Sins that Cry to Heaven for Vengeance

Rorate has a brief but very good post today, an excerpt from a 20th century manual on the 4 sins that “Cry to heaven for vengeance”.

The four such sins are: Deliberate murder, Sodomy, Oppression of the poor, and Defrauding the laborer of his wages.

First, why does Tradition call these “sins that cry to heaven for vengeance”? Because the Bible, which is the Inspired word of God and which is therefore free from every taint of error, says so. In Gen 4:10, Cain’s murder of Abel is a sin which cries out to God. In Gen 18:20f, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah – sodomy – cry out to God. In Ex 2:23, the cries of the unjustly treated poor Israelites cry out to God. Lastly, in Ja 5:4, wages withheld from laborers cry out to God.

Second, the manual indicates the reason these sins are singled out. It is not that they are the gravest of sins. Hatred of God is the gravest of sins. However, these sins run crucially against the very plan of providential care that God bestows on the world. They run, in particular, against the human economy: The welfare of the human race. They run against human “ecology”.

The manual states that it is “obvious” that they do so. But in our age, blinded by perverse passions, we perhaps no longer “see” the obvious. Hence, some explanation.

1) Murder contradicts the desire for life. All living things desire to live. Murder is the deliberate taking of innocent life. The “object” of the act is the taking of innocent life. In other words, we are not talking about justified capital punishment. We are not talking about justified self-defense. We are not even talking about “collateral damage”. We are talking about an act the aim of which is precisely the taking of innocent life. Such an act is per se malum: Intrinsically evil. No circumstance could ever, in a million years, justify the act. It is an act that is intrinsically opposed to God and his designs. It could never form part of a loving plan of life, neither on the part of the doer nor on the part of the receiver. On the part of the receiver: It deprives the innocent of life. That is its intent. Qua murdered, the murdered simply suffers evil. It may be he does so out of love of his Christian faith, love of his God; thus, he becomes a hero. Not because being murdered is good but because testifying to the only Name that Saves (Jesus) is good. On the part of the doer: It divorces the soul from God. Murder murders the murderer! If society

2) Sodomy contradicts God’s plan to perpetuate life through sexual reproduction. Every bodily living thing not only desires itself to live but is drawn towards acts that will perpetuate its kind. This is an instinct to submit the self to the common good, to serve the future of the kind. In man, this instinct is rationally lived. Thus, man has a rational inclination to submit himself to the task of the perpetuation human race. This involves ordered love, sacrifice, dedication, conformity to the rational plan of nature. But sodomy is intrinsically infertile. It is the use of the sexual instinct opposed to its plan of wisdom. It is opposed to the natural order which reason discerns. It is thus unnatural and irrational. It is per se malum. No circumstance can ever make it just. It is always gravely evil. It could never form part of a loving plan of life. It undercuts the survival instinct of society. That society which seeks to perpetuate itself is threatened gravely by sins of sodomy.

3) Defrauding the poor contradicts the natural inclination to defend the weak and repel the bully. When we see a little boy being bullied, we naturally wish to defend him. We cheer when someone brave enough does repress the bully. (Hence our delight when “Little Boy” smashes the bully with his lunch box.) This “cheer” is natural. It indicates our disgust with the anti-providential stance of the bully, just as it is natural to have disgust towards the anti-natural act of sodomy. In the hierarchy of things created by God, the nobler provide for the lower. In turn, the lower give thanks to and venerate the higher. Thus, the elements of society come together. Parents, when strong, provide for children. Children, when strong, provide for parents. Teachers provide for students. Masters provide for apprentices. Each has care for each, but differently. This is order; this is hierarchy. Thus is sewn the fabric of society.

4) Withholding the laborers wages also disrupts society and enterprise and justice. Note that this is distinct from #3. “Laborer” does not mean poor worker only. This sin does not fit into a Marxist category. The emphasis and primary datum, though, is the worker. For the owner, in normal circumstances, is the one with the power. (Hegel and Marx speak of the workers discovering, in unity, power over the owner.) But the government is also the powerful figure. The government might tax all the citizens excessively. This would be a form of “withholding wages”. For instance, who could raise a Catholic sized family in Italy these days? Not many. Thus, the Italian family is being choked, squeezed, throttled. By whom? By the socialist tax system there. Yes, that’s right. The socialist tax system. The Italians who swim in the system cannot see it. But present to them a natural large family and they, being Italians who love affection, probably are disposed to think “That is right; that is as it should be.” But it cannot be in Italy, unless you are landed with money. The system itself is unjust. What does it breed? It breeds too many “civil jobs” and not enough natural families. Pressure to contracept (an intrinsic evil); pressure to use NFP to shrink the family. This is not good by any stretch of the prudential imagination. What happens when wages are withheld? As the Rorate piece indicates, property and merit are set aside or at least assaulted. Thus, effort and diligence and hard work are not encouraged. But society depends on these. These are the engine of progress by which the tissue of #3 is sewn together.

Third, what shall we say of our society today? It is a den of thieves that defrauds the poor through usury of payday loans and credit cards and illegal laws against small businesses that espouse natural agriculture or natural human morality, a brood of vipers killing the innocent in the womb by the millions, a perverse and twisted unnatural generation upon the precipice of its downward plunge into the mire of sodomy, a beast of unimaginable proportions that bleeds the laborer of his wages and marches towards the totalitarian dominance of all property by one.

What shall be the result? Clearly, devastation of biblical proportions.

The Evasion of the Category “Practical Heresy”

Now and again one hears a reference to “practical heresy”. What is this term?

I suppose the term is used to point out that some people, though they profess the true faith, act as though it were false. For instance, one might profess the resurrection but live anxiously, fearing death.

The term can be good if it is premised on the Anchor of Faith. Thus premised, it calls us to conform our lives to the Truth of this Faith. It calls us to cease to be hypocrites precisely by living up to our Faith (which is no ideal but Truth Itself).

However, if the term is used to deflate the confidence of solid orthodox Catholics, to show them up for not being the saints they are called to be, to the end that therefore these solid orthodox Catholics should cease learning their faith and spreading it with zeal, so that they might stop informing themselves about the True Tradition, so that they might not open their Denziger and learn it, so that they might stop being a nuisance and just keep quiet…. Well, such would be no fruitful use of the term.

For such use of the term would in the end constitute a call to dismiss (as “rigid”) the categories of orthodoxy and heresy. So used, it would be poison to our souls, robbing us of the compass whereby we might come to self-knowledge, repent of our sinful ways, make a true act of contrition, and so gain eternal life.

Hence, if someone uses the term to evade orthodoxy, let us evade the strategy by avoiding the term. If someone uses the term to call us to account in action, to conform our lives to Christ and make our faith the more firm, let us repent with him.

Phenomenology of Two Masses Part 7

Perhaps a reflection on Collects is less phenomenological and more descriptive. On the other hand, we can still speak about pointers in the Liturgy calling for different ways of being, i.e., assisting. We can speak of Being manifesting itself in different ways. Let us compare two sets of collects. I cite the EF from the fine site Divinum Officium.

 

Extraordinary Form Ordinary Form
O, God, Who graciously chose blessed Pius as Supreme Pontiff, to crush the enemies of Your Church and to restore divine worship, grant that we may be guarded by his help and remain so steadfast in Your service that, having overcome the snares of all enemies, we may enjoy a lasting peace. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Pius V: O God, who in your providence
raised up Pope saint Pius the Fifth in your Church
that the faith might be safeguarded
and more fitting worship be offered to you,
grant, through his intercession,
that we may participate in your mysteries
with lively faith and fruitful charity.
Through our lord Jesus Christ, your son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
O God, Who endowed blessed Robert, Your Bishop and Doctor, with wondrous learning and virtue to repel the deceits of error and to defend the rights of the Apostolic See, grant, by his merits and intercession, that we may ever grow in love of truth and that the hearts of the erring may return to the unity of Your Church. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Bellarmine:O God, who adorned the Bishop saint Robert Bellarmine with wonderful learning and virtue
to vindicate the faith of your Church,
grant, through his intercession, that in the integrity of that same faith
your people may always find joy.
Through our lord Jesus Christ, your son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

 

In the EF, we have a serious battle going on. Crushing. Enemies. Restoration. Snares. Enemies again. Supreme Pontiffs. Rights of the See. Errant hearts. Return to unity.

In the OF, we have true elements, but we have much less of a battle: safeguarding, vindicating, integrity. We have some additional elements, such as participation in the mysteries (always a marvelous thing to behold). But the battle imagery is almost completely gone. No mention of errant hearts. No mention of return.

Are there not a few good men who long for the days of battles, of knights, of fighting and conquest, of zeal for the house? It goes utterly without saying that this is a spiritual battle fought with the heart and not primarily with fists. (Although, if it came to that, we have St. Nick.)

The First and Greatest Commandment, Continued (Part 2)

And of course, there is now a discussion of Evangelium gaudium 161 in connection with the issue being treated. The Supreme Pontiff of the One and Only Universal Church of Christ, His Holiness Pope Francis, writes,

 

161. It would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation. It has to do with “observing” all that the Lord has shown us as the way of responding to his love. Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). Clearly, whenever the New Testament authors want to present the heart of the Christian moral message, they present the essential requirement of love for one’s neighbour: “The one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the whole law… therefore love of neighbour is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8, 10). These are the words of Saint Paul, for whom the commandment of love not only sums up the law but constitutes its very heart and purpose: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal 5:14). To his communities Paul presents the Christian life as a journey of growth in love: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Th 3:12). Saint James likewise exhorts Christians to fulfil “the royal law according to the Scripture: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (2:8), in order not to fall short of any commandment.

 

The key statement is “The new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, … ‘that you love one another as I have loved you’.”

What should we think upon reading this? What doxa, what belief, ought our minds hold? We must hold the One and Only Catholic Faith – come what may!

Now, if we were to take Gaudium et Spes 24 in the proper literal sense, that is, as stating precisely in so many words that the greatest commandment is love of God and neighbor, we would contradict the Divine Word of God! Hence, we seek another meaning. We suggest that there is some kind of figurative literary device that is being employed, or else it is simply false. A possible device would be synecdoche, where part stands for whole or whole for part. In this case, the subject would be read by synecdoche: The First and Greatest commandment = The first and greatest plus the second commandment “is love of God and neighbor”.

It is the great beauty of Scripture that it is abounding in literary devices such as this. One must read the Scriptures in accordance with Tradition. This practice and its content is the Rule of Faith.

Pope Francis’s dictum that the First and Greatest Commandment is love of neighbor would be simply if it were to be interpreted in the proper literal sense. For such love is the second and derivative commandment. (Of course, that such is the new commandment is true in the proper literal sense.) Now, since a proper literal reading yields something even more contradictory to the Divine and Catholic Faith than would a proper literal reading of GS 24, we seek another reading.

Now, there is also a literary device called metonymy, whereby one item, X, is designated by another item, Y, with which it is associated in reality. For example, “Finish your plate”. Only the literalist though obedient child would eat the plate. Rather, we mean the contents (food), which we signify by the container (plate).

Since what is First is associated with what is Second, one might signify the First by the Second. It might be odd to do, but if the First and Second were associated in the following way, perhaps there might be some reason to do so. If the Second is the visible sign of the Fulfillment of the First. If the Second must exist when the First exists. If the Second is, by and large, the very vehicle / embodiment / theatre of the fulfillment of the First. If these and other conditions are met, then perhaps we can signify the first by the second. Thus, when Pope Francis say “First” he really means “Second”. Or, when he says “love of neighbor” he really means “love of God”.

Now, someone will complain that this is gymnastics. Well, yes, it certainly can seem that way. There is no question that Scripture demands such gymnastics. For example, “Cut off your hand if it causes you to sin.” But this is from the same Lord who, by his natural law, enshrined also in ecclesiastical interpretation, forbids the amputation of a limb except for the physical preservation of the whole. Hence, a man too lusty does sinful violence to himself who seeks castration. But, legend has it, Old Origen, the master of the spiritual senses, the master (if we may extend the sense) of figurative interpretation, went and had himself “fixed”. Poor Origen, if that is what he did.

But when our Lord says, “cut off your hand,” he is to be taken according to metonymy: Cut off the thoughts and deeds, wrought through your hand, that are sinful (the instrumental cause standing for the primary efficient cause).

I have granted, and I will grant, that in a Magisterial text, we expect elucidation of the unclear, disambiguation of the ambiguous, etc. We expect progress. This is part of what we mean by a “living Magisterium”.

It is therefore not helpful if a Magisterial text of the year X plus Y is more ambiguous than a Magisterial text of the year X, or than a Scriptural text. Especially is this the case if a cult of man arises and the ambiguity pertains to the proper order of love. Now, we are in the midst of a cult of man: We are anthropo-centric. We have lost our sense of God. We fail to remember that to love the neighbor properly is chiefly to love him in God. We fail to remember that the spiritual works of mercy precede the corporal. We fail to remember that to love is to will the good, and that the Good, the One Good, is God, and that the One Thing Necessary is union with God. Thus, in our context, a clear statement is desirable.

The First and Greatest Commandment:

At RORATE, Dr. John Lamont, an outstanding Catholic thinker, has claimed that Vatican II, at Gaudium et spes 24, contradicts the Scriptures. GS 24 reads: “The love of God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment.”

But at MT 22:35ff, our Lord states that the first and greatest commandment is to love God above all things and with one’s entire mind, will, and strength. The second commandment is to love neighbor as one loves oneself.

That this is an apparent contradiction, granted.

That, were GS 24 read so as to make equal the love of God and the love of neighbor, the result would be a heretical thesis, granted.

That, were GS 24 read so as to conflate the two distinct (though related) commandments, the result would be a heretical thesis, granted.

That many people since Vatican II have read the text this way, or now interpret Christianity as though love of neighbor were parallel to and not subordinate to love of God above all things, granted. That therefore many people are in a state of objective heresy, granted. That we have on our hands throughout the Catholic world a heresy of man-centrism, granted. That this is one of the crucial problems in our times, granted.

However, my counsel is always this: Never contradict dogma and/or revelation. Thus, no matter what we find in any text, written by whoever, we must never contradict dogma. We must never, even as a result of reading a Magisterial text, entertain a heretical thesis. To do so is anathema.

Whether GS 24 must be read in antithesis to Mt 22, doubtful. For why not read it as a literary device: Perhaps “the first and greatest” stands for “the first two commandments, of which the first is greatest”. Or something like this.

That the wording is unfortunate, since in Magisterial texts one expects precision to increase over time and ambiguity to decrease. Also, the Magisterium is not tasked with replacing or substituting for but clarifying revelation. The Magisterium is but a servant.

In this way, the Magisterium itself decreases so as to let the light of the Lord shine. It is therefore unfortunate that GS 24 is not unambiguous. Our Lord is quite unambiguous. Is there any value to the lack of ambiguity? Not as such.

However, there is a necessary connection between the two loves and the two commandments. Such that, if we do not love our neighbor, and people can kind of see that!, we demonstrate that we do not love God. Hence, love of neighbor is first in the order of knowledge: That means, we lowly humans can tell that X does not love God if X does not love his neighbor. However, the two loves are, though inseparable, hierarchically ordered.

Thus, in the end, the most important thing is to come away with the truth: The love of God above all things is the first and greatest commandment and act. The love of neighbor, as one loves oneself, is the second commandment, and a necessary result of true love of God. Neither can we love our neighbor if we do not love God, for we love our neighbor rightly only if we love him for God’s sake and in God, nor would we love God should we not love our neighbor, since love of God includes love of all his rational creatures.

We might take opportunity to place love of the physical environment in place. It would be third in place. We love the environment, not for its own sake, but precisely as the home in which we dwell, as the resources we need, as the speech of God through traces, as a vestige of God. We do not love the environment for its own sake. Our ill use of the environment is a sin against ourselves. It may be rooted in individualism, which sees everything as an opportunity for the self. The environment’s use must correspond with the common good of man.

Phenomenology of two Masses (Part VI)

In the EF, the priest does not go to the altar except after the following: the initial “In the name of the Father…”, the “Judge me O God, and distinguish my cause”, the first exchange with the server, a doxology, the two confessions (priest’s and servers’), the absolution, and a second exchange.

He then utters a pair of prayers. Let us hear these prayers:

1: Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be worthy to enter with pure minds into the Holy of Holies: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Comment: once again the sanctuary that is within the sacred Church is distinguished from the Church. This distinction is reflected architecturally with the altar rail behind the priest and the high altar before the priest.

2. We beseech Thee, O Lord, by the merits of Thy Saints, whose relics are here, and of all the Saints, that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to forgive me all my sins. Amen.

Comment: Here, the priest speaks in the royal “we” and seeks forgiveness on himself. He is about to conduct the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

 

Finally, after all this preparatory work, the “Introit” is recited. This apparently has no parallel — at this moment in the liturgy — with the OF, but we can liken the “Entrance Antiphon” of the OF to it. Fortunately, some OF liturgies incorporate the Entrance Antiphon. (Some places even do so in Latin, intoned in Gregorian chant; it is quite lovely). Unfortunately, many OF liturgies involve some banal hymn written by the Catholic duo, Haugen and Haas, or “Hagen Daz” – (banal lyrics and awful tunes by and large). Or some other writer with atonal melodies (an oxymoron). It is always crucial, in sober analysis, to distinguish the official liturgy from the actual performances. The new English Translation has rectified the previous, quite defective, translation and thus helps one actually grasp the official liturgical prayer of the OF better.

The Introit is proper to the day and gears our minds to the readings to come or the saint commemorated.

There is then an exchange between priest and server in the thrice threefold Kyrie. I should like to return to the issue of the Holy Trinity at this point. It was noted in the comment box that the Introit itself often has a doxology (Gloria patri…). I would like to point out, again, the Trinitarian character of the Kyrie. It strikes one immediately, for there are three statements: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. And each of these is said three times.

Nor is the observation superficial or extraneous. Each person of the Holy Trinity may be addressed as “Lord”. But only the second person is “Christ”. The instructional remarks in Missals indicate that each of the three persons is being addressed in the Kyrie. Each person is beseeched thrice, the second person in the middle three petitions: Christe eleison. Thus, the prayer is decidedly Trinitarian, following the organic development under Pope Gregory the Great.

Having grown up using the OF, I had always thought that we were addressing, in the Kyrie, simply the second person. That we did it three times for emphasis. And indeed it seems that that is exactly what the OF presents the Kyrie as, a prayer to the second person. That this is the case can be shown through examination of the longer version of the prayer. In the longer version, each statement is preceded by one of 8 possible prefatory remarks. For instance, in Option 1, we hear, for the first Kyrie, “You were sent to heal the contrite in heart”. Who was sent? Obviously, the second person! Yet these words preface the first “Lord have mercy”. And of course the second petition, Christe, is also addressed simply to the second person, and the prefatory remark understandably does as well: “You came to call sinners”. The prefatory remark at the third petition, Kyrie, is also Christo-centric: “You plead for us”. Thus, the Kyrie in the OF option 1 is decidedly not Trinitarian but Christo-centric. Option 2 is the same. Option 3 is the same. Option 4 is the same. Option 5 could be read as open to a Trinitarian reading, but likely is not. Option 6 is certainly Christo-centric and not Trinitarian, as are Options 7 and 8.

In short, the EF Kyrie is Trinitarian, while the OF Kyrie is not Trinitarian but Christo-centric. This is not a negligible difference. Why? We are called to have relationships with each of the persons of the Holy Trinity. This call is foregrounded when we address each person distinctly. It is true that in both the EF and the OF the prayer is most frequently directed to God the Father Almighty. This is as it should be, of course. The prayer is often through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That is a very Trinitarian structure; this Trinitarian structure follows the pattern of economic activity. For the Father is not sent; rather the Son and Spirit are sent. Both liturgies capture that economic pattern. (I will return to that in a future post. It is most certain that the OF captures that economic pattern; this claim requires no argument. I will also examine whether the EF captures that pattern, for that would be the concern that someone might raise.) Seldom in either liturgy do we directly address the Holy Spirit, but in the EF we do during the third set of three Kyrie petitions. Hence, the EF is also distinctively pneumatological in this moment.

Phenomenology of Two Masses: Part V

I would like to revisit the openings of the two forms of the Mass. The EF involves an undulating differentiation and participation between priest and congregation. The priest states, for the first time, “I will go in to the altar of God”.

Then he prays “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.” Here, we are all reminded that the sacred space and action is just that—sacred. The world is not the cause and source of grace. Almighty God is, through his institutions wherein alone he promises grace to us. We are separating the sacred from the pro-fane.

After this marvelous prayer “Judica me”, priest and servers (whose voice is the people’s) exchange statements and prayers. The servers state, “I will go in to the altar of God.” Thus, the people are also included in the worship that goes on; they are differentiated from the priest and also shown as participants in his worship. Finally, the priest again recites the statement. Thus introibo ad altare Dei is said three times. A Trinitarian structure, completed just after an explicit Gloria Patri….

We see here the liturgy calling to our attention the differentiation and participation (communion) of priest and people.

The public confession is the same. First, the priest makes his confession to God. The servers (whose voice is the people’s) beseech that God forgive him. He replies, “Amen” to their prayer for him. Then, the servers (whose voice is the people’s) confess their sins to God. The priest beseeches that God forgive all the congregation other than he (vestri). Thus, the people pray for the priest, and the priest for the people. Finally, the priest commandingly issues an absolution for “our sins”, his and ours. A delicate duality of distinction and communion.

By contrast, in the OF there is no separation from the profane. It is as though there is a smooth transition from ordinary being in the world and official worship of God. There is no statement “I go in to the altar of God”. The nature of the worship as sacrifice is not brought out yet.

Next, all together, priest and people, confess to God their sins. The distinction of priest and people rests solely on the fact that the priest is leading the worship. Nor is there absolution.

If creativity involves distinction and order – and it does – then on the scores noted here the EF involves much more creativity than does the OF. The EF brings out both the mutual orientation of priest and people and also the qualitative distinction between them, both aspects constitutive of Catholic faith and reiterated at Vatican II (Lumen gentium, chap. 2).

Phenomenology of the Mass Part IV

A comparison of the Masses — Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form — for the Feast of All Souls, closely related to the funeral liturgies, looks similar.

 

Extraordinary Form Ordinary Form
Offertory: O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell, and from the bottomless pit: deliver them from the Lion’s mouth, that hell swallow them not up, that they fall not into darkness: but let Michael the standard-bearer bring them into the holy light: Which thou didst promise of old unto Abraham, and his seed. V. We offer thee, O Lord, this sacrifice of prayer and praise: do thou receive it for the souls whose memory we this day recall: make them, O Lord, to pass from death unto life. Which thou didst promise of old unto Abraham and his seed. Prayer over the Offerings: Look favorably on our offerings, o Lord,
so that your departed servants
may be taken up into glory with your son,
in whose great mystery of love we are all united. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

 

Or Option #2. Almighty and merciful God,
by means of these sacrificial offerings
wash away, we pray, in the Blood of Christ,
the sins of your departed servants,
for you purify unceasingly by your merciful forgiveness those you once cleansed in the waters of Baptism. Through Christ our lord.

 

Or Option #3. Receive, Lord, in your kindness,
the sacrificial offering we make
for all your servants who sleep in Christ, that, set free from the bonds of death
by this singular sacrifice,
they may merit eternal life.
Through Christ our lord.

 

Day of Wrath Sequence: Day of wrath and doom impending, David’s word with Sibyl’s blending, Heaven and earth in ashes ending. O what fear man’s bosom rendeth, when from heaven the Judge descendeth, on whose sentence all dependeth. Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth, all before the throne it bringeth. Death is struck, and nature quaking, all creation is awaking, to its judge an answer making. Lo, the book exactly worded, wherein all hath been recorded, thence shall judgment be awarded. When the judge his seat attaineth, and each hidden deed arraigneth…. To Thy right hand do Thou guide me. When the wicked are confounded, doomed to flames of woe unbounded, call me with thy saints surrounded. Low I kneel with heart’s submission, see, like ashes, my contrition, help me in my last condition. No Day of Wrath Sequence.

 

What we see with the two offertories is a stark contrast. The greatest contrast is between the EF and OF Option#1. The OF #1 simply prays that the offerings enable the soul to attain glory. This implicitly means what the EF explicitly brings out, but the entirety of that drama is explicitly absent in the OF. Option #2 brings in explicitly the issues of sin, cleansing, etc.. Thus, #2 is a stronger option than #1. Interestingly, sins are not explicitly brought up in the Offertory of the EF; rather, the EF prayer focuses on delivery from the consequences of sin, hell and the punishments of hell. Now, the EF is not contradicting Catholic dogma. If a soul is in the hell of the damned, in that hell it shall remain. But “hell” is a broad category, as we can clearly deduce from this prayer, in conversation with the dogma that from the hell of the damned no one is saved. Thus, we are brought to mind the very real possibility that the soul of our beloved friend may well be undergoing punishments dread and terrible – not without light and mercy, not without hope and joy, but nonetheless truly great. OF option #3 alludes to this consequence with “the bonds of death,” but does not draw this out dramatically.

In short, the EF asks us to enter into the dramatic situation quite possibly and in all likelihood actually facing our beloved departed. We engage that situation; we participate in it. We also engage the drama between Christ and the devil, our adversary. We acknowledge that the Eucharistic sacrifice is for the destruction of the devil’s work.

Furthermore, the Day of Wrath sequence invites each of us to call to mind our eternal fate, thus calling us to mind our lives presently. We are invited, in pastoral prudence, urgently to take stock of our lives and to amend our sinful ways, to repent, to go to confession. We are invited to live a life dramatically facing the Holy Trinity. We are invited to love God above all things; to seek earthly things not because they are attractive in themselves but in obedience to Christ. We are invited to see that “all is rubbish” that is not sought out of the sanctified will seeking Christ’s honor above all. We are not simply reminded, therefore, of mortal sin, but of venial sin and imperfections, etc. Of the “one thing necessary,” without which I am damned and all gain is loss.

Phenomenology of the Mass – Part III

Let us compare opening prayers at the Mass of the Dead.

The below exhibits that the EF truly regards everlasting penalty as a real possibility, urgently to be prayed against. It regards the pains of purgatory as urgently requiring our prayers, esp. that of Holy Mass, for the good of the deceased. The OF doe snot mention any penalty for sin, nor does it hint at the possibility of hell.

These two ways of praying call for, and thus beget, two ways of being. The one signaled in black, sober and unknowing about the fate of the deceased. The other signaled in white, quite optimistic about the fate of the deceased. The one imploring our prayers for dire possibilities. The other encouraging us to pray.

The difference is quite stark. How rosy things look in the OF, how light, unbearably light. The unbearable lightness of being. How serious in the EF.

And ironically, how “white not black” they look in the OF; how “grey, under the sign of black” in the EF. Indeed, the EF paints the extremes in black and white, and these are their true colors. But we do not know about this servant. We pray. We hope.

Look at the first Easter prayer of the OF. It is a prayer not for the soul but for us. For us! Indeed, we sometimes hear that the Funeral mass is primarily for the consolation of the pilgrims. NO! It is for the eternal rest of the deceased. And all the more, for the Glory of God!

Different ways of being!

Collect for Day of Burial: “God, for whom it is proper is ever to have mercy and to spare, we humbly beseech Thee on behalf of the soul of Thy servant (handmaid) N…, whom Thou hast this day called out of the world, that Thou wouldst not deliver him (her) into the hands of the enemy, nor forget him (her) forever, but command that he (she) be taken up by Thy holy angels and borne to our home in paradise, that having put his (her) hope and trust in Thee, he (she) may not undergo the pains of hell, but may come to the possession of eternal joys. Through Our Lord….” An OF Collect outside Easter: “O God, almighty Father, our faith professes that your Son died and rose again; mercifully grant, that through this mystery your servant N. who has fallen asleep in Christ, may rejoice to rise again through him. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

Or this one: “O God, whose nature is always to forgive and to show mercy, we humbly implore you for your servant N, whom you have called to journey to you, and, since he hoped and believed in you, grant that he may be led to our true homeland to delight in its everlasting joys. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

Collect During Easter Season: “Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord: As our faith in your Son raised from the dead, is deepened, may our hope of resurrection for your departed servant N also find new strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy SPirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

Or: “O God, who through the ending of present things open up the beginning of things to come, grant, we pray, that the soul of your servant N. may be led by you to attain the inheritance of eternal redemption. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

Dogma and Confidence

The world flounders without an anchor, drifting this way and that.

And all hate dogma, or most, at least many.

And so, we fear to be “dogmatic”.

Isn’t it strange, then, that when we allow ourselves to be confident in the truth of the dogma, and maintain that confidence when asked difficult questions, when we do not flinch but stay with John the Baptist, holding the line of truth, that the hearers are edified; most often, edified. That they do not chase us out of town, not all the time. That many times they are moved, struck. They too know that this is truth, which cannot be overturned.

But how powerful we become when we hold back that confidence. When we toss and turn with anxiety about the truth of dogma. How powerful? Why powerful? Because then we are the masters of the truth. All look to us for the way. And we find some way that looks like an “attractive middle between extremes”. All praise us for our wise moderation.

When we preach the dogma, we decrease. The Lord increases. The Holy Church increases. The holiness of the hearer increases. All grow in the Spirit, which is not under our control but who blows where he wills.

To cling to dogma is to die to self. To do so in love is to be saved. To say I love but hate the dogma is to preach myself, to lie to neighbor, and to bring death upon all. For I am not The Life.