Condensed from the 30 Days printing of
preface to La Reforme
liturgique en question, by Klaus
Editions Sainte-Madeleine. (Only the
French translation is on
The Mass Reduced to a Show
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
A Young priest recently told me:
"Today we need a new liturgical movement". He was expressing a desire, these
days, only deliberately superficial souls would ignore.
What matters to
that priest is not the conquest of new, bolder liberties. For, where is the
liberty that we have yet to arrogate ourselves? That priest understood that we
need a new beginning born from deep within the liturgy, as liturgical movement
intended . . .
In its practical materialization, liturgical reform has
moved further away from this origin. The result was not re-animation but
On the one hand, we have a liturgy which has degenerated
so that it has become a show which, with momentary success for the group of
liturgical fabricators, strives to render religion interesting in the wake of
the frivolities of fashion and seductive moral maxims.
trend is the increasingly marked retreat of those who do not look to the liturgy
for a spiritual show-master but for the encounter with the living God in whose
presence all the "doing" becomes insignificant since only this encounter is able
to guarantee us access to the true richness of being.
On the other hand,
there is the conservation of ritual forms whose greatness is always moving but
which, when pushed to extremes, manifests an obstinate isolationism and leaves,
ultimately, a mark of sadness.
There is no doubt that between these two
poles there are priests and parishioners who celebrate the new liturgy with
respect and solemnity. But they, too, are made to feel doubtful by the
contradiction of the two extremes and, in the final analysis, the lack of unity
within the Church makes their faith seem - and wrongly so in most cases - just
their own personal version of neo-conservatism.
Therefore, a new
spiritual impulse is necessary so that the liturgy becomes a community activity
of the Church for us once again and to remove it from the will of parish priests
and their liturgical teams.
There can be no "fabricating" a
liturgical movement of this kind, just as there can be no "fabricating"
something which is alive. But a contribution can be made to its development by
seeking to re- assimilate the sprit of the liturgy and by defending publicity
that which was received.
The new beginning needs "fathers" who would
serve as models, who would not content themselves with just showing the way . .
. It is difficult to express in just a few words what is important in this
diatribe of liturgists and what is not. But perhaps what I have to say will be
of use. J.A. Jungman, one of the truly great liturgists of our century, offered
his definition of the liturgy of his time, as it was intended in the West, and
he represented it in terms of historical research. He described it as
"liturgy which is the fruit of development".
This is probably in
contrast with the Eastern notion which does not see liturgy as developing or
growing in history but as the reflection of eternal liturgy whose light, through
the sacred celebration, illumines our changing times with its unchanging beauty
and greatness. Both conceptions are legitimate and by definition they are not
What happened after the Council was totally different:
in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated
We left the living process of growth and development to
enter the realm of fabrication. There was no longer a desire to continue
developing and maturing, as the centuries passed and so this was replaced - as
if it were a technical production - with a construction, a banal on-the-spot
- Christian Order, March 1993, pages 162-163, used with
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Last modified 20th May, 1997, by David Joyce.