Rorate Caeli

The Sermon of Cardinal Levada on the occasion of the consecration of the FSSP Seminary Chapel in Denton, Nebraska

Pending the publication of an official transcript of Cardinal Levada's controversial sermon on March 3, 2010, I would like to present my own transcript of the address. CAP.

William Cardinal Levada began by reading a letter from the Cardinal Secretary of State.

From the Vatican, the 28th of February 2010

Your Eminence

The Holy Father has been informed that on the 3rd of March 2010, you will dedicate the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in the Diocese of Lincoln. He asks you kindly to convey his greetings and warm good wishes to the members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the rector, faculty and students and all assembled for the happy occasion.

His Holiness prays that the new chapel will always be respected as a sacred dwelling where Almighty God is glorified in His majesty, a center from which the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith are proclaimed with conviction, and a place where seminarians and teachers alike are inspired to the pursuit of holiness and ever-deeper communion with the Lord and His Church.

He encourages them to strive through the discipline of prayer and study to be conformed to the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), to discern His will in their lives and to respond generously to His call to serve Him as preachers of His Gospel, ministers of His Sacraments and heralds of His mercy and love for the poor and sinners.

With these sentiments, the Holy Father invokes upon the seminary community and its friends and benefactors the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and imparts the requested Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Lord.

I am happy to add my own prayerful good wishes for the occasion.

Yours sincerely in Christ:

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone

Secretary of State

(After announcing that Bishop Bruskewitz had issued a dispensation from the Divine Office for that day the Cardinal then launched into his sermon.)

Your Excellency, Bishop Bruskewitz,

Dear brother bishops and priests,

Dearly beloved in Christ:

The Sacred Scriptures, read in the course of a celebration like ours today, are always a revelation, divinely-guaranteed, of the deepest meaning of what we are celebrating. And so it is from centuries of long practice that we heard today readings from the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of Luke. The passage from the Book of Revelation is an unfolding of the mystery of this day with exuberant, vivid imagery. The Sacred Liturgy wants us to hear these words and identify them with the beautiful space of this chapel, which we are dedicating today. And so what we see here around us, so beautifully expressed in the arrangements of this chapel, its altar, its tabernacle, its lighting, and the prospect of its beautiful art and windows, is meant to converge for us with the visions that the seer of the Book of Revelations beheld. We see, here, in all that surrounds us, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride adorned to meet her Maker. From this day forward, whenever the sacred liturgy is celebrated herein, we are meant to realize that the community gathered is nothing less than the New Jerusalem, that spotless Bride of Christ.

The liturgy celebrated, is nothing less than an invitation into the liturgy of the Heavenly Jerusalem, that liturgy in which the throne of the Lamb and of God occupy center stage. The slain Lamb that stands forever before the throne of God is the center of the Heavenly Jerusalem and the center of this church, on whose altar the sacrifice of the slain Lamb is continually renewed.

Such lofty, exuberant symbolism contrasts sharply with the dusty, earthy details of the Gospel account we have heard. One can justifiably wonder at first why the Gospel story of Zacchaeus, the short and much-disliked tax collector, should be the pre-eminent Scripture reading of the day of the dedication of a splendid new church. Surely the reason lies in the lines that Jesus addresses to the sinner who He sees eagerly seeking Him from His perch in the sycamore tree. He says, “Zacchaeus, hurry down, for this day I must abide in your house.” These words provide us a beautiful transition from the Zacchaeus scene to the liturgy in which we are involved today, for those firm, determined, magnificent words of Jesus are the same words that He addresses to us, each of us a sinner like Zacchaeus, concerning this house of God. God’s blessings poured out on us in the course of this magnificent liturgy of dedication have in fact this very concrete shape: referring to this new building Jesus says, “this day I must abide in this house.”

Jesus’ simple words and intention help us to keep our bearings in the midst of the more lofty and mystical images of the Book of Revelation. We need them both. For the book of Revelation helps us to remember that in Jesus we are dealing with no one less than the Eternal Son of God, who is in heaven from all eternity. At the same time the Zacchaeus story reminds us that the same Eternal Son is God-with-us, God-with-us on our dusty streets, calling sinners by name, one by one, to have Him as a guest in their home.

Zacchaeus’ reaction to this invitation is meant to indicate our own attitude now, in the course of this celebration. We read, “Zacchaeus made haste and came down and received Him with joy.” Let our sentiments today, and our liturgical action, be an expression with all our hearts of receiving Christ with joy in the midst of this, our house, which Jesus’ presence makes also to be the House of God.

Others will mutter when they see Jesus abundantly granting His gracious presence to people like us. They will say, “He has gone to the house of a sinner.” But Jesus defends us today as He did Zacchaeus. With the graces of this liturgy and of dedication Jesus Himself solemnly pronounces the words “today salvation has come to this house.”

The vision we see in the New Jerusalem and the vision we see in Jesus at table in the home of Zacchaeus, is ultimately a vision of communion. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, mentioned that the two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite, the Extraordinary and the Ordinary Forms, can be mutually enriching to each other. As one example he mentioned “the new prefaces can and should be introduced into the old Missal”. In the Missal of Paul VI, there is a beautiful preface to be used on the anniversary of a dedication of a church which can help to enrich our understanding of the celebration today as a vision of communion. Being designated for the anniversary of a dedication, it can indicate to us what we should still be able to pray years from now when we will commemorate today’s dedication.

The second part of a preface, as we know, always states in specific terms the precise motives why it is right and just to give the Father thanks and praise. In this preface the motive states:

For in the visible house that you let us build, you, Father, wonderfully manifest

and accomplish the mystery of your communion with us.

As the new President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, I want to seize on this phrase, “the mystery of your communion with us”. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has a special charism to assist the Holy Father in preserving the unity of the Church for those attached to the traditional form of the Mass, through the implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. The different Rites of the Church in the East and West testify to the diversity of liturgical traditions that have grown up in and with the Church since apostolic times. Yet, as St. Paul insists, there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. This is why the Holy Father stressed the continuity that we can see between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Roman Rite. Whenever and wherever the Church celebrates the Eucharist according to whatever Rite or form of that Rite, it is always the same mystery of communion that is being wonderfully manifest and accomplished.

Liturgical diversity is not inconsistent with the unity of the Catholic faith. This has been clear through the centuries through the diversity of Rites, East and West, and it is clear with special relevance to your priestly fraternity in Summorum Pontificum. It is also the same principle that is operative in the new Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, establishing Ordinariates for former Anglicans who desire full communion with the Catholic Church while at the same time preserving some of the richness of their liturgical and spiritual patrimony.

We know that it is, above all, by means of the celebration of the Eucharist that this chapel is now consecrated, and the preface I am citing beautifully reminds us that the Eucharist accomplishes communion, between God and ourselves, and between one part of the Church and another. The generous steps that the Holy Father has taken in his Motu Proprio to grant a more widespread use of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is a move that he earnestly hopes will both repair and build up a damaged communion in the Church. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter must always celebrate the Eucharist with this concern and desire of the Holy Father in mind.

The different forms, the Ordinary and Extraordinary, must not be a cause or motive of division in the Church, for the same Eucharist is always and everywhere celebrated. The fact that we are here to dedicate a seminary chapel in honor of SS. Peter and Paul gives me occasion to recall that every priest is ordained for the service of the Church. It is true and perfect worship of the all-holy God, its mission to proclaim the Gospel to every creature, to baptize all in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is this service for which we are ordained. In fulfillment of this mission given by Christ to His Church, a mission implying the unity of the whole human family and its destiny to be one with its loving Creator and God, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has as its special charism to labor lovingly for the unity of Christ’s Church by ensuring that those who follow the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy of the Latin Rite understand that the unity of faith cannot be found outside the testimony of the Apostolic College under its head, the successor of Peter, the Pope. In this way, the tear in the fabric of unity evidenced by those who would reject the Second Vatican Council as the work of the Holy Spirit, must be repaired by the loyal testimony to the living Tradition of the Church in accord with the directives of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Dear brothers, dear seminarians, this chapel cannot be just another building in the seminary complex; it is the heart of the seminary. It is the place where, as Pope John Paul II said, seminarians are trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received (because the Eucharist is thanksgiving), an attitude of self-offering, which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity, nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ, who is really present under the Eucharistic species. It is here in this chapel, that we find the true focus and direction of our priestly formation and our priestly lives.

The preface I cited above goes on to say: “For here” -- meaning, in this church – “for here you cause your church scattered throughout the world to be joined together more and more as the Lord’s Body.We know that the communion accomplished by Eucharist is verified in communion with Peter and his successors. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram, aedificabo ecclesiam meam. My presence here today makes concrete the images of this preface, a Church scattered throughout the world but nonetheless joined more and more together as the Lord’s body precisely by celebrating the mystery of communion in the Lord’s body.

Now, more than ever, we feel the Church groaning – as the preface says – to reach her fullness in the vision of peace. This prayer is clearly inspired by today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation, to which we already referred. So the phrase is completed “to reach her fullness in the vision of peace, the Heavenly City of Jerusalem”.

The seminarians who will be ordained priests from this seminary will be ordained to serve this vision of peace, as instruments of communion. It is the vision we see in the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It is the vision we see in Jesus at table with sinners in the home of Zacchaeus. It is the vision we see in this new church and in the rites we are celebrating now. Let us all hurry down from whatever high and isolated sycamore we may be occupying, let us hurry down and welcome Christ with joy, in the communion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, in the Eucharist celebrated here.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Priests, Mother of the Church, Star of the New Evangelization of the Americas, the intercessor and model for the priests who will be formed here in the likeness of her Son, our true and perfect Priest, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.