Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hermeneutics of Continuity

Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia reports about the Mass of the Baptism of the Lord tomorrow at the Vatican.

Whispers in the Loggia

The interesting note is, of course, that the Pope will be celebrating Mass ad orientum. This will of course get many reactions, I am sure, by various Catholic outlets determined to ensure the Church knows what the "spirit of Vatican II" is all about.

But despite the impending negative press by people of such a view, I see it as a hopeful sign.

I love the Liturgy. I am blessed to be in a parish where the Liturgy is celebrated in solemnity and reverence. I know, too, that the general state of the Liturgy hasn't quite reached its fulfillment yet (I shouldn't say I know, but from the studying I've done, it seems the liturgy still has some "balancing out" to do).

I am very happy with Msgr. Marini as the new Papal MC. He is doing many things on a step by step basis, and is someone who seems much more within the mindset of B XVI. I too, I think, am more within the tradition of thought that BXVI proposes.

And I think the basis of this is his understanding of the hermeneutics of continuity.

Essentially, the hermeneutics of continuity is a study of the idea of continuity within the Church's 2000 year-old tradition from the perspective of which it is proposed throughout the history of thought.

Now, I think BXVI's beef is with the fact that we seemed to lose the idea of continuity in the Church, which is an attack not only on the central nature of the Church, but an attack about the effects the Incarnation has on the world. The denial of continuity for Benedict is, surprise surprise, a Christological denial. We of course know that Benedict is not a fan of the denial of Christ's importance, nor, of course, should any Catholic.

I think the tremors of afterquakes from the Council were to be expected. It is the nature of councils, and, in a certain sense, at least initially, it had to do with the excitement that is attached to the experience of a council. Everyone wants it disseminated immediately. This is where human frailty comes into the equation. The Church does things in years, not months, and so the idea of quickly implementing everything on the part of bishops and the lay people could easily be seen as a mistake.

The Council, just as all authoritative statements and decrees from the Church, must be read in the light of the Church's total experience. This is where the "spirit of Vatican II" began. They no longer look at the Church and the totality of her experience, but only what the "spirit of the council" has to say, as if the Council is the only authority in the matter of our lives. This is contrary, though, to the nature and experience of the Church.

So, the Liturgy was obviously effected by such a mindset, and, I think, the Liturgy shows us the direction of the Church, since the Liturgy is the work of God. And this is the error that has entered into our understanding of the Liturgy: It is the work and expression of man's encounter with God. In reality, though, it is the other way around. If the liturgy is the work of God, then more properly is it the expression of God's encounter with man, for it is the work which Christ has guided, and it is in the Liturgy that Christ reconciles us with the Father. Thus to speak of the human dimension of the Liturgy as primary is an essential error, it denies God's principle and primary role as the true Celebrant of the Liturgy.

This brings us to the hermeneutics of continuity. According to this study of continuity, we see that it is essential in the Church's tradition of God's seeking of her. God has constantly sought us and it is in the Liturgy that this profound encounter happens at its most perfect level. To thus take away things from the Liturgy because they are "pre-Vatican II" is contrary to the Church's experience. The way the Liturgy can be expressed, its form, can of course change over the centuries. This is part of the Church's experience and is expressed in various liturgical decrees. But to say that the Novus Ordo has no connection with the extraordinary form of the Mass and all other forms of the Mass is to be contrary to the principle and experience of continuity in the Church.

Thus, Benedict is simply affirming Christ's central role in the Church and the Church's nature. What Benedict with the help of Msgr. Marini have been doing is attempting to re-establish the centrality of continuity, because this puts Christ back into the equation. And to remedy the "spirit of Vatican II" problem, Benedict understands that there must be dialogue with the past, because the past, by virtue of Christ's Incarnation, is always able to be made present to us, in a certain sense, the past never ceases to exist, and so it is proper to have a dialogue with it so that continuity is properly expressed in all the Church says and does so that we can put Christ back at the center of our lives.

I am currently working on an essay on this topic with further and deeper research with the hopes of having it published somewhere.


1 comment:

Owen said...

I read the documents of Vatican II about the time I became a Catholic and thought: "How could anyone misconstrue that this is an affirmation of the Church's traditional teaching, albeit in a new way?" I agree about BXVI. He may not have the magnetism of JPII, but he's thought deeply about the Church and has some real solutions to the challenges of modernity.

I hope one day to hear your homilies as a priest.