21 February 2014

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (4)

Continues.
In 1999 Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: "Rites ... are forms of the Apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition." ... He had in the same book previously observed that these places, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, all are "connected with Petrine traditions" ... it is not only in Rome that Peter speaks in the Paradosis. He goes on: "The liturgy cannot be compared to a piece of technical equipment, something manufactured, but to a plant, something organic that grows and whose laws of growth determine the possibilities of further development". Notice that he uses the term 'laws' in a way which has nothing whatsoever to do with enacted legislation. He is discerning principles of ecclesial life which go deeper than Canon Law. As Ratzinger continues, it seems to me that he shows a markedly limited enthusiasm for the intrusion into Liturgy, in the West, of the juridical authority of the papacy."The more vigorously the papacy was displayed, the more the question came up of about the extent and limits of this authority, which, of course, as such had never been considered. 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 consciousness of the West [observe his emphasis that he is speaking of Western phenomena]. 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."

Ratzinger pauses briefly to say that "Here again, as in the questions of ikons and sacred music, we come up against the special path trod by the West." The significance of this is that, when he was dealing with those topics in his previous chapter, the cardinal was far from viewing East and West through equally benign spectacles. On the contrary, he gently chided the West for never having achieved a 'real reception' of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II. Here, as there, the balance of his sympathies appears to rest with what he understands to be the Eastern tradition. ("We come up against ..." is a significant phrase.) He admits a place for the more innovatory instincts of the West, but concludes: "it would lead to the breaking up of the foundations of Christian identity if the fundamental intuitions of the East, which are the fundamental intuitions of the early Church, were abandoned. The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."[My italics.]

It seems to me that Cardinal Ratzinger's concerns are less with Canon Law than with an unwritten law inscribed in the very nature of the Church (the embodiment of authentic tradition), which trumps the law embodied in transient canonical codes and enactments. He is not concerned to join in the scrimmage of canonists as they examine their manuals and gather their precedents in order to discover exactly how a particular decree of Paul VI might or might not be glossed. What he is writing is Theology. His subject is the Spirit-filled life of the Catholic Church.
The final part of this series is the piece I reprinted yesterday.

10 comments:

Little Black Sambo said...

This series of articles is a wonderful antidote to the "if it's not banned, it's compulsory" attitude of some writers about liturgy.

Juventutem London said...

Hmmmmmm! Curiouser and curiouser.

Joshua said...

Bravo!

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

I should like to have more, whether from Ratzinger or others, reflecting in greater detail and depth on R's contention that the West has not really received Nicaea II. I think he's right, but this needs greater elaboration....

Sam Urfer said...

Ask, and ye shall receive: http://eirenikon.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/a-new-iconoclasm-conclusion/

bgeorge77 said...

What is the source for the Ratzinger quotes?

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

Thank you Father, I very much appreciate your posts.
Fr. Michael Mary, F.SS.R.

Albertus said...

Bravo, Fr. Hunwicke! you really might consider bundling the parts of this essay and publishing it. The concepts you lay out are of vital importance for true understanding of the Liturgy, and of the present pope's insights into it. Only when the Western Church once again realises that the Liturgy is a timeless gift of God - His mysteries given to His Church in order that She might give back to Him and in so doing receive from Him again in an unending circle of faith, hope and love - the living embodiment of Holy Tradition, something which the Eastern Church has never lost, only then shall we be freed from our present bonds of death-producing cocktail of legalism, rationalism, experimentalism, interventionism, minimalism and modernism.

Священник села said...

You know, the Orthodox Church - or even 'the Eastern Church' - isn't always so great in its practice and attitudes. There is so very, very often a gulf between the prescriptive and the descriptive (just as there may be in the 'the West', to be fair). Nonetheless, although I do not think that the author of these Liturgical Notes set out to be kind, generous and ecumenical (properly speaking) towards the Orthodox - or 'the East' - his words, better yet the words quoted (and the understanding - the phronema - of the current Bishop of Rome) are both encouraging and a balm. Someone gets it! This is a joy, that feeds into our paschal joy, and I thank him for this 'grace upon grace'. This is the sort of conversation serious Christians ought to be having.

threehearts said...

Might I add FR. that Pope Benedict is by previous sacred traditions which Christ fulfilled in the Hebrew Law of Primogeniture and did not change, he is the Elder Brother of God's family and while not a ruler he is undoubtedly the one who guards God's property and through the keys he is the grand vizier who opens the doors of the Church daily, prepares the people for the administrations of God and carries the Rod of Discipline as a sign of his authority.