Pope Ratzinger's manifesto: "In this way the transformation of the world can begin to take place"
The Christian revolution is born in the liturgy, Benedict XVI says. And its "canon," its fundamental rule, is the great Eucharistic prayer. He explained this in his homily for Holy Thursday. And even before this, in a catechesis that was just as remarkable
by Sandro Magister
ROME, April 14, 2009 – During this past Holy Week, Benedict XVI accompanied each celebration with a homily, the kind that are genuinely his own, from the first word to the last. These homilies have become a distinctive sign of his pontificate. They may still be its most unfamiliar and misunderstood feature. But they are definitely its most revealing.
Pope Joseph Ratzinger is not only a theologian, even before this he is a liturgist and a homilist. On www.chiesa, this unmistakable characteristic has been highlighted repeatedly. Last year, for example, by posting to the internet in their entirety, immediately after Easter, the six homilies from the previous Holy Week. And in the fall, by editing the collection in a single volume – published by Scheiwiller, of Gruppo 24 Ore – of Benedict XVI's homilies for the entire liturgical year that had just been completed.
But this year, the reader will not find further below all of the homilies delivered by the pope during Holy Week. These are readily available on the Vatican website, by clicking on the link posted at the bottom of this page.
Reprinted here is only one of the papal homilies from the last sacred Triduum, the one for the evening of Holy Thursday.
And immediately after this, the reader will find another text by Benedict XVI, from a few months before: the catechesis he gave at the general audience on Wednesday, January 7, 2009.
The two texts are closely connected. In both of them, Pope Ratzinger explains the words and profound meaning of the Roman Canon, the central and fundamental prayer of the Mass, the most ancient among those in use all over the world, with the current missal of the Church of Rome.
At the Mass "in cena Domini" on Holy Thursday, the Roman Canon has some variations that are specific to that day. And from the first words of his homily, Benedict XVI highlights their uniqueness.
But it is to the overall meaning of this essential liturgical prayer that pope Ratzinger dedicates the rest of the homily.
And he does the same thing in a passage of the catechesis for January 7, the rest of which is dedicated to illustrating Christian worship as a whole. It is that worship which the Roman Canon, following St. Paul, defines as "rationabile."
The current translation of "rationabile," in the modern languages, is "spiritual." But Benedict XVI warns against thinking that Christian worship is something metaphorical, moralistic, purely interior. No, he explains, true Christian worship draws upon men and the world in their entirety, it is also bodily and material, it is the "cosmic liturgy" in which "the peoples united in Christ, the world, may become the glory of God."
It is extremely rare, in modern theological and liturgical commentary, to find an explanation of the meaning of Christian worship that is as penetrating as in these two texts of pope Ratzinger's preaching.
To read the two papal texts that Magister is referring to, please click the link at the top of this article, which will take you to his site, Chiesa.