Publishers are aware that conference proceedings, like the genre of collected essays, are usually hard sells because readers tend to think: “Oh, this is just a random collection, and who can say whether the quality will be high across the board.” Fortunately, in this instance, we have a winner from cover to cover. I recently told a friend in charge of a library that this book is the most comprehensive, eloquent, insightful, hard-hitting, and refreshing volume on the liturgy that I have seen in the past ten years. It is a sheer pleasure to read most of the contents, and profitable to read all of it. The contributors are both clerical and lay, hailing from several continents, bringing their different cultural backgrounds, experiences, and professional expertise to bear on the most pressing (one is sometimes tempted to say intractable) questions of the liturgy in the Church today. These questions include sacred music, church architecture and furnishing, the ars celebrandi, the relationship of the old rite and the new evangelization, weaknesses or errors in the liturgical reform, liturgical formation and catechesis, the role and responsibility of the bishop, the meaning of “pastoral,” the Anglican contribution, the relationship between liturgy and social doctrine, and the canonical structure supporting liturgy.
It would be far too easy to turn this review into a lengthy summary of all the contents, which will be hardly necessary if, trusting my judgment, you get this book and read it yourself. But I cannot refrain from drawing attention to a few addresses that seemed to me particularly luminous and rousing when I heard them in Rome and that strike me as equally magnificent now that I am renewing my acquaintance with them in print.
Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s magisterial opening address, “The Sacred Liturgy, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church” (pp. 19–39) has the virtue of covering just about everything in a cosmic sweep that ranges from creation through Israel and the covenants to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, touching along the way such hot topics as the style of celebration, the use of Latin, the betrayal of the Fathers of the Council, and active participation.
Gabriel Steinschulte’s “Liturgical Music and the New Evangelization” (pp. 41–67) is an entertaining, perceptive, wide-ranging analysis of what has happened to church music and why, and the reasons behind the traditional stance of the Church on chant and polyphony. He sounds a theme that is taken up by several contributors, namely, how the new evangelization relies entirely on a sound, beautiful celebration of the sacred mysteries.
Bishop Peter J. Elliott, famed author of Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, offers a reflection (pp. 69–85) on the principles of the ars celebrandi as applied to both the old and new forms of the Roman Rite, valuable reading for every celebrant and master of ceremonies. For those keen on liturgical arts, especially the design and arrangement of sacred buildings, the exquisite pieces by Fr. Stefan Heid and Fr. Uwe Michael Lang (pp. 87–114 and 187–211) provide ample nourishment. (My sole criticism of this book is the lack of the diagrams and photos that Fr. Heid and Fr. Lang shared with the conference in Rome to illustrate their arguments. But I do understand that adding a section of illustrations to this volume would have increased its bulk and price, and I also know that one can quickly find images on Google of most, if not all, of the things referred to by the authors; and fortunately, their arguments and descriptions are easy to follow.)
Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Aidan Nichols and other lesser names have argued that the liturgy exists to worship God and that if we promote it for any other reason we are promoting sub-theological ideologies. The most common of these are liturgy as group therapy and liturgy as community building. Nonetheless, it is possible to hold that while the sole purpose of liturgy is worship, there are obvious spiritual and educational side effects and it is in this context that the usus antiquior can play an important role in the New Evangelisation. Specifically, the usus antiquior may be an antidote to the ruthless attacks on memory and tradition and high culture, typical of the culture of modernity, and it may also satisfy the desire of the post-modern generations to be embedded within a coherent, non-fragmented tradition that is open to the transcendent. (p. 117)Alcuin Reid’s contribution, “Sacrosanctum Concilium and Liturgical Formation” (pp. 213–36) is, as we have all come to expect from him, brilliantly incisive and well-documented, as he demonstrates the central role given by the Council Fathers to a genuine immersion and formation in the “spirit and power of the liturgy” that would govern and control all reform and renewal. Sad to say, such a formation was utterly lacking, which is why the reform went sour and the renewal never happened. Reid urges us to take seriously the Council’s counsel by not neglecting ongoing liturgical formation in our own day, if we would ever surmount the difficulties in which we are mired.
Archbishop Alexander Sample’s “The Bishop: Governor, Promoter, and Guardian of the Liturgical Life of the Diocese” (pp. 255–71) created a stir at the conference for its comprehensiveness and clarity, bringing into one place all the most important conciliar and post-conciliar magisterial teachings on the precise role and responsibility of the bishop over the liturgy in his diocese—what he is obliged to do and what he should not do. His Excellency then makes a point of addressing Summorum Pontificum and its implications for the ministry of the bishop:
I would urge bishops to familiarize themselves with the usus antiquior as a means of achieving their own deeper formation in the liturgy and as a reliable reference point in bringing about renewal and reform of the liturgy in the local Church. Speaking from personal experience, my own study and celebration of the older liturgical rites has had a tremendous effect on my own appreciation of our liturgical tradition and has enhanced my own understanding and celebration of the new rites.Complementary to this talk is Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke’s far-reaching, authoritative, and typically thorough “Liturgical Law in the Mission of the Church” (pp. 389–415), which refutes postconciliar antinomianism, establishes the right of God to receive due worship, and demonstrates how canon law supports this right and duty. It is worth mentioning, as a heartening "sign of the times," that among the 23 contributors to this volume are 4 cardinals, 4 bishops, 2 ordinaries, and 2 abbots. We are, thanks be to God, well past those dark days when the liturgical movement had nearly no hierarchical support or public profile.
I would further encourage bishops to be as generous as possible with the faithful who desire and ask for the opportunity to worship in the usus antiquior in their dioceses. Allowing for its natural flourishing will have its own effect on the liturgical life of the whole diocesan Church. It must never be seen as something out of the mainstream of ecclesial life, that is, as something on the fringes. The bishop’s own public celebration of it can prevent this from happening. (p. 270)
Recently Bishop Athanasius Schneider reminded us that the worst sin that humanity can commit is to refuse to adore God, to refuse to give Him the first place, the place of honor. A man that does not adore God in the liturgy will not value the main gift of God, which is life. A secularized man that considers himself autonomous will be uncomfortable that the tabernacle would be at the center of the Church or that the cross should be at the center of the altar.The contributions from Fr. Nicola Bux, Fr. Andrew Burnham, Fr. Guido Rodheudt, and Fr. Paul Gunter are also noteworthy, but having said that, I want to reiterate that, surprisingly, there is no weak link in this lengthy chain: all 21 papers in this book are worth reading and re-reading carefully. Indeed, I predict that whoever gets this book and dips into it will either start photocopying pages from it for his friends (and perhaps also his enemies), or will buy more copies and give them away as gifts. Our profound gratitude is owed to all the conference speakers who, by means of this superb collection, now share their work with a worldwide audience.
Secularization rejects the right relation of man with God. Secularization denies our dependence from God, so it refutes Him as giver of life and that man by his nature is a being that adores, giving due worship to God. We are all sensitive to the justice that is due to our neighbor, but the precedence should be given to the justice that is due to God. Catholicism has to be understood as a society of men who give to God the right worship and as a consequence they provide service to their fellow men. Service [to the neighbor] should not have priority, instead service should be the consequence of worship. In some ways we can say that service is a continuation that flows from worship. (p. 372)
In conclusion, I am willing to say, without the slightest hyperbole, that this book can serve as a kind of charter for the new liturgical movement—and I hope it shall do so.