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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Picking Up the Threads of Our Past

First off, I want to affirm that I'm still firmly in the Reform of the Reform camp, though growing more comfortable in my still rare forays into Extraordinary land.

That said, I am finding myself more, rather than less, interested in the EF even as the conduct of the OF is improving, (however incrementally.)

The reactions to the Solemn Pontifical Mass at the nationla Basilica from the haters is more vitirolic and more desperate than I would have expected.
(Why do they care so very much?)
But even more interesting are the positive reactions from non-devotees of the EF, even from non-Catholic.

I know little to nothing about Inside the Vatican's Robert Moynihan, but would venture to guess that he, (as a member of the Roman Catholic establishment of the United States of whom I have not heard specifically that he is part of the traditionalist community,) that he's an O.F. guy.
[I]n addition to the sacred mystery of the Mass itself ... something else was occurring on April 24 in Washington of considerable importance -- of importance for the future of the Church, and so also of importance for the future of the West.

...in the West, in the United States, and precisely in Washington DC, the capital of the US, despite a generation or more of "post-Christian" cultural pressure, there remains a desire, a hunger, to be connected with the Christian past, and to hand on to posterity what was handed down over the centuries, often in the face of much suffering.

In short, the celebration of this Mass, after 40 years, and in the midst of an admittedly profound crisis in the Church, suggests that American Catholics, like their counterparts in Europe and around the world, may yet turn to the riches and treasures of their tradition to find a way forward.

And this will not be pure archaism. It will not reflect a flight from present reality. Nor will it be a rejection tout court of everything that came with the Second Vatican Council.

Rather, it will be an attempt to pick up the threads of our past, and see if they may still be woven into the fabric of our present, in order to create the tapestry of our future. It is our future that it looks toward -- not just our past.

Having just been in Rome, having been present three weeks ago at the papal liturgies during Holy Week, having talked recently with a number of Vatican officials about liturgical matters, and about the Second Vatican Council and its legacy, for me this liturgy reflected what Pope Benedict is trying ceaselessly to teach: that the Catholic tradition has not been lost, that it remains to be discovered, and lived...

In this context, we must recall the words "lex orandi, lex credendi." That is, literally, "the law of praying is the law of believing."

To put it less literally: the way one prays, the way the Church prays, shapes and determines and establishes what a person, what the Church, believes. Praying "becomes" believing. And this is the fundamental reason that liturgy matters
. [emphasis supplied] Some readers may feel the liturgy is a superficial matter, that time spent discussing or arguing or debating about the liturgy is wasted time, time that could be better spent in study, or prayer, or works of mercy and charity.

But the liturgy is not a superficial matter. It is a fundamental matter. It is fundamental because it determines and establishes the faith itself: lex orandi, lex credendi. And this means that, for those who wish to change faith, or alter it, or destroy it, changing the liturgy is the first, essential step. Likewise, for those who wish to keep the faith, and hand it on, and preserve it, preserving the liturgy is the first and fundamental aim of all their efforts.

Pope Benedict has written: "The Church stands and falls with the Liturgy. When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man’s words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells. For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the center of any renewal of the Church whatsoever.”

And so Pope Benedict has been a Pope of liturgical reform, or of liturgical preservation, because he believes that only through the liturgy, through the prayer of the Church, can the Church's faith, that depositum fidei which was entrusted to him, be protected and handed on to his successor.

Lex orandi, lex credendi. In the Early Church there were about 70 years of liturgical tradition before there was any creed -- any formulated statement of what the Church believed -- and about 350 years before there was an accepted biblical canon. The Church's prayer, her liturgy, provided the basis for establishing the other bases of the faith, the creeds and the canon.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles -- whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi." ...

And so the liturgy is of central importance to Benedict, and to the Vatican, today. He and his inner circle see the liturgy as critical to the future of Roman Catholicism. But not only to Roman Catholicism. There is another reason for Benedict's focus on the liturgy.

The Orthodox Connection

It is well known that the Orthodox, in a profound way, share Benedict's conviction that the liturgy is fundamental for faith, and so also for practice of the faith.

For example, Eastern Orthodoxy's Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople quoted the phrase "lex orandi, lex credendi" in Latin on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Istanbul in 2006, drawing from the phrase the lesson that, "in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer."

I believe that Pope Benedict's approval, a few months after that November 2006 visit, on July 7, 2007, of wider use of the old Latin Mass in the Latin rite, was intended to help prepare the reunion of the two great divided branches of Christianity, Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

The path toward this reunion must pass, in some essential way, through the liturgy. Through a shared liturgy.

The liturgies of the two Churches must express the same faith if the Churches are ever to be once again in unity -- something Christ willed for his disciples in his prayer on the final night with them before his crucifixion.

Save the Liturgy, Save the World