Pope Francis chose Cardinal Robert Sarah to be the new Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship. Cardinal Sarah, certainly a candidate down the road for the papacy, has more in common with Pope Benedict XVI when it comes to manner in which the Liturgy should be celebrated.
But in this critique, you will see what progressives want when it comes to the Liturgy. They want it to be horizontal and very clerical, that is based upon the personality of the pope or priest celebrating it who becomes very affective and animated in the Liturgy using his own words and very loose with the rubrics and words of the liturgy. It is very sad and very retro a la 1970's. But that's the way it is.
This is a critique of Pope Francis' style of celebrating Mass this morning in Cuba:
The Eucharist unfolded in a way that has come to be expected under Francis.
This means not much wandering from the rubrics and text, or from the
gestures and postures as found in the current editions of the GIRM and
Whereas Francis has come to be associated with going beyond the
borders in terms of mission – that is going to the margins and
peripheries even to the point of pushing the boundaries pastorally, his
approach to liturgy gives very little evidence of this. Instead we see a
very controlled, precise, and careful celebration. Certainly it is
clearly the liturgy that has ensued from Vatican II but with the
retention of accretions by Benedict that point to a more staid,
methodical and ritualistic approach to liturgy. (And this this stupid snark:)At least he’s moved the
six candles to the side of the altar instead of blocking the view and
the lacey, fancy European vestments have gone back into the closet.
The only place where there is a bit of pushing of boundaries is in
Francis’ blending of popular piety and the liturgy. (Keep in mind devotions are anathema to progressive liturgists most especially within the Mass!) This was seen at the
beginning and at the end of the Eucharistic celebration. The first
example was the incensation of the image of Our Lady of El Cobre as part
of the incensation of the altar at the start of the Eucharist. The
second instance was prior to the final blessing and dismissal, when he
led those present in the Angelus and Prayer for the dead.
The inculturation of the liturgy in the Cuban context as a result was
quite limited. Even the music as performed tended to be very controlled
and less exuberant than that found in many US Cuban parishes, and I
suspect in Cuba itself. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the
hymnody, though in Spanish and with Caribbean rhythms, was accompanied
by an orchestra. Though well played by the orchestra and well sung by
the two choirs, it generally lacked “spirit.” (this is very horizontal and affective, no?)
Yet, it was significant that Francis preached from the ambo rather
than from his chair as he usually does. (This is down right silly and inaccurate as Pope Francis always preaches from the ambo when he travels and even at St. Peter's a podium is placed before him and the following comment is just plain dumb and wishful thinking. It is actually laughable:) From my perspective, this
revealed an attempt to break out of the overly controlled liturgy in
order to speak to people heart to heart. In his homily he used homey
examples to illustrate the disciples’ desire to be first or the most
important – like a child asking a parent which one is the favorite.
Living in Rome I have had the opportunity to participate as a
concelebrating priest at various papal masses both inside St. Peter’s
Basilica and in St. Peter’s Square during this pontificate. What I saw
in the transmission today could have just as well taken place here in
Rome except for the language and the rhythms. Perhaps the other
liturgical celebrations during his time in Cuba may reveal otherwise.
Clearly attention to liturgical development is not high on the agenda of
this Pope but at least there has been no attempt to undo the principle
reforms of the liturgy emanating from Vatican II.
Rev. Dr. Raúl Gómez Ruiz SDS is Vicar General and General Secretary in the Curia Generalizia of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians) in Rome, Italy.