Saturday, July 8, 2017

FOTA X: First session, talk i.

So obviously I made it to FOTA X.  For FOTA VIII I was stuck in the very room where I write this, before this very computer but with my foot in a cast while for FOTA IX I was up in Ards, Co. Donegal ministering to the faithful (Confessions and Mass, etc).

 This year it seems well attended with a mix of clergy and laity, Irish, German, French, American and British.  The first talk this morning was not the scheduled one by Fr joseph Briody but instead we had Mr Markus Bünning, from Munster Germany.  He spoke to us on Panis animarum - The Eucharist in St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  I must point out that what I write here is my poor impression based on my own notes and not a verbatim record.

Mr Bünning introduced us to this giant of the Church, a true Father of the Church, for he was a holy, orthodox and loyal witness to Tradition.  Bernard's spirituality emerged from the talk as deeply Christocentric but a Christ encountered intimately in the Liturgy of the Church as it has been handed down from the earliest days.   Bernard was not a monk cut off from the sources of the Faith in a remote monastery but a man who used Latin as if it were his mother-tongue.  Indeed Bernard's Latin is that of antiquity not the Middle Ages.  He knew the Fathers, especially the Latins, but he knew Christ more, his 'Iesus meus'.  He was not a scholar in the mold of Aquinas but a pastor in the line of Ambrose and Augustine.  Bernard was a man who radiated holiness and challenged his age and those subsequent to really encounter Christ.  Like Francis of Assisi to see him was to see a prayer and feel the call of God.

It was Bernard's profound love for Christ that fueled his love for the Liturgy and his fear of any innovations.  In the Liturgy Heaven and Earth mingle. He believed that to change the Earthly liturgy was to risk adding to the heavenly praise and so to weaken it.   Therefore it was safer to stay with Tradition.  Prudence was needed when dealing with the Liturgy especially when it came to necessary changes such as the addition of feasts for new saints.

Bernard believed in the virtue-promoting power of the Liturgy, especially the Eucharist.  The Eucharist was the  refugarium (place of rest) of souls and our link between Heaven and Earth.  It was the panis animarum our food for the growth of our souls.  This is why in his sermon for the Feast of All Saints he preached on the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is primarily food for the soul given by the Father through the priest to His people.  We are beggars before the door of the rich King.  We must be properly disposed to receive this richest of food.

Note that Bernard's understanding of the Liturgy is not priest-centered.   The Father gives through the priest's ministry.  Bernards ultimate concern is the relationship between the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist.  He believes deeply in the 'sin-inhibiting' power of the Sacrament, that if we remain free of sin it is because of the grace we have received in the Eucharist.  But proper disposition is necessary.  Bernard does not believe in cheap grace.   The Eucharist requires all our attention, intention and preparation.  Since in every Mass the Sacrifice of Christ is offered, that Sacrifice whihc restored peace between God and man, we must have a peacefull  attitude toward, God, our neighbour and our own self.

In his great and influential work on the Song of Songs Bernard explores his nuptial mysticism.  He sees in Sg 2 "sweet to my palate" a reference to the Eucharist.  In the overshadowing of Mary he sees the flesh of Christ as that which shadows her and so combines Mariology and the Sacraments.  In the Mass, the Wedding Feast of Christ and His Church, Christ renews His love for His Bride.  This love drove Bernard to be a peacemaker.

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