I have been wondering for a while if I ought to share some thoughts regarding the title chosen for this blog: Tradition in Continuity: Considerations for the Development of Catholic Sacred Architecture.
I did not expect that my Bishop would in fact write the article for me! But that is exactly what came to my mind as I was reading the most recent column in the Denver Catholic Register by Bishop James Conley. It lays out much of the reasoning behind the importance of an inherited liturgical Tradition and the priveleging of Continuity as a way of looking toward both the past and future. In fact, this is our particular role as stewards of the great tradition to which we are heirs, in our own time and place, for the good of the future members of the Body of Christ.
Here in Denver, following the departure of our esteemed Archbishop Charles Chaput (now leading the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) we are blessed to have as our apostolic administrator Bishop Conley. His leadership of the Archdiocese as we await our new Archbishop is a great gift to the Catholic faithful of this area.
Bishop Conley has taught often, in both spoken and written form about the fundamental need for Beauty in our liturgical celebrations – with particular emphasis on the patrimony of sacred music and more broadly on the importance of appreciation and engagement with the venerable and living tradition of liturgical worship within the Catholic Church.
And so, building upon the current moment of renewed interest in the Mass and the need for liturgical catechesis that is being ushered in by the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, the Bishop’s column carries forward this effort in a wonderful and concise manner.
Referencing the liturgical teaching and reflections of Pope Benedict over the past several decades, and the wonderful work of Fr. Jean Corbon as presented in the book Wellspring of Worship, Bishop Conley notes the following:
Liturgy is a gift from God, providing a life that we can never create. It is a gift that we should welcome with gratitude and responsibility.
The liturgy, more than “an object to be reformed” is “a subject capable of renewing Christian life” (Pope Benedict XVI). The Church is renewed, first and foremost, through an authentic renewal of the liturgy, a renewal in continuity. The new translation of the Roman Missal is an important step in this process. Receiving with joy the beautiful words of the Mass will help us to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of the Lord and to allow the river of his presence to refresh our hearts and the heart of the world.
The column is of course not very lengthy, and so it can only reach a certain depth regarding the overflowing richness of the Sacred Liturgy, but I do hope that it might spur many of my fellow Catholic laity to consider more deeply (even if only a bit) the wealth of meaning that is present within our liturgical celebrations.
And since I thought it might be beneficial, here is a brief and intensely beautiful excerpt from The Wellspring of Worship that supplements much of what Bishop Conley alludes to in his column. The wellspring is the eternal life of the Trinity, and we are invited to enter into that very mystery of self-giving love at each and every liturgical celebration.
The Ascension and the Eternal Liturgy
”The river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1), flowed hidden in the passage of the time of the promises and God’s patience. But “when the completion of the time came” (Gal 4:4), that is, when the incarnation occurred, the river entered into our world and assumed our flesh. In the “hour” of the cross and the resurrection it sprang forth from the incorruptible and life-giving body of Christ. From that moment on, it has been and is liturgy. A new period thus began within “the present time” (1) in which after its decisive defeat death carries on its war on all fronts but in which, at the same time, the Passage of the Lord continues to penetrate the depths of humanity and history. We are in “the last times.” (2) …
It is highly regrettable that the majority of the faithful pay so little heed to the ascension of the Lord. Their lack of appreciation of it is closely connected with their lack of appreciation of the mystery of the liturgy…
We can only wonder at, and try to recapture for ourselves, the insight shown by the early Christians and by Christians down to the beginning of the second millennium, who placed the Christ of the ascension in the dome of their churches. When the faithful gathered to manifest and become the body of Christ, they saw their Lord both as present and as coming. He is the head and draws his body toward the Father while giving it life through his Spirit.