moses.

Likewise, there is another splendid perspective looking along the north aisle from beside the Choir - if you stand carefully in the centre of that aisle, and time your visit for afternoon sunlight, the Romanesque arches in their white stone appear to disappear into a distance.

There is also a lovely modern stained glass window portraying the Virgin and Child - again we were fortunate to be able to view it back lit by afternoon sunlight.

Norwich Cathedral is associated with St Benedict, as the Church and its adjacent buildings were first built as a monastery for some 60 or so Benedictine monks. The founder of the Cathedral, Herbert de Losinga is buried in the presbytery (what Catholics might more commonly call the sanctuary) of the Choir.
But the two particular people associated with the Cathedral (or, at least, with Norwich) to whom I would like to draw attention are Edith Cavell and Julian of Norwich.
Edith Cavell is buried in the grounds of the Cathedral, and a memorial to her stands in the road adjacent to the Cathedral Close. Her link to Norwich is her residence there before travelling to Belgium at the outbreak of World War I.
Julian of Norwich is represented by a sculpture at the West Door (she is paired with St Benedict on the other side of the door) . If I had been a bit more alert, we might have found our way to St Julian's Church as well as to the Cathedral. If the study of Julian by Grace Jantzen is correct, Julian's attribution of the title "mother" to Jesus is not at a root a feminisation of the person of Jesus or of the divinity. It is associated with a Trinitarian teaching which sees Fatherhood in the first person, motherhood in the second person; and a linking of the idea that the Church being a mother implies that Christ, whose body is the Church, also has the character of mother.
(From a personal point of view, Norwich Cathedral has one really big thing going for it...... it isn't baroque!)

Image attributions: [By J.P.Guffogg [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]]

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

International Eucharistic Congress 2016: Christ in you, our hope of glory

It is perhaps because it is taking place so far away that the International Eucharistic Congress 2016 currently under way in Cebu City, Philippines has not attracted much attention in the UK. The Congress describes itself as being an occasion when the local Church in the Philippines turns in celebration towards the Eucharist and invites believers from throughout the world to join them in that celebration.

The "basic text", a theological/pastoral presentation of the Congress theme can be found here. Though I have not had time to read the complete text, it is the account of Eucharist as source and goal of dialogue, and of mission in dialogue, (sections IV to VIII) that caught my attention.
In the life of the Church, the Eucharist stands as both the source and goal of this dialogue. By our participation in the Eucharistic celebration we enter into a communion of life with the Triune God because we are inserted into the dialogue of life and salvation that began in history and now perpetuated in liturgical mystery in the power of the Holy Spirit. The various elements of the celebration engage our body, our senses, our consciousness, and our affectivity in that dialogue which unfolds enabling us to share in the rhythm of Christ’s life offered for our salvation. By gathering and forming an assembly of worship we respond to the Father’s summons to be his covenanted People. By listening to and assimilating the Word proclaimed we engage in a dialogue whereby the Father heals, forms and enriches us with his life and love, especially with the help of a homily which, on account of its Eucharistic context, surpasses all forms of catechesis because it leads up to sacramental communion.  
In a singular way, we enter into a dialogue of life with the Triune God by eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood, for responding to our prayer of epiclesis the Father sends the Holy Spirit through His Son upon the bread and wine so that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Emerging from the Eucharistic gathering, we are sent to continue and extend this Trinitarian dialogue of life and salvation in the form of loving service especially toward the least, the last, and the lost.  
The dynamic movement of the celebrative action, then, (gathering-word-meal-mission)makes us realize that the Eucharist is the living memorial of the dialogue that took place in the entire life and ministry of Jesus Christ but which finds its climax in the Paschal Mystery of his suffering, death, and resurrection and final glory. It was a dialogue that constitutes both an act of obedience to the Father (ascending movement) and compassion towards weak sinners (descending movement), a sacrifice of both adoration (ascending movement) and service (descending movement).
The presentation in terms of dialogue has a specific character that is proper to the Church in Asia, a timely reminder that we should not give to the term only a European/North American context.

In two respects, an International Eucharistic Congress prefigures those world scale Catholic events that catch much more media attention,  World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families. It comes before them in time as an international celebration of Catholic faith, participation in which constitutes an experience that is deeply ecclesial in its nature, an experience in which one's own living of a Christian life encounters that others from distant parts of the world. And it comes "before" them in the celebration of the Mass "statio orbis" on the last Sunday of the Congress. On that day every celebration of Mass, wherever it takes place in the world, has an orientation towards the celebration that takes place at the Eucharistic Congress, giving to each and every celebration of Mass on that day a very particular character of ecclesial communion.
The term "Statio Orbis" came into being at the concluding celebration of the 37th Eucharistic Congress held in Munich 1960. Since then, the concluding celebration of Eucharistic Congresses has had particular Churches from various parts of the world join in communion with the Pope or one of his Legates, called a "Statio Orbis" Mass.
The word "Statio" means "station," as in "station days" in Tertullian's De Oratione. Because Wednesday and Friday, as "station days," were characterized by watchings and processions, when the faithful remained standing, the word "statio" eventually came to mean the place where the faithful walked in procession and stood for the celebration of the liturgy. The churches to which they went came to be known as "stationes" and the route to them became known as the "statio ad" (station to, meaning the procession route to) that place. Station days of that kind were once held in Rome, Constantinople and Jerusalem. Records that remain today give us the most information about such processions in Rome. Going to the "statio" was a major ceremony at one time, in which people carried all of the papal vessels used for the celebration of the Eucharist to a pilgrimage site or station church. The concept may be somewhat familiar today from the station churches of Rome during Lent.
The word "Orbis" means "circle," "ring" or "orb." In ancient Latin documents, it referred to the world. In the phrase "statio orbis," it refers to the global nature of the gathering for the closing Mass of each Congress.
When we celebrate Mass in our local communities this coming Sunday we might like to be conscious of the particular significance of that celebration.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Maintaining the Church's Liturgical traditions?

In commenting on the recent change to the rubric of the Mass of Maundy Thursday in the Ordinary Form, the Latin Mass Society statement concludes:
These concessions have moved many to reconsider the Extraordinary Form, which is not affected by this decree, or similar concessions to liturgical abuses in the past. It is in the Extraordinary Form that the Church's liturgical traditions are maintained.
And commenting on the celebrations of Christmas Masses in the Extraordinary Form:
We have a long way to go, in making the Traditional Mass genuinely available to Catholics in England and Wales. But thanks to the tremendous work of the priests who love this Mass, and to the faithful who support them - including the Latin Mass Society - we are moving in the right direction.
And more recently:
What we have seen again and again is that where the Extraordinary Form is offered every week on a Sunday morning, even in places with no previous demonstrable demand for it, it quickly attracts a growing congregation of young people and families, and can play an important part in conversions and vocations to the priesthood....Let's stop blaming people for not knowing what has too often been deliberately hidden from them, and do our best to give them access to the liturgical riches which are every Catholic's birth-right.
 1. For all the publicity associated with it, the celebration of the Extraordinary Form remains of interest and immediate value to a minority, more or less small, within the Roman Rite. The likelihood of it ever being otherwise is remote, and the pretence that it might be so is becoming increasingly frustrating. The growing congregation that appears where there has been no previous demonstrable demand is, I suspect, attracted from a wider geographical area and not correctly associated with the one location; and, as I write, I can recall two instances in the blogosphere where it is the same familiar faces that are recognised at celebrations of the Extraordinary Form. As Pope Benedict wrote in his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, and as I believe still applies today:
The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.  Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.
Moreover, the idea that the Extraordinary Form should be made readily available in each and every part of the England and Wales, even to the extent of being celebrated in every parish, has no justification in either Summorum Pontificum or Pope Benedict's accompanying letter.

2. As two forms of the same Rite, there is, from the juridical point of view, nothing that is more "of tradition" about the Extraordinary Form than there is about the Ordinary Form. This is the sense of Pope Benedict's words in his letter, read as they should be in the context of his remarks about mutual enrichment:
There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.  In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behoves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. 
Whilst the traditionalist might want to read this in favour of widespread celebration of the Extraordinary Form, it more correctly refers to  the influence on celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Extraordinary Form. It is not legitimate to assert that the Extraordinary Form in some way preserves the Liturgical tradition in a way set over and against the Ordinary Form; and those who wish to celebrate the Ordinary Form in a faithful manner cannot but resent such an assertion. Traditionalists talking among themselves might wish to say so; but they do not have a right to assert it to those who wish faithfully to celebrate the Ordinary Form.

3. This last observation is related to the idea of "mutual enrichment" to which Pope Benedict referred in his letter. In persisting in talking of the "Traditional Latin Mass", and taking little or no interest in how the celebration of the Extraordinary Form might contribute to the celebration of the Ordinary Form, the traditionalist movement is, in effect, creating a kind of enclave from which there is trumpeted a superiority of the Extraordinary Form. Those outside the traditionalist enclave are not going to be very interested. Their "birth right" would be better served by a positive engagement of the Extraordinary Form with the Ordinary Form. Both the traditionalists themselves and the Commission Ecclesia Dei appear to me to have singularly failed in this, even at the relatively basic level of showing an interest in unifying the calendar between the two forms and inserting the celebrations of new saints into the Missal of 1962.

So, dear traditionalists, do be more realistic about the scale of your enterprise .... a little less convinced of your own righteousness.....  and a little more aware of the temptation to become your own magisterium.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Name of God is Mercy

When he edited Adrienne von Speyr's book Confession in 1960, Fr von Balthasar wrote at the end of his foreword:
It is fashionable today to speak of a "sacrament of penance" instead of "confession". In a certain superficial historical sense this may be correct to the extent that in the first centuries confession was present in Christian consciousness primarily under the aspect of penance. However, everyone knows that in reality this was only an initial seed and not the full-grown plant. Indeed, it was a seed that scarcely suggested the dogmatic basis just mentioned [ie the Trinitarian and Christological basis that is the subject of Adrienne's book], a basis whose centre is expressed by "confession" (Augustine's confessio, to admit or confess). Thus there is no real reason to dispense with the traditional word.
I suspect that Fr von Balthasar would all the more strongly speak against the use of the word "reconciliation", though he must have had to come to terms with the title of the sacrament as the Sacrament of Penance used in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. He might have found some consolation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where the title "confession" is included along with the other titles now used of the sacrament:
It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy towards sinful man.
When Pope Francis' book The Name of God is Mercy arrived this week, it was therefore striking to see a chapter entitled "The Gift of Confession":
It is true that I can talk to the Lord and ask him for forgiveness, implore him. And the Lord will forgive me immediately. But it is important that I go to confession, that I sit in front of a priest who embodies Jesus, that I kneel before Mother Church called to dispense the mercy of Christ. There is objectivity in this gesture of genuflection before the priest; it becomes the vehicle through which grace reaches and heals me.  
And again, at the beginning of a short chapter devoted to how Catholics should live the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis identifies confession as the first of the important things that should be done to live the Year of Mercy:
[The believer] should open up to the mercy of God, open up his heart and himself, allow Jesus to come toward him by approaching the confessional with faith. And he should try and be merciful with others. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

Pope Francis and the Liturgy of Maundy Thursday - UPDATED

I expect that a number of priests who have, over the years, held the line in their respective parishes and only invited men to have their feet washed at the Mandatum will now be feeling somewhat let down by Pope Francis' decision to change the rubrics of the Roman Missal in this regard. Whilst staying neutral on the rights and wrongs of the newly established rubric (see below), I do think it would have been nice to have some recognition, as the change was being made, for those priests who have up to the present time acted faithfully to the now former rubric, and in all likelihood taken the pressure in their parishes for doing so.

Even if attending the Maundy Thursday Mass in a parish where only men are chosen to have their feet washed, I have for some time now felt that a quasi-political or ideological statement exists in making that choice. And an equally quasi-political or ideological choice is made if both men and women are chosen. In most cases I would arrive just not knowing which choice the parish priests were going to make. The decisive point for me, though, is the feeling that as I arrive I have to take a stance of my own with regard to the choice made - and I feel that I should be able to approach a Liturgical celebration without having to take such a stance as to the rights and wrongs of its practise.

Even though the rite of the washing of feet is itself optional, and allowed for pastorally appropriate circumstances; and the choice of women to have their feet washed is not immediately mandated but only mediated by a criterion of  representing the variety and unity of a particular parish community; the new rubric leaves my problem here unchanged. Like tigerish waters, though for different reasons, I expect I will prefer to absent myself from this particular celebration as I have done on a number of occasions in recent years.

tigerish waters offers a range of Thoughts on the Mandatum, which I recommend to readers. I would suggest that you read her post before continuing with mine.

I have for some time struggled with trying to understand the exact meaning of the rite of the Mandatum. Is it intended to be a sign of Christ's, and therefore the priest's and the Church's, ministry of charity to others (in which case it is and should be indifferent as to whether men or women are chosen)? Or is it intended to be a re-enactment or representation of Christ's action towards the Apostles at the Last Supper (in which case it should be restricted to men)? Pope Francis' letter to Cardinal Sarah indicates the meaning of the rite as being a sign of:
...il suo donarsi “fino alla fine” per la salvezza del mondo, la sua carità senza confine.[(Christ's) gift of himself "even to the end" for the salvation of the world, his charity without limit.]
The decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments describes the meaning as follows (rough translation - my Latin isn't all that strong!):
Episcopi et presbyteri hoc ritu agentes intime invitantur ad sese conformandum Christo qui «non venit ministrari sed ministrare» (Mt 20, 28) et, caritate «in finem» (Io 13, 1) compulsus, vitam dare pro totius generis humani salute.  
[Bishops and priests carrying out this rite are invited to conform themselves to Christ who "did not come to be served but to serve" and who, driven by love "to the end", gave his life for the salvation of the whole human race.] 
This all puts me in mind of a talk that I heard a good number of years ago now. It drew a literary analogy between the account of the washing of feet in the Gospel of St John (13:1-20) and St Paul's account in the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11) of Christ's abasement in becoming as men are. The suggestion of the speaker was that, where the synoptic Gospels have an account of the institution of the Eucharist at this point in their accounts of the Last Supper, St John has instead placed the account of the Mandatum; and that both are a pre-figuring of the events of the following day on Calvary. St John's account of the Mandatum on this line of thought represents the institution of the Eucharist.

Put this together with tigerish waters' Thoughts.. (I think there is a lot to be said for her suggestion that the Mandatum is in some way an extra-liturgical rite) and I am not sure that the rubrical change now introduced does make clearer the meaning of the rite as is its stated intention, both according to Pope Francis' letter and the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The now allowed, but not mandated, practice of including women among those chosen to have their feet washed does not appear readily consistent with the meaning of the rite as stated in the letter and decree. I do, however, have a certain trust in Pope Francis' pondering of this subject and his practise (cf some of tigerish waters remarks), and await the development of a catechesis that effectively communicates the meaning of the rite.

UPDATE: Perhaps Fr Hunwicke's articulation of the situation - More Foot Washing - makes clearer what is actually happening .... I do appreciate the attitude shown by him here towards Pope Francis, too.