Saturday, July 08, 2017

Fota X Conference, Day 1: Summary of the Lectures

The first day of the Fota Liturgical Conference was held today in Cork, Ireland, with four lectures on the theme “Resourcing the Prayers of the Roman Liturgy: Patristic Sources.”

Dr. Markus Büning delivered a paper entitled “Panis Animarum: The Holy Eucharist in St Bernard of Clairvaux.” St Bernard (1090-1153) was a figure whose life shaped the religiosity, culture and politics of his time, so much so that even profane historians call this age “Bernardian”. Dr Büning began by addressing the question “Was Bernard the last Father of the Church?” This question can only be answered with a very emphatic “yes!” Though a man of the 12th century he is very much a guarantor of the patristic foundation of tradition, which is the foundation of our liturgy, our worship and the entire prayer of the Church.

The liturgy of the Church is a part of the heavenly praise of God, in which the earthly Church unites herself with the heavenly Church. This is especially evident in the Sanctus of the Holy Mass, where we all unite together with the “thrice holy” of the heavenly choir. Because of that one must deal with the liturgy and its form very prudently. For Bernard, it was important to clearly highlight the Church’s elevated dimension of liturgy that enhances the Church. However, it was also clear to Bernard that it would always be necessary to formulate new liturgical texts, especially with regard to the arrangement of the Commemorations of the Saints. But in this arrangement, the one who is charged with such a task must be aware of the celestial dimension of the liturgy. The higher dignity of the liturgy must always be preserved.

In St Bernard’s fundamental statements on the Eucharist, made primarily in his rich homiletic foundation, he gives not a systematic treatise on the Sacrament, but has handed on valuable stimuli for a Eucharistic spirituality that have not lost any relevance in the present age. For example: Bernard has a completely priest-centered liturgical understanding. The priest is a tool and not a giver of the good gifts. God himself, the Father, is the host who gives His Son - of course, through the hands of the priest - He gives the delicious gifts of the Word and of the food. It is interesting that Bernard combines the two dimensions of the Eucharist celebration with the theme of the meal; he is concerned with the relationship between the table of the Word and the table of Bread.

As a great teacher of the Eucharist, through word and deed, he made clear to the people of his time that the great treasure is hidden in the tabernacles of our churches. For Bernard it was quite clear that we must come to this Sacrament with great reverence, as the encounter with the One whom he has always described as his bridegroom. Each Holy Mass is a wedding feast in which Jesus Christ wants to prove ever anew his love for his bride, the Church. In all reflection on the necessity of a “Reform of the Reform”, one should always have these Bernardian principles and its profound Eucharistic piety in mind. Then we do not run the risk of making our way without a reliable compass. God himself gives us a compass with every saint who wants to show us the way to heaven.

- My own paper discussed the Patristic Origins of the Roman Lectionary, specifically in regards to the readings of the Lenten season. I presented a small selection of the Biblical pericopes chosen for the Lenten season, as attested in some of the most ancient surviving Roman liturgical books, the same traditions present in the Missal of St Pius V. I then compared them with passages from the writings of the Fathers which illuminate how they understood and explained these stories, and then discussed how those explanations indicate why the stories were chosen, and chosen to be read on particular days. This is an aspect of the historical liturgical tradition which is certainly ripe for a great deal of further exploration.

The Lenten pericopes in particular can be understood more easily because much of the art of the early Church shows Biblical stories which were read in that season, and also because the Roman Station churches of Lent often provide clues as to the origin of their selection.

Fr Dieter Böhler SJ spoke on “Jerome and the Recent Revision of the German Einheitsübersetzung Bible.” This “Unified translation” appeared 1980 as the first Church-approved official translation of the Bible for all German-speaking Catholic dioceses, to be used in liturgy and catechesis. In 2016, a revised form came out, which in most books is just a moderate retouching: errors corrected, text critical decisions revised. In the Psalter, however, the situation is very different for historical reasons. 1600 years ago, St Jerome had first revised the Septuagint based Vetus Latina, but then translated the whole Old Testament anew from the Hebrew. This translation, the Vulgate, was generally accepted in the Latin Church, except for the Psalter. Here a hybrid form, a mix of the Vetus Latina, made from the Greek, and the Vulgate, made from the Hebrew, prevailed, also known as the Gallican Psalter. Countless Septuagint readings were retained even in modern Bible translations like the Einheitsübersetzung of 1980. The revised Einheitsübersetzung is strictly made on the basis of the Hebrew text, practically without Septuagint readings. Therefore in many passages it now shows readings which St Jerome had favored 1600 years ago, but were never accepted by the Church.

Fr Johannes Nebel’s paper is entitled “The Paradigmatic Change of the Post-Conciliar Liturgical Reform from actio to celebratio in the Light of the Latin Fathers.” It addressed the questions: Is liturgy essentially an actio sacra praecellenter (SC 7) of the universal Church (SC 26), primarily orientated to the worship of the divine majesty (SC 33) and performed by authorized ministers of cult, while all participate plene et actuose? (fully and actually) Or does Christian liturgy principally mean a celebratio of a local assembly, for which the official ministers assume certain functions? This article demonstrates that the second of these alternatives became decisive for the Instructions for the implementation of the postconciliar liturgical reform, but represents the intent of the Second Vatican Council only partially. This alternative starting-point is close to Odo Casel’s (1886-1948) theology of mysteries, which resulted in a division of the concept of actio. As the author examines the use of the ancient Christian concepts of religio and pietas, he proves that this is not founded in the Patristic Tradition.

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