Friday, October 20, 2006

Annual Retreat

As part of our seminary formation, we in the College Department are going on a five-day annual Retreat at Mirador Jesuit Villa in Baguio City, nestled in the cool mountains of the North. Afterwards, I shall proceed immediately to Iloilo City in the beautiful South to participate in the Presbyteral Ordination of a very dear friend, Rev. Theodbriel R. Villariza, Jr. As such, I will be taking a two-week break from my blogging.

Hopefully this time will fulfill the much needed respite from the struggles and hardwork of community life and academe. May it be filled with heavenly consolations and beautiful memories to give us strength as we persevere in following Christ. With God's grace, may it be an opportune time of renewal, to know ourselves better, to love God more, and to recommit ourselves as his servants.

Pleased pray for our retreat even as we pray for all of you.

A Master of Ceremonies

For our enrichment, here is a quote from Archbishop Piero Marini (taken from "Celebrazioni liturgiche pontificie, radio e tv" published in "La Civiltà Cattolica" 1999, III, pp. 168-180) describing the work he himself is very well-known for: a post-conciliar Master of Ceremonies.

"In the old liturgy, in use before the Second Vatican Council, the role of the master of ceremonies consisted in applying a series of rigid norms which could not be changed. Today one cannot organize a celebration without first having thought: who is celebrating, what is being celebrated, where is it being celebrated. The celebration is the point toward which converge diverse and reciprocally coordinated elements under the guide of that spirit of adaptation that is the soul of post-conciliar reform.

Thus it's a matter of foreseeing and planning the celebration with a view toward the result one wants to obtain. For example, one cannot think of a liturgical action without taking account of the space in which it will take place, the hymns that will be performed. Everything that is thought out and predisposed in view of a celebration can be considered real and proper direction. One finds oneself acting, in a certain way, upon a stage. Liturgy is also a show."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

North American Martyrs SJ

Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf, priests and martyrs and their companions, martyrs.

These Jesuit missionaries labored intensely for the conversion to the faith of native North Americans, even at the cost of their lives:

St. Jean de Brebeuf
St. Noel Chabanel
St. Anthony Daniel
St. Charles Garnier
St. Isaac Joques
St. Gabriel Lalemant

They were also joined by lay cooperators:

St. Rene Goupil
St. Jean de la Lande

May the example of courage and dedication of these martyrs inspire us to give our selves unreservedly to the flock and to follow Christ our Lord faithfully, even unto death.

All ye holy martyrs, pray for us!

Orans Position During A Sit-Down Mass

Part of the efforts to inculturate the liturgy, we have in this part of the world, many chapels with a very Asian design. This, of course, applies usually if not always, only to small chapels since Asian homes are usually small and the setting is very intimate, in contrast with the large banquet halls the Western culture is more accustomed to.

Commonly, this kind of design features an altar that is low (but nevertheless in the view of all) and mats instead of pews, so that the priest and the people can just squat on them or on the ground in a reverent position, usually resembling the lotus position for those who are able to sustain this.

Now, some problems can be raised regarding this kind of "sit-down" Mass where the people literally sit through the entire liturgy. In the West, of course, the different postures of standing up, kneeling down, prostrations etc. are expressive of many things according to the different parts of the liturgy where they are used in: reverent listening during the proclamation of the Gospel, profound adoration of the Eucharistic presence at the Elevation (or more appriopriately, showing of the eucharistic species), deep humility before the Crucified Savior on Good Friday etc.

However, we must understand that in the East, the proper sitting position somehow encompasses all these reverential dispositions. A student sits while listening to the instructions of the Master. Even nobles sit while addressing the King. (Although we also have the equivalent prostrations, very elaborate and really beautiful ones in fact, which can actually be explored for liturgical use. Although priests will have to be more physically fit to be able to make these gestures properly and well.) Also, the sitting position vividly expresses the dimension of the Eucharist as a true meal, without diminishing its other and complementary aspect of sacrifice, which demands utmost reverence before the Divine Majesty. Participants in Asian meals all sit down.

Ministers however kneel while ministering. That is why all who perform ministerial duties, even if they are also participants in the meal, should kneel while carrying out their ministerial duties. (Obviously, it is difficult to serve sitting down in this way) This gesture can extend even to the ministry of lectors.

The again there are existential difficulties that arise. People who are not used to this sitting down without a Western "chair" find sustaining this posture this very difficult, even painful. The problem of a presidential chair is even easier to solve by just providing a distinctive mat, stool or pillow. However, special consideration should be made especially for old people, espcially those who are not used to squatting and even for Western faithful who have longer legs and may be present.

In view of this "sit-down" Mass, I would just like to raise here a suggestion regarding the Orans posture, which the Presider makes at many points during the entire liturgy and the people too take during the Lord's Prayer.

There are two current practices. One is to put the palms on top of the knees (facing up or facing down) which is more in conformity with the traditional lotus position. Others however, still raise it in the traditional Western position, palms facing outward and pointing upward. I tend to side with the latter.

The Lord's prayer, at the beginning of the Communion rite, is not primarily a meditative prayer. In contrast, it is a reaching out to the Father of Jesus, begging him for our daily bread-especially that Bread which, not only sustains our earthly life, but also gives us eternal life. Also, it is a reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the gathered assembly, in solidarity as children of the Father and in reconciliation because God himself has forgiven us. That is why in the second part of the Lord's prayer, the petitions are always made in the second person: give us, forgive us, deliver us...

The first practice makes the prayer intimate and very personal, which is also good, but seems incongruent with the liturgical action being carried out in this part of the rite. Moreover, the second practice is closer to the Biblical gesture of the raising of hands in prayer, and also to the posture of Christ, our High Priest, offering himself to the Father on the altar of the Cross.

The same goes not only for the Lord's prayer sung or recited by everybody, but also for the presidential prayers said by the priest alone. On the one hand, his palms face outward to encompass and embrace the prayer of the whole community. At the same time, they point upward to reach out to God, in the manner Christians have prayer with through the ages, and after the manner of the Crucified Christ.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Saint Luke, Evangelist

Tomorrow is the solemn Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist. He is the author of the third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles.

One of the most striking features of the Gospel of Luke is that it most expressly shows Jesus' own love of preference for the poor, which extends to all the marginalized and discriminated of society. Even if Saint Luke was reputed to be a physician-obviously not poor-his deep sympathy for the downtrodden, which echoes Jesus own compassion is very evident in his writings.

To the Gospel of Luke, we owe the most beautiful hymns that now adorn the sacred liturgy: the Gloria, and the three Gospel canticles: Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, which are all praise for God's action on behalf of the lowly: the poor shepherds, barren Zechariah, the humble maid of Nazareth, old priest Simeon-all realized in the person of Christ who gives hope to all who are hopeless, comfort to all who are sorrowing and strength to all who are weak.

Saint Luke is also the foremost historian of the early Church, whole early struggles and growth he recorded and compiled in his Acts of the Apostles which actually forms part of his Gospel. Through him we see how the saving ministry of Christ truly continues through the missionary activity of his Body, the Church.

And so we pray today, on the feast of Saint Luke, for a deeper love of the poor that will hopefully show in the way we think, speak, write and most importantly, the way we live our lives. Let us also pray that we may participate in Christ's redeeming work as members of his Body-writing succeeding chapters to his Gospel by our proclaiming the Good News with our own lives.

Saint Luke, pray for us!

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch Theophoros, bishop and martyr of the early Church. Saint Ignatius succeeded Saint Peter as the second bishop of Antioch after the latter moved on to become the first Bishop of Rome. Soon enough, he followed Peter again in Rome, this time to receive in turn the glorious palm of martyrdom.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it shall remain but a single grain of wheat. However, he adds, if it falls and dies, it bears much fruit.

Saint Ignatius too, compared himself to the grain of wheat who is Christ. On his way to Rome, he wrote: "I offer myself as wheat, to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ."

Today is also the 10th death anniversary of Richard Michael R. Fernando, SJ. Bro. Richie died shielding a troubled student, who brought a grenade to the technical school for landmine victims operated by the Jesuits in Cambodia, from the violence he had wrought. By giving his life, Richie gave new life to that student and to many others who continue to be moved and inspired by his example of courage and sacrifice.

We too, like Saint Ignatius and also like Bro. Richie, if we offer ourselves to Christ, partaking in his passion and death, can become Eucharist-broken bread and wine outpoured for the life of the world. Then, if we die with Christ, we shall be able to give life to others and have also for ourselves through him, life and life to the full.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Today we celebrate the memory of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. I was supposed to observe Saint Teresa of Avila today, since her feast fell on a Sunday this year, and I kept my patron Saint Callistus last Saturday. However, Father Tom Green, SJ (one of the priests I know who are really familiar with the Roman calendar) reminded me that it is Saint Margaret Mary's today and so I will keep this day in her memory but also remember dear Saint Teresa. (Father Tom observed Saint Teresa last Saturday.)

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's Encyclical on the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Haurietis Aquas, which, of course, mentions Saint Margaret Mary:

But surely the most distinguished place among those who have fostered this most excellent type of devotion is held by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who, under the spiritual direction of Blessed Claude de la Colombiere who assisted her work, was on fire with an unusual zeal to see to it that the real meaning of the devotion which had had such extensive developments to the great edification of the faithful should be established and be distinguished from other forms of Christian piety by the special qualities of love and reparation. (95)

Margaret indeed, did her best to be faithful to the mission entrusted to her by the Lord, to lead the people once again to his Sacred Heart, in an age that has so forgotten the love of God and was more fearful of his justice. She did this at the cost of much suffering and persecution, that however did not deter her from proclaiming the message entrusted to her. Good that she had a very good spiritual director-the Jesuit Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, who was always by her side to strengthen, guide and console her.

And so let us ask the Lord today, through the intercession of Saint Margaret Mary, for the grace to be faithful to our call despite hardships, and also for the gift of good and holy companions in our journey to him.

Saint Margaret Mary, pray for us!

(Today is also the memorial of Saint Hedwig, a holy duchess and a generous patron of the Church, and of Saint Gerard Majella, young religious and patron of expectant mothers.)

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Saint Callistus, pope and martyr

Today we commemorate Saint Callistus, pope and martyr, an otherwise obscure name but a really fascinating figure if we shall only discover.

Callistus was born a slave to Aurelius Carpoforus, a relative of the emperor, who gave him his freedom and money besides to start a livelihood of his own, being a Christian himself. However, by whatever means, whether he cheated or whether he was cheated himself, Callistus failed in the beginning, and was charged of what we may consider now as estafa. Thus, he had to tarry long in the Roman mines in order to regain his freedom.

Being freed at last, he nevertheless won back the esteem and trust of his fellow citizens and indeed, of the Church. Then Pope, Saint Zephyrinus, made him archdeacon, his secretary and put him in-charge of the catacombs which are now named after him, and which he illuminated with precious sacred art. He soon in fact, became Bishop of Rome. In the history of the liturgy, he is credited for introducing the Ember Days, which are periodic fasts to invoke God's blessing for the various seasons of the year.

Being very outspoken, however, especially on very controversial issues such as inter-caste marriage and the reconciliation of apostates, he incurred the ire of many, who finally succeeded in putting him to death, throwing him out of his own window into a well. Later theological enlightenment however will vindicate him, a martyr because of his human and religious convictions.

Let us pray then to Saint Callistus that he may obtain for us from God the grace to rise from our failures in the past and the courage to stand up for the truth. Pray also for me on this, my birthday, that like my beloved patron, I may be a holy and zealous servant of the Lord despite my own failings and weaknesses.

Saint Callistus, pray for us!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Prayer Before Study

As many of us students now struggle with the final throes of the first semester, hurdling our requirements and wrestling with the tests, may we nevertheless remember to remain with God in prayer and draw from him who is the Source of all Wisdom and Knowledge.

Ineffable Creator,
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.


St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Mass As Discourse

Below is the term paper I presented for our course on Ricoeur, under Dr. Leovino Ma. Garcia. It is an attempt to apply Paul Ricoeur's narrative theory as a way of understanding liturgy so that it is able to recuperate once again, its narrative potency of allowing us to enter into the Christ-event and allowing the Christ event to permeate our lives, in a threefold anamnesis. Using this framework, the paper also tackles three outstanding liturgical problematics: Circle, Identity and Tradition.

The Mass as Discourse
Paul Ricoeur’s Narrative Theory as Framework for a Theology of the Liturgy

Leo R. Ocampo

The Passover Seder meal, from which the Christian Mass originates, is essentially a storytelling ritual. In its central and most cherished part, the youngest child begins to ask the Mah Nishtanah[1] and the leader of the Seder, usually the father, begins to recount to all who are present the full story of Israel’s liberation from slavery as they then partake of the ritual food and share in the religious experience of their forefathers, so that it is said: Every person in every generation must regard himself as having been personally freed from Egypt.”[2]

Mingling however with the glorious and elaborate ceremonial of the Roman court, the Christian liturgy attained greater grandeur but to the detriment of its power to recreate the indelible experience of the disciples who gathered for that Passover meal on the night before the Lord suffered and died. The height of this triumphalism finds expression in the Tridentine Liturgy with all its solemnity and splendor that elevates the soul yet at the same time blurs the fundamental reality of the Eucharist as a true meal amid the complex intricacies of ritual that put more emphasis on its complementary aspect of sacrifice.

The Second Vatican Council, however, reaffirmed the didactic nature of the liturgy and sought to strengthen it so that it may be able to lead the faithful once again to a truly profound and intimate encounter with God “for in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel.”[3] To recuperate the narrative potency of the Christian liturgy, we wager on Paul Ricoeur’s narrative theory as a framework for understanding the Mass, in hopeful pursuit of his ever-inquisitive dialogue brought now to the field of liturgy.

The Challenge of Authentic Liturgy

In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a very controversial document with an equally provocative title: Liturgiam Authenticam—authentic liturgy, dealing with the translation of the Latin ritual books into the local vernacular languages. The said document caused a remarkable stir among liturgists particularly because of its severe stress on maintaining “the identity and unitary expression of the Roman Rite”[4] insisting on “fidelity and exactness with respect to the original texts”[5] by translating the original text “integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses.”[6]

The said document received strong criticism from many reputable contemporary liturgists, a critique Chupungco succinctly encapsulates: “In its obsession for lexical accuracy and verbal fidelity to the original text, the method of formal correspondence ignores the culture of the recipient or the people for whom translation is made.”[7] Nonetheless, a revised translation of the Order of the Mass in English has already been prepared, voted upon by the bishops and has been forwarded to the Holy See for its approval to be followed by implementation in the English-speaking dioceses, anytime soon.

This problem of Liturgiam Authenticam is indeed illustrative, not only of sentimentality for the old rites with its antique text and ceremonial, but also of a certain pervasive allergic to the post-conciliar progress in line with the thrust of the Second Vatican Council to attune the Church to the context of the people of our time. In search of an authentic liturgy, must we revert and cling to the past? Is the liturgy, handed down to us, not open to future adaptations?

Language as Discourse

Paul Ricoeur, in his hermeneutics, takes off from the Saussurian distinction between language as langue (code) and as parole (speech). While language as langue is self-referential i.e., a system that revolves around and works within itself, language as parole remains open to the being-in-the-world from which it arises and to which it ever returns. The idea of a “sacral vernacular” that Liturgiam Authenticam posits closely follows this paradigm of language as code:

While the translation must transmit the perennial treasury of orations by means of language understandable in the cultural context for which it is intended, it should also be guided by the conviction that liturgical prayer not only is formed by the genius of a culture, but itself contributes to the development of that culture. Consequently it should cause no surprise that such language differs somewhat from ordinary speech. Liturgical translation that takes due account of the authority and integral content of the original texts will facilitate the development of a sacral vernacular, characterized by a vocabulary, syntax and grammar that are proper to divine worship... (49)

Language as code, being self-referential, can afford to make sense only within its own conceptual framework, without any reference to the world outside itself. Language as speech on the other hand is not merely confined within its own conceptual framework, with a reference beyond itself, although it bears its own inadequacy once we begin to limit the scope of its meaning.

Ricoeur thus takes this further by following Emile Beneveniste in his theory of language as discours (discourse). By discourse as “the event of language”[8], Ricoeur points out the dynamic openness of language as “a temporal phenomenon of exchange, the establishment of a dialogue that can be started, continued or interrupted.”[9]

Discourse therefore is an event with an enduring meaning that not only goes beyond the confines of its own language but even surpasses the ephemeral speech-act or locutionary act. “An act of discourse is not merely transitory and vanishing, however. It may be identified and reidentified as the same so that we may say it again or in other words.”[10] Discourse then has an abiding capability to be told, told all over again, and even while remaining the same, told in another way.

Liturgy as Discourse

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ; in particular, his passion, death and rising to new life is the divine “instance of discourse” par-excellence, an event that occurred “in the fullness of time,”[11] “once and for all”[12] but has since passed on to us in the sacred liturgy, which is the bloodless celebration of the same liturgy of Calvary where Christ our High Priest gives himself to the Father for our sakes, in anticipation of the eternal and all-encompassing heavenly liturgy.

This definitive moment of God’s revealing himself, his self-predication to us in the Word made flesh, was realized temporally more than two thousand years ago, but overflows to us who remember his dying and rising while breaking the bread and blessing the cup as he bid us do in memory of him. In the broken bread and wine outpoured, God reveals to us the depths of his love here and now, as once he did by the death and resurrection of his Son.

There has been however a lot of misunderstanding as to how this communication of the Christ-event to people of all times and places transpires. Many before took the liturgy as a kind of magic ritual that elicits the presence of the divine by the proper and precise utterance of the mystic words Hoc est enim corpus meum. This explains the above-mentioned case of the proponents of Liturgiam Authenticam struggling to preserve the Latin text of the liturgy in an exact and identical way even in the event of its translation into other languages.

On the other hand, many now reduce the Eucharist to a merely symbolic reenactment devoid of the real presence of Christ. Taken in this sense, the Mass is considered in essence, no more than some Christmas nativity play for adults, with no capacity to communicate the Christ-event in its full meaning and potency.

To these two opposite extremes: rigid formulism and simplistic symbolism, a way of understanding the liturgy as an act of discourse and applying Paul Ricoeur’s threefold mimesis to the liturgy seems to offer a viable solution.

Threefold Mimesis and Threefold Anamnesis

The text taken as Discours (Mimesis2) is open on both sides: to the being-in-life from which it arises (Mimesis1) and also to the being-in-life to which it ever returns (Mimesis3). The text is therefore a locus of encounter between narrator and narratee so that the historical and spatial gap is bridged through the act of reading—“the unity of the traversal from Mimesis1 to Mimesis3, by way of Mimesis2.”[13] If we are to take the liturgy as Discours, then the story of our salvation can be told again to the people of our time and in a new way as the Second Vatican Council expressly envisioned, by the mediation of the liturgy, in a threefold mimesis, or to use a liturgical equivalent, threefold anamnesis.

In the sacred liturgy, we commemorate Christ and his work of redemption once realized when he died and rose again: the discourse event from which the liturgy arises (Anamnesis1) where the meaning of our salvation is already pre-figured, although not yet fully revealed. By way of the liturgical celebration (Anamnesis2) in which the mysteries of our salvation are configured in perceptible signs, comes the possibility of a traversal similar to that which happens between Mimesis1 and Mimesis3 by way of Mimesis2, of which Ricoeur speaks.

The liturgy, understood in this way, becomes a privileged place of encounter for us to truly meet the person of Christ and personally experience his redemption—the essence indeed of liturgical anamnesis wherein the recalling of past events makes real, active and present the meaning and power of the salvific event. In this sense, we come to understand why the Council stated that “in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel,”[14] meaning it not only in a figurative sense but in a very real way.

By way of the liturgical celebration, we are able to return to and draw from the source of our salvation and at the same time allow the transforming power of the Christ-event to permeate our world and become refigured in us who are present here and now (Anamnesis3). Far from an escape from the mundane to the heavenly, it is more kin to what Gaddamer calls “a fusion of horizons”, two worlds coinciding in the same narrative world. Using this framework, we shall now attempt to tackle three outstanding liturgical problematics.

The Problem of the Circle

Now, Paul Ricoeur tackles the emerging problem of a mimetic circle that is potentially a vicious cycle that ever turns back on itself without making progress. This problematic may also be raised concerning the Christian liturgical year in which the salvific events of Christ’s life: his birth, death and resurrection are commemorated within a cycle that always begins anew after going full circle. In fact, the criticism has already been raised about the futility of liturgical commemoration—that we are just repeating the same memorials and the same rituals over and over again to no avail.

Responding to this, Ricoeur first acknowledges that the circular characteristic of the mimetic circle is indeed indisputable. However, he presents the possibility of “an endless spiral that would carry the mediation past the same point a number of times, but at different altitudes.”[15] On the other hand, ritual is characteristically repetitive. And here we can also experience the questions that Paul Ricoeur raises as the possible source of this problematic of circularity: regarding the violence of interpretation and the likelihood of redundance.

As we endlessly repeat the Circle of Anamnesis, are we doing justice to the Christ-event as we continually interpret it in the liturgy? The problem is very real especially when the liturgy is reinterpreted according to the context of our time—an activity that we have already established to be possible, if not essential. Liberation Theology for example has pointed out a dimension of the liturgy as an expression of the struggle for social justice. As we endlessly celebrate the same memorials and repeat the same rituals, are we making any real sense at all?

Ricoeur attempts to resolve the problem by pointing out our existential human experience of “(as yet) untold stories”[16], of potential stories, even those within a grand story, that are waiting to be told. Configuring the narrative is a necessary function of discourse—putting together dissimilar elements to create one meaningful plot, a synthesis of the heterogenous. By putting together liturgy and the struggle for social justice, a new meaning comes out of the union of the two. By repeating the same rituals in a different time and place, the same story of salvation that is being told puts on a new meaning refigured in life—strength in the beginning of adulthood, joy at a marriage, comfort in times of bereavement. Thus, the Anamnetic Circle, not only goes around, but is able to spiral upward like its mimetic counterpart.

Because of the enduring meaning and power of the Christ event, it has the capacity to be told and retold, and told in another way, without exhausting its meaning and power. In this way, Paul Ricoeur’s theory of the narrative responds not only to the task of translating the liturgical texts but likewise to the task of inculturating the liturgy, which is a way of celebrating the same liturgy in another way to respond to another age or culture. Thus, we now have an African liturgy with much more song and even dance, a Chinese liturgy that incorporates the veneration of ancestors, and albeit unofficially, a Filipino liturgy complete with clapping and clasping of hands.

The Leonine formula captures concisely the “distantiation” of the liturgy from that finite historical event to make the Christ-event an encounter that is henceforth possible for people of all times and all places. Quod itaque Redemptoris nostri conspicuum fuit, in sacramenta transivit[17]. Christ need not die and rise over and over again and everywhere. The liturgy is now the “text” of the Paschal Mystery made accessible to all—the same sacrifice of Calvary although not identical to its bloody manner, the same divine discourse able to be told in a different way.

The Problem of Identity

Now, inculturated liturgies again pose the problem of Roman liturgical identity. How can a local liturgy remain Catholic, i.e. synchronically and diachronically reaching out to believers of every time and place, while at the same time be thoroughly attuned to the idiom of its own time and place? This problem even becomes more serious if we take into consideration the ancient axiom lex orandi, lex credendi—the law of worship expresses the law of faith, corresponding liturgical identity to the very identity of the Church. To respond to this question, we continue with Paul Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity.

Owing to the configuration of discourse in the activity of narrative emplotment which occurs not only in Mimesis2 but throughout the entire Mimetic Circle, encompassing Mimesis1 and Mimesis3 a story is put together not solely as the final text itself but even in the plot already prefigured in the being-in-the-world from which it originates and figured again when it reverts to being-in-the-world. By way of the configured text, the seminal narrative prefigured in life is able to be refigured in life through the activity of the reader who receives the text.

Similarly, in our Anamnetic Circle, the same story of Christ distilled in the liturgy is able to be figured in life by the activity of the celebrating community, again and in other ways, remaining the same even if not identical.

Paul Ricoeur makes the important distinction between identity as same (idem) and identity as self (ipse). Identity as same has four senses: uniqueness in contrast with plurality, reidentification versus difference, uninterrupted continuity, and permanence in time. That the Roman Rite is distinctive of the Church is not really a terrible problem. The characteristic way we celebrate the liturgy in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass immediately identifies us as Catholics even in the face of communities of other religious persuasions that possess very similar rites.

Considering the rest of the criteria however is a little bit more complicated. When one goes to different churches, even within the same region, one finds that the Masses in every particular church differ in varying degrees from the others in much of its music, mood and manner of celebration. Then again, even this is not really so difficult because the text used is nevertheless pretty much the same.

Looking at history however, one finds that the Mass has changed a lot through the years so that reidentification sometimes comes only after a careful study. Recent findings of liturgical historians have revealed such examples that may even be shocking to those with delicate liturgical sensibilities such as five-minute Masses during times of persecution and even in fact, female presiders[18]. Uninterrupted continuity is thus a very serious problem, and consequently, even more so is permanence in time. What could be at the root of this difficulty?

“The break between self (ipse) and same (idem) ultimately expresses that more fundamental break between Dasein and ready-to-hand/present-at-hand.”[19] The idea of uniqueness, reidentification and continuity presupposes that identity is something that is already given from the beginning, even if only as a substratum barely discernible underneath. Given the difficulty then of identifying, reidentifying and continuing selfhood as the same from beginning to present and to the end, we nonetheless find that “the self intersects with the same at one precise point: permanence in time”[20] However, there is need to clarify what this permanence really is; in liturgy, what Liturgiam Authenticam speaks of as “the identity and unitary expression of the Roman Rite”[21]

Here Ricoeur picks up beginning with what Dilthey calls the “coherence of life”, which ironically presents itself in the narrative as “a new level of lucidity and also of perplexity”[22], discordant concordance and concordant discordance. Applying this now to liturgy, we can thus discern some unity even amid the diversity of liturgical traditions within the same Roman Rite; “imaginative variations on an invariant”[23], possibilities even within a highly-institutionalized tradition.

Ricoeur affirms the reality of sameness and alterity as “two correlative existentials”[24]: one can undergo changes and still remain the same by an active struggle to maintain the self seen in fidelity to character and keeping one’s word.

In the Church, we also have communion, seen in the bond of the local churches with the Pope and in the bond of local communities with their bishop, clearly expressed in all the Eucharistic Prayers where their names are explicitly mentioned, as well as in the unity of faith that is professed in the Creed.

Thus, even if there are many and different ways of breaking the One Bread, the Church remains united as One People in the One Lord[25]. In the memory of the Lord who broke bread and poured out wine for his friends, who offered his body and blood on the Cross for our redemption, the Church of every time and place finds her identity as self although not necessarily same.

The Problem of Tradition

With a liturgy that becomes adapted to the context of every time and age, continuing to be the same even if not remaining identical, what then should be our attitude toward tradition? On the one hand, many are anxious and apprehensive about creativity in liturgy, rigidly stressing on the careful and exact observance of rubrics and custom. Conversely, there are some whose creativity runs unbridled so that their celebration of the liturgy becomes very idiosyncratic, almost unrecognizable.

To respond to this question, we take a cue from how Ricoeur describes his way of interpreting Aristotle’s original mimesis: “seriously”[26] and yet at the same time “playfully”[27]. The interpretation of texts needs to be serious out of a profound respect for the text itself and even for its narrator. At the same time it is playful because the narratee as reader is never detached from the text. The interpretation of texts then is an interaction marked both by esteem and candor. Likewise, liturgical activity is a threefold anamnesis that is at the same time “serious” and “playful”. While we always need to be faithful and adhere to the Christ-event, there remains the potential for a story to be told in another way, the capability for the liturgy to be celebrated, always again and anew.

Liturgical creativity is therefore not synonymous with invention, nor is it a simplistic and strict adherence to tradition, but works within a broad range of solutions between servile repetition and (un)calculated deviance, “passing by way of all the degrees of ordered distortion[28]. As Ricoeur himself describes it, tradition is not “a sealed package we pass from hand to hand, without ever opening, but rather a treasure from which we draw by the handful and which by this very act is replenished. Every tradition lives by the grace of interpretation, and it is at this price that it continues, that is, remains living.”[29]


In an attempt to imitate the exemplary Ricoeurian fashion, we now summarize the points we have made so far. By way of introduction, we began by affirming the roots of the Eucharistic liturgy in the Jewish Passover Seder which is basically a narrative ritual. We tried to illustrate how much of the power to recreate the profound religious experience of the disciples who encountered the Lord has been lost amid the complexities of ritual so that the Eucharist has in fact become more sacrifice than meal.

Liturgiam Authenticam posed a crucial problematic about the openness of liturgy to being told in another way, proposing a liturgy that is detached from the world of our ordinary life—a possible elevation from our mundane existence into heavenly realities, but also an escape with no relevance to our being-in-the-world.

Viewing liturgy as discourse however opens the liturgy to the possibility of being told otherwise attuned to the context of every age and culture to recreate for all people the experience of the redemptive Christ-event with its meaning and power, just as the Second Vatican Council expressly envisioned.

This happens by way of a threefold anamnesis, a way of following Ricoeur’s own threefold mimesis. The liturgy prefigured in the sacrifice of Christ in the actual historical event of his dying and rising is refigured in the present through the activity of the celebrating community that is thus enabled to truly enter into the saving events of our salvation and experience its meaning and power for our time.

Using Ricoeur’s narrative theory, and the liturgical framework we derived from it, we then had to face three crucial questions, from both the hermeneutic side and the liturgical side: the Problem of the Circle, the Problem of Identity and the Problem of Tradition.

We unraveled the problem of the closed Circle by opening it to the possibility of an upward spiral, owing to the telling of stories yet untold and to the unique act of emplotment that happens in the unique instance of refiguration in life so that ritual is never really redundant, despite its characteristic repetitiveness.

Responding to the Problem of Identity, we then went into Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity. We saw that Identity as self is possible; sameness can be maintained even without remaining identical.

Pursuing the previous problem, we then went into the perennial question of maintaining tradition. Taking the cue from Ricoeur’s own way of interpreting Aristotle’s mimesis, interpretation is to be done in a manner that is at once “serious” and “playful”, careful and candid. Hence, creativity in liturgical celebration is neither servile repetition nor uncalculated deviance but rather an ordered distortion, which constitutes an intelligent assimilation of tradition in a manner that is at once faithful and at the same time innovative.

Recuperating a Living Liturgy

Inheriting a beautiful body of ritual that has somehow grown dull and tasteless through the years, becoming more of a sacrifice that has to be offered, or even suffered, we face the task of recuperating an authentic liturgy, a liturgy that truly springs from Christ, its life-giving source and is able to refresh the life that we live here and now in this world, by way of the activity of the celebrating community that commemorates the salvific events of the Paschal Mystery.

Faced with this overwhelming task, we found an opportunity for renewal in Paul Ricoeur’s theory of the narrative that springs from life and ever returns to life, as a way to a liturgy that comes from Life and is able to lead us into Life.

Far from a liturgy that has to be preserved in static fashion, the liturgy is dynamic and attains its true efficacy with the continual activity of interpretation attuned at once to tradition, but also at the same time to the context of every time and age. This work of interpretation transpires in every celebration of the gathered community of believers that here and now tells over and over and unceasingly the mirabilia Dei—the wonders that God has wrought.

Everywhere we proclaim your mighty works
for you called us out of darkness
into your own wonderful light.

By way of the liturgical celebration, we are able to cross over from this world to encounter the Savior, in his redeeming activity that has since passed on to us in the sacraments of the Church, not however as a stagnant preserve but as a living heritage pregnant with meaning and power to transform our life. Indeed, it is a wonderful crossing-over by way of anamnesis from our being-in-the-world to the very being of God. Celebrating the liturgy then is not just performing a sacrifice but entering into a locus of privileged encounter where we intimately meet the person of Christ and Christ is able to permeate our life. By telling the story of our redemption, we are led to refigure the story of Christ in our lives as the ultimate consummation of the liturgy in a catharsis of charity.

Therefore we yearn for a liturgy that is able to let us enter anew the mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection so that every Christian, of every generation, may also be able to say that he has been personally redeemed by Christ.


[1] A series of four questions, all beginning with Mah Nistanah which translates: “Why is it different?”, beginning with, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The ritual for the Jewish Passover commemoration is contained in the ceremonial book Haggadah, which literally means telling—in reference to the Scriptural injunction “tell your son” (Deut 6: 21) of the wonders God has wrought for his people.
[2] Mishnah Pesachim 10, 5.
[3] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33.
[4] Fifth Instruction for the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, Liturgiam Authenticam, 5
[5] Liturgiam Authenticam, 21.
[6] Liturgiam Authenticam, 20. Instead of continuing the use of the principle of dynamic equivalence in the translation of liturgical texts originally laid down in the 1969 instruction Comme le prevoit, the document strongly insisted on an exact transliteration of the Latin, even to the extent of retaining certain manners of speech which even it acknowledges to have become “somewhat obsolete in daily usage” (27). Moreover, it also undoes much of the significant progress made since the first edition of the vernacular translations such as the use of more inclusive language, which it now puts aside as ideologically motivated (See Liturgiam Authenticam, no. 30 and ff.)
[7] Anscar J. Chupungco, OSB. Liturgiam Authenticam and Inculturation. (
[8] IT, 9.
[9] FTA, 78
[10] IT, 9
[11] Gal 4: 4
[12] Rom 6: 10; Heb 9: 12, 26
[13] TN1, 53.
[14] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33.
[15] TN1, 72.
[16] TN1, 74.
[17] What was visible in our Savior has passed on in the sacraments. Saint Leo the Great. Sermo LXXIV. De Ascensione Domini II, c. 2: PL 54, 398
[18] Long before churches were built, the Eucharist was celebrated in the homes of the leaders of the Christian communities. The owner of the house, which is also the leader of the community, usually presided and there are credible accounts of women who were leaders of Christian communities and who presided at the celebration of the liturgy.
[19] OPR, 190.
[20] OPR, 190.
[21] Liturgiam Authenticam, 5
[22] OPR, 195
[23] OPR, 196
[24] OPR, 197
[25] cf. 1 Cor 10: 17
[26] TN1, 53.
[27] TN1, 53.
[28] OPR, 25
[29] CINT, 27; CI, 31.
[30] From the Preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time I

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Handog ng Misa

Jesuit Communications Foundation, in partnership with Kalakbay-Buhay Catechists' Foundation of the Philippines, recently produced a catechetical video presenting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and its different parts entitled, Handog ng Misa: Isang Pag-unawa sa Eukaristiya (Gift of the Mass: Understanding the Eucharist) . The short explanations are done by the brilliant, eloquent and talented bishop Chito Tagle of Imus, Cavite while the program, which runs for a total of 22 minutes, is hosted by Ms. Love Añover.

Overall, it was a brief but substantial presentation that would prove very useful especially for grade school or even high school students. The explanations were simple, beautiful and easy to understand--a great aid indeed for achieving the intelligent, conscious and active participation in the liturgy envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.

I have seen it only once and so far I only have one correction to offer. The song "Tinapay ng Buhay" by Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ, judging even by the lyrics alone, is obviously a Communion song and not a song for the Preparation of the Gifts. It would be good to replace that with another, more appropriate hymn in subsequent versions they are going to produce in the future.

I highly recommend this material for basic liturgical catechesis.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Our Lady of the Rosary

Today is the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. This feast finds its origin in the historic battle of Lepanto where the Christian forces joined together, not only in arms but also in prayer, to combat and subdue the seemingly insurmountable Turkish fleet.

This Feast of the Rosary teaches us the power of united prayer. The forces at Lepanto were not exactly close to one another. In fact, many among them were traditional enemies. But they managed to transcend their difference and pull their act together united by a single task, not only to protect the European continent but also to safeguard Christianity in the West. They then went together to face the very difficult task with a navy smaller in contrast to the Turks'. But nonetheless, they ended up victorious with the power of prayer that is far mightier and stronger than that of arms.

Our own country has experienced a similar event in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. Our people went out to the streets together and won peace, not by the power of arms but by the power of united prayer.

In this time when people rely more on their own strength, let us learn once again to trust in God. In this time when there is so much division, let us learn to unite again.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
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Friday, October 06, 2006

Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, SJ

Today is the memorial of Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, priest and martyr, the first beatus of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus. Blessed Diego Luis worked as a pioneering missionary in Guam, which he christened the Marianas Islands. His faithful companion is the Visayan catechist, Blessed Pedro Calungsod whose memorial is celebrated on April 2.

Proper from the Supplement to the Missal and Lectionary for the Society of Jesus; otherwise, from the common of martyrs
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Saint Francis of Assisi

Today is the memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, a pillar of the Church and a great saint admired by peoples of all times and persuasions.

The universality of Francis' charisma lies in the universality of his love. Once converted, he learned to love all with the impartial and unconditional love of Christ. He learned how to kiss the foot of the Master, who stooped to wash the feet of his disciples, in the poor and the lepers. Indeed, he learned to live the life of the downtrodden and the outcast in poverty and in humility. Francis' compassion even extended to all of God's creatures. He considered all creation his brothers and sisters.

This solidarity made him, even as he himself prayed, an instrument of God's peace. It is in realizing that we are brothers and sisters all can we find true peace in the world-a peace that is founded on truth and justice, a peace founded on the most stable soil of love.

As members of God's family, this is the inspiration Francis gives us. May we learn from him, by faithful contemplation of Jesus' self-giving love on the Cross, to stretch our arms to the whole world in love and solidarity so that we too may be channels of God's peace.

Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
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Monday, October 02, 2006

During Times of Typhoon

This is a reprint of my blog of July 13, 2006. Let us continue to pray for the victims of the last typhoon even as a new typhoon enters the Philippine area of responsibility.

Prayers of the Faithful
During Times of Typhoon

Let us pray to our Father in heaven who never abandons his faithful but rescues us always in all our distress. For every petition, we shall say:

Lord, come to our aid.

1. For the holy Church, that she may be a refuge for all people and a source of help in time of need. Let us pray to the Lord.

2. For our leaders, that they may effectively coordinate our efforts to relieve those in anguish and difficulty. Let us pray to the Lord.

3. For the poor and the homeless, that they may find comfort and shelter through the charity of Christ's faithful. Let us pray to the Lord.

4. For travelers and all who are caught up in the middle of the storm, that they may safely reach their home. Let us pray to the Lord.

5. For all of us gathered here, that we may trust in the Lord and support one another, especially in these difficult times. Let us pray to the Lord.

source of strength and comfort for your people.
Watch over us always
and keep us under the shadow of your wings
for we put all our trust in you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


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Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels

Today we celebrate our Holy Guardian Angels, often unnoticed by many of us nowadays.

Perhaps it is the modern stress on independence. We are already so comfortable and secure in our lives that we no longer feel the need for guidance and protection. The things we have created do these things for us nowadays. We have gadgets to remind us of things we want to be reminded of, appliances that make our living spaces familiar and comfortable beyond anxiety and discomfort. The recent loss of power supply in many of our homes in the wake of the strong typhoon that hit our country showed us this fact. Suddenly, we saw again our vulnerability to nature even in the shelter of our concrete structures. We found ourselves again in darkness-that darkness many of us were afraid of when we were still little children-that fear where we learned to trust in the abiding presence of our guardian angels.

Perhaps we need to be reminded again of these heavenly creatures whom God has created and set to watch over us and keep us. They are perpetual reminders of God's care and providence. They also keep us constantly aware of God's presence in our lives. We are never alone, even during brown-outs. Even during spiritual brown-outs, somebody journeys with us, accompanying us and guiding us in finding our way out of darkness into light.

Perhaps we need to recuperate the spiritual childhood Therese teaches: to learn to depend on God again even as our world today puts great emphasis on gaining our own power. Acknowledging the presence of angels in our lives is acknowledging God's own presence: he who watches over us constantly with love and care. If we befriend them and follow their guidance, even if sometimes they remind us of things we would rather not mind, they will lead us to God.

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
to whom God's love,
commits me here.

Ever this day,
be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Feast Day of Saint Therese 2006

We just came from the Solemn Mass at the Carmel of Saint Therese in Gilmore, New Manila. His Excellency Most Rev. Fernando Filoni, D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines presided over the celebration. The Jesuit Provincial, Very Rev. Daniel Patrick L. Huang, S.J., was also present.

Actually, majority of the concelebrants were Jesuits, probably because the diocesan clergy were very busy in their parishes, today being a Sunday. Besides, Theresian and Ignatian spirituality are very kin. Therese would have smiled to see this since she loved her Jesuit spiritual director, Father Pichon, very dearly.

It was a beautiful liturgy. After the Mass, the relic of Saint Therese was venerated and blessed roses were distributed to the faithful.

As of now, there are only 12 sisters in the Gilmore Carmel (3 out-sisters and 9 inside the enclosure). This is because some of them were asked to stay for a while in foreign Carmels that now experience a severe lack of vocations in order to sustain those communities. Fortunately, our Carmels here in the Philippines are still flourishing. When Carmelite vocations in those parts of the world bloom once more, our sisters can return to their home.

It was consoling however to see the other congregations that were inspired by Saint Therese present during the celebration. Most noteworthy are the Missionaries of Charity founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who took her name from Saint Therese. In them we truly see Therese's missionary desires come to fulfillment and fruition.

And so let us pray to the Lord for more vocations to the religious life. Through the intercession and inspiration of Saint Therese, may more women be inspired to give their lives totally to Christ as his spouses and as servants of our Mother Church.

Saint Therese of Lisieux

This year, the Feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux is omitted because it falls on a Sunday. But nonetheless, we still remember her on this blessed day. (Our community however will be singing later at the Solemn Mass at the Carmel of Saint Therese in Gilmore, New Manila)

Saint Therese lived a would have been unremarkable life. Yet it was in this hiddenness that she found her "little way" of holiness that has gained for her a place among the great teachers of spirituality, indeed among the Church's illustrious doctors, of all time.

While many in her time emphasized winning God's favor by working for merits and gaining many indulgences, Therese related to God as a little child to her Father. She sought only to please him with her "roses" of little sacrifices unpetalled for Jesus. She saw that what really saves us is not our own efforts but only God's merciful love.

Therese also found holiness in sacrifice. In the darkness of her own trial of faith, she sought to gaze on the Face of his beloved "hidden by a veil of tears". In the depths of her anguish, she found the fullness of her way of trust and confidence by abandoning herself completely to the Lord's design with faith and love.

And so we pray to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face for the grace to be simple as a little child: to seek always to please God and to surrender to his love in filial abandon knowing that he loves us most dearly as a Father his children.

Therese's Canticle of Love
Sr. Marie Therese Sokol, ocd

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How great and tender is our God,
who has smiled on the lowly,
eternally my heart will sing a new canticle of love.

Come all who hunger, all who thirst,
all who long for fulfillment,
the God of mercy waits for you,
as a mother her child,
oh come to the living water,
fear not your weakness,
forever trusting in God’s merciful love.

Through the shadows of this night,
love will be my guiding light,
presence hidden from my sight,
till the clouds are put to flight,
beneath your gaze, I’ve blossomed forth
as a rose in the sunshine.
With joyful heart, I give it all
to the mystery of love.

In peace, I will come before you,
with empty hands,
relying solely on your merciful love.

Through the veil your face appears,
beauty shrouded bathed in tears,
bread of sinners I will share,
rose unpetaled everywhere.

Oh, My God, I will sing of your love,
for this one eternal day,
for this one eternal today.

Transformed in love’s consuming fire, lifted up in glory,
her fragrance filling all the earth,
drawing us unto her,
until in eternity,
we join in one chorus,
forever singing of God’s merciful love.

Canticle of love, song of love,
this eternal day, I will sing, sing of your love.

Happy Feast of Saint Therese!
(This blog is affectionately dedicated to Randy Bayaua and Sr. Ma. Penka Dermenjieva, MCST; dear friends in the Little Flower)

Also from this blog:

Behold Therese
Celtic Alleluia for the Feast of Saint Therese

Download "Therese's Canticle of Love"
by Sr. Marie Therese Sokol