Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

24 August 2013

The Church of God, To Be Precise, Welcomes You

I was startled to learn of recently-approved revisions to the Rite of Baptism of Infants. According to the Catholic News Service, it was one of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's last decisions, along the lines of the addition of the name of St. Joseph to the second, third, and fourth Eucharistic Prayers.

What might we conclude about the nature of the Church: Were these acts a kind of eleventh-hour move for Pope Benedict? or does Holy Mother Church move so slowly that the decisions moved through the channels, finally to the Ecclesial News Desk. as late as they did? Who cares?

To review:

After the minister of Baptism asks two questions that we so often take for granted (each one post-worthy in its own right): "What name have you given your child/ren?" and, "What do you ask of God's Church for [your child/ren]?" the minister succinctly reminds the parents about the spiritual and religious responsibilities. Then he secures the parents' understanding of these, as well as the godparents' commitment to assist the parents in discharging their parental duties.

Finally, immediately before the Liturgy of the Word, the sacred minister will henceforth say the following: "[Oscar/Matilda], the Church of God welcomes you with great joy."

Previously, the rite read, "[Oscar/Matilda], the Christian community welcomes you with great joy."

Once before on this blog I modified Tip O'Neill's dictum "All politics is local" by replacing "politics" with "religion." I do not rescind that statement (although my end-of-life Retractationes will likely include many things I said from the pulpit, in classes, in beer gardens, etc.). But sometimes a little context helps.

Philosophy talks about how the universal is found in the particular (though I will leave it to the first beer garden dwellers, the philosophers, to discuss the finer points). I have a homily to finish.

In my own untutored words:
While the particular parish may happen to be the place of welcoming for little Oscar or Matilda, that parish is the local instance of the One, Holy, Catholic (kata holon, "according to the whole"), and Apostolic Church, where "what it means to participate in The Church of God" is most fully found: a parish united to its diocese, itself in communion with the Sovereign Pontiff, the Bishop of Rome.

Earlier I had received the impression that the changes to the Rite would include a brief elaboration on "the Church of God" that would include the hotly contested words, "subsists in," found in the eighth paragraph of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium; the quotation in its immediate context, along with some discussion, is lovingly lifted from Wikipedia):
This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
Haec Ecclesia, in hoc mundo ut societas constituta et ordinata, subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et Episcopis in eius communione gubernata, licet extra eius compaginem elementa plura sanctificationis et veritatis inveniantur, quae ut dona Ecclesiae Christi propria, ad unitatem catholicam impellunt.
According to my original impression, the words of the elaboration were the words in red type, but I gathered from the CNS article that the Church's Congregation for Divine Worship used those words to explain the motive for the change. (Whew!)

Had that amplification been the actual revision, the baptizing priest or deacon would be presuming of the whole assembly a basic understanding of the statement and its theological underpinnings. (Not bloody likely!) However, even if "the Church of God" is as far as it shall go, that phrase could be variously understood by all persons attending the baptism, and would therefore merit a succinct and accurate explanation by the baptizing minister. (No doubt the pre-Jordan instructor also might take the opportunity to explain the phrase!)

Properly handled, this and every word in the Liturgy can become what the Church of God's entire sacred Liturgy is: a moment for evangelization and catechesis...which might well incite some interesting dialogue after the ceremony, if anyone cares (or remembers) to discuss it.
Obiter dictum: We have bled much on the subject of "The Church of God," but theologians, priests, deacons, catechists, and other detail-dealing persons must not forget the words "welcomes you with great joy," and must endeavor to convey that joyful welcome in the celebration of Baptism and indeed in every execution of their sacred craft.
Starting with this priest.

No comments:

Post a Comment