Saturday, June 14, 2008

Recent Bulletin Columns

Here are some excerpts from recent bulletin columns that you might enjoy:

First from the May 25th:

...I wanted to try to answer a question that was put in the Liturgical Question Box. The question is this “I have noticed that the Pope has been wearing older style robes. Does this mean we are going back to the old ways?”

That is a very good question and one that I think has been on minds of a lot of people lately. Yes, the Holy Father has been wearing some styles of vestments that we have not seen for quite awhile; vestments that many associate with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. These styles of vestments are one style of many styles that we have had throughout the History of the Church. As times change so do vestments, and sometimes for very practical reasons. For instance, before air conditioning was common vestments tended to be smaller and not so heavy so that the priest wouldn’t become so hot during the summer months. The thing to remember is that all the various styles and forms of vestments are acceptable. A priest is able to choose from all styles that have been approved over the centuries, and that is what the Holy Father is doing. He is showing that there is continuity between the past, the present, and the future. He is showing us that was holy at one time in our history is certainly still holy now.

So, as warmer weather approaches, and I begin my usual excessive summer time sweating, don’t be surprised if you see smaller, lighter vestments. And if you do see them, please don’t think it is some sort of sign that we are going to start celebrating Mass in Latin or in the Extraordinary Form, rather see it as sign that I am hot and trying to stay cool. Nothing more, nothing less.
Second from June 8th: I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are many styles of vestments that have been used for the Celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the centuries, and all of them are acceptable to be used. Given that I tend to sweat a lot (some of you noticed this at Mass this last Sunday). and summer has just barely begun, in the next couple of weeks, depending on the weather, you may see a new vestment. Some of you may associate this particular style of vestment with the Mass in Latin, but it is not associated only with Mass in Latin, but also with Mass in Italian, German, Polish, French, Spanish, Swahili, and yes, even English. Some may be tempted to make assumptions that because I am wearing this particular style vestment that I intend to start saying Mass in Latin. Let me assure you, the wearing of this vestment has nothing to do with Latin, it has everything to do with me not overheating or sweating profusely during Mass. It is also a good reminder that we should never forget our history which is varied, rich and full of great beauty.

And this one from June 15:

...Last weeks column ended with this phrase: “…we should never forget our history which is varied, rich and full of great beauty.” Below is a continuation on the theme of history.

We all have histories; we have personal histories, family histories, community histories, national histories, many, many more. One of the greatest histories that has ever been lived is the history of the Church. For over two thousand years She has existed, passing on the faith in every generation. Through trials and tribulations, through good times and bad, through persecution and triumph She has been there bringing the hopeful message of Christ to all, and it continues to this day.

From the first days of the Church there has been continuity, an unbroken line of teaching and worship, which winds its way through history. The theme of continuity with the past is one that has been brought to our attention once again by our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict. It seems that one of his greatest concerns is that in the modern world we have a tendency to abandon anything that is old, because we assume that because it is old it is outdated, useless, and boring. When we engage in this sort of wholesale abandonment of things that are deemed “too old” we are, in effect, abandoning our history, we are forgetting where we have come from, we are forgetting the great hardships that our ancestors endured in order to have the very things we are now abandoning. This abandoning of anything “old,” has even found its way into the Church, were there is arising a false distinction between the “old” and the “new.” Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his book entitled “Feast of Faith” said “First of all I must take up the distinction you have just made between “the old belief” and “the new”. I must emphatically deny such a distinction. The Council [Vatican II] has not created any new matter for belief, let alone replaced an old belief with a new one…I must admit that in the wake of the Council a lot of things happened far to quickly and abruptly, with the result that many of the faithful could not see the inner continuity with what had gone before.”

Now, thanks be to God, the Holy Father is trying to restore the lost continuity so that we can respect our history and our ancestors. Recently, in response to a question about why the Holy Father is wearing vestments that are “old,” his Liturgical Master of Ceremonies said "The vestments chosen, as also other particulars of the Rite, are intended to underscore the continuity of the present liturgical celebration with that which characterized in the past the life of the Church. Continuity is the interpretive key, always the exact criteria for reading the Church’s journey through time. This is valid also for liturgy…As one Pope cites in his documents the Pontiffs who precede him, so as to indicate the continuity of the Magisterium of the Church, so in the ambient of liturgy a Pope uses also the vestments and sacred accoutrement of his predecessors to show the same continuity also in his celebrations…”

The Holy Father is providing an example for the whole Church of how we can be sensitive to our history and the hard work of our ancestors that got us to where we are in our history. So when we see things that we may consider “old” and “out of date” try rather to think that these things are reminders of our history, reminders of our ancestors, and reminders of where we have been, for without knowing our history; without knowing where we have come from, we can never know where we are going.