Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Report on the Papers Delivered at the 5th Fota International Liturgy Conference (Part 2)

Report of the Fifth Fota International Liturgy Conference

Clarion Hotel, Cork City, Ireland
7-9 July 2012

Part II

Fr Gerard Deighan read a paper entitled: Continuity in Sacrifice: from Old Testament to New. His overall aim was to make the connections between the many and varied animal sacrifices of the Old Testament and the one sacrifice of the New. The Council of Trent asserted that the Mass was indeed a sacrifice, but it is hard to define what a sacrifice is without understanding the nature of sacrifice as practised in Israel. The most venerable of the ancient sacrifices was the Passover, celebrated only once a year. Then there were the regular sacrifices outlined in Leviticus 1–7, classifiable as holocausts, communion sacrifices, and expiatory sacrifices. Human sacrifice was also mentioned. Though never considered legitimate in Israel, the practice of redeeming the first-born son acted as a reminder that somehow even human life should be offered to God. The common feature of all animal sacrifices was the separation of the flesh and blood of the animal. These were then offered at the altar in different ways. Although the death of the animal was necessary, it was not central to the sacrifice, but rather the offering of flesh and blood; the layman could kill the victim, but only the priest could offer it at the altar. Turning to an examination of the Last Supper, Fr Deighan demonstrated that essentially what Christ did there was to present his flesh and blood in a state of separation, and so offered a true and proper sacrifice. In doing this he was sacramentalising, or translating into ritual form, the sacrifice which he would offer the next day on Calvary; it is the same sacramental sacrifice which is offered at every Mass. Fr Deighan then went through the various categories of sacrifice earlier enumerated and showed how each of them was fulfilled in the one sacrifice of Christ. It is this same sacrifice which the Church now offers. It consists very simply in the offering to the Father of the body and blood of the Son, in the power of the Spirit. We are able to offer this sacrifice by virtue of our becoming one with Christ in baptism, through the ministry of the priest who acts in persona Christi. It is a sacrifice in full continuity with those of the Old Testament, but at the same time radically superior to them, since it is the very sacrifice of the Son of God, and so of infinite value.

Monsignor Joesph Murphy’s paper gave a presentation of Father Divo Barsotti (1914-2006), one of the most important spiritual writers in twentieth century Italy. Barsotti's work is rooted in profound personal experience of the spiritual life and in Scripture, the Fathers and the great writings of the Christian tradition, including those of Russian Christianity. Central to his thought is the notion of the Christian Mystery which is ultimately the Mystery of Christ. Christ's Act of death and resurrection is the culmination of God's saving plan and thus the central and supreme moment of history. It is made present at every celebration of the Eucharist so as to allow people of every time and place enter into contact with Christ's Act and thus offer themselves with Him to the Father. Barsotti's elevated theological and spiritual understanding of the Eucharist represents a significant contribution to genuine and effective renewal of Eucharistic doctrine and celebration, such as has been called for by Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is hoped that this contribution will help to increase interest in Barsotti's thought in the English speaking world and perhaps lead to the translation of some of his works.

Professor Dr. Manfred Hauke of Lugano delivered a paper entitled What is the Holy Mass? The Systematical Discussion on the “Essence” of Eucharistic Sacrifice. Among other subjects, the paper examined the subjects of : The sacrifice of Christ as “basic structure”; Brief historical setting of the topic; The concept of “sacrifice” - “A true sacrifice is every good work done in order that we may cling to God in holy fellowship” (Augustine); “The sacrifice that is offered outwardly represents the inward spiritual sacrifice, whereby the soul offers itself to God” (Thomas Aquinas); Importance of the social and visible dimension of the ritual (in liturgy); “A ‘sacrifice’, properly speaking, requires that something be done to the thing which is offered to God (quando circa res Deo oblatas aliquid fit) …” (Thomas Aquinas). The Thomist school uses here the Latin term of immutatio. Later on, in relation to the Eucharistic sacrifice, we shall find the terminological differentiation between “immolation” (immolatio), where some modification is operated, and “oblation” (oblatio), without any change in the object which is offered. In the various theories on the sacrifice of the Mass, one basic current presupposes an “immolation”, whereas another tendency prefers to speak of an “oblation”.

In the situation of a sinful world, sacrifice must integrate the scope of expiation which is especially important. The passion of Christ operates its effect as sacrifice “in so far as we are reconciled with God” (Thomas Aquinas).

On the subject of the sacrifice of Christ represented in the sacrifice of the Mass Prof. Hauke began by referring to the Council of Trent which states that the Holy Mass is “a true and proper sacrifice” and refutes the opinion “that to be offered means no more than that Christ is given to us to eat”. With the order, “Do this in memory of me”, Christ instituted “the Apostles as priests”, ordaining them “that they and other priests offer his Body and Blood”. Christ offered himself once and for all on the altar of the Cross, but “because his priesthood was not to be extinguished by his death (…), at the Last Supper … [he] offered his Body and Blood to God the Father under the appearance of bread and wine. He did this in order to leave his beloved Bride the Church a visible sacrifice as the nature of the human race demands, a visible sacrifice by which that bloody sacrifice to be accomplished once and for all on the Cross might be represented (representaretur) and in memorial (memoria) remain until the end of the world, and so that its saving power might be applied (applicaretur) to the remission of those sins that we commit daily”.

“The victim is one and the same, the same who then offered himself on the Cross now offering by the ministry of priests, only the manner of offering being different. Indeed the fruits of this bloody oblation are abundantly received through this unbloody oblation”.

Contemporary theology usually speaks of the numerical unity of the sacrificial act of Christ on the Cross and in the Holy Mass. On the other side, the sacramental action cannot be detached from the distinct operation of Christ so that Pius XII noted in 1954: “As far as the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice is concerned, there are as many actions of Christ the High Priest as there are celebrating priests …”

“The visible sacrifice is the sacrament, that is the holy sign, of an invisible sacrifice” (Augustine).

In his concluding remarks, Prof. Hauke noted that the Mass, as sacrifice, is the sacramental representation or memorial of the sacrifice of Christ offered at the Cross. Christ himself makes present his unique offering by the ministry of the ordained priest in the consecration of bread and wine into his Body and Blood. He is also, with his permanent oblation in heaven, the principal author of the sacramental act that applies the fruits of the Redemptive offering on Calvary for the spiritual benefit of the Church and of all humanity called to receive salvation. The salvation offered “for all” at the Cross is realized “for many” by the celebration of the Holy Mass during the subsequent history. The consecration establishes the “visible sacrifice” instituted by Christ. At the same time, it is the heart of every spiritual sacrifice offered by the Church in the Eucharistic celebration. It is prepared especially by the offertory and finds its expression in the prayers and liturgical signs of offering that are concluded by the sacred banquet.

Professor Dr. Klaus Berger’s lecture was entitled Divine Liturgy in the Revelation of St. John. Critical Questions for the Western Understanding of Liturgy. The Heidelberg professor pointed to the liturgical principles to be found in St. John’s Apocalypse and showed how these underlie much of both the Western and Eastern liturgical traditions. In Christ, we enter into the Holy of Holies in definitive fashion. The earthly liturgy thereby becoming part of the heavenly liturgy in which the angels and the saints participate. He showed the significance of proskynesis –and its reduced form of genuflection in the West- as an expression of worship of God.

The Mystery of Eucharist in the Systematic Theology of Matthias Joseph Scheeben was the title of Professor Dr. Michael Stickelbroek’s paper. The relation places the Eucharist in straight connection with the root-mystery of Trinity and me mystery of incarnation, before treating the sacrifice of mass. The Eucharistic communion leads to a deeper incorporation into Christ, yet initiated by baptism, and to incorporation into the body of the church.

Christ can represent all men in a perfect manner with regard to the fact, that all of them are incorporated in him as their head by the assumption of human flesh, the gift of oblation, in his own person. This is of great importance for understanding the extension of his sacrifice on the cross.

A study in the sacrifice of mass according to Scheeben has to deal with the question: Can the church exercise the act of offering in the mass? Or can she only receive the sacrifice of Christ?

The concept of “incorporation into Christ” is the key for the solution: By virtue of the union with Christ, constituted in baptism, the believers do not simply passively receive the fruits of the mass-offering. Instead, they are authorized to participate in the sacrifice of Christ and to exercise a real “co-offer”. Because the offerings of bread and wine are symbolic representations of the believers, the latter can enter into the sacrifice of Christ: “[…] lie the bread that in reality turns into the sacrificed body of Christ, we should […] by substantial communion with Christ re-create in ourselves his sacrifice of live and death.” (Mysterien, 417) Mass is in the first place oblatio: The church brings – under eulogical prayer – her gifts to God and through and within these gifts she offers herself to God – a movement that is only possible in branch connection with the self-giving of Christ to the father.
Conceiving the oblation of the church in this way, the church cannot be a second, self-consistent, independent subject of sacrifice next Christ. Nevertheless, she can enter into the sacrifice of Christ, with whom she forms a unity of body. This can only happen in this way, that the idem offerens of Trent (DH 1743) does not lose anything of its exactingness.

The relation also intends to deepen the pneumatological aspect of the sacrifice of mass, by discussing some questions about the importance of epiclesis. The conversion of the gifts is the proper act of sacrifice, in which the acting of Christ comes more forward than the acting of the church. To underline that it is also an oblation of the church, a post-consecratory epiclesis is necessary. The church has her own act in the Eucharistic sacrifice, an act that forms an organic unity with God’s acting, but cannot be stated and exercised in the same moment an in the same gasp.

The sacrifice of the church can only consist in the sacrifice of Christ, that perennitates in heaven. Therefore “the transferring of her offered gift into the heavenly body of Christ […] forms the objective, oblatory act, by which the oblation of the church is really presented to God”. The church asks for the real elevation (Hinaufnahme) in the sacrifice of Christ. She asks for the “perlatio per manus sancti Angeli” – the Holy Spirit himself, who mediates the connection between Christ and “his priestly bride on earth”. (Studien II)

In the post-consecratory epiclesis, the church wants to connect her own oblation with the objective “perlatio” of the heavenly Christ. The Holy Spirit is the sacrificing fire (Operfeuer) that transforms the oblation of the church into the sacrifice of Christ.

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