Monday, July 15, 2013

A Report of the FOTA VI Conference in Cork Ireland, Day 1

Once again, the NLM is very grateful to Mr. William A. Thomas for his account of the procedings of the recent FOTA VI liturgical conference held in Cork, Ireland; the theme of the conference this year was “Sacrosanctum Concilium 1963-2013”, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, examining the historical and theological background to the Constitution, re-presenting its vision of the liturgy, and assessing the application of that vision over the past fifty years.
One of the great highlights of the year in Ireland takes place in the city of Cork on the first weekend of July. This year the much awaited and appreciated conference on the sacred liturgy got underway at the Clarion Hotel Conference centre on Saturday the 6th of July, concluding late Monday the 8th. This very well attended gathering was made up by clergy and lay alike, coming together as they do, to discuss the role of the sacred liturgy in the life of the Church and in compliance with the universal call to holiness.

Professor Father D. Vincent Twomey SVD, one of Ireland’s leading theologians, opened the conference in the presence of His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the distinguished clergy, and the various delegates. In his opening remarks, Father Twomey reminded the audience that just prior to his retirement, Pope Benedict XVI met with the clergy of the diocese of Rome. In his talk the Pope referred to the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and to its 16 documents, telling his priests that there were effectively two Councils, one the “Council of the Fathers” and the other the “Council of the media” and that regretfully many of the Catholics of today, in particular that of the clergy, do not know the Council of the Fathers but remember only what the Council of the media told them. “The Council was the largest Council ever in the history of the Church” said Father Twomey, “but it didn’t produce any defined dogmas, just documents, of which there were 16 … The Council was pastoral” he said, “and the Church was and is trying to witness to the truth in a world of lies and deceit.”

The eminent Professor spoke about the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium on the 4th of December 1963 by Pope Paul VI, a document which gives primacy (in matters pertaining to the liturgy) to God; “The liturgy” he said “is something which we have received from Christ and His Church and is not a construction by man.” Pope Benedict XVI, as part of the liturgical reform movement often called ‘The Reform of the Reform’, “has given us a beautiful liturgy and has allowed for its organic growth.” Fr. Twomey went on to state that the Second Vatican Council was by nature missionary, in that it was to bring salvation to all mankind and that the driving force behind it was the renewal of the liturgy, “because through the liturgy, the faithful are able to express in their lives their encounter with Christ” Adopting the liturgy to local culture influenced by rationalism, secularism, science and technology will drive people to the world of magic and darkness, he said. “Though we are looking at the document on the liturgy, for Cardinal Henri Marie de Lubac, the most important document was ‘Dei Verbum.’ De Lubac (+1991) was one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, given that his writings and doctrinal research played a key role in the Second Vatican Council.

The second paper, entitled “Per Ritus et Preces and Fideles scienter” was given by Dom Paul Gunter O.S.B., a monk of Douai Abbey, currently a professor at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome, and a Consulter of the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff since 2008. This paper examined these directing characteristics for active participation in the reform and promotion of the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. “The words ‘Fideles scienter’ from Sacrosanctum Concilium verify the formation needed for a fruitful participation in the liturgical life of the Church,” while “ ‘per ritus et preces’ from paragraph 48 delineates that the ‘participatio actuosa’ is made manifest in rites and prayers that are handed down by the Church for use in her liturgy.” Thus his paper considered these two important phrases of Sacrosanctum Concilium as the means of the ‘participation actuosa’ according to the Council. Quoting from paragraphs 47 and 48, he stressed the urgency of proper liturgical formation of the faithful and the theological meaning of the holy sacrifice of Christ.

Italian Father Serafino Lanzetta F.I. presented his paper “Sacrosanctum Concilium in the Light of the Liturgical Reforms,” stating that “ (it) was the first document approved by the Ecumenical Assembly of bishops. In a very short time this document found almost all the Fathers in accordance with the immutable principles of Liturgy, with some theological highlights for the active participation of all the people of God. Unfortunately the understanding of these principles did not emerge.” He went on to state that “all the principles of the Constitution … have a practical goal. From the general and theoretical principles derive practical norms to renew the Liturgy. … the work of the “Consilium” was to put into practice the entire document on the sacred liturgy. Often too much attention was given to the pastoral care of the liturgy and some of those decisions show how very predominant was that desire to reach some kind of a practical end. The risk therefore was to forget ‘the spirit of liturgy’ and to let praxis be the guideline.

“What can we do today,” asked Professor Serafino, “so that the Liturgy may express the precedence of God in our lives?” He suggests that we should reconsider more accurately three main points: 1) What active participation in the Mass properly means? 2) Is the liturgical assembly the subject of Liturgy, that is, what idea of Church must we have to consider the liturgical assembly? 3) The sacred language of Liturgy in our world in search of a common understanding. Quoting Abp. Anninbale Bugnini, who said that the Missal of Vatican II was a “pastoral” missal, Professor Serafino asked the question “what does ‘pastoral’ really mean? Does it mean continuity or discontinuity?” The word ‘pastoral’ is often treated like a miracle cure, but empty of dogma, thus there is a risk of the liturgy drying up if not celebrated correctly.

The afternoon session of Saturday began with a paper presented by Dr. Mariusz Bilinewicz of Dublin, entitled “Fifty Years of Sacrosanctum Concilium: a Review of the Theological Critique,” examining some of the critical voices which have been raised against the document since the time of its promulgation. He began with the question whether, and to what extent, theological critique of the Council's document is possible on the grounds of Catholic theology, then presented in greater detail the main objections which are raised against some theological aspects of the Constitution and against certain practical policies adopted by its authors. Finally, he attempted to evaluate these critical voices, highlighting the way forward for continuing theological reflection on the document. Dr. Mariusz Bilinewicz later presented his new book entitled “The Liturgical Vision of Pope Benedict XVI – A Theological Inquiry (published by Peter Lang).

The last paper of the day was given by Dr. Carmina Chapp of Saint Joseph’s College in Maine. She spoke about Sacrosanctum Concilium and its idea of the centrality of the liturgy in the Apostolic life of the Church. “As the first document promulgated at the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium provides a lens through which the entire work of the Council can be viewed. There is an intrinsic relationship between the celebration of the liturgy and the missionary activity of the Church, particularly in the work of the laity in the temporal realm. The liturgy takes a central place in the apostolic life of the Church because it is the place where one is united with Christ and begins to ‘see as Christ sees,’ while also becoming empowered to be the vessel through which ‘Christ is seen’ by the world. The laity gain the fruits of the liturgy by active participation, and go out into the secular realm to ‘see it as Christ sees it’ and to conduct their temporal affairs as Christ would conduct them, being the presence of Christ in the midst of the world. The graces received in the liturgy are to be put to use in all temporal areas, including business, economics, politics, medicine, education, and the arts.” The day concluded with Pontifical Vespers celebrated in the church of Saints Peter and Paul.