Monday, November 30, 2009

The Gamber Preface: Paragraph 1

In a previous post, I mentioned that I might have more to say about the Preface by Cardinal Ratzinger to Msgr. Klaus Gamber's "Reform of the Roman Liturgy". There are a number of interesting points for a recursive Christian, and the first one is that of "origin".

"Origin" of the Liturgy

In any recursive data structure, the main thing one has to keep track of is the origin or root of the data structure. That is because by design if one knows the origin one can access any of the other nodes.

The liturgy is not itself a "data structure" but it does have a structure, which is comprised of words (prayers and Scrpture readings) and rubrics (instructions to the priest how to act), which can be regarded as its "data". For those new to the terminology, "rubric" comes from a Latin word meaning "red", because typically the rubrics are printed in red ink in Missals intended for the priests to use in the liturgy.

Ratzinger speaks of the words of the young priest he has just mentioned as a yearning to find, and hold on to, the origin of the liturgy:

He felt that we need a new beginning emanating from the intimacy of the liturgy, just as the liturgical movement had desired when it was at the apogee of its true nature, when it was not a matter of fabricating texts, of inventing actions and forms, but of rediscovering the living center, of penetrating into the very tissue, properly speaking, of the liturgy, so that its realization have issued from its very substance.

Hence, the liturgy has a living tissue, a substance, which it is necessary that we humans tap into if we are to understand and celebrate the liturgy the way it was meant to be used. It is important to realize that the liturgy is intended to be used. It is not an end in itself, anymore than the Church is an end in herself.

The end or purpose, of course, is the Trinitarian Godhead -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- who has created all things, and keeps them in existence. Jesus Christ, the Son of God Incarnate, has founded the Church and given it all its sacraments -- there are Seven -- establishing with His foundational act the very essence of each and every one of them. The liturgy comprises all the rites and ritual surrounding the administration of those seven Sacraments (or Mysteries as they are called in the Christian East) as well as the sanctification of time, known variously down through the ages and places, but commonly called the Liturgy of the Hours. The "Church" is not the "source" of the liturgy, but its servant; the Source of the liturgy is the Triune God.

Thus, God is both the source and the end of the liturgy, and tapping into the "origin" is tapping into God, into the Holy Spirit. Only He can enliven, or quicken, the liturgy; as we say in the Creed "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life". Moreover, unless it is He who does so for us, we Christians have wandered from the path of legitimate liturgy. He is Mystery; and that connecting to Him by us is the mystery of the Christian life, and that connection is not formed exclusively by authentic liturgy, but certainly it is nourished and energized by that liturgy. Without Him, we wander about like "strangers in a strange land".

The Effect of Wandering Away from the Origin of the Liturgy: Division

What happens when we do not tap into the true origin of the Liturgy? Cardinal Ratzinger presents 3 scenarios which were apparent then, and remain so today. First, he mentions what happens when we contemplate the work of the "liturgical guild":
On one side, we have a liturgy that has degenerated into a show, where one attempts to make religion interesting helped by fashionable nonsense and catchy moral platitudes, with short-lived successes amongst the liturgical guild, and a rather pronounced shrinking from it on the part of those who seek in the liturgy not a spiritual show-master, but an encounter with the living God before Whom all «doing» becomes meaningless, that encounter alone being capable of making us draw near to the true riches of being.
Next, he characterizes the effect of rejecting not just the "fabricating" being foisted on the Church by the liturgical guild, but also the very Rite, approved by the Church herself, and now known as the Ordinary Form of the one Roman Rite:
On the other side, there is a conservation of ritual forms whose grandeur is always moving, but which, pushed to the extreme, manifests a dogged isolation and, in the end, allows only sadness.
One can only think that those Ratzinger has in mind here are not simply Catholics who attend the Extraordinary Form of the one Roman Rite, but those who, as he puts it, "pushing to the extreme", actually take more solace in the positive aspect of celebrating according to the usus antiquior, then it tapping into the Origin of the liturgy, the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is the guarantor, the Pledge, of the Church's unity, or communion, and He is the source of Christian joy. Affirming one aspect of Catholic belief or practice by denying the validity of other aspects thereof is not the work of the Holy Spirit, nor is it authentically joyful.

Next, he mentions the situation of the "non-radicalized" members of the Church:
Surely, between those two sides, there remain all the priests and their parishioners who celebrate the new liturgy with respect and solemnity; but they are left wondering by the contradiction between the two extremes and, in the end, the lack of internal unity in the Church, makes their fidelity appear to be, wrongly for many of them, a merely idiosyncratic neoconservatism. Because that is what it has come to, a new spiritual impulse is needed so that the liturgy be for us once more a community activity of the Church, taking it back from the arbitrary grasp of curates and their liturgy teams.
In summary of this first paragraph, for us to be able to celebrate the Sacraments as Christ wanted us to do, it is essential that we always be striving to connect via the Origin of the liturgy. Those who have wandered from that Origin by striving to perfect some human techniques in place of focusing ever anew on that Origin, wind up appearing as "show-masters". The excuse often given is that there is a "need" to "enculturate the liturgy". Even were that true, enculturation cannot be "made up" or "produced", it must occur in the gradual way that all life unfolds.

Those who, sensing the inanity of that consciously manipulative approach, fall back into an extreme rejection, not just of the abuses, but also of the very Rite approved in text and rubric by the Church, create a problem themselves. By rejecting, root and branch, the Church's authority to authorize a new formulation of the liturgy, they also disconnect themselves from the Origin of the spirit of the liturgy.

For the liturgy is not intended to be a "red badge of courage" obtained in so-called "liturgy wars", but, as Ratzinger puts it toward the end of this paragraph as "une activité communautaire de l’Église", which I have translated as "a community activity of the Church", but the French goes deeper than that expression connotes. Really, it is "a common act performed in communion with our fellow Catholics in the whole Church", an expression of our being sons in the Son, co-heirs of the kingdom of God, where the "liturgy" is (right now) being celebrated continuously.

Nothing less than that is at stake.

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