Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Road to Tucson: Fundamentals

I just arrived in one of the greatest cities around -- Tucson, Arizona.  I'm here for an annual gathering of the diaconate communities of the dioceses/archdioceses that comprise Region XIII.  It's always a wonderful event, with lots of great fellowship, wonderful food and drink, and conversation.  They've asked me to talk about "The Diaconate in the Liturgy: Past, Present, Future."  That's quite a broad topic, but here's what I plan on doing.

There's been a lot of talk about the implementation of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in a few months, and so most of the folks have already been to classes and workshops on the particulars.  I don't want to prattle on about things they already know.  What I think (hope!) will be far more beneficial is to really turn the clock back and reflect on WHY we have the Mass in the first place!  We often spend all kinds of time talking about WHAT the Mass is, and WHAT TO DO at Mass, and many times we don't have a real clue about WHY we're doing it in the first place!

We are going to start with the most fundamental dogma of the Church.  That will be my first challenge to the deacons and wives present tomorrow at my presentations: Just what IS the most fundamental DOGMA of the Catholic Church.  A dogma, of course, is a teaching (doctrine) of the Church that we believe is divinely-revealed.   Think about that for a minute.  What do YOU think that most fundamental dogma is?

If you said the TRINITY, you get a gold star, or maybe we should make it a gold triangle!  So, the first thing we're going to do is talk about the Trinity.  Where did that whole idea come from?  What led Christians to take the ONE GOD of the Jewish faith and further define that ONE GOD as being in Three divine Persons?  Why was such a radical step necessary?

Because Christians had to answer a very important question, one that they'd been wrestling with since Jesus asked if of Simon at Caesarea Philippi: "Who do you say that I am?"  Every Christian has to answer that question for himself or herself.  Well, the range of possible answers includes: "You are a man," "You are God", "You are neither God nor Man," and "You are both God and Man."  But here's the rub.  If you answer that Jesus is simply a man, you have no problem.  But if your answer involves Jesus being divine, you then have to figure out HOW to explain His relationship to the ONE GOD.  Of course, as any good church historian will tell us, these dicussions about who Christ is (the Christological debates) and who God is (the Trinitarian debates) occupied many of the early centuries of the church's life as disciples struggled to explain all of this.

And while all of this debating was going on, faithful Christians continued to gather in their various communities and traditions to worship Mystery through the breaking of bread as modeled for them by Christ.  Those earliest Christians didn't wait till they had answers to all their questions before they acted: they lived and acted out of sheer faith.

We'll get into many things tomorrow, but this will be our starting point.

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