Tuesday, October 04, 2005

THE SYNOD: The Celebrative Moment

Going against the grain, here's a snip from the intervention of Fr Mark Francis, Superior General of the Viatorians....
Due to a desire to underscore the importance of adoration of Christ in the Eucharistic species, the [Instrumentum Laboris] seems to place the liturgical celebration itself and the popular expressions of piety toward the Eucharistic elements on the same level of importance. This seems to lead to some reductive statements. For example, in article 8 we read that "Christ's presence is the sacrament's basic end." This is an incomplete and impoverished understanding of the "end" of the Eucharist. It is a question here of the res sacramenti or res tantum of scholastic sacramental theology which the Council of Trent- as one authoritative source - described in a much more complete way as communion of the believer with Christ and the pledge of future glory. Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist-not just to be present-but to have a transforming effect on the believer. This fact is underlined in many of the post-communion prayers of the Roman Missal. It is also an important part of the rediscovered pneumatological grounding of the Eucharist in the Latin Rite expressed by the communion epicleses of the "new" Eucharistic prayers: for example Prayer III: "Spiritu eius Sancto repleti, unum corpus et unus spiritus inveniamur in Christo."

I believe the document needs to place more emphasis on the traditional Eucharistic teaching of the Church: the worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside of the liturgical context flows from and leads back to the Mass itself. The words set forth in the praenotanda on the Rites of Holy communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (Eucharistiae Sacramentum) would have 'been helpfully recalled here: "The primary and original reason for reservation of the Eucharist outside Mass is the administration of viaticum; the secondary ends are the giving of communion and the adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ present in the sacrament" (ES 5). This is also consistent with the Council of Trent's treatment of worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass: the Eucharist was instituted by Christ. ... "ut sumatu'' that it might be received; and secondarily, rightly and fitting adored in the reserved sacrament (Cf. Sessio XIII, Caput V).

This is in no way to deny the value of Eucharistic exposition and other popular Eucharistic practices of the Latin Church. I simply believe that there needs to be a better appreciation for the action of the Eucharist which is, as Sacrosanctum Concilium states an action, "Attamen Liturgia est culmen ad quod actio Ecclesiae tendit et simul fons unde omnis eius virtus emanat" (SC 14).

By emphasizing more the celebrative moment of the Eucharist-both in the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist, I believe that another weakness of the document would also be strengthened, i.e., the lack of real attention to practical ways of improving what the IL calls the ars celebrandi (52). If the synod is to have a positive effect on the Eucharistic life of the faithful, practical means for training and encouraging priests to better understand the Sacred Scriptures, to prepare homilies that truly proclaim the Good News, and to cultivate an effective celebratory style all need to be emphasized in seminary formation and in on-going programs of formation for priests and deacons. For example, how many of our seminaries devote time to the practical matter of preaching or to liturgical presiding? As a Superior General, in reviewing the seminary formation of my candidates for priesthood in the 14 countries where my community is at work, it is my impression that they are given little in the way of practical help in homiletics or liturgical presiding. Undoubtedly there are sociological arid other factors that militate against Mass attendance of the Christian faithful. But rather than simply blame our Catholic people's lack of faith and the secularization of society for the small percentage who attend Mass in many countries, we also need to acknowledge with sadness that bad preaching, and poorly prepared and poorly executed Eucharistic celebrations sometimes drive good people away from the Church.
Wow. Talk about calling a spade a spade.... While the bishops hem and haw, the religious superiors are really raising the bar for Synodal discussion.

Keep it up, guys.



Blogger Todd said...


The items I've read do seem to be fairly substantive. Francis' comments are excellent.

4/10/05 15:19  
Blogger patrick said...

That last paragraph is oh-so-true.

4/10/05 15:23  
Blogger John Hearn said...

I hope ALL the bishops put their cards down on the table like this guy! Halleluiah and Amen!

4/10/05 16:48  
Blogger PiousPius said...

Rocco or anyone who may know: where can we find a transcript (may be in Italian) of all what was said in each day of the Synod? The Bollettino mentions a special "Bollettino" for each day, but I have not been able to find it.

4/10/05 17:48  
Blogger Jeff said...

Well, all this is very good in theory. The response would be that somehow focussing on all these things in the last few decades has sapped all transcendant and sacrificial meaning from the Eucharist and killed the consciousness of the transformative element as well.

I.e, people are no longer keenly aware that Christ is present, and if you don't--as St. Paul says--recognize the Body of the Lord you have trouble realizing the transformative goal to the fullest extent either.

I think the comments are right in that the Lineamenta are poorly phrased. But the comments taken alone, though very thoughtful and scholarly, do not represent an advance; just more of the same.

4/10/05 18:01  
Blogger RC said...

I'm not convinced yet about Fr. Francis' take on this particular line in the Instrumentum:

Christ's presence is the sacrament's basic end.

Fr. Francis describes this as a 'reductive' statement.

Here's a little more context:

for the Apostles and Church Fathers — consider St. Justin alone — the Eucharist is the holiest action the Church can perform. She firmly believes that the Risen Lord is truly and fully present in the Eucharist. Christ’s presence is the Sacrament’s basic end.

Admittedly, this last phrase could lend itself to a narrow interpretation, if by "Eucharist" and "sacrament", one were referring only to the consecrated Host and Chalice.

But I think the paragraph allows for a broader interpretation along the lines Fr. Francis wishes: it already speaks of the Eucharist as an "action", and thus includes the whole liturgical action of the Eucharist: the coming of Christ's presence in Scripture; in His Passion/Resurrection (anaphora), and in the communion of the faithful.

4/10/05 20:55  
Blogger Venerable Aussie said...

Two comments:

First, why does this guy pretend that there is a dichotomy out there as to which is better - Mass or a Eucharistic devotional practice? I don't know any Catholic who, given the choice, would choose to go to a Eucharistic devotion rather than to a Mass. But I know heaps who would prefer to sit down and watch mindless crap on TV than spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

Really, all he is doing is building a strawman and taking a swipe at Catholics engaged in extra-Mass Eucharistic devotions, none of whom would ever see Mass as anything other than the source and summit.

Second, since he's the Viatorian Superior General and is giving advice about seminary formation, what's his Order's track record on vocations? Instead of mentioning "14 countries" perhaps he should have just stuck to the US figures. But then again, that would have been just plain embarrassing.

Go here http://www.viatorians.com/2005/pdf/05winter.pdf for a reference to the "dwindling number" of Vitorian priests and brothers ... but also for a very refreshing comment by the Viatorian author of "Forever A Priest" about Eucharistic devotion!

4/10/05 21:37  
Blogger George Collie said...

Another problem with document is confusion in the use of the terms "Real Presence" and
"transubstantiation." The latter is called at one point the "traditional" understanding of the Real Presence, and at other points appears to be used as a synonym. Might be an translational issue...

5/10/05 09:27  

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