Without a doubt, the voice is an integral part of the Divine Liturgy. Whether it be a response, a prayer, or singing, the voice is a part of the Mass. The human voice becomes, especially in the Holy Mass, an instrument through the ministry of the Mystical Body to participate in that beautiful and sacred “exchange of man’s (really Christ’s) homage and Gods life” . It only seems necessary, then, that the voice partakes in the Mass in the most proper way–the most beautiful and majestic way fit for honoring the King of kings. We can come to know what is best through the Spirit that works through the Church. It is this post’s purpose, thence, to present that the most authentic praise and song fit for the Divine Liturgy is founded in the form of Gregorian Chant–as has been taught and continues to be affirmed by Mother Church.
Pope Pius X writes, in his Motu Propio Tra Le Sollecitudini promulgated in 1903, that
[Gregorian Chant is] the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.
In the letter to the Philippians, there is a beautiful passage, a hymn and prayer of the early Church that confesses faith in Jesus Christ:
[T]hough he [Christ] was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth. (cf. Phil 2:6-11)
To begin this next post, I want to start by reiterating a passage from the writings of Saint Gregory the Great. He is meditating on Saint Paul’s reflection of what love is (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-6; ‘love is patient, love is kind’ etc.), and uses it to identify the Christian, namely, as one who
shows his patience by bearing wrongs with equanimity; his kindness by generously repaying good for evil. Jealously is foreign to him…His conduct is blameless…He is not ambitious…He is not quick to take offense…He harbors no evil thoughts.
“[B]eing a Christian…is to be transformed”, writes Joseph Ratzinger, “it must involve repentance and not just some embellishment added onto the rest of one’s life. It reaches down into our depths and renews us from those very depths”. There is something in the life of the Christian that is unique; how one lives—ultimately in relationship with God—is the message of Christianity. Love is the atomical unit of what it means to be Christian. Jesus Christ is Love victorious. In the Roman culture of Jesus’ time, “Victory” itself was beginning to appear as a deity. In fact, the emperor’s identification with “Victory” would be the rule of measure for future emperors. The life of Jesus of Nazareth shows us the true personification of victory, and it is He, and He is Love. Christ shows us that the true victory-deity is the God of Love, and He is “Victory” because He conquered death through love. The reason why I bring this up is because it is imperative to understand that love is stronger than death. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, and as such a genuine transformation of the human heart is possible: holiness is possible, happiness is possible, life is possible! Christianity is not just a cover-up in the person of Jesus, but an actual transformation of the self, a legitimate participation in the “divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4) because of Jesus Christ. To understand justification, we must understand how Christianity is about transformation: hence justification cannot be separated from sanctification.
Though the previous post did not directly mention it, as soon as one discusses justification, it is almost certain that a few matters of history and doctrine will come to light: justification by faith, and justification by faith and works. Generally, it is thought that Martin Luther (as well as Protestantism as a whole) and the Catholic position completely disagree—Luther is pro-faith, and Catholicism pro-faith-and-works, or in some minds just pro-works. However, if one looks at the texts of the Catholic Council of Trent, it appears that the general accepted understanding of this soteriological matter may be inaccurate. For-instance, the Council declares: “If anyone says that a person can be justified before God by his own works…apart from divine grace through Jesus Christ: let him be anathema”. I think that most Protestants would appreciate such a statement. Both the Catholic and the Protestant can agree that salvation occurs only through the gratuity of God. It is through grace that man has and receives eternal life. No one can earn salvation—that is heresy. However, and as we will examine further throughout this series, where a much greater distinction exists between the Catholic and Protestant doctrine is in the understanding of grace itself.
This series of posts will examine the Christian doctrine of justification, a subject that has been brought up in the dialogue of this blog more than once. As such, I hope to address this topic and try to outline the Catholic understanding. In addition, I also want to compare the Catholic doctrine with the Protestant stance on the subject. It would be incredibly inefficient to take the Catholic position and compare it with the thousands of individual Protestant denominations; for this reason, I have chosen to consider primarily Martin Luther himself to be the most adequate and efficient method to compare and contrast the Catholic and Protestant positions. Let us begin.
“[I]f I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing”, writes the Great Apostle (1 Cor 13:2). Saint Paul, in multiple passages of his writings, exhorts the greatness of love. Ultimately, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10). When we talk about justification, then, a proper hermeneutic of the subject must stem from love, which is the greatest of the three theological virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13). Moreover, it is important to see that love, which is the principle of holiness, denotes something about justification: that justification is intimitely tied up with becoming holy, i.e., sanctification.
Do you know what is the nature of the Church? You might come up with various answers, but when the Church asks who are we at our very nature, it responds–missionary.1 Evangelization is at the core of who we are as Church–to go out!
Orthodoxy is necessary for evangelization to occur. Without it, one hasn’t anything to share, but their own conjecture and opinion. Without orthodoxy, there is nothing to share, and no need to share it. For evangelization to have meaning there is a necessary precursor of catholicity (right thinking-truth, fullness of faith and universal mission). Evangelization is about conversion of hearts, leading others to Christ through word and proclamation, into his visible body, the Church.
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.
There are many in the Church who would use terms such as liberal Catholics or conservative Catholics. But for me, these terms are not helpful. What I want and hope to be is in line with the Church– to be orthodox. Orthodox means right thinking, to have the heart and mind of the Church. Orthodox is a term I think we must use today. There used to be another word that we used–Catholic. Catholic means universal, but what is not often explained is that the word means universal in mission, but also universal in doctrine, right thinking. At one time, it was used to distinguish true believers, “Catholics,” against heretics. Because the word “Catholic” has become confusing with many wondering what type of Catholic you are and how you would define yourself, many might find the term “orthodox” as helpful– meaning you are in line with Church teaching and are open to correction if they error.