Monday, February 26, 2007


"The Council reminded us most explicitly that the liturgy is, in the Church’s language, actio, and action. Therefore it implies the participatio actuosa, the active participation of all the faithful. But here again the impression has been given, to a greater or lesser extent, that, if the liturgy is to be the work of the community, it must also be created by it; and, putting it crudely, this led to its being measured by its entertainment value. The idea was to make it as exciting as possible, shaking up the standoffish, the fringe members, and drawing them into community; but, strangely, what happened was that, as a result of all this, the liturgy actually lost its authentic inner vibrancy. For this does not arise from what we do but from the fact that something is being done here which all our concerted efforts cannot achieve. What has created the liturgy’s special position, down the centuries, is the fact that in it a supreme authority is operative, an authority which no one can arrogate to himself. In the liturgy the absolutely Other takes place, the absolutely Other comes among us....

Eucharist means that the Lord’s Resurrection gives us this joy which no one else can. So it is not enough to describe the Eucharist as the community meal. It cost the Lord his life, and only at this price can we enjoy the gift of the Resurrection. Therefore the Eucharist does not stand or fall by its effects on our feelings. Feelings come to an end, and ultimately all entertainment becomes tedious— as we know only too well nowadays. What we need is the presence in our lives of what is real and permanent so that we can approach it. No external participation and creativity is of any use unless it is a participation in this inner reality, in the way of the Lord, in God himself. Its aim is to lead us to this breakthrough to God. This involves two further practical considerations: the liturgy is not a matter of variety and change; it is concerned with an ever-deeper experience of something that is beyond change because it is the very answer that we are seeking. Secondly, liturgy is not only concerned with the conscious mind and with what can be immediately understood at the superficial level, like newspaper headlines. Liturgy addresses the human being in all his depth, which goes far beyond our everyday awareness; there are things we only understand with the heart; the mind can gradually grow in understanding the more we allow our heart to illuminate it.

I would like to mention a third aspect involved in the proper celebration of the Eucharist. It is one of the happy features of worship in the wake of the Council that more and more people participate fully in the Eucharist by receiving the body of the Lord, communicating with him and, in him, with the whole Church of God. Yet do we not feel a slight uneasiness at times in the face of an entire congregation coming to communion? Paul urgently insisted that the Corinthians should ‘discern’ the Lord’s body (1 Cor 11:29): is this still happening? Occasionally one has the feeling that ‘communion’ is regarded as part of the ritual— that it goes on automatically and is simply an expression of the community’s identity. We need to regain a much stronger awareness that the Eucharist does not lose all its meaning where people do not communicate. By going to Communion without ‘discernment’, we fail to reach the heights of what is taking place in everyday ordinariness and manipulation. The Eucharist is not a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself. Therefore it remains something great and precious, it remains a true gift, even when we cannot communicate. If we understood this better and hence had a more correct view of the Eucharist itself, many pastoral problems— the position of the divorced and remarried in the Church, for instance— would cease to be such a burden."

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in The Feast of Faith.

As a side note to this post, I would like to encourage everyone to read more of Pope Benedict's (Joseph Ratzinger's) works. I think time will show that Pope Benedict is one of the greatest thinkers and theologians of our age. The Church would benefit greatly if there was a wider reading and implementation of his work. I truly believe that this is why the Holy Spirit chose him to be our Pope. To give a greater presence to the extraordinary importance of his writings.

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