Rorate Caeli

Mediator Dei - 60th Anniversary - IV


“The Liturgy, the Church in total relationship with Jesus Christ

Fr Nicola Bux and Fr Salvatore Vitiello

Mediator Dei, as it is known, is the incipit of the Encyclical of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII: the most organic pronouncement of the Magisterium of the Church on the Liturgy which has ever been produced. The Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II itself is founded on the Encyclical's doctrinal principles, following and developing its structure. What is so surprising when one reads a document written sixty years ago is to realize its relevance still for today: it stems from pastoral intention and opens the path for ‘liturgical pastoral’, as demonstrated by the “instaurationes” or reforms which followed in the following decade, the most famous was the Order of Holy Week (1955), inaugurated in 1951 with the restoration of the Easter Vigil and its original character.

Pastoral concern is also documented in the method: it does not suddenly impose an arrangement which upsets the system of ‘liturgical unity’ (Mass, Office, Calendar…), but proposes a gradual restoration of the oldest parts, without however eliminating the developments, since the Liturgy like the ecclesial body is a living organism: parts cannot be amputated simply because they were not there at birth. Something like the method applied to works of art. Certain studies shed light on the principles which guided that great Pontiff, especially the principle of innovation in continuity, very different from archaeologism and creativism (Cf. esp.: C.Braga, La riforma liturgica di Pio XII. Documenti-1.La ‘Memoria sulla riforma liturgica’, Roma 2003, CLV, BEL 128; N.Giampietro, Il Card.Ferdinando Antonelli e gli sviluppi della riforma liturgica dal 1948 al 1970, SA, Roma 1978.). John XXIII and Paul VI intended to continue the path and method of Pius XII, as it is seen from the 1962 and 1965 editions of the Missal. Now, the Motu proprio of Benedict XVI reconnects with that traditional arrangement and an innovative time.

Well known is Dostoevsky's statement in “The Brothers Karamazov”: “If someone could show me truth which is found outside of Christ, I would prefer to remain with Christ rather than with that truth”. Probably not theologically correct, but it expresses what is essential for a Christian: the distinction between the Church and the world, as between salt and the dish to which it must give taste. The world may accept the tradition, thought, art, values of Christianity and perhaps even the moral example of Christ: but the spirit of the world will never allow itself to be possessed by the spirit of Christ since it aspires continually to autonomy. Whereas the Church is totally relative to Christ: and if she sought not to be, she would no longer be the Church.

The Church's worship or liturgy manifests this relation totally, as the Encyclical Mediator Dei affirms in its beginning. Otherwise something similar to Christian worship, but without Christ, is created. Either worship far from the glory to be given to God and from the salvation to be given to ma - concerned with celebrating itself, the community, the priest -, or worship confined to an evanescent ‘spiritual’ dimension, in which awareness and experience are sacrificed, in exchange for a solely aesthetic satisfaction. In both cases we have the rejection of the essential method of Christianity, that of a communion to adhere to and to obey, which is the necessary presupposition for man to approach and then participate in worship.

One of the Italian bishops most attentive to the Liturgy writes among other things: “Pelagianisim, in its various gradations, is always a danger for the life of the Church (even when Grace is hardly mentioned, even when almost nothing is known of the contents in which it was generated and had its acute manifestation). If the Pelagian mentality is applied to the Liturgy, more importance and emphasis is given to the exterior action performed by man than that which Christ performs through the instrumental ministerial action by the person whom He enabled to act ‘in persona Christi et Ecclesiae’, through the Word which is announced, the signs performed. We come to forget that what counts is the divine action of the Spirit, of Grace, not that of man, whether he be the individual believer, the community or the Minister himself” (Mons. Mario Oliveri, La Divina Liturgia, Albenga 2007, p 7) .

The presumption of creating a new liturgy and the existential and cultural weakness of the Church, helped to create a climate in which abuses, signs of rebellion and disobedience took root, so opposed to the obedience of Christ - even unto death on the cross -, whom the Liturgy should essentially announce. So that, as someone said, those who should have come into the Church with the liturgical reform remained outside. We do not know what will happen in the future, but we Christians have the responsibility to witness that the nihilism and relativism which have penetrated the liturgy cannot win, they have been already defeated by the One who continually “makes all things new”(Rev 21,5).

If all this had been taken more into consideration with the implementation of the post-council liturgical reform, we would have avoided traumas and contrapositions. Now, a season opens in which frank and calm discussion of ideas must prevail, because no one alone represents the whole Church, except the Bishop of Rome; not lacking must be assistance from worthy liturgical institutions, in primis those guided by the Benedictines, under the guidance of the Congregation for Divine Worship, supreme moderating authority of the liturgy “to preserve or obtain reconciliation and unity” (Letter of Benedict XVI to Bishops regarding the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum).


Translation by Fides; Adapted or corrected by Rorate Caeli.

18 comments:

John L said...

Can we stop talking about liturgical reform? It is a pernicious idea, if we accept that (as the Church teaches) the liturgy is part of sacred tradition. You can't talk about Scriptural reform - unless you are a modernist; the same goes for liturgical reform.

Anonymous said...

the idea of liturgical reform and reform in general in the Church are completely traditional in the sense that they alwaya occur-whats your problem?? As for sacred scripture-this is the inspired word of God which we believe by faith and which does not evolve slowly over-the liturgy does though...

Joe said...

I'm intrigued by the possibility of St John Bosco's dream of the two pillars being fulfilled by this Pope who is presently trying to anchor the church to the (Real Presence centered) venerable Mass, with perhaps a later effort to anchor to Our Lady of Fatima by a proper consecration. Lots of enemy ships, lots of cowardly "friendly" ships, but only several "auxiliary" ships which are the first to anchor and which fought bravely alongside the Papal ship. Do you suppose these auxiliary ships, few in number and with a non-normal (auxiliary) relationship to Rome, could be the traditionalist orders?
Just interested in your thoughts.

Jordan Potter said...

When has the Church ever said that the liturgy is, in toto, a part of Sacred Tradition? The Roman liturgy as it existed until the 1950s was not divinely revealed by Jesus and the Apostles in the first century, so your comparison of the liturgy to the Holy Scriptures is spurious. Anyway we certainly can talk about Scriptural reform -- when many or most of the Church's scriptural texts -- whether in the original or in translation -- become corrupt or inadequate, the Church authorises repairs and revisions to the texts.

John L said...

St, Basil in his work on the Holy Spirit, when citing tradition as a source of the faith, cites liturgical sources. This poit is repeated by the Catechism of theCatholic Church, which states; '1124. The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles - whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]).45 The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.' The liturgy is not a planned construction , and is not something that is subject to the will of ecclesiastical authority; '1125. For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.' The claim that the ide of liturgical reform is compleltely traditonal in the Church is nonsense. A correction of corrupt Scriptural texts (as e.g. getting rid of the misprint in an early edition of the English bible that made it read 'Thou shalt commit adultery') is obviously not a reform of the Scriptures itself; it is a reform of a mistake that is not Scriptural.

Anonymous said...

Good to see the honest admission of the 1948 Commission for General Liturgical Reform being mentioned. Sacrosanctum Concilium owes so much to Pius XII

poeta said...

Has anyone posted yet about the FSSP Solemn High Mass of Our Lady in Advent being broadcast by EWTN on December 15?

(As of this writing, the announcement of this Mass on EWTN's "Motu Proprio Resources" page is interestingly misspelled "ExTRADordinary Form"!)

Anonymous said...

I can't find the letter of Benedict XVI which you have quoted.

New Catholic said...

You mean this letter?

Anonymous said...

"If all this had been taken more into consideration with the implementation of the post-council liturgical reform, we would have avoided traumas and contrapositions. Now, a season opens in which frank and calm discussion of ideas must prevail, because no one alone represents the whole Church, except the Bishop of Rome; not lacking must be assistance from worthy liturgical institutions, in primis those guided by the Benedictines, under the guidance of the Congregation for Divine Worship, supreme moderating authority of the liturgy “to preserve or obtain reconciliation and unity” (Letter of Benedict XVI to Bishops regarding the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum)."
---
I can't find these words in pope's letter. Neither in link which new catholic posted.

New Catholic said...

The quoted portion only ("to preserve or obtain reconciliation and unity") comes from the letter (in the Vatican translation, "to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity"), not the whole paragraph...

Moretben said...

49. "From time immemorial…the ecclesiastical hierarchy…has not been slow – keeping the substance of the Mass and the Sacraments carefully intact - to modify what it deemed not altogether fitting, and to add what appeared more likely to increase the honour paid to Jesus Christ and the august Trinity, and to instruct and stimulate the Christian people to greater advantage.

No, no, no! This is not true!

Anonymous said...

I think the vision of the Saint John Bosco regarding the two pillars, and a Pope with white hair guiding ships and anchoring them to both pillars (The Most Blessed Sacrament (the Tridentine Latin Mass), and the Virgin Mary is Pope Benedict XVI.
At the very beginning of his reign, and for the first few years before he began to reveal his shockingly liberal and ultra-progressive side, John Paul II was though by many to be this Pope. But many now discount him as the authentic Pope of this vision, and say that was either Pius X (1903-1914), or Benedict XVI (2005---).
I am inclined by the nature of the vision and its message to think it IS Benedict XVI who is the Pope of St. John Bosco's dream.
The auxiliary ships helping the Pontiff I believe are the traditionalist Orders, and the SSPX as well.
I am very surprised at how many traditionalist Orders there really are. Aside from the SSPX, Institute of Christ the King, Fraternity of St. Peter and Institute of the Good Shepherd, there about 30 other institutes of male religious ...some large - (close to 100 or more), and some small (less than 30). Some are new (less than 5 years), while others have been in existance for 30 years .
Among the nuns, there are about 60 Orders or congregations (about 10 being cloistered/contemplative) and the rest active. Again, some have close to 100+ sisters, other communities, less than 30. Some have just started up with 2-3 years, while others are 25+ years old.
In France, some communities of traditionalist sisters have more novices (one Order has almost 30 novices), than the huge Vatican II Orders of liberal femminist habitless nuns have had for 40 years.
One traditionalist Orders of priests in Spain has almost 35 seminarians since the death of John Paul II ( but before 2005, had only 10 seminarians).
So yes, I believe that the traditionalist Orders of priests and sisters which maintain the Tridentine Latin Mass are represented by the "auxiliary boats" which in Saint John Bosco's vision assist the Pope in restoring the Church.
In some areas of Church life (religious houses, seminaries) I think perhaps restoration with the Tridentine Latin Mass may be easier that in the parishes, where liberal priests and bishops will try to twart the Faithful having access to the Tridentine Latin Mass at every turn.

Joe said...

Concerning Saint John Bosco's vision, it sounds like there may or may not be much progress with the Mass until the second pillar (Our Lady) is also approached, at which time all opposition just sort of melts away. That would be consonant with my interpretation of the results of getting the Fatima consecration right and is one reason why I'm not holding my breath for all to go well until that second event. I am surprised at what progress has occurred, as I expected the motu proprio to go nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Joe, see the words of Cardinal Dias at Lourdes in which he seems to reveal the contents if the Third Secret of Fatima.

Jordan Potter said...

Joe, see the words of Cardinal Dias at Lourdes in which he seems to reveal the contents if the Third Secret of Fatima.

The Church says the contents of the Third Secret have already been revealed, and Cardinal Dias does not even hint that he might be revealing additional parts of the Third Secret.

John I said: "Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition."

That is not the same as saying that "the" liturgy is, in toto, a part of Sacred Tradition. It says "liturgy," not "the liturgy." Huge difference. Your personal opinion would prevent the liturgy from ever developing, and would prevent errors and corruptions (such as the gigantic corruption of the liturgy that we have been enduring since the 1960s) from ever being corrected and repaired.

No, we had certainly better be talking about liturgical reform, or we'll never see our way out of the liturgical mess we're in today.

A correction of corrupt Scriptural texts (as e.g. getting rid of the misprint in an early edition of the English bible that made it read 'Thou shalt commit adultery') is obviously not a reform of the Scriptures itself; it is a reform of a mistake that is not Scriptural.

So, is it your contention that we must use only Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Scriptural texts in the liturgy and in our personal Bible study? Should we use only the Septuagint in the liturgy? Was Pope St. Damasus a heretic for telling St. Jerome to revise and correct the Old Itala version of the Bible -- is the Itala superior to the Clementine Vulgate? After all, you say liturgical reform is a pernicious idea, and that it is just as impossible to reform corrupt liturgy as it is impossible to reform corrupt scriptural texts. What else can that mean but that we must only celebrate the Eucharist using Hebrew and Aramaic -- and since the original Hebrew and Aramaic liturgies from the 1st century are lost to us forever, that means we must no longer celebrate the Eucharist at all.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone point me to the Latin version of this encyclical? It's not available on the Vatican Website as far as I can tell. Nor when I search Google can I find it. I want to compare the Latin with the english translation.

Joe said...

Jordan,
Thanks. You're right, he did allude to a dire scenario which has largely been denied by the Popes and the Vatican. He also sees an army being carefully put in place for a swift, final victory. But that presents a problem for me - it would seem to make the description of the terrible events of the Apocalypse almost totally spiritually symbolic and leave little room for a scenario also including physical destruction and suffering, with armies marching across continents, famine, etc. I'm certainly open to some of the spiritual warfare interpretation, but I've never read anything which convinces me that the Apocalypse only describes a spiritual conflict plus some past historical events. The final battle seems to me to involve a real and very murderous antichrist and significant suffering.