Friday, October 22, 2010

Mystagogy - Part 2

Defining Our Terms
          Before we launch into this rather ambitious project, we must pause for a moment to briefly define our key terms. What exactly do we mean by “liturgy,” “Scripture,” “mystery,” and “mystagogy”?

          When Catholics are asked to define liturgy, most immediately mention the Mass.  The majority of Catholics also know that there are seven sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.  All of these, along with the ceremonies and prayers surrounding them, as well as other official prayers and sacramentals, make up the liturgy of the Catholic Church.  But what is the deeper meaning of liturgy? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1069) expands the basic definition above, explaining that liturgy is “the participation of the People of God in ‘the work of God.’” (3)  The Catechism continues, “Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through His Church.” (4)  The liturgy, then, is an action of Jesus Christ in which the Church, the Body of Christ, actively participates. (5)  Through this “joint activity,” this “combination of energies,” this “synergy,” the Church is sanctified by God as she joins her worship to the perfect worship of her Head. (6)  Because the Church is both human and divine, she must participate in this work of God, the liturgy, through a set of visible signs, a set of sacraments. Sacraments, the Catechism teaches, are “the masterworks of God”; they “come forth from the Body of Christ” to provide spiritual life and nourishment to God’s people. (7)  Further, as liturgy, they are the work of Christ, so they are efficacious, “they confer the grace they signify,” and they transform human beings from the inside out, allowing them to meet their Lord in an intimate way and drawing them into the very life of Heaven, the very life of the Blessed Trinity. (8)  Over the years, theologians have expanded and deepened our notions of liturgy, discovering profound facets of its meaning. Some, for instance, discuss the liturgy as the meeting of Heaven and earth, noting that the Church, through its visible, earthly liturgy of signs, participates in the Heavenly liturgy of the angels and saints around the throne of God. (9)  Others focus on the liturgy as the parousia of Christ, His actual coming in time through His Real Presence in the Eucharist. (10)  Still others assert that the liturgy is the Church’s memory, the place where her living Tradition really and truly resides; (11) the latest phase of covenantal salvation history; (12) the “re-presentation” of and participation in the great salvific sacrifice of Jesus Christ; (13) or even the visible expression of the mystery of God. (14)
          Liturgy is also, as we shall see later, the proper environment for reading and interpreting Sacred Scripture. (15)  When we speak of Sacred Scripture, we mean, as the Second Vatican Council’s Dei Verbum explains, the written revelation of God and His plan for the salvation of humanity, composed “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” (16)  These writings “have God as their author” and contain “the words of God, expressed in the words of men.” (17)  Further, because of this divine inspiration, this divine authorship, the human writers of Scripture, who served as God’s instruments, were preserved from writing anything erroneous.  “The inspired books teach truth,” the Catechism proclaims just before it quotes Dei Verbum to support this assertion: “…we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures. (18)  Sacred Scripture, then, is the inspired and inerrant written transmission of God’s revelation that forms, with Sacred Tradition, the “single sacred deposit of the Word of God,” guarded and expounded by the official teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium. (19)
          Scripture combines with liturgy to offer us a glimpse into the great mysteries, the profound yet obscure truths, the puzzling secrets, of the Blessed Trinity.  We know that the mysteries of God are inexhaustible, (20) and in our limited human condition, we can never know God fully as He is. We can only know what He has revealed about Himself and His plan for us, and even these revelations are shrouded in mystery.  The Scriptures are often difficult to understand and interpret; their riches often remain buried in layers of meaning inaccessible to many of us.  The liturgy is filled with visible signs that point to underlying, invisible, heavenly realities, (21) but all too often we fail to go beyond the external rites to delve into the interior treasures within them.  In Scripture and liturgy, we are called to participate in the very life of the Trinity, but it is a hidden life we cannot discover by ourselves.  It is a life of mystery. We are invited to the salvation brought about by the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but these too are mysterious to us.  We cannot understand them fully. We cannot see them. We cannot hear or touch or small or taste them. We are taught that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, that she is the prolongation of Christ’s presence, yet we often see merely an institution filled with sinful human beings. Indeed, our life of faith is permeated by mysteries, by things we cannot know by our limited human reason and senses alone. (22)  What must we do, then, when mysteries surround us?  Perhaps we must plunge ourselves into the mysteries and allow them to sweep us away.  How?  Through mystagogy.
          Mystagogy is a catechetical, some say theological, method that helps us plunge into mystery. (23)  Later we will consider a few specific applications of mystagogical teaching, but for now, we will focus on defining “mystagogy” and briefly examining a few of its features. Enrico Mazza defines mystagogy as “an oral or written explanation of the mystery hidden in the scriptures and celebrated in the liturgy.” (24)  This explanation, this mystagogy, is expressly designed to reveal “the deeper spiritual meaning of the liturgical rites” and to draw us, as baptized Catholics, into the mysteries of our faith. (25)  In mystagogy, we, the faithful, learn that the Scriptures and the liturgy are closely-integrated manifestations of one great mystery, one vast divine plan, or economy, of salvation that reaches all the way back to creation, attains its zenith in the life, death, and resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and continues today in the sacraments of the Church. (26)  Using the ancient method of Scriptural interpretation called “typology” (see below), mystagogical teaching helps us identify and appreciate the prefigurations, or “types,” of Christ in the Old Testament, recognize their fulfillment in the New Testament, and discern their continuation in the Church’s liturgy. (27)  Through this process, we come to understand the depth, the richness, the interiority of the Scriptures we read and the sacraments in which we participate, and we discover the invisible realities present in and signified by the words of the Bible and the liturgy’s visible signs.  In other words, we join Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus.  We listen as the Scriptures are broken open. We see how they announce and portray Jesus’ Person and mission.  Then we recognize our Lord in the breaking of the bread, in the liturgy. We enter more deeply into His presence, and we begin, at least a little, to grasp His mystery.

3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Vatican: Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 278.
4. Ibid.
5. Cyprian Vagaggini, Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1959), 17, 144.
6. Ibid., 17; Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005), 18.
7. Catechism, 269.
8. Ibid., 292.
9. Hahn, Letter, 131, 151-157; Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000), 125; Scott Hahn, The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth (New York: Doubleday, 1998), xiii, 3, 5, 71, 116, 125, 128, 145; Corbon, 62-64, 67, 70; Vagaggini, 142, 144, 169.
10. Hahn, Letter, 109-110, 116-117; Vagaggini, 169.
11. Hahn, Letter, 130-142; Mike Aquilina, The Mass of the Early Christians, 2nd ed. (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007), 12.
12. Vagaggini, 3, 210; Hahn, Lamb’s Supper, 12, 137; Corbon, 56.
13. Scott Hahn, First Comes Love (New York: Doubleday, 2002), 90-91; Hahn, Letter, 131; Corbon, 68; Hahn, Lamb’s Supper, 26, 43, 150.
14. Corbon, 79; Vagaggini, 87, 95, 210; Catechism 309.
15. Hahn, Letter, 34-35, 51-52; Hahn, Lamb’s Supper, 47.
16. Vatican II Council, “Dei Verbum,” in The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, N.Y.: Costello Publishing Company; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1998), 756.
17. Ibid., 756, 758.
18. Catechism, 31; Vatican II Council, “Dei Verbum,” 757.
19. Vatican II Council, “Dei Verbum,” 755-756.
20. Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina, Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003), 11.
21. Ibid., 28.
22. Cf. Corbon, 29-31, on the mysteries of God’s self-giving love; 36-43, on the mystery of the Incarnation; 44-47, on the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection.
23. Enrico Mazza, Mystagogy (New York: Pueblo, 1989), 3, 6.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid., 1, 25; Hahn and Aquilina, 27.
26. Hahn and Aquilina, 22; Coborn 56; Hahn, Letter, 16-17, 23.
27. Hahn, Letter, 19-20; Hahn and Aquilina, 11, 22; Mazza, 9, 43, 135, 167; Corbon 56.

No comments:

Post a Comment