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Vlas Karpov
Vlas Karpov

The Spirit In The Liturgy

For its part, the Hellenistic Logos-mysticism, however grand and beautiful, allows the body to fall into insubstantiality. The hope for spiritual ascent and universal reunion conforms to the Gnostic pattern of which we spoke earlier. Something is missing.

The Spirit in the Liturgy

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With synagogue worship, there was not just reading or learning from Scripture, but a kind of liturgy of the Word, since the Temple had been destroyed and words of prayer were now the only true worship that could be given. However, the synagogue retained motifs of Temple worship, such as the scrolls/scripture being in a sort of Holy of Holies and facing toward Jerusalem.

Here Ratzinger begins by looking at the development of liturgical art in the very beginnings of Church history, which included images such as the flood, the fiery furnace, or Jesus as shepherd (common themes in those times). But he says these were not merely images depicting some events that are now past. They were part of the reality of the Incarnation, God taking up finite matter and life up into His infinite realm, which happened in the sacraments. The sacraments in turn are pulling us in, calling us to look toward the oriens, the east, and be taken beyond ourselves. What is depicted in the image is made present in reality during the course of the liturgy.

The East and West were not very different in regard to images before the thirteenth century. They had developed iconography along the lines of the early Church, but the iconoclasm heresy led to a maturation and renewal of iconography as a spiritual reality. Art was a process that started in prayer and was meant to end in prayer, an internal reality. In the same way that the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until their eyes were opened, so the icon is not a portrait of Jesus, but a call to open our eyes to His presence.

Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. (198)

When I came into the Church almost 22 years ago, I entered into an entirely new way of living, worshiping and understanding the world and my place in it. I came as a Christian, one who already believed, but I came to Catholicism not as a rejection of my Baptist upbringing, but as a means of fulfilling it, broadening it. In Protestantism, I sensed, something was missing, and the crucial factor that was absent was the liturgy.

Guardini and Ratzinger underscore this fundamental symbiotic principle. Just as, at a vegetative level, man is what he eats, so also he becomes, at a spiritual level, what he worships. We are either imitators of Christ or enthusiasts of the ephemeral. Our two authors thus lead us to appreciate the purpose of the liturgy: the reverent worship of God and the salvation of man.

Let us, then, truly live from the sacred liturgy, which surpasses all other acts, for no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.[10] In so doing we discover the spirit and power of the sacred liturgy, and, if I may be so bold, this is the right way of celebrating the liturgy, inwardly and outwardly, that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has so earnestly sought.

The effects of this theory have been disastrous. Priesthood and sacrifice are no longer intelligible. The comprehensive "fulfillment" of pre-Christian salvation history and the inner unity of the two Testaments disappear from view. Deeper understanding of the matter is bound to recognize that the Temple, as well as the synagogue, entered into Christian liturgy.

It is never just an event in the life of a community that finds itself in a particular place. No, to celebrate the Eucharist means to enter into the openness of a glorification of God that embraces both heaven and earth, and openness effected by the Cross and Resurrection. Christian liturgy is never just an event organized by a particular group or set of people or even by a particular local Church.

In the early Church, prayer towards the east was regarded as an apostolic tradition. We cannot date exactly when this turn to the east, the diverting of the gaze from the Temple, took place, but it is certain that it goes back to the earliest times and was always regarded as an essential characteristic of Christian liturgy (and indeed of private prayer).

Unspontaneity is of their essence. In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation. This is why the Christian East calls the liturgy the "Divine Liturgy", expressing thereby the liturgy's independence from human control.

After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition. . . . The greatness of the liturgy depends - we shall have to repeat this frequently - on its unspontaneity (Unbeliebigkeit).

This action of God, which takes place through human speech, is the real "action" for which all creation is in expectation. The elements of the earth are transubstantiated, pulled, so to speak, from their creaturely anchorage, grasped at the deepest ground of their being, and changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord. The New Heaven and the New Earth are anticipated. The real "action" in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential.

Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. In about the third century, there was an attempt in certain Gnostic-Docetic circles to introduce it into the liturgy. For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. . . . Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes - incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy - none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy as the "reasonable sacrifice". It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy "attractive" by introducing dancing pantomimes (wherever possible performed by professional dance troupes), which frequently (and rightly, from the professionals' point of view) end with applause. Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.

None of the Christian rites include dancing. What people call dancing in the Ethiopian rite or the Zairean [Congolese] form of the Roman liturgy is in fact a rhythmically ordered procession, very much in keeping with the dignity of the occasion. It provides an inner discipline and order for the various stages of the liturgy, bestowing on them beauty and, above all, making them worthy of God.

Pope Benedict XVI is at home using concepts and facts from various fields of study, giving the reader a rich background in history and ideas. But he never loses focus on his original intention to use these as brushes with which to paint a theology of the Christian liturgy.

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) is recognized as one of the most brilliant theologians and spiritual leaders of our age. As pope he authored the best-selling Jesus of Nazareth. Prior to his pontificate, he wrote many influential books important for the contemporary Church, such as Introduction to Christianity and The Spirit of the Liturgy.

Because the Spirit fulfills the Old Covenant, the liturgy retains certain Old Covenant elements (such as readings from the Old Testament, the praying of the Psalms and the recalling of the saving events, especially the Exodus and the Passover).

The Church's catechesis reveals the mystery of Christ which is hidden in Old Testament images. The flood, Noah's ark, the cloud, and the crossing of the Red Sea symbolize Baptism. The water from the Rock prefigures the spiritual gifts of Christ, and the manna prefigures the Eucharist, "the true bread from heaven" (Jn 6:32).

Knowing the Jewish people's faith helps us to understand the Christian liturgy. The structure of the Liturgy of the Word originates in Jewish prayer. The Eucharistic Prayers draw inspiration from the Jewish tradition. However, the differences between the two are important. Christians and Jews both celebrate the Passover, but the Jews see it as history, while Christians see the Passover as being fulfilled by Jesus' death and Resurrection (while still expecting its divine fulfillment).

In every liturgical action, the Holy Spirit (the sap of the Father's vine) brings about fruit. He abides indefectibly in the Church and makes the Church the great sacrament of divine communion. Communion with the Trinity and other believers are the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, University chancellor and archbishop of Washington, was unable to attend due to a meeting of the College of Cardinals at the Vatican. Bishop Burbidge said he was honored to have been asked by Cardinal Gregory to celebrate the Mass, whom he said joined in spirit. 041b061a72


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