That conservative religious commentator and recent convert to Catholicism, Tess Livingstone, has been upsetting Fr Daniel Donovan in another article in The Australian newspaper. This time over the attempts of one curial cardinal trying to overturn the Vatican II insights into the Eucharist. Are these people trying to re-introduce Jansenism as the meanstream of Catholic belief and practise? In this two-part series, Fr Donovan examines what is happening and (tomorrow) provides an alternative exegesis of the understanding of Eucharist in the early Church and how that was revived at the Second Vatican Council. Where are the majority of our bishops raising their voices in protest at what is being done to Catholicism, and to the work of the great majority of their predecessors at the Second Vatican Council? Who authorised this take-over of Catholicism by this remnant minority and these latter-day converts to Catholicism who are attempting to turn the insights discerned by the great majority of the world's bishops on their head?
Re-Inventing the Wheel: Vatican and Receiving Eucharist
The Australian (Thursday, August 4 2011, p. 8) is at it again publishing unsubstantiated headlines on Catholic Eucharist. This time the headline reads "Catholics must bow to Christ". [NOTE: The headline in the online edition reads: "Vatican call to formalise communion ritual".] As usual the opponents in the report are the same "a high Vatican official" in the red corner and "the infuriated modernist" in the blue corner. Of course the outcome of the match is always the same with the Vatican official delivering the knock-out punch leaving the infuriated modernist flat on the canvas considering his or her options. While the referee (in this case National Liturgical Council executive secretary, Peter Williams) provides the count! Surprisingly, the article would appear to place more weight on a statement from the National Liturgical Council than from Vatican II which was a General Council of the Church?
Indeed the comments by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments are not correctly reflected in the headline. The recipients are not "bowing to Christ" but rather "recognising the real presence of Christ" in the Eucharist. The language of this and other articles submitted by this reporter on Catholic liturgical practices in The Australian creates the impression that she is not a traditional Catholic but rather has her ceremonial roots in another Christian denomination. Do Cardinal Llovera's comments in Peru actually "reflect the Pope's desire to tighten up liturgical practices, a trend that includes the new, more formal translation of the mass"? Catholic liturgy has never been shaped by papal desires and or trends but rather from a consensus of the whole Church.
Eucharist in the Catholic Tradition theologically, is an action of the whole body of Christ, head and members. It is the central act of praise and worship and is the community's obedient response to Jesus' command "Do this in memory of me".
As such the liturgical action involves the four distinctive actions of Jesus; to take, to bless, to break and to give. At the Offertory, the whole body takes the gifts ("fruits of the earth and work of human hands ... these gifts will become our spiritual food and drink"). Then through the Eucharistic Prayer, the community and the gifts of bread and wine are transformed and blessed in the power of the Spirit. The fruits of the earth are now the presence of the risen Saviour and through sharing the transformed gifts the community participates in his victory over sin and death. Augustine was in the habit of communicating his people for the first time not by saying "The Body of Christ", but with the words "Receive what you are".
In the Communion Rite are the final actions of breaking and receiving (giving), the bread is broken and the community remembers the broken body of Jesus and his blood poured out for the salvation of all. Now those who participate in his sacrifice pledge themselves to continue to give of themselves for the salvation of the world. May we become one spirit one body in Christ [Eucharistic Prayer III]. Finally, the community receives "what it is", the body of Christ. Now the sacrifice is complete, now the community goes forth to be Eucharist and to continue God's mission in the world. Only a person whether he or she be a Church official or a new convert who fails to comprehend the unified action which is the Eucharist in the Catholic Tradition could believe that outward cultural signs of reverence be stressed as against a thorough developmental catechesis of the Eucharist as the perfect act of praise and thanksgiving through Jesus to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the "new, more formal translations of the mass" will never compensate for "internal participation" in the mystery of Christ and commensurate catechesis to deepen and support that participation. True reverence for Jesus present in the Eucharist is not about external prescribed gestures irrespective of their origin intended purpose.
Liturgical Practices: Ghost of Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638)
Were the author of the report in The Australian, more familiar with the Catholic Tradition then she would be aware of the heresy of Bishop Cornelius Jansen of Ypres (1585-1638) and his school at Port Royal in Paris. Unfortunately, both the Catholics and the Reformers at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) had failed to develop a critical analysis of the thought of St Augustine especially, his theology of grace and human justification. Following the Council through the 17th and 18th centuries Jansenism was a distinct Movement in the Church regarding itself as "rigorous followers of Augustinism". Therefore in the "desire to tighten the liturgical practices" around the reception of communion not only is "the desire" completely at odds with the theology of Eucharist as a unified sacrificial action of the whole body of Christ but it also has overtones of the Jansenist heresy.
Under the Abbess, Mother Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661) the convent at Port Royal in Paris (1625) became the hotbed of Jansenism. Eventually, Mother Angelique's brother, Antoine Arnauld became the "chief proponent" of Jansenism and in 1643 published a book, On Frequent Communion, which made available Jansen's teachings in French. The Jesuits were quick to critique Jansen's views that people were unworthy to receive communion and in fact Jesus actually instituted this sacrament as a means of holiness for sinners. The Jesuits taught that there were only two requirements to receive the Eucharist; the first was that the person must be baptised and the second was that he or she must not be in serious sin. The Jansenists on the other hand, "discouraged frequent Communion, arguing that a high degree of perfection, including purification from attachment to venial sin, was necessary before approaching the Sacrament."
At the time of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Church had to institute the Easter Duty which was a law requiring that the people would receive communion "once a year". Because it was assumed that the people would have committed sin, the Council required that they receive absolution prior to their yearly communion and thereby receive the Eucharist "worthily". From the early days of the Church the Eucharist was the action of the whole community but gradually, the Eucharist became the reserve of the clergy (circa 500) the people's participation declined with a greater emphasis on adoration of the consecrated species. The people by 1215 then were not receiving communion and so there was a law requiring that they receive the Sacrament "once a year".
Concludes tomorrow: where Fr Donovan takes a look at the understanding of Eucharist/Communion in the early Church and how that understanding was revived by the Second Vatican Council [LINK]
Fr Daniel Donovan
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©2011 Fr Daniel Donovan