12 March 2012

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

We don't have enough new Churches built and consecrated these days for this to have become a noticeable problem, but after putting part of the following text on Counter Cultural Father's blog the other day, I realised that it might be of wider interest.

This is by Archbishop Bugnini and explains the changes to the rite of Blessing of a Church and an Altar in the new dispensation.  It includes two of his footnotes.

The material building is a sign of the Church as people of God. This Church becomes visible when the Christian community gathers with its ministers and the local bishop to inaugurate a place of worship that it wanted and has built. If possible, the people go in procession to the church; there they and the individuals who worked on the building of the church hand it over in symbolic fashion to the bishop; its doors are solemnly opened and the community enters.

The bishop takes possession of the presidential chair. He then blesses the water that will be used in sprinkling the faithful, the altar, and the walls of the church. This sprinkling has taken on a new meaning: in the old rite it was regarded primarily as a purification; now it is a reminder of baptism and a call to conversion.
After the singing of the Gloria and collect, the inauguration begins at the ambo, the place where the word of God is proclaimed and where the book of the Scriptures is solemnly enthroned.

The homily is followed by the most expressive actions in the rite of dedication: the invocation of the saints and the deposition of their relics beneath the altar;8 the prayer of dedication;9 the anointing of their relics and church walls by the bishop, who can be helped by other priests as at a concelebration; lighting of the incense on the altar and incensensation of the altar; preparation of the altar and lighting of it and the church.

The Eucharistic liturgy has a proper preface. After communion the place where the Eucharist is to be reserved is inaugurated by solemnly bringing the Blessed Sacrament there. The entire celebration ends with a solemn blessing.

8. The relics of the saints are placed beneath the altar and not in the table; the latter is not to be incised. Furthermore, the relics are not to be in the form of small "fragments" but are to be "meaningful," that is, of sufficient size; otherwise the rite is to be omitted.  The relics are carried into the church in the entrance procession.
9. This point was also the subject of lengthy discussion. Initially the study group thought that the preface of the Mass should serve as the prayer for the dedication of the church. But then the celebration would have been deprived of a characteristic element and one of great importance and instructional value. Therefore the decision was reviewed, and the prayer of dedication was retained.

This is all taken from page 796 of the translation of Bugnini's The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975.

Note that the altar of sacrifice has been cast aside in a footnote.  Note that in the same footnote the rationale of relics has been cast aside.  Note that in another footnote the very reformers had to be reminded about the reason behind the structure of their worship.  Note further up that an element of the rite has changed meaning.

Oh so wrong! in oh so many ways! Even more than in the changes in the Mass "the enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off".

07 March 2012

Looking To The Future

NOT a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corpse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light
And the lantern dimly burning.

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,
With his martial cloak around him.

Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
But we steadfastly gazed on the face of the dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

We thought, as we hollow'd his narrow bed
And smoothed down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
And we far away on the billow!

Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone,
And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him;
But little he'll reck, if they let him sleep on
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring,
And we heard the distant and random gun
That the foe was sullenly firing.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But we left him alone with his glory.

05 March 2012

Actuosa Participatio

A great service provided by Shane is a series of what you might call e-scrapbooks: cuttings from Irish papers and journals chronicling the changes which took place in the Church around the time of the Vatican Council.

One piece - a monument to lucid prose - is a paper read to a Liturgical Congress in Glenstal Abbey in 1961 by Bishop (later Cardinal) Conway.  I will only reproduce a part of it here, but this section, on how the faithful should approach the Canon, is full of food for thought.

Closely linked with this is the second means which I have already mentioned - the focusing of greater attention on the Preface and Canon of the Mass. There is no need to emphasise that here again one must be realistic. Large numbers of our people assist at Mass most devoutly by reciting their own prayers or meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and it would be wrong to discourage them from this. But a large and growing number of people use the Missal and it is of these that I am thinking in the, present context. Because one does get the impression that not all of those who are using the Missal derive the benefit from it that they should - that they concentrate rather a lot on getting the right Mass or getting the Collects correctly, and that the core or the Mass, the great Eucharistic prayer which is the Preface and the Canon, does not speak to them as it should. If that is so it is a great pity because nothing can compare with the simple strength and beauty of this prayer, whose roots go back to the earliest centuries of the Church, for bringing home to the faithful the sacrificial character of what is happening and the fact that the plebs sancta are participating in it. The wonderful prayer of the Preface which soars like the flight of an eagle up to the very throne of God where the Cherubim and Seraphim are singing Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, the profound bow of the priest at the Te Igitur now that he is standing before the altar of God, the simple opening words of his address: "Most Merciful Father, we humbly beg and beseech thee ... to please accept these gifts, these offerings, this holy unspotted sacrifice", the, prayer for the Church "throughout the whole world", the calling on the heavenly court, the stark poignancy of the petitions of the Hanc  Igitur: "arrange our days in Thy peace; save us from eternal damnation; number us among the flock of thy chosen ones" and so on. Nothing, I think, can compare with the simple beauty and dignity of this ancient prayer whose ipsissima verba must have fallen front the lips of Saint Patrick when he celebrated Mass here and which have been uttered by every priest who has said Mass in Ireland since his time. Nothing can surpass the simple and ineffable way in which it teaches the great truths we have been speaking about and applies them to the very action which is taking place - the notion of sacrifice and the plebs sancta who are participating in it are threaded through every paragraph and that in a language which the people can easily understand: “therefore O Lord, we beseech Thee, to please accept this sacrifice from us Thy servants and from thy whole Family ..." And yet, to very large numbers of our people this prayer is virtually unknown.

There are, I think, a number of reasons for this. For one thing, although the Latin is transparently clear, it is very often translated in Missals into rather stilted and archaic language (one version in a popular Missal speaks of "all true professors of the Catholic and apostolic faith").  Again it is often unattractively printed in a single narrow column, with nothing to make it stand out in prominence as it should and with little assistance to the eye in reading it intelligently. Lastly it is a prayer which requires some little explanation; the architecture of its various parts, the sequence of its ideas, are not immediately obvious (although they are there and very beautiful) and some of the references in it (like those to Abraham and Abel) may not reveal their full significance to the ordinary faithful. I think there would be a great deal to be said for having a clearly and attractively printed version of this prayer, In language which reflects the limpid  freshness of the Latin, made out as a text for study in the schools. It is difficult to believe that people would not grow to love it and use it always at Mass if once they really came to know it. And I think too that there would be something to be said for having it, along with, perhaps the offertory prayers, printed separately for the use of people who perhaps feel somewhat overawed by the Missal itself. Something like that used to be done in the old-fashioned prayer-books, and one feels that many people who never used a Missal, knew and loved the Canon of the Mass, without recognising it as such, in a way that some people who now use the Missal do not.

04 March 2012

As The Dog Returns To Its Vomit

Q: Who said that state provision of welfare would 'eliminate selective elimination' thus leading to more congenitally deformed and feckless people?

A: The Manchester Guardian, welcoming the NHS on 5 July 1948.

Eugenist then, eugenist now; more honest then, better at euphemistic language now.

01 March 2012

Changing Church Teachings

For anybody who has been watching the CBCEW wrestling with the issue of marriage recently, here is something which might make one think “plus ça change ...”

On 7 May 1964 the Hierarchy of England and Wales published a statement on Contraception (h/t to Shane for the link).

"It has even been suggested that the Council could approve the practice of contraception. But the Church, while free to revise her own positive laws, has no power of any kind to alter the laws of God. “Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offence against the laws of God and nature.” — (Pius XI, Encyclical Letter “Christian Marriage,” 1930).

The Pope, in saying this, was not introducing a new doctrine. Fifteen hundred years ago St. Augustine bore witness to the same belief and practice in the Catholic Church: “Intercourse is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented.” — (De Coniug. Adult. 11, 12). In our own day, Pope Pius XII has spoken with equal bluntness: “This precept is as valid to-day as it was yesterday, and it will be the same to-morrow and always, because it does not imply a precept of human law but is the expression of a law which is natural and divine.” — (Address to Catholic midwives, October, 1951).

While recalling the plain teaching of Christ, we nevertheless wish to express our fatherly compassion for Catholic husbands and wives who sometimes find themselves in a position of great difficulty. We know that sometimes there can be an agonising choice between natural instincts and the law of God. Our hearts are full of sympathy, but we cannot change God’s law. We must all — married and unmarried, priest and layman — realise that following Christ calls for sacrifice and self-denial. Holy Scripture, Ecumenical Councils and the Popes, are at one in declaring that, aided by Divine grace, all God’s children are capable of chaste living. “There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfil their duties faithfully and preserve purity in wedlock” — (Pius XI, Encyclical Letter “Christian Marriage,” 1930).

Many husbands and wives are troubled in conscience. They know that the Church is an infallible guide in matters of faith and morals. But doubts are shown in their minds by imprudent statements questioning the competence of the Church in this particular question. It is true that progress is made in the understanding of Christian doctrine. The Church is the Body of Christ and is always growing in wisdom and knowledge. But truth cannot contradict itself. The bishops feel bound to proclaim the unchanging nature of God’s law. We would be failing in our duty as pastors of souls were we to remain silent when so many voices are being raised to lead our people astray. The faithful are not incapable of the high degree of virtue which the observance of God’s law sometimes demands. Let them beware of false leaders: “If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.” — (Matt. XV: 14.)"

A clear statement, you will agree, on where the Catholic Church stands.

On 17 September 1968 the Catholic Bishops published a document responding to Humanæ Vitæ. It included the following statement:

"The Pope, bishops, clergy and faithful must all be true to conscience. But we are bound to do everything in our power to make sure that our conscience is truly informed. Neither this Encyclical nor any other document of the Church takes away from us our right and duty to follow our conscience. But if we were to neglect the guidance of the Church, morality could easily become subjective. This would be disastrous. It is well to remember the “Declaration on Religious Freedom” in the Second Vatican Council: “In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself.”

Theologians will seek clarification of the teaching in the Encyclical. Much of the field of human sexuality remains to be explored. We must ourselves continue sponsoring such research with assistance to initiatives already taken and the pooling of experience already gained. The Pope himself exhorts doctors to persevere in their studies in order to benefit the married people who consult them. We need to learn to what extent secular science can contribute to a solution of marriage problems.

We must also enquire what are the implications of the Encyclical’s reference to the use of therapeutic means. Those competent in these matters will continue their researches but the personal problems have to be faced by faithful couples genuinely wanting to do God’s will but facing formidable obstacles."

Not quite as black and white, perhaps. But then even before the encylical had been published, an Archbishop had felt able to tell the priests of his diocese:

“The Church’s awareness of the essential values of marriage especially as a ‘community of love’ has undergone remarkable development in the recent past. If in a given case these values are seriously endangered by following the Church’s traditional teaching on contraception, an individual couple may judge that they are excused from the observance of the concrete directive which is embodied in this teaching.”

Archbishop Beck, this was.