WDTPRS: Last Days of Advent: 18 December – Liberation Theology

In these final days of Advent preparation, the Church prays with great intensity. It is one of the “greater feria” of Advent, the home stretch, as it were.

Here is today’s

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
ut, qui sub peccati iugo ex vetusta servitute deprimimur,
expectata Unigeniti tui nova nativitate liberemur.

This was in the 1962MR on Ember Saturday of Advent. It was before that in the Veronese, Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries. These advent prayers often refer to the “state of oldness”, which pertains to the “old man” afflicted by the sin of our First Parents.

Grant, we beseech You, Almighty God,
that we who are oppressed under the yoke of sin from the servitude of the old man,
may be freed bu the long awaited new Nativity of Your Only-Begotten.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that we, who are weighed down from of old
by slavery beneath the yoke of sin,
may be set free by the newness
of the long-awaited Nativity
of your Only Begotten Son

Christ came to set us free from sin.  He is the great Liberator.  The Collect reflects this.  In a sense, it is a true “liberation theology”.

In one of his books about liturgy, A New Song For The Lord, Joseph Ratzinger took a cue from Liberation Theology as a starting point.  Consider that as Prefect of the CDF, which dealt with Liberation Theology gone wild and wrong, Papa Ratzinger knows Liberation Theology better than most Liberation Theologians.  He knows what the good points of it are as well as where it goes wrong.

Save The Liturgy Save The WorldChrist frees us in our liturgical encounters the transcendent, with mystery.  Our liturgical worship takes on greater urgency when considered in light our are profound need, how small we are, what a vast gulf lies between us and God, source of our being and goal toward whom we return.   Consider this passage from the above mentioned book by Ratzinger, A New Song for the Lord, p. 40:

“… [W]e can explain the fundamental change in the understanding of ritual and liturgy that has recently come about after a long time in the making: the primary subject of the liturgy is neither God nor Christ, but the ‘we’ of the ones celebrating. [So reinforced by versus populum celebration of Mass and the “gimme” gesture of Communion in the hand, not to mention the lyrics of ditties sung ad nauseum.] And liturgy cannot of course have adoration as its primary content since, according to the deistic understanding of God, there is no reason for it. There is just as little reason for it to be concerned with atonement, sacrifice, or the forgiveness of sin. Instead, the point for those celebrating is to secure community with each other and thereby escape the isolation into which modern existence forces them. The point is to communicate experiences of liberation, joy, and reconciliation; denounce what is harmful; and provide impulses for action. For this reason the community has to create its own liturgy and not just receive it from traditions that have become unintelligible; it portrays itself and celebrates itself. Admittedly, we must not overlook a countermovement that is becoming ever more evident, particularly among the younger generation. To an increasing degree people are seeing through the banality and the childish rationalism of the pathetic homemade liturgies with their artificial theatrics; it is becoming obvious how trivial they are. [NB] The authority of mystery has disappeared, and the tiny self-affirmations with which one tries to make good this loss cannot even satisfy the functionaries in the long run, let alone those to whom such activities are supposed to appeal. Hence, the search for a true presence of redemption grows. Admittedly it does lead in very diverse directions. The huge rock festivals are occasions for letting existence run wild; they are raging antiliturgies where people are yanked out of themselves and where they can forget the dullness and commonness of everyday life. Drugs, too, belong to this category. On the other hand people are increasingly attracted to the magical and esoteric as the place where mystery supposedly reaches out to humans. Finally we can say that new places for faith emerge again where the liturgy is lit up by mystery”.

Reason #2 for Summorum Pontificum to be implemented in as many places as possible.

I urge all priests and bishops who read this blog with any slight quaver of resonance or benevolence, to consider this with care:

If you sense that something quite serious and important is going on right now, for the love of God rethink your approach to how you foster Holy Church’s proper public worship.

Do all in your power and through your influence to foster a worship of God which conforms not to worldly goals – as praiseworthy as they may be in a world still dominated by its dire prince – but rather to the real point of religion: an encounter with mystery.

Our worship must become more and more focused on the one who is Other.  Seek what is truly above in your rites and raise people to encounter mystery.

You will be challenged and reviled, blocked and attacked as you do.  You will be worn down and afraid under the weight of resistance.

But I think that to free and to save the world we must save the liturgy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    To an increasing degree people are seeing through the banality and the childish rationalism of the pathetic homemade liturgies with their artificial theatrics; it is becoming obvious how trivial they are.

    Whoa! The Pope said that?!?! That’s an exceptionally strong, non-sugar-coated statement! Picture me hooting and hollering in support of the Pope and this statement. He took the words right out of my mouth.

    It is true. We the young people aren’t stupid and we see right through these homemade liturgies and artificial theatrics. It makes me sad that the committee who finalized and approved of the design plans for our new Cathedral was made entirely of people of the “Spirit of Vatican II” era. My generation is the future of the diocese. It’s the new priests who are my age who are the ones who are taking over the diocese bringing back Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, etc. Why weren’t we given a say in the design of it. The interior completely reflects these homemade liturgies, and artificial theatrics. Why is there a piano practically in the Sanctuary? Why did we spend money on a resurrexurfix and not a crucifix? Why, for the love of all that is holy, is the altar moved off to the side?? Why did we push and put all our efforts into fundraising for solar stained glass windows and not a pipe organ? Why is the Tabernacle made out of wood??

    Sorry, I’m ranting.

  2. LoriM says:

    I think this will make a nice gift for our newly ordained Parochial Vicar. Father Z, if I ordered this book from your link, would you reap some benefit? (I would like to contribute if this is so) Thank you.

  3. And you can count me alongside APX as expressing that same opinion, no, battle cry, as a fellow Young Catholic and Canadian ( ;) ). I also subscribe to what APX is saying, though I did it with less prudence here, concerning people who shussed other laity during an EF mass recently, who innocently spoke the Our Father/Pater Noster :


    Yes it’s angry and needs more prudence, but I too am frustrated with these banal liturgies and not being spiritually nourished. Further I’m tired of how the older generation has its influence in the liturgy and thinks poorly on us young ones cause “we don’t get it.” We youth more and more are realizing that our society needs an overhaul and spiritually our institutional Church needs to see it’s not the hippie Church of the 60;’s no more. Never underestimate the intelligence of the youth. Treat us like (developing) adults in all aspects of our lives and you will see a lot more out of us.

    And most importantly, “Say the black and do the red,” and cut out the ordination tambourines!

  4. gmk says:

    People my age in thier 50s have been fighting these banal liturgies for so long . We been let down so many times, lied to or should I say promises never kept. We have good priests in the diocese that know latin but will not say the EF. There is one EF hour and half away tw0 times a month, Had high hopes with our new bishop for getting one in our area but hope is fading fast, Were in sad shape in the duluth diocese

  5. Joe in Canada says:

    The Collect for today in the Canadian edition of the Missal was the Angelus prayer – “Pour forth we beseech you O Lord ….” Was that an error? The last Sunday would always fall after the 17th.

    [Try THIS.]

  6. Centristian says:

    His Holiness writes: “On the other hand people are increasingly attracted to the magical and esoteric as the place where mystery supposedly reaches out to humans.”

    Yes, yes they are, and this is another thing that our pastors overlook, don’t notice, or fail to consider (or just another thing that they don’t care about). All men long for the mysterious, for things that transcend our mudane lives, and Catholics ought to have that longing fulfilled in our liturgical worship.

    When these well-meaning souls with their laudable aims–they elect to aim “up” instead of “down” (which is almost heroic in this day and age)–do not, however, find mystery in liturgy (and mostly they do not find it any more), when they find instead at church just more of the mundane and more of the pedestrian, then these souls of purer desire looking for something higher will turn elsewhere for mystery.

    If they aren’t finding it at Mass they will look for it in the occult or in pagan rituals or in the esoteric rituals of Freemasonry or in Eastern spirituality or in ritualistic sexual encounters or in astrology or in some other enticing form of the devil’s lie that looks a little bit like the Divine. They will look for something that looks like what they’re missing in their experience of the Catholic Church.

    Perhaps a few will hold on to their belief in the Gospel and find their way to the Orthodox Church–if they’ve ever heard of such a thing and if they can find it–which, to our shame, has managed to hold on to sacredness in liturgy in a way that the Western Church has failed to for the most part. Young Catholics are far more likely, however, to find their way to Wicca or to witchcraft or to Santeria or to Buddhism than they are to Eastern Christianity. Byzantium just hasn’t got a very widespread presence in these parts whereas paganism and the occult happen to flood popular culture at the moment.

    Catholics turning elsewhere to get their mystery “fix” would surely, if only the Church could satisfy their longings, become our priests and monastic brothers and sisters. All those vocations that the Church is not getting today thanks largely in part to liturgy that has been stripped of mystery are, you can be sure, turning away and turning to other things–things quite apart from Jesus Christ, I’m afraid–that seem to offer something higher, something eternal, something ethereal, something intangible, something above and beyond the mundane, something mystical.

    At any rate, I’m glad the Pope gets it. Of course he does. I wonder if he realizes, however, that the pastors of our local churches–the would-be-soldiers in his vast army–by and large, really really don’t get it. His priests aren’t exactly out there singing his song and selling his product. You have to wonder what on earth they are looking for.

    These Catholics turning elsewhere to get their mystery “fix” would, if only the Church could satisfy their longing, surely become our priests and monastic brothers and sisters. All those vocations that the Church is not getting today thanks largely in part to liturgy that has been stripped of mystery are, you can be sure, turning away and turning to other things–things quite apart from Jesus Christ–that seem to offer something higher, something eternal, something intangible, something above and beyond the mundane.

  7. Centristian says:

    Scratch that last paragraph…that was somehow transposed and repeated. *rolls eyes*

  8. Joe in Canada says:

    Thanks, Father. I missed that.

  9. Speaking of restoring beauty to the liturgy, particularly in the realm of music: I have not seen much attention devoted to the report that Hildegard of Bingen is to be canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church next October. Is this report not true? I hope it is: she would be a worthy patroness of the restoration of the liturgy.

  10. Glen M says:

    Sometimes it`s easy to believe the E.F. will solve all the Church`s problems – it won`t by itself. Think of all the times Our Lady appeared with warnings about all the people going to Hell. Those were the days before the Novus Ordo.

    As Father says, Save the Liturgy, Save the World. I believe in this, but along with it comes other necessities like catechesis. We need to live as Catholics outside of Holy Mass too.

    It`s become clear to me that those attached to the E.F. have to live to a higher standard. Those opposed to this liturgy watch very carefully how we behave outside the churches. It`s a big responsibility in rebuilding the Church.

    Father has stated before that the best way to attract people to the E.F. is to be radiant examples of the beauty of the liturgy. Any criticism of the O.F. or the current state of the Church has to be with sincere charity then lead by example.

    Why we`re in this crisis isn`t for us to know. The Holy Spirit is guiding those willing to follow Christ and help others along the way.

  11. Winfield says:

    Centristian: Well said. In my experience across various regions of the country, the ars celebrandi in many parishes stops at the threshold of mystery. I’m blessed that most I’ve experienced aren’t utterly banal (although some certainly are). But so many parishes fail, time and again, to take the few extra, and necessary, steps that would enchant the liturgy. In many places the level of banality is depressing; but in many others (including my own parish), a few changes would make the mystery before us far more manifest: incense, chanting the Canon, using the Roman Canon more often (or ever), and ending the four-hymn sandwich. Achieving this wouldn’t take a revolution in many parishes. But it would take catechesis, some courage, and a bit less sloth.

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