Saturday, February 28, 2009

Msgr. Guido Marini Speaks Again on the Liturgy, Its Forms and Its Importance

The following rather interesting interview with Msgr. Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, has recently appeared on the site of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations for the Supreme Pontiff. (Original Italian) It touches upon themes such as the proper orientation of the liturgy, the primacy of Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony a a "permanent criterion" for sacred music in the liturgy; it touches upon the forms of the liturgy, on sacred art and architecture, on receiving communion kneeling and upon the tongue; upon the hermeneutic of continuity, of silence and many other nuances.

The translation is an NLM translation. Thanks to both Fr. G.S. and John Sonnen for looking it over and confirming a few details for me.

OFFICE OF THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF

INTERVIEW OF MONS. GUIDO MARINI
IN THE PERIODICAL "RADICI CRISTIANE”
N. 42 OF THE MONTH FOR MARCH 2009

Without words before the greatness and beauty of the mystery of God

by Maddalena della Somaglia


The Holy Father seems to have the liturgy as one of the basic themes of his pontificate. You, who follow him so closely, can you confirm this impression?

I would say yes. It is noteworthy that the first volume of the "opera omnia" of the Holy Father, soon to be published in Italian, is that devoted to those writings which have as their object the liturgy. In the preface to that volume, the same Joseph Ratzinger emphasizes this fact, noting that the precedence given to the liturgical writings is not accidental, but desired: in the same way as Vatican II, which first promulgated the Constitution dedicated to the Sacred Liturgy, followed by the great Constitution on the Church. [Lumen Gentium] It is in the liturgy, in fact, where the mystery of the Church is made manifest. It is understandable, then, the reason why the liturgy should be one of the basic themes of the papacy of Benedict XVI: it is in the liturgy that the renewal and reform of the Church begins.

Is there a relationship between the sacred liturgy and art and architecture? Should the call of the Pope to continuity in the liturgy be extended to art and sacred architecture?

There is certainly a vital relationship between the liturgy, sacred art and architecture. In part because sacred art and architecture, as such, must be suitable to the liturgy and its content, which finds expression in its celebration. Sacred art in its many manifestations, lives in connection with the infinite beauty of God and toward God, and should be oriented to His praise and His glory. Between liturgy, art and architecture there cannot be then, contradiction or dialectic. As a consequence, if it is necessary for a theological and historical continuity in the liturgy, this continuity should therefore also be a visible and coherent expression in sacred art and architecture.

Pope Benedict XVI recently said in an address that "society speaks with the clothes that it wears." Do you think this could apply to the liturgy?

In effect, we all speak by the clothes that we wear. Dress is a language, as is every form of external expression. The liturgy also speaks with the clothes it wears, and with all its expressive forms, which are many and rich, ever ancient and ever new. In this sense, "liturgical dress", to stay with the terminology you have used, must always be true, that is, in full harmony with the truth of the mystery celebrated. The external signs have to be in harmonious relation with the mystery of salvation in place in the rite. And, it should never be forgotten that the actual clothing of the liturgy is a clothing of sanctity: it finds expression, in fact, in the holiness of God. We are called to face this holiness, we are called to put on that holiness, realizing the fullness of participation.

In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, you have highlighted the key changes since taking the post of Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. Could you recall and explain what these mean?

I was just saying that the changes to which you refer are to be understood as a sign of a development in continuity with the recent past, and I remember one in particular: the location of the cross at the centre of the altar. This positioning has the ability to express, also by external sign, proper orientation at the time of the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, that the celebrant and the assembly do not look upon each other but together turn toward the Lord. Also, the unity of the altar and cross together can better show forth, together with the "banquet" aspect, the sacrificial dimension of the Mass, whose significance is always essential, I would say it springs from it, and therefore, always needs to find a visible expression in the rite.

We have noticed that the Holy Father, for some time now, always gives Holy Communion upon the tongue and kneeling. Does he want this to serve as an example for the whole Church, and an encouragement for the faithful to receive our Lord with greater devotion?

As we know the distribution of Holy Communion in the hand remains still, from a legal point of view, an exception [indult] to the universal law, granted by the Holy See to the bishops conferences who so request it. Every believer, even in the presence of an exception [indult], has the right to choose the way in which they will receive Communion. Benedict XVI, began to distribute Communion on the tongue and kneeling on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last year, in full consonance with the provisions of the current liturgical law, perhaps intending to emphasize a preference for this method. One can imagine the reason for this preference: it shines more light on the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, it helps the devotion of the faithful, and it indicates more easily the sense of mystery.

The Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum" is presented as the most important activity in the papacy of Benedict XVI. What is your opinion?

I do not know whether it is the most important but it certainly is an important document. It is not only so because it is a very significant step towards a reconciliation within the Church, not only because it expresses the desire to arrive at a mutual enrichment between the two forms of the Roman Rite, the ordinary and extraordinary, but also because it is the precise indication, in law and liturgy, of that theological continuity which the Holy Father has presented as the only correct hermeneutic for reading and understanding of the life of the Church and, especially, of Vatican II.

What in his view the importance of silence in the liturgy and the life of the Church?

It is of fundamental importance. Silence is necessary for the life of man, because man lives in both words and silences. Silence is all the more necessary to the life of the believer who finds there a unique moment of their experience of the mystery of God. The life of the Church and the Church's liturgy cannot be exempt from this need. Here the silence speaks of listening carefully to the Lord, to His presence and His word, and, together these express the attitude of adoration. Adoration, a necessary dimension of the liturgical action, expresses the human inability to speak words, being "speechless" before the greatness of God's mystery and beauty of His love.

The celebration of the liturgy is made up of texts, singing, music, gestures and also of silence and silences. If these were lacking or were not sufficiently emphasized, the liturgy would not be complete and would be deprived of an irreplaceable dimension of its nature.


Nowadays you hear, during the liturgical celebrations, very diverse music. What music do you think is most suitable to accompany the liturgy?

As the Holy Father Benedict XVI reminds us, and along with him the recent and past tradition of the Church, the liturgy has its own music and that is Gregorian chant, and as such, it constitutes the permanent criterion for liturgical music. As well, a permanent criterion is also the great polyphony of Catholic renaissance, which finds its highest expression in Palestrina.

Beside these irreplaceable forms of liturgical music we find many manifestations of popular song, which are very important and necessary: so long as they adhere to that permanent criterion by which song and music have a right of citizenship within the liturgy, to the extent that they spring from prayer and lead to prayer, thus allowing genuine participation in the mystery celebrated.


Some of the most quotable quotations from the piece are as follows.

On the Importance of the Liturgy:

"...it is in the liturgy that the renewal and reform of the Church begins."

On Continuity in Sacred Art and Architecture and their Relation to the Liturgy:

"There is certainly a vital relationship between the liturgy, sacred art and architecture. In part because sacred art and architecture, as such, must be suitable to the liturgy and its content... Sacred art in its many manifestations, lives in connection with the infinite beauty of God and toward God, and should be oriented to His praise and His glory. Between liturgy, art and architecture there cannot be then, contradiction... if it is necessary for a theological and historical continuity in the liturgy, this continuity should therefore also be a visible and consistent expression in sacred art and architecture."

On the Relation of Outer and Inner Aspects of the Liturgy:

"The liturgy also speaks with the clothes it wears, and with all its expressive forms... The external signs have to be in harmonious relation with the mystery of salvation in place in the rite. "

On the Sacrifical Dimension of the Mass:

"...the sacrificial dimension of the Mass, whose significance is always essential, I would say it springs from it, and therefore, always needs to find a visible expression in the rite."

On the Manner of Receiving Holy Communion:

"Benedict XVI, began to distribute Communion on the tongue and kneeling on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last year... perhaps intending to emphasize a preference for this method. One can imagine the reason for this preference: it shines more light on the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, it helps the devotion of the faithful, and it indicates more easily the sense of mystery."

On Continuity:

"...that theological continuity which the Holy Father has presented as the only correct hermeneutic for reading and understanding of the life of the Church and, especially, of Vatican II."

On Sacred Music:

"...the liturgy has its own music and that is Gregorian chant, and as such, it constitutes the permanent criterion for liturgical music. As well, a permanent criterion is also the great polyphony of Catholic renaissance, which finds its highest expression in Palestrina. Beside these irreplaceable forms of liturgical music we find many manifestations of popular song, which are very important and necessary: so long as they adhere to that permanent criterion.. to the extent that they spring from prayer and lead to prayer, thus allowing genuine participation in the mystery celebrated."

(By way of credit, the Italian language interview came to my attention by way of the Polish site, Nowy Ruch Liturgiczny.)