Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sacrament of Service

Who is the servant, the suffering one…who will not crush the reed. Who empties himself? Not clinging to his divinity? Who assumes the form of a slave? Who washes feet? Who pours out himself as a libation, running the good race? Who waits on table, seeing that widows and orphans are fed? Who binds up wounds, and proclaims liberty to captives? Israel, the prophet, the Messiah, the apostle, the deacon, the priest.

Hidden in the Old and revealed in the New is Christ Jesus. Further discovered in the New are the apostles, disciples, elders, and servants – those who comprise the Church. Hidden even in the New is that which provides for the continuation of the Church – the written word itself, and the Word made sacramentally flesh in the remembrance which is to continue from east to west, the perfect sacrifice of praise.

In the preserved, extraordinary bloodless sacrifice of the altar, for centuries celebrated in Latin, the deepest mystery of the Gospel in the church was made real day after day, year after year. The practical mystery of a fading language, unfamiliar to the masses, expressed in its non-vernacular the hidden mystery of Eucharist.

Four Centuries of Latin rite came to a watershed transformation with the beginning of the celebration of Eucharist in the vernacular, following the directives of Vatican Council II. Mass in English, Spanish, German…the language of the people…was the most dramatic of the changes introduced by the Council. Fasting and meat abstinence disciplines were relaxed; new, free-standing altars were erected, so the celebrant faced the assembly. The ministry of bishops, priests, and laity were rearticulated, with special emphasis on the call of all to both holiness and the apostolate.

For some, the changes after Vatican II did not go far enough, and profound discontent arose, with numerous priests and religious leaving their ministry to marry. Expectations of changes in moral teachings were similarly unfulfilled, as the post-Council reflection on the constancy of Church teaching produced recognition of such teaching as persistent, constant, and, therefore, ordinary and unchangeable. The Gospel is both changeless and ever adaptable to changing circumstances. The same yesterday, today, and forever is the Lord, so, too, is his message, hidden in the Old and revealed in the New.

(Scribbled February 24, 2004, but never published or posted until now.)

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