Continuing our look at Desiderio desideravi (aka Desideedee). The letter, as I wrote before, is a mixed bag. It seems divisible according to the voice and topic. That probably reflects authorship by different people or groups.
Continued from HERE. The section I’ll look at today smacks of Francis, because it get into his old accusation of Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism.
What is “Gnosticism”. The term, from Greek gnosis – knowledge – applies to some heresies of the early Church. A common element was that salvation was gain by knowledge that only a few could possess. This idea of salvation by a more or less “secret” knowledge was a corruption of Christian faith in contact with false religions of the East.
What is “Pelagianism”. This applies to several strains of heresy named after a British priest who was an early promoter, Pelagius. At its core it involves the rejection of Original Sin. Death is due to human nature, not because of a fall. Baptism doesn’t forgive the guilt of Original Sin, but is rather like a admission ticket to Heaven. Grace is not necessary for salvation. Rather, on our own account, by our own effort, we can attain Heaven. Grace makes it easier, but it is not necessary. After the Pope in Rome confirmed the condemnation of Pelagianism by the Council of Carthage in 416, St. Augustine uttered his famous,
Iam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad Sedem Apostolicam: inde etiam rescripta venerunt. Causa finita est: utinam aliquando finiatur error! Ergo ut advertant monemus, ut instruantur docemus, ut mutentur oremus. …
Indeed, the result of two councils about this matter were sent to the Apostolic See (Rome): and the rescripts (responses) have come back. The case is closed: would that the error was over! Therefore, let us admonish them to take notice, that we will teach so that they will be instructed, that we pray that they will change their minds. (s. 131.10)
This is the text whence we have the distilled phrase “Roma locuta est. Causa finita est.” Augustine didn’t actually say that… but that’s what he meant.
Let’s see a couple paragraphs of Desideedee. My emphases and comments.
19. If Gnosticism intoxicates us with the poison of subjectivism, the liturgical celebration frees us from the prison of a self-referencing nourished by one’s own reasoning and one’s own feeling. The action of the celebration does not belong to the individual but to the Christ-Church, to the totality of the faithful united in Christ. [Except to those who desire traditional forms. Or lace. Lace is bad.] The liturgy does not say “I” but “we,” [Credo … Confiteor… Lavabo…] and any limitation on the breadth of this “we” is always demonic. [!] The Liturgy does not leave us alone to search out an individual supposed knowledge of the mystery of God. Rather, it takes us by the hand, together, as an assembly, to lead us deep within the mystery that the Word and the sacramental signs reveal to us. And it does this, consistent with all action of God, following the way of the Incarnation, that is, by means of the symbolic language of the body, which extends to things in space and time.
[What I find exasperating about this talk of “Gnosticism” is that it is precisely in a kind of “secret knowledge” about the “spirit of the Council”, something between the lines and words of the actual texts of the documents, that some have forced into a super dogma by which they intend to re-interpret everything, the Church’s history, doctrine, worship especially. They have a secret knowledge of the Council’s “ecclesiology” which they use as a bludgeon. If you stand in the way and resist, they slam you with it as the only acceptable ecclesiology, admitting no other possibility. If you do not conform instantly, you are “against the Council”, which is the last remaining, apparently, sin that cries to… I dunno.. Pachamama, I guess.]
20. If neo-Pelagianism intoxicates us with the presumption of a salvation earned through our own efforts, the liturgical celebration purifies us, proclaiming the gratuity of the gift of salvation received in faith. Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice [thank you for adding “sacrifice”] is not our own achievement, as if because of it we could boast before God or before our brothers and sisters. The beginning of every celebration reminds me who I am, asking me to confess my sin and inviting me to implore the Blessed Mary ever virgin, the angels and saints and all my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God. [Correct me if I am wrong, but that is just one option in the Novus Ordo. Isn’t there a “penitential rite” without the Confiteor?] Certainly, we are not worthy to enter his house; we need a word of his to be saved. (cf. Ma 8:8) We have no other boast but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (cf. Gal 6:14) The Liturgy has nothing to do with an ascetical moralism. It is the gift of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord which, received with docility, makes our life new. The cenacle is not entered except through the power of attraction of his desire to eat the Passover with us: Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum, antequam patiar (Lk 22:15).
[What I find exasperating about this is the fact that, if Pelagianism is about “DIY… Do It Yourself”, so is the Novus Ordo. First DYI of all is the very rite! It was a DIY project by the Consilium that went way beyond the intentions of the Council Fathers who voted on Sacrosanctum Concilium. This is where “Gnosticism” and “Pelagianism” intersect: the “experts” who cobbled together the Novus Ordo knew better than the Church what the Church intended. The Novus Ordo was DYI and it is itself a DYI because of all the options. The options themselves create another strain of Gnosticism, whereby every priest and bishop has his own way of saying Mass and he is sure that his way is the right way (otherwise they would do something else). Parish Masses can differ wildly within cities, not to speak of countries. Talk about “intoxication”! Have you seen what some priests become, up there in front of people? Talk about turning worship into “being about me” and not about the “assembly”.]
Rediscovering daily the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration
21. But we must be careful: for the antidote of the Liturgy to be effective, we are required every day to rediscover the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration. I refer once again to the theological sense, as n. 7 of Sacrosanctum Conciliumso beautifully describes it: the Liturgy is the priesthood of Christ, [NB: no quotation marks… SC doesn’t say that in that way, but it sort of says that.] revealed to us and given in his Paschal Mystery, [SC 7 doesn’t talk about the Paschal Mystery, but 5 and 6 do.] rendered present and active by means of signs addressed to the senses (water, oil, bread, wine, gestures, words), so that the Spirit, plunging us into the paschal mystery, might transform every dimension of our life, conforming us more and more to Christ.
[“Paschal Mystery”. Everything is “Paschal Mystery” these days. I am all for the Paschal Mystery. I get how the rites themselves make the baptized present to the sacred mysteries we celebrate and make those mysteries present to us. I get how, as Vonier teaches, sacramental reality is not less real than sensible reality. However, the problem with most of the jibber jabber about the Paschal Mystery is that it gets reduced to the Resurrection. SC 7 hadn’t done that yet. As a matter of fact, it says that the Mass is a sacrifice. This is the corrective that needs to be stressed whenever there’s lots of talk about the Paschal Mystery. As Trent emphasized dogmatically in Session 22, the Mass is a sacrifice which is propitiatory. It is the sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner, the same Victim/Priest (by the ministry of ordained priests), the manner alone of offering being different. There are some, such as the theologians of the SSPX, who are deeply suspicious of any talk of the Paschal Mystery, in which term they hear echoing the exaggerations and wanderings of the “ressourcement” writers of the 20th c. They aren’t wrong. However, in the offertory prayers of the TLM the priest says that he offers the sacrifice to the Trinity in memory of the “Passion, Resurrection and Ascension”. In the Roman Canon at the Unde et memores we remember the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension. The “anamnesis… remembering” in this case is more than just a recollection of a past event. In the context of the Canon, during the renewal in an unbloody manner of the propitiatory sacrifice by the Priest/Victim Christ (in the person of His ordained priest), the sacred mysteries are made present to us and we to them. While Mass is the SACRIFICE of Calvary, in a preeminent way, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a making present of, yes, the Resurrection and Ascension. Moreover, there is a sense in which the Mass is the culmination of the entire history of salvation, foreshadowed in God’s work as in, for example, the very first pasch, the Passover and Exodus which the Hebrews would “remember” through history, though not in a way that they thought they were renewing it in a new manner. I’ll stop. The problem is that, these days, the “Paschal Mystery” is about the Resurrection, to such an extent that the propitiatory sacrificial dimension of the Mass is virtually smothered.]
22. The continual rediscovery of the beauty of the Liturgy is not the search for a ritual aesthetic which is content by only a careful exterior observance of a rite or is satisfied by a scrupulous observance of the rubrics. Obviously, what I am saying here does not wish in any way to approve the opposite attitude, which confuses simplicity with a careless banality, or what is essential with an ignorant superficiality, or the concreteness of ritual action with an exasperating practical functionalism. [Which would also have to include a kind of minimalism that is a very dangerous and distorting tendency, the dreadful notion that so long as a sacrament is valid, then nothing else matters.]
23. Let us be clear here: every aspect of the celebration must be carefully tended to (space, time, gestures, words, objects, vestments, song, music…) and every rubric must be observed. Such attention would be enough to prevent robbing from the assembly what is owed to it; namely, the paschal mystery celebrated according to the ritual that the Church sets down. But even if the quality and the proper action of the celebration were guaranteed, that would not be enough to make our participation full.
And so we get to “active participation”.
That last bit, however… which does that describe most positively (if I can put it that way): Novus or Vetus? Observance of rubrics… care of celebration… sticking to the ritual so that the sacred mysteries will be encountered more readily. Which? Novus? Vetus?