Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 8

I apologize the the Pray Tell readers. I have been engaged in a recording project these last two weeks and have not been able to post as regularly as I wished. I hope to return to our Monday / Thursday posting schedule this coming week.

Vatican Website Translation:

8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle [22]; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory [23].

Latin text:

8. In terrena Liturgia caelestem illam praegustando participamus, quae in sancta civitate Ierusalem, ad quam peregrini tendimus, celebratur, ubi Christus est in dextera Dei sedens, sanctorum minister et tabernaculi veri(22); cum omni militia caelestis exercitus hymnum gloriae Domino canimus; memoriam Sanctorum venerantes partem aliquam et societatem cum iis speramus; Salvatorem exspectamus Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, donec ipse apparebit vita nostra, et nos apparebimus cum ipso in gloria(23).

Slavishly literal translation:

In the earthly Liturgy we participate by savoring beforehand that heavenly [liturgy] which is celebrated in the holy city, Jerusalem, toward which we pilgrims are journeying, where Christ, the servant of the holy things and of the true tabernacle, is sitting on the right of God [cf. Revelation 21:2; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:2]; with all the militia of the heavenly army we sing a hymn to the glory of the Lord; venerating the memory of the Saints, we hope for some part and association with them; we await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, will appear, and we will appear with him in glory [cf. Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:4].

Article 8 serves as a transition from the consideration of the nature of the liturgy to reflections on its role in the life of the Church. In J. D. Crichton’s lapidary sentence “[t]he liturgy recalls (anamnesis) the past events of salvation, makes Christ present here and now and looks both upwards to heaven and on to the future.”

The article first contemplates the heavenly liturgy as a manifestation of the Lordship of Christ. To again quote Crichton: “With his resurrection and ascent to glory, [Christ] becomes too the source of the Spirit whom, with his Father, he sends upon the Church which can now become the Spirit-filled body of Christ and the source of all salvation to [hu]mankind. The Church, and the world insofar as it accepts Christ, now moves into a new era, the Last Days, the age of the Spirit, Pneuma, and it is the whole effort of the Church to eliminate the sinful condition of the world so that it may be transformed into the new kingdom in which sin has no part. In this slow process of winning the world to Christ and his Spirit the liturgy has a central part to play.”

The article then associates the angels and the saints with Christ in his glory, reminding us that the liturgy engages the Body of Christ in its fullness, earthly worshipers taking their place alongside the angels and saints.

Finally, the article underlines the eschatological character of liturgical worship. It recaptures the early Church’s sense of joyful expectation of the Parousia of the Lord, when at Christ’s triumph all his faithful ones would be gathered into his kingdom in an ultimate and final way, all wrongs would be righted, and God’s justice revealed.

I think it might be of interest for readers to share how this celestial and eschatological perspective is embodied (or not) in the sign systems of our post-Vatican II Roman Rite worship.

8 comments

  1. I think that in the revised Roman Rite, one of the places this eschatological perspective comes through the clearest is in the Rite of the Dedication of a Church. Unfortunately this is one of the rarer of the church’s rites. The rite it repleat with references, first there is the Litany of Saints, the Depositing of the Relics, the Prayer of Dedication itself, the anointing of the walls and the altar, the incensation of the church and altar, the lighting of the church and altar. No where is it more clear than in the preface, “You have established the Church as your holy city…in the holy city you will be all in all for endless ages, and Christ will be its light for ever.”

  2. Do not worry about the gap Father. I have been on pilgrimage to Rome and am now in Assisi. What good timing on your part.
    I would offer the observation that the art in the building contributes both to the creation of that link to heaven and serves a teaching role.

  3. Aside from the art (I too, have been in Rome and now in Assisi) – art both ever ancient and ever new – which adorns many of the churches here and at home, I find in the full, active and conscious participation of the assembly, a delicious foretaste of the heavenly liturgy. It is the Body of Christ, the many parts, acting as one Body, one Voice offering praise to the Triune God!

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #5:
      La Depeche du Midi reports damages are of millions of euros. The bishop has appealed to the world for donations to repair the damage. See the French language part of Lourdesfrance the Sanctuaries website.
      La Depeche also has a picture of Jean Buscail who will be known to many as he runs the airport equipe of HNDL. His own hotel was flooded as were others. There may be some government assistance there.

  4. I just finished reviewing Thomas Rausch’s new book: Eschatology, Liturgy, and Christology (the review will be published in America), so am acutely aware of the subject at hand in this article of CSL. I find it interesting that so few comments are offered on this subject here, and how little in general church folks discuss or engage with the subject of eschatology directly. The eschata (last things) still engages us more than the eschaton — at least if we are not professional theologians. Rausch offers numerous examples of contemporary theologians who discuss these subjects, not least of which is our current pontiff.

    I do think that there is a lot of eschatological material in the revised liturgy, if we know what we are looking for.

    On a very personal note, I found this to be true in researching my book on the Rite of Election (in the RCIA). Election in the New Testament is an eschatological concept, and it was fascinating to see how it all works together and is actually present in the RCIA — but unremarked and unnoticed by most practitioners!

    In other baptismal liturgical moments, consider the explanatory rites after baptism: both are strongly eschatological.

    The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a sign of the “age to come” that has arrived in Christ, and guess what, that’s all embedded in the Rite of Confirmation too.

    The banquet of the Eucharist is an eschatological banquet. The Supper of the Lamb is the one we are happy to be called to, at the invitation to communion.

    For each of the times that we look forward to God’s coming kingdom in the liturgy, there is yet another moment to affirm our hope in the eschaton. But do we even notice?

    Perhaps other liturgical traditions offer more eschatological material than the Roman Rite, but I suspect that the Roman Rite gets a bad rap when people suggest it is weak in eschatology.

  5. I love the image of the Church coming forward for Holy Communion, hands raised to receive the sacrament, sharing the cup, those not walking singing. I think this is a beautiful eschatological moment. I probably have an unusual perspective, because I am often in the sanctuary area or behind it, either singing or just keeping an eye on things, so I am not caught up in the minutae of distributing Communion, timing music, waiting for my turn… I can look out and see a people streaming forward to the wedding feast. For many folks, I can tell that this is the high point of the Mass just by looking at their faces.

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