Friday, May 25, 2007

Pontifical Council for Cultural Patrimony - Fr. Uwe Michael Lang?

Some interesting appointments are taking place. On May 8, the Vatican Information Service announced that Abbot Michael John Zielinski, OSB would be the new Vice-President of both the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology and the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. An interview with Fr. Zielinski appeared recently on the blog of Rorate Caeli in which he calls the Tridentine the "missing link".

In a few scarce places, such as this blogpost by Phil Lawler, we find chatter over another appointment, which I have not yet seen at the Vatican Information Service (if someone knows the date, please add it or the link to the combox).

It seems that Fr. Uwe Michael Lang - another liturgical strongman is finding a home in one of the Holy Father's dicastries - the Pontifical Council for Cultural Patrimony.


Fr. Lang has written a book - one of many on my list of things to read, called, Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer. In it, he makes a theological case for the ad orientem posture of the priest during Mass. Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, introduced the book with enthusiasm when it came out.

Those of us at Assumption Grotto are all too familiar with the spiritual benefits of a priest who does not face the people (versus populum). In the Mass, the person of the priest is removed as he puts on Christ. When I first encountered it in Grotto's Latin Novus Ordo, my thought was, "you have got to be kidding me - the priest has his back to us". I shifted as if to seek the face of the priest, only to realize a short while later that, in the Mass, it is the face of God I should be seeking. I immediately grasped the beauty of this posture - only by the grace of God. I look forward to reading his book and will probably find confirmation of things I know deep down, but cannot yet explain with my lack of education in liturgy.

Fr. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's in Greenville, South Carolina, has an excellent blogpost up which discusses the book further. In it, he proclaims - rightly, I believe:

After nearly 15 years of celebrating Holy Mass every day, I can testify that the custom of facing the people across the altar makes the faithful and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist more difficult for priest and people alike. Given that our present arrangements are simply a novelty, that Benedict XVI acknowledges this, that no declaration of the Church ever required the change to versus populum celebration, and that a growing number of priests are increasingly convinced that we should together be turning towards the LORD, look for changes to come gradually to parishes near you. And this, or something like it, is what you might see:

Pontificium Consilium de Cultura

So, what is this dicastry? I wondered what it was, and why His Holiness would want someone with such a strong understanding of liturgy on that council. And, just what is a Pontifical Council of Cultural Patrimony?

In my searches on the internet, I came up with the Vatican's profile of this department. I'll leave it to you to read this rather short outline, but want to extract the first two points.

  1. To promote the encounter between the saving message of the Gospel and the cultures of our time, often marked by unbelief or religious indifference, in order that they may be increasingly open to the Christian faith, which creates culture and is an inspirational source of science, literature and the arts (Cf. the Motu Proprio "Inde a Pontificatus", Art. 1).

  2. To manifest the Church’s pastoral concern in the face of the serious phenomena of the rift between the Gospel and cultures. It therefore promotes the study of the problem of unbelief and religious indifference found in various forms in different cultural milieus, inquiring into their causes and the consequences for Christian faith, in order to offer adequate support to the Church’s pastoral activity in evangelising cultures and inculturating the Gospel (Cf. ibid., Art.

I find these appointments intriguing because in my mind, the manner in which the liturgy is celebrated has everything to do with culture. If our concept of worship is just one big feel-good celebration, then it will impact the way we live. We won't want to disturb our feel-good concept of life with doing things that are inconvenient - like, going to Mass every Sunday when we would rather be sleeping, going to the big game, or shopping. Why disturb that feel-good concept of life with making small, daily sacrifices for the love of God and for the sake of charity?

On the other hand, if we engage in a purified form of worship, where we see God not as "buddy", but as One before Whom we should have the utmost reverence, we will live accordingly. There is a concept between liturgy and living which says, "Lex orandi, lex credendi" - As we worship, so we live.

EDIT 5/26/2007: Fr. Zuhlsdorf has now commented on this subject and brings up another important point:

If there is to be some hope for success in the implementation of legislation to derestrict the older form of Mass, and therefore handle questions about the role of the older Mass in the cultures of many peoples, the nexus of the liturgy with architecture, how it is to be celebrated, how it fits in a liturgical dialogue, a cross-pollination with the new Mass, friends of the vision must seeded into offices of the Curia. They will help to shift the tone. They will be available when questions arise.

See his full blogpost appropriately titled: Papal Chess Praxix: Position Play


Deo Gratias!!!