Those who take the trouble of monitoring the Amazon Synod briefings end up with mixed feelings.
All statements deal with “going out,” “openness,” “recognition,” “integral ecology,” etc. However, listening to some of the Synod Fathers, it seems that such expressions do not go beyond secondary concessions on liturgy and catechesis.
Those proposing this “moderate” vision of “interculturation” basically insist on two things. First, that what Jesus established and left us in liturgical matters is very little, and so the Church, over the centuries, added ways of communicating with God that come from Western culture.
Theses “moderates” then conclude that it is logical when seeking to communicate the Word to Amazonian peoples that we do so by incorporating aspects of their culture.
Simply put, everyone would be happy with a little more drumming and feathers, rather than miters and incense made with Amazonian herbs.
Conversely, when you hear other leaders in the same briefing, you are left with the impression that they want to completely adapt the Church with its theology and liturgy to the “wisdom” of Mother Earth. The latter supposedly possesses hidden wisdom — much more than us Western Catholics — that we can only achieve by depriving ourselves of European reasoning and prejudices such as “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.”
How each representative of these currents presents himself gives away their “divergent” positions.
“Moderate” speakers wear the Roman collar, the pectoral cross, and in general are well shaved (obviously, they never wear a cassock).
The others, in addition to their up-to-date attire, are represented by the Amazon circus going on in Rome, in the Church of Santa María in Traspontina. The only thing “Catholic” about those celebrations is the fact they are “celebrated” inside a Catholic temple. Inside the church, all its symbols, marbles, and statues seem to cry in front of what they witness.
These contradictory feelings lead us to ask: after all, which of these two positions, “moderate or radical” will prevail when writing the final document?
The answer to this question is actually of little importance because the essential thing is to know if Catholic theology and liturgy are human inventions. If they are, incorporating other cultures does not matter. Also essential is to know whether language is immutable because it is the one God gave us to communicate with men rather than how men communicate with God.
To solve this dilemma, it is good to recall the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI in the prologue to the Russian edition of his Complete Works.
“‘Nihil Operi Dei praeponatur – Nothing precedes divine worship.’ With these words, Saint Benedict, in his Rule (43.3), established the absolute priority of divine worship over any other task of monastic life.
“In the years following the Second Vatican Council, I became aware again of the priority of God and the divine liturgy. The misunderstanding of the liturgical reform that has spread widely in the Catholic Church has led to more and more emphasis on the aspect of education and its activity and creativity. The doings of men almost completely obscured the presence of God. In such a situation, it became increasingly clear that the Church’s existence lives in the proper celebration of the liturgy and that the Church is in danger when the primacy of God no longer appears in the liturgy and in life. The deepest cause of the crisis that has upset the Church lies in the obscurity of God’s priority in the liturgy.
“The liturgy must not be the self-representation of the community – when they say it is important that everyone looks within himself and, in the end, only the self remains important. Instead, it is the fact that we enter into something much greater and in some way, go out of ourselves and take off. This is why it is so important that the liturgy not be somehow our creation.”
In the same sense, John Paul II warned that “the risk of African theology is to close on itself.” Regarding the new Zairean rites, which mixed tribal elements, he said that “the enrichment of the liturgy is possible provided that the meaning of the Christian rite is maintained, and that the Catholic aspect of the Church appears.”
For his part, in April last year Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments gave an interview to the ACI agency in which he highlighted the importance and sacredness of the Catholic liturgy, which cannot be reduced to the notion of meeting or assembly.
On that occasion, Cardinal Medina added, “It is essential to understand and live the liturgy as a sacred moment. It is not a banal moment, a moment of friendly coexistence as in a group of friends; it is something else.” The cardinal rejected attempts to improperly adapt the liturgy to the assembly since, in the elements of the Divine Worship, “there are things that are immovable and things that can be adjusted.”
Concerning the immovable ones, the Cardinal said, “The liturgy is oriented towards God; it is praise, as are the Psalms. The center of the Eucharist is not man, but God.” He gave the Eastern Catholic rites as an example: “If you look at the liturgy as they celebrate it in the East, the Byzantine Rite, for example, is not exactly the way it is celebrated in the West, in the Roman rite. They are two perfectly legitimate forms.”
They are legitimate — we comment — because they maintain their catholicity — entirely different from what you see in the Amazon worship at the church of Santa María in Traspontina.
Such concepts could not be clearer and more timely.
The dilemma is not between “moderates” and “radicals” but between Catholics and modernists. For Catholics, Church teachings and the liturgy derived from these divine teachings are sacred, immutable, and a path to the salvation of all men.
For “modernists,” the only dogma is keeping up with the world. Hence, since the tribal, wild, and esoteric are the latest fashion, it can only be a ‘breath of the spirit’ which we must welcome with “courage.”
Translated by the staff of Pan-Amazon Synod Watch.
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