Sunday, July 05, 2015

First Report from Fota VIII

The St Colman Society for Catholic Liturgy has very kindly sent us the following summaries of the papers delivered yesterday at the Fota VIII Liturgical Conference, currently happening in Cork, Ireland. The subject of the conference this year is A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation: Aspects of the Priesthood of Baptism. This is, of course, a topic of prime importance for consideration of modern liturgical practice and liturgical reform, in light of the many ways in which the “priesthood of all the baptized” has been misused and misconstrued to justify various abuses, and promote dubious ideas about the nature of the Liturgy and the Mass. (All photos by Mr John Briody.)

The eighth Fota International Liturgy Conference was opened this morning by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

The initial session of the conference heard two papers on the scriptural aspects of the priesthood of Baptism. The papers were delivered by Fr. Joseph Briody, of St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts, and by Professor Dieter Böhler, SJ, of the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt.

Fr. Briody’s paper was entitled The priesthood as a central dimension of biblical revelation:an overview of the royal priesthood of the faithful in Sacred Scripture. In it, he emphasized that the priesthood is not a peripheral biblical theme, but a central dimension of biblical revelation, and gave an overview of the priesthood in Sacred Scripture, with emphasis on the royal priesthood shared by the people of God.

The paper illustrated that from the beginning, man is presented as both priestly and kingly (Genesis 1-2). The priestly system, especially in Leviticus, was about relationship with the Lord and living in the presence of the Holy One. With the disappearance of the monarchy, the intercessory role of kings is taken over by the priests, and then, by all the people, especially in the praying of the royal psalms and transmission of the wisdom tradition. Later post-exilic times look to a messianic figure, both royal and priestly. Exodus 19:5-6 is examined in some detail, since it provides the background for royal priestly texts in the New Testament.

The royal priesthood is what defines the relationship of Christians to God and is what manifests the lordship of the Lamb. Hebrews, 1 Peter and Revelation develop the royal priesthood imagery, indicating that man’s destiny is the holy priesthood around the throne of God in heaven. The Bible concludes with the New Jerusalem where there is no Temple because the Lord God and the Lamb are the Temple and all present there are priests. The communion with God, sought but unachieved by Old Testament sacrifice, is realised. The fulfilment of Christian life is in becoming “priests of God and of Christ.” The royal priesthood is in fact the key to the scroll that is history.

The Old Testament distinction between the priesthood shared by all the people and the divinely willed “ministerial priesthood” of the few is maintained and developed in the New Testament.

Fr Joseph Briody and Fr Thomas McGovern
Professor Böhler’s paper, entitled A Kingdom of Priests: (Ex 19:6). Priesthood and Royalty of God's People in the Old (MT, LXX, Tg) and New Testament compared the Hebrew Text of Exodus 19:6 with its Greek and Aramaic versions (the Septuagint and the Targum respectively) and investigated how the First Letter of Peter in chapter 2: 5,9 adopts the Greek version of the text, while St John’s Revelation seems to follow a kind of Targumic reading.

The Hebrew text calls Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This double expression most probably does not mean two synonyms, but, rather, two complementary entities which together form a whole: namely a priestly government for a sacred people. The Greek translation, however, interprets the Hebrew text in the sense of three synonyms: Israel is to be for God “a kingdom”, where God is king, “a priesthood”, probably mediating between God and the nations, and “a sacred people.” The priestly government of the Hebrew text has become in the Septuagint a priesthood of all Israel as a whole towards humanity. In the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:5,9 takes over the Old Testament expression in its Greek form, and more or less with the sense the Septuagint had given it.

The Aramaic versions of the Old Testament interpret Exodus 19:6 as attributing to the Israelites the dignities of kings and priests. This kingship then is not God’s any more over Israel, but a dignity of the Israelites over the nations. Israel’s priesthood as well becomes in the Targum a dignity of the individual Israelites. It is more or less in this sense that John’s Revelation in 1:6, 5:10 and 20:6 takes over the Old Testament idea of Ex 19:6.

Professor Böhler
Both papers were followed by lengthy discussions moderated by His Eminence George Cardinal Pell.
In the afternoon, two further papers were read by Fr. Thomas McGovern, of Dublin, Ireland, and by Professor Rodney Lokaj of the University of Enna “Kore”, Sicily.

In his paper entitled The Priesthood of the Laity: Holiness in Work, and the Challenge of the Secular, Fr Thomas McGovern emphasized the importance of the of the universal call to holiness in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its significance for lay people.

All are called to the fullness of the Christian life. Since the great majority are immersed in temporal activities, they are called to holiness, not in spite of their ordinary circumstances, but indeed precisely in and through their daily commitments.

Sanctity is not something for a privileged few. Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation in Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the full implications of Baptism for the laity, of their vocation to holiness in the middle of the world. The vocation of the lay faithful to holiness implies that a life according to the Spirit expresses itself in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities. Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be excluded from their religious programme of life.

The paper pointed to the importance of the sanctification of work as an environment in which the laity can seek holiness. A spirituality of work helps all people to come closer through work, to God, the Creator and Redeemer, to participate in his salvific plan for man and the world, and to deepen their friendship with Christ in their lives.’

The secularity of the laity is what gives them their distinctive characteristic in the Church. It is a state of life that identifies their vocation and mission on the basis of the baptismal consecration common to all. It also specifies the vocation by which they are called to work.

Prof. Rodney Lokaj
Professor Lokaj’s paper was entitled Early Franciscan preaching: an anomaly in canon law. It showed that the Franciscan sources contain many allusions to early preaching practices before and after Francis obtains his verbal authorisation from the Holy See to embrace the vita vere apostolica. These practices were carried out by Francis either on his own or with others who were in turn authorised to preach independently of the founder of the movement. The anomaly in canon law naturally consists in the fact that neither Francis nor many of his early brethren were ordained and yet they freely preached, thus creating what would otherwise seem to be a parallel with the many heretical movements abounding at the time.

The watershed in the founder’s life seems to be the episode recounting his renouncement of his father’s worldly possessions. It was then that, in rather dramatic circumstances and terms, Francis’ nakedness was literally and metaphorically cloaked by bishop Guido of Assisi. The sources and subsequent critical literature universally accept this episode as symbolising the fact that he had been taken in under the aegis of the Church thereby becoming a type of deacon in the service of all Christians. It was as such, furthermore, that the sources also implicitly explain his preaching to Clare. The paper pointed to the early sources indicating that such preaching was carried out in the company of other followers and that only later did successive sources speak of Francis and Clare on their own as if Clare’s conversion had been occasioned exclusively by Francis. The paper explored instances of early preaching practices within the Franciscan movement, then Order, including the initial attempts to preach within the Clarian community at Saint Damian’s.

The ensuing discussion was moderated by His Eminence George Cardinal Pell. The session was closed by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. The first day of the Conference concluded with the celebration of Pontifical Vespers at Sts. Peter and Paul’s.

Fr McGovern, Card. Pell, Mons, James O’Brien, and Cardinal Burke
Card. Burke. Prof. Lokaj and Mons. O’Brien

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