Friday, October 30, 2009

Alcuin Reid in the Herald: On the Compendium Eucharisticum

From today's edition of The Catholic Herald comes a piece by Dr. Alcuin Reid on the Compendium Eucharisticum. The piece quoted below is the unabridged edition. An abridged edition appeared in this week's edition of The Catholic Herald.

The Compendium Eucharisticum

by Dr Alcuin Reid

A small but significant step in the ongoing liturgical reform of Pope Benedict XVI took place a little over a week ago when the Latin edition of the Compendium Eucharisticum, proposed by the 2005 Synod of Bishops and announced by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, was published by the Vatican.

The Holy Father called for a volume that would “help make the memorial of the Passover of the Lord increasingly the source and summit of the Church's life and encourage each member of the faithful to make his or her life a true act of spiritual worship.” It was to contain “useful aids for a correct understanding, celebration and adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar.”

And that is precisely what Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, presented to Pope Benedict on October 21st. In publishing the Compendium Pope Benedict is, in a way, acting as the “head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” For it includes liturgical, doctrinal and devotional texts from throughout the Church’s history, placing the celebration of the Eucharist within the framework of dogma and clearly indicating the role and value of devotional practices related to the Blessed Eucharist.

Doctrinally, the Council of Trent, Vatican II, John Paul II and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are cited, presenting an unambiguous précis of the Church’s belief in the Real Presence, the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the place of the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Liturgically, the complete Order of Mass is given for both the modern and more ancient uses of the Mass (old and new rites). So too is the whole text of the Divine Office for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi―coming as it does from St Thomas Aquinas―again, according to the breviaries published by both Paul VI and Blessed John XXIII. The rite of Benediction is included, as are several litanies and hymns. Interestingly, the Congregation for Divine Worship has included the vesting prayers for priests and bishops, and the customary prayers of preparation for and thanksgiving after Mass.

There is also a notable recovery of a traditional visual language in the Compendium. The inclusion of Bouts “Last Supper”, Zurbaran’s “Agnus Dei”, Valasquez’ “Crucifixion”, Giotto’s “Lotio pedum”, Cavalieri’s “Corpus Chirsti” and Ysenbrandt’s “Missa S. Gregorii” underline the importance of beauty and the value of such cultural fruits of the Church’s faith in the Blessed Eucharist.

Taken as a whole the Compendium is a timely vademecum, a handy tool, which will serve to nourish and enrich Catholic faith and practice. It is to be hoped that the envisaged translations into the major languages will appear promptly.

But the significance of this publication lies in the fact that this is the first time that the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict XVI has been concretised in an official publication of the Holy See. In presenting such riches from the Church’s wider liturgical, doctrinal and artistic tradition pertaining to the Blessed Eucharist, and thereby recovering some elements sidelined in recent decades, the Compendium places the newer liturgical forms firmly within the continuity of that tradition. It thus serves to facilitate that mutual enrichment of which the Pope has spoken, in accordance with his wish that the sacred liturgy―most especially the Sacrament that is its centre―be celebrated worthily, and that the riches which have developed in the Church’s tradition take their proper place in the Church of the twenty-first century.

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