Questions regarding the book: The Spirit of the Liturgy
#1
Hi I recently started reading The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI and I have three questions that I hope someone that is more knowledgeable in theology could answer and does help me to understand them.

1) Throughout the Book Pope Benedict mentions the word Cult quite frequently. What does the word cult mean in a Catholic context. I know that usually the name cult is used to describe a sect or some sort of paganized worship as in the occult for example. However what does cult mean in a Catholic context? What does this mean when applied to the liturgy? I asked a friend that is knowledgable about his faith and he told me that cult usually refers to the saints (such as the cult of the saints) and he told me to apply that terminology to the liturgy. The problem is that I have never heard this word before. I have heard people mention the word cult but I never understood what they were talking about.

- Here is just one example in the book when Pope Benedict mentions the word. "It is a widely accepted opinion in modern theology that in the so-called nature, religions, as well as in the non-theistic higher religions, cult is focused on the cosmos, while in the Old Testament and Christianity the orientation is toward history" (Chapter 3 page 24)

2) What is true worship? Pope Benedict talks about worship and the role of God and men. He states this in his book that someone could hopefully answer. "The Common view is that sacrifice has something to do with destruction. It means handing over to God a reality that is in some way precious to man. Now this handing over presupposes that it is withdrawn from use by man, and that can only happen through its destruction, its definitive removal from the hands of man. But this immediately raises the question: What pleasure is God supposed to take in destruction? Is anything really surrendered to God through destruction? One answer is that the destruction always conceals within itself the act  of acknowledging God's sovereignty overall all things. But can such a mechanical act really serve God's glory? Obviously not. True surrender to God looks very different. It consists- according to the Fathers, in fidelity to Biblical thought- in the union of  man and creation with God. Belonging ot God has nothing to do with destruction or non-being: it is rather a way of being. It means emerging from the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, of existing only for oneself and in oneself. tine could say that the true "sacrifice" is the civitas Dei, that is love- transformed mankind, the divinization of creation and the surrender of all things to God.

- What does this mean is the true nature of sacrifice? Does the above text mean that true sacrifice is much more that something being offered up? Such as something that we as humans value being offered up and destroyed? Does this text signify that sacrifice is more of a union of God and man?

3) The last thing that I am confused about is when Pope Benedict talks about a modern vs. a traditional model of worship.

- Pope Benedict states that the modern model of worship is based on modern evolutionary world view which Teilhard de Chardin held. I am not familiar with the writings of Teilhard de Chardin so this explains my confusion.

        -Pope Benedict states " Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions... Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Nooshphere and finally incorporates everything it its "fullness". From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the Christological "fullness". In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction: it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.

- Pope Benedict compares this with the traditional model which he states

        -" The older tradition starts from a different conceptual mode. Its image is not of an upward flying arrow, but of a kind of cross-shaped movement, the two essential directions of which c be called exitus and reditus., departure and return. This "paradigm" is common in the general history of religions as well as in Christian antiquity and in the Middle Ages. For Christian thinkers, the circle is seen as the great movement of the cosmos. The nature religions and many non-Christian philosophies think of it as a movement of unceasing repetition. On closer inspection, these two points of view are not as mutually exclusive as at first sign they seem. For in the Christian view of the world, the many small circles of the lives of individuals are inscribed within the one great circle of history as it moves from exitus to reditus. The small circles carry within themselves the great rhythm of the whole, give it concrete forms that are ever new, and so provide it with the force of tis movement.
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#2
Hello,
I haven't really payed that much attention to how he uses the word cult, as if he means something quite specific. I took that he meant a particular worship, or a liturgy; but he certainly doesn't have the veneration of saints in mind, though the word cult is used to describe the liturgy of pagans (as the word rite or liturgy also can apply to non-Christians).

Regarding the sacrifice question, I think that to fully appreciate it one must be acquainted with how sacrifice is viewed in paganism: there both man and gods are subjected to what is called a sacrificial system, a great cycle of feeding: man offer sacrifices to the gods in exchange for the gods favour, and the logic is that you offer something of yours to be destroyed, to feed the gods, and the gods repay with their power; but the gods themselves are dependent upon this system.
But in Christianity there is no such exchange: all is grace, all is given freely from God, even our own being is a gift; so sacrifice in a Christian sense is better understood as offering the gift back to God, and God freely takes this offering to Himself, thus elevating what is offered (for instance, Ratzinger puts it later, when talking about the oratio, the Eucharistic sacrifice: “The elements of the earth are transubstantiated, pulled, so to speak, from their creaturely anchorage, grasped at the deepest ground of their being, and changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord”). And of course, this sacrifice (in a particularly Christian sense; the above could be said of Judaism also) is not only made with the gifts of God, but its done by God Himself, that is, only in union with Christ, the perfect Victim, we offer proper sacrifices.
This is one of the things expressed in that iconic scene of the sacrifice of Isaac. If I'm not mistaken Ratzinger also quotes the Roman Canon itself, for it says quite explicitly that what is offered is God's gifts: de tuis donis ac datis. And of course, this is also what St. Paul meant when he said that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and that this is our logike latreia, our worship according to the Logos.
This sort of theology of sacrifice is, I think, quite rich and beautiful, and has some history behind it. For example, in the East, Symeon the New Theologian argued that we were created to be priests to God, to offer back creation to God (thus, to offer sacrifices), and that is why when we fell the whole universe fell with us. And I happen to think this view of sacrifice and of the role of humanity in creation, and this, so to speak, universal liturgy, is a mirror of the Trinity: the Son, after being conceived by the Father and loved in the Spirit, offers to the Father the Spirit back (but this is my own speculations, I haven't read any theologian arguing this sort of thing).
Finally, there is this very nice couple of lectures by David Hart, . Also, he explains a bit the difference between the pagan sacrificial system and the Christian sacrifice of “approaching” God in his article “Christ and Nothing”.

Now, I didn't understand your third question. As Ratzinger says the two views are not without similarities: Teilhard's view also supposes an exitus; and the reditus of the classical view is a going towards God, a union with God. And besides, what Ratzinger argues with those circle images, is that the personal (our own lives, that have a beginning and an end, that are usually known, thus they have a, in death, definite form, and so are qualitatively different from history), the historical (where salvation takes place, where God deals with His people) and the cosmic (and this is particular to Teilhard, that from that passage seems to argue for a cosmic union with God) are related. Indeed, when God is incarnated He not only take our human nature and “stretches” it to union with the divine, but also history is taken up in eternity, and the cosmos, nature, is taken to supernature (by the way, have you read Milton's poem of the nativity? Its quite beautiful; in one passage he depicts Nature, surprised by the visit of the Creator, ashamed, to hide its sins, puts a white dress in a hurry (the snow)).

Would be nice to discuss that book further.
Cheers.
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#3
(05-24-2014, 09:24 AM)Renatus Frater Wrote: Hello,
I haven't really payed that much attention to how he uses the word cult, as if he means something quite specific. I took that he meant a particular worship, or a liturgy; but he certainly doesn't have the veneration of saints in mind, though the word cult is used to describe the liturgy of pagans (as the word rite or liturgy also can apply to non-Christians).

Regarding the sacrifice question, I think that to fully appreciate it one must be acquainted with how sacrifice is viewed in paganism: there both man and gods are subjected to what is called a sacrificial system, a great cycle of feeding: man offer sacrifices to the gods in exchange for the gods favour, and the logic is that you offer something of yours to be destroyed, to feed the gods, and the gods repay with their power; but the gods themselves are dependent upon this system.
But in Christianity there is no such exchange: all is grace, all is given freely from God, even our own being is a gift; so sacrifice in a Christian sense is better understood as offering the gift back to God, and God freely takes this offering to Himself, thus elevating what is offered (for instance, Ratzinger puts it later, when talking about the oratio, the Eucharistic sacrifice: “The elements of the earth are transubstantiated, pulled, so to speak, from their creaturely anchorage, grasped at the deepest ground of their being, and changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord”). And of course, this sacrifice (in a particularly Christian sense; the above could be said of Judaism also) is not only made with the gifts of God, but its done by God Himself, that is, only in union with Christ, the perfect Victim, we offer proper sacrifices.
This is one of the things expressed in that iconic scene of the sacrifice of Isaac. If I'm not mistaken Ratzinger also quotes the Roman Canon itself, for it says quite explicitly that what is offered is God's gifts: de tuis donis ac datis. And of course, this is also what St. Paul meant when he said that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and that this is our logike latreia, our worship according to the Logos.
This sort of theology of sacrifice is, I think, quite rich and beautiful, and has some history behind it. For example, in the East, Symeon the New Theologian argued that we were created to be priests to God, to offer back creation to God (thus, to offer sacrifices), and that is why when we fell the whole universe fell with us. And I happen to think this view of sacrifice and of the role of humanity in creation, and this, so to speak, universal liturgy, is a mirror of the Trinity: the Son, after being conceived by the Father and loved in the Spirit, offers to the Father the Spirit back (but this is my own speculations, I haven't read any theologian arguing this sort of thing).
Finally, there is this very nice couple of lectures by David Hart, . Also, he explains a bit the difference between the pagan sacrificial system and the Christian sacrifice of “approaching” God in his article “Christ and Nothing”.

Now, I didn't understand your third question. As Ratzinger says the two views are not without similarities: Teilhard's view also supposes an exitus; and the reditus of the classical view is a going towards God, a union with God. And besides, what Ratzinger argues with those circle images, is that the personal (our own lives, that have a beginning and an end, that are usually known, thus they have a, in death, definite form, and so are qualitatively different from history), the historical (where salvation takes place, where God deals with His people) and the cosmic (and this is particular to Teilhard, that from that passage seems to argue for a cosmic union with God) are related. Indeed, when God is incarnated He not only take our human nature and “stretches” it to union with the divine, but also history is taken up in eternity, and the cosmos, nature, is taken to supernature (by the way, have you read Milton's poem of the nativity? Its quite beautiful; in one passage he depicts Nature, surprised by the visit of the Creator, ashamed, to hide its sins, puts a white dress in a hurry (the snow)).

Would be nice to discuss that book further.
Cheers.

Thanks for the reply :)

Yes I think that is what Pope Benedict meant when using the word cult

As far as the worship it makes for sense now. I always new that sacrifice was crucial to all major religions but I never had much knowledge of the history of sacrifice in religions. The video you provided helped explain the difference between pagan and Christian worship and sacrifice. On one hand there is as you described a give and receive type of sacrifice where one would give to the gods something to feed them while destroying the item itself. This can be seen in the book of Daniel regarding the god who was constantly fed. This type of sacrifice differs according to both Benedict, you, and the video with Christian sacrifice which is based solely on a union. It is grace that God gives freely and we give our eartly gifts to God as thanksgiving (Eucharist which means thanksgiving) thus instead of destroying something offered, we give it to God in union.

I am still a bit confused regarding the third point but I simply need to research it more in depth. I don't currently have much knowledge on philosophy and metaphysics and similar topics but am constantly learning.

I think discussing the book is a great idea. We could use this thread as a book discussion
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#4
I'll just talk about the 'cult' issue here.  The Latin word for worship is 'cultus'. So basically cult=worship. And interestingly it's where we derive the word 'culture' from. Essentially culture derives from what he worship (the cultus), which says a great, great deal about what our society worships...
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