Thursday, December 03, 2015
Sacrilege: oh dear, how sad, never mind!
Is this the reaction to the Pamplona desecration of the Blessed Sacrament?
There was a time when priests were expected to inform the local Ordinary about any act of profanation of the Holy Eucharist, there were even Rites to be performed if a host was accidentally dropped on the floor. Now they have become so commonplace that we simply mentally note them, possibly with air of sadness, and move on. At the beginning of this year the Bishop of Ars ordered that the Blessed Sacrament be removed from every tabernacle in his diocese because of a wave sacrilege. There was a time when priests were killed to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from profanation, or even fire..
I am glad that the Bishop of Pamplona, with a number of his priests offered a Mass of Reparation but I wonder if the reparation was addressed to Christ for the offence to His Body or for to those of the faithful who found this action offensive, in the sense of a politician who apologises 'if you found an action offensive'. The answer of course is clearly answered by whether His Excellency introduced measures to ensure that never, ever again in his diocese was it possible that such profanation should ever happen again.
One of our recently retired Bishops spent over a quarter of century ensuring that no where in his diocese was the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the apex of any church. It was the diocese of Brentwood, and I am not entirely against this move - but read on, please. I have always wondered what impact was made on a individual or a community's spirituality if for living memory the Blessed Sacrament was at centre of the Church and genuflected to on entering the Church and then was suddenly replaced by a bunch of flowers or a piece of furniture, the priest's chair perhaps. I just don't think we can tell people, and keep a straight face, that our practice might have changed but theology remains exactly the same. Obviously if the practice has changed so has the thinking, the theology, behind it. It is a fiction that what we do can be disassociated from what we do. Lex orandi, Lex credendi, Lex vivendi.
I celebrated Mass for my 25th Anniversary of ordination in the Extraordinary Form. one priest said, "I loved the music, what I found so alien was all that bobbing up and down". If the liturgy is the touchstone of what we believe, then although the words are important so too are the liturgical actions that accompany it. 'The bobbing up and down' in the Old Rite, the different postures, that are adopted -in the Roman Rite the joining of the fingers, in most of its derivative Rites the adoption of the 'crucis stance' mark a change in that which is on the altar.
Though I hate those videos of that picture the Old Rite as something glorious and the New as something trivial, there is a difference between Old and New Rite which is important, it is that the minimalisation of the change of Substance that occurs according to Trent and from St Thomas onwards at the moment of Consecration. Where Mass is offered 'ad Orienten' which according to Missal, and at least the last four Prefect's of the CDF have stressed, is normative, perhaps the difference is only noted by the priest.
In places where Mass is offered 'ad Populum', where this involves a deliberate turning of one's back to the reserved Blessed Sacrament by the celebrant, a strange 'anti-sign' is brought into play. What does it mean to encourage people to treat as God something to which at Mass everyone on the sanctuary turns their back on, it is a nonsense sign! and what does it say to the priest himself, more on the subconscious level than on the concious level? Hence I have a certain sympathy with the former Bishop of Brentwood. If the priest is going top turn his back on the reserved Eucharist when celebrating Mass, isn't it better it is reserved elsewhere? In the Old Rite if the Bishop was to sat before the tabernacle, even below the altar steps, the Eucharist was removed to a side chapel, hence it being the usual practice in Cathedrals. Let me not get onto concerts in Churches where the Lord is reserved.
I agree with Cardinal Sarah, "the great crisis in the Church is a crisis of faith", the greatest crisis of faith is crisis of belief is in the Eucharist. I find it difficult to draw a distinction between the sacrilege in Pamplona and the sacrilege of giving Holy Communion to a politician who is plainly working against the Catholic Church's moral teaching, or a couple living in a relationship that opposes Christ's clear teaching on the permanence of marriage. Then of course I am reactionary enough to consider it a sacrilege for a sinful or obviously heretical bishop or priest to celebrate Mass at all.
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