Tuesday, July 10


Sacrosanctum Concilium To Go (Para 7-8)

In our continuing quest for authentic liturgical renewal, all the more possible in light of Summorum Pontificum, we continue our opportunity to read & discuss Vatican II's Constitution on the Liturgy.

Actual Text, 7-8

7. To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross" (Council of Trent, Session XXII), but especially under the eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes (Augustine, Tractatus in Ioannem, VI, n. 7). He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).

Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father.

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ[NB: Recall the definition of leitourgia as "service done by one on behalf of many others"]. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.

8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle (Apoc. 21:2; Col. 3:1; Heb. 8:2); we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4.).

Brief Reflection

The Second Vatican Council strongly reiterates the Thomistic position of the liturgy as entirely the work of Christ: Christ the priest offering and Christ the victim offered. Again, then, the the work or leitourgia of Christ is the work of redemption flowing from the Cross, done once in history; and the sacramental liturgy is again the work of Christ, done only by Christ, re-presented to us down through the ages and under the symbols of persons, words, bread, wine, oil, etc. In the sacramental liturgy (which is celebrated by the Church that is the foundational Sacrament, para 1), Christ efficaciously re-presents His saving work through the physical representation of these objects and persons, but it is really Christ who acts.

This is the necessary background to understand the Council's highlighting of Christ's four-fold presence at the Mass: Christ present in the priest, the people, the Gospel, and "especially" in the Blessed Sacrament. This four-fold presence of Christ is misunderstood unless one realizes that each mode of presence has a different effect or end and is not a goal in itself. If the simple presence of Christ were the goal in each mode of His presence, then it becomes difficult to say that the Blessed Sacrament is preeminent over the other forms: but Christ, through the ministry of the ordained priests acting in persona Christi capitis, speaks the Gospel (His presence in the Word) to the Body of Christ (the congregation) to prepare them for the encounter with His Personal, Real Presence in the Eucharist: and it is in the Eucharist that Christ "remains with us" (Lk 24:19) so that we can fulfill what Cardinal Ratzinger called the Christian vocation--simply "to be with Jesus." The sacramental encounter in the Bread of Life is the goal towards which everything flows.

The four-fold presence of Christ in the Mass, then, is dynamically oriented towards the encounter with Him in the Blessed Sacrament itself. The important qualification that Christ is present in the Word to lead people to meet Him in the Eucharist, that Christ is present in the people as the Body which receives the ministry of its priestly Head, can obscure the Council's true teaching that the Eucharist, as such, is the source and summit of the Christian life.

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