The Desacralization of the Holy Eucharist (Against the “New Theologians”) Continued
By Matthew James Bellisario 2010
The Communal Aspect of Liturgy, Or Self Worship?
It has been commonplace for those who have been trying to change Catholic liturgical theology to take documents of the Church out of context. There are a few reasons for this tactic. One reason is that it makes it appear as if the Church Council documents endorse their “new theology.” It is made possible in my opinion by the less concrete language used in composing today's Church documents. Since the Second Vatican Council, Church documents are not written in the same style or format they were written in before. Instead of laying out canons and decrees in a linear format, Vatican II opted for a more pastoral format, written in essay form. Therefore it is important that one has a strong foundation in the Sacramental theology that existed before the Council, in order to really understand the theology of the newer documents. Pope Benedict XVI has called this the hermeneutic of continuity.
The Pope now asserts that there is no “new theology”, and that we must interpret the Vatican II documents in light of the declarations by the Church which came before them. It is important to quote the Holy Father at length regarding this proper hermeneutic principle. “Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application...On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God...The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one.” (Address to the Roman Curia, Dec 22nd, 2005) (8)
It is here that we have most of our problems today. We have a rupture of theological continuity by today's “new theologians.” This has carried over into the attitude in which we celebrate the Mass. This is turn has effected the way we view all of the Sacraments. We have now turned our attention away from the Lord and instead, have turned it upon ourselves. We no longer kneel to receive the King of Kings on our tongues in a sign of reverence. We take Him on our hands as if we were eating a mere piece of bread, rather than receiving the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord. Instead of using precious vessels for Our Lord, we see glass dinner ware being used as if we were merely at a casual dinner, and not the Eternal Sacrifice.
The community is now turned in upon itself, rather than turned to the Lord. Liturgical abuse after liturgical abuse is the result of, not only the loss of the sacrificial theology of the Mass, but the lack of belief that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament by Transubstantiation. We see terms used by these “new theologians” which arouse suspicion as to their adherence to the dogma of Transubstantiation, like Transfinalization, and Transignification, which Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx invented. They often refer to the Body of Christ as mere “bread and wine” or as Fr. Gregory Klien writes in his book, referring to the Eucharist after the epiclesis and institution narrative have taken place as, “Christ is sacramentally present in the bread and wine.” (Pastoral Foundations of the Sacraments, page 89) (9) Yet we know by divine faith that after the consecration there is no longer bread and wine present, but only Our Lord. “If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.” (Canon II on the Eucharist, Council of Trent) (10) Could we really act with these irreverent attitudes if we really believed that Christ was actually present on the altar? If we were standing at the foot of the cross as Our Lord was being crucified, would we be so casual in our actions? Would we act as if we were only at a community meal with a group of friends? I think not.
Fr. Gregory Klein writes in his book, Pastoral Foundations of the Sacraments, page 86, the following, “Eucharist begins with the assembly, the people gather in the name of Jesus Christ. While the details of the environment in which the people gather, the occasion on which people gather, and the manner in which people gather are not unimportant, eucharist is about people.” This is the prevailing mentality that modern theologians have today. Pope Benedict XVI however sees this theological position as being in complete contradiction to the true meaning of the liturgy and the Eucharist. “For the Liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age. As against this, the Liturgy should be setting up a sign of God's presence.” (The Organic Development of Liturgy, page 13) (11) Without first starting with the vertical assent to God, we have no true community. The efforts of these “new theologians” is clear; take the focus off of Jesus and move it to the people.
To drive our point home we now return to Fr. Klein's book. Here we see the subtle, yet clear effort to change the focus of the Mass. On page 83 he quotes known dissenter Fr. Richard P. McBrien, “The ancient custom of reserving the eucharist for the sick and dying gradually led to the practice of placing tabernacles in churches, often on the altar, and the custom of eucharistic devotion tended to overshadow the actual celebration of the eucharist.” It is clear that these “new theologians” view devotion to God in the Blessed Sacrament as being an obstruction to true “Eucharistic” celebration! We have only to look yet again to the brilliant theologian, Pope Benedict XVI, to learn the proper response to this false accusation of this supposed “overshadowing” of Eucharistic devotion. “Thus adoration is not opposed to Communion, nor is it merely added to it. No, communion only reaches its true depths when it is supported and surrounded by adoration. The Eucharistic Presence in the tabernacle does not set another view of Eucharist alongside or against the Eucharist celebration, but simply signifies its complete fulfillment. For this Presence has the effect, of course, of keeping the Eucharist forever in the Church... A church without the Eucharistic Presence is somehow dead, even when it invites people to pray.” (Spirit of the Liturgy, page 90) Here we see the stark contrast of Eucharistic theologies presented here. They both cannot stand! The “new theologian” sees Eucharistic devotion as being a burden which overshadows the celebration of the liturgy, and the authentic theologian views it as being essential to its celebration and to its completion.
Once again we see that Christ Himself is the target here. He is the One who has been moved away from the people in the churches today. No longer can we find the tabernacle in the Church on a side altar (most side altars have been chiseled out of the older churches by those in authority who have succumbed to this same mentality) or on the main altar, because they want Him uncrowned, dethroned, and moved into a side closet where He is no longer the focus of our worship or devotion. This “new theology” has infiltrated many Catholic parishes in our age. Personal emotional preferences have become the standard in which we celebrate liturgy. Hence we reflect back on the bad philosophy that is holding up this “new theology” that I presented in the beginning of this essay. How else can we explain the tolerance of such shenanigans as liturgical dance, which has been condemned by the Holy See? We do not have to look hard to find horrible music used in today's liturgy, which is not fitting to what is actually happening in the Mass. These acts of disobedience are numerous, even spilling over into the sacrament of Holy Orders. “New theologians” such as Ray R. Noll are still heretically calling for women to the priesthood. (Sacraments a New Understanding for a New Generation, page 168) I could quote Pope Benedict XVI ad nauseam on all of these issues, yet for these dissidents it is akin to the voice of St. John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Instead of heeding the call to repent, they instead cry out, “I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish, the head of John the Baptist.” (Mark 6:25)