Interesting article on Father Bouyer’s take on the liturgy

Most interesting.


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1 Response to Interesting article on Father Bouyer’s take on the liturgy

  1. O. Felix Culpa says:

    Required several readings a lot of background googling of unfamiliar terminology, but yes, most interesting.

    A couple of observations:

    1. He (probably Lemna, maybe Bouyer) seems to shift the meaning of the word “religion” a few times in the paper. I’d never heard of Bonhoffer before, but his “religionless Christianity” (page 1) seemed to mean secularism with a veneer of Christianeque social justice. He (Bonhoffer) wasn’t in favour of this, apparently, it seemed to be merely an observation he made. Used in that sense, “religion” means “denominational Christianity.” On page 4 he says Bouyer was “oriented consistently to the task of showing the permanent value of religion” which sounds like he was defending everything from Anglicanism to Zoroastrianism. Starting about page 9 he’s got “religion” meaning at first non-Christian religions (e.g. by opposing “Christian faith and religion”) and a few lines later has it mean Christianity (“Bouyer distinguishes the ‘religious’…and the ‘natural sacred’…). It would really be helpful had he defined what he meant by “religion” right up front.

    2. Page 5 and footnotes 11 and 126 explore two options called “vertical” and “horizontal” meaning respectively that the liturgy of the Mass is either God’s act or the “assembly’s” act. Ignored completely is the role of the ordained ministerial priesthood. God will not consecrate the bread and wine on his own, like some spiritual spontaneous combustion. Nor will he act if some collection of layfolk collectively says the words of consecration (footnote 126 “For Martos…the worshipping community makes it possible for Christ to be present”. In reality, if and only if the words of consecration are said by an ordained ministerial priest will consecration happen; a congregation of layfolk is NOT required. This is glossed over entirely in the whole paper.

    3. The liturgical malformations identified on pages 5 – 7 are never discussed again. How did Bouyer connect the dots between the misunderstandings he identifies between meal and sacrifice end up manifesting itself in (say) cheesy vestments or secular (non-biblical) Mass readings?

    4. I certainly agree with the problem identified by “death of God theologians,” e.g. Bultmann on page 10, that modern Western society is becoming increasingly secular. Opinion polls certainly show that. A great majority of people with whom I interact on a daily basis have absolutely zero interest in God or religion and live (and die) quite happily as thoroughgoing secularists. Nevertheless, I agree with Bouyer that Bultmann’s proposed de-mythologizing of Christianity to pander to these secular sensibilities is a bad idea—it just confirms them in their limited worldview that does not include anything supernatural. On the other hand, I think Bouyer was a little too optimistic in calling man “homo religiosus”—if we were naturally all that religious we would never have fallen into such a secular state in the first place. People generally do NOT see how “the descent of the Word heals our fractured sacredness, our deepest expressions of longing for divine communion.” (page 23) Most folks feel zero longing for divine communion in the first place and deny they even have any sacredness, fractured or otherwise. How to evangelize people who don’t even think they need to be evangelized is a real problem, and neither Bouyer nor Bultmann have hit the nail on the head here.

    5. Some pretty bold statements are made that are unsupported by any evidence at all.

    a. “…a sacrifice is nothing but a meal…” Maybe—are ALL non-Christian sacrifices also meals? A quick Wikipedia check found that some Hindus sacrifice animals, but more commonly “yajña” involves milk, butter and grain cakes. But is it also a meal? I don’t think so; the Wikipedia article implies the entire offering is burnt. Old Norse “blót” sacrifices usually involved animals and did include ritual meal. Wikipedia says Zoroaster eliminated animal sacrifices from the pre-existing religion, but other websites say Zoroastrians do have sacrifices (e.g. “Zarathustra’s clear opposition to cruel forms of sacrifice has led some to believe that he forbade animal sacrifice altogether; but, like haoma, the weight of tradition is testimony that it was not proscribed. From the prophet to the present (Boyce, 1975b, p. 111) the victim is to be treated with solicitude and his/her suffering minimized.” ). At any rate, such a general statement requires at least a few key examples.

    b. “It is a fundamental truth that human eating has an inherently sacred quality” (page 16). Muching on Doritos while watching cartoons does not seem to be inherently sacred act; to convince me that it does, he has to do more than simply make the statement.

    c. “Unfulfilled eros is the root condition of natural religion” (page 20). Really? All non-Christian religions are just sex cults? That’s pretty bold.

    6. On the other hand, he really knocks it out of the park with this on page 13 “…Christ, who did not come simply to consecrate our fallen state, that is to bless our quotidian activities, leaving us precisely as we are in our fallen condition. Rather he brought a transfiguration of what is highest in us by nature. He corrected our myths and reoriented the tracendental intentionality of our ritual symbolism. Most importantly of all, he instituted a truly efficacious sacrificial praxis.” I think this is probably the key to why a mis-understanding of the Mass leads to cheesy vestments etc. as identified on pages 5 – 7, but the author Lemna does not connect the dots.

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