We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, he draws us to himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Integras, claritas and consonantia: Tradition's beauty in the liturgical reflections of Robert Cardinal Sarah.

This brief essay developed from the idea of posting a 'quote of the day'.

One can hardly do justice to the rich thought of Cardinal Robert Sarah in an 872 word essay. It is hoped that this post will in some small way contribute to the wider circulation of his thought.

It is this blogger's hope that the more frequently Tradition-minded bloggers reach out to people of goodwill, the more likely the liturgical narrative in the Church will begin to shift toward genuine roots and thus make more likely a shift of the celebration of the Mass toward a more God-centred focus.

Given his strong and natural deference to Tradition, his Eminence Cardinal Sarah might likely contend that he is merely handing on what the Church has always taught and everywhere believed.
H/T Catholic Herald, UK

The cardinal continued by emphasising that that the liturgy is not a celebration of our own achievements but God’s love and mercy. He said: “We do not come to the Church to celebrate what we have done or who we are. Rather, we come to celebrate and give thanks for all that Almighty God has done, and continues in His love and mercy to do, for us.

“What He does in the liturgy is what is essential; what we do is to present our ‘first fruits’—the best that we can—in worship and adoration. When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’ there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and of his personality, becoming too central.

H/T NLM Address to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka: Liturgical Life and the Priesthood.

But we must also teach our people what the Sacred Liturgy is. In recent decades in some countries the Sacred Liturgy has become too anthropocentric; man not Almighty God has often become its focus. [...] (W)e must take care to form our people that God, not ourselves, is the focus of our worship. We do not come to the Church to celebrate what we have done or who we are. Rather, we come to celebrate and give thanks for all that Almighty God has done, and continues in His love and mercy to do, for us. What He does in the liturgy is what is essential; what we do is to present our ‘first fruits’—the best that we can—in worship and adoration. When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’ there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and of his personality, becoming too central. In every Catholic liturgy, the Church, made up of both minister and faithful, gives her complete focus – body, heart and mind – to God who is the centre of our lives and the origin of every blessing and grace. With this in mind, I wish to strongly encourage you to take time to prayerfully read and reflect the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, keeping in mind the intention and spirit of the Council Fathers.
His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, manages to epitomize the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas about beauty. The character and content of Cardinal Sarah's reflections bring to mind the following:
  • completeness or wholeness (integras or perfectio)
  • clarity or radiance (claritas)
  • consonance, harmony and proportion (consonantia, debita proportio)
ST Ia 39.8 resp: “Nam ad pulchritudinem tria requiruntur. Primo quidem, integritas sive perfectio: quae enim diminuta sunt, hoc ipso turpia sunt. Et debita proportio sive consonantia. Et iterum claritas: unde quae habent colorem nitidum, pulchra esse dicuntur”.—cf., http://www.thomasaquinas.edu/pdfs/travis-cooper-sats13.pdf, p. 14.
Beauty itself seems to saturate and undergird all that His Eminence Cardinal Sarah hands on regarding the Catholic liturgical patrimony. His is a song, a melody borrowed from the great symphonies of the Church, especially Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Given the times in which we live, marred as they are by a widespread attachment to crude and cheerless things, many people highly affected by complacent thinking miss the obvious in Cardinal Sarah's highly nuanced liturgical vocabulary. The same low-information Catholics miss the obvious about the direction in which the priest is supposed to pray the Mass. Beyond any dispute or sophistry imposed by idolatrous versus populum fanatics, the orientation of the Mass explicitly set forth in the rubrics of the GIRM is ad orientem worship.

Imagine the changes for the better in parish liturgies if priests and bishops found it within themselves to reconnect with the Church's living patrimony, i.e., Tradition. Imagine a parish in which the Sacred Liturgy is truly sacred, drawing on the Church's rich legacy of sacred music, for example. If the imagination is formed according to the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of God, the life and witness of each believer will be, more likely than not, authentically configured for worship and, importantly, for evangelization. Otherwise, if pastors and parishioners remain stoned on the opiate of banal liturgy introduced in seminaries in the 1960s and 1970s, the stench of mediocrity which lingers to this day, the same people will avoid the mission to save souls because they have allowed their hearts and minds to be formed according to the many drugs which inhibit enthusiasm for salvation: universalism; the false belief of once-saved-always-savedall religions are the same and equally goodgradualism.

If, then, we understand the necessity of a rightly oriented Mass, the phrase made famous by Fr. Z and others becomes something more than a mere slogan. "Save the Liturgy, save the world" is a canon which properly orients the new evangelization. The new evangelization is nothing if it does not begin with and reach toward the "source and summit of the Christian life", the Sacred Liturgy. If people cannot "see" the Liturgy for Who and what it is, i.e., communion with Jesus Christ and His Church, because it is obscured by trite music, heterodox preaching, alien gestures and awkward improvisations, the entire enterprise of witnessing to the Gospel falls far, far short of its potential and becomes a mere human enterprise driven by ego serving a numbers game.

The focus of the Mass must shift away from what Cardinal Sarah has diagnosed as a highly problematic orientation that is, sadly, very much in vogue. That problematic orientation contradicts the mind of the Church which, any serious Catholic with a developed sense of history and revelation believes, mirrors the mind of God and God's will for His people.

The Sacraments were established by Jesus Christ. His divine will is imprinted upon the Sacraments. The question, then, for anyone interested in the actual meaning of the Mass is: Does the will of the priest (or should that be each liturgist?) conform to the design of the Sacraments willed by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity?

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