Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reflection on Corinthians 12:12–30

I have started practicing Lectio Divina recently, and my spiritual director recommended that I use one of the Sunday readings as the text for my meditation.

While Wikipedia isn't perhaps the best source for information if you need accuracy, some entries are well reseearched and well written. The entry for Lectio Divina seems to me to be one such entry, so I don't feel guilty in quoting its basic outline for the practice here:

Lectio: Read the passage slowy several times.

Meditatio: Reflect on the text of the passage, thinking about how to apply to one's own life. Gravitate to any particular phrase or word that seems to be of particular import. This should not be confused with exegesis, but is a very personal reading of the Scripture and application to one's own life.

Oratio: Respond to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but more of the beginning of a conversation with God.

Contemplatio: Listen to God. This is a freeing oneself from one's own thoughts, both mundane and holy. It is about hearing God talk to us. Opening our mind, heart and soul to the influence of God. Any conversation must allow for both sides to communicate, and this most unfamiliar act is allowing oneself to be open to hearing God speak.

This week, I initially chose to read Corinthians 12:12–14, 27. I chose te shorter reading by mistake, but that might've been fortuitous because it helped me to focus on different parts of the reading at different stages. It's fortuitous because I've been struggling with my response to the situation at our parish following our deacon's inappropriate exercise of his office. (You can read other reflections on this event here, here, and here. Some are quite striking! ;-)

Today, I read a little further on in the passage, and the two parts I had been keeping separate came together, and the meaning opened up to me both how we should see our role in the Church and Sacred Liturgy, as well as how we should respond to those who misunderstand their roles.

Here is the text, including the lead in to the next chapter, which is critical to the understanding of the whole:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, 25 that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

What is that most excellent way? Love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The most excellent way is love, without which gifts of prophecy, healing, tongues, interpretation, and such are meaningless. Love, as Frank Sheed points out in Theology and Sanity, is the appropriation of the Holy Spirit.

We are not all heads. We are not all hands, or feet, or livers of the Body of Christ. We have different roles, and it is unfitting for one member to attempt to usurp the role of another. It's also an unloving thing to do.

Unfortunately, this is where people are getting confused. Some members have given others the wrong impression that the common priesthood and the ordained priesthood are essentially the same based on a misunderstanding of the Vatican II constitution Lumen Gentium.* I had a meeting last night, and a number of people were confused about the deacon's comments. One person, an extraordinary minister, said, "I think we've been demoted."

If this is the way the change has been explained to them I can understand their feelings of hurt. However, it betrays a lack of proper disposition, most likely not the fault of the extraordinary ministers themselves. They've been built up to think of themselves as something they were not intended to be, to take on tasks that are not fitting to their roles in the Body of Christ. They are feet attempting to act as hands. And they're being told that they are hands by the people who should be upholding the ordained priesthood.

So we need to remember to act with love to help these people understand what happened and why the rescinding of the indult was an appropriate thing to do and not a slap in the face.

The day of the event, I sent an email to a couple of parishioners who are frequently at odds with the progressive members of the parish explaining what I think are the reasons behind the rescindment. I'm reporting them here with some adjustments.

- The indult that has not been renewed only came into effect in 2002. It apparently was only in effect in the U.S.

- The GIRM outlines who is permitted to purify the vessels and has done so since long before Vatican II. Given that the document refers to the current GIRM, Vatican II clearly did not abrogate the normative restrictions.

- The normative practice for receiving the Eucharist under both species is via intinction. Moving to the practice of intinction would reduce the number of extraordinary ministers, as well as the number of vessels required for the distribution of the Eucharist.

- Receiving in the hand, which is not the normative means but is permitted, is not possible with intinction.

The ending of the indult appears to be intended to reduce the nonnormative practices of having so many extraordinary ministers and of receiving in the hand. Given that both practices are nonnormative, it seems to me a wise decision meant at curbing abuses and restoring reverence to the reception of the Eucharist.

So how do we respond? I think it's fitting for us to contact our rector, and if necessary, our bishop and voice our concerns. We should be careful to deal with facts and not simply to vent our frustrations. We need to respond in charity to our deacon, pointing out our reasons for disagreement but not sinking to personal attacks. We need to respond in charity to those who also might've been offended by the rescindment, explaining the proper role of the ordained priests and deacons and the wisdom of the Holy See in this process of reforming the reform. And we need to encourage love for the whole Body of Christ, the laity as well as the clergy and religious.

Dissent is the body attacking itself. While aches and pains are part of the normal life of a body, dissent is a cancer. We need to encourage love and care, not division.

*Anita posted passages from a recent discussion on Jimmy Akin's of blog concerning Pope Paul VI's phrase "smoke of Satan." It should be no surprise that a dilution of the concept of priesthood should be connected with Paul VI's comments. Degrading the ordained priesthood is a direct attack on the Eucharist. No ordained priest, no Eucharist.

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