In an earlier post, I discussed the definational meaning of orthodox. In subsequent articles, I hope to lay out some of the guiding principles that define Catholic orthodoxy. The first being, how we understand and read the Second Vatican Council. (How did it become referred to as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II anyway? I think it would have been cooler to refer to it as “The Vatican Council: The Sequel.” I digress.)
If you have never read the documents of the Second Vatican Council – read them! The council is a gift and a blessing to the Church, and the documents are beautiful! We should embrace them, understand them, and get as many people to read them as we can. We should not run from the council or blame the council, but rather to be orthodox is to embrace the council, realizing that it is still being interpred and implemented. But, when you do pick up these documents, read it by the letter guided by the spirit for understanding and deeper reflection. This distinguishes orthodoxy from others who read the Second Vatican Council looking for what is written between the lines, or read it as a political account of the conversatives in the Roman Curia versus those progressives who wanted change. We don’t read it by the spirit, but rather we read it IN the Spirit. We don’t look for what is between the lines, but what is right there on the page. That is a huge difference.
Furthermore, we want to read the documents as interpreted through the magisterium believing the Holy Spirit continues to work through the teaching office of the Church. We don’t believe it to be a break with the past, but rather we see it in the continuous tradition of the Church. The right blames the council, believing the council to be a mistake and a cause of confusion and dismantling the tradition and liturgy of the Church. The left views it as a break with the past, in the word of Pope Benedict, they view it as a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.” Both parties skeptical of the leadership of JP II–failed to restore what was, the other because he supposedly tried to do just that.
I believe that we are still trying to answer a fundamental question of the Second Vatican Council, “Church what do you say of yourself?” We have yet to come to grips with who we are as Church? We are in an identity crisis. We don’t know who we are. In a crisis of identity we discover who we are by memory. We look back to move forward. We remember our tradition, we remember the saints. Is this not what we do in the Mass? The past becomes the present, the body of Christ past, present, and future is united around the Eucharist, and we discover who we are. This same hermeneutic and belief regarding the Mass, is how we read any council, but most certainly how we come to understand Vatican II.