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Offline SeanJohnson

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Francis to Strike the Death Blow
« on: May 16, 2022, 10:42:25 AM »
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    Archbishop Arthur Roche: "Soon a docuмent on the liturgical formation of all the baptized"

    [Translation courtesy of the catacombs.org]

    Omnesmag.com | May 9, 2022

    Arthur Roche's first year at the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship has been intense. The publication of “Traditionis custodes” and of a Letter from the Pope to the bishops on the Tridentine liturgy was followed by a clarification of the doubts raised signed by Bishop Roche. The Prefect misses a greater liturgical formation of all the baptized, and confirms the forthcoming publication of a docuмent to promote it.
    Alfonso Riobó May 9, 2022 Reading time: 9 minutes
    rock

    Archbishop Arthur Roche has been Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for a year, where he has worked since 2012. This year, much of the work of the Dicastery has revolved around the new norms that restrict the possibility of using the liturgical form prior to the reform of the sixties (the “Tridentine Mass”), and the creation of the new lay catechist ministry. Now, Bishop Roche has received Omnes at the headquarters of the Congregation, and takes stock of these and other issues.


    Almost a year ago, "Traditionis Custodes" limited the possibilities of using the liturgy prior to the reform of the Council. The docuмent explained that its objective was "to seek ecclesial communion." Has progress been made towards that goal?

    – We must begin by saying that the reason behind this decision is the unity of the Church, and that is what has moved the Pope. The previous Popes, John Paul II or Benedict XVI, had never thought that the existing possibilities had the objective of promoting the Tridentine rite, but only serving people who have difficulty with the new form of prayer of the Church.

    But, in the end, we are formed by the liturgy, because the liturgy carries within it the faith and doctrine of the Church. Lex orandi, lex credendi. I think that, in reality, this is not only a difficulty for the liturgy, but a difficulty for ecclesiology, for doctrine. For the first time in history, since the Second Vatican Council, we have in the magisterium an insertion of the nature of the Church, since it is the first time after two thousand years that we have a dogmatic constitution such as the "Lumen Gentium". "Lumen Gentium" implies that it is not only the priest who celebrates the mass, but all the baptized. Obviously, it is not possible for everyone to do what is related to the consecration of the Eucharistic species without the priest; but all the baptized, like the priest, have a position to celebrate. Everyone participates in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and for this reason, as "Sacrosanctum concilium" reminds us, they have the right and the duty to participate in the liturgy. This is in contrast to the rite that he collects in the 1962 missal, where the priest was seen as the representative of all the others who are present at the celebration of the mass. This is the great difference between the two forms: the Church as it is understood in today's ecclesiology, and the nature of the Church as it was conceived by earlier ecclesiology.


    At the same time, Traditionis Custodes highlights the continuity between the current rite and the old one: it states that the new Roman Missal “contains all the elements of the Roman rite, especially the Roman canon, which is one of the most characteristic elements”.

    – Of course, we must also underline the continuity. The liturgy is a living gift that the Church has received. But we must not canonize the old for old, otherwise we would find people who want to go back to things simply because they are older, and that could mean going back to liturgical expressions even before the Tridentine ones, for example. Actually, the point at which we are now, with the new missal of Paul VI, means that we have had the opportunity to study all the most fundamental elements, to take advantage of the sources of the liturgy, which were not known during the Tridentine Council in the years 1545-1563.


    Pope Francis has said that he is "hurt by the abuses" of some current celebrations. What do you think?

    – I think that at this moment there is a lack of liturgical formation. It is very interesting to remember that in the years prior to the Council there was a liturgical movement, with a patristic, biblical and ecuмenical foundation; and the Council offered the possibility of a renewal of the Church, also in relation to the liturgy.

    I think that at this moment the aim is only to comply with the rubrics of the Liturgy, and that seems a bit poor to me. Theologically, the reason was the celebration of the Mystery.

    For this reason, two years ago the Holy Father asked this Congregation to hold a plenary meeting of all its members to discuss liturgical formation throughout the Church: from bishops to priests and laity. And indeed, a docuмent on this matter is currently being prepared. Possibly it will materialize in a letter to the Church on the importance of formation. What do we do when we meet every Sunday for this celebration? What is the point of that assembly? Not just an obligation to do something every week, but what do we do? What do we celebrate at that time?


    Will it be easy to get the content of that letter to the laity, to the people in a broad sense?

    – As you know, on the occasion of the publication of the motu proprio “Traditionis Custodes” Pope Francis wrote a letter only to the bishops explaining what they should do. I think that, at this time, we in the Congregation have a responsibility to think about how to reach a larger audience.


    The “mystagogical” catechesis, which introduces the celebrated mysteries, is one of the instruments of liturgical formation. A special occasion are sacraments such as baptism, communion or marriage. Do they fulfill that role?

    – Mystagogical catechesis is very important. There is a paragraph in "Sacrosanctum Concilium", number 16, which says that liturgical formation is among the most important subjects in the formation of seminarians, and that teachers of other subjects must take it into account when teaching biblical subjects, patristic, dogmatic, etc.

    There is an abbey in America, Mount Angel, next to Portland, where all the subjects of theological formation in the seminary period always have the focus on the liturgy of the day. Everything is oriented according to the great tenses of the liturgy, of the liturgical calendar. We must also consider this in relation to formation: that it is about celebration. It is not just about doing things or participating in some parts of the celebration, but about celebrating worthily with a deep, active participation as the Council recalled. Through words and gestures we reach the mystery. More than carrying out activities, such as reading the readings or other things, we must seek a deep, quasi-mystical participation in the contemplation of the liturgy.


    The sacrament of Penance is a benchmark of this pontificate. Francis has spoken of mercy and forgiveness from the beginning; he has invited confession celebrations, and has shown similar gestures. How to revalue this sacrament?

    – I think that obviously the sacrament of Penance is, in a certain sense, in a period of crisis at the moment, because there is a loss of the sense of sin. Sins are not less today than they were before, but the knowledge of individual sin is lacking; I think it's a challenge for so many people. The Pope as a great pastor, before his election as Pope, has evidenced this in his diocese, in the parishes and in his pastoral care.

    I will tell you about an interesting experience: a few years ago I received an invitation from the Sacred Penitentiary to give a conference for deacons preparing to receive priestly ordination. When I arrived and saw that there were 500 people, I asked Cardinal Piacenza: are there that many to be ordained this year? It was not like that, but almost two thirds of the attendees were already ordained priests and had come to that course, in some cases after many years of ordination, to learn again how to celebrate the sacrament of penance. This speaks to us of a lack of training for priests. In particular, for the sacrament of confession, the availability of the priest is important, but not only in terms of dedication of time, but also as the availability of a person who welcomes penitents, who speaks of mercy, who speaks like a father to a person who needs reconciliation with God. All these elements are very important, but they are also integral elements of training.


    How does the catechist ministry that was established on May 10 of last year evolve, in its first steps?

    – At this time, the most important thing is for the Episcopal Conference to define who the catechists are. It is a ministry, and not just a participation in the ministry like we have in all the parishes in the world, where some people prepare the boys for first communion, confession, etc. This is a more important ministry, but one that needs to be defined. The person who receives this ministry is a point of reference in the diocese, for the organization of programs, levels, etc., but it depends on how the bishop makes the definition: this is now the responsibility of the episcopal conferences.

    There are, for example, some religious who carry out their apostolate as catechists... but this ministry is not planned for them. Even more important: it is also not intended for seminarians, who are preparing for the priesthood. They receive the acolyte, the readership, and then the diaconate, but this ministry of catechist is not intended for them: it is only for the baptized in general. For the Church it is a sign of the importance of the laity announcing the Gospel and forming young people.


    Let's talk about other aspects of the work of the Congregation for the Liturgy. The Constitution "Praedicate Evangelium" emphasizes that it promotes the liturgy "according to the renewal undertaken by the Second Vatican Council."

    – Certainly, one of your tasks is to promote the liturgy. At the same time, it must also become a point of reference for all the bishops of the world in their relationship with the Petrine ministry. The Congregation (in the future, the Dicastery) is to serve not only the Supreme Pontiff, but also all the bishops of the world, in the liturgical field. And this is a dimension that we must carefully consider. This is an opening of the Roman Curia, which should not be understood as a bureaucratic structure, but as a service to the universal Church.


    How do you collaborate with other Dicasteries?

    – Regarding its competences, it collaborates with all the organisms of the Curia, from the Doctrine of the Faith, to the Clergy or almost all the others. Also the new evangelization, the missions, the practice of charity, and all other actions have a liturgical aspect. Because the liturgy is the life of the whole Church; it is the soul of the Church.


    Soon it will be 60 years of “Sacrosanctum Concilium”. This Council docuмent on the liturgy wanted the Paschal mystery to become the center of Christian life. How is this approach considered today?

    – Sixty years is a short time in the history of the Church. After Trent, there was a great period in which there were circuмstances of difficulty for the whole Church to receive the reform -a reform is something serious-; but also now we have many difficulties.

    An important difficulty in the Church is the growth of individualism. People raise their desires as individual beings, but not as a community. Now, the Church is precisely a community, and celebrates all the sacraments in a communal sense; among them, also the mass, because it is not planned to be celebrated without the presence of another person, and normally the faithful congregate in large numbers.

    At this time liberalism, individualism that exist in this society are a challenge for the Church. It is easy to think of my personal preference, of a specific type of liturgy, of a particular expression of the celebration, of this priest rather than this other priest; but this individualism is not of the character of the Church. And we must consider the effects of these influences on the spiritual life of the Church, as is clearly underlined in "Sacrosanctum Concilium", but also in "Lumen Gentium".


    Has the pandemic reinforced the trend towards individualism?

    – I think that this trend will not last forever, because we know that the need to relate to God and others is within us, and it is not something that we have the possibility of moving away indefinitely, through television or the internet. We need to be present at the celebration, since the sacraments refer to the personal relationship with Christ, and are not a program or a movie. Online or on TV we follow something for a moment, but we are not there; we can see everything, but we are not present, and this is the most important thing: the presence of the people.


    Let me mention two particular aspects of "Sacrosancutm Concilium". The first is liturgical inculturation.

    – It is that there are some cultures, in certain societies outside Europe, especially in mission countries, in which the Roman rite can be enriched by the genius of each place, which is not always easy.

    On this subject, I have said many times to the bishops that we have spent the last fifty years preparing the translation of the liturgical texts; and now we have to move on to the second phase, which is already foreseen by "Sacrosanctum Concilium", and is the inculturation or adaptation of the liturgy to other different cultures, maintaining unity. I think that this work should be started at this time. But I want to specify that today there is only one liturgical “use”, not a “rite”, and it is in Zaire, in Africa.

    It is important to understand what it means that Jesus shared our nature, and in a historical moment. We have to consider the importance of the Incarnation and, if we may say so, of the action of grace that is embodied in other cultures, with various expressions that are completely different from what we have seen and appreciated in Europe for so many years.


    The second aspect is beauty, particularly in sacred architecture. The Pope says “the Church evangelizes and evangelizes herself with the beauty of the liturgy” (“Evangelii Gaudium”, 24).

    – Beauty is a part of God's nature, and a part of human existence. It is very important for man, because it attracts him: we are attracted by beauty. And it speaks to us not only in a unique way, but also individually.

    This aspect of the liturgy, also in relation to the temples, was foreseen by the docuмents issued as soon as the "Sacrosanctum Concilium" was approved and also supported by the bishops participating in the Council. These texts pointed out what must be taken into account in the configuration of the temple in a way that helps the celebration, and the meaning and importance of the various elements. I am thinking, for example, of the altar, which means the Body of Christ; for the Orthodox it is the tomb, from where the resurrection belongs to the celebration of the Eucharist. Or in the importance of the ambo, by itself and in relation to the altar. In our celebrations we have two “tables”: the Holy Scripture and the Holy Eucharist; but without Sacred Scripture we do not do the Eucharist. The two are in balance and both are the same thing. The Word leads to the Eucharist and this is deepened and understood with the Word.


    Do you want to add something else?

    – Yes. I think it is very important that at this moment we think once again about the voice of the Council to the whole world, a prophetic voice for the future of the Church. That we delve into what "Sacrosanctum Concilium" contains, and also the other docuмents, but above all "Lumen Gentium", about the holiness of the Church and our vocation, because without holiness we will lack an authentic voice to preach the Gospel.






    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #1 on: May 16, 2022, 11:35:01 AM »
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  • Note here, the same justifying rationale used by the protoliturgucal modernists of the 1910’s for the dialogue Mass:

     "Lumen Gentium" implies that it is not only the priest who celebrates the mass, but all the baptized. Obviously, it is not possible for everyone to do what is related to the consecration of the Eucharistic species without the priest; but all the baptized, like the priest, have a position to celebrate. Everyone participates in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and for this reason, as "Sacrosanctum concilium" reminds us, they have the right and the duty to participate in the liturgy.”

    And note here an open admission of a new ecclesiology only contradiction to Catholic ecclesiology:

    “This is in contrast to the rite that he collects in the 1962 missal, where the priest was seen as the representative of all the others who are present at the celebration of the mass. This is the great difference between the two forms: the Church as it is understood in today's ecclesiology, and the nature of the Church as it was conceived by earlier ecclesiology.”


    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #2 on: May 16, 2022, 11:40:22 AM »
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  • “At the same time, Traditionis Custodes highlights the continuity between the current rite and the old one: it states that the new Roman Missal “contains all the elements of the Roman rite, especially the Roman canon, which is one of the most characteristic elements”.

    – Of course, we must also underline the continuity. The liturgy is a living gift that the Church has received. But we must not canonize the old for old, otherwise we would find people who want to go back to things simply because they are older, and that could mean going back to liturgical expressions even before the Tridentine ones, for example.”


    Comment:

    There is allegedly a continuity between the two rites, yet as quoted in the previous comment, a new ecclesiology had to be introduced in order to make the lex credendi compatible and consistent with the lex orandi conveyed by the new rite??

    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #3 on: May 16, 2022, 11:55:23 AM »
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  • “I think that at this moment there is a lack of liturgical formation. It is very interesting to remember that in the years prior to the Council there was a liturgical movement, with a patristic, biblical and ecuмenical foundation; and the Council offered the possibility of a renewal of the Church, also in relation to the liturgy.”

    Note the praise for a liturgical movement which lept the Catholic tails upon the death of St. Pius X and the suppression of the Sodalitium Pianum, and the implicit admission that modernist principles (such as those laid out in the first quote two posts prior) were being promoted by the hierarchy prior to Vatican II.

    “I think that at this moment the aim is only to comply with the rubrics of the Liturgy, and that seems a bit poor to me. Theologically, the reason was the celebration of the Mystery.”

    Sheer Judaism, per the famous 2001 SSPX book/study on the new Mass.

    For this reason, two years ago the Holy Father asked this Congregation to hold a plenary meeting of all its members to discuss liturgical formation throughout the Church: from bishops to priests and laity. And indeed, a docuмent on this matter is currently being prepared. Possibly it will materialize in a letter to the Church on the importance of formation. What do we do when we meet every Sunday for this celebration? What is the point of that assembly? Not just an obligation to do something every week, but what do we do? What do we celebrate at that time?


    Prediction: This docuмent will be a refinement of the guiding principles of Dom Lambert Beauduin, Odo Cassel, Bugnini, Parsch, and all the protomodernists.

    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #4 on: May 16, 2022, 11:59:49 AM »
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  • “Through words and gestures we reach the mystery. More than carrying out activities, such as reading the readings or other things, we must seek a deep, quasi-mystical participation in the contemplation of the liturgy.”

    Sacrifice is replaced by the Judaic notion of mystery.  Hat-tip to the 2001 SSPX study again.  Note the almost gnostic ethos in the way this concept of mystery is presented.


    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #5 on: May 16, 2022, 12:06:23 PM »
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  • “There are, for example, some religious who carry out their apostolate as catechists... but this ministry is not planned for them. Even more important: it is also not intended for seminarians, who are preparing for the priesthood. They receive the acolyte, the readership, and then the diaconate, but this ministry of catechist is not intended for them: it is only for the baptized in general. For the Church it is a sign of the importance of the laity announcing the Gospel and forming young people.”

    It is no longer for the priest to exercise one of the three functions conferred upon him by ordination (ie., the duty time teach, govern, and sanctify).

    The first of these is now to be take from him, and delegated to the laity.

    This will represent a formal abdication.

    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #6 on: May 16, 2022, 12:25:30 PM »
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  • “Soon it will be 60 years of “Sacrosanctum Concilium”. This Council docuмent on the liturgy wanted the Paschal mystery to become the center of Christian life. How is this approach considered today?

    Here we go again, with the interviewer wanting the Cardinal to drive home this novel Judaic notion of the Mass as mystery...

    “– Sixty years is a short time in the history of the Church. After Trent, there was a great period in which there were circuмstances of difficulty for the whole Church to receive the reform -a reform is something serious-; but also now we have many difficulties.”

    Every time this claim is made, the nature of the post-Tridentine difficulties which hindered that Council’s implementation is conveniently omitted:

    Many of the European countries were in revolt against the Church; the difficulties encountered in implementing the Council’s decrees were therefore political, and stemmed from the active suppression and persecution of the Church and its apostolate (unlike the difficulties experienced because of the Second Vatican Council, which threw the Church into chaos because of its rupture with Tradition).

    “An important difficulty in the Church is the growth of individualism. People raise their desires as individual beings, but not as a community. Now, the Church is precisely a community, and celebrates all the sacraments in a communal sense; among them, also the mass, because it is not planned to be celebrated without the presence of another person, and normally the faithful congregate in large numbers.“

    Note here the implicitly heterodox conception (a la the GIRM’s ambiguous definition of the Mass) of what the Mass is:

    If the Mass is primarily a propitiatory sacrifice, the absence or presence of the faithful is irrelevant, but if the Mass is conceived primarily community action, then the presence of the faithful is implicit a priori.

    “At this time liberalism, individualism that exist in this society are a challenge for the Church. It is easy to think of my personal preference, of a specific type of liturgy, of a particular expression of the celebration, of this priest rather than this other priest; but this individualism is not of the character of the Church. And we must consider the effects of these influences on the spiritual life of the Church, as is clearly underlined in "Sacrosanctum Concilium", but also in "Lumen Gentium".”


    Translation: Traditionalism is incompatible with Vatican II (which was already admitted by the Cardinal’s first quote above).

    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #7 on: May 16, 2022, 12:31:14 PM »
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  • “Has the pandemic reinforced the trend towards individualism?

    – I think that this trend will not last forever, because we know that the need to relate to God and others is within us, and it is not something that we have the possibility of moving away indefinitely, through television or the internet. We need to be present at the celebration, since the sacraments refer to the personal relationship with Christ, and are not a program or a movie. Online or on TV we follow something for a moment, but we are not there; we can see everything, but we are not present, and this is the most important thing: the presence of the people.


    Rather breathtaking, isn’t it?  Lay participation is the “most important thing” about Mass attendance.  The bolder text above is a bit ambiguous, if analyzed univocally, but contextualized with the Cardinal’s other statements in the interview, this is his clear meaning, and it almost implies that man’s importance has displaced Christ’s as the raison d’etre, which is sheer Masonry.


    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #8 on: May 16, 2022, 12:46:52 PM »
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  • “Let me mention two particular aspects of "Sacrosancutm Concilium". The first is liturgical inculturation.

    – It is that there are some cultures, in certain societies outside Europe, especially in mission countries, in which the Roman rite can be enriched by the genius of each place, which is not always easy.

    On this subject, I have said many times to the bishops that we have spent the last fifty years preparing the translation of the liturgical texts; and now we have to move on to the second phase, which is already foreseen by "Sacrosanctum Concilium", and is the inculturation or adaptation of the liturgy to other different cultures, maintaining unity. I think that this work should be started at this time. But I want to specify that today there is only one liturgical “use”, not a “rite”, and it is in Zaire, in Africa.”

    Not sure what the Cardinal is trying to accomplish, by pretending the scandalous inculturation of the “work of human hands” rite of Paul VI has yet to commence.  We’ve been treated with decades of performances demanding reparation, and outrages which have only served to bring chastisement upon ourselves: From nude female lector’s in New Guinnea, to the Abominations of Assisi. 

    “It is important to understand what it means that Jesus shared our nature, and in a historical moment. We have to consider the importance of the Incarnation and, if we may say so, of the action of grace that is embodied in other cultures, with various expressions that are completely different from what we have seen and appreciated in Europe for so many years.“

    The Cardinal evinces no love or knowledge of what the Incarnation meant for mankind, but instead appears to demote and profane it, by suggesting that God elevated even that portion of mankind which rejects or remains ignorant of Him, such that even cultures -not souls- embody grace. 

    Here, we can see the intention is not to modestly inculturate in order to convert (as the great Jesuits of North and South America did), but rather to import paganism as paganism, while calling it Catholicism (or worse still, to pretend paganism is simply another way of worshipping the same Catholic God).



    Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #9 on: May 16, 2022, 12:55:32 PM »
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  • “The second aspect is beauty, particularly in sacred architecture. The Pope says “the Church evangelizes and evangelizes herself with the beauty of the liturgy” (“Evangelii Gaudium”, 24).

    – Beauty is a part of God's nature, and a part of human existence. It is very important for man, because it attracts him: we are attracted by beauty. And it speaks to us not only in a unique way, but also individually.

    This aspect of the liturgy, also in relation to the temples, was foreseen by the docuмents issued as soon as the "Sacrosanctum Concilium" was approved and also supported by the bishops participating in the Council. These texts pointed out what must be taken into account in the configuration of the temple in a way that helps the celebration, and the meaning and importance of the various elements. I am thinking, for example, of the altar, which means the Body of Christ; for the Orthodox it is the tomb, from where the resurrection belongs to the celebration of the Eucharist. Or in the importance of the ambo, by itself and in relation to the altar. In our celebrations we have two “tables”: the Holy Scripture and the Holy Eucharist; but without Sacred Scripture we do not do the Eucharist. The two are in balance and both are the same thing. The Word leads to the Eucharist and this is deepened and understood with the Word.“


    Gnostic gibberish.  It is sufficient to note the Cardinal distinguishes between the Orthodox, who have altars (ie., appropriate for a sacrifice), but Catholics have tables (ie., appropriate for a meal).  

    All who are reading the startling comments of the Cardinal are likely having intrusive thoughts pertaining to the validity of intention and form in the new sacraments, wondering like Archbishop Lefebvre did, whether men who’s thoughts are so far from Catholic orthodoxy are indeed capable of “doing what the Church does” or what the motives of such men in changing the sacramental formulae might have been (and the effects thereof).

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #10 on: May 16, 2022, 01:12:44 PM »
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  • Only the Motu folks do not simply ignore anything that comes from Bergoglio.


    Offline Ladislaus

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #11 on: May 16, 2022, 01:14:36 PM »
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  • Offline SeanJohnson

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    Re: Francis to Strike the Death Blow
    « Reply #12 on: May 16, 2022, 01:26:46 PM »
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  • Here is what the Cardinal is promoting

    Mystical Transformation: The Liturgical Ontology of Odo Casel
    Br. Peter Totleben, O. P.


    Odo Casel, one of the major theoreticians of the 20th century liturgical movement, was born in 1886. He entered the Benedictine abbey of Maria Laach in the German Rhineland in 1905. During his time at the monastery, its abbot, Illdefons Herwegen, built the place into a formidable center of Catholic intellectual and liturgical life. By all accounts, Dom Casel lived an exemplary monastic life: retiring and prayerful. He made a notable contribution to 20th century Catholic theology through his understanding of the nature, effects, and centrality of liturgical worship in the Christian life. The details of the theory sparked quite a bit of controversy at the time of their writing, and are not entirely satisfying. Nevertheless, Casel’s overall approach to the liturgy and Christian life offers the authentic spirituality of the Church, and could be a potent source of liturgical enrichment even today. Casel died in 1948, shortly after falling ill while proclaiming “The Light of Christ” at the Paschal vigil, a fitting end for a man so devoted to liturgical worship.1 Most of his work and the literature surrounding it is in German. But one of his most influential books, Das Christliche Kultmysterium was translated into English in 1963.2 

    In order to understand Odo Casel’s project, we must understand the times in which he lived and the contemporary trends against which he developed his teaching. Casel was concerned with the ways in which the various “-isms” of his time had corrupted the genuine religious sense of his fellow Catholics. The threats of Modernism, Rationalism, and Romanticism had joined forces to destroy the authentic piety of the People of God. Casel’s project was to simultaneously eliminate these three threats by proposing a theory based on his extensive understanding of the ancient Church. 

    By the end of the 1920’s, the conclusions of liberal Protestant Religionsgeschichte had made their way into the Catholic Church through the Modernist movement. In particular, this school undermined the uniqueness of Christianity by claiming that the Church’s doctrine and worship were shaped more by Hellenistic mystery cults than by the simple teaching of Jesus as found in the Gospel. Casel’s theory was designed to turn these arguments on their head, claiming that Hellenistic religion was actually a providential preparation which would enable people to have at hand helpful analogies for understanding the Christian life. “His great and courageous feat was rather to accept all the materials brought forward by the ‘comparative’ school and to propound a new interpretation of these materials, much deeper and richer than that of his opponents.”3 

    On the other side of the spectrum of Catholic opinion, a certain rationalism had set in. The roots of this rationalism lie in the decadent Scholasticism and overly-subjectivistic piety that began to take hold in the Church late in the Middle Ages. By Casel’s time, “exercises of devotion” were largely didactic and moralistic. For too many people, Christian life had been reduced to doctrines and behavior. The sacramental worship of the Church was all too easily reduced to a system of rites, performed in a punctilious and formalistic way, by which the people would receive “graces” that would help them to behave well.4 

    To this, Casel wished to propose a richer view of the Christian life: 

    Christianity is not a religion or a confession in the way the last three hundred years would have understood the word: a system of more or less dogmatically certain truths to be accepted and confessed and of moral commands to be observed or at least accorded recognition. . . The Christian thing, therefore, in its full and primitive meaning of God’s good Word, or Christ’s is not, as it were, a philosophy of life with religious background music, nor a moral or theological training.5 

    But, in trying to transcend such categories, we must not try to transform religious devotion into an athematic encounter with “The Divine” and turn religious experience into a mere expression and release of feelings, as Romanticism would have us do.6 

    Not only were these three paths each the wrong way to go, Casel knew that their energies were spent. What modern men and women needed was contact with something more profound than Modernism, Rationalism, or Romanticism could offer. What they needed was the ancient outlook of the Church: 

    Mankind today is sick with the rationalism of exact science and longs once more for the symbols of God’s world. It can find them, where they have always remained, in Christ’s church, where his mystery is proclaimed by the true God and shows the way to him. The church’s faithful, however, must learn once more the greatness of their treasures; they must cleanse away the rust of neglect, and let them shine once again in the light which love and knowledge brings to bear, so that they may show the world once more the only true and saving mysteries.7 

    In order to meet this need, Casel proposed a new (that is, old) approach to Christian life: it is a transformation in Christ. This transformation is brought about through participation in the sacramental liturgy of the Church, in which each believer mystically experiences the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to explain how this happens, Casel adumbrates an “evangelical ontology of the liturgy” 8 inspired by the Christian Platonism of the early Church. In a highly realistic way, the liturgy brings about a participation in the mystery of Christ. The liturgy is: 

    not an extension of aesthetically-minded ritualism, not ostentatious pageantry, but the carrying out, the making real of the mystery of Christ in the new alliance throughout the whole church, in all centuries; in it her healing and glory are made fact. This is what we mean when we say that liturgical mystery is the most central and most essential action of the Christian religion.9 

    According to Casel, mystery is “a sacred ritual action in which a saving deed is made present through the rite; the congregation, by performing the rite takes part in the saving act, and thereby wins salvation.”10 In a Christian context, there are three levels of the Mystery. The primordial mystery is God in Himself “as the infinitely distant, holy, unapproachable, to whom no man may draw near and live; in likeness to whom everything is impure.”11 On a second level, the Mystery is God in His revelation to us. Finally, the Christian Mystery is Jesus Christ Himself: “Christ is the mystery in person, because he shows the invisible godhead in the flesh. The deeds of his lowliness, above all his sacrificial death on the cross, are mysteries because God shows himself through them in a fashion which surpasses any human measurement.”12 

    Casel finds the primary inspiration for this view of Christianity in the New Testament itself. “For Paul, Peter, and John, the heart of faith is not the teachings of Christ, not the deeds of his ministry, but the acts by which he saved us.”13 In fact, the New Testament uses the word μυστήριον 27 times, mostly in the epistles of St. Paul. For St. Paul, the mystery is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “But we impart a hidden wisdom of God in mystery, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor 2:7). God has made known “to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him” (Eph 1:8-9). 

    But St. Paul says that “this mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph 3:6). Casel took this insight very seriously. In fact, in trying to describe what kind of thing the liturgy is, Casel drew an analogy to the pagan mystery cults which existed side-by-side with Christianity in its early centuries. 

    Casel thinks that the pagan mystery cults offered a participation in the lives of the gods. Each cult was based on a myth where in a certain mythic aion, a god walked among men. Forces conspired to bring about the death of this god, forces which the god conquered in coming to new life. The participants in the mystery cult symbolically re-enacted this death and resurrection in their rites, thereby mystically entering into the godlike life of the divine realm. This gave them new impulses for moral action and assurance against death. The participants, so bonded in a new mode of life, formed a hierarchical community.14 

    For Casel, the mystery cults served a twofold purpose. First, they were God’s providential preparation for the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles. The mystery cults had developed a “sacramental” symbol system out of nature15 and had taught the Gentiles to hope for the kinds of things that the Gospel promised to believers.16 Second, the pagan mysteries supplied an analogy which the early Church could use to adumbrate its own theology of worship.17 In short, Casel saw the pagan mysteries as a providentially-provided point of inculturation.18 

    Casel thinks that the later Scholastic tag Sacramenta efficiunt quod significant had its remote roots in an early Christian analogy to the pagan mystery cults.19 The liturgical celebrations of the Church did not simply offer worship to God; they did not simply comfort believers or inspire them to do good works. Rather, they brought believers into a real participation not just in Christ, but in the very theandric actions by which He saved us: 

    Christ’s salvation must be made real in us. This does not come about through a mere application, with our behaviour purely passive, through a ‘justification’ purely from ‘faith’, or by an application of the grace of Christ, where we have only to clear things out of the way in a negative fashion, to receive it. Rather, what is necessary is a living, active sharing in the redeeming deed of Christ; passive because the Lord make it act upon us, active because we share in by a deed of our own. . . What he experiences in his worship is not only an after effect of the saving act; the saving act itself takes on presence. The object of all Christian worship is this saving act of Christ. . . The mystery is no mere recalling of Christ and his saving deed; it is a memorial in worship. The church does what the Lord did, and thereby makes his act present.20 

    This conception of liturgical participation is highly Platonic, and underlying it is a Platonic conception of time. Plato calls time “a moving image of eternity.”21 In His resurrection, Christ destroys death and, with his humanity, enters a new aion, thereby making the events of his human life available to the liturgical celebrations that occur at all times. 

    What Christ did by dying and rising was no an historical event like any other; it was saving action, saving history. As such it burst the bonds of time and history. Christ dies to leave the world of sin and open the new age of divine order. At the moment of his death upon the cross and the fall of Satan’s power the age of sin, the age which is bound up in time is broken, and the new age, the age to come, the kingdom of God’s goodness has arrived.22

    The liturgy of the Church gives us a participation in time of this new aion, making us “true contemporaries”23 with Him and His acts, “in every detail.”24 

    In the liturgy, then, the historical events of Christ’s life are really present, in a new mode of being, a “sacramental” mode of being.25 

    In this new manner it is made present to us, so that we enter into it and can make it our own. . . What is meant is that the whole oikonomia, the whole design of salvation from the incarnation to the parousia, which has not yet appeared in point of time, does take on a sacramental presence and therefore can be the subject of our co-participation in the most vivid way.26 

    Casel’s theory of the presence of the Mysteries highlighted the role of Baptism and the Eucharist. But he did not stop there. It is not just the strictly sacramental rites that bring the believer into the new aion of Christ. This is the function of the entire liturgy. Each day the Church offers a continual sacrifice of praise to her Lord in the Divine Office. The daily cycle of the Church’s worship flows from and adorns her celebration of the Eucharist. Casel sees the celebration of the Eucharist as the culmination of the Mystery. In the Divine Office, the Church “unpacks” the content of this Mystery, in a manner befitting the time of day and the season of the year. Because it is related to the Eucharist in this way, the Divine Office also occurs in a special liturgical time.27 

    This view of liturgical time extends to the notion of the liturgical year as a whole. The annus circulus of the Church’s commemorations is not simply a catechetical device.28 Rather, the progress of the liturgical year enables the believing Church to become gradually assimilated to the Mystery under all of its aspects,29 while the circularity of the liturgical year recalls that what we are being assimilated to is Christ, living and reigning in the new aion which we foretaste in the liturgy.30 The Mystery remains one, but it is so deep that we celebrate it in a refractory way throughout the year. “The mass is always the high-point of liturgy, because it contains the mystery of redemption in its source, the passion and resurrection of Jesus. But from the source a mighty stream of mysteries flows into the Church’s ground, and on its banks the Spirit’s Word forms ever new pictures in the liturgy to clothe and express the rites.”31 

    Casel provides an extremely helpful contribution to liturgical understanding in explaining how the various events of the life of Christ are related to the one Mystery celebrated in the liturgy. The question might be asked: when we celebrate Mass on a feast, how is the Eucharistic sacrifice related to the liturgical commemoration? Are they simply juxtaposed, or do they somehow qualify one another? Put concretely, do we celebrate the Mass on Christmas Day, or do we celebrate the Mass of Christmas Day? Casel opts for the latter. In the Mass of a feast, we enter into the Mystery of Christ’s Pasch through the doorway, so to speak, of the event commemorated. At the Mass of Christmas Day, we re-present the Paschal sacrifice from the vantage point of marveling at the One who would take on flesh for us and for our salvation.32 

    Odo Casel’s theory provoked a great deal of discussion from the end of World War I all the way until the Second Vatican Council. The criticisms of the theory fall into three categories: Casel’s account of the pagan mysteries, his use of the sources of the liturgy and tradition, and the speculative coherence of his account of the presence of the mysteries. Despite these criticisms, however, Casel’s concerns and his general approach became an important, if unacknowledged, part of the liturgical movement.33 

    Everyone agrees that Casel’s understanding of the pagan mystery cults and their relation to the liturgical practice of early Christianity is wrong.34 To be fair, Casel was simply trying to respond creatively to challenges raised by his contemporaries concerning the origins of Christian orthodoxy (and he was willing to jettison this part of the theory) need be), but most of their conclusions have been overturned. It turns out that the understanding shared by Casel and the partisans of the Religionsgeschichte school found so much of Christianity foreshadowed in the pagan mysteries because they unwittingly interpreted these mysteries in terms of Christian categories.35 The real roots of the pagan mystery cults were in the fertility rituals of agrarian peoples. These rites were appropriated by cosmopolitan citizens of the large and impersonal Roman empire, who ascribed to them a new significance which would give their lives a sense of meaning and purpose.36 

    Actually, the scheme of the pagan mysteries is a poor fit for understanding the Christian liturgy. The pagan mysteries were based on stories that occurred in a mythical age. But the event of Christ’s Pasch occurred in a definite historical and cultural context.37 In the pagan cults, the mystery is the rite itself, but in Christianity, the saving event is the real mystery. The myths behind the pagan mysteries featured gods who were saved from death, with this salvation leaving the cosmos intact. Salvation is escape from the cosmic order. The Christian Mystery, on the other hand, is about a Savior God, who saves precisely by means of death, and changes the cosmos for the better.38 As St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians claim, the entire cosmos is “recapitulated” or “reconciled” in Christ; salvation is not an escape. 

    The real roots of the Christian mystery lie in Judaism. For the ancient Israelites, wisdom was the sole property of God, and it could be given to those who fear Him. The Lord’s exercise of wisdom could seem mysterious, but the prophets taught the people to see God’s mysterious designs as embracing all nations and to see all of history culminating in a new creation (in the Bible, “creation” is a prophetic word). To the post-Exilic Israelites, these plans seemed to be unlikely to be realized directly on the historical plane, and so the apocalyptic literature re-imagined the ultimate direction of history. The real background to Pauline mystery theology, then, lies in passages such as Dan. 2:17-23, 30, 44-45, 47, where the mystery of God’s wise plan refers to His oikonomia, His direction of history and the cosmos to a definitive telos. This is radically different from the pagan mysteries, which are more concerned with an escape from history into a mythic aion. 39 Thus a radical chasm divides Jєωιѕн and Christian outlooks on the one hand from pagan outlooks on the other. Given this, it is surprising that Casel does not just ignore Jєωιѕн themes, he emphatically denigrates Jєωιѕн thought and its ability to contribute anything to Christianity.40 

    Another concern about the grounding of Casel’s theory is his use of Biblical, patristic, and liturgical sources. They do not necessitate, and sometimes do not even support his theory. We will take a few examples; other cases can be answered with similar arguments. A standard Biblical text that Casel uses to support his theory is Rom 6:3-11. It does seem quite suggestive: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.” (6:3-4) But an examination of the context shows that this passage lays more of an emphasis on freedom from sin and mystical union with Christ. Dying and rising with Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life. This is how we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. “As sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (5:21, 6:11-12) Casel’s interpretation may be compatible with this passage, but it is not necessitated by it. 

    Perhaps the strongest patristic source that offers support for Casel’s theory is St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catechesis 2.6: 

    We know full well that Baptism not only washes away our sins and procures for us the gift of the Spirit, but is also the antitype of the Passion of Christ. . . Perhaps [Paul’s words] were directed against those who supposed that Baptism procures only the remission of sins and the adoption of sons and does not, beyond this, really make us imitatively partakers of the sufferings of Christ.41 

    The exact interpretation of this passage depends on how we interpret “antitype.” One commentator suggests that, following Heb 9:24, an antitype is the earthly copy of a heavenly reality. The sacramental antitype here mediates the benefit of the heavenly reality which it imitates. Thus this passage can be understood to mean that Baptism “confers the benefits of Christ’s passion, and perhaps a mystical identification with it.”42 At any rate, Cyril also says, right in the immediate context of the above passage: 

    We did not really die, nor were really buried or really crucified; nor did we really rise again: this was figurative and symbolic; yet our salvation was real. Christ’s crucifixion was real; and all these he has freely made ours, that by sharing His sufferings in a symbolic enactment we may really and truly gain salvation. . . Mark closely the words of the Apostle: he did not say: ‘for if we have become one planting by His death,’ but ‘by the likeness of his death’. . . In His case it all really happened. But in your case there was only a likeness of death and suffering, whereas of salvation there was no likeness but the reality.43 

    Something similar can be observed in Casel’s use of liturgical sources. Casel quotes the Secret of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: “Concede nobis, quaesumus, Domine, haec dignae frequentare mysteria: quia, quoties huius hostiae commemoratio celebratur, opus nostrae redemtionis exercetur.” Now, nothing about this prayer demands that the historical events in Christ’s life be present. The prayer says that the work of our redemption is brought about when the commemoration of Christ’s offering is celebrated. Other people have interpreted this prayer differently than Casel did. In fact, St. Thomas says that this prayer means that we are made partakers of the fruit of the Passion.44 

    Various parties have raised various questions about the metaphysical details of this scheme. The debate centers not so much around the fact that the mysteries of Christ’s life are applied to us and bring about our transformation into Christ, incarnate, crucified, and risen. All are agreed on this point. Rather the debate centers on how the mysteries of Christ’s life are present. Casel suggests that since Christ was God, the events of his life enter into the Eternal Today of God, and can thus be participated in in all times and places.45 The objections to this approach all claim that here again, Casel does not fully take into account the historical nature of the deeds of Christ. These were actions that were placed at a definite moment in time. That time has passed. The historical events can no longer exist. It will not do to appeal to Christ’s divine nature, for these were theandric acts of Christ, made with a real human will with its own proper act, and not even the Divine omnipotence can make a transient, temporal human act a trans-temporal reality. So, Casel’s theory is metaphysically impossible. Moreover, speaking of the historical mysteries as being present “in a sacramental mode” does not solve this problem, but simply masks it with a label.46 “The trouble was, however, the if all the gains of clarity provided by Christian scholasticism were not to be lost to the Latin church, Maria Laach’s insistence that not only all the sacraments but all the sacramentals and the Liturgy of the hours manifested the mysterious presence of the saving acts of Christ seemed too sweeping an assertion.”47 Yves Congar and Michael Schmaus also pointed out that with such extreme realism, it is hard to see how, for instance, baptism, is not also a sacrifice.48 

    The appropriate response to Casel’s concerns is a question that has divided Thomists. On the one hand, Thomists such as Jean-Pierre Torrell and Charles Journet think that it is quite possible for a past historical event to have a causal influence in the present. On the other hand, Thomists such as Jean-Herve Nicholas and Colman O’Neill think that this is impossible.49 For this latter group, the mysteries of Christ’s life are present in the liturgy of the Church on three levels. At the most basic level, they are intentionally present simply by the power of the theological virtue of faith in each of the believers who gather to perform acts of worship. Secondly, the mysteries are exemplary causes of our sanctification, inasmuch as there is a real analogy between the mystery as it took place in Christ and as it takes place in our transformation in Christ (and this is the best way to interpret passages such as Romans 6). Thirdly, the mysteries are instrumental efficient causes, inasmuch as they have shaped the humanity of Christ, the instrumental cause of all grace. All instruments add a particular modality to the production of an effect. The instrument which is the sacred humanity of Christ was rendered apt to be a cause in the communication of grace by all that He did and suffered on earth. These events shaped the humanity of the Christus resurgens now standing in glory before the Father. So, when God bestows grace through the sacred humanity of Christ, this humanity contributes a certain mode, and the mode that it contributes is determined by the events that shaped the life of Christ. It is in this sense that the historical mysteries of Christ’s life can be instrumental efficient causes of grace. The Mass can still be a true sacrifice because Christ’s human will is even now making identically the same act of offering His body and blood which He began to make at the Last Supper and continued to make throughout His passion. This is possible because of the stability of the infused knowledge by which this act of the will is elicited. The sacrifice is really made present through the sacramental sign of the separate consecration of the Body and Blood made by the priest who is properly empowered by the sacramental character to participate in making Christ’s self-offering present. Thus, when the Church worships, intentionally recalling Christ in faith, hope, and charity, the glorious Christus resurgens enters into it, bestowing a grace touched by all the events of his life, so that he can produce a like transformation in us, conforming us to the image of His glory. This transformation requires the analogical reproduction in us of all that He did or suffered on our behalf.50 Such an explanation answers all of the authentic concerns of Casel, takes into account the data of Scripture and the Fathers, and is metaphysically possible. 

    How has the Church received the thought of Casel? The reception has been mixed. The first acknowledgment of Casel’s theory was in Pope Pius XII’s groundbreaking 1947 encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei. The encyclical endorses the same type of “mystical realism” that Casel proposed:51 “While the sacred liturgy calls to mind the mysteries of Jesus Christ, it strives to make all believers take their part in them so that the divine Head of the mystical Body may live in all the members with the fullness of His holiness.”52 But at the same time, there seems to be some veiled criticism of the details of Odo Casel’s approach. “These mysteries are ever present and active not in a vague and uncertain way as some modern writers hold [effutire, to blabber or prattle], but in the way that Catholic doctrine teaches us.”53 The monks of Maria Laach interpreted the encyclical as a vindication of Casel, while his detractors interpreted it as a condemnation. To make matters more confusing, both sides have some support. The then-secretary of the Holy Office, Cardinal Marchetti Selvaggiani, in a letter dated December 11, 1948, said that Mediator Dei rejected mystery theology, especially its theory of the festal mystery.54 On the other hand, Antonio Bernareggi, a bishop-theologian close to Pius XII, said that the encyclical did not reject Casel’s approach, but rather sought a more careful elucidation of the relationship between the historical and liturgical aspects of the mystery.55 

    The influence of mystery theology was also taken up in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council. Casel’s approach is unmistakably evident, especially in Chapter 1, which treats of the nature of liturgical worship.56 Christ sent the apostles particularly so that, “they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves.”57 By baptism, “men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him.”58 In the Eucharist, “the victory and triumph of his death are again made present.”59 In recalling the mysteries of Christ’s life throughout the liturgical year, “the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace.”60 While these texts certainly breathe a Caselian spirit, they nevertheless do not necessitate a full acceptance of his theory.61 . 

    What, then, can we take away from Casel’s mystery theology? In trying to answer this question, it is helpful to distinguish the concerns of mystery theology from its metaphysics. 62 As we have seen, the metaphysics of mystery theology, as well as the interpretation of the sources upon which it is based are problematic. Nevertheless, Casel’s concerns and outlook are valid even today. No less a figure than Joseph Ratzinger has said that that although the mode of presence of the mysteries may remain problematic liturgically and theologically,63 nevertheless the basic orientation of Casel’s thought may be “the most fruitful theological idea of the twentieth century.”64 Casel’s basic point is that salvation is not merely a matter of receiving “graces,” however transformative these may be, but of being conformed to the image of Christ, dead, risen, and glorified.65 This happens in the sacramental worship of the Church, which makes such salvation, being taken up into the “plan of the mystery,” really an event for one of her members.66 

    Casel’s approach to liturgical practice could be one of the best ways to challenge the constructivism, pragmatism, and anthropocentrism which plagues modern liturgy.67 Contemporary sacramental practice tends to see the sacraments not as “divinely effective sacred signs,” but rather as “anthropologically effective symbols” which we use to understand our experiences in the light of the Christian story and grow in human values.68 Casel, on the other hand emphasizes that the Church’s sacramental life is the sphere where God acts, drawing us up into His world through His Christ, thereby giving us something more than we could ever hope for or imagine. What the Church really has to offer the world is her authentic mysticism, which is liturgical mysticism, “the mysticism of the ordinary worship of the church, carried out and regulated by its priests; a mysticism, therefore, of sacred action, Spirit-informed, the property of the congregation led by proper authority, where the Lord himself shares its work with his bride and leads her to the eternal Father.”69 Such a view would also challenge the suffocating moralism and didacticism which creeps into both “traditional” and “progressive” liturgy alike. 

    In terms of actual liturgical praxis, adopting Casel’s mindset could go a long way toward healing the breach between tradition and authentic pastoral adaptation of liturgical forms. It can also go a long way towards restoring a balanced notion of liturgical participation. Because of his “ontological” approach to the liturgy, Casel gives the term “participation” the sense that it has in the writings of the Platonists and St. Thomas, and subordinating to this the notion of participation as exterior activity. 

    The contrast between the Caselian and “anthropocentric” approaches to liturgy is the real divide in liturgical debates today. In fact debates on a whole host of liturgical issues (music, architecture, the orientation of the priest, the language of worship) are so interminable precisely because various parties are working from incommensurable premises. A liturgical pragmatist, a liturgical constructivist, and a “liturgical mystic” will fight bitterly precisely because they cannot come to a principled compromise, for they share no common principles. On the other hand, Casel’s liturgical “ontology” could supply a rich common ground, which would not end all debate and disagreement, but would provide a framework in which a mutually acceptable compromise could be more easily reached. 

    When we realize how much of a treasure the authentic mysticism of the Church is, we begin to realize how cramped and paltry the vision of many so-called “pastoral” liturgists is. An approach to the liturgy that is fundamentally Caselian is the Church’s only real shot at supplying authentic meaning to the lives of people battered by secularism and modern nihilism. 

    But what happened at the dawn of history has repeated itself. Then, too at the moment when man believed that he had obtained godhead by his own power, that he could recognize by the light of his own understanding what was good and evil, that he had come of age and needed no parental care, in that moment he ‘saw that he was naked’. . . By imagining he is the ruler of this world, he is forced more and more to do its will; soulless machine and dead money master him, and demand blood offerings, the sale of his heart and mind: a pitiful end to the great age of individualism which had seemed to have begun with so much attraction and promise for the future. . . Today the world outside Christianity and the church is looking for mystery; it is building a new kind of rite in which man worships himself. But through all of this the world will never reach God.70 

    The reason why Casel’s basic approach (if not its metaphysics and sourcing) has been so attractive to so many is that it turns Christianity into a transformative way of life. Casel wrote to a friend that, “It is not only study but the fact of fully sharing the life of Christ in mysterio which is the final source of all knowledge.”71 This knowledge is a deeply personal knowledge that resonates in the hearts of each of the elect. It is the knowledge of Christ and the power of His resurrection. It is the knowledge of the one who says “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

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    Mystical Transformation: The Liturgical Ontology of Odo Casel
    Br. Peter Totleben, O. P.


    Odo Casel, one of the major theoreticians of the 20th century liturgical movement, was born in 1886. He entered the Benedictine abbey of Maria Laach in the German Rhineland in 1905. During his time at the monastery, its abbot, Illdefons Herwegen, built the place into a formidable center of Catholic intellectual and liturgical life. By all accounts, Dom Casel lived an exemplary monastic life: retiring and prayerful. He made a notable contribution to 20th century Catholic theology through his understanding of the nature, effects, and centrality of liturgical worship in the Christian life. The details of the theory sparked quite a bit of controversy at the time of their writing, and are not entirely satisfying. Nevertheless, Casel’s overall approach to the liturgy and Christian life offers the authentic spirituality of the Church, and could be a potent source of liturgical enrichment even today. Casel died in 1948, shortly after falling ill while proclaiming “The Light of Christ” at the Paschal vigil, a fitting end for a man so devoted to liturgical worship.1 Most of his work and the literature surrounding it is in German. But one of his most influential books, Das Christliche Kultmysterium was translated into English in 1963.2

    In order to understand Odo Casel’s project, we must understand the times in which he lived and the contemporary trends against which he developed his teaching. Casel was concerned with the ways in which the various “-isms” of his time had corrupted the genuine religious sense of his fellow Catholics. The threats of Modernism, Rationalism, and Romanticism had joined forces to destroy the authentic piety of the People of God. Casel’s project was to simultaneously eliminate these three threats by proposing a theory based on his extensive understanding of the ancient Church.

    By the end of the 1920’s, the conclusions of liberal Protestant Religionsgeschichte had made their way into the Catholic Church through the Modernist movement. In particular, this school undermined the uniqueness of Christianity by claiming that the Church’s doctrine and worship were shaped more by Hellenistic mystery cults than by the simple teaching of Jesus as found in the Gospel. Casel’s theory was designed to turn these arguments on their head, claiming that Hellenistic religion was actually a providential preparation which would enable people to have at hand helpful analogies for understanding the Christian life. “His great and courageous feat was rather to accept all the materials brought forward by the ‘comparative’ school and to propound a new interpretation of these materials, much deeper and richer than that of his opponents.”3

    On the other side of the spectrum of Catholic opinion, a certain rationalism had set in. The roots of this rationalism lie in the decadent Scholasticism and overly-subjectivistic piety that began to take hold in the Church late in the Middle Ages. By Casel’s time, “exercises of devotion” were largely didactic and moralistic. For too many people, Christian life had been reduced to doctrines and behavior. The sacramental worship of the Church was all too easily reduced to a system of rites, performed in a punctilious and formalistic way, by which the people would receive “graces” that would help them to behave well.4

    To this, Casel wished to propose a richer view of the Christian life:

    Christianity is not a religion or a confession in the way the last three hundred years would have understood the word: a system of more or less dogmatically certain truths to be accepted and confessed and of moral commands to be observed or at least accorded recognition. . . The Christian thing, therefore, in its full and primitive meaning of God’s good Word, or Christ’s is not, as it were, a philosophy of life with religious background music, nor a moral or theological training.5

    But, in trying to transcend such categories, we must not try to transform religious devotion into an athematic encounter with “The Divine” and turn religious experience into a mere expression and release of feelings, as Romanticism would have us do.6

    Not only were these three paths each the wrong way to go, Casel knew that their energies were spent. What modern men and women needed was contact with something more profound than Modernism, Rationalism, or Romanticism could offer. What they needed was the ancient outlook of the Church:

    Mankind today is sick with the rationalism of exact science and longs once more for the symbols of God’s world. It can find them, where they have always remained, in Christ’s church, where his mystery is proclaimed by the true God and shows the way to him. The church’s faithful, however, must learn once more the greatness of their treasures; they must cleanse away the rust of neglect, and let them shine once again in the light which love and knowledge brings to bear, so that they may show the world once more the only true and saving mysteries.7

    In order to meet this need, Casel proposed a new (that is, old) approach to Christian life: it is a transformation in Christ. This transformation is brought about through participation in the sacramental liturgy of the Church, in which each believer mystically experiences the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to explain how this happens, Casel adumbrates an “evangelical ontology of the liturgy” 8 inspired by the Christian Platonism of the early Church. In a highly realistic way, the liturgy brings about a participation in the mystery of Christ. The liturgy is:

    not an extension of aesthetically-minded ritualism, not ostentatious pageantry, but the carrying out, the making real of the mystery of Christ in the new alliance throughout the whole church, in all centuries; in it her healing and glory are made fact. This is what we mean when we say that liturgical mystery is the most central and most essential action of the Christian religion.9

    According to Casel, mystery is “a sacred ritual action in which a saving deed is made present through the rite; the congregation, by performing the rite takes part in the saving act, and thereby wins salvation.”10 In a Christian context, there are three levels of the Mystery. The primordial mystery is God in Himself “as the infinitely distant, holy, unapproachable, to whom no man may draw near and live; in likeness to whom everything is impure.”11 On a second level, the Mystery is God in His revelation to us. Finally, the Christian Mystery is Jesus Christ Himself: “Christ is the mystery in person, because he shows the invisible godhead in the flesh. The deeds of his lowliness, above all his sacrificial death on the cross, are mysteries because God shows himself through them in a fashion which surpasses any human measurement.”12

    Casel finds the primary inspiration for this view of Christianity in the New Testament itself. “For Paul, Peter, and John, the heart of faith is not the teachings of Christ, not the deeds of his ministry, but the acts by which he saved us.”13 In fact, the New Testament uses the word μυστήριον 27 times, mostly in the epistles of St. Paul. For St. Paul, the mystery is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “But we impart a hidden wisdom of God in mystery, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor 2:7). God has made known “to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him” (Eph 1:8-9).

    But St. Paul says that “this mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph 3:6). Casel took this insight very seriously. In fact, in trying to describe what kind of thing the liturgy is, Casel drew an analogy to the pagan mystery cults which existed side-by-side with Christianity in its early centuries.

    Casel thinks that the pagan mystery cults offered a participation in the lives of the gods. Each cult was based on a myth where in a certain mythic aion, a god walked among men. Forces conspired to bring about the death of this god, forces which the god conquered in coming to new life. The participants in the mystery cult symbolically re-enacted this death and resurrection in their rites, thereby mystically entering into the godlike life of the divine realm. This gave them new impulses for moral action and assurance against death. The participants, so bonded in a new mode of life, formed a hierarchical community.14

    For Casel, the mystery cults served a twofold purpose. First, they were God’s providential preparation for the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles. The mystery cults had developed a “sacramental” symbol system out of nature15 and had taught the Gentiles to hope for the kinds of things that the Gospel promised to believers.16 Second, the pagan mysteries supplied an analogy which the early Church could use to adumbrate its own theology of worship.17 In short, Casel saw the pagan mysteries as a providentially-provided point of inculturation.18

    Casel thinks that the later Scholastic tag Sacramenta efficiunt quod significant had its remote roots in an early Christian analogy to the pagan mystery cults.19 The liturgical celebrations of the Church did not simply offer worship to God; they did not simply comfort believers or inspire them to do good works. Rather, they brought believers into a real participation not just in Christ, but in the very theandric actions by which He saved us:

    Christ’s salvation must be made real in us. This does not come about through a mere application, with our behaviour purely passive, through a ‘justification’ purely from ‘faith’, or by an application of the grace of Christ, where we have only to clear things out of the way in a negative fashion, to receive it. Rather, what is necessary is a living, active sharing in the redeeming deed of Christ; passive because the Lord make it act upon us, active because we share in by a deed of our own. . . What he experiences in his worship is not only an after effect of the saving act; the saving act itself takes on presence. The object of all Christian worship is this saving act of Christ. . . The mystery is no mere recalling of Christ and his saving deed; it is a memorial in worship. The church does what the Lord did, and thereby makes his act present.20

    This conception of liturgical participation is highly Platonic, and underlying it is a Platonic conception of time. Plato calls time “a moving image of eternity.”21 In His resurrection, Christ destroys death and, with his humanity, enters a new aion, thereby making the events of his human life available to the liturgical celebrations that occur at all times.

    What Christ did by dying and rising was no an historical event like any other; it was saving action, saving history. As such it burst the bonds of time and history. Christ dies to leave the world of sin and open the new age of divine order. At the moment of his death upon the cross and the fall of Satan’s power the age of sin, the age which is bound up in time is broken, and the new age, the age to come, the kingdom of God’s goodness has arrived.22

    The liturgy of the Church gives us a participation in time of this new aion, making us “true contemporaries”23 with Him and His acts, “in every detail.”24

    In the liturgy, then, the historical events of Christ’s life are really present, in a new mode of being, a “sacramental” mode of being.25

    In this new manner it is made present to us, so that we enter into it and can make it our own. . . What is meant is that the whole oikonomia, the whole design of salvation from the incarnation to the parousia, which has not yet appeared in point of time, does take on a sacramental presence and therefore can be the subject of our co-participation in the most vivid way.26

    Casel’s theory of the presence of the Mysteries highlighted the role of Baptism and the Eucharist. But he did not stop there. It is not just the strictly sacramental rites that bring the believer into the new aion of Christ. This is the function of the entire liturgy. Each day the Church offers a continual sacrifice of praise to her Lord in the Divine Office. The daily cycle of the Church’s worship flows from and adorns her celebration of the Eucharist. Casel sees the celebration of the Eucharist as the culmination of the Mystery. In the Divine Office, the Church “unpacks” the content of this Mystery, in a manner befitting the time of day and the season of the year. Because it is related to the Eucharist in this way, the Divine Office also occurs in a special liturgical time.27

    This view of liturgical time extends to the notion of the liturgical year as a whole. The annus circulus of the Church’s commemorations is not simply a catechetical device.28 Rather, the progress of the liturgical year enables the believing Church to become gradually assimilated to the Mystery under all of its aspects,29 while the circularity of the liturgical year recalls that what we are being assimilated to is Christ, living and reigning in the new aion which we foretaste in the liturgy.30 The Mystery remains one, but it is so deep that we celebrate it in a refractory way throughout the year. “The mass is always the high-point of liturgy, because it contains the mystery of redemption in its source, the passion and resurrection of Jesus. But from the source a mighty stream of mysteries flows into the Church’s ground, and on its banks the Spirit’s Word forms ever new pictures in the liturgy to clothe and express the rites.”31

    Casel provides an extremely helpful contribution to liturgical understanding in explaining how the various events of the life of Christ are related to the one Mystery celebrated in the liturgy. The question might be asked: when we celebrate Mass on a feast, how is the Eucharistic sacrifice related to the liturgical commemoration? Are they simply juxtaposed, or do they somehow qualify one another? Put concretely, do we celebrate the Mass on Christmas Day, or do we celebrate the Mass of Christmas Day? Casel opts for the latter. In the Mass of a feast, we enter into the Mystery of Christ’s Pasch through the doorway, so to speak, of the event commemorated. At the Mass of Christmas Day, we re-present the Paschal sacrifice from the vantage point of marveling at the One who would take on flesh for us and for our salvation.32

    Odo Casel’s theory provoked a great deal of discussion from the end of World War I all the way until the Second Vatican Council. The criticisms of the theory fall into three categories: Casel’s account of the pagan mysteries, his use of the sources of the liturgy and tradition, and the speculative coherence of his account of the presence of the mysteries. Despite these criticisms, however, Casel’s concerns and his general approach became an important, if unacknowledged, part of the liturgical movement.33

    Everyone agrees that Casel’s understanding of the pagan mystery cults and their relation to the liturgical practice of early Christianity is wrong.34 To be fair, Casel was simply trying to respond creatively to challenges raised by his contemporaries concerning the origins of Christian orthodoxy (and he was willing to jettison this part of the theory) need be), but most of their conclusions have been overturned. It turns out that the understanding shared by Casel and the partisans of the Religionsgeschichte school found so much of Christianity foreshadowed in the pagan mysteries because they unwittingly interpreted these mysteries in terms of Christian categories.35 The real roots of the pagan mystery cults were in the fertility rituals of agrarian peoples. These rites were appropriated by cosmopolitan citizens of the large and impersonal Roman empire, who ascribed to them a new significance which would give their lives a sense of meaning and purpose.36

    Actually, the scheme of the pagan mysteries is a poor fit for understanding the Christian liturgy. The pagan mysteries were based on stories that occurred in a mythical age. But the event of Christ’s Pasch occurred in a definite historical and cultural context.37 In the pagan cults, the mystery is the rite itself, but in Christianity, the saving event is the real mystery. The myths behind the pagan mysteries featured gods who were saved from death, with this salvation leaving the cosmos intact. Salvation is escape from the cosmic order. The Christian Mystery, on the other hand, is about a Savior God, who saves precisely by means of death, and changes the cosmos for the better.38 As St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians claim, the entire cosmos is “recapitulated” or “reconciled” in Christ; salvation is not an escape.

    The real roots of the Christian mystery lie in Judaism. For the ancient Israelites, wisdom was the sole property of God, and it could be given to those who fear Him. The Lord’s exercise of wisdom could seem mysterious, but the prophets taught the people to see God’s mysterious designs as embracing all nations and to see all of history culminating in a new creation (in the Bible, “creation” is a prophetic word). To the post-Exilic Israelites, these plans seemed to be unlikely to be realized directly on the historical plane, and so the apocalyptic literature re-imagined the ultimate direction of history. The real background to Pauline mystery theology, then, lies in passages such as Dan. 2:17-23, 30, 44-45, 47, where the mystery of God’s wise plan refers to His oikonomia, His direction of history and the cosmos to a definitive telos. This is radically different from the pagan mysteries, which are more concerned with an escape from history into a mythic aion. 39 Thus a radical chasm divides Jєωιѕн and Christian outlooks on the one hand from pagan outlooks on the other. Given this, it is surprising that Casel does not just ignore Jєωιѕн themes, he emphatically denigrates Jєωιѕн thought and its ability to contribute anything to Christianity.40

    Another concern about the grounding of Casel’s theory is his use of Biblical, patristic, and liturgical sources. They do not necessitate, and sometimes do not even support his theory. We will take a few examples; other cases can be answered with similar arguments. A standard Biblical text that Casel uses to support his theory is Rom 6:3-11. It does seem quite suggestive: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.” (6:3-4) But an examination of the context shows that this passage lays more of an emphasis on freedom from sin and mystical union with Christ. Dying and rising with Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life. This is how we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. “As sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (5:21, 6:11-12) Casel’s interpretation may be compatible with this passage, but it is not necessitated by it.

    Perhaps the strongest patristic source that offers support for Casel’s theory is St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catechesis 2.6:

    We know full well that Baptism not only washes away our sins and procures for us the gift of the Spirit, but is also the antitype of the Passion of Christ. . . Perhaps [Paul’s words] were directed against those who supposed that Baptism procures only the remission of sins and the adoption of sons and does not, beyond this, really make us imitatively partakers of the sufferings of Christ.41

    The exact interpretation of this passage depends on how we interpret “antitype.” One commentator suggests that, following Heb 9:24, an antitype is the earthly copy of a heavenly reality. The sacramental antitype here mediates the benefit of the heavenly reality which it imitates. Thus this passage can be understood to mean that Baptism “confers the benefits of Christ’s passion, and perhaps a mystical identification with it.”42 At any rate, Cyril also says, right in the immediate context of the above passage:

    We did not really die, nor were really buried or really crucified; nor did we really rise again: this was figurative and symbolic; yet our salvation was real. Christ’s crucifixion was real; and all these he has freely made ours, that by sharing His sufferings in a symbolic enactment we may really and truly gain salvation. . . Mark closely the words of the Apostle: he did not say: ‘for if we have become one planting by His death,’ but ‘by the likeness of his death’. . . In His case it all really happened. But in your case there was only a likeness of death and suffering, whereas of salvation there was no likeness but the reality.43

    Something similar can be observed in Casel’s use of liturgical sources. Casel quotes the Secret of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: “Concede nobis, quaesumus, Domine, haec dignae frequentare mysteria: quia, quoties huius hostiae commemoratio celebratur, opus nostrae redemtionis exercetur.” Now, nothing about this prayer demands that the historical events in Christ’s life be present. The prayer says that the work of our redemption is brought about when the commemoration of Christ’s offering is celebrated. Other people have interpreted this prayer differently than Casel did. In fact, St. Thomas says that this prayer means that we are made partakers of the fruit of the Passion.44

    Various parties have raised various questions about the metaphysical details of this scheme. The debate centers not so much around the fact that the mysteries of Christ’s life are applied to us and bring about our transformation into Christ, incarnate, crucified, and risen. All are agreed on this point. Rather the debate centers on how the mysteries of Christ’s life are present. Casel suggests that since Christ was God, the events of his life enter into the Eternal Today of God, and can thus be participated in in all times and places.45 The objections to this approach all claim that here again, Casel does not fully take into account the historical nature of the deeds of Christ. These were actions that were placed at a definite moment in time. That time has passed. The historical events can no longer exist. It will not do to appeal to Christ’s divine nature, for these were theandric acts of Christ, made with a real human will with its own proper act, and not even the Divine omnipotence can make a transient, temporal human act a trans-temporal reality. So, Casel’s theory is metaphysically impossible. Moreover, speaking of the historical mysteries as being present “in a sacramental mode” does not solve this problem, but simply masks it with a label.46 “The trouble was, however, the if all the gains of clarity provided by Christian scholasticism were not to be lost to the Latin church, Maria Laach’s insistence that not only all the sacraments but all the sacramentals and the Liturgy of the hours manifested the mysterious presence of the saving acts of Christ seemed too sweeping an assertion.”47 Yves Congar and Michael Schmaus also pointed out that with such extreme realism, it is hard to see how, for instance, baptism, is not also a sacrifice.48

    The appropriate response to Casel’s concerns is a question that has divided Thomists. On the one hand, Thomists such as Jean-Pierre Torrell and Charles Journet think that it is quite possible for a past historical event to have a causal influence in the present. On the other hand, Thomists such as Jean-Herve Nicholas and Colman O’Neill think that this is impossible.49 For this latter group, the mysteries of Christ’s life are present in the liturgy of the Church on three levels. At the most basic level, they are intentionally present simply by the power of the theological virtue of faith in each of the believers who gather to perform acts of worship. Secondly, the mysteries are exemplary causes of our sanctification, inasmuch as there is a real analogy between the mystery as it took place in Christ and as it takes place in our transformation in Christ (and this is the best way to interpret passages such as Romans 6). Thirdly, the mysteries are instrumental efficient causes, inasmuch as they have shaped the humanity of Christ, the instrumental cause of all grace. All instruments add a particular modality to the production of an effect. The instrument which is the sacred humanity of Christ was rendered apt to be a cause in the communication of grace by all that He did and suffered on earth. These events shaped the humanity of the Christus resurgens now standing in glory before the Father. So, when God bestows grace through the sacred humanity of Christ, this humanity contributes a certain mode, and the mode that it contributes is determined by the events that shaped the life of Christ. It is in this sense that the historical mysteries of Christ’s life can be instrumental efficient causes of grace. The Mass can still be a true sacrifice because Christ’s human will is even now making identically the same act of offering His body and blood which He began to make at the Last Supper and continued to make throughout His passion. This is possible because of the stability of the infused knowledge by which this act of the will is elicited. The sacrifice is really made present through the sacramental sign of the separate consecration of the Body and Blood made by the priest who is properly empowered by the sacramental character to participate in making Christ’s self-offering present. Thus, when the Church worships, intentionally recalling Christ in faith, hope, and charity, the glorious Christus resurgens enters into it, bestowing a grace touched by all the events of his life, so that he can produce a like transformation in us, conforming us to the image of His glory. This transformation requires the analogical reproduction in us of all that He did or suffered on our behalf.50 Such an explanation answers all of the authentic concerns of Casel, takes into account the data of Scripture and the Fathers, and is metaphysically possible.

    How has the Church received the thought of Casel? The reception has been mixed. The first acknowledgment of Casel’s theory was in Pope Pius XII’s groundbreaking 1947 encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei. The encyclical endorses the same type of “mystical realism” that Casel proposed:51 “While the sacred liturgy calls to mind the mysteries of Jesus Christ, it strives to make all believers take their part in them so that the divine Head of the mystical Body may live in all the members with the fullness of His holiness.”52 But at the same time, there seems to be some veiled criticism of the details of Odo Casel’s approach. “These mysteries are ever present and active not in a vague and uncertain way as some modern writers hold [effutire, to blabber or prattle], but in the way that Catholic doctrine teaches us.”53 The monks of Maria Laach interpreted the encyclical as a vindication of Casel, while his detractors interpreted it as a condemnation. To make matters more confusing, both sides have some support. The then-secretary of the Holy Office, Cardinal Marchetti Selvaggiani, in a letter dated December 11, 1948, said that Mediator Dei rejected mystery theology, especially its theory of the festal mystery.54 On the other hand, Antonio Bernareggi, a bishop-theologian close to Pius XII, said that the encyclical did not reject Casel’s approach, but rather sought a more careful elucidation of the relationship between the historical and liturgical aspects of the mystery.55

    The influence of mystery theology was also taken up in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council. Casel’s approach is unmistakably evident, especially in Chapter 1, which treats of the nature of liturgical worship.56 Christ sent the apostles particularly so that, “they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves.”57 By baptism, “men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him.”58 In the Eucharist, “the victory and triumph of his death are again made present.”59 In recalling the mysteries of Christ’s life throughout the liturgical year, “the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace.”60 While these texts certainly breathe a Caselian spirit, they nevertheless do not necessitate a full acceptance of his theory.61 .

    What, then, can we take away from Casel’s mystery theology? In trying to answer this question, it is helpful to distinguish the concerns of mystery theology from its metaphysics. 62 As we have seen, the metaphysics of mystery theology, as well as the interpretation of the sources upon which it is based are problematic. Nevertheless, Casel’s concerns and outlook are valid even today. No less a figure than Joseph Ratzinger has said that that although the mode of presence of the mysteries may remain problematic liturgically and theologically,63 nevertheless the basic orientation of Casel’s thought may be “the most fruitful theological idea of the twentieth century.”64 Casel’s basic point is that salvation is not merely a matter of receiving “graces,” however transformative these may be, but of being conformed to the image of Christ, dead, risen, and glorified.65 This happens in the sacramental worship of the Church, which makes such salvation, being taken up into the “plan of the mystery,” really an event for one of her members.66

    Casel’s approach to liturgical practice could be one of the best ways to challenge the constructivism, pragmatism, and anthropocentrism which plagues modern liturgy.67 Contemporary sacramental practice tends to see the sacraments not as “divinely effective sacred signs,” but rather as “anthropologically effective symbols” which we use to understand our experiences in the light of the Christian story and grow in human values.68 Casel, on the other hand emphasizes that the Church’s sacramental life is the sphere where God acts, drawing us up into His world through His Christ, thereby giving us something more than we could ever hope for or imagine. What the Church really has to offer the world is her authentic mysticism, which is liturgical mysticism, “the mysticism of the ordinary worship of the church, carried out and regulated by its priests; a mysticism, therefore, of sacred action, Spirit-informed, the property of the congregation led by proper authority, where the Lord himself shares its work with his bride and leads her to the eternal Father.”69 Such a view would also challenge the suffocating moralism and didacticism which creeps into both “traditional” and “progressive” liturgy alike.

    In terms of actual liturgical praxis, adopting Casel’s mindset could go a long way toward healing the breach between tradition and authentic pastoral adaptation of liturgical forms. It can also go a long way towards restoring a balanced notion of liturgical participation. Because of his “ontological” approach to the liturgy, Casel gives the term “participation” the sense that it has in the writings of the Platonists and St. Thomas, and subordinating to this the notion of participation as exterior activity.

    The contrast between the Caselian and “anthropocentric” approaches to liturgy is the real divide in liturgical debates today. In fact debates on a whole host of liturgical issues (music, architecture, the orientation of the priest, the language of worship) are so interminable precisely because various parties are working from incommensurable premises. A liturgical pragmatist, a liturgical constructivist, and a “liturgical mystic” will fight bitterly precisely because they cannot come to a principled compromise, for they share no common principles. On the other hand, Casel’s liturgical “ontology” could supply a rich common ground, which would not end all debate and disagreement, but would provide a framework in which a mutually acceptable compromise could be more easily reached.

    When we realize how much of a treasure the authentic mysticism of the Church is, we begin to realize how cramped and paltry the vision of many so-called “pastoral” liturgists is. An approach to the liturgy that is fundamentally Caselian is the Church’s only real shot at supplying authentic meaning to the lives of people battered by secularism and modern nihilism.

    But what happened at the dawn of history has repeated itself. Then, too at the moment when man believed that he had obtained godhead by his own power, that he could recognize by the light of his own understanding what was good and evil, that he had come of age and needed no parental care, in that moment he ‘saw that he was naked’. . . By imagining he is the ruler of this world, he is forced more and more to do its will; soulless machine and dead money master him, and demand blood offerings, the sale of his heart and mind: a pitiful end to the great age of individualism which had seemed to have begun with so much attraction and promise for the future. . . Today the world outside Christianity and the church is looking for mystery; it is building a new kind of rite in which man worships himself. But through all of this the world will never reach God.70

    The reason why Casel’s basic approach (if not its metaphysics and sourcing) has been so attractive to so many is that it turns Christianity into a transformative way of life. Casel wrote to a friend that, “It is not only study but the fact of fully sharing the life of Christ in mysterio which is the final source of all knowledge.”71 This knowledge is a deeply personal knowledge that resonates in the hearts of each of the elect. It is the knowledge of Christ and the power of His resurrection. It is the knowledge of the one who says “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

    1. Aidan Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” Antiphon 3 (1998): 12
    2. Odo Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, ed. Burkhard Neunheuser (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1962).
    3. Louis Bouyer, “Liturgy and Mystery–Dom Casel’s Theory Explained and Discussed,” in Liturgical Piety, vol. 1, University of Notre Dame Liturgical Studies (University of Notre Dame Press, 1955), 86-87.
    4. Charles Davis, “Preface to the English Edition,” in The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, ed. Burkhard Neunheuser (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1962), viii.
    5. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 9, 12-13.
    6. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 13; Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 9.
    7. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 38.
    8. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 14.
    9. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 27.
    10. Ibid., 54.
    11. Ibid., 5.
    12. Ibid.
    13. Ibid., 12.
    14. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 32, 98.
    15. Ibid., 46.
    16. Odo Casel, “Die Liturgie als Mysterienfeier,” Ecclesia Orans 9(1922) 47, cited in Joost van Rossum, “Dom Odo Casel, OSB,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 22 (1978): 143.
    17. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 33, 98.
    18. Ibid., 35, 46.
    19. Ibid., 153-154.
    20. Ibid., 14, 128, 140.
    21. Timaeus, 37d
    22. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 155.
    23. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 156.
    24. Ibid., 154.
    25. Ibid., 155.
    26. Ibid.
    27. Ibid., 73-74.
    28. Ibid., 63.
    29. Ibid., 67.
    30. Ibid., 64.
    31. Ibid., 69.
    32. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 69.
    33. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 18.
    34. Johann Auer, “A General Doctrine of the Sacraments,” in A General Doctrine of the Sacraments and the Mystery of the Eucharist (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1995), 23; Bouyer, “Liturgy and Mystery–Dom Casel’s Theory Explained and Discussed,” 90.
    35. Bouyer, “Liturgy and Mystery–Dom Casel’s Theory Explained and Discussed,” 91.
    36. Ibid., 92-93.
    37. Auer, “A General Doctrine of the Sacraments,” 94.
    38. Bouyer, “Liturgy and Mystery–Dom Casel’s Theory Explained and Discussed,” 97.
    39. Bouyer, “Liturgy and Mystery–Dom Casel’s Theory Explained and Discussed,” 95.
    40. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 32, 33n2, 35, 106, 182.
    41. Leo P. McCauley, trans., The Works of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, vol. 64, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1970), 165-167.
    42. McCauley, The Works of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 168n8.
    43. Mystagogical Catechesis 2.5 and 2.7 in ibid., 167
    44. Summa Theologiae, IIIa, q. 83, a. 1
    45. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 142-3.
    46. Bernard Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1963), 310-313; Coleman O’Neill, “The Mysteries of Christ and the Sacraments,” The Thomist 25 (1962): 1–53.
    47. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 16.
    48. Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology, 312; Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 16.
    49. Jean-Pierre Torrell, St. Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master, trans. Robert Royal (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2003), 132-141.
    50. O’Neill, “The Mysteries of Christ and the Sacraments.”
    51. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 17.
    52. Mediator Dei #152 (according to the Vatican website numbering) = AAS 39(1947) 577
    53. Mediator Dei #165 = AAS 39(1947) 580
    54. Auer, “A General Doctrine of the Sacraments,” 52.
    55. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 17. cf. Burkhard Neunheuser, “Odo Casel in Retrospect and Prospect,” Worship 50 (1976): 489-90, 499
    56. Ibid., 493.
    57. Sacrosanctum Concilium #6
    58. Ibid.
    59. Ibid.
    60. Sacrosanctum Concilium, #102
    61. Neunheuser, “Odo Casel in Retrospect and Prospect,” 495 Nor should Sacrosanctum Concilium be pitted against Mediator Dei, for the Council Fathers explicitly recognized that the latter supplied the theological elaboration of the former: Acta Synodalia Concilii Vaticani Oecuмenici II (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1973) vol I, pars. 3, 702
    62. Auer, “A General Doctrine of the Sacraments,” 52.
    63. Joseph Ratzinger, “The Mystery of the Eucharist,” in A General Doctrine of the Sacraments and the Mystery of the Eucharist (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1995), 74.
    64. Quoted in Arno Schilson, “Liturgy as the presence of the mysteries of the life of Jesus according to Odo Casel,” Communio 29 (2002): 42
    65. Auer, “A General Doctrine of the Sacraments,” 55.
    66. Ibid., 65-66.
    67. Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 14.
    68. Ibid., 19-20.
    69. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 50.
    70. Casel, The Mystery of Christian Worship and Other Writings, 3, 7.
    71. Quoted in Nichols, “Odo Casel Revisited,” 12