Oh what times, oh what customs!
It’s been a while… Let us begin by recalling the eve of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, when Pope Paul VI said (7 December 1965): The attention of our Council has been absorbed by the discovery of human needs (and these needs grow in proportion to the greatness which the son of the earth claims for himself).
But we call upon those who term themselves modern humanists, and who have renounced the transcendent value of the highest realities, to give the Council credit at least for one quality and to recognize our own new type of humanism: we, too, in fact, we more than any others, honor mankind.
Literally translated from the Latin: we more than anyone else, have the cult of man.
So, according to Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council has been absorbed in its preoccupation for discovering human needs, needs which grow in proportion to the greatness of man. Coming from the mouth of a Pope, it sounds, unbelievably, like a modern-day pseudo-version of what Adam and Eve fell into by giving heed to the Serpent.
As if the Church, before Vatican II, hadn’t already been aware of human needs for the previous two thousand years (!!), especially the absolute need of Redemption.
The Synods of 2014 and 2015 (currently underway as of this writing), dedicated ostensibly “to” the Family—though what some excellent traditional (i.e., Catholic) bloggers are aptly referring to as rather “against” the Family—are going along the very same path of anthropocentrism.
Polemical as they are, we must realize that certain pastoral applicabilities are bent on—as my friend Louie Verrecchio aptly puts it—affirming what needs to be affirmed (in matters of doctrine), and changing what needs to be changed (pastoral practice which undermines doctrine).
More than rumors, it is a publicly known fact that—truth be told—the ever-present modernist heretics are clamoring for local or regional pastoral guidelines to deal with what is essentially the insoluble dogmatic problem of the indissolubility of a valid canonical marriage. Something that not even a Pope can dissolve at will.
When Our Lord elevated the natural marriage of man and woman to the dignity of a sacrament, he very clearly described the nature of said union: they are no longer two, but one… Let no man separate what God hath joined. Thus, a Catholic marriage, being a sacrament or living sign of Christ’s love for his beloved Spouse-Church, there are no longer two persons, they are in fact bonded as one, just as Christ and the Church are one, and yet not identical.
But this means therefore, that in a Catholic marriage, since there are not two persons joined by a mere temporal contract—which can be rescinded and the partners separated—since they are in fact bonded as one, a valid, ratified, and consummated sacramental marriage is by nature and definition, indissoluble. God has so willed it in the very nature of a sacramental marriage.
In our troubled ecclesial times, many no longer understand that sacramental law is based on natural law. That is one major reason why those same many cannot get into their heads that a woman cannot possibly be a priest. It’s not only out of mere ecclesiastical disposition, it’s a matter of natural law and—correspondingly—sacramental law.
In a Protestantized view, there is no sacramental comprehension of the Church, there’s merely a functional perspective. People just perform functions. And in such a limited, non-sacramental view, it really doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is what you do. So, if it’s not a question of being, but just a question of doing things, a woman can do the things a priest does.
But in a sacramentally Catholic perspective, one cannot merely do things, one must first and foremost be in order to do. To be and then to do. And in that order. This is by the very nature of the Mystical or sacramental Body of Christ which is the Church.
So, a woman cannot possibly re-present Christ, God made Man, the eternal High Priest and Spouse of his Holy Catholic Church, his spotless Bride. Why? Well, because a woman is not a man, cannot be a man, thus cannot be the male spouse of the female Spouse that is the Church. What cannot be, cannot be, and furthermore it’s impossible.
If you cannot be, you cannot do. If you cannot be a priest, by its very nature of re-presenting the male Spouse (Christ) of the female Spouse (the Church)—apostolic doctrine in the epistles of St. Paul and St. John (Book of Revelation)—you cannot perform the sacramental functions of a priest. The same applies to two persons of the same sex: they cannot possibly get married. Natural law folks, that’s one foundation for sacramental law.
But of course, lest we fear otherwise, in these Synods, doctrine isn’t going to change! Not formally. Oh no. Those who are pushing for “affirming what needs to be affirmed by changing what needs to be changed,” perhaps were inspired in this year of 2015 by Apple’s commercial line for the presentation of the brand new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus: “The only thing that’s changed is everything.” That may work well for Apple, but most certainly not for the Church.
This clearly anthropocentric orientation of the Council is one of Vatican II’s trademarks, and indeed, was forced upon the liturgical “reform” that was increasingly present in the never-ending changes in the “ad experimentum” rite of Mass from 1965-1969.
And then the experiments eventually produced the Novus Ordo Missæ in late 1969. There is a saying here in Spain that refers to something that should not be tampered with: Los experimentos… con gaseosa / Experiments… with carbonated water.
But alas, the liturgical “reformers” did not experiment with carbonated water, they much preferred to experiment with something way above them: the sacred liturgy of the Church.
And so, regarding the four traditional liturgical Ember Days, or Témporas—Feria IV (Wednesday), Feria VI (Friday), and Sabbato (Saturday), throughout the year…
Another reason the traditional Roman liturgy “gets it right,” is the fact that it reverences Creation and nature in such a way that it sets aside these special days of intense prayer and petition, near to the changing of the four seasons of the natural year.
Though to be sure, it is also the natural way of things that the four seasons are not uniform everywhere in the globe due to the northern and southern hemispheres where they correspondingly alternate. Thus, alternately and respectively, northern/southern hemispheres: winter/summer, spring/autumn, summer/winter, autumn/spring.
Be that as it may, the four seasons do change at the same time throughout the year all-around, notwithstanding the seasonal differences in the northern and southern hemispheres. And the Church’s traditional four Ember Day liturgical cycle respects this natural course of the seasons.
This liturgical respect for Creation and the natural order is far more important than it might appear at first, for this has a tremendous impact on doctrinal and pastoral respect for natural law.
So, these special liturgical days are called—in Latin and in Castilian Spanish—Témporas, in English Ember Days. That is to say, the traditional Roman liturgy, always theocentric, also refers to God’s Creation: it respects the objective natural course of the seasons, as well as a particular liturgical dimension of Christ’s redemptive Mystery.
So, taking into account the seasonal differences of the northern and southern hemispheres, the Ember Days of Advent (the week following the III Sunday) fall near the solstice of winter/summer and during the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year, when we celebrate the triple expectation of the coming of the Lord—in glory and majesty at the end of time, at present in the hodie / today of the liturgy, and historically at Christmas.
The Ember Days of Lent (the week following the I Sunday) fall near the equinox of spring/autumn and during the primary penitential season of the liturgical year that prepares us for the renewed Christian life of Eastertide.
The Ember Days of Pentecost (during the week of its Octave) fall near the solstice of summer/winter and during that time of the liturgical year that has celebrated the redemptive mystery of Eastertide (Passion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension—which also has its own special Rogation Days), the sending of the Holy Ghost being its culmination, and the summer (northern hemisphere) harvest of the new life acquired by the fruits of Easter.
The Ember Days of September (after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the 14th), fall near the equinox of autumn/spring, when we have just celebrated the glory of Christ’s Cross, pleading that its redemptive graces continue to manifest themselves in the twilight of our lives, in accordance with that time of year that is autumn… in the northern hemisphere.
But spring in the southern hemisphere, where the supernatural grace obtained by the Cross is manifested in a renewed life following the winter of our stale, sinful lives, as the Fathers of the Church would say.
The point here being that these Ember Days are well-chosen for these do not depend on how man, how a society organizes itself, but rather on the natural changes in the seasons, as well as a particular mystery of Christ that the sacred liturgy celebrates.
In the Novus Ordo liturgy (at least in Spain, not sure how these Témporas are handled elsewhere), there is only one day (with the option of extending it to three days) that falls on 5 October, an absolutely pointless date.
Why? Because at the beginning of October here, the “pastoral year” begins, the university year begins (or rather, used to begin!), that is, the normal course of things, the normal “work year” begins, so to say.
So as we can readily see, 5 October really is not based at all on the changing of the seasons of the natural year, nor is it based at all on any particular liturgical dimension of the Mystery of Christ… This date is merely conventional, oriented to how a society organizes itself: a clearly anthropocentric liturgical perspective.
And if Novus Ordo Ember Day(s) are celebrated at different times in different countries, it’s even more chaotic and thus more to the point! This is rather akin to what some prelates want at the Synods “on” (sic) the Family: regional decision-making on universal doctrinal and pastoral issues!
Ironically, however, with the relatively new Bologna plan for European university studies, the university year now begins at mid-September! In other words, near the equinox of autumn! And Grade School and High School still retain their beginning at mid-September.
True enough, the “pastoral year” (catechesis, etc.) still begins early to mid-October, but that’s just merely a conventional arrangement; it has nothing to do with Creation nor any particular sacramental celebration of the Mystery of Christ’s Redemption.
So the idea I’m trying to get across is that 5 October was a pointless date to begin with. But given the volatile changes in university academic years (now pushed back from early October to mid-September), in addition to the start of school in general (near the equinox of autumn), 5 October is now an even more meaningless day in which to celebrate an Ember Day.
Another reason why the Novus Ordo liturgy is sadly anthropocentric: its only Ember Day(s) is but once a year (instead of four times a year), with no relation or regard to the natural seasons of the year (Creation), with no particular relation with any specific liturgical Mystery of Christ…
In other words, this date is artificially chosen only with regards to subjective secular and pastoral conventions, but nothing objetive, like the natural changing of the seasons and related to a particular liturgical dimension—Advent, Lent, Pentecost, Exaltation of the Holy Cross—like the traditional Roman liturgy Ember Days.
This anthropocentric liturgical orientation of Ember Days in the Novus Ordo, disregarding Creation, nature, and the associated significance of the Mysteries of our Redemption in Christ, is readily apparent in these Synods “against” the Family.
Those prelates who are relentlessly pushing for admitting divorced and civilly re-married Catholics to Holy Communion, despite an objective state of public adultery, are negating the nature of valid sacramental marriage.
Those same prelates who are similarly pushing for a pastoral downplay of the nefarious contraception mentality, and even Church recognition of the so-called “positive values” of same-sex relationships (“stable ones” in particular are especially valued by the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna and the Bishop of Antwerp) are denying as well the complementary sexual nature of man and woman, and are likewise relentlessly pushing for pastoral approaches which undermine the natural sexual moral order.
What these heterodox prelates are doing in the Synods is the same as celebrating an Ember Day on the utterly conventional date of 5 October discussed above, totally disregarding the natural order of things as created by God himself, preferring to do things “our way,” instead of God’s way.
If we’re not going to respect God’s natural order liturgically, why should we respect God’s natural law, in doctrine and in pastoral practice? The converse is also true, of course: if we’re not going to respect God’s natural law, doctrinally and pastorally, why should we respect it liturgically and sacramentally? Ah, the perennial principle: Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi…
Liturgically, pastorally, and ultimately doctrinally, they prefer to impose upon the Church the likewise utterly meaningless date of 5 October for an Ember Day, instead of four times a year, near to when the natural seasons change, accompanied by the corresponding redemptive Mystery of Christ to guide us along.
The supreme irony of this terribly misguided approach is that those who adhere to it, think they are being pastorally relevant, sophisticated, modern, up-to-date with current trends, and oh yes, merciful.
But in reality, they are doing, essentially, a very ancient and obsolete thing: playing the role of a diabolically-ensnared Adam and Eve, playing at being gods, playing around with good and evil, messing around with Creation, messing around with the natural order.
But… half a moment… Messing around, making a mess… Why, that’s what Pope Francis told the participants at the glorious World Youth Day in Brazil in the summer/winter of 2013! Go and make a mess! Boy, what a mess indeed!
On the flight back to Rome, Francis uttered his infamous “Who am I to judge a gay person sincerely seeking God?” highly imprudent remark. And about a week after the WYD ended, the Brazilian government legalized the “day after” abortive pill. Wow! Just harvesting some pastoral fruit after Vatican II…
Making a mess… in the Synods, too. And in doing just that, in the midst of their blind euphoria, gleefully sing like +Frank Sinatra: “I did it… my way…” Oh, and what about the messy moral quagmire? Ah, that’s been taken care of. The pharisaical, hypocritical, unmerciful traditionalists (i.e., Catholics), will of course take the blame for yet another pastoral mess unleashed, alas, after Vatican II.
Sigh… One would think that all these many, many centuries of experience—since Adam and Eve, mind you—would shed some light on pastoral concerns of today… But no, it turns out that the so-called “progressives” are actually quite outmoded indeed. Paraphrasing the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is no new heresy under the sun…