02 January 2006

Papa comforts me

In his December 22 speech to members of the Roman Curia (h/t Maxima Culpa), Pope Benedict seemed to remove the (elegant, probably fur-trimmed) gauntlet and toss it, courteously, but accurately, at the feet of those whose choices and requirements in certain archdioceses betray their serious need of A Clue. (Please note: all emphasis in the following quotes is mine.)
Adoration precedes action or change in the world. It alone can truly free us; it alone can give us the bearings we need to act. In an increasingly rudderless world, threatened by a do-it-yourself attitude, we must focus on adoration. All those who attended World Youth Day will never forget the striking silence that united and inspired the million or so young people when the Lord of the Sacrament was placed on the altar. Let our hearts retain the images of Cologne for they continue to make themselves felt.
Adoration. You know, like, on the knees, sometimes. And silence. Remember silence?

I love how he gets down to the heart of the matter:
When the liturgy was being reformed, worshiping during and outside mass was seen as unrelated. At the time, some said that the Eucharistic Bread was not offered for contemplation but to be eaten. Yet, in the Church’s experience of prayer this opposition has become meaningless. Did not St Augustine himself say: “. . . nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; . . . peccemus non adorando (Let no one eat this flesh before adoring it; . . . we would sin if we did not adore it” (cf Enarr. in Ps 98: 9 CCL XXXIX 1385). In fact, we do not just get something out of the Eucharist for it is where people meet and come together. But it is the Son of God who wants to meet and be with us—such union can only occur through adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring He whom we receive. Only this way can we become one with Him. Hence, the development of the Eucharistic adoration in the Middle Ages was the most coherent consequence of the Eucharistic mystery. Only in adoration can the Eucharist be truly received.
[.. snip ..]
The problems of reception [of the Council of Vatican II] derived from the fact that two contrasting hermeneutics found themselves face to face and battled it out. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit. On one hand, there is an interpretation that I would like to call "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture"; it was frequently able to find favour among mass media, and also a certain sector of modern theology. On the other hand, there is the "hermeneutics of reform", of the renewal of the continuity of the single Church-subject, which the Lord has given us: it is a subject that grows in time and develops, remaining however always the same, the one subject of the People of God on their way. Hermeneutics of discontinuity risk leading to a fracture between the pre-Council and post-Council Church. It asserts that the Council texts as such would still not be the true expression of the spirit of the Council. They would be the result of compromises within which, to reach unanimity, many old and ultimately useless things had to be dragged along and reconfirmed. It is, however, not in these compromises that the true spirit of the Council would be revealed, but instead in the drive toward newness that underpin the texts: only this would represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from it and in conformity with it, it would be necessary to go forward. Precisely because the texts would reflect only imperfectly the true spirit of the Council and its novelty, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts, making room for the new, in which the more profound, even though still indistinct, intention of the Council would express itself. In short: it would be necessary to follow not the Council texts, but its spirit. In this way, of course, a huge margin remains for the question of how then to define this spirit and, as a result, room is made for any whimsicality.
It's a good thing I wasn't there. I would've been whooping and stomping - "Sing it, Papa! You rock!"

[snip ... ]

I would like to quote Pope John XXIII's well known words in which this hermeneutic is unequivocally expressed when he said that the Council "wishes to transmit doctrine pure and whole, without attenuating or falsifying it", and continues: "Our duty is not only to watch over this precious treasure, as if we were only concerned with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with active will and without fear to this work, which our age demands... It is necessary that this sure and immutable doctrine, faithfully respected, must be deepened and presented in a way that answers the needs of our time. One thing is in fact the deposit of faith, that is the truths contained in our venerated doctrine, and another thing is the way they are enounced, maintaining nevertheless their same meaning and scope" (S. Oec. Conc. Vat. II Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes, 1974, pp. 863-865). It is clear that this commitment to expressing a particular truth in a new way calls for fresh reflection upon it and a new relationship with it; it is also clear that the new word can mature only if it derives from an aware understanding of the truth expressed and that, on the other hand, the reflection on faith also requires that this faith is lived.
It feels like he is gently, firmly, gradually guiding the huge barque of Peter back into port after its extensively silly harbor cruise.

Pope Benedict is earning my trust. I almost hate to admit it. I had just about decided I'd never be able to persuade myself to set foot in a Catholic church again, but he's got me watching, daring to approach a bit closer before I jump nervously away. He's so loving and so wise. If he'd been the liberal some were hoping for, my choice would've been easy. But the Holy Spirit guided those cardinals, and they elected Papa Benedetto, and now I'm running out of excuses. And, like so many of these things, it feels like it was done just for me... like God knew my heart and the state of my soul, and what it would take to convince me to try just one more time... and He did that one thing.

To judge from the stream of reverts and converts I've been reading about lately, it would seem that I'm not alone.

And it feels right. Pope Benedict is not breathing fire or taking names; he's being as gentle and courteous as he can about this. However, one cannot pretend to miss the point: courage is not defined by doing daring things like using glass on the altar and issuing a document requiring people to stand during communion as a sign of "unity." Courage is shown by living upright, chaste, and loving lives in submission to the teaching authority of the Church, sticking to the actual texts of the Vatican II Council and interpreting them in light of all the Fathers who went before us in this journey since Christ walked the earth. That's courageous because it's not easy.
... the plan proposed by Pope John XXIII was extremely demanding, just as the synthesis of faithfulness and dynamism is demanding. But wherever this interpretation has been the guideline for the reception of the Council, there new life has grown and new fruits have matured. Forty years after the Council, we can ascertain that the positive aspects are greater and more vibrant than they appeared in the years around 1968. Today we can see that the good seed, even if it develops slowly, nevertheless grows, and our profound gratitude for the work carried out by the Council grows along with it.
One of the things which drove me from the Church again and again in the years after Vatican II was the harshness and inflexibility of those who imposed on us "the spirit of Vatican Two." Benedict is neither... and he's no lightweight when it comes to theology or liturgy! However, he is, in every sense of the word, a gentleman. He does not put himself forward. He lets Augustine and John XXIII fight his battles for him, in their own words.

He doesn't talk about the fallout from Vatican II; he says that "the positive aspects are greater and more vibrant than they appeared in the years around 1968." Whatever else that may be, it's tactful. I've had quite enough of being made to feel like a leper because I benefit from using prayerbooks and praying the Rosary in a quiet church, and have real problems with standing to receive communion, much less standing after communion - and let's not even go there about communion in the hand. I respect Papa because he does not employ the same tactics towards those who upset me so badly. He is better than that. If they had been half so gracious after the Council, I might not have run away... but that is for another post.

Thanks again, Chrysostomos, for the link.


Chrysostomos said...

Glad to know that Benedict's talk inspired and edified another blogger. Now if we could just make sure that such comforting words get the attention of our pastors...

Keep up the good posts!

Lorna said...

this is really interesting. I'm not RC so I'm not sure how to phrase these questions

what was the spirit of vatican II in your opinion

why was it hard to accept the rulings of vatican II for you personally?

why is communion in the hand or standing a problem

what did you (do you) miss from the pre vatican II period

how would you liek the mass to be developed under Pope Benedict to meet your needs

I'd be really interseted in your reply. if you prefer you can email me on

lorna AT heavenlytrain DOT com

(please leave a message on my blog if you reply - so I can find you again) it's only my first or second visit here.

I loved the phrase LORD OF THE SACRAMENT :)