Article 97 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series

Paragraphs 1200-1206 When I hear the words “Paschal Mystery,” my memory jumps to my high school days when my teacher, an Irish Christian Brother, would recite the phrase over and again, drilling it into our minds that “the Paschal Mystery refers to the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.” These words were echoed almost 30 years later in the 2002 “Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

The Compendium, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 1992 Catechism and overseen by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), reawakened interest in and enthusiasm for the Catechism. In the Compendium, we read that “the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, which comprises his passion, death, resurrection, and glorification, stands at the center of the Christian faith because God’s saving plan was accomplished once for all by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.”

This section of the Catechism, referring to the Paschal Mystery, tells us that “the mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the forms of its celebration are diverse” (ccc 1200). The next paragraph explains that “the mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition” (ccc 1201). As such, almost from the beginning of the Church, diverse liturgical traditions came about whereby “churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture” (ccc 1202).

As Catholics we might ask, how is it possible that something that is diverse or different be at the same time unified and catholic? Again, the Catechism, quoting from the Second Vatican Council’s 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, explains: “the Church is catholic, capable of integrating into her unity, while purifying them, all the authentic riches of cultures” (ccc 1202). The key word here is “authentic,” not just any cultural customs that may contradict or otherwise place into question the “catholic” quality of the given cultural customs or riches. Thus, there are times when “a breaking with ancestral customs incompatible with the Catholic faith” is necessary (ccc 1206).

For most, being Catholic means being members of the Latin Rite Church or Roman Catholic Church. If we lived in the East, however, we could still be Catholic but belong to one of 22 Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, all in union with Rome, obedient to the successor of St. Peter, the pope, and all believing the same deposit of faith that makes us Catholics. The differences are mostly related to how the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated. “What” is celebrated is the faith of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. The mystery of Christ is “proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled” (ccc 1204). The Latin Church celebrates the Roman church Liturgy and the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches celebrate five different liturgical rites.

One of the challenges for many is to distinguishbetween Eastern Catholic Churches (in union with Rome) and other Eastern

churches that have similar names but are not in union with Rome, including many Greek Orthodox Churches that are not “Catholic Churches” and, therefore, not in union with Rome.

How then do we discern that a church is in union with Rome?

We might say that, commissioned by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church in union with the successor of Peter, includes the People of God of many cultures and traditions, the community of disciples that continues the evangelization begun by Christ through: proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating thesacraments, teaching the faith, forming the faithful for works of service, and evangelizing the inactive and the unchurched, all of which bear fruit for the greater honor and glory of God.

Did you know that several Eastern Catholic Churches (in union with Rome) exist within our own diocesan boundaries, including two parishes belonging to the Eparchy of St. Marion of Brooklyn, N.Y., (Maronite), nine parishes belonging to the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic (Ruthenian), five parishes belonging to the Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia (Ukrainian) and one parish belonging to the Chaldean Church (Malabar). The genesis of these 17 Eastern Catholic Churches in New Jersey stretches back to a time when Catholics from these Eastern countries immigrated to the United States. Several “Eparchy” (the Eastern equivalent of “diocese”) were created to accommodate the new Eastern Catholic immigrants.

Whatever the official liturgy might be for the many rites in the Catholic Church, the Catechism explains: “there is an immutable part (of the liturgy), a part that is divinely instituted and of which the Church is the guardian, and parts that can be changed, which the Church has the power and on occasion, also the duty, to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelizedpeoples” (ccc 1205). There are several principles outlined with regard to liturgical diversity as follows: 1. “Liturgical diversity can be a source of enrichment … “ 2. Liturgical diversity “must not damage unity …” 3. Liturgical diversity “must express only fidelity to the common faith, to the sacramental signs that the Church has received from Christ, and to hierarchical communion” 4. “Cultural adaptation…requires a conversion of heart and even, where necessary, a breaking with ancestral customs incompatible with the Catholic faith.” (ccc 1206). In short, Liturgical diversity does not mean that “anything goes” in our official worship of the Church. In fact, the parish liturgy committee or even the presiding priest may not change anything that is integral to the Church’s liturgy. The 1963 Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, states explicitly: “… no person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority” (SC 22:3). And, thus, it standstoday.

Father Hillier serves as Director of the Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Censor Librorum and oversees the Office for Personswith Disabilities