The feast of the Ascension should rekindle in us the desire for heaven, that is, the desire for God. When the disciples saw their Master rise above them and disappear, they remained there, crestfallen; it was as if their lives had been taken away; the sun still shed its brightness; but is seemed cruel and wan; all was empty and desolate. “I am going to meet my God who is your God, to meet my Father and your Father,” our Lord had said. So it seemed to them as though nothing were left for them on earth, as though all their possessions, all their concerns had somehow been displaced and now resided up above, where glances do not reach, where the imagination is lost, where faith, hope, and charity alone give access… when our place is ready, we will go toward heaven… All will have disappeared from the earth and we will go to heaven, as our Lord did, with the marks of our wounds and the eternal traces of our suffering in his hands and in his feet and in his side. What we detest now will then be our great wealth, and, in place of good works, we will be able to present to God these poor sufferings which we will have offered most imperfectly, which we have borne for his love because we always wanted to believe that his will is adorable, even when it makes us tremble to our very roots…
By his ascension, our Lord Jesus Christ has already opened heaven to us; hence we can no longer live restless, undecided, disturbed, wandering in the midst of the ruins of all sorts that circumstances pile up around us. We can and should remain concentrated on that place where our true blessings are. It is our duty to build our certainties on the base of our faith and thus accustom ourselves to living serenely. From this serenity comes the very sweet justice which true Christians prove, who know their own spirit and have no need of rallying to any other spirit…
We remain much too much the prey of the plurality of things; we should resume our royal place to which we are born, and thus once again peace would be established on our frontiers and justice would become easy to bear for us, because our minds would no longer be clouded by all our upsetting impressions. We will not be able to reform everything; we will not succeed in fighting against all the things that irk us (because often what bothers us is illogical and contradictory); we will only wear ourselves out by wearing other people out. But let’s try to tell ourselves, “All of that is trivial, since it must pass.”… Faith really teaches us that we are already reigning in heaven with Christ who has entered there as Man-God for us. The only point of view from which we can judge things is God’s.
Dino Marcantonio is assistant professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame.
Cardinal Ratzinger restates beautifully the Church’s traditional teaching that the whole Christ is corporeally present under the appearance of bread and wine, defending the so-called “medieval errors” of transubstantiation, adoration and other Eucharistic devotions. He even handily dismantles the corpus mysticum vs. corpus verum argument of the modernist establishment. In the middle ages the use of the two terms switched: where the Fathers used “corpus mysticum” to signify the Eucharist, the medievals now used “corpus verum” and where “ corpus verum” was used to signify the Mystical Body of Christ, now was used “corpus mysticum.” The trade was taken by the modernists to mean that a naturalism had taken hold in Eucharistic doctrine and that a correction was in order. This arrow is in the quiver of almost all liturgical design consultants today seeking to tuck the Blessed Sacrament discretely away in some inconspicuous corner. But, Ratzinger argues, mysticum did not mean “mystical” in the modern sense, but rather “pertaining to the mystery, the sphere of the sacrament.” Yes, there were certain losses in Christian awareness of the corporate character of the Eucharist; nevertheless, the Eucharist can only bring us together to form Christ’s “true Body” because “in it the Lord gives us his true Body.” Ammunition such as this will compel an interior cheer in any member of a building committee who has had to duel a liturgical renovator in defense of his fair church building.
Ratzinger then goes on to argue that the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is not opposed to the Mass. Indeed, “Communion only reaches its true depths when it is supported and surrounded by adoration.” Furthermore, the Blessed Sacrament brings life to an otherwise dead church. He paints bold strokes in favor of the traditional direct relationship of altar and tabernacle, going so far as to say, “How many saints—yes, including saints of the love of neighbor—were nourished and led to the Lord by this experience [of the Eucharist.]” Or so it would seem. Just when we expect him to deliver the coup-de-grace and declare forthrightly that the tabernacle never ought to have moved off the altar, he states wanly that we really ought to find the proper place for the tabernacle.
Perhaps the Cardinal was being rhetorical, and said as much as he could say in the current political climate and in light of the fact that the new GIRM states that it is more in keeping with sign value that the tabernacle should not be on the altar on which Mass is celebrated. Even so those who honor tradition have much to be thankful for in this chapter, as in the whole book. And modernists have much to fear. It is clear that the book was intended as a corrective to the disastrous effects of the modernist architectural and liturgical hegemony. In its preface, in fact, the Cardinal states that he hopes it will spawn a new liturgical movement. We sincerely hope it will.