Saturday, December 4, 2010
"His dwelling shall be glorious": the Church of Christ reflects the glory of God through worship of every time and place
In these days leading to Christmas homes are decorated with lights and festooned in the favorite colors and symbols of the season. These reflect the joy and anticipation that many feel in looking forward to the Christmas celebration. This joy is a spiritual quality because it is an interiorly felt and thought set of emotions and convictions which comes from sharing in God's love. The beautiful symbols and lights of the season express a desire to share this love.
Love is the glory of God. And here, in His church where we truly meet and know Him who is the source of love and who shares His with us His divine glory, should not our convictions of this fact also be expressed in seeking beautiful decorations and furnishings for His house? Should we not seek to express His love in the beauty of music and other symbols such as the vestments of the priest and the clothing we choose to wear for Sunday Mass?
It became fashionable for quite a long time for some in the Church to use the Second Vatican Council as an excuse for disliking and even detesting some aspects of the Church's life. "I don't like Latin" some would say or, others, "I don't like Gregorian chant" or it would be certain vestments or organ music. Many were not sure what they did in fact like, or whether what replaced the many things which were thrown onto the ash heap of history after 1962 were being replaced with anything of equal value, dignity or sacredness. It seemed for a long time that Vatican II for many was understood not necessarily as an affirmation of anything so much as it was a rejection of everything which came before it.
In an institution founded by God because a fruit of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, whose words and deeds were handed on by the Apostles He chose and sent in His power and authority, the rejection of tradition, that is of the Faith and life handed down by Christ, would seem a most dangerous thing. And yet this recklessness was entertained and encouraged by many in authority and accepted by many lay faithful in the Church as an authentic representation of the mind of the Church as expressed through the teachings of Vatican II because of that authority. This juggernaut of rupture in the life of the Church was often cloaked with the veil of authority through frequent reference to "the Spirit of Vatican II."
And then there are the documents of Vatican II. Many, upon reading them for the first time, expressed genuine shock at their orthodox and traditional gist. Others marveled that so many for so long were able to misrepresent the so-called "Spirit" of the Council in a way so flagrantly in violation of the letter of that same Council.
But the fallout continues in the life of the Church today. Many of those who were swept up in the heady spirit of those days almost fifty years ago still operate under the assumption that the Church sanctioned the detestation of certain sacred things and liturgies in the best interests of the Church. In light of the fact that the Church is herself a traditio, that is something handed down through the same Holy Spirit today as that conferred by Christ two thousand years ago, this error amounts to little more than institutional suicide. Many young people who happen onto the scene today marvel at the attitude of ambivalence, and sometimes worse, toward historic and holy aspects of the life of this Church handed down as the fruit of 2,000 years.
"The tradition of Christian prayer is one of the ways in which the tradition of faith takes shape and grows, especially through the contemplation and study of believers who treasure in their hearts the events and words of the economy of salvation, and through their profound grasp of the spiritual realities they experience." (CCC 2651)
The expression of the Church's faith through the prayer of the liturgy is always subjected to her teaching authority. It is for this reason that an iconoclastic attack upon any part of the Church's life of prayer and worship lets loose an attitude of rebellion against the teaching authority itself. "Lex orandi est lex credendi" expresses the truth of the inner connection between what we believe and how we worship. An attack on the one is an attack on the other.
"In the living tradition of prayer, each Church proposes to its faithful, according to its historic, social, and cultural context, a language for prayer: words, melodies, gestures, iconography. The Magisterium of the Church has the task of discerning the fidelity of these ways of praying to the tradition of apostolic faith; it is for pastors and catechists to explain their meaning, always in relation to Jesus Christ." (CCC 2663)
What the Church has done at any time in her history by everyone everywhere expresses what the Church believes. Any Catholic may be legitimately attached to and draw grace from these things and, at the same time, every Catholic should recognize that charity demands these should be respected and esteemed even if not a personal preference.
Through His letter of 7 July 2007, Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict seeks to make peace in the Church by setting to rest any mistaken notion that Vatican II sought to sweep away everything that came before it, or at least that the Council gave individuals the carte blanche to seize capriciously upon things new and untested in a breathless search to replace everything considered old, tried and found lacking.
The liturgies of the Roman Rite from before and after the Second Vatican Council are no longer "old" or "new" with all the connotations good or bad that may come from those designations. Instead, we have the Ordinary Form, which is the way in which most Catholics presently choose to worship, and the Extraordinary Form, the liturgy of 1962 which grew organically and continuously from the seed of that first liturgy in the Upper Room offered by the Lord Himself and which was the starting point for the "fabrication" * of the Ordinary Form .
It is true, as John the Baptist preached, that "God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones" but He chose instead to raise up children in and through Christ His divine Son. Through both forms of the one Roman Rite, Ordinary and Extraordinary, the Spirit of the Lord rests upon the Church so that "the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea". It is in the "today" of the Church that "the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious."
* As described by Pope Benedict (writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, in the preface to the French edition of The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background", 1993.)