Saturday, May 2, 2009

Here Comes a Sea Followed by an Ocean: Very Simple Reflections on the Second Vatican Council, after 40 years, by Father Gianni Carparelli

179 pages, Caritas.

Carparelli remembers Vatican II as a time of excitement and joy, and believes deeply in its work. He advises the reader to go back to the original documents. He avoids a political interpretation, instead emphasizing the liturgical side.

This leads the author to emphasize the Trinity as a communion rather than a number. Vatican II addresses the communitarian nature of the Church. The author asks Catholics to extend that community to estranged Catholics, to those “who feel judged too harshly by the Church,” and to “those who have been hurt by the Church.”

Because of Carparelli's love for the pontiffs and Vatican II, these words invite the outsider back into the Church without blaming faulty priests and leaders. Carparelli one never loses sight of the mystery of Christ and community, which are the deepest aspects of the Council. The book also shows why and how Catholics should love the hierarchy and especially the magisterium.

Here Comes the Sea briefly analyzes each of the Council's documents but, again, from this liturgical- spiritual-mystical stance, as in the following words about Lumen Gentium:

“May I invite you to make an effort to read through the symbolic language and to envision yourself immersed inside this mystery, soaked with it, that throws us into the future and at the same time invites us to build it?”

Here Comes the Sea breathes new life into Vatican II because, unlike countless volumes of liberal theological discourse that weighed the Church down in the Council's aftermath, Carparelli faithfully loves and preaches the Catholic tradition:

“If we now start to think with a little bit of common sense, we will also understand that some guidance is needed. Not everything can be left to individual personal interpretation. Never forget that we are children of communion.”

The power and success of this book hinge on the spirituality of the author. The book reads more like a common sense spiritual director than a strict dogmatic theologian. Like only a few very special spiritual writers, including Pope John Paul II and Teresa of Avila, the author succeeds in communicating to the reader something of the essence of Catholicism.

Carparelli brings out the direct and simple faith of the conciliar fathers, who more than aggiornamento (updating), Carparelli notes, wanted ressourcement, a return to the original roots of Catholicism. As the author indicates through his spiritual direction for the reader, the ultimate point of ressourcement is Christ:

“[T]he discussion whether Christ is of the same nature as God or of an inferior nature, if he is only man or whether he is man-God in one person, is not as superficial as it might first seem. There is behind this a concept of faith and therefore of life, the sense of the presence of God amongst us and of the Christian vocation of citizens in history.”

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