Posts Tagged ‘rules’

The Rubrics Cube

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Rubrics CubeRubrics[1] and the GIRM present just two choices; follow them or don’t follow them. So why is it that excuses about following (or not following) the guidelines for sacraments are as confusing as solving that similar sounding 70’s classic 3D puzzle Rubik’s Cube? On the one hand excessive attention to the rules detracts from the meaning of the liturgical words and purpose. On the other hand licensciously ignoring them leads away from virtue, truth and beauty. Asking ourselves what side we should be on gives us cause to wonder what side is Jesus on? Some see Jesus as the liberator. When the Pharisees tested Him, He rebuked them for shutting up the way to heaven (Matthew 23:13) and told us to do as they say but not as they do (Matthew 23:3). When they accused Him of breaking the Sabbath He explained that the Sabbath is made for man not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28). From these passages it would seem that Jesus is on the side of bending rules and yet Jesus set the record straight on divorce, saying that since the beginning it was not so and that whatever God has put together no man should undo (Mark 10:2-12). Jesus also chose to be baptized though theologically He had no need for it. When John protested Jesus said, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:13-17). So others see Jesus as demonstrating strict adherence to the rules. Passages like these that seemingly oppose or favor an attitude toward or away from law have been misappropriated by liberals and conservatives alike in order to paint an image of Jesus that fits their agenda. If you’ve ever been caught in a discussion or argument about the rigidity of rules in the Mass then you may have found yourself unwittingly forced onto one side or the other… and that’s where the problem is. Insisting on following the rules is liable to get you labeled as a Pharisee but twisting the rules puts you in the camp of non-conformist or anarchist. Neither extreme is desirable or correct.

So the problem is not so much with our answer as it is with the question “which side are you on?” The question incites division where there should be unity. In a sense it asks us to choose either the rigidity of Old Testament ways or the fluidity of New Testament revelation. But we should not settle for the loss of either. Both are crowns, both are graces and like Saint Maximilian Kolbe[2] we should choose both crowns. In similar fashion, the wedding feast at Cana shows us that the old wine is good and the new wine is exceedingly good. The old wine was not discarded because it was sour; rather it was heartily consumed because it was good. If the old wine is the Old Covenant and the new wine is the New Covenant then both covenants are good but the second is made extraordinary by grace and by succeeding the first. So let us rephrase the question to ask how we can embrace both the letter and the spirit of the law, which will never contradict each other. That is what Jesus did. He taught that both law and right practice are requirements for the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20). When we have a heart for obeying the law, then we do what is required not out of obligation or misguided over-scrupulosity, but rather out of a sincere desire to do what is right.

Time and time again Jesus explained how the law is to be fulfilled. He taught persistence and humility in prayer, healing on the Sabbath, forgiveness of sins, love toward enemies, and sanctity of marriage, all as the right fulfillment of law. Many times the example Jesus gives elevates our understanding from law to sacrament and thus moves from good to extraordinary. One such instance is the Bread of Life discourse (John 6:30-68) which relates to the Holy Eucharist. In the Bread of Life discourse Jesus started with the Levitical understanding of Manna, the bread that fell from the heavens and which the Israelites ate in the desert, and exalted it to truly divine heights saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51-52). Then at the Last Supper Jesus used these words, “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, & 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This is the formula[3] of consecration in our Latin Rite Liturgy of the Eucharist even to this day and it is the second grace that John writes about in the first chapter of his gospel,” From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). John’s meaning is clear, he is saying that the law and the prophets (the Old Testament) are grace to man, and that the good news (the New Testament) is a grace on top of that, a grace from the fullness of God. So this is how I choose to see rules like the GIRM and rubrics, those red letter words added to the formula of Mass to guide and instruct proper form. I choose not to see them as an intrusive burden but an added blessing. To be sure, they are not greater or more exulted words than the formulae, but they are important to understand the formulae. So I choose to see them like grace multiplying grace.

Modern Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J. 1999 Inter Mirifica

Matthew 23:13
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
13But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you yourselves do not enter in; and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter.
Matthew 23:3
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
3All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.
Mark 2:23-28
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
23And it came to pass again, as the Lord walked through the corn fields on the sabbath, that his disciples began to go forward, and to pluck the ears of corn.
24And the Pharisees said to him: Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
25And he said to them: Have you never read what David did when he had need, and was hungry himself, and they that were with him?
26How he went into the house of God, under Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the loaves of proposition, which was not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave to them who were with him?
27And he said to them: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.
28Therefore the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath also.
Mark 10:2-12
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
2And the Pharisees coming to him asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
3But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you?
4Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away.
5To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept.
6But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.
7For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife.
8And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh.
9What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
10And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing.
11And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
12And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Matthew 3:13-17
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him.
14But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?
15And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice. Then he suffered him.
16And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him.
17And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Matthew 5:17-20
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
17Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
18For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.
19He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
John 6:30-68
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
30They said therefore to him: What sign therefore dost thou shew, that we may see, and may believe thee? What dost thou work?
31Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.
34They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread.
35And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.
36But I said unto you, that you also have seen me, and you believe not.
37All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out.
38Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day.
40And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day.
41The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
42And they said: Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven?
43Jesus therefore answered, and said to them: Murmur not among yourselves.
44No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day.
45It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me.
46Not that any man hath seen the Father; but he who is of God, he hath seen the Father.
47Amen, amen I say unto you: He that believeth in me, hath everlasting life.
48I am the bread of life.
49Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead.
50This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die.
51I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
52If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.
53The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
54Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.
55He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.
56For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed.
57He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.
58As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.
59This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.
60These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.
61Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?
62But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you?
63If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
64It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life.
65But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him.
66And he said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father.
67After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.
68Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away?
John 6:51-52
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
51I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
52If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.
Matthew 26:26-28
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
26And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body.
27And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this.
28For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.
Mark 14:22-24
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
22And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body.
23And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it.
24And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.
Luke 22:19-20
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
19And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.
20In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread.
24And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me.
25In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.
26For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.
John 1:16
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
16And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace.
  1. What is a rubric? Rubrics are instructions and rules (laws really) that are inserted into the Breviary and Missal to guide bishops, priests or deacons in the Eucharistic liturgy, the administration of sacraments and sacramentals, and the preaching of the Word of God. Literally rubrica means red earth, specifically it is that red earth which ancient carpenters used to mark cut lines on wood. Similarly, in order to distinguish instructions from the formulae of prayers they were (and still are) written in red. These written instructions grew out of verbal instructions sometimes the red words are general instructions, sometimes they are specific but they always explain the use of the text. This lead to the common phrase, “read the red if you would understand the black.” []
  2. Maximilian Kolbe had a vision as a child in which Mary showed him a pair of crowns; one white and one red. The white crown represented perseverance through purity and the red represented martyrdom. When Mary asked which he wanted, Maximilian answered, “both”. Indeed he remained pure and became a priest and then later in a Nazi prison gave up his life by taking the place of another condemned to stave to death. After days of starvation and thirst which he filed with song and prayer, he was killed by injection with carbonic acid. His faith and heroism up to the point of death are well documented. []
  3. What is Formula[e]? A formula is a precise statement or formulation of a principle. There are philosophical, ritual, and theological formulas. For our purposes here we are concerned with ritual formulas which prescribe the administration of sacraments and sacramentals. For instance baptism requires the use of water and the words “I baptize you in the name of the father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” []