The following article from Lifesite news is your basic reporting on what a particular cardinal said about another cardinal. In this case, Cardinal Burke about Cardinal Sarah and that His Eminence agree with His Eminence on ad orientem.
It is interesting to hear all this duked out in public which tells us of the great polarization going on in the hierarchy and lowerarchy of the Church under the current papacy. The polarization under Pope Benedict was elementary school stuff compared to this. But I digress.
But I do take issue with a basic and common misconception about ad orientem. It is not that the priest and congregation are together facing the tabernacle, in fact, it has nothing to do with it. It is the priest and the laity assuming a common posture and either figuratively or actually facing the east, facing Jerusalem and thus symbolically the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem come down from heaven. It is symbolic as there is much that is symbolic in the Catholic Mass and this particular symbolism is very, very rich when properly understood from a biblical and spiritual point of view.
In the old days and now the new days with the EF Mass, the tabernacle had to be veiled, thus hiding it during Mass. But more was done to hide the tabernacle during the Holy Sacrifice, the large altar card was placed against it.
In Pontifical Masses, the tabernacle was to be empty during Mass!
So great care existed to make sure that the laity and the priest understood that they were not facing the tabernacle during Mass, but merely expressing a common "eastern" posture where the priest assumed the stance of the laity since he comes from the lay baptized.
I love that symbolism and it is oh so less clerical than when he faces the congregation.
But here is an otherwise good news story by a good reporter:
ROME, Italy, August 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke has given a strong endorsement of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s recent encouragement for priests to begin celebrating Mass in accord with the ancient posture that recognizes God as the center of the liturgy.
Cardinal Burke said he is in total agreement with Cardinal Sarah’s recent request for priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem,
or facing the Lord, because when a priest celebrates Mass, he is acting
in the person of Christ and the focus should be on God.
Ad orientem, Latin for “to the East,” refers in liturgy to
when the priest and the people in the congregation face the Lord in the
tabernacle. It is how all Masses used to be celebrated before Vatican
Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and
the Discipline of the Sacraments, made the request at an international
sacred liturgy conference last month in London for the priests to
celebrate Mass ad orientem whenever possible, beginning this Advent. The Vatican liturgy chief’s remarks had subsequently stirred some pushback.
“I agree with him completely,” Cardinal Burke said in an international teleconference Monday.
The former prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura went on to
say he could not agree more with Cardinal Sarah and that much of the
negative reaction to his request was baseless, unfair, and uninformed.
“And I believe that many of the comments which were made afterward are
not well informed and are not fair.”
The fundamental point of Cardinal Sarah’s request, and the question
of the position of the priest in the congregation is key, Cardinal Burke
told the journalists on the call, because the priest being at the head
of the congregation is acting “in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ,
offering this worship to God,” and so all are facing the Lord.
“It’s not that he’s turning his back on anybody,” Cardinal Burke
clarified. “This is often times what people say, ‘Well now the priest
turned his back on us.’”
“Not at all,” the patron
of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta said. “The priest as our
spiritual father is leading us in this worship to lift our minds and
hearts to God.”
Cardinal Sarah had also asked all Catholics to receive Holy Communion
kneeling on the tongue, which is the Church’s norm, despite the
allowances many western dioceses have to administer Communion in the
While supporters of traditional and reverent liturgy applauded the request
by Cardinal Sarah, the Vatican’s top liturgist since his appointment by
Pope Francis in November 2014, response from both the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops and then Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico
Lombardi played down the cardinal’s request. UK Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, in effect told priests in his diocese to disregard the request after he and others incorrectly implied that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal holds that Mass should be celebrated with the priests facing the people.
Cardinal Sarah reaffirmed that Mass had become overly focused on the
priest and the congregation earlier this month in an address to the
clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo.
The Guinean cardinal echoed Cardinal Burke’s assessment that his
encouragement last month for a return to more sacred liturgy was
misinterpreted, according to a Catholic Herald report, with Cardinal
Sarah saying, “This talk received a lot of attention — some of it not
always very accurate!”
Cardinal Burke also made clear in his international press conference on Monday, when he addressed the many issues brought up in his new book Hope for the World,
that there is nothing in the documents of the Second Vatican Council
that demands or even suggests that Mass should now be celebrated with
the priest facing the people.
“This is a discipline which was introduced afterwards and I think was part of the false liturgical reforms,” he stated.
“There’s the great temptation when the priest is facing the people to
see him as some kind of a performer,” the former St. Louis archbishop
said, “and now instead of the priest together with the people relating
to God, somehow it becomes an interaction between the priest and the
“The priest is the protagonist, it’s no longer our Lord Jesus
Christ,” he said, “and this is a very fundamental gross error that has
to be addressed.”
“And so Cardinal Sarah, I couldn’t agree more with him,” Cardinal
Burke continued. “And I trust that with time people will recognize that
the criticism which was lodged against him is completely unjustified.”
The criticism toward Cardinal Sarah is also not very sincere,
Cardinal Burke went on to say, because Cardinal Sarah wrote the same
thing about a return to ad orientem liturgy in June 2015 in L’Osservatore Romano, and there was no such backlash.
“He expressed the same strong convictions and nobody reacted then,
and this is the official newspaper of the Holy See,” Cardinal Burke
said. “And now suddenly in this context there’s this reaction, I don’t
The sacred liturgy is the highest and most perfect expression of the
Catholic faith, Cardinal Burke told the press conference, and when it’s
celebrated correctly, with great dignity, we approach God himself. He
objects to the contention that ad orientem liturgy means a priest is turning his back on the people, rather, it is a more God-centered expression of Holy Mass.
“No, it’s a greatest act of love for the people to be at their head, and to offer for them
the Holy Mass,” Cardinal Burke said. “Because the Eucharist can only be
offered by Christ himself, and it’s the priest who sacramentally is Christ offering the Holy Mass. So let’s all just face the Lord, as we should.”
Two Sundays a month my new parish of Saint Anne has a special LIFETEEN Mass at a special time of 5 PM. My first was was yesterday.
The music led by an ensemble of voices , piano, guitar and snare drums led from the choir loft with a polished sound, singable melodies and orthodox lyrics.
The kids, many with other family members with them were reverent. The postures and places for the postures were as at any Mass at St. Anne. In other words there was no standing around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer.
A "contemporary" sounding Mass with music that "sounds" more upbeat can also be reverent and traditional from that point of view.
This lecture by a Franciscan bishop in Australia is a mixed bag, but the thrust of it is what happened in the 1960's when promoting the "spirit" of Vatican II--denigrate what came before and marginalize and humiliate those who embrace the pre-Vatican II mentality!
The inclusive Church of this bishop's dreams excludes many especially what is symbolized in this photo-op by the truly humble Pope John XXIII as Cardinal Roncalli:
MY COMMENTS IN TEXT OF SPEECH IN RED.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv. of Australia delivers 2016 Ann D Clark Lecture
Pope Francis and the challenge of being church today.
Ann D Clark Lecture delivered by Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Evan Theatre, Penrith, 18 August 2016
What a difference the Holy Spirit can make! When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his resignation in early 2013, we were adrift like I was adrift in the Pacific Ocean during my epic voyage. Why? Because in 600 years, there had not been a papal resignation. There had not been any hint of it prior to the announcement that surprised everyone, even the cardinals who had been summoned to the Vatican for the consistory. They were absolutely flummoxed and speechless. Holy smoke and holy chaos! The Barque of Peter was truly launched into uncharted waters. We Catholics felt we were in dire straights. The mood wasn’t good. And yet somehow that mood was changed remarkably with the arrival of a rather unlikely pope. He said it himself as he appeared on the balcony after the conclave: “The cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to find the new Bishop of Rome”. Talk about a God of surprises. It’s like Princess Penzance and Michelle Payne winning the Melbourne Cup. No one saw it coming. No one predicted it.
READING SIGNS OF THE TIMES:
We are not out of woods by any means. Even the greatest pope cannot solve all the problems we have in the church. In Australia, we seem to have reached a critical juncture. Not only are we afflicted by such things as the decline in Sunday worship, the fall in religious practices, the dearth of the priesthood and religious life etc…, we also face the biggest challenge to date which is the loss of our moral credibility and trust capital due to the sexual abuse crisis. Nevertheless, it must be said that Pope Francis is the embodiment of our hope. His unexpected election and the way he exercises his leadership give us a breath of fresh air and a source of great hope. Even though the journey ahead of us is daunting, we are bolstered by the fresh energy that the Holy Spirit has given to us even as we face a critical juncture in human history. (The bishop of Australia names all the things that afflict the Church in Australia and not only there but everywhere and then proposes that the same ideologies that caused this sad turn of events continue on steroids. Is it a death wish? Think of Religious Orders who continue the ideologies of decline in their orders despite the fact that there is ample evidence that those religious orders that recover tradition and habits are the ones that are blossoming. Those that perpetuate the 1960's mentality suffer from some kind of pathological death wish.)
I make bold to say that this is the unexpected way of God. Consistently in salvation history, he has brought unexpected outcomes out of the most crushing defeats. Out of the ashes of the exile, he brought about the new Israel; out of the ashes of the crucifixion, the resurrection; out of the ashes of the Roman persecution, the universal church. Watershed moments can be catalysts for renewal and transformation. (I think it is too soon to say"mission accomplished!" Isn't this a new form of spirit of Vatican II triumphalism much worse than any pre-Vatican II pageantry or triumphalism!)
I believe that we are living in a watershed and a privileged moment in the history of the church. Just as the biblical exile brought about the most transforming experience that profoundly shaped the faith of Israel, this transition time can potentially launch the Church into a new era of hope, engagement and solidarity that the Second Vatican Council beckoned us with great foresight. From where I stand, the arrival of Pope Francis and his emphasis on servant leadership have unambiguously signaled this new era. He himself said poignantly that we are not living in an era of change but change of era. By this, he means that it is the church that needs to live up to its fundamental call to be “ecclesia semper reformanda” or the church always in need of reform to be in sync with the movement of the Holy Spirit and direction of the Kingdom. It is not “business as usual”. There needs to be an attitudinal change at every level, a conversion of mind and heart that conforms us to the spirit of the Gospel, a new wine into new wineskins, not a superficial change or worse a retreat into restorationism. (Ya,ya, ya, this old mantra of Gnostic intuition that we are living in a watershed and a privileged moment of the history of the Church is repeated again and again and again since the spirit of Vatican II was invented around 1968.He decries the retreat into so-called restorationism of the best of Catholic identity and glories in the very things that has destroyed so much of Catholicism leading to the malaise in his first paragraph. Can we take him seriously?)
LAUNCH INTO DEEPER WATERS:
I have a particular interest in the biblical experience of the exile. My personal story of being a refugee, my struggle for a new life in Australia, coupled with my Franciscan heritage have all contributed to the sense of hope which was the legacy of the exile of old and which should inform and enlighten our present exile experience. Like the prophets who accompanied their people, interpreted the signs of the times and led them in the direction of the kingdom –the arc of salvation history if you like- we must do the same for our people in the context of this new millennium.
Our story, the Judeo-Christian story is a narrative of hope in despair and of reordering human relationships in the light of unfolding revelation. It began with the story in Genesis where the seed of hope was sown and a promise of redemption was made in the face of sin and brokenness. The story of the great exile likewise puts in bold relief how hope was born in a situation of utter vulnerability. In the light of this experience, there occurred a paradigm shift in the way the people related to God and to others. A vengeful, jealous, petty and tribal deity gave way to a much more expansive vision of the divine: a truly universal and all-embracing God. As a consequence, human relationships and social structures were reordered in a way that was consonant with the evolving consciousness.
The Judeo-Christian story finds its ultimate expression in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus –the source and the ground of its hope and renewal. But it also continues to unfold throughout history, especially at its pivotal moments. Thus, when persecution forced the Church to disperse from her Jewish home, she learned to welcome the gentiles and became a refuge for the persecuted. When she came out of the catacombs into an imperial Christendom, places of learning, contemplation, prayer, and solidarity sprung up in response to the thirst for authentic discipleship, hope and renewal.
Now we find ourselves in yet another pivotal moment in history. Just as the Berlin wall collapsed, the walls of Christendom too have been blown away the wind of secularization. We are forced to move out of our catacombs into the open, into the new unfamiliar world of post-modernity where nothing is taken for granted as far as faith and belief go. Like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, we are roused by the Spirit of Jesus to launch the Barque of Peter into deeper waters (Luke 5:4).
“Duc in altum” which is my episcopal motto is a perennial test of radical discipleship. It is a call like that of Abraham and Sarah, to leave the familiar and the comfortable, to go to the unknown destination. (Not knowing where you are going is the road to destruction and not necessary as Catholics. We know that Catholic identity lived to its fullest leads to the cross, to weakness and death and resurrection.) It is a theme made with urgency and constancy by Pope Francis. It is a church that dares to risk the new frontier rather than a church that anchors in a safe harbor. The Barque of Peter is once again pushed out into deeper and more treacherous waters. Here, in the new exile and inhospitable landscape, we must learn to walk with others: other faiths, other traditions, other voices including those who oppose and are critical of us. We learn to be the humble servants of the Kingdom and the sacrament of God’s love and presence in the world.
THE CHALLENGE TO OFFER A HOPEFUL VISION:
I believe that one of the critical challenges for the church today is that of prophetic reframing. It is the ability to read the signs of the times and interpret them in a way that offers fresh and hopeful vision for the future despite appearances to the contrary. The prophet knows the past promise of God’s word, but knows how to interpret this word in her or his life and to speak that word to others that will lift them up. (Reading the signs of the time eh? Tried that, done that and how successful we have been, yah, right!)
One of the stories that has a feminist touch and a particular relevance to us today is the story of the Hebrew midwives Puah and Shiprah. Their courage, imagination, and daring are highlighted in the very first chapter of Exodus. It was a critical situation vis-à-vis the future of a people. Yet Puah and Shiprah were up to the task of reframing a harsh reality into a vision of fresh hope. They did so by refusing to obey Pharaoh’s command and by showing faithfulness to God in delivering new life, thus securing a vital future for his people.
Today, in the midst of many situations of seeming hopelessness, it is easy for us to be overwhelmed and numbed. We feel unable to meet the challenge of delivering new life on behalf of those who feel hopeless and disenfranchised. Yet like Puah and Shiprah, we are challenged to present an alternative vision of fresh hope. When we are on the side of the poor, the vulnerable, the suffering people and when we stand in solidarity with those without hope and act together, we can be channels of hope. In opening our eyes and hearts to the sufferings of our world, hope can be awakened, a hope that allows us to see things from the perspective of God.
This was what Mary MacKillop did when she rallied her sisters behind the poor and vulnerable in colonial Australia. She took a prophetic stance not simply in providing affordable quality Catholic education and health care to the poor masses but fundamentally in meeting the great cultural challenges of their times. “Never see a need without doing something about it”. In acting out of a strong passion for the Kingdom and a visceral compassion for the suffering, she brought about a fresh hope for others.
Like her, we are called to be channels of hope and to meet the challenges of our times. In what ways can we follow her prophetic vision and apply it to our context? Who are the people without hope and how can we reframe the harsh realities that they experience into a hopeful future?
THE CHALLENGE TO GO TO THE MARGINS:
Pope Francis constantly calls us to move beyond the security of status quo and take the risk of going to the periphery. The church must be the church of the poor and for the poor. The church must go out of itself in order to be close to those in need. Conversely, the church that does not go out into the world keeps Jesus imprisoned. (This is the new arrogance of today's less that humble papacy and magisterium, that somehow this generation of leaders is leading the Church to the periphery as though this was never done until now. What garbage!)
The church without its missionary impulse is unhealthy. For him, this missionary impulse has little to do with doing the minimum, with complacency and mediocrity. In fact, it has everything to do with taking risks and living with enthusiasm and commitment. We should not be content with status quo, especially when that status quo is less than what God wants for us as individuals and as a community. Australia is a wonderful country but where it is in terms of its treatment of asylum seekers, indigenous and marginalized people should trouble us.
If one can detect the direction of Pope Francis’ pontificate, it has something to do with the movement from security to boldness, from inward looking to outward looking, from preoccupation with our status quo, safeguarding our privileges to learning to be vulnerable, learning to convey God’s compassion to those who are on the edges of society and church.
Hence our challenge is to accompany people from the margins into a journey towards the fullness of life and love. It is to embrace the call of the Vatican Council to identify with the joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of those who are poor and in anyway afflicted. It is to be the bearer of joy to those who are most deprived of it. To do this, he/she must be able to live in and to bridge the yawning gap, the liminal space between the ideal and the real, between what the Church teaches and how the people respond.
We feel torn between the two. As representatives of the Church and her servants, we want to be faithful and preserve her unity and integrity. And yet on the other hand, we know that we must also walk with our people, identifying with them in their struggles, their questions and their uncertainties. We know that the faith and its radical demands cannot be compromised and accommodated to suit everyone’s interpretation. At the same time, the fifty shades of grey that life can present to the people in the real world demand that we walk with them in the search for truth in love. We look to Christ for inspiration in the way he immersed himself in their world and walked with them on the journey to liberation.
In fact, history has shown that religious life is invariably involved with a critique of status quo, a dissatisfaction of accommodation and a search for fresh and radical ways of following Christ. The challenge for those who wish to live the ideals of the Gospel is to not lose sight of the divine pathos and God’s preferential option for the poor.
It is a vocation of the Christian leader to be with his people in their hopes and struggles, anxieties and fears. He/she is to be “a Malcolm in the middle” who occupies in betwixt and between, liminal, peripheral and precarious places. It is not easy to be in the middle, and to be loyal to both ends of the spectrum, to belong to the Church of orthodoxy and yet also to minister in the world of the unorthodox. That is really between the rock and the hard place as they call it. Yet, that is the calling of the leader, because we are meant to be in the coal face, in the messiness of it all and at the same time in fidelity to the Gospel. We are sent to the strong and the weak, the wholesome and the broken, the churched and the unchurched, the pious and the impious, the normal and the bizarre. We are sent to them through the gate, who is Christ. We are sent often from the inside out and not from the outside in. Like Christ in his ministry among the sick and the lost, we are called to meet God in the most unlikely people and places.
Pope Francis challenges all of us to divest ourselves of clericalism and elitism, and return to the purity of the Gospel. His constant call to the church to be less concerned with itself and to be more outward looking encourages us to walk with our people in the ambiguities and complexities of their lives. The self-referential church steeped in a culture of splendour is in stark contrast with the church of the poor and for the poor. It is the latter that we who pattern ourselves according to Jesus the prophet on the margins endeavours to serve. It is like new wine in new wineskins. The leader for today’s church and today’s world is like Christ among the marginalized, the sick and sinner.
How can we respond to the challenge of being a church at the margins today? Where are the new “peripheries” and new “horizons” in Catholic education that we are called to be and to offer nearness and proximity?
THE CHALLENGE TO BE A MERCIFUL CHURCH:
By proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wants it to be a special time for the Church to contemplate the mystery of mercy and become a more effective sign of God’s action in the world. The symbolic opening of the Holy Door in Rome –which is to be replicated in all particular Churches- serves to remind us of the joy and hope that the Holy Spirit ushered through the Second Vatican Council. One cannot help but feel the ardent desire of the Holy Father in relaunching the project of the Council which is to present the Gospel to the men and women of their time in a new, fresh, more accessible and credible way. “The walls which too long had made the church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way” (MV4).
(The following drivel from the good Bishop is the basis of concern of the SSPX and not only them but many others. In fact Pope Francis seems to have revived the concern for the three enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil which the spirit of Vatican II which this bishop is mired in so hopes to recover! He seems unable to discern spirits which is at the core of post-Vatican II rot!) Prior to the 2nd Vatican Council, the church was suspicious of the world which was perceived as evil. Remember the classic three enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. It was a defensive, fortress church. Followed the lead of Pope John XXXIII and his optimistic aggiornamento, guided by “the signs of the times”, the gathered bishops recognized that the church needed to open itself to the world, engage with the world and even to learn from the world. Gaudium et Spes –the guiding document of the Council presented a new paradigm: the church is not an enclosure which protects its members against the sinful world. It is a fellow pilgrim with the men and women of our age. It is a church incarnate in the world. Therefore, it is time not of fearful retreat, disengagement and self-referential pomp, but of accompaniment and engagement. The Jubilee of Mercy is opportune for us to respond anew to the clarion call of the Council to engage with the hopes and joys, the griefs and anxieties of the people of our age. Thus Pope Francis affirms “The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters.” (MV10)
Pope Francis uses a rather unconventional term to describe the church. He famously says that pastors need to wear the scent of the sheep. Then he describes the church as a field hospital that treats the wounded after the battle. “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity”. That is his vision of the ideal church. Not a perfect society, nor the enclosure for the privileged but a refuge for the poor, an oasis for the weary and a hospital for the wounded. When I was in Italy, I was very intrigued by the private tombs in many churches. In medieval time, it was not uncommon for high ranking ecclesiastics, royals and even well-heeled citizens to be buried in ornate church buildings. I wonder if this was a vestige of the time when the Church was the arena for power. I wonder if this was the natural progression of the imperial Church which came to be born after the conversion of Constantine. Thank God Pope Francis has reclaimed for us the vision of Church of the “anawim”. “Anawim” refers to the faithful few or the remnants who endured much suffering and who formed the nucleus of the new Israel after the exile.
The field hospital is not concerned about defending against threat of encroachment and loss of its status and privileges. Instead, it goes out of itself to respond to the needs of those whose lives are at risk. It engages with the world rather than withdraws into enclaves. In fact, time and again, Pope Francis challenges the church to not be concerned with its own prerogatives. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security”.
Being merciful is at the heart of Catholic identity. It is not simply a matter of acting with mercy and compassion to those in need with our position of power and privilege intact. Rather, it is a radical discipleship of vulnerability and powerlessness in the footsteps of the humble servant of God. It is an existential stance in favour of the weak and the vulnerable in the face of the prevalent business model of success and power. It is about building people and relationships rather than profit and size. (In the paper, the neighbours who fight the proposed development in Springwood are described as the battlers taking on a giant CEO Parramatta). It has to do with the Kingdom mentality rather than the empire mentality. How can we be the merciful face of God to a wounded humanity in our school communities and families? How do we balance the need for recognition and success on the one hand and the fundamental ethos of care for the broken and the wounded on the other?
THE CHALLENGE TO BE AN INCLUSIVE CHURCH:
For me, one of the greatest challenges the church faces today is to be inclusive, to be a big tent church. Pope Francis urges us to be a church where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the Gospel. (Except if you embrace the Church as she was prior to Vatican II--you will be damned and excluded! Such hypocrisy!) You heard me say in my Installation Homily that there can be no future for the living church without this vital sense of ecclesial inclusiveness. By that I mean there must be space for everyone, especially those who have been hurt, excluded or alienated, be they abuse victims, survivors, divorcees, gays, lesbians, women, disaffected members (only liberal ones, not conservatives or the ultra orthodox!) The church will be less than what Christ intends it to be when issues of inclusion and equality are not fully addressed. That is why you heard me say that I am guided by the radical vision of Christ. I am committed to make the church in Parramatta the house for all peoples, a church where there is less an experience of exclusion but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity.
The teachings of Jesus like the parable of the Good Samaritan challenge us to think outside the square, outside the established patterns, norms and conventions. Jesus teaches us some home truths that are truly confronting and incisive. Samaritans were considered outsiders and outcasts by ordinary Jews. Yet in the parable, it was the Samaritan who was the unlikely hero. For he showed love and compassion to the person in need. On the contrary, the priest and the Levite who were considered the respected class of society and the custodians of tradition were found wanting. They put tradition and law in the way of basic human love. Thus, in crafting the characters in their cultural and religious context, Jesus really upset the tulip cart. He questioned the prevailing assumptions and stereotyped attitudes. He turned the presumed order of moral goodness upside down. The holders of tradition failed the test of good neighbour while the outcast proved himself an unlikely champion of basic human decency, mercy and compassion.
We can no longer understand the parable just in terms of being kind to those in need. It is an incisive lesson that cuts our prejudice to the quick. The lawyer who posed the question to Jesus “who is my neighbour” went away with much more than what he had bargained for. He was challenged to be the neighbour and to be one like the Samaritan. It would have been a profound and indeed humbling revelation: The villain had become a hero and vice versa. The meaning of goodness, humanity, moral uprightness had been redefined. The boundaries of acceptance, inclusion and love had been annulled. Jesus had presented to him a radical new way of seeing, acting and relating.
That is what Jesus consistently does. He has a habit of challenging ingrained stereotyped attitudes, subverting the tyranny of the majority, breaking social taboos, pushing the boundaries of love and redefining its meaning. “You heard it said that love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you….” His interactions with women, with tax collectors and other types of social outcast are nothing short of being revolutionary and boundary breaking. It is his radical vision of love, inclusion and human flourishing that ought to guide our pastoral response.
As the Gospel illustrates, it is the holders of the tradition who are often guilty of prejudice, discrimination and oppressive stereotype. The Church today needs to examine its own attitudes and actions towards the victims of injustice and adopt what I would call a seamless garment approach. We cannot be a strong moral force and an effective prophetic voice in society if we are simply defensive, inconsistent and divisive with regards to certain social issues. We cannot talk about the integrity of creation, the universal and inclusive love of God, while at the same time colluding with the forces of oppression in the ill-treatment of racial minorities, women and homosexual persons. It won’t wash with young people especially when we purport to treat gay people with love and compassion and yet define their sexuality as “intrinsically disordered”. This is particularly true when the Church has not been a shining beacon and a trail-blazer in the fight against inequality and intolerance. Rather, it has been driven involuntarily into a new world where many of the old stereotypes have been put to rest and the identities and rights of the marginalised are accorded justice, acceptance, affirmation and protection in our secular and egalitarian society.
In one of his interviews on a rather thorny issue of homosexuality, Pope Francis says that we must always consider the person, because – I quote “when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” It seems to me that the Pope has more than moved away from the approach of condemnation and judgement. He has refocused on the proclamation of God’s love for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised; he has firmly placed the pastoral emphasis on the dignity of every person; he has committed the Church to the way of engagement, affirmation and compassion which is at the heart of the Gospel. The Church can only be the conduit of compassion and speak the language of hope to a broken humanity when it truly personifies powerlessness and stands where Christ once stood, that is, firmly on the side of the outcast and the most vulnerable.
The Synod on the family was essentially an exercise in administering the medicine of mercy to the wounded. In the past, the results of synods were sometimes seen to be foregone conclusions. This synod, however, has seen the unleashing of the energy long locked up beneath the ice of institutional security. Pope Francis has really lived up to his vision of the Church daring to break loose from its comfort zone and self-referential mentality. It is a church attentive to the signs of the times and incarnate grace at work in the world, even among the unorthodox and the marginalized. Much emphasis has been placed on the question of communion to the divorced and remarried. Yet, through the lens of mercy, the real question is how the missionary Church can accommodate and accompany those struggling to live and still falling short of the Christian ideal. This ecclesial inclusiveness which was instrumental to the doubting Thomas’ journey to faith is characteristic of a Church that walks the walk with the weak.
Catholic schools are premised on the fundamental dignity of each and every person. Attention to the most vulnerable and needy is written into our DNA, our Catholic ethos. How can we be places where this sense of ecclesial inclusiveness is fully expressed? In what ways can we advance Jesus’ radical vision of love, inclusion and human flourishing in our communities?
In summary, I believe we are living a time of grace and hope precisely because this fallow time allows us to rid ourselves of what is unworthy of Christ and to grow more deeply in our identity and mission as his disciples. Hence, it is the time to reclaim for the Church:
* Less a role of power, dominance and privilege but more a position of vulnerability and powerlessness;
* Less an enclosure for the virtuous but more an oasis for the weary and downtrodden;
* Less an experience of exclusion and elitism but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity;
* Less of an attitude of “we are right and you are wrong” and more of an attitude of openness to truth wherever and whoever it is to be found;
* Less a leadership of control and clericalism but more a diakonia of a humble servant exemplified by Christ at the Last Supper;
* Less a language of condemnation but more a language of affirmation and compassion; and
* Less a preoccupation for its own maintenance but more a concern for the kingdom of God.
In the end, though, I firmly believe that we’re on the threshold of renewal and transformation. The Second Vatican Council set in motion a new paradigm that cannot be thwarted by fear and paralysis. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back. That new paradigm is one that is based on mutuality not exclusion, love not fear, service not clericalism, engagement with the world not flight from or hostility against it, incarnate grace not dualism. The Holy Spirit is at work even at a time of great anguish. He accompanies us as we move in the direction of the Kingdom.
Pope Francis has unleashed a new energy, he has poured a new wine which cannot be contained in old wineskins. He has challenged us to move in concert with him and bring about the rebirth of the church. I am endeavouring to follow the pope’s lead. I have forfeited my Qantas Club Membership which is not a big deal these days. I fly with Tiger regularly –on a wing and a prayer. But that’s the easy part. The harder part is to do what most of you do, which is to labour at the coalface of the church. It is have the smell of the sheep, to walk with people, identifying with them in their struggles, their questions and their uncertainties. It is to discern and live out the vision of hope in the midst of life’s disappointments.
May we be like the prophets for our people during this our contemporary exile. May we be strengthened to walk the journey of faith with them, proclaim the message of hope, the signs of the new Kairos and lead them in the direction of the kingdom. May all of us enact the rhythm of the paschal mystery of dying and rising in the pattern of our Lord who is the Alpha and the Omega.
Posted on 19 August 2016
My final comments: The world, that is the secular world, embraces so much of what this good bishop is saying and he find appaluse from them which is what he wants. The reason for the applause is that the loss of true Catholic identity that sets us apart from the world, the flesh and the devil is undercut and marginalized. It makes it easier for the world, the flesh and the devil to have their day.
Dictators do some good things, just ask Italians about Mussolini and Germans who saw Hitler as their savior. When the Church bows to this sort of stuff in the name of accompanying those who promote the antithesis of the what the true Church is about while incorporating some of her good, we spiral into the dismal situation in which the Church finds herself in Australia and other parts of the world.
Pope Francis strikes again with his pastoral theology and Jesuit Ignatian spirituality. The thing is that I agree with him. Life is messy even for Catholic priests and laity. Let's just admit it and move on with our discernment!
This is what His Holiness said about the shades of gray in people's lives, clergy or laity:
In a meeting with roughly 30 members of his own
Jesuit religious order in Poland in late July, Pope Francis said that
young priests must be taught the fine art of discernment, because "not
everything is black over white, or white over black. No! The shades of
gray prevail in life."
“Now I want to add something. I ask you to work with seminarians. Above all, give them what we’ve received from [St. Ignatius’] exercises: the wisdom of discernment,” he said.
Priests above all, but lay people too, need to be taught discernment, the pope said, because “in life, not everything is black over white or white over black. No! The shades of gray prevail in life. We must teach them to discern in this gray area.”
...(Pope) Francis said... a Jesuit must be a man “with the nose for the supernatural, that is, he must be a man gifted with a sense of the divine and of the diabolical relative to the events of human life and history.”
“The Jesuit must therefore be capable of discerning both in the field of God and in the field of the devil,” Francis said.
My comments: Certainly some things are black and white. It is always wrong to murder, be that through abortion or some other act of violence. However, the gray comes in when one is discussing self-defense or has an accident and kills someone, like a pedestrian. Civil law will prosecute you for homicide even an auto accident if negligence or distraction is the cause of the death. Premeditated murder, though, is different. Not too much gray in that.
Some people cohabit with a friend and there might be sex involved but it keeps them from spiraling into a completely dissolute life of promiscuity or worse.
In weakness, God saved us through His Son Jesus who was made to be weak but truly strong in accepting persecution, trial, passion and death. This is not the way of the world and the powerful but it is the way of God.
But most of all, we have to discern the influence of Satan in our lives and on the world. The devil, the flesh and the world are all a part of Jesuit discernment. It is Catholic discernment and thank God Pope Francis points this out to us.
Cardinal Sarah: reaction to my ad orientem speech was ‘not always very accurate’
My comment:One thing is clear from Cardinal Sarah, and I hope all are in agreement as I am in this school of thought as well: We need an authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as the other documents of Vatican II and we need to recognize what is outdated in term of Vatican II and some of the issues of the early 1960's worldwide. Pastoral theology is not doctrine and certainly not dogma!
During his address to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on ‘Liturgical Life and the Priesthood’, the Vatican’s liturgy chief said: “Last month, in London, I gave a presentation ‘Towards an authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium’ … This talk received a lot of attention — some of it not always very accurate!”
During his address in July at the Sacra Liturgia conference, Cardinal Sarah asked priests to implement the practice of celebrating Mass facing east “wherever possible” prompting both the Vatican and the Archbishop of Westminster to issue statements, distancing themselves from Cardinal Sarah’s comments.
During his more recent address in Sri Lanka, the cardinal still reiterated the problems with celebrating Mass facing the people, saying that Mass had become to focused on the priest and the congregation, rather than God Himself.
He said: “In recent decades in some countries the Sacred Liturgy has become too anthropocentric; man not Almighty God has often become its focus. This archdiocese has had very fine archbishops, and I think that this problem is probably not a very large one here. However we must take care to form our people that God, not ourselves, is the focus of our worship.”
The cardinal continued by emphasising that that the liturgy is not a celebration of our own achievements but God’s love and mercy. He said: “We do not come to the Church to celebrate what we have done or who we are. Rather, we come to celebrate and give thanks for all that Almighty God has done, and continues in His love and mercy to do, for us.
“What He does in the liturgy is what is essential; what we do is to present our ‘first fruits’—the best that we can—in worship and adoration. When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’ there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and of his personality, becoming too central.
“In every Catholic liturgy, the Church, made up of both minister and faithful, gives her complete focus – body, heart and mind – to God who is the centre of our lives and the origin of every blessing and grace.”
Full text: Cardinal Sarah at Sacra Liturgia conference
The cardinal speech entitled, Towards an Authentic Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, was delivered in London on July 5
Your Excellencies, dear Fathers, deacons and dear religious men and women, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the first place I wish to express my thanks to His Eminence, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, for his welcome to the Archdiocese of Westminster and for his kind words of greeting. So too I wish to thank His Excellency, Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, for his invitation to be present with you at this, the third international “Sacra Liturgia” conference, and to present the opening address this evening. Your Excellency, I congratulate you on this international initiative to promote the study of the importance of liturgical formation and celebration in the life and mission of the Church.
I am very happy to be here with you all today. I thank each of you for your presence which reflects your appreciation of the importance of what the then Cardinal Ratzinger once called “the question of the liturgy” today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This is a great sign of hope for the Church.
In his message dated 18th February 2014 to the symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, observed that the marking of fifty years since the promulgation of the Constitution should push us “to revive the commitment to accept and implement [the] teaching [of Sacrosanctum Concilium] in an ever fuller way.” The Holy Father continued:
It is necessary to unite a renewed willingness to go forward along the path indicated by the Council Fathers, as there remains much to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the part of the baptized and ecclesial communities. I refer, in particular, to the commitment to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation, both of lay faithful as well as clergy and consecrated persons.
The Holy Father is correct. We have much to do if we are to realise the vision of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council for the liturgical life of the Church. We have very much to do if today, some fifty years after the Council concluded, we are to achieve “a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”
In this address I wish to place before you some considerations on how the Western Church might move towards a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. In doing so I propose to ask “What did the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council intend in the liturgical reform?” Then I would like to consider how their intentions were implemented following the Council. Finally, I would like to put before you some suggestions for the liturgical life of the Church today, so that our liturgical practice might more faithfully reflect the intentions of the Council Fathers.
WHAT IS THE SACRED LITURGY?
But first we must consider a preliminary question. That is the question: “What is the Sacred Liturgy?” Because if we do not understand the nature of Catholic liturgy, as distinct from the rites of other Christian communities and of other religions, we cannot hope to understand the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, or to move towards a more faithful implementation of it.
In his Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini (22 November 1903) Pope Saint Pius X, taught that “the holy mysteries” and “the public and solemn prayer of the Church,” that is, the Sacred Liturgy, are the “foremost and indispensible fount” for acquiring “the true Christian spirit.” St Pius X therefore called for a real and fruitful participation in the Church’s liturgical rites by all. As we know, this teaching and this exhortation would be repeated by article 14 of Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Pope Pius XI raised his voice to the same end some twenty-five years later in his Apostolic Constitution Divini Cultus (20 December 1928), teaching that “the liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need.”
Pope Pius XII devoted an Encyclical letter, Mediator Dei (20 November 1947) to the Sacred Liturgy, in which he taught that:
The Sacred Liturgy is…the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members. (n. 20)
The Pope taught that the “nature and the object of the sacred liturgy” is that “it aims at uniting our souls with Christ and sanctifying them through the divine Redeemer in order that Christ be honoured and, through Him and in Him, the most Holy Trinity.” (n. 171)
The Second Vatican Council taught that through the liturgy “the work of our redemption is accomplished” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2), and that the liturgy:
…is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.
From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree. (n. 7)
Following on from this, Sacrosanctum Concilium taught that the liturgy:
…is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper. (n. 10)
It would be possible to continue this exposition of the magisterium’s teaching on the nature of the Sacred Liturgy with the teaching of the post-conciliar popes and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But for the moment let us stop at the Council. Because it is very clear, I think, that the Church teaches that Catholic liturgy is the singularly privileged locus of Christ’s saving action in our world today, by means of real participation in which we receive His grace and strength which is so necessary for our perseverance and growth in the Christian life. It is the divinely instituted place where we come to fulfil our duty of offering sacrifice to God, of offering the One True Sacrifice. It is where we realise our profound need to worship Almighty God. Catholic liturgy is something sacred, something which is holy by its very nature. Catholic liturgy is no ordinary human gathering.
I wish to underline a very important fact here: God, not man is at the centre of Catholic liturgy. We come to worship Him. The liturgy is not about you and I; it is not where we celebrate our own identity or achievements or exalt or promote our own culture and local religious customs. The liturgy is first and foremost about God and what He has done for us. In His Divine Providence Almighty God founded the Church and instituted the Sacred Liturgy by means of which we are able to offer Him true worship in accordance with the New Covenant established by Christ. In doing this, in entering into the demands of the sacred rites developed in the tradition of the Church, we are given our true identity and meaning as sons and daughters of the Father.
It is essential that we understand this specificity of Catholic worship, for in recent decades we have seen many liturgical celebrations where people, personalities and human achievements have been too prominent, almost to the exclusion of God. As Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote: “If the liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Collected Works vol. 11, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2014, p. 593).
We must be utterly clear about the nature of Catholic worship if we are to read the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy correctly and if we are to implement it faithfully. For the Fathers of the Council were formed in the magisterial teachings of the twentieth century popes that I have cited. St John XXIII did not call an Ecumenical Council to undermine these teachings, which he himself promoted. The Council Fathers did not arrive in Rome in October 1962 with the intention of producing an anthropocentric liturgy. Rather, the Pope and the Council Fathers sought to find ways in which Christ’s faithful could draw ever more deeply from the “foremost and indispensible fount” so as to acquire “the true Christian spirit” for their own salvation and for that of all men and women of their day.
WHAT DID THE FATHERS OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL INTEND?
We must explore the intentions of the Fathers of the Council in more detail, particularly if we seek to be more faithful to their intentions today. What did they intend to bring about through the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy?
Let us begin with the very first article of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which states:
This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. (n. 1)
Let us remember that when the Council opened liturgical reform had been a feature of the past decade and that the Fathers were very familiar with these reforms. They were not considering these questions theoretically, without any context. They expected to continue the work already begun and to consider the “altioria principia,” the higher or fundamental principles of liturgical reform, spoken of by St John XXIII in his Motu Proprio Rubricarum Instructum of 25th July 1960.
Hence, article one of the Constitution gives four reasons for undertaking a liturgical reform. The first, “to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful,” is the constant concern of the Church’s pastors in every age.
The second, “to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change,” may cause us to pause and reflect, particularly given the zeitgeist of the 1960s. But in truth, if it is read with that hermeneutic of continuity with which most certainly the Council Fathers intended it, this means that the Council desired liturgical development where possible so as to facilitate an increased vigour to Christian life. The Council Fathers did not want to change things simply for the sake of change!
So too, the third reason, “to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ,” might cause us to pause lest we think that the Fathers wished to instrumentalise the Sacred Liturgy and make of it an ecumenical tool, to render it simply a means to an end. But can this be the case? Certainly, after the Council, some may have tried to do this. But the Fathers themselves knew that this was not possible. Unity in worship before the altar of sacrifice is the desired end of ecumenical endeavour. The liturgy is not a means to promote good will or cooperation in apostolic works. No, here the Council Fathers are saying that they believe that liturgical reform can be part of a momentum which can help people to achieve that Catholic unity without which full communion in worship is not possible.
The same motivation is found in the fourth reason given for liturgical reform: “to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.” Here, though, we move beyond our separated Christian brothers and sisters and consider “the whole of mankind.” The Church’s mission is to every man and woman! The Fathers of the Council believed this and hoped that more fruitful participation in the liturgy would facilitate a renewal in the Church’s missionary activity.
Let me give one example. For many years before the Council, in missionary countries and also in the more developed ones, there had been much discussion about the possibility of increasing the use of the vernacular languages in the liturgy, principally for the readings from Sacred Scripture, also for some of the other parts of the first part of the Mass (which we now call the “Liturgy of the Word”) and for liturgical singing. The Holy See had already given many permissions for the use of the vernacular in the administration of the sacraments. This is the context in which the Fathers of the Council spoke of the possible positive ecumenical or missionary effects of liturgical reform. It is true that the vernacular has a positive place in the liturgy. The Fathers were seeking this, not authorising the protestantization of the Sacred Liturgy or agreeing to it being subjected to a false inculturation.
I am an African. Let me say clearly: the liturgy is not the place to promote my culture. Rather, it is the place where my culture is baptised, where my culture is taken up into the divine. Through the Church’s liturgy (which missionaries have carried throughout the world) God speaks to us, He changes us and enables us to partake in His divine life. When someone becomes a Christian, when someone enters into full communion with the Catholic Church, they receive something more, something which changes them. Certainly, cultures and other Christians bring gifts with them into the Church—the liturgy of the Ordinariates of Anglicans now in full communion with the Catholic Church is a beautiful example of this. But they bring these gifts with humility, and the Church in her maternal wisdom makes use of them as she judges appropriate.
Nevertheless, it seems incumbent to be very clear on what we mean by inculturation. If we truly understand the meaning of the term as an insight into the mystery of Jesus Christ, then we have the key to inculturation, which is not a quest nor a claim for the legitimacy of Africanization nor Latin Americanization nor Asianization in substitution of a Westernization of Christianity. Inculturation is neither a canonization of a local culture nor a settling into this culture at the risk of making it absolute. Inculturation is an irruption and an epiphany of the Lord in the depths of our being. And the irruption of the Lord in our life causes a disruption, a detachment opening the way to a path according to new orientations that are creating elements of a new culture, vehicle of the Good News for man and his dignity as a Son of God. When the Gospel enters into our life, it disrupts it, it transforms it. It gives it a new direction, new moral and ethical orientations. It turns the heart of man towards God and neighbour to love and serve them absolutely and without design. When Jesus enters into a life, he transfigures it, he deifies it by the radiant light of His Face, just as St Paul was on the road to Damascus (see: Acts 9:5-6).
Just as by his Incarnation the Word of God became like men in all things, except sin (Heb 4:15), so the gospel assumes all human and cultural values, but refuses to take shape in the structures of sin. This means that the more individual and collective sins abound in a human or ecclesial community, the less room there exists for inculturation. On the contrary, the more a Christian community and shines with holiness and radiates evangelical values, the more it is likely to inculturate the Christian message. The inculturation of the faith is the challenge of sanctity. It verifies the degree of holiness, and the level of the Gospel’s penetration, and of the faith in Jesus Christ in a Christian community. Inculturation, therefore, is not religious folklore.
It is not essentially realized in the use of local languages, instruments and Latin American music, African dances or African or Asian rituals and symbols in the liturgy and the sacraments. Inculturation is God who descends into the life, into the moral behaviour, into the cultures and into the customs of men in order to free them from sin and in order to introduce them into the life of the Trinity. Certainly the Faith has in need of a culture so as to be communicated. This is why Saint John Paul II affirmed that a faith that does not become culture is a faith that is dying: “Properly applied, inculturation must be guided by two principles: “compatibility with the gospel and communion with the universal Church.” (Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, n. 54).
I have spent some time considering the first article of the Constitution because it is very important that we do read Sacrosanctum Concilium in its context, as a document which intended to promote legitimate development (such as the increased use of the vernacular) in continuity with the nature, teaching and mission of the Church in the modern world. We must not read into it things which it does not say. The Fathers did not intend a revolution, but an evolution, a moderate reform.
The intentions of the Council Fathers are very clear from other key passages. Article 14 is one of the most important of the whole Constitution:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
In the restoration and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.
Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless the pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it. A prime need, therefore, is that attention be directed, first of all, to the liturgical instruction of the clergy.
We hear the voice of the pre-conciliar popes here, seeking a real and fruitful participation in the liturgy, and in order to bring that about, the insistence that a thorough instruction or formation in the liturgy is urgently necessary. The Fathers show a realism here that was perhaps forgotten afterwards. Let us listen again to those words of the Council and ponder their importance: “it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this (active participation) unless the pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it.”
At the beginning of article 21 we also hear the Fathers’ intentions very clearly: “In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the Sacred Liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself.” “Ut populus christianus in sacra Liturgia abundantiam gratiarum securius assequatur…” When we study Latin we learn that the word “ut” signifies a clear purpose that follows in the same clause. What did the Council Fathers intend? —that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the Sacred Liturgy. How did they propose to do this? —by undertaking with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself (“ipsius Liturgiae generalem instaurationem sedulo curare cupit”). Please note that the Fathers speak of a “restoration,” not a revolution!
One of the clearest and most beautiful expressions of the intentions of the Fathers of the Council is found at the beginning of the second chapter of the Constitution, which considers the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. In article 48 we read:
The Church…earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.
My brothers and sisters, this is what the Council Fathers intended. Yes, certainly, they discussed and voted on specific ways of achieving their intentions. But let us be very clear: the ritual reforms proposed in the Constitution such as the restoration of the prayer of the faithful at Mass (n. 53), the extension of concelebration (n. 57) or some of its policies such as the simplification desired by articles 34 and 50, are all subordinate to the fundamental intentions of the Council Fathers I have just outlined. They are means to an end, and it is the end which we must achieve.
If we are to move towards a more authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, it is these goals, these ends, which we must keep before us first and foremost. It may be that, if we study them with fresh eyes and with the benefit of the experience of the past five decades, we shall see some specific ritual reforms and certain liturgical policies in a different light. If, today, so as to “impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful” and “help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church,” some of these need to be reconsidered, let us ask the Lord to give us the love and the humility and wisdom so to do.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED FOLLOWING THE PROMULGATION OF SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM?
I raise this possibility of looking again at the Constitution and at the reform which followed its promulgation because I do not think that we can honestly read even the first article of Sacrosanctum Concilium today and be content that we have achieved its aims. My brothers and sisters, where are the faithful of whom the Council Fathers spoke? Many of the faithful are now unfaithful: they do not come to the liturgy at all. To use the words of St John Paul II: “Forgetfulness of God led to the abandonment of man. It is therefore no wonder that in this context a vast field has opened for the unrestrained development of nihilism in philosophy, of relativism in values and morality, and of pragmatism – and even a cynical hedonism – in daily life. European culture gives the impression of ‘silent apostasy’ on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist” (Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, 28 June 2003, 9). Where is the unity the Council hoped to achieve? We have not yet reached it. Have we made real progress in calling the whole of mankind into the household of the Church? I do not think so. And yet we have done very much to the liturgy!
In my 47 years of life as a priest and after more than 36 years of episcopal ministry I can attest that many Catholic communities and individuals live and pray the liturgy as reformed following the Council with fervour and joy, deriving from it many, if not all, of the goods that the Council Fathers desired. This is a great fruit of the Council. But from my experience I also know—now also through my service as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments—that there are many distortions of the liturgy throughout the Church today, and there are many situations that could be improved so that the aims of the Council can be achieved. Before I reflect on some possible improvements, let us consider what happened following the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
In the sixteenth century the Pope entrusted the liturgical reform desired by the Council of Trent to a special commission which worked to prepare revised editions of the liturgical books which were eventually promulgated by the Pope. This is a perfectly normal procedure and it was the one adopted by Blessed Paul VI in 1964 when he established the Consilium ad exsequendam constitutionem de sacra liturgia. We know much about this commission because of the published memoirs of its secretary, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini (The Reform of the Liturgy: 1948-1975, Liturgical Press, Collegeville 1990).
The work of this commission to implement the Constitution was certainly subject to influences, ideologies and new proposals that were not present in Sacrosanctum Concilium. For example, it is true that the Council did not propose the introduction of new Eucharistic prayers, but that this idea came up and was accepted, and that new prayers were authoritatively promulgated by the Pope. It is true, also, as Archbishop Bugnini himself makes clear, that some prayers and rites were constructed or revised according to the spirit of the times, particularly according to ecumenical sensitivities. Whether or not too much was done, or whether what was done truly helped to achieve the aims of the Constitution, or whether they in fact hindered them, are questions we need to study. I am very happy that today scholars are considering these matters in depth. Nevertheless it is an important fact that Blessed Paul VI judged the reforms proposed by the commission to be suitable and that he promulgated them. With his Apostolic authority he established them as normative and ensured their liceity and validity.
But while the official work of reform was taking place some very serious misinterpretations of the liturgy emerged and took root in different places throughout the world. These abuses of the Sacred Liturgy grew up because of an erroneous understanding of the Council, resulting in liturgical celebrations that were subjective and which were more focused on the individual community’s desires than on the sacrificial worship of Almighty God. My predecessor as Prefect of the Congregation, Francis Cardinal Arinze, once called this sort of thing “the do-it- yourself Mass.” St John Paul even found it necessary to write the following in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003):
The Magisterium’s commitment to proclaiming the Eucharistic mystery has been matched by interior growth within the Christian community. Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it.
Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned.
Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.
It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery (n. 10).
As well as abusive practices, there was adverse reaction to the officially promulgated reforms. Some people found that they had gone too far too quickly, or even suspected the official reforms of being doctrinally suspect. One remembers the controversy that emerged in 1969 with the letter sent to Paul VI by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci expressing very serious concerns, after which the Pope judged it appropriate to make certain doctrinal precisions. These questions, too, need to be studied carefully.
But there was also a pastoral reality here: whether for good reasons or not, some people could or would not participate in the reformed rites. They stayed away, or only participated in the unreformed liturgy where they could find it, even when its celebration was not authorised. In this way the liturgy became an expression of divisions within the Church, rather than one of Catholic unity. The Council did not intend that the liturgy divide us one from another! St John Paul II worked to heal this division, aided by Cardinal Ratzinger who, as Pope Benedict XVI, sought to facilitate the necessary internal reconciliation in the Church by establishing in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007) that the more ancient form of the Roman rite is to be available without restriction to those individuals and groups who wish to draw from its riches. In God’s Providence it is now possible to celebrate our Catholic unity whilst respecting, and even rejoicing in, a legitimate diversity of ritual practice.
Finally, I would like to note that amidst the work of reform and translation that took place after the Council (and we know that some of this work was done too quickly, meaning that today we have to revise the translations to render them more faithful to the original Latin), there was perhaps not enough attention paid to what the Council Fathers said was essential if the fruitful participation in the liturgy that they desired would be achieved: that the clergy “become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it.” We know that a building with weak foundations is at risk of damage or even of collapse.
We may have built a very new, modern liturgy in the vernacular, but if we have not laid the correct foundations—if our seminarians and clergy are not “thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” as the Council required—then they themselves cannot form the people entrusted to their care. We need to take the words of the Council itself very seriously: it would be “futile” to hope for a liturgical renewal without a thorough liturgical formation. Without this essential formation clergy could even damage peoples’ faith in the Eucharistic mystery.
I do not wish to be thought of as being unduly pessimistic, and I say again: there are many, many faithful lay men and women, many clergy and religious for whom the liturgy as reformed after the Council is a source of much spiritual and apostolic fruit, and for that I thank Almighty God. But, even from my brief analysis just now, I think you will agree that we can do better so that the Sacred Liturgy truly becomes the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as the Fathers of the Council so earnestly desired.
Anyway, this is what Pope Francis asks us to do: “It is necessary, he said, to unite a renewed willingness to go forward along the path indicated by the Council Fathers, as there remains much to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the part of the baptised and ecclesial communities. I refer, in particular, to the commitments to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation, both of lay faithful as well as clergy and consecrated persons”.
HOW SHOULD WE MOVE TOWARDS A MORE AUTHENTIC IMPLEMENTATION OF SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM TODAY?
In the light of the fundamental desires of the Council Fathers and of the different situations that we have seen arise following the Council, I would like to present some practical considerations on how we can implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully today. Even though I serve as the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, I do so in all humility as a priest and a bishop in the hope that they will promote mature reflection and scholarship and good liturgical practice throughout the Church.
It will come as no surprise if I say that first of all we must examine the quality and depth of our liturgical formation, of how we imbue our clergy, religious and lay faithful with the spirit and power of the liturgy. Too often we assume that our candidates for ordination to the priesthood or the permanent diaconate “know” enough about the liturgy. But the Council was not insisting on knowledge here, though, of course, the Constitution stressed the importance of liturgical studies (see: nn. 15-17). No, the liturgical formation that is primary and essential is more one of immersion in the liturgy, in the deep mystery of God our loving Father. It is a question of living the liturgy in all its richness, so that having drunk deeply from its fount we always have a thirst for its delights, its order and beauty, its silence and contemplation, its exultation and adoration, its ability to connect us intimately with He who is at work in and through the Church’s sacred rites.
That is why those “in formation” for pastoral ministry should live the liturgy as fully as is possible in their seminaries or houses of formation. Candidates for the permanent diaconate should have an immersion in an intense liturgical life over a prolonged period also. And, I would add, that the full and rich celebration of the more ancient use of the Roman rite, the usus antiquior, should be an important part of liturgical formation for clergy, for how can we begin to comprehend or celebrate the reformed rites with a hermeneutic of continuity if we have never experienced the beauty of the liturgical tradition which the Fathers of the Council themselves knew and which has produced so many saints over the centuries? A wise openness to the mystery of the Church and her rich, centuries-old tradition, and a humble docility to what the Holy Spirit says to the Churches today are real signs that we belong to Jesus Christ: And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13:52).
If we attend to this, if our new priests and deacons truly thirst for the liturgy, they will themselves be able to form those entrusted to their care—even if the liturgical circumstances and possibilities of their ecclesial mission are more modest than those of the seminary or of a cathedral. I am aware of many priests in such circumstances who form their people in the spirit and power of the liturgy, and whose parishes are examples of great liturgical beauty. We should remember that dignified simplicity is not the same as reductive minimalism or a negligent and vulgar style. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, teaches in his Apostolic Exhortation the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.” (n. 24)
Secondly, I think that it is very important that we are clear about the nature of liturgical participation, of the participatio actuosa for which the Council called. There has been a lot of confusion here over recent decades. Article 48 of the Constitution states: “The Church…earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.” The Council sees participation as primarily internal, coming about “through a good understanding of the rites and prayers.” The inner life, the life immersed in God and intimately inhabited by God is the indispensable condition for a successful and fruitful participation in the Holy Mysteries that we celebrate in the liturgy. The Eucharistic celebration must be essentially lived internally. It is within us that God wants to meet us. The Fathers called for the faithful to sing, to respond to the priest, to assume liturgical ministries that are rightfully theirs, certainly, but it insists that all should be “conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.”
If we understand the priority of internalising our liturgical participation we will avoid the noisy and dangerous liturgical activism that has been too prominent in recent decades. We do not go to the liturgy so as to perform, to do things for others to see: we go to be connected with Christ’s action through an internalisation of the external liturgical rites, prayers, signs and symbols. It may be that we priests whose vocation is to minister liturgically need to remember this more than others! But we also need to form others, particularly our children and young people, in the true meaning of liturgical participation, in the true way to pray the liturgy.
Thirdly, I have spoken of the fact that some of the reforms introduced following the Council may have been put together according to the spirit of the times and that there has been an increasing amount of critical study by faithful sons and daughters of the Church asking whether what was in fact produced truly implemented the aims of the Constitution, or whether in reality they went beyond them. This discussion sometimes takes place under the title of a “reform of the reform,” and I am aware that Father Thomas Kocik presented a learned study on this question at the Sacra Liturgia conference in New York one year ago.
I do not think that we can dismiss the possibility or the desirability of an official reform of the liturgical reform, because its proponents make some important claims in their attempt to be faithful to the Council’s insistence in article 23 of the Constitution “that sound tradition…be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress.” It must begin with a careful theological, historical, pastoral study and “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”
Indeed, I can say that when I was received in audience by the Holy Father last April, Pope Francis asked me to study the question of a reform of a reform and the way in which the two forms of the Roman rite could enrich each other. This will be a long and delicate work and I ask for your patience and prayers. But if we are to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully, if we are to achieve what the Council desired, this is a serious question which must be carefully studied and acted on with the necessary clarity and prudence in prayer and total submission to God.
We priests, we bishops bear a great responsibility. How our good example builds up good liturgical practice; how our carelessness, our routine or wrongdoing harms the Church and her Sacred Liturgy!
We priests must be worshippers first and foremost. Our people can see the difference between a priest who celebrates with faith and one who celebrates in a hurry, frequently looking at his watch, almost so as to say that he wants to get back to his pastoral work or to other engagements or to go to view his television as quickly as possible! Fathers, we can do no more important thing than celebrate the sacred mysteries: let us beware of the temptation of liturgical sloth or lukewarmness, because it is a temptation of the devil.
We must remember that we are not the authors of the liturgy, we are its humble ministers, subject to its discipline and laws. We are also responsible to form those who assist us in liturgical ministries in both the spirit and power of the liturgy and indeed its regulations. Sometimes I have seen priests step aside to allow extraordinary ministers distribute Holy Communion: this is wrong, it is a denial of the priestly ministry as well as a clericalisation of the laity. When this happens it is a sign that formation has gone very wrong, and that it needs to be corrected. (see: Mt 14:18-21). “Then, taking the five loaves… gave them to his disciples to set before the people… Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men (Mk 6:30-44; Mt 14:18-21).
I have also seen priests, and bishops, vested to celebrate Holy Mass, take out telephones and cameras and use them in the Sacred Liturgy. This is a terrible indictment of what they believe to be the mission they assume when they put on the liturgical vestments, which clothe and transform us as an alter Christus—and much more, as ipse Christus, as Christ himself. To do this is a sacrilege. No bishop, priest or deacon vested for liturgical ministry or present in the sanctuary should be taking photographs, even at large-scale concelebrated Masses. That priests sadly often do this at such Masses, or talk with each other and sit casually, is a sign, I think, that we need urgently to rethink the appropriateness of these immense concelebrations, especially if they lead priests into this sort of scandalous behaviour that is so unworthy of the mystery being celebrated, or if the sheer size of these concelebrations leads to a risk of the profanation of the Blessed Eucharist.
It is equally a scandal and profanation for the lay faithful to take photographs during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. They should participate through prayer and not by spending their time taking photos!
I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.
And so, dear Fathers, I humbly and fraternally ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their backs to me and not their faces” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord! Since the day of his Baptism, the Christian knows only one direction: the Orient. “You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the East (ad Orientem), for one who renounces the devil turns towards Christ and fixes his gaze directly on Him” (From the beginning of the Treatise on the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan).
I very humbly and fraternally would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way, particularly at large celebrations in your dioceses and in your cathedral. Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the centre of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ’s faithful to him as fellow worshippers united in the one same act of adoration. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries.
We bishops have a great responsibility, and one day we shall have to answer to the Lord for our stewardship. We are the owners of nothing! Nothing belongs to us! As St Paul teaches, we are merely “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). We are responsible to ensure that the sacred realities of the liturgy are respected in our dioceses and that our priests and deacons not only observe the liturgical laws, but know the spirit and power of the liturgy from which they emerge. I was very encouraged to read the presentation on “The Bishop: Governor, Promoter and Guardian of the Liturgical Life of the Diocese” made to the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon in the USA, and I fraternally encourage my brother bishops to study his considerations carefully.
All liturgical ministers should make a examination of conscience periodically. For this I recommend part II of the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of Benedict XVI (22 February 2007), “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated.” It is almost ten years since this Exhortation was published as the collegial fruit of the 2005 Synod of Bishops. How much progress have we made in that time? What more do we need to do? We must ask ourselves these questions before the Lord, each of us according to our responsibility, and then do what we can and what we must to achieve the vision outlined by Pope Benedict.
At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the extraordinary liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.
Before I conclude, please permit me to mention some other small ways which can also contribute to a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. One is that we must sing the liturgy, we must sing the liturgical texts, respecting the liturgical traditions of the Church and rejoicing in the treasury of sacred music that is ours, most especially that music proper to the Roman rite, Gregorian chant. We must sing sacred liturgical music not merely religious music, or worse, profane songs.
We must get the right balance between the vernacular languages and the use of Latin in the liturgy. The Council never intended to insinuate that the Roman rite be exclusively celebrated in the vernacular. But it did intend to allow its increased use, particularly for the readings.
Today it should be possible, especially with modern means of printing, to facilitate comprehension by all when Latin is used, perhaps for the liturgy of the Eucharist, and of course this is particularly appropriate at international gatherings where the local vernacular is not understood by many. And naturally, when the vernacular is used, it must be a faithful translation of the original Latin, as Pope Francis recently affirmed to me.
We must ensure that adoration is at the heart of our liturgical celebrations. The heart of our liturgy is the adoration of God. Too often we do not move from celebration to adoration, but if we do not do that I worry that we may not have always participated in the liturgy fully, internally. Two bodily dispositions are helpful, indeed indispensible here. The first is silence. If I am never silent, if the liturgy gives me no space for silent prayer and contemplation, how can I adore Christ, how can I connect with him in my heart and soul? Silence is very important, and not only before and after the liturgy. It is the foundation of any deep spiritual life.
So too kneeling at the consecration (unless I am sick) is essential. In the West this is an act of bodily adoration that humbles us before our Lord and God. It is itself an act of prayer. Where kneeling and genuflection have disappeared from the liturgy, they need to be restored, in particular for our reception of our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. Dear Fathers, where possible and with the pastoral prudence of which I spoke earlier, form your people in this beautiful act of worship and love. Let us kneel in adoration and love before the Eucharistic Lord once again! “Man is not fully man unless he falls on his knees before God to adore Him, to contemplate his dazzling sanctity and let himself be remodelled in his image and likeness” (R. Sarah, On the Road to Ninive, Paulines Publications Africa 2012, p.199).
In speaking of the reception of Holy Communion kneeling I would like to recall the 2002 letter of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments which clarifies that “any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture [is] a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful” (Letter, 1 July 2002, Notitiae, n. 436, Nov-Dec 2002, p. 583).
Correctly vesting all the liturgical ministers in the sanctuary, including lectors, is also very important if such ministries are to be considered authentic and if they are to be exercised with the decorum due to the Sacred Liturgy—also if the ministers themselves are to show the correct reverence for God and for the mysteries they minister.
These are some suggestions: I am sure that many others could be made. I put them before you as possible ways of moving towards “the right way of celebrating the liturgy inwardly and outwardly,” which was of course the desire expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger at the beginning of his great work, The Spirit of the Liturgy. (Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Collected Works vol. 11, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2014, p. 4). I encourage you to do all that you can to realise this goal, which is utterly consistent with that of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
I began this address with a consideration of the teachings of the twentieth century popes on the Sacred Liturgy. The first of them, St Pius X, had the personal motto: instaurare omia in Christo—to restore all things in Christ. I suggest that we take these words and make them our own standard as we seek to work towards a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, for if when we come to the Sacred Liturgy we enter into the mentality of Christ, if we put on Christ as we put on our baptismal robe or the vestments proper to our liturgical ministry, we cannot go far astray.
It is sadly true that in the decades since the Second Vatican Council, “alongside [the] lights, there are also shadows” in the Church’s liturgical life, as Saint John Paul II said in Ecclesia de Eucharistia (n.10). And it is our duty to address the causes of this. But it is a source of great hope and joy that today, as the twenty-first century proceeds, many faithful Catholics are convinced of the importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church and dedicate themselves to the liturgical apostolate, to what may be broadly called a new liturgical movement.
My brothers and sisters, I thank you for your commitment to the Sacred Liturgy. I encourage you and bless you in all your endeavours, great or small, to bring about “the right way of celebrating the liturgy inwardly and outwardly.” Persevere in this apostolate: the Church and the world needs you!
I ask you for your prayers for my particular ministry. Thank you. May God bless you.
This article was reproduced with the permission of Sacra Liturgia UK