Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No ifs, ands or butts

Below is an article from the South Ashford Priest blog (http://south-ashford-priest.blogspot.com/2008/01/magi-patron-saints-of-christian.html) that brings to light some of the troubles with the newest post Vatican 2 liturgical innovation known as "prostrations" but more accurately known as the Muslim Sajdah. Please read Fr. Boyle's article and then the responses that follow, especially the conclusions drawn by Fr. Boyle.

I received this meditation taken from 'Unfolding the Mystery' by Dom Hugh Gilbert, Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, Gracewing 2007.
Acknowledgements to Fr Michael John Galbraith and Faith Community Newsletter.

'We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.' (Mt 2:2) Every mystery of Christ has a power and a grace of its own, a gift of the Spirit, and every liturgical celebration of every mystery enables us to receive that and be changed by it, 'inwardly reshaped' as one of the Christmas prayers says.

What is the power and the grace of the Epiphany, the manifestation of the Lord? One answer is adoration.The Magi are the patron saints and pioneers of Christian adoration. 'And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him (adoraverunt eum).' (Mt 2:11) The Introits and other chants in the Roman Gradual for the first few weeks of the year keep coming back to this adoratio. With the Magi, specifically Christian worship begins. No wonder that this moment, like the moment of the Annunication, has inspired so much Christian art. We are all invited to adore in the wake of these wise men... And more: when we follow the Magi in adoring, we are also following all those who, throughout the Gospel of Matthew, do what the Magi did (the leper, a ruler, the disciples, the Canaanite woman, the mother of James and John, and climactically, after the Resurrection, the women at the tomb and the eleven disciples on the mountain in Galilee.) And finally: we are anticipating and sharing in the heavenly worship of God and the Lamb so central to the Apocalypse.What does 'to adore' mean? It ... denotes the highest degree of reverence, equivalent to the Greek proskunein, to prostrate. So there is something ulitmate to adoration. It is as far as we can go... If 'ultimacy' is one resonance of adoring, being bodily is another.

'And they fell down and worshipped.' Adoring and falling down, adoring and prostrating, adoring and hitting the ground: they go together. Proskenesis and adoratio were used for this physical showing of homage to emperors and kings and high officials. In the story of the Magi, it finds it true destination at last: Christ, the true King. Man is on his knees or on his face before the true Epiphany of the divine. The whole battle of the first three Christian centuries will turn on this: Whom do we adore? Who is worthy of worship? To whom do we bend the knee?...

To adore, says the Catechism, is 'to acknowledge,' to acknowledge God 'as God, as the Creator and Saviour, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love.' (2096) 'It is the homage of the spirit to the King of Glory, respectful silence in the presence of the "ever greater" God.' (2628) It is entering the Temple. At the same time, it is acknowledging the 'nothingness of the creature,' humbling oneself like Mary. 'I am reduced to nothing' before the One who makes me and rescues me.

So, finally, it is liberating - from idolatory of the world, from turning in upon oneself. I read the other day that of the two most widespread modern sins, 'narcissism' (self-contemplation, self-absorption) is the first. Adoration rescues us from that. It heals.So we can follow the Magi. 'We have come to adore him.' Adoration begins Matthew's Gospel, and completes it. 'And behold Jesus met them - Mary Magdalene and the other Mary - and said, "Rejoice!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him.' (Mt 28:9) And a few verses later: 'Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.' (28:16-17)
by Fr John Boyle at 2:41 PM

5/1/08 4:58 PM
Viator said...
Dom Hugh Gilbert’s Ephiphany meditation, however moving, links Catholic “adoration” with the magi’s act of “prostration”, saying that the Greek proskunein means, literally, “to prostrate”. In light of Eucharistic Adoration programs promoted internationally today (such as Father Antoine Thomas’ childrenofhope.org), a few scholarly comments are in order. Put briefly, pious but glib & simplistic associations of emotion and posture are gaining popularity among some Catholic conservatives, as signs of their countercultural status, but also raise three “red flags” – on the lexical, theological, and pastoral levels.

Lexically, the Greek proskunein means “to throw a kiss” (derived from the terms kunein [to kiss] and pros [towards]. Although proskunein eventually became associated with the act of prostration, it denoted extending reverence to a king or a statue, believed to contain the presence of a god.

On the pastoral level, if the “something ultimate” in adoration is denoted by the bodily posture of prostration, why does canon law instead stipulate a double genuflection inflection before our Lord in the Eucharist? Especially in light of innovative, yet noncanonical Eucharistic Adoration programs promoted today which invent (postconciliar-style) postures, prayers, and gestures (such as found in Father Antoine Thomas’ Eucharistic Adoration program, “Children of Hope”), we should take care not to mislead the faithful into unstudied expressions of personal piety, such as public prostrations, of whatever sort – the full Dominican prostration found in the Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic, or the patently Islamic partial prostration called sajdah, which is promoted by Father Antoine Thomas’ group.

On the level of theology, although there exist several Biblical references to adoration as prostration, Catholic liturgical theology has thankfully “moved on” from Babylonian emperor worship in assigning the fundamental aspect of adoration to the interior act of the mind and will, by which we are made in the “image of God”. Worshipping in “spirit and truth” demands the correspondence of gestures with abasement before the Infinite, but also demands obedience to canon law, and to what may be called a “theology of kneeling”, so apparent in our liturgical tradition (see Ratzinger’s Spirit in the Liturgy for this). Good theology, not misinformed piety, should dictate the norms of conduct in public liturgical settings. Otherwise, we should be being commanded to repeatedly fall down, walk (or crawl) backwards away from the Altar (as they did before kings), perhaps incur forehead lesions in our public acts of worship from repeated prostrations (which wounds are prestigious signs of piety in Islam), and, as Dom Gilbert says, be “hitting the ground” at Mass.

Surely our love of God is better expressed in acts of ordered obedience that flow from our status as bearers of the image of God, than in public exhibitionism and contests of self-immolating piety. And surely there is already enough liturgical disorder without these bizarre innovations.

8/1/08 2:29 PM
Fr John Boyle said...
Viator: I bow to your exegesis.

Canon Law does not direct a double genuflection to the exposed Sacrament. In fact, I think current liturgical law indicates a single genuflection.Yet the angel at Fatima touched his forehead to the ground before the Eucharistic species. We read in the book of Apocalypse: "all the angels ... fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God..." (Rev. 7:11)

Obviously one does not want to encourage sentimental practices, but the faithful - particularly the young - are clearly being moved to a deeper and renewed awareness that the Blessed Sacrament is the same Christ whom people fell before and worshipped while he was here on earth. These are not acts of exhibitionism but acts of faith and love.

8/1/08 2:55 PM
elena maria vidal said...
Hello, Fr. Boyle. I read your blog often and enjoy your beautiful and inspiring reflections. I have been following your posts on Fatima and Adoration with interest, since I have long been devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. Thank you for keeping her message alive. I also agree that Eucharistic Adoration is vital for our times, especially for our children.

In regard to the prostrations, at a parish where I live there has been an enormous controversy over this practice. Some parents want their small children to prostrate face down, like the children of Fatima with the angel.Other parents prefer that their children follow the rubrics of the Roman Church, genuflecting and kneeling, preferably in the pews. The parish priests are leaving it up to the parents, but since many, many parents object to the prostrations, the Children's Adoration is not as frequented as it should and could be.

I personally think that in this case, as a pastoral measure, it might be better for the children to simply genuflect as is the custom of the parish, rather than introduce a practice which is seen as being outlandish to many parishioners.Please pray for us.

If there were a great deal of devotion to Our Lady of Fatima at the parish in question, and if the prostrations were presented in the context of Fatima, then it might be different. Right now, it is just seen as being a private devotion which a handful of people are trying to impose on the rest.

8/1/08 4:20 PM
loyal catholic said...
Canon Law does not actually address the issue of single or double knee genuflection: "genuflection in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public adoration, is on one knee" (General Instruction on Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, n. 84).

Humans are not called to worship in the same manner as angelic beings. In the account of the angelic apparitions at Fatima it was clear that the “children remained on their knees.” Neither the angel nor the Blessed Mother herself ever ordered the children to put their heads on the ground. Given that the instructions and messages of Fatima were very explicit, it seems odd to suddenly suggest almost a hundred years later that a new age priest has greater insight into what the Blessed Mother and angel demanded. Clearly both the Angel of Peace and the Blessed Mother wanted humans to pray as humans and not as diaphanous angelic figures.

I find it odd that this post V2 liturgical innovation is being forced particularly on young defenseless children. This appears to be another form of anti-intellectualism in the Church whereby rather than following what is actually recognized Catholic Discipline we engage in a feel-good theatrical display designed to draw attention to ourselves rather than the Lord. If we have to ignore rubrics to produce this “good feeling” and feigned “depth-filled” experience then one has to question whether the ends justify the means (flaunt the rules so we can pretend to be extra-holy?)

It is particularly important to recognize what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith indicated in the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation,1989:
“Understood in an inadequate and incorrect way, the symbolism can even become an idol and thus an obstacle to the raising up of the spirit to God. To live out in one's prayer the full awareness of one's body as a symbol is even more difficult: it can degenerate into a cult of the body and can lead surreptitiously to considering all bodily sensations as spiritual experiences. Some physical exercises automatically produce a feeling of quiet and relaxation, pleasing sensations, perhaps even phenomena of light and of warmth, which resemble spiritual well-being. To take such feelings for the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit would be a totally erroneous way of conceiving the spiritual life. Giving them a symbolic significance typical of the mystical experience, when the moral condition of the person concerned does not correspond to such an experience, would represent a kind of mental schizophrenia which could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.”

It appears as though this new approach to Eucharistic Adoration (actually deprives the adorer of being face to face with God in this sentient encounter) is the new golden cow. Those engaged in this posturing are actually worshipping the position (the Muslim Sajdah) rather than the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It would be less offensive if the posture was one that actually exists somewhere in the Deposit of Faith, but to worship a posture stolen from those who reject the Hypostatic union of God to man through the person of Jesus Christ is ludicrous.

Theodore, in his Catechetical Homilies (XVI.27-28), instructed the congregants to adore the Eucharist by applying the host to their eyes before consuming it; while Cyril of Jerusalem was noted to recommend touching one’s eyes, forehead, lips, and any other senses, with any wine remaining near one’s lips (in his “Mystagogic Catecheses” V.21-22). The list of liturgical innovations is potentially endless, by which one could falsely express and foolishly catechize others to falsely express, one’s emotional feelings about faith and love.

Assuming this rationale that the posture itself is bringing children closer to the Lord - shouldn't we also encourage them to engage in Liturgical Dance and other innovative practices as well? If sajdah-ing is good, wouldn't self-mutilation be better?

8/1/08 4:44 PM
Fr John Boyle said...
I have never been called 'new age' before!

Look, I would suggest that in all things there should be moderation. When we are engaged in the Liturgy, we should all observe the liturgical norms. Certainly, nothing exaggerated should be forced upon anyone, least of all little children. I would much rather they be taught to genuflect properly and kneel down, and then sit after a little prayer. Certainly, we can gaze at the Lord in the Host. We should allow our sight to be filled with His Light. Perhaps there is a reaction to the loss of the restrained forms of adoration that are characteristic of the Roman Liturgy. If we genuflected, bowed, beat our breasts, made the signs of the Cross at the proper times and in the proper ways, we would be offering a very fitting act of worship. Sadly, bodily worship with appropriate postures/gestures has disappeared from many congregations.

Scott Hahn saw from the example of the apocalypse passages that our bodies are made for worship. I certainly agree with him.(And I think Franciso was found to be in profound adoration, prostrate, by Lucia and Jacinta.)

As for Fr Antoine, from the website it appears he is a brother of the Community of St John. This Community is attracting many, many vocations. I presume Fr Antoine is under the direction of his superiors and doing everything with due ecclesiastical approval although I find it odd that he should be the focus of this apostolate rather than the Community of St John itself. His style would not suit me at all. I prefer the sober gestures and postures of the Roman Rite tradition which prevent us from over-accentuating our personal feelings and from drawing attention to ourselves.
8/1/08 6:52 PM