Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Liturgy and Language

As we all know, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman famously said that “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” The same should be said about some problems facing the modern liturgy. In what Pope Benedict XVI has called the “hermeneutics of rupture,” the post-Vatican II liturgy in many ways has broken with the historical development of the Mass and the tradition which has come down to us over the centuries.

This is not, however, a blanket condemnation of the novus ordo.

Sadly there are many Catholic who wish to forget the Second Vatican Council, like a man hung over awaking after a long night of partying. In many ways the last forty years have indeed been miserable for the Church. But we must remember that the decades following any council were far worse than those preceding them. The good fruits of Vatican II are sprouting and we should be thankful to God for each and every one of them. Dark days are always waiting around the corner, but we all know how the story ends: we win.

There is, however, a very good day coming and it is almost here. This day is, of course, the first Sunday of Advent when the new translation of the Mass is implemented in the United States. There will certainly be those who do not favor the new translation and we should be ready to respond to them when they raise their complaints – and since the Church is bound through Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Succession to Christ and the Apostles, let us first turn to history to be our guide on translation.

Michael Foley, a patristics scholar at Baylor University, wrote a wonderful piece called Five Myths About Worship in the Early Church. While there is no room here to discuss all five myths, his words on the myth of vernacular language is worth quoting at length:

Another widespread myth is that the early Church had Mass “in the vernacular.” But when Jesus worshipped in the synagogue, the language used was Hebrew, which had already been dead for 300 years. And for the first three centuries in Rome, the Mass was mostly celebrated in Greek, not Latin, which was only understood by a minority of the congregation.

When the Mass was eventually translated into Latin, it retained foreign elements such as the Hebrew amen and alleluia, and even added some, such as the Greek Kyrie eleison. Moreover, the Latin used in translating was deliberately different from what was being spoken at the time: It had curious grammatical usages and was peppered with archaisms. In other words, even when the Mass was celebrated in a language people could understand, it was never celebrated in the “vernacular” — if by that term we mean the common street language of the day.

The reason for this is simple: Every apostolic Church — to say nothing of every major world religion — has always had a sacred or hieratic language, a linguistic toolbox different from daily speech specially designed to communicate the transcendence and distinctiveness of the gospel.
In other words, because the liturgy is a sacred action with sacred words, our language should be indicative of the liturgy’s sacredness. Along these lines, Jimmy Akin posted a video this week regarding the new translation over on his blog. Akin describes the current translation as a “street language, 1970-ish translation” which simply fails to clearly indicate the sacredness of the liturgy.

But while Foley speaks of elevating the language, Akin says the other option is to lower the language. Now by lower Akin does not mean only using one-syllable words, but rather by using very “informal and intimate” language. Akin correctly rejects the use of informal and intimate language in the Mass for reasons of human nature (i.e. intimacy in large groups feels forced and hard to pull off with hundreds of people), but it would helpful for him (and others) to describe our sacred language in terms of masculinity and femininity. Indeed, this may be an argument against the use of some “praise and worship” music in Mass.

In conclusion, we can say that (1) there has never been a pure and simple “vernacular” translation of the Mass, and (2) this is because our language must be elevated out of the ordinary for us to know that the liturgy itself is a sacred act. Now if you’ve read all this and would like a nice review of the liturgy, check out the following articles from my co-worker Jared Ostermann on the matter (Jared is a convert to the Faith and is now wrapping up his doctorate in sacred music): What is the Liturgy?, What is the Mass?, How Does the Liturgy Work?

Words of Wisdom

Sometimes the wisest words are spoken by fictional characters. In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf offers the following words of wisdom to the civic and military leaders confronting the evil in their days.

" is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."

Confronting evil is a chief duty of man. We cannot run away from evil, nor ought we to recklessly engage in battles from which little would be gained. Courage, as Aristotle said, is the mean between the two. The original duty of Adam was to "till and to keep" the Garden. Adam failed, but now that we have been reborn as the sons of God in the one Son, we must do our protective duty and leave for our sons "clean earth to till."

We must also not fall prey to what Nietzsche called the will to power, the desire to control our surroundings in order to prevent future evils. Machiavelli forwarded a similar principle when he taught that one should work to minimize fortune or chance while maximizing power or control over fortune. Francis Bacon furthered this philosophy when he saw his new scientific method as the tool through which nature could be conquered and controlled for the sake of power through technology. In our modern technological age, we must be conscious of our duty as men while remembering the gates to Eden are now blocked by the seraphim.

If we attempt to create a technological pseudo-Eden, a godless paradise on Earth, then we have succumbed to the Ring of Power which Gandalf, and the men of the Fellowship, worked so hard to destroy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Ordination of Joseph Ratzinger - June 29, 1951

What Pope Benedict XVI calls "the most important day of my life" was his priestly ordination on June 29, 1951, 60 years ago tomorrow. For more on this and other news from the Vatican, check out the Vatican's news site, launched today by Pope Benedixt XVI himself:

The Priesthood and the Draft

In speaking the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Catechism of the Catholic Church opens the discussion of the name “Holy Orders” by telling us that the “word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body” (CCC 1537). Because of this, we should remember that the priest does not merely act in persona Christi, but is rather ordered to a body of men, modeled on the fraternity of the Apostles around Christ under the Father, through which “the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time” (CCC 1536, emphasis mine).

Now during the seesaw struggle between church and state during the Middle Ages and then following the 16th century Protestant Revolt, the focus of the Church’s teaching regarding collegiality (i.e. the fraternal bonds of the ordained ministry) has been placed on the role of the bishops united to the pope. This is of course the most fitting description of the matter since the bishops and the pope are the direct successors of the Apostles and their head, St. Peter. Nevertheless, Christ gave the Church a model of leadership by which men are not tied together by family bonds but rather to a sworn oath sealed through blood, a sacred ministry of re-presenting anew the once for all sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. As the bishops carry out this action in union with the pope at an international level, the priests of the bishop carry this out at a local level.

Like the bishops and priests, our nation was founded upon the oaths of our forefathers under God following the blood-stained battles at the beginning of the Revolution. As the signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote after Lexington and Concord: “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” These were men united not by family bonds but by honor, sacrifice, and the courage to do what was just while trusting in the providence of the Father. To this day, every American male of fighting age must register for the draft and prepare to enter into the protective duties of our forefathers. Those men who enjoy the benefits of the nation also possess the duty to defend her.

Both Holy Orders and the shared military duties of a nation’s men are alike in another way: they are both discriminatory institutions. There are prerequisite requirements for entry. These requirements, however, are not based on race or culture. In America, only men are called to sacrifice and these men must be of good health, have attained the age of 18, and (until recently) be sexually oriented to the opposite sex. In the past, men were greatly saddened when some physical impairment led the military to reject them despite their desire to serve. Today, young men are pleased to avoid what pacifists call the “tragedy” of war. (And if you’d like to see a story about a young man who wanted to do his duty but failed to meet the physical requirements of war, check out this trailer for the upcoming movie Captain America.)

It is also noteworthy to point out that the declining numbers of men to the priesthood began during an era in which young men refused to fight, dodging the draft and taking up the troubled notion of pacifism. Perhaps the best thing for our nation and our Church would be to better articulate the fraternal bonds which predate the official beginnings of their mutual institutions. In a decade during which the effeminate priesthood has produced disobedient one-man shows like Fr. Corapi and Fr. Pfleger and scores of child molesting priests, the nation should see the current state affairs in the Catholic Church as a sign of what is sure to come when the American nation embraces pacifism while creating a softer, effeminate military.

Apollo 8 Christmas Message - December 21, 1968

Monday, June 27, 2011

Protestants and Ordained Female Ministers

Today I came across an interesting paper regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood. It was written by Sr. Sara Butler. At first I wasn't sure which side of the issue she would defend, but as it turns out she supports the teaching of the Catholic Church. While she does a pretty good job of explaining the Church's view, the official reasoning of the Magisterium could use some more support (in my humble opinion).

That being said, this post is actually about Protestantism rather than Catholicism.

Sr. Sara pointed out that many people have shown that Protestants have female ministers, so why not Catholics. If we are all Christians, why is the Catholic Church so "anti-woman"? Of course, a good Catholic should quickly point out that the greatest of all God's creatures is a woman whose name is Mary, the Mother of God, but there is something to be said about how Protestant theology differs from Catholic theology regarding sacraments. As Sr. Sara writes:

It is well known that the 16th century Reformers denied that Holy Orders is a sacrament. This difference, then, touches the origins of the ministry (that is, its institution by Jesus Christ), its relationship to the office of the Twelve Apostles (and therefore to apostolic succession), and its relationship to the common priesthood (or priesthood of the baptized). To put it simply, it is not because we differ over the equality and complementarity of the sexes that some Protestants ordain women, and the Catholic Church does not; it is because we disagree over whether Holy Orders is a sacrament.

How does this disagreement impinge on our question? First, according to Catholic teaching, Holy Orders is a sacrament distinct from Baptism that confers on one of the baptized a sacred power not possessed by the rest. This is what is meant by saying that the ministerial priesthood differs in kind and not just in degree from the common priesthood of the baptized. According to the Protestant Reformers, by contrast, ordination commits to the minister, for the sake of good order and on the basis of his or her spiritual gifts, the exercise of functions that in principle belong to all of the baptized. The Reformers held that the “general ministry” of Word and Sacrament is given first to the whole Church, and then transmitted by ordination to those who will serve the rest in the “special ministry.” What follows from this? According to the classical Reformation doctrine, it is indeed unjust to bar baptized women from the ministry on the basis of their sex. The slogan, “If you won’t ordain women, don’t baptize them” makes sense in denominations that adhere to this doctrine.

In other words, Baptism is one's official entry into the body of believers called the Church. But for Catholics, God calls some men from within the body of believers to perform certain duties in His name and represent us before the Father. Furthermore, of these men there is a hierarchy of deacon, priest, and bishop. Protestantism, on the other hand, is ecclesially-speaking rather flat and egalitarian. Add to this the Protestant notion that all receive the same amount of grace (a grace which merely covers the soul, not inheres in the soul) and we have a communion of saints where no saint is any holier than the next. Very flat indeed.

But in this present conversation we can say that the sacramental status of Holy Orders makes all the difference between Catholic and Protestant thinking on the matter. If Christ called twelve men into a body called the Apostles and conferred on them the fullness of his own mission through Holy Orders (keeping in mind this calling came prior to the established mission to baptize), then their successors maintain that mission and draw other men into their body in order to further carry out the mission of Christ. By flattening out the nature of grace and the Church, Protestantism lost a vital icon of masculinity. Combine with this the rejection of Marian dogma and we see a Protestantism that is as disoriented as homosexuality, and absolutely confused over gender roles.

Keep in mind that these words are not to be in harsh criticism of Protestantism; rather, I hope Protestantism sees the help the Catholic Church could be on this matter. Furthermore, I would argue that Protestantism not only helped Catholics see the the importance of the separation of church and state, but it also helped establish the first modern nations including my beloved nation, the United States. I also thank Protestantism for helping me pick up my Bible in study and prayer. But if Protestantism can help Catholics get more Biblical, perhaps its time we help it become more sacramental.

In the end it's far easier to handle social issues when you have the Bible and Sacraments.

Abortion and Pacifism

It would be good for us to remember that Eve came from Adam's side. Adam sees her and sees someone that is himself yet is not himself and as such woman is a reminder of man's soul, man's anima. Woman reminds man that his soul must be fortified, guarded, and protected and by protecting her, man remembers to protect his own soul.

Woman, too, is given a gift which reminds her to safeguard her own anima. This is the gift of children. When this gift, which is part of the woman yet not the woman herself, is aborted, the woman has truly embraced a kind of suicide. The scourge of abortion is not a genocide but rather the rejection of a woman to protect her own life.

Catholics have done a good job to promote a Culture of Life, but the Catholic reflex of visceral revulsion towards abortion should be equally felt when Catholics consider pacifism. Indeed, historically speaking, it was pacifism among young American men that lead to abortion. When the men refused to protect their nation, women refused to protect their children.