Friday, October 05, 2007

Old & New Mass Ecclesiology Incompatible?

Is the Ecclesiology of the Old Missal "Incompatible" with that of the New?

Motu Proprio Ecclesiological Question

Answered by Rev. Nicola Bux and Rev. Salvatore Vitiello

4 October 2007

Some say the Summorum Pontificum Motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI could cause “uneasiness” because the ecclesiology present in the old Missal is “incompatible” with that which flowed from Vatican II. Let us try to verify the validity of this theory, by looking at the Roman Canon, the ancient Eucharistic prayer retained in the new Missal.

In it the priest turns first of all to the Father and presents the offerings for “the holy Catholic Church”, that He may guide it and grant it unity throughout the world - as the ancient Didachè prays - he offers them for the Pope, the Bishop and the community in which the Eucharist is being celebrated and “for all who hold and teach the Catholic faith that comes to us from the Apostles”.

These are the famous diptychs which prove the existence of communion in the Church. At the same time he ask the Father to remember those present: “we offer you this sacrifice of praise”, the ordained and the common priesthood. Secondly he says that the Mass is celebrated in communion with the Mary and the saints, the heavenly Church, asking for their intercession. Thirdly he asks God to “bless and approve the offerings”, that they may become consecrated: the expression is referred to the Holy Spirit. Scholars say the nucleus of the Roman Canon, is older than the definition of the Council of Constantinople in 381. And then the other ancient Eucharistic prayer, the Copt anaphora of Serapione also contains an epiclesi to the Word.

To return to the Roman Canon, after the consecration the priest recalls the memorial of Christ's paschal mystery offering his Body and his Blood as a pleasing sacrifice, prefigured in those of Abel, Abraham and in Melchisedech; he prays that the offering may be taken from the altar on earth to God's altar in heaven. There follows intercession for the dead, and "for us sinners". The great prayer closes with the glorification of the Trinity, and the Amen of the faithful.

From this prayer which skilfully doses personal and community faith, there emerges a Trinitarian ecclesiology of communion which descends from heaven with traits of unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. The prayer remembers Jesus Christ and his mystery and awaits His coming both in the today of the liturgy and at the last judgement. A prayer which is essentially adoration. The present crisis of the liturgy is due to the fact that at centre of the liturgy very often instead of God and adoration of God there is mankind, the community; so, as J.B.Metz used to say: “The crisis of God is ecclesiologically blocked”.

Providentially the Council approved as its first act the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy because “First there is adoration and therefore God […] The Church derives from adoration, from the mission to glorify God” (J.Ratzinger, L’ecclesiologia della costituzione Lumen gentium, in La Comunione nella Chiesa, Cinisello B. 2004, p 132). This is the ecclesiology of the Council which, over and beyond historical accentuation, has remained the same for two millennia in the Catholic Church.

A crisis in the liturgy begins when it is not understood and lived as adoration in Jesus Christ of the Trinity and as a celebration of the whole Catholic Church not just one particular community, of which the bishops and priests are the ministers, that is servants, not masters. Continual lamenting on the part of some liturgists with regard to the failed actuation of the reform and expedients to render it attractive, indicate that the spirit of the liturgy has been lost reducing to an self-celebration of one particular community.

How many examples of liturgical relativism (falsely hidden under the name of creativity) we see every day: the Eucharist is the first to have paid for an idea of Church which is not catholic. To which ecclesiology are those who intend to affirm the presumed incompatibility of the Missal of Blessed John XXIII with the present ecclesial situation referring?

To fear two different ecclesiologies is a grave error: it means, as the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said in his address to mark the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, considering the Council a break with Catholic tradition. The Roman missal of Saint Pius V and Blessed John XXIII, heir to the ancient sacramentaries and medieval Missals, and the Missal of Paul VI, are an expression of the one and the same lex credendi et orandi which gives primacy to the relationship with God of the Church and every individual member. This is the only ecclesiology which can be said to be Catholic. (Agenzia Fides)

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