Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

The Pope’s release of his “Summorum Pontificum” was the subject of a recent Parousians presentation at UL-Lafayette given by Fr. Jason Vidrine. Because it made such an impression on me, I thought I’d comment on part of Pope Benedict’s letter to the Bishops about his controversial Apostolic Letter, “Summorum Pontificum.”

With his letter to the Bishops, the Pope defends his position on the incorporation of the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal as issued by Bl. John XXIII. He writes:

“There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.”

Though this passage has obvious relevance to the topic of the Pope’s discussion, it also has much wisdom to contribute to our understanding of the workings of the Catholic Church in general. The passage speaks of the rich tradition of our religion—that incredible treasure of centuries of ritual and custom that link present-day Catholics to the first Apostles and everyone in between. To “preserve the riches” of the Church’s sacred history is to participate in a universality that goes beyond the physical and extends to the eternal—the Church throughout the ages. To ignore what was held sacred by centuries of Catholics is to do a disservice to ourselves, and to contradict the tradition that is one of the Church’s greatest tools and most significant advantages over the comparatively new Protestant churches.

The last two sentences are also very important, as nothing is bad because it is new OR good because it is old. We therefore must incorporate the reforms of 1970 into the celebrations of the liturgy as well, for it also has worth and is sacred in its own right. In the “Summorum Pontificum,” Pope Benedict wrote that the 1970 reform came about because, “Vatican Council II expressed a desire that the respectful reverence due to divine worship should be renewed and adapted to the needs of our time.” It is necessary to remember that certain things should change according to social demands (though, of course, certain things should not, as was terribly demonstrated in the years following Vatican II). We must always bear in mind that the age of something does not necessarily determine its value, and use circumspection and careful judgment to evaluate what we incorporate into our faith lives. We must be active participants in our faith.

We therefore should make efforts to attend extraordinary celebrations of the liturgy according to the 1962 Missal to take part in the centuries of the Catholic Church’s tradition from which it springs.

[Oh, and just because I thought it was interesting, Fr. Jason told us about some of the things that Vatican II did not mean to be edited from the mass. These include kneeling to receive communion, the priest facing the congregation--as opposed to "facing east" (so called because, just like Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques face certain directions, Catholic churches historically faced east, towards the rising of the sun, symbolizing our hope for the Parousia!), and the use of English (or the area's vernacular) as the sole language of the liturgy. Food for thought!]

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