Happy Easter!

He is Risen!

For years, I have not wanted to be anywhere else but at my home parish for Christmas and Easter since the way we observe these holy days is so wonderful.

I especially love the Easter Vigil, which we observed by candlelight from the bringing in of the Paschal fire, the blessing of the Paschal candle, the singing of the Exsultet, through the readings of the prophecies, right up to the singing of the Gloria.

So, I think of the profound meaning and beauty of the liturgy, the sacrifice of the Mass, the inspired words of Scripture, the glory of the historical fact that Jesus Christ is Risen, that He is alive, as a backdrop to some further consideration of the document produced by a pre-synodal gathering of young people in Rome.

Andrea Gagliarducci at his always interesting Monday Vatican post looks at the document and he nails what is problematic about it:

The problems lie behind these issues, though. Both the lineamenta (guidelines) and the preparation of the Synod on Youth has played out in terms of sociological surveys. These were also the premises for the pre-Synod, and for the drafting of the document.

-snip-

Again, the issue is not about the youth in the Catholic Church. The problem lies in the questions posed, in the way the discussion was oriented. The approach is totally lacking in looking at the experience of God and faith, together with the notion of the reasonability of faith. It does not mean that young people in the Church do not seek these experiences and share these notions. The problem is that these issues were not among the themes presented to the youth.

These are the main themes for evangelizing by the Church, encompassing all the important subjects. But just as in communication, including Vatican communication, marketing has replaced the importance of content; in everyday life the sociological categories replaced philosophical ones. Questions about the inner sense of life are missing, while there is a drift toward a general outlook that is lacking in the profound truth.

That is the crucial point.

Go on over and read the whole thing, because by reducing everything to sociological categories and marketing, trying to be popular with trendy issues so as to engage youth, means the Gospel is not being preached  and the Catholic Church is no longer holding herself out as the the Church of Christ with the answers to all the philosophical and religious questions —Who am I?  Why have I come into existence?  What is truth?  How do I live a good life? and so on.

Every generation is hungry for answers to those questions and young people especially are seeking to understand their identity.  Why can’t the Catholic Church do a better job of ensuring they come to know their identity in Christ?  How can she ensure they have an encounter with Christ so that everything in the liturgy suddenly takes on deep significance rather than something followed by rote, half-consciously, while the mind is miles away chattering on about this or that.

Rod Dreher has an interesting post that takes a look at the coming collapse of Christian Colleges.  He includes some long quotes from the writing of others.

Among them a quote from Dean Abbott’s blog on Patheos about why the strategy among evangelicals of engaging the culture no longer works.

Abbott writes:

The idea behind the “engaging the culture” movement was that, rather than withdrawing from the surrounding culture as their fundamentalist cousins did, evangelicals should go forth to meet it. The expected outcome of this going forth was a revival of Christian faith.

-snip-

What this plan never took into account is the dynamics of social status. Evangelicals sought to engage the culture by being relevant, by creating works of art , by offering good arguments for their positions. None of these addressed the real problem: that Christian belief simply isn’t cool, and that very few people want to lower their social status by identifying publicly with it.

Many evangelicals sensed something was going on. They responded as though the problem were a matter of style rather than content. They created churches calculated to prove evangelicals could be as hip as anyone else. The result was churches that had rocking worship bands, superb lighting, a million cool programs and no cultural impact.

The only lasting success to come from this trend was to make the hip pastor in a goatee and skinny jeans a universal object of derision. When the elites see him, they aren’t impressed. Rather than seeing someone so cool they want to emulate him, they see desperation. They see a low-status guy craving their approval, and they are rightly repulsed.

In my work as a journalist, I am writing about the way a secularist, ideological agenda pushed by government and quasi-government bodies such as law societies or physicians, nurses and teachers colleges that accredit people in those professions is ensuring people with the wrong beliefs or conscientious objection to some moral practices are barred from those professions.

Policies within banks and large corporations may soon force people with traditional religious views to either endorse this or that aspect of the secularist ideology or face disciplinary action or firing.

It’s not a great evangelistic tool to tell people, “Become a follower of Jesus and be treated as the off-scouring of the world!” or is it?

I dunno. The consequences were even greater in the first decades of the Church’s existence.

Dreher writes:

But we have to be realistic. What I am suggesting — no, what I am shouting from the rooftops — is that the environment in which traditional Christian colleges and educational institutions work is rapidly changing: politically, legally, and culturally. We cannot count on anything anymore. As the NPR story indicates, this is not only a problem coming from outside the churches (meaning from politics and law) but also from inside the church (with the collapse among the young of traditional Biblical teaching about homosexuality). Somehow, faithful small-o orthodox Christians have to figure out how to educate within this hostile new heterodoxy. We will have to form new institutions, ones built to be resilient in the face of anti-Christian modernity.

Be aware too that the orthodox within Christian colleges will be savagely attacked by their colleagues within these colleges because their orthodoxy will be correctly seen as a threat to the colleges’ continued viability (as well as to the social and professional status of faculty there). Look what’s happening now at the very conservative Taylor University, for example.

And more broadly: if you are a Christian who is not prepared to be despised and exiled from elite social and professional circles over your faith, then your faith won’t be strong enough to withstand what’s here, and what’s to come. This is a hard truth, but one you had better confront now.

4 thoughts on “Happy Easter!

  1. I’m splitting my reply into two comments because this post addresses two topics that deserve two separate threads of discussion. Let’s start with the subject in the first couple paragraphs of the OP — the celebration of the Pascal Triduum in the communities of the ordinariate.

    I’m presuming that the Divine Worship missal contains rites for the three principal celebrations of the Pascal Triduum — the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion (historically, popularly known as the “Mass of the Preconsecrated” even though it is not, and never was, a mass) on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on the evening of Holy Saturday.

    But these are rites that have quite a legacy in the Catholic Church. Historically, they had been “anticipated” — that is, celebrated well before the proper hour — in the Roman Rite. At the start of the 20th century, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was commonly celebrated in the morning on Thursday, the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion was commonly celebrated in the morning on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil was commonly celebrated on the morning of Holy Saturday. This situation endured until the mid-1950’s, when Pope Pius XII restored these celebrations to their proper times.

    I’m not sure when the custom of “anticipation” of the principal services began, but most customs that existed in the Roman Rite in the first half of the 20th century existed at the time of the Reformation and were entrenched by the Council of Trent. Thus, they were typically the practices that were known to, and variously adopted or rejected by, most Protestant denominations and by the Church of England as well. What’s less clear to me is the question of when, and to what extent, the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Communion might have restored the principal services of the Paschal Triduum to their proper times.

    So the question that came to me over the weekend is whether, and to what extent, the celebration of the principal liturgies of the Paschal Triduum according to the Divine Worship missal reflects the patrimony and prior practice of those who have come to the ordinariates from the Anglican Communion and from various “continuing Anglican” bodies. What is your experience in this regard?

    Norm.

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    1. Minor correction: it’s Mass of the Presanctified (or Missa Praesanctificatorum, not “Preconsecrated”), and it was its official (not merely popular) name until it was changed in 1955. I don’t know if DW:TM uses the term, but the two OCSP parishes of which I have been a member both used the term in our publications.

      To my knowledge, all Ordinariate parishes follow the times prescribed by liturgical law since 55 (as do, again to my knowledge, those traditional communities that have received Ecclesia Dei’s three-year ad experimentum indult for using pre-Pius XII Holy Week texts and rubrics.

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  2. Now, to the second subject of this post: I firmly believe that the pre-synodal document is exposing major deficiencies in the formation of young people. The deficiencies lie in two areas: (1) deficient catechesis, creating a situation in which many young people lack an adequate understanding of the faith and thus fail to embrace essential doctrine and (2) lack of personal commitment to live faith-filled and prayerful lives. The “sociological surveys” that the author trashes in fact reflect what the respondents actually believe and the way in which they are living, and thus reflect precisely the issues, the problems, and the deficiencies that the upcoming synod must address.

    As to engaging the culture, an evangelist must meet people and connect with them where they are, both physically and spiritually, in order to present the gospel in a manner that is relevant to their context. Here, the example of the apostle is instructive.

    I Corinthians 9:19-23: Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    I rather think that Evangelical Christianity is split into two camps. One camp is orthodox to a “T” and would not dream of deviating from gospel values. The other camp preaches a “feel-good” gospel, in one form or another, that pays lip service to a commitment of faith and while devoid of real salvific power. The “feel-good” gospel can take on several forms — prosperity, diversity, acceptance, social outreach, etc. — all of which push salvation rooted in the paschal mystery — the central reality of Christian faith — off to the side. True Christian outreach never pushes the paschal mystery off to the side. Rather, true Christian outreach flows from the paschal mystery, and the orientation of any social welfare component is to open the door to the gospel.

    But then again, the “feel-good” agenda exists among some members of the Catholic Church, too. I have encountered several parishes where the only requirements for confirmation were (1) showing up for classes and (2) participation in some service project chosen by the coordinator that had no spiritual dimension whatsoever. There’s something seriously wrong with this!

    As to supposedly Christian colleges and universities… well, God has no use for institutions that do not serve the gospel. The fact that supposedly Christian colleges and universities that are not faithful to the gospel is not a surprise, just like the fact that congregations and denominations that are not faithful to the gospel are losing parishioners is not a surprise.

    When I see a congregation that’s struggling, either financially or in other ways, the first thing that I examine is what’s being preached from its pulpit. Rarely is its message the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Norm.

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  3. It is my understanding that the Triduum in the Divine Worship Missal is essentially the ordinary Roman Rite form with Anglican texts, where possible. From my own limited experience of Anglo-Catholic worship before becoming a Roman Catholic, and knowledge of local high church Anglican practice, I would say that in general most high Anglican parishes follow the post-1955 pattern of Roman Catholic worship (e.g. Easter Vigil late on Saturday evening, not “anticipated” on Saturday morning).

    Here is what Bishop Lopes wrote about the Triduum rites in his Hillenbrand Lecture on Divine Worship last year:

    By way of introducing the Paschal Triduum, it may be worth noting again that no less than six different liturgical books were being used by Ordinariate communities at the time the Commission began its work. When looking at Holy Week in particular, the variety was rather disorienting. I don’t mind saying that this is a point where the Holy See “steered” the work of the Commission in setting the parameters for the celebration of the Paschal Triduum within the Ordinariates. This is understandable if you approach liturgy not as the expression of personal preference or insights, but as a fundamentally ecclesial act.

    The Missal attempts to achieve balance: balance between essential unity and legitimate diversity, between the universal and the particular, between Roman patrimony and Anglican patrimony. This desire for balance is reflected in Rome’s decisions regarding the rites for the Paschal Triduum. On the one hand, it was decided that Catholic unity would be best expressed if the overall shape and structure of the Triduum is simply that of the normative Roman Rite. Ordinariate parishes and communities celebrate the central liturgy of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord in communion with the universal Church. On the other hand, diversity and patrimony is expressed in these rites in that the texts themselves are drawn from the Anglican sources and therefore enrich the celebration. The result is an integral whole and not simply a shuffling together of pieces from various sources. Most of the rubrics which guide the liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and in the Easter Vigil will be nearly identical to those of the Roman Missal, third typical edition. The sequence of scriptural readings, notably those of the Easter Vigil, have been harmonized with the Lectionary. Some flexibility has been worked into the rubrics to take account for local traditions (musical options and vestment color, for example). Great care was taken that there be an integrity and internal coherence to the shape of the celebration of the Paschal Triduum so that it exemplifies essential ecclesial unity, while allowing some legitimate diversity, in the fullness of Catholic communion.

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