Friday, October 30, 2009

NLM: Fr. Aidan Nichols on Orientation (the actual exchange between Fr. Nichols, O.P. and Moyra Doorly: Is the SSPX right about the liturgy?)

For some centuries it has been the common teaching of theologians, widely publicised in catechisms, that the Mass, viewed as Sacrifice, has a quartet of purposes. It is a Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, propitiation and supplication. The grounds for making this claim are that these are the very aims of our Lord's own giving of himself at the first Easter. His death was an offering whereby he glorified the Father (thanksgiving and praise) in such a way as to secure pardon (propitiation) and help (supplication) for humankind. Precisely because the Mass-Sacrifice is, as Vatican II maintains, the perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, it can have no other ends than had the act performed on the Tree.

Appreciating that fact should discourage us from racing over what we might consider the "soft" and Protestantism-compatible theme of praise and thanksgiving in order to get as quickly as possible to the 'tough' and more distinctively Tridentine-sounding motifs of propitiation and supplication. Our doctrine is not that the Holy Eucharist is a "sacrifice of praise" in some vague sense equally applicable to any other worshipping activity and so perfectly acceptable to Reformation Christians. The Mass is a "sacrifice of praise" first and foremost in the sense in which Calvary was and because Calvary was.

A good theology will seek to inter-relate the four ends of the Mass, as likewise the ends of the Atonement, in an integrated doctrine, and I doubt if a better one can be found than that for which the Sacrifice of the Lord is a "latreutic" Sacrifice, a Sacrifice of adoration in which the Son, invested with our nature, glorifies the Father in the Holy Spirit. It is through being its own unique offering of praise and thanksgiving, in the unmeasured donation of his dying, that the Son's Oblation as man wins for the human race super-abundant pardon and help. The proof that a theology of glorification provides the best way to inter-relate the ends of the Mass lies in the nature of the pardon and help we are to receive through the offering of this Sacrifice. We are to become not just reconciled sinners, in receipt of spiritual (and sometimes temporal) assistance. More than that, we are to become those who, in the words of the Vulgate translation of the Letter to the Ephesians (1:12) live for "the praise of his glory".

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