Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Full Text of th Archbishop of Birmingham

I know a couple of young priests from our diocese who are at Merton College for the Latin Mass course on the "older usage". English Bishops are normally ignore any document from Rome, so the sermon of Archbishop Vincent Nichols is perhaps significant, I would hope of all the bishops.

From Holy Smoke



For a few moments, now, I would like to reflect with you on the Mystery of Salvation we celebrate in this Mass. I am here as the bishop of the diocese, hence a teacher of the faith and a focus of unity. In offering this reflection I express my thanks to the leadership of this Conference for their cooperation with me in putting this event onto a good footing. This Mass is an expression of our unity in the Church, precisely where some wish to see or even provoke division.

We are together at a particular time in the life of the Church, the publication of Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio ‘Summorum Pontificium’. As you well know, in that publication - or rather in the letter attached to it – the Pope asks for a welcome to the steps he has taken in clarifying the position of the Missal of Pope John XXIII. He said: ‘Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.’ So that is what we do.

In his letter, addressed to bishops but available to all, he puts forward clearly the first basis for this appeal. He states, strongly, that there is one rite of the Mass in the Latin Church. He explains that this one rite has two forms: the ordinary form, which we are celebrating now, and the extraordinary form which you are to study and use during this Conference. This perspective is crucial to us all.

So the first invitation of the Holy Father is for us to avoid speaking or writing or thinking in terms of two rites: the ‘Tridentine Rite’ and the ‘modern’ or ‘post Vatican II Rite’. We should respond attentively and consistently to this invitation.

Why does the Pope insist that there is one rite of the Mass? Because, whichever form is being used, the same mystery is being celebrated, the same rite is followed. There is one mystery and there is one movement, or structure, through which that mystery is enacted.

The mystery we celebrate is the mystery of our salvation. And this is not something hidden or to be shrouded, but declared and made manifest.

The emphasis in our celebration is not so much on the transcendent mystery of God himself, not so much a glimpsing of the mystery of God as was given to Abraham, Moses, Isaiah or the three disciples at the Transfiguration. Rather it is action of our Redemption, the mystery ‘he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight, the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ…to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.’ (Eph 1.10). This mystery is disclosed in the Incarnation, in earthly realities, which all the disciples, like St John, are invited to see, to touch and to receive in their liturgical and sacramental presence. The words and actions of Christ, summed up in his sacrifice and in his Body and Blood given for our nourishment, are the heart of every celebration of the Mass.

I’m sure many of you recall, as I do, the lovely image of the priest at Mass raising the consecrated host and seeing, just above it, the figure of the crucified Lord. This picture hung on my bedroom wall. It helped to form my faith. It is, I believe, always helpful for the eye to move easily from the elevated host or chalice to an image of the crucifix. That juxtaposition teaches us, through eye and imagination, the reality of what is taking place.

If this is the central mystery of the Mass, the structure of the rite in which we celebrate it – the one rite – is also important, for it gives shape to the spiritual journey to be made by all who take part in the Mass.

The rite leads all who take part in it first to approach the Mystery in humility and with penitence. Then we are directed to address all our thoughts, aspirations and thanks to the Father. Next all attend to the Word of God, proclaimed with the grace and power particular to the liturgy of the Church. The faith is then expounded to us according to the mind of the Church. In response, we declare our faith and offer our lives to the Lord. We do so in the most sublime way possible: by uniting ourselves with the sacrifice of Christ. Then, within the community of prayer and praise which is the Church, we receive the spiritual food of our salvation and are thereby formed again into the Body of Christ. Finally all receive the mandate and are sent out to be his ambassadors.

No matter the language of the celebration, no matter the form, these phases of the rite, this journey of the liturgy, must be set forth clearly. The celebrant, acting in the person of Christ and in the name of the Church, needs to ensure that his actions enable the souls in his care to participate in this saving mystery, to take part in each of its steps. This participation has to be profound, spiritual, informed by understanding – an active participation and not passive, not ‘leaving it to the priest to celebrate the Mass for us.’ Such is the shape and expectation of the one rite of the Mass, whether in its ordinary or extraordinary form, and it is given for the nourishment and salvation of the people.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church turns to St Augustine, whose feast we keep, to make clear the mystery in which we are to participate. It states:

St Augustine admirably summed up this doctrine that moves us to an ever more complete participation in our Redeemer’s sacrifice which we celebrate in the Eucharist:

‘This wholly redeemed city, the assembly and society of the saints, is offered to God as a universal sacrifice by the high priest who in the form of a slave went so far as to offer himself for us in his Passion, to make us the Body of so great a head…Such is the sacrifice of Christians: “we who are many are one Body in Christ.” The Church continues to reproduce this sacrifice in the sacrament of the altar, so well known to believers, wherein it is evident to them that in what she offers, she herself is offered.’ (CCC 1372).

I hope that your study of the Missal of Pope John XXIII will help you to appreciate the history and richness of that form of the Mass. And I trust that you will bring all that you learn to every celebration of the Mass you lead in the future. I have no doubt that each of us must strive for improvements in the way the ordinary form of the Mass is celebrated so that its inner mystery and spiritual movement is more clearly set forth. As Pope Benedict says, we must do all we can to bring out the spiritual richness and theological depth of the Missal of Paul VI, ‘for that will guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI will unite parish communities and be loved by them.’

Please remember that what you study here is not a relic, not a reverting to the past, but part of the living tradition of the Church. It is, therefore, to be understood and entered into in the light of that living tradition today.

The Missal of Pope John XXIII will remain the extraordinary form of the celebration of the Mass, for, as Pope Benedict says, its use ‘presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.’ And the decision of the Church was that, for general use, it needed to be revised. But there are truths of which it can still remind us and it has treasures and consolation to offer.

May the Lord bless your efforts in these next few days and draw you closer to the heart of the one saving mystery, that mystery which we now celebrate together.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.He says all the right things.

Hope the Conference is a success.

Anonymous said...

He says many right things. I'm glad he has co-operated with this initiative. He is open in deed. One can really respect that. I firmly hope and pray that this new movement will bring great fruit and that the Archbishop will reap well for his good actions. One thing about him, he is not afraid or so pumped up in his own wisdom to block this initiative. This bodes very well. We all know that what is useless will not produce good fruit and will decay on the vine. That which is from God will be sustained. All it takes to discern is openness and patience. A good start to the conference, thanks for the post Father.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

In light of what the Pope has said, and written, in "Summorum Pontificum", I was very glad to hear the Archbishop of Birmingham, speaking in Oxford, describe the 1962 Missal as :
"Not a relic, not a reverting to the past, but part of the living tradition of the Church".

That's the Pope.
And the Archbishop of Birmingham.

Now I would like to hear other bishops in England saying the same thing.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

It's me again.

Well, I see from the Catholic Herald (31 August 2007) that another bishop, Bishop Rifan from Campos, Brazil, who is here in England to attend the Training Conference for priests in Oxford, has called on all Catholics to respond "attentively and consistently" to the Pope's recent Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum".

Yes, I know he is not a diocesan bishop in England.
But here he is in this country, saying what needs to be said.

So, that's the Pope.
The Archbishop of Birmingham
And now Bishop Rifan.

I hope this list will soon grow longer.

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