In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, I wish to write a series of thoughts, reflections, and expressions from my friendship with Council Father Bishop Remi De Roo of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I hope that after many beautiful conversations with Remi over nearly a decade, I can relay both historical context, insider perspective, and reasons to embrace the further implementation of the Council's directives.
Through my relationship with this council father, he assured me that calling him Remi was the right thing to do. His logic?
"My Mother named me Remi, I was baptized Remi, and I remain Remi until the day I die. My title only shows my responsibilities."
Now, that's some perspective on his episcopal office. I will never hear from another Bishop again.
When the Council convened in October of 1962, They faced the most crucial question that demanded answering in light of the world as she rapidly changed around us. That question:
"Church, who are you?"
Those of us who grew up in the post-council era know the answer to this is "the Body of Christ in the World," but that wasn't the perception previous to Vatican II. Here is where the most significant divergence from the Latin Rite comes into play.
Previous to this first meeting of the Council, the perception was that the Priest was the presence of Christ. Through Pope John XXIII's process of "Resourcement," the theologians began looking at the first century and how the earliest Christians developed their Church. What they found was captivating and refreshing. The treasures of the first several centuries stoked renewed interest in Catholicism's spiritual and practical gifts. The authentic Truth of Christ's presence emerged that exists equally in four ways.
One way Christ is present is through a previous perception of the Priest. The Priest was one of the modes in which we experience the Presence of Christ. The shift comes in understanding that a Clergy only stands as Christ in a few key moments: First, as the storyteller and interpreter. Also, as the sacramental conduit during our sacred rituals of Eucharist, Baptism, and Reconciliation.
Another way Christ is present is through the Word of God. Our Scriptures provide for us the framework in which we can experience Jesus. Think of it like the basic instructions. Another priest friend says that the Bible is an acronym for "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth," which isn't far from the truth. A renewed emphasis on Sacred Scripture would illuminate the presence of Christ in the world, the reality that He IS the Messiah.
Understanding the Scripture naturally leads us to the Source and Summit of our being, The Eucharist. Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine now forever made His Body through the Mass. The Eucharist is proof that Jesus is who we say He is, the Son of God, The Bread of Life, and the Source of Mercy in the world (More on this later in Dei Verbum).
The only way that Jesus can become fully present in the Eucharist is through the gathered community, which makes perfect sense because Baptism endows us with the Holy Spirit and is the primary sacrament needed to live fully as a member of Christ's body. When we all gather for Mass, we are a culmination of Christ's body and the Holy Spirit, an Assembly. The assembly wills the Holy Spirit within us, between us, and surrounding us to pass through the hands of the Preist during the Eucharistic Prayer and transform ordinary bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus.
The first document published by the Second Vatican Council was Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Constitution on Sacred Liturgy. This first document served as an outline for the rest of the Council's agenda. The shift of Sacrosanctum Concilium brought to the practice of the faith focused on Divine Mercy. The goal is to have each one of us place ourselves in someone else's shoes and to have a desire for their good regardless of its benefit or pain to ourselves. Mercy is the foundation of a genuine relationship and removes the idea of charity or pity but enshrines dignity and grace. The sacred liturgical practice is an example of such Mercy and requires us to witness and experience its saving power.
What an excellent new perspective! Our Church embraces its return to the ways of the Church in Phillippi and Colossae. We are now rooted in the ancient tradition of Jesus's relationship to the twelve and His first disciples.
How does Sacrosanctum Concilium do this? To oversimplify the point, it allows us to understand Liturgy and the Paschal Mystery without de-mystifying the miracles. It now requires our participation and suspension of disbelief because we hear the Mass for what it is. As the late Michael Byron, former instructor at the St. Paul Seminary, put it, "We are a Church becoming what it already is. But not yet!"
May we continue becoming what we already are.