20 April 2007

Archbishop Burke on Sacramentum Caritatis

In his weekly column for the St. Louis Review, Archbishop Burke continues his reflections and analysis of the Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis. In this installment, His Grace considers the Pope's words on the Development of the Eucharistic rites. From the Archbishop's column:

Development of the Eucharistic rites

Our Lord comes to us in the Holy Eucharist through the Rite of the Mass and other Eucharistic rites. The rites of the Church, and above all the Rite of the Mass, point to the reality of our Lord’s abiding presence with us. Pope Benedict XVI notes the "richness and variety" of the liturgical rites, both historically in the Latin Church and in the Churches of the East, by which our Lord makes always new His Eucharistic Sacrifice. He reminds us that all of the approved rites, inspired by the Holy Spirit, manifest a unity, that is they are the historical development of the one action of the Mass.

Commenting on the liturgical renewal which "began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council," our Holy Father expressed the gratitude of the bishops for the fruits of the renewal. Acknowledging the many benefits of the liturgical renewal, he also acknowledged the "difficulties and even occasional abuses" in the actual carrying out of the renewal. In that regard, he affirmed the conviction of the bishops at the synod that the "riches" of the renewal "are yet to be fully explored" (n. 3).

The Holy Father then addressed a central point regarding the historical development of the liturgical rites in the Latin Church. The changes in the liturgical rites, introduced after the council, could be seen as something entirely new, that is, as having no relationship to the liturgical rites which the changes were adopted to renew. Such a perception is completely false. The changes can only be understood in the context of the organic development of the rites of the Sacred Liturgy, along the Christian centuries, true to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI states:

"Concretely, the changes which the council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of this historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities" (n. 3). A change in the Sacred Liturgy, which is not a development of the rites of the Church as they have come down to us, could not be the work of the Holy Spirit.
My comments: There is a lot said in these few paragraphs. First of all, His Grace notes that all of the approved rites of Mass manifest a unity and an historical development from the one action of Mass. All of the rites of Mass, whether Latin (such as Roman, Ambrosian, Mozarabic) or Eastern (such as Byzantine, Maronite, Chaldean) have roots in the earliest Christian times. They began either directly from Apostolic practice or from the practice of the early Church Fathers. Just as an ancient oak tree no longer looks the same as an acorn, yet each is the authentic manifestation of an oak tree for that stage of development, so it is with the Church's multiplicity of rites.

That is, until recent times. Contrary to popular belief, a belief caused by ignorance of or miseducation about the actual documents promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, the Council fathers called for quite modest, and as the Holy Father would reiterate, organic changes to the Mass. Sacrosanctum Concilium, the dogmatic Constitution on the Liturgy, called for retention of Latin as the primary liturgical language, and called for Gregorian chant to have pride of place in Catholic worship, and mandated no particular change to the ordinary of Mass as it existed. When the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated, its own rubrics assumed that the Priest would celebrate Mass "facing East", liturgically, just as he had since Apostolic times. Nothing whatsoever was said in the Council documents or in the Missal about standing for Communion, receiving Communion in the hand, female altar servers, or of many other of the myriad departures from the long-established praxis of the Church with which we are so familiar today.

One paragraph of the Archbishop's column stands out in this regard, and both proves the need to retain our traditional form of Mass and also provides the key to implementing the intent of the Council fathers with regard to the "new" Mass. The quote by the Holy Father, and the comment by His Grace:

"Concretely, the changes which the council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of this historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities" (n. 3). A change in the Sacred Liturgy, which is not a development of the rites of the Church as they have come down to us, could not be the work of the Holy Spirit.

Changes to the Mass that would be faithful to the wishes of the Second Vatican Council would not, in many important respects, look anything like what most Catholics now experience. A change with is not an organic development, cannot be the work of the Holy Spirit, as the Archbishop rightly notes.

Because of this reality, when the Holy Father states that the riches of liturgical "renewal" have "yet to be fully explored", the context is clear: the riches of renewal have yet to be fully explored, not because they haven't departed far enough from old Mass, but because they haven't been close enough to it. You can't have organic development by fiat. If the new Mass, so-called, did not start with the old as its basis and standard, its novelties are not legitimate.

Many readers already know that many of the more problematic issues with Mass at many parishes are or were the result of disobedience to the magisterium and disregard for legitimate authority. Abuse after abuse piles up until their widespread presence is winked at, then finally is allowed. Instead of experiencing Mass as something hallowed, and received humbly from Christ and His Church, it becomes the flavor of the week developed by the liturgy committee.

This is why I personally believe the Holy Father wanted to issue Sacramentum Caritatis before issuing the Motu Proprio reaffirming the right to the Traditional Mass. And also why he wants the Traditional Mass intact to guide the proper celebration of the New Mass. Without the anchor of tradition-- whether the subject is the Mass, or dogma, or Scripture-- the new formulations are arbitrary, illusory, prone to error. When these matters develop within the heart of the Church their authenticity is assured.

I don't pretend to speak for the Archbishop, but this is how I was struck by his reflections.

For the complete column of the Archbishop see here:


wolftracker said...

Amen. Amen. Amen. Great post. How lucky some of us our to have such great bishops, learned ones, who can teach so well. All of us are fortunate to have B16 as a Holy Father. If only more of us would listen to him.

Patrick Kinsale said...

As much as I love our archbishop (and I do!), I do wish he would be more active in reforming the Novus Ordo liturgy in the parishes of the archdiocese, in addition to promoting the TLM at the Oratory and the Priory. Much abuse is tolerated here.

thetimman said...

Patrick, I can say that the formation of seminarians at the Archdiocesan seminary is getting better all the time, and this might be the practical strategy for long term improvement. In short, if well-formed priests celebrate the Mass, the celebration will be correctly done. Many priests of a certain age will resist any directive from the Bishop, or for that matter, the Holy Father. But I see the seminarians participate at very many of the traditional Masses and other liturgies at the Oratory. I see their instructors there. They are aware of the traditional Mass, they are familiar with it. It will inform their celebrations of Mass, under whichever Missal they will use.

At the seminary, the Archbishop has more practical oversight.

In St. Louis I see the Archbishop not just 'allowing' a Latin Mass, but weaving the Institute into the entire Catholic life of the Diocese. They are the leaven that we desperately need.

I, too, would like to see more reform done, but the task facing the Archbishop is great. He needs our prayers.

Thanks to you and WT for the comments.

Patrick Kinsale said...

I agree wholeheartedly about the seminary and I am happy it is drawing vocations from all over the country. I'd love to ask one of the seminarians how they feel when they are assigned to assist at a parish and the priests they help at Mass have a more lax view of rubrics.

One would think, though, that an archdiocese this size could offer more in terms of the Latin Novus Ordo. Are you aware of any parish that offers it? There is only one church I am aware of that offers it on a regular basis, and it is in schism.

thetimman said...

Not aware of any, but don't know if one does or doesn't exist.

There is no reason why any priest who can pronounce Latin with even basic understanding can't have at least one daily Mass in Latin.

And any priest at a church with an appropriately situated altar can celebrate at least one daily or Sunday Mass ad orientem. In some dioceses the Bishop would come down on him, but I can't imagine it would happen here.

Maybe that should be the next step: we can encourage friends of ours at novus ordo parishes to request catechesis about ad orientem celebration for the parish for awhile, then the ad orientem celebration of the Mass on a regular basis.