Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Liturgy & Sacrament: Another Dialogue with the Maestro

Earlier the Maestro and I had a series of exchanges concerning the anaphora of Addai & Mari. Recently we discussed the relationship between the liturgy and the Sacraments, the proper place for each and the historic understanding of the Church in these matters. The Maestro brings a Scholastic perspective to the dialogue.

I am publishing this, with the Maestro's permission, because this is a discussion that needs to be had in public and not in private settings among people who already agree on everything. Readers, do feel free to chime in with comments on this one!

Maestro: A question along the lines of our discussions on liturgy and its relation to theology and revelation. The saying is "legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" - the law of prayer determines the law of belief. My reading of Kavanagh did help me understand this saying a little better, although I still wonder the following things:
Are we saying that the liturgy determines what we must believe, i.e. the object of faith, or that the object is already there but that it is primarily in the act of liturgical worship that our act of belief is actuated, as it were? Kavanagh seemed to me to be explaining that the act of faith happens first and foremost in the act of worship, as a consequence thereof. The "faith" of which he speaks seems to be basically equivalent to the act or virtue of faith that is within the soul of the person who prays. This, in my mind, is to be distinguished from the faith, that is, the truths of faith themselves, or the object of faith. So what do we mean when we say the law of prayer determines the law of faith? That it determines, or constitutes, or builds the virtue of faith in us, or that it determines what is thetruth of faith?
The Rad Trad: If you, one Sunday morning 1980 years ago, saw a man who had been brutally executed a few days prior walking about, chatting with women and old friends, eating food, and passing through walls would you believe that he might be God because you figured out what he did or because you encountered him?
On Good Friday evening we had Jerusalem Mattins here (Mattins & Lauds of Holy Saturday sung late Friday night), the theme of which is the descent into Hades, the wait of Resurrection, and the resting in the tomb. There is a sepulchre set up in which a corpus is buried. The deacon explained to visitors that we believe these past events are renewed before our very eyes, that we visited Christ's tomb that night and that we await His Resurrection in time which is already in eternity. Now, does someone believe—Catholic or just Joe Off the Street—that he visited Christ's tomb because the Church worships that way or because he already believed it when he walked into the Church? Does the Church worship that way because she already believes in these events or does she believe because she maintains this in her worship?
My answer is simply "yes." To put these things in teleological opposition to each other misses the point and reduces the liturgy to some sort of play acting which culminates in the consecration and which might have didactic value. The liturgy is the Church's theology. The lex credendi is not so much what is believed as much as it is how and why it is believed, the sensus fidelium. In older times credo/credere meant "believe" in the way we mean it, but it also meant "ascent" because we ascent to God, we give ourselves to Him, which is vital to understanding the dialectic between revelation and faith which survives as a dialectic between liturgy and belief.
The resting in the tomb in obedience to the law, the descent into Hades and release of the dead, and the Resurrection are what the Church believes, but one must encounter these things to understand the how and the why of this belief.....
On that note, I cannot stand to bring non-Catholics to the Pauline Mass lest they get the impression that it represents Catholicism. Do you ever feel the same way? I had the interesting experience two years ago (and lost a neo-conservative friend over it) of going with some protestants to a Novus Ordo Easter Vigil wherein a mutual friend of ours was received into the Church. The next day we rented a car and went to the old rite for the Paschal Mass of the Resurrection. The reaction of the protestants could not have been more starkly in contrast to the previous night. Yes, they did not quite feel comfortable with the Litany of Saints and the literalism of the Communion rites, but the general lex orandi seemed almost un-obtrusive to their lex credendi. The Latin Mass the next day was dead against it and spoke far more to them about what, why, and how Catholics believe than any explanation I could have given.
When asking of God "Is it A or is it B?" the best answer is usually "Yes."
The Maestro: Alright, so my follow-up questions are these: 
Do we therefore say that the Pauline Mass or the Pian Holy Week is strictly speaking contrary to faith? I think you admitted to me once that it could be good if celebrated rightly. I just wonder how we can say this and maintain at the same time that such a change in the liturgy literally leads to a change in faith. Or do we even say this latter? Would it be right to say that, although what we must believe was not changed when the liturgy was changed, how we believe it, and perhaps even whywe believe it (this would need to be explained to me), was changed? Does that change amount to a loss of faith? Also, does the difference between the various rites of the Church affect how and whythe Catholics in those different rites believe? Why is variety in respect of these rites legitimate, but not so great variety in respect of changing the liturgy?
Finally, sort of on a tangent, by the account which you give of liturgy being the theology of the Church in which we encounter the actual mysteries of faith before our very eyes, I wonder how you would distinguish it from the seven sacraments. Or - and I have seen this objection made - is that enumeration a mere scholastic invention? The sacraments, by my understanding, are classically defined by the fact that they contain the actual graces which they signify. Their efficacy is ex opere operato. As such they are often distinguished from liturgy and other prayers and sacramentals, whose efficacy is ex opere operantis. The sacraments contain the actual mysteries they signify, whereas the others merely signify; their efficacy is accidental to themselves, and dependent on the disposition of those who pray. The Mass is the selfsame sacrifice of calvary, because the Eucharistis the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ; whereas, it would seem to be the convention to say that that the liturgy is not itself literally an encounter with the mysteries of which it speaks, but only brings them to mind. Obviously, you don't seem to consider the liturgy in quite this way - and I am strongly attracted to that idea of liturgy. But how would it account for the sacraments? 
 The Rad Trad: My how thou art inquisitive! In better times you would be an excellent candidate for a degree at the Angelicum and a stint in the Holy Office, possibly followed by a professorship and a fake (errrr "auxiliary") bishopric!
I, as a private individual, do not consider the Pauline liturgy, the Pius X Office, or the Pius XII unHoly Week necessarily contrary to the faith as much as I consider them removed from it, alienated and distanced like an estranged family member. The Pian Good Friday is gutted, irreverent, stupid, a-historical, politically correct and based on poor research, but its main sins are by omission. The problem with the Pauline liturgy is that one cannot really deduce how it ought be celebrated (if that is different from how it is normally celebrated) and what the intentions behind it were: you have Ratzinger's "continuity" line, you have the pseudo-historical researchers pretending to restore ancient liturgy like Braga, you have the ecumaniacs like Bea, and you have those obsessed with being "pastoral" like Bugnini. Who was right? Whose line best epitomizes the Pauline liturgy? It can be done well, but I am un-convinced that is the intended norm for it. The Church, in many decades, when this nonsense has passed or been replaced, will have to judge the matter. I am not giving answers. I am providing food for thought.
As far as changing the liturgy, it does not always mean changing the faith. Indeed it can augment the faith. At some point during the reign of Gregory the Great someone celebrated a Pre-Sanctified Mass, which became the Good Friday norm in the West and a weekday communion rite in Constantinople (next Lent go to one, it is amazing). It bridged the gap between the Mass and the Sacrifice on Good Friday. I think replacing it with a generic communion service (and that is exactly what Pius XII did, look at any hand Missal from the era that has a ritual for an extra Mass Communion ritual) was far more harmful that outright scrapping it. It sends confusing messages, whereas eliminating the service altogether would have been horrible, but sent no messages (other than that Pius XII and his Commission had little regard for the past).
Legitimate variation occurs when several expressions of one idea or fact of the faith are expressed according to local tradition. Continuing on the point of Good Friday, the Byzantine tradition has normal Vespers—during which the deacon sings the Passion—followed by a burial procession. It is the funeral of a King, a conqueror of death. It is the worship of His Passion. The Roman rite has that, but also the Pre-Sanctified Mass: On Yom Kippur proper Jewish people would bring animals to the Temple for sacrifice, the blood of which would "cover" their sins. The high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, sacrifice one goat and spread its blood on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant while confessing the sins of the people, sending them into the other goat (the "scape goat") which would be set free. What did Christ do other than act as priest, sacrifice, and scape goat? What is the Mass other than the immemorializing of that sacrifice? This is why the Pre-Sanctified Mass was so important! It was priest and sacrifice without consecration (well, maybe). A simple Communion service misses the point from both angles!
Altering the liturgy does not immediately alter the faith, but, if done poorly and out of sync with what preceded it, it will alter how people believe and hence their faith.
As to your second set of questions, I am not sure this line of thinking can be found in the Fathers or really anyone prior to the Scholastics. Even then, Scholasticism's popularity was limited to central Italy, the Roman Curia, and the University of Paris until the creation of seminaries in the 17th century. I do not find the distinction helpful. The Church requires us to go to Communion once a year, but to go to Mass at least once a week, probably hoping we will go to Communion during the Mass. To separate liturgy and Sacrament is a bit strange. The Sacraments—all of them—are liturgical by nature and were once done publicly. As someone with a bit of a shameful past I am not too eager to return to public Confession, but is it not interesting that until 1961 the rite of expelling public sinners on Ash Wednesday and receiving them back into the Church on Mandy Thursday was still used? Why was it that in the 9th century an announcement was made at Papal Mass during the Offertory telling anyone who was not going to Communion to leave? Baptism is by its very nature a public Sacrament: a person is "plunged" into the Church, into the new creation; it is why Baptism was always done on great feasts, particularly ones to do with water (Pascha, Pentecost, and Epiphany come to mind). To put the Sacraments in a vacuum and then say their "efficacy" depends on personal disposition is to say that the Sacraments depend on private piety! But what disposition meant in the middle ages, when that line of thinking developed, was almost certainly liturgical! I remember reading a letter from the 11th or 12th century from an English bishop to his faithful reminding them that going to low Mass did not meet their Sunday obligation: Mattins, Lauds, high Mass, and Vespers were the obligation! And you can bet anyone going to Communion did a week of fasting prior to reception. It was all part of the lex orandi. This is the trouble with minimalism, with reducing and defining everything holy to its bear bones. As times and definitions change concepts become fungible and we, centuries later, read them wrongly. 
So with regards to your questions (or were they objections?) I say "I agree, those terms jut do not mean what people often think they mean!"
The Maestro: Continuing on the sacraments. Just one minor thing - I didn't mean to say that the sacraments' efficacy depend on disposition. The distinction is that the sacraments are efficacious of their own power - although certainly the disposition is involved in the end result - but prayer and sacramentals and the liturgy are efficacious only insofar as they are expressions of a holy disposition. 
Anyway, what then would you make of the Council of Trent: "If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or less than seven, namely, baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, order and matrimony, or that any one of these seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament, let him be anathema."
Often that idea is connected to the divine institution of the sacraments, whereas liturgy - though certainly divine in a sense - is nonetheless said to have been instituted post-Christ or post-revelation. There is the doctrine that divine revelation - i.e. the revelation of the deposit of faith, that collection of the truths of faith - ended with the death of the last apostle, John. Part of that deposit, say the scholastics, is in the seven sacraments. Liturgy falls outside that deposit, strictly speaking. Because the sacraments are part of the deposit, having been directly instituted by Christ, their efficacy is straight from God; they produce their effects because God is working directly through them. Whereas anything outside that deposit is only efficacious insofar as it might be an expression of or an aid to piety in the soul men. The scholastics commonly classify this doctrine on the number of the sacraments and their divine institution as de fide - meaning it is heretical to deny. I am not sure of this; admittedly I am hoping there is some way to reconcile this with your idea. But again admittedly I am having a hard time seeing what it would be.
The Rad Trad: Concerning the Council of Trent, I agree with the canon entirely. The meat of the canon is that there are seven Sacraments (and not two as the protestants thought and not more as those who believed the coronation of a king to be a Sacrament thought). I will also say though that St Thomas did write famously Deus virtutem suam non alligavit sacramentis. We are bound to seven Sacraments where we know we can find God's grace. God is not bound and can do whatever He wishes (it was in the description when He took the job from all eternity).
Perhaps I am confusing your perception of what I am saying. I am not saying that the liturgy is a Sacrament or on par with Sacraments. I am saying that the liturgy is the proper place of Sacraments, that it exists for them and that to separate the two convolutes both apart from each other. What of the deposit of faith? Did the Church's liturgy not come into being as an expression of that deposit? As the place where people find that deposit? As the setting of those things Christ instituted? If the Sacraments can exist outside the liturgy why bother with the entire Mass? Why does the Church not simply do the consecration and place the Elements in the tabernacle? The liturgy may not be the deposit of faith, but neither is doctrine. Doctrine is an explanation of something, which I distinguish from non-negotiable dogma. I guess one could say Original Sin is not part of the deposit of faith then. It may not be in the "deposit" but it is part of Tradition, as much as the liturgy. 
As far as the notion of "efficacy," why do things other than the Sacraments only aid piety or provide expression? Again I return to the belief that the mysteries celebrated in the liturgy are not merely symbolic, but actually are revisited (the difference from a Sacrament being that grace is not directly and un-ambiguously conveyed). I would suggest, as a personal opinion open to correction, that an added benefit of receiving the Sacraments—Communion for example—in a liturgical setting is that it perfects and completes one's celebration of a divine feast or mystery by direct interaction with God through His grace. This Pascha began when the priest held out his candle and I took "light from the Light that is never overtaken by night and [glorified] the Christ, Who is risen from the dead," I walked about searching for Him with the myrrh bearing women, heard of his Resurrection at the Mattins Gospel, celebrated it at the Divine Liturgy, and culminated it by receiving Him directly in Holy Communion. Is not efficacy increased in such a setting, one hopes? There may not be a Scholastic term for this qualitative difference, but it is certainly something significant.
Again I repeat, when the Angelic Doctor wrote what he did and when the Council of Trent defined what it did, the congruity between liturgy and Sacrament was presumed. For reasons that are interesting and complicated, but not related to this discussion, the two drifted apart during the Counter-Reformation and a narrow, highly minimalistic and legalistic reading of Scholasticism developed. The conflict you perceive might be the result of reading the Scholastic literature on the subject as both complete and definitive. 
Allow me to introduce to you the first Scholastic. Low Mass supposedly originated in the 10th or 11th century when monks, out of devotion of their deceased brethren, sought to celebrate as many Requiem Masses as possible. I imagine one day, after the conventual Mass, one priest-monk popped on his vestments, took his chalice, bread, and book to the altar, and recited in 20 minutes everything that had been sung just moments earlier. Perhaps at the end of Mass the priest is greeted by a brother monk who came into the church for cleaning. Stupefied, the brother asks "You can do that!?" to which the priest replies "Oh yes! It valid and efficacious ex opere operato!" "Huh," says the brother, "I should tell Father Abbott, we could knock out two a day at that rate and that's twice as efficacious!"
I am irreverently tongue in cheek, but you see my point!
The Maestro: This reply does clear up a lot of things for me; thank you. So it is possible, in your account, to delineate between the Sacraments and liturgy in theory, although they are by nature meant to be connected. The liturgy is the proper setting of the Sacraments; and I suppose this is more than saying that it is merely an external aid to our devotion whilst participating in those Sacraments. 
On the distinction between ex opere operato and ex opere operantis, do you think it is a legitimate distinction in any sense? The Council of Trent, in the same session from which I earlier quote, appears to assume this distinction in another canon, wherein it states "If anyone says that by the sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred ex opere operato, but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace, let him be anathema." You do admit that the distinction between sacraments and liturgy is that the latter does not so directly and unambiguously convey grace, while it does reenact the actual mysteries rather than merely symbolize them. Could we then still say, at the same time, that they confer grace ex opere operantis? In other words, that a right disposition and participation by faith in these mysteries is requisite for grace to be conferred at all? Whereas the sacraments confer grace by their own power, even if the end result involves disposition.
These concepts do seem important in determining what are the rules of liturgical development. I haven't read Laurence Paul Hemming's book yet, but in his preface of one of Dobszay's books he blames this distinction between the kinds of efficacy as part of the origin of the corrupt notion of liturgical development that is responsible for the recent reforms. Basically his argument seems to be that if the efficacy of liturgy is dependent on the disposition of the person or of the Church, then the person/Church is automatically granted a great deal of freedom to change the liturgy. I'm wondering, though, if this distinction can still be preserved in some sense, while also maintaining as you do that liturgy isn't mere symbolism but is primary theology, a re-presenting of the actual mysteries of faith; and that this is enough to define the limits of liturgical development, which have been transgressed in the last century. 
The Rad Trad: I think what you write in your second paragraph is more or less on the mark with what I think, albeit using a different set of terms. The Tridentine Canon is concerned with affirming that the Sacraments have grace in and of themselves, that private belief or worthiness does not determine whether or not one receives grace (although it does influence what that grace does, for instance Communion in mortal sin). I certainly admit a distinction between liturgy and Sacraments. I reject the idea of a separation of the two.
Do read Hemming!

1 comment:

  1. Hemming's book is a bit of a struggle for those without enough philosophical background, but still worth the read anyway. His "understanding" of the liturgy seems to be, in my opinion, similar to what I initially found in the Byzantines, and which ended up shaping the way I understand and live the liturgy.