Saturday, November 30, 2013

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses

Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia.

Having written so much this month on sin, death, and Purgatory, which I don't regret in the least as November, the final weeks of the liturgical year, is a more than appropriate time to consider such things, that is, ultimate things, I want to bring it all to a close the way November began, by focusing on the saints, a literary technique known as "framing."

A short quote I came across some years ago now, words spoken by Fr. Tonino Lasconi, the author of numerous volumes on the renewal of catechesis in Italy, sticks with me: "Without the saints, the faith vanishes." But their vanishing, nonetheless, seems to continue apace. I sincerely hope that one of the ways my blog fosters "Christian discipleship in the late modern milieu in the diakonia of koinonia" is by writing often about the communio sanctorum (i.e., the communion of holy people and things).

Lately, I have been re-reading large portions of Romano Amerio's Iota Unum, which is his far-ranging critique of the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath. I believe it is important reading for anyone who is truly interested in the Council, its effects, and our continuing search for a "hermeneutic," a quest that arises, Amerio insists, from the ambiguous nature of many of the main conciliar texts. While very critical, this book was for Amerio a work of love.

Just this week, I came across this passage about the post-conciliar diminishment of the cultus sanctorum, which appears in the midst of a phenomenon he calls "Circiterisms." A circiterism, according to Amerio, "consists in referring to an indistinct and confused term as if it were something well established and defined, and then extracting or excluding from it the element one needs to extract or exclude" (104). In discussing the subject of this post (i.e., the saints), he discusses "hiding one truth behind another so as to be able to behave as if the hidden truth were not only hidden but simply non-existent":

When the Church, for example, is defined as the People of God on a journey, the other side of the truth is hidden, namely that the Church also includes the blessed who have already reached the end of the journey, and that they are the more important part of the Church, since they are the part in which the purpose of the Church and of the universe has been fulfilled. In the next stage, the truth which was still part of the message but which has been put in the background will end up being dropped from the message altogther, through the rejection of the cult of the saints (105)
I am not sure what the Italian word Amerio used is translated into English as "rejection" is, but it seems to me that "neglect" might be the more operative term. Having recently led a 12 week study on the Letter to the Hebrews, I cannot recommend that book of sacred writ highly enough, dealing with these twin realities in a perfectly balanced manner.

The discomforting fact is that, in the end, the Church will only consist of the saints, after the great day of reckoning, known in Catholic theology as the General Judgment, when the wheat is separated from the tares. So, when we hear and repeat things like Bloy's famous, "There is only one sadness, and that is not to be saints," or, "Be a saint what else is there?" we should be convicted, provoked, spurred, inspired. This should cause us to turn to the saints in light for their help and assistance as well as to assist the souls in Purgatory.

There is one post from this past year to which I want to draw attention: "Saints are theologians par excellence." If you remain unconvinced, I refer you to this post about Bl. Rupert Mayer, SJ, by my friend, Fr. Peter Nguyen, SJ.

Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia (Antiphon 2 of Evening Prayer I- First Sunday of Advent)

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