Saturday, January 20, 2007

Horizontalism Does Damage to Catholic Faith and Worship

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Here is an address given by Cardinal Francis Arinze at a colloquium to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie of the Institut Catholique de Paris. The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments gave the address Oct. 26.
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Show the light in matters liturgical

Primary among the duties of a higher liturgical institute is to be a beacon of light in matters liturgical. It informs and forms leaders who appreciate the riches to be found in the public worship of the Church and who will be ready to share them with others. It throws light on the close link between theology and liturgy, between the faith of the Church and the celebration of the mysteries of Christ, between the "lex credendi" and the "lex orandi."
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Many abuses in matters liturgical are based, not on bad will but on ignorance, because they "involve a rejection of those elements whose deeper meaning is not understood and whose antiquity is not recognized" ("Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 9). Thus some abuses are due to an undue place given to spontaneity, or creativity, or to a wrong idea of freedom, or to the error of horizontalism which places man at the center of a liturgical celebration instead of vertically focusing on Christ and his mysteries.
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Promotion of "ars celebrandi"

A consequence of sound [theological]-liturgical grounding and proper formation in faith and reverence is that the "ars celebrandi" will be promoted not only on the part of the celebrating priest, but also as regards all others who take part in liturgical functions, above all, the deacon, but also altar servers, readers, those who direct the singing and all the faithful who participate.

"Ars celebrandi" is based on the theological truth articulated by the Second Vatican Council, namely that "the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of man is manifested by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which is proper to each of these signs; in the liturgy full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Christ, that is by the Head and his members" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 7).

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Liturgical celebrations will beautifully manifest the faith of the Church, nourish this faith in the participants, awaken this faith in the dormant and the indifferent, and send the people home on fire to live the Christian life and spread the Gospel. This is very far from the cold, man-centered and sometimes openly idiosyncratic mannerism which our Sunday congregations are sometimes forced to endure.
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The homily
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Unfortunately, many homilies as delivered by priests or deacons are not up to what is desirable. Some homilies seem to be mere sociological, psychological or, worse still, political comments. They are not sufficiently grounded in Holy Scripture, liturgical texts, Church tradition and solid theology. In some countries there are people who do not appreciate that the delivery of the homily at the Eucharistic Sacrifice is a pastoral ministry assigned only to ordained ministers: deacon, priest or bishop. Lay people laudably conduct catechesis outside Mass, but not the homily which demands ordination.
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The liturgical role of the priest
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The common priesthood of all the baptized and the ministerial priesthood of the ordained priest come from Christ himself. Confusion of roles in the hierarchical constitution of the Church does damage. It does not promote witness to Christ nor holiness for clergy and laity. Neither attempts at the clericalization of the laity, nor efforts toward the laicization of the clergy, will bring down divine graces. "In liturgical celebrations," says Vatican II, "whether as a minister or as one of the faithful, each person should perform his role by doing solely and totally what the nature of things and liturgical norms require of him" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 28). It is false humility and an inadmissible idea of democracy or fraternity, for the priest to try to share his strictly priestly liturgical roles with the lay faithful.
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Moreover, if fuller spiritual benefits are to come to people at weddings and funerals, then we need priests to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice, preach spiritually enriching homilies to the people, some of whom would otherwise rarely come to Mass, give them blessing and be a sign that the Church is near them at such a milestone in their lives. No doubt, it is necessary that the priest does not merely perform liturgical functions, but that his ministerial activities come from the heart and that his pastoral presence be a spiritual nourishment for the people.

If the role of the priest is weakened or is not appreciated, a local Catholic community may be dangerously lapsing into the idea of a priestless community. This is not in line with the genuine concept of the Church instituted by Christ.

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The role of the bishop
Obviously ecclesial communion has to mean "communion" with the diocesan bishop and between bishops and the Pope. In the diocese, the bishop is the first steward of the mysteries of Christ. He is the moderator, promoter and guardian of the entire liturgical life of the diocesan Church (cf. "Christus Dominus," No. 15; Code of Canon Law, Canon 387; "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 19). The bishop directs the administration of the sacraments and especially of the holy Eucharist. When he concelebrates in his cathedral church with his priests, with the assistance of deacons and minor assistants, and with the participation of the holy people of God, "the Church reveals herself most clearly" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 41).
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Services expected from a higher liturgical institute
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This means that liturgical institutes should arm people to reject banalization, desacralization and secularization in matters liturgical. Horizontalism which makes people tend to celebrate themselves instead of the mysteries of Christ does damage to Catholic faith and worship and deserves to be avoided. [...snip] Read the entire presentation at Zenit

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