The Luminous as Eucharistic Mysteries
The Wedding Feast at Cana and Summorum Pontificum
Earlier this year His Eminence Cardinal Levada wrote to all of the Papal Representatives to ask help in soliciting from the bishops of the world their personal observations on the status of the question at three years distance from the promulgation of the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007). The Cardinal directed proposing an open-ended invitation to each bishop to share his thoughts with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, albeit indirectly, relative to his experience in his own diocese.
My own read on the region entrusted to my care was confirmed as not even half of my bishops responded and those who did had little or no experience with requests for celebration of the usus antiquior. The occasional Requiem or Priestly Golden Jubilee request for a semblance of a return to “the way we were” is about as far as it went. I am hoping that Cardinal Levada’s report to the Holy Father will be published at some point. It would be good to know how the bishops of the rest of the world expressed themselves.
This experience came back to me again the other day as I saw notice of the upcoming publication of a canonical commentary on Summorum Pontificum. There is an existing web page, which formed the basis for the book; therein I found a succinct statement of the three objectives for which the Motu Proprio was promulgated: a) as a response to the so-called signs of the times and a return to normalcy; b) for the sake of the mutual enrichment of the Roman Missals from both 1962 and 1970; c) to bring about reconciliation within the Catholic Church (“a) Antwort auf die Zeichen der Zeit und Rückkehr zur Normalität; b) gegenseitige Befruchtung der Missalia Romana von 1962 und 1970; c) „innere Versöhnung in der Kirche“. Gero P. Weishaupt, PÄPSTLICHE WEICHENSTELLUNGEN, Das Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum Benedikts XVI. und der Begleitbrief. Ein kirchenrechtlicher Kommentar).
Three years after the Publication of Summorum Pontificum, has the liturgical situation in the Western Church improved? How much and what kind of exposure to the usus antiquior will bring about the achievement of these goals? Does Weishaupt’s formulation of these three objectives do sufficient justice to the same objectives as set out in the Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops on the occasion of the publication of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum on the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970? The defense of truth and the promotion of justice, as well as respect for the continuity which should exist within the Church’s tradition in matters liturgical, seem to me to better surface as more evident priorities from reading the Holy Father’s letter itself. No doubt the book when published will contain a more ample analysis of the Pope’s letter than is to be found on the web page, the strictures of a canonical commentary notwithstanding. I guess I want to discourage anyone from succumbing to the temptation of settling for a quick read of the Internet commentary in hopes the book will be better. Moreover let me encourage a re-reading of the Holy Father’s letter of 2007, available on the Vatican web site: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20070707_lettera-vescovi_en.html
What Weishaupt means by his first objective is certainly in accord with the Pope’s words, but he comes up short of the Holy Father’s expression: more than talk about the signs of the times there should be a clear reference to correcting liturgical abuse. Talk of a return to normalcy seems to miss the point, depending on whose normalcy you may be seeking. It goes without saying that reconciliation (objective c) is founded on a profound mutual respect, but there is more to it than that.
More than the terse expression “mutual enrichment”, I think we need to quote the Holy Father’s words at length concerning the abuses and general malaise which in the de facto celebration of the ordinary form have over the past forty years too often hindered worship in spirit and in truth and been a source of confusion and discouragement for good Catholics. I’d like to underline especially the expression of hope for the renewed liturgy as formulated by the Pope:
“The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.”
Pope Benedict XVI clearly wills to unbind the shackles which have restrained the usage of the 1962 Missal over the better part of four decades and save the 1970 Missal from those who have held contemporary worship hostage for much of that same period. He means ultimately to correctly implement the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.
Summorum Pontificum is certainly a landmark in the struggle for full and proper liturgical expression in the Church. It might best be described as a form of gentle persuasion through acquaintance or principled encounter. It cannot stand alone as a vehicle for reform, because truth also demands a continued and persistent effort to expose liturgical abuse as it continues to stymie vernacular worship in its full and proper expression. Only a return to the usus antiquior as the ordinary form of worship could eliminate abuse in one fell swoop, but that was not the intention of the Holy Father. Pope Benedict XVI has not excused his brother bishops from vigilance in their reform efforts; he has not excused priests from teaching their people how to celebrate; he is urging musicians and artists to conscientious efforts to restore the links with the tradition in which we must stand.
Divine worship is more than a prayer meeting, much more than a spiritual exercise. The parameters of Heavenly worship and the tradition which comes to us from the Apostles dictate the sublime character, the gravity which belongs to the Eucharist Sacrifice and all which flows from it. Nevertheless such seems many times even less evident than the expectation that Catholic institutions of higher learning faithfully teach the faith (20 years and still struggling for the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae!). Much needs to be done to open hearts and minds.
The thought came to me in meditation yesterday on the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary that they are in ways very Eucharistic Mysteries or could be treated so for purposes of meditation. The Wedding Feast at Cana in particular spoke to me about the application of Summorum Pontificum and the whole question of seeking to reform the vernacular liturgy. Only the servants who drew the water knew what was going on and yet the Gospel marks the changing of water into wine by Our Lord at the instance of His Blessed Mother as His first public sign.
I am resolved to continue the humble work of filling the jars with water; I will do so by offering good example as a celebrant and most especially through worship ad Orientem. May the Lord grant to all those who work for well-ordered and devout worship the possibility of changing hearts and minds. The usus antiquior continues to win over young hearts and minds just as the sometimes banal and showy performance of the ordinary form drives others to despair. We owe the best to Our Lord and also to His children within the Church, for the sake of the salvation of the world.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI