Friday, February 15, 2013

Benedict XVI: Vatican II as I saw it

Recently there has been some vigorous discussion around the question of the Council, continuity and rupture. Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI shared his own reflections on this subject, which has been published on the Vatican Radio website here: Pope Benedict's Last Great Master Class: Vatican II, as I saw it.

The entire address can be read over there, but I thought I would publish the following excerpts which should be of particular interest to NLM readers:

... we went to the Council not only with joy, but with enthusiasm. The expectation was incredible. We hoped that everything would be renewed, that a new Pentecost really would come, a new era of the Church, because the Church was not robust enough at that time: the Sunday practice was still good, even vocations to the priesthood and religious life were already somewhat fewer, but still sufficient. But nevertheless, there was the feeling that the Church was going on, but getting smaller, that somehow it seemed like a reality of the past and not the bearer of the future. And now, we hoped that this relationship would be renewed, changed, that the Church would once again source of strength for today and tomorrow.

[...]

The French and the Germans - he observed - had many interests in common, even with quite different nuances. Their initial intention - seemingly simple - "was the reform of the liturgy, which had begun with Pius XII," which had already reformed Holy Week; their second intention was ecclesiology; their third the Word of God, Revelation, and then also ecumenism. The French, much more than the Germans - he noted - still had the problem of dealing with the situation of the relationship between the Church and the world.

Referring to the reform of the liturgy, the Pope recalled that "after the First World War, a liturgical movement had grown in Western Central Europe," as "the rediscovery of the richness and depth of the liturgy," which hitherto was almost locked within the priest’s Roman Missal, while the people prayed with their prayer books "that were made according to the heart of the people", so that "the task was to translate the high content, the language of the classical liturgy, into more moving words, that were closer to the heart of the people. But they were almost two parallel liturgies: the priest with the altar servers, who celebrated the Mass according to the Missal and the lay people who prayed the Mass with their prayer books”. " Now - he continued - "The beauty, the depth, the Missal’s wealth of human and spiritual history " was rediscovered as well as the need more than one representative of the people, a small altar boy, to respond "Et cum spiritu your" etc. , to allow for "a real dialogue between priest and people," so that the liturgy of the altar and the liturgy of the people really were "one single liturgy, one active participation": "and so it was that the liturgy was rediscovered, renewed."

The Pope said he saw the fact that the Council started with the liturgy as a very positive sign, because in this way "the primacy of God” was self evident”. Some – he noted - criticized the Council because it spoke about many things, but not about God: instead, it spoke of God and its first act was to speak of God and open to the entire holy people the possibility of worshiping God, in the common celebration of the liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ. In this sense - he observed - beyond the practical factors that advised against immediately starting with controversial issues, it was actually "an act of Providence" that the Council began with the liturgy, God, Adoration.

[...]

The Council also pondered the principals of the intelligibility of the Liturgy - instead of being locked up in an unknown language, which was no longer spoken - and active participation. "Unfortunately – he said - these principles were also poorly understood." In fact, intelligibility does not mean "banalizing" because the great texts of the liturgy - even in the spoken languages ​​ - are not easily intelligible, "they require an ongoing formation of the Christian, so that he may grow and enter deeper into the depths of the mystery, and thus comprehend". And also concerning the Word of God - he asked - who can honestly say they understand the texts of Scripture, simply because they are in their own language? "Only a permanent formation of the heart and mind can actually create intelligibility and participation which is more than one external activity, which is an entering of the person, of his or her being into communion with the Church and thus in fellowship with Christ."

[...]

I would now like to add yet a third point: there was the Council of the Fathers - the true Council - but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council in and of itself, and the world perceived the Council through them, through the media. So the immediately efficiently Council that got thorough to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. And while the Council of the Fathers evolved within the faith, it was a Council of the faith that sought the intellectus, that sought to understand and try to understand the signs of God at that moment, that tried to meet the challenge of God in this time to find the words for today and tomorrow. So while the whole council - as I said - moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics. It was a hermeneutic of politics. The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world. There were those who sought a decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the Word for the "people of God", the power of the people, the laity. There was this triple issue: the power of the Pope, then transferred to the power of the bishops and then the power of all ... popular sovereignty. Naturally they saw this as the part to be approved, to promulgate, to help. This was the case for the liturgy: there was no interest in the liturgy as an act of faith, but as a something to be made understandable, similar to a community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a trend, which was also historically based, that said: "Sacredness is a pagan thing, possibly even from the Old Testament. In the New Testament the only important thing is that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, that is, in the secular world". Sacredness ended up as profanity even in worship: worship is not worship but an act that brings people together, communal participation and thus participation as activity. And these translations, trivializing the idea of ​​the Council, were virulent in the practice of implementing the liturgical reform, born in a vision of the Council outside of its own key vision of faith. And it was so, also in the matter of Scripture: Scripture is a book, historical, to treat historically and nothing else, and so on.

And we know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. So, dominant, more efficient, this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed liturgy trivialized ... and the true Council has struggled to materialize, to be realized: the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength. And it is our task, in this Year of Faith, starting from this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and Church is really renewed. We hope that the Lord will help us. I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious. Thank you.