In the days following the Easter celebrations Pope Benedict XVI took time to reflect on through the form of a letter, the liturgical use of the phrase “For you and for many” that is used at Mass. With the third edition of the Roman Missal this phrase has been restored and it is has caused some people to wonder why the change after so many years; the priest had been saying “for all.” The Pope’s teaching is clear to why our liturgical praxis needs to be coherent with sacred Scripture, coherent with the Lord’s own teaching.
Pope Benedict XVI processed from the Benedictine Church of Saint Anselm to the Dominican Church of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. A long standing tradition of the popes, though it was in abeyance for several years until 1979 when John Paul II revived the tradition. The Benedictine monks welcome the Pope and his entourage for a moment of prayer and reflective before processing to the 5th century church of the Dominican Friars where Holy Mass is celebrated with the distribution of ashes. As usual, Cardinal Tomko, the cardinal titular of Saint Sabina’s gave Benedict his ashes. The following homily of the Pope’s focusses on the origins of this humble sign that assists in our recognition of salvation. Is this our recognition, too?
Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and penance on which we begin a new journey towards the Easter of Resurrection, the journey of Lent. I would like to reflect on the liturgical sign of the ashes, a material sign, a natural element that, in the Liturgy, becomes a sacred symbol, so important on this day that marks the start of our Lenten journey. In ancient times, in the Jewish culture, it was common to sprinkle one’s head with ashes as a sign of penance, and to dress in sack-cloth and rags. For us Christians, there is this one moment which has important symbolic and spiritual relevance.
Ashes are the material sign that brings the cosmos into the Liturgy. The most important signs are those of the Sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine, which become true sacramental elements through which we communicate the Grace of Christ who comes among us. The ashes are not a sacramental sign, but they are linked with prayer and the sanctification of the Christian people. Before the ashes are placed on our heads, they are blessed according to two possible formulae: in the first they are called “austere symbols”, in the second, we invoke a blessing directly upon them, referring to the text in the Book of Genesis which can also accompany the imposition of the ashes: “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return”.
Today the Church in the US celebrates the Feast of the
Baptism of the Lord, in 2012, the day after the Solemnity of the Epiphany. In other places, like Rome, the Church observed the Baptism of the Lord yesterday as the Epiphany was celebrated on the traditional 12th day of Christmas,
January 6. Today’s feast reminds us that being a Christian is the joy of being “children of God.” During his noontime Angelus Address Pope Benedict said that “God is the origin of the existence of every creature and the Father in a unique way of every human being: He has a unique, personal relationship with him or her.”
At Mass in Rome earlier in the morning the Pope had baptized 16 newborn infants, children of Vatican employees in the Sistine Chapel.
The decision to publish this book in English is exceptional. Anton Baumstark is a pivotal figure in 20th century liturgical studies and widely considered a genius. He set the world on fire for his keen understanding of the sacred Liturgy, both of the East and the West as he offers a lens –a method– for understanding historical (organic) development in the Tradition of the Church. Baumstark keeps the reader grounded in asking the questions which keep us close to the theologia prima, the sacred Liturgy. The serious student in liturgical studies will pay close attention to On the Historical Development of the Liturgy and Comparative Liturgy.
The Forward is written by Archimandrite Robert F. Taft, SJ, from whom I was first introduced to Anton Baumstark.
From the publisher, Liturgical Press:
Anton Baumstark’s On the Historical Development of the Liturgy (1923) complements his classic work, Comparative Liturgy. Together they lay out his liturgical methodology. Comparative Liturgy presents his method; On the Historical Development of the Liturgy offers his model.
This book was written for one audience and valued by another. Written to lead adherents of the nascent German liturgical movement to a deeper religious appreciation of Catholic worship, its methodology and scope have won the appreciation of liturgical specialists for nearly a century. In describing the organic growth of the liturgy, its shaping and distortion, Baumstark’s reach extends from India to Ireland, Moscow to Axum, Carthage to Xi’an. He discusses the influences of language, literature, doctrine, piety, politics, and culture. While his audacity can be breathtaking and his hypotheses grandiose, his approach is nevertheless stimulating. In this annotated edition, Fritz West provides the first English translation of this work by Anton Baumstark.
Trained in classical and oriental philology, Anton Baumstark (1872-1948) was prodigious as a scholar studying the literature, art, and liturgy of the whole church–Oriental, Eastern, and Western. Comparative liturgy, his method for studying the historical development of the liturgy as an organism, has had a lasting influence, notably on the liturgical study of the Christian East. Fritz West, a liturgical scholar ordained in the United Church of Christ, has written numerous articles on liturgical methodology, the three-year lectionary, and worship in his Reformed tradition. He has published two books, The Comparative Liturgy of Anton Baumstark and Scripture and Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three-Year Lectionaries.