Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Ascension Thursday - Readings from the Office of Matins

The following readings are taken from the office of Matins for the Feast of the Ascension, in the Tridentine Breviary as promulgated by Pope Pius V.

Reading 1
Lesson from the Acts of Apostles
Acts 1:1-5
1 The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach,
2 Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up.
3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
4 And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth.
5 For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.

Reading 2
Acts 1:6-9
6 They therefore who were come together, asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 But he said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power:
8 But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Reading 3
Acts 1:10-14
10 And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments.
11 Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven.
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a sabbath day's journey.
13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Jude the brother of James.
14 All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Reading 4
From the Sermons of Pope St. Leo the Great.
1st on the Lord's Ascension.
After the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein the Divine Power raised up in three days the true Temple of God Which the iniquity of the Jews had destroyed John ii. 19, God was pleased to ordain, by His Most Sacred Will, and in His Providence for our instruction and the profit of our souls, a season of forty days which season, dearly beloved brethren, doth end on this day. During that season the bodily Presence of the Lord still lingered on earth, that the reality of the fact of His having risen again from the dead might be armed with all needful proofs. The death of Christ had troubled the hearts of many of His disciples their thoughts were sad when they remembered His agony upon the Cross, His giving up of the Ghost, and the laying in the grave of His lifeless Body, and a sort of hesitation had begun to weigh on them.

Reading 5
Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been fearful at the finishing on the Cross, and doubtful of the trustworthiness of the rising again, were so strengthened by the clear demonstration of the fact, that, when they saw the Lord going up into the height of heaven, they sorrowed not, nay they were even filled with great joy And, in all verity, it was a great an unspeakable cause for joy to see the Manhood, in the presence of that the multitude of believers, exalted above all creatures even heavenly, rising above the ranks of the angelic armies and speeding Its glorious way where the most noble of the Archangels lie far behind, to rest no lower than that place where high above all principality and power, It taketh Its seat at the right hand of the Eternal Father, Sharer of His throne, and Partaker of His glory, and still of the very man's nature which the Son hath taken upon Him.

Reading 6
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us also rejoice with worthy joy, for the Ascension of Christ is exaltation for us, and whither the glory of the Head of the Church is passed in, thither is the hope of the body of the Church called on to follow. Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy, and give God glad thanks. This day is not only the possession of Paradise made sure unto us, but in the Person of our Head we are actually begun to enter into the heavenly mansions above. Through the unspeakable goodness of Christ we have gained more than ever we lost by the envy of the devil. We, whom our venomous enemy thrust from our first happy home, we, being made of one body with the Son of God, have by Him been given a place at the right hand of the Father with Whom He liveth and reigneth, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Reading 7
From the Holy Gospel according to Mark
Mark 16:14-20
At that time Jesus appeared unto the eleven disciples as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. And so on.

Homily by Pope St Gregory the Great
29th on the Gospels
I may be allowed to say that the disciples' slowness to believe that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, was not so much their weakness as our strength. In consequence of their doubts, the fact of the Resurrection was demonstrated by many infallible proofs. These proofs we read and acknowledge. What then assureth our faith, if not their doubt? For my part, I put my trust in Thomas, who doubted long, much more than in Mary Magdalene, who believed at once. Through his doubting, he came actually to handle the holes of the Wounds, and thereby closed up any wound of doubt in our hearts.

Reading 8
Now confirm to our minds the trustworthiness of the fact that our Lord did indeed rise again from the dead, it is well for us to remark one of the statements of Luke (Acts i. 4.) "Eating together with them, He commanded them that they should not (1 John xiv. 16, 17 xvi. 7.) depart from Jerusalem and a little afterward: "While they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." Consider these words, note well these mysteries. After "eating together with them He was taken up." He ate and ascended: that the fact of His eating might show the reality of the Body in Which He went up. But Mark telleth us that before the Lord ascended into heaven He upbraided His disciples; with their unbelief and hardness of heart. From this I know not why we should gather, but that the Lord then upbraided His disciples, for whom He was about to be parted in the body, to the end that the words which He spoke unto them as He left them might be the deeper imprinted on their hearts.

Reading 9
When then, He had rebuked the hardness of their heart, who command did He give them Let us hear. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Was the Holy Gospel, then my brethren, to be preached to thing insensate, or to brute beasts, that the Lord said to His disciples "Preach the Gospel to every creature." Nay but by the words "every creature" we must understand man, in whom are combined qualities of all creatures. Being he hath in common with stones, life in common with trees, feeling in common with beasts, understanding in common with angels. If, then, man hath something in common with every creature, man is to a certain extent every creature. The Gospel, then, if it be preached to man only, is preached to every creature.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Tradition and the Papal Magisterium

St. Pius V, pray for us!

As a traditional Catholic, it is my belief that the tradition of the Catholic Church is in a very real sense prior in authority to the authority of the pope. The pope is certainly the highest human authority on earth, but tradition I say is not a human authority. It is indeed a particular manifestation of divine authority. But there are various kinds of tradition, so I will treat the main ones of my concern individually - namely divine tradition and liturgical tradition:

I. Divine Tradition, i.e. that tradition which is a source of our knowledge of divine revelation. The First Vatican Council implies, though it does not explicitly state, that this tradition, alongside sacred scripture, is prior to the authority of the Church. The authority of scripture and tradition is not dependent upon the approval of the authority of the Church, but because in and of themselves they constitute the inspired word of God, their author, and were given to the Church as such. The Church approves of scripture and tradition because they have authority; they do not have authority because the Church approves them. Thus, in the chapter on Revelation, the Vatican Council contains the following passage: 
Now this supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, as declared by the sacred Council of Trent, is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand until they reached us. 
The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said Council and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition, are to be received as sacred and canonical. 
These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.
This certainly indicates that scripture at least is prior to the authority of the Church. Scripture was written under divine inspiration first, and then bequeathed as such to the Church. And while tradition is not inspired - this being simply because it is not a single written document of the sort that scripture is - nonetheless in its content it has the same level of authority that scripture does. Both, as sources of divine revelation, are inerrant, for the sole reason that they contain the inerrant revelation of God. It is the Church's role to proclaim the teaching contained in these sources to all Christians, binding them to firm belief in the truths that are there revealed.

The Council implies that the gift of infallibility is granted to the pope in order that, under the defined conditions (ex cathedra), he might judge without error what is in accordance with the doctrine of scripture and tradition, and then proclaim it as formally binding in conscience for all to believe. Thus,
The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the Churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God's help, they knew to be in keeping with Sacred Scripture and the apostolic traditions. 
For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
Here, the doctrine of the faith, as transmitted by tradition and contained in scripture, is presented as something to be guarded and protected by infallible papal authority, not created or determined by it. Infallibility and authority are means to the end of protecting and faithfully expounding the doctrine that is already contained in these most sacred sources. Indeed, to put it bluntly, the authority of the Church and the papacy is here presented as the servant of tradition and scripture. I am reminded of some quite beautiful quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on the role of the papacy. The first quote is from his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, and so - this is pertinent for what follows just below - the original context applies these words to the liturgy as well as to doctrine.
In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of Faith ... Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity ... The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition
The second quote comes from Pope Benedict's first homily at St. John Lateran, when he took possession of the chair of St. Peter in 2005:
The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.
That is a faithful, traditional, and Catholic understanding of the authority of the papacy. Neither the liberal, Protestant, or Orthodox rejection of papal authority, nor the other extreme of radical ultramonatanism (the power of the pope is unlimited) is the authentic understanding. Catholicism lies between the extremes. The pope is a servant of the truth, and therefore a servant of the Catholic tradition, and not its creator or arbiter.  His power and authority are bound by the limits which God has set, and among those limits is tradition. The pope's authority is authentic because it has its footing in the self-authenticating authority of tradition, and not the other way around.

II. Liturgical Tradition. In a way, I must admit, the naming of the above sort of tradition as "divine" and the neglect of that name with regards to liturgical tradition is somewhat misleading. I think both traditions are perfectly divine and equally important, but just in different senses. (I have recently been led to sometimes wonder about the advisability of even making the distinction between these kinds of tradition.) But in both senses of tradition, I think the same principle applies: the pope's authority is at the service of the tradition; tradition is higher in authority.

With regards to the liturgy, it is perhaps not as easy to see how this is so. After all, is not the liturgy merely "disciplinary" and not a matter of "doctrine"? In a way, the liturgy is certainly not "doctrinal," but that does not place it altogether within the category of discipline and Church governance either. It would be a narrow way of thinking about the Church indeed if we were to confine ourselves to these categories. The Vatican Council does not speak much about any other categories, granted, but that does not mean they do not exist. The Vatican Council does not speak about the spiritual writings and meditations of the saints which have been passed down to us; but that does not mean that they do not constitute a category of their own within the life of the Church. They are not merely "disciplinary" in the sense of pertaining to Church governance and ecclesial-political structures and canons and so forth, but neither are they exactly "doctrinal" in the sense that we normally conceive of magisterial teaching. I am thinking of spiritual writings of the sort like St. Francis de Sales' Introduction, or John of the Cross' Dark Night, or Therese of Lisieux's Story of a Soul. These are not the sort of things that the pope declares as official Church teaching in an encyclical - not that they couldn't be so declared, or indeed that the popes haven't oftentimes spoken of such things. But the fact is that they constitute a category on their own, and a category which is just as much a part of the entire body of traditions that we have received as official doctrine is.

The liturgy is similar: it is a category unto itself. In a way it is "disciplinary" insofar as it is practical - that is, in the liturgy we do things rather than simply learn or know things speculatively. But it is certainly not disciplinary merely in the sense of Church governance. Like the spiritual writings of the saints, the liturgy pertains essentially to the supernatural life of Christians, not simply the mere externals they must follow as members of an organization, for the sake of its organized unity. This is not say that this is not one aspect of the liturgy; but it is not the only, nor even the most essential thing about the liturgy. The liturgy is an act of worship; and just as there is a right doctrine that is in tradition prior to its formal proclamation by the Church, so is there are right worship that is in tradition prior to its formal codification by the Church. This is not only true in theory, but history shows this to be the norm. Indeed, for about the first 1600 years of the Church's existence, the liturgy was performed and developed almost entirely on the basis of tradition without the need for legal codification by the Church's authority. It was not until the 20th century that Catholics definitively reversed their attitude toward the papacy's role in the liturgy: the pope now became the arbiter rather than the guardian of the liturgy; no longer was he at the service of liturgical tradition, but he could discard it on a whim.

Have I an authority as prestigious as that of the Vatican Council to support my claims? Perhaps not an ecumenical council, but certainly there is the authority of the sensus fidelium, which the Church has always recommended as an authority not to be disregarded. This is just the basic Catholic assumption of almost 2000 years of history: the liturgy is an inherently tradition-ruled entity, and this must be respected even by the authority of the pope. And indeed, in at least an indirect way, this opinion of the sensus fidelium is supported by the action of the first pope to intervene legislatively in liturgical matters, St. Pius V. It is probably one of the worst lies of history that Pius V's liturgical reform was essentially the same in kind as that of Paul VI. While the post-Tridentine reform was certainly significant, the liturgical product was in all essentials the same as the liturgy of the preceding 1000 years, namely the Roman Rite, which itself grew from the primitive traditions of the early Church and the apostles. The motive for which Pius V explained that he undertook that reform was to restore the liturgy according to the sound tradition of the fathers. It was this motive that prompted him to abolish the infamous breviary of Cardinal Francis Quignonez, which, due to its radically untraditional construction, had been a complete failure of liturgical reform. (Interestingly, many of its principles were adopted in Paul VI's own new "Liturgy of the Hours.")

But, it is objected, is it not the case that the liturgy is extrinsic to divine revelation and has been established by men in the Church after the time of Christ? Does not this make it subject to the Church's jurisdiction? Yes and no. Yes, in practice, the liturgy came into existence through the work of man, but never solely on the basis of his own conceptions. Always the liturgy developed on the basis of a received tradition. At the beginning, that received tradition was in fact part of divine revelation, namely the sacrifice and the liturgical structure which Christ handed on at the Last Supper. Within and on the basis of that structure, the apostles  and the early bishops contributed further developments to the liturgy; and elements of what they added eventually also became subsumed into the process of tradition, and were passed on simultaneously with the tradition of Christ Himself. The process repeated itself throughout history. So yes, while each individual part of the liturgy might have originated from the contributions of a man to liturgical development, hardly can it be said that this was anything but an addition within an already received traditional structure. Precisely because every contribution to development was done on the basis of something received, each generation viewed itself, in practice, as primarily receptive of the liturgy rather than creative of it - the popes no less than anyone else. Tradition was viewed as an expression of God's special providence for the Church: it was something given to man, not created by him, and it was given to him by none other than God Himself, working through the hands of men in ages past.

Even the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, for all its imperfections, recognizes the limitations of papal authority in regards to the liturgy: "Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy" (1125). Cardinal Ratzinger, again, comments on these words of the Catechism, echoing the thoughts posted above (which, as I said before, were also applied to the liturgy in their original context):
It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The “rite”, that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living tradition in which the sphere which uses that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit which is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis the handing-on of tradition. (Preface to Alcuin Reid's The Organic Development of the Liturgy)
Thus, the implications of the Catechism and the words of Cardinal Ratzinger are that the liturgy is something that is given to the Church, and is thus prior to the authority of the pope. The pope has a duty to respect the mystery of the liturgy, as if that mystery exists independently of his will. It is precisely in tradition that the liturgy exists; indeed, it is impossible, historically, to separate the idea of liturgy from its roots in tradition. To disrespect the tradition of the liturgy would then be to disrespect the very nature of right worship. The pope, no less than all other Catholics is subject to this same principle. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Propers for the Second Sunday after Easter

INTROIT Ps. 32:5-6
The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, alleluia! By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 32:1. Rejoice in the Lord, you just; praise befits the upright.
V. Glory Be . . .

You raised up our fallen world, O God, by the humiliation of Your own Son. May we, Your faithful people, be always joyful on earth, and, by being rescued from the danger of eternal death, come to everlasting happiness in heaven. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .

EPISTLE I Peter 2:21-25
Beloved: Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth." When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 

Alleluia, alleluia. V. Luke 24:33
The disciples recognized the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Alleluia!
V. John 10:14. I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and mine know me. Alleluia!

GOSPEL John 10:11-16.
At that time, Jesus said to the Pharisees: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 
"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."

O God, my God, for You do I watch at the break of day; and I lift up my hands in Your name, alleluia!

May this holy offering bring us the blessing of salvation, O Lord, and may the mystery of the sacrifice which we here perform, work its effect in us. Through Our Lord . . .

I am the good shepherd, alleluia!
And I Know my sheep, and mine know me, alleluia, alleluia!

O Almighty God, may we always proudly rejoice in Your Gift of grace, which has brought us back to life again. Through Our Lord . . .