Thursday, July 07, 2016
Towards the Lord: Important, Urgent and Necessary
I've not been able to get away, I have felt really deprived by not being able to get Sacra Liturgia Conference in London. especially as people I admire are either speaking or organising the Conference and lots of friends are there, plus many who I would very much like to be friends.
The opening speaker, the Prefect of the CDW, Cardinal Sarah presented a barn-storming address, rich in wisdom and insight, perhaps the central message was what everyone has commented on: ad orientem celebration of the Mass.
It has been the present prefects preoccupation for some time, but it was also something that concerned Cardinal Canizares before him and Cardinal Arinze before him, and even Cardinal Medina Estévez before him.
What is new is the Cardinal Sarah challenge to priests to simply get on and do it. What is new to is the sense of urgency and necessity that he sees in ad orientem worship. Perhaps this is part of his character, perhaps it is the development of popular scholarship that has really turned its back on any defence of widespread use of ad populam worship in the Patristic age, except possibly in papal churches.
For Cardinal Sarah, actually does ask, "were have the people gone?" he suggests that endless experiment has actually driven people out of Church, that rather than helping people to grow in faith, Father's little liturgical experiments have destroyed faith, and although in some cases they might have endeared a priest to a particular set of people they have for many been a real turn off.
Liturgical experimentation always tends to diminish the communication of the faith, and raises the position of the priest. the problem is of course most us priests are not up to communicating the faith, let alone providing some new insight into it.
But what is the urgency, he spoken recently, saying, "it is very important that as soon as possible we return to a common orientation of priest and people eastwards in those parts of the liturgy where we are addressing God. This is a very important step to ensure that, in our celebration of the sacred liturgy, God rather than man is at the centre of it."
As a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and as Pontifical Council for the Laity and Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Sarah has stressed a God or Nothing -the title of his latest book- approach. For him the direct connection of the Church with the person of Jesus Christ cannot be compromised, Catholic ethos, Catholic values or Catholic influence are no substitute for being Catholic, and being connected to the person of Christ.
The urgency with which he expresses himself seems to increase the more certain elements within the Church seem to want to distance the Church from Christ. More and more priests are bewildered by the Pope or his PR people, or his psychological inability to speak or think clearly, of his often confused interpretation of Sacred Scripture. The attacks on the family prior to and during the Synod, the ambiguous messages that are coming from many bishops, appointed by Francis, regarding gender theory and homosexuality, the ambiguity regarding ecumenism and non-Christian religions, the praise of amorality and of all sorts of irregularities do serious damage. The confusion comes from the top, not just from the Pope but from the men who are closest to him, it spreads down. Bishops and priests are at the best confused but confusion leads to division and depression, a sense of isolation and consequently becomes an attack on faith. Even Fox News expresses concern.
I think for Cardinal Sarah the urgency of re-orientating is about recapturing amongst priests and bishops a sense of proximity to Christ, it is about heightening the sense of an encounter with Christ in mystery. In his previous job he was concerned that Catholic charities could become simple NGOs, in his present position I think the Cardinal is concerned that the liturgy itself, and therefore the Church can become emptied of Christ. Turning towards the Lord, therefore is seen by him as one remedy for the Church's present situation, and the worst it gets the more important and urgent it is to turn towards the Lord.
What is perhaps significant is the Pope's support for the Cardinal.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake