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Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 3

The biggest challenge to the Temple worship according to Jesus, says Ratzinger, is that the people had lost the awareness that Israel's worship was always marked by insufficiency and impermanence; that is, they knew they were sojourners, both literally and figuratively.

The leaders of that time conceived of their worship cyclically, and that it would remain static. Ratzinger points to Leviticus 26, and to the Passover in Exodus 12, as obvious instances when the sacrificial system pointed to something beyond itself, by contrast. It had always been a true insight of all religions that the only proper gift that man could give to God was his own life. The pagan religions had conceived of this literally as human sacrifice.

Instead, Jesus cleansed the Temple to prepare for a new age of universality and fulfillment. He would be the Temple, and the priest, and the sacrifice. This new anticipation is joyful, waiting for the victory of the New Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 2

Ratzinger begins by saying that a false opposition between history and cosmos has often been supposed, and an implicit critique of Christianity is that it is too linear. Acknowledging that the relation between Creator and creation is closer than some people might suppose, he nevertheless points out that God is absolutely distinct from what he has created. Recalling that primitive notions had man at the center of a kind of circle of need between man and the gods, Ratzinger affirms an aspect of such a view: that humanity is meant for union with God.

Ratzinger says that a cyclical notion of exitus-reditus ("Everything came from God, and is returning to God") is common in all religions, but Christianity is distinct, in that creation is regarded as an unqualified good. Humanity benefits from the journey back to God in the chance to obtain redemption from sin. Indeed, creation is the theater for the covenant of love between God and man. In fact, creation exists for this purpose. So, just as God created in full freedom and love, man is meant for a restored relationship in that same freedom and love. Freedom is what maintains the distinction between the creation and the Creator, though it is all destined to be divinized; that is, brought under God's control.

We can see the beauty of the Incarnation here, only lightly referred to here by Ratzinger, because the Word Himself comes to restore wayward humanity, and lead them back to God. He had previously wondered how sacrifice would function, if the goodness of creation would not seem to abide apparent destruction. Thus, we begin to see the free self-offering of love as a ready solution to that dilemma.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Spirit Of The Liturgy: Chapter 1

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger asks the question, "What is liturgy?" and having asked it, he considers one possibility: the liturgy as play. There is a great freedom in children's play, he says, and this does capture something about how we properly relate to God. Owing largely to the gravity of the subject matter, he says this is insufficient as an explanation.

We should note, however, that when children take on play as a kind of anticipation of future life without its burdens and concerns, it comes the closest to what true liturgy is, and should be.

In order to answer the challenge, Ratzinger takes us back to the biblical texts surrounding the Exodus. Freedom of worship is insufficient, because God has commanded that the Israelites go out to serve him in the wilderness. He notes also that the idolatry which broke the covenant was a sort of well-intentioned impatience with the speed at which God was revealing Himself. All true liturgy is a response to what God has revealed. We cannot make up liturgy; any attempt to do it results in a kind of therapeutic self-worship.

There is of course a unique combination of worship, morality, and ethics in the Old Testament, and Ratzinger says that severing the links between any of them leads to tyranny, because the truth of who God is rightly orders every field of human endeavor.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Just Do It

I had a friend last night ask me last night about going to Confession more often. Just do it. There's no mystery there. There are things in life that just need to get started. Once they do, we can take on whatever task it is that seems too big.

Of course, I'm giving myself this advice. It's hard, man. Just the thought of some things seems dispiriting. But things not started become regrets when we are old.

May we be granted the grace to be bold today. We trust in Your merciful love, O God. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.