Thursday, December 27, 2007

Interview with Msgr. Guido Marini

[A reader sent in this translation of an interview with Msgr. Guido Marini. I haven't seen the original myself, which was in Italian.]

By Gianluca Biccini

The Nativity of Christ is not "just a fact of the past" but "a fact that
even today is present and alive in liturgical celebration," according to
Mons. Guido Marini, master of pontifical liturgical celebrations.

The key word is 'today', he says, which recurs repeatedly in the rites of
the Christmas season. And in that word Mons. Marini sees a fundamental
element of the celebrations in St. Peter's Basilica - from Dec. 24 through
January 13 - which, in these days, becomes, in tangible manner, the pulsing
heart of Christendom.

Taking charge of the papal liturgies for the first time during the Christmas
season, Mons, Marini offered Osservatore Romano and its readers some points
of reflection.

What is the common thread for the rites?

JOY! Christmas is characterized by joy, true joy, which comes from the
discovery of God's eternal plan which illuminates the personal and communal
life of every man, as well as the sense of history.

God reveals himself as love which fulfills generously the hopes in every
heart and in every people. Liturgical celebrations have the ability to
transmit this 'good news' through words, gestures, silences, signs, music,
singing, the rite in its entirety. It is important that the rite becomes
luminous, able to express what it contains.

So your responsibility is great: to get the faithful involved and make them understand what is happening.

That is the great task of every liturgical celebration, of the ars
celebrandi. If it succeeds, then one truly has the active participation of
everyone, because they will not only be taking part exteriorly in the
celebration, but will be profoundly, spiritually engaged and able to enter
into the action of Christ and the Church, thus growing in holiness and a
transformation of one's life.

We truly participate in a liturgy when we arrive at the mystery of the Lord,
our Savior, and come out of it interiorly changed and capable of giving
oneself without reservation to God and our fellowmen.

Let's get back to the symbolic aspects. What vestments will the Pope wear?

Above all, it must be underscored that the vestments chosen, like some
details of the rites themselves, are meant to underscore the continuity of
the present liturgy with that which characterized the traditional liturgy of
the Church.

The hermeneutic of continuity is always the right criterion for interpreting
the course of the Church in time. This goes for the liturgy as well.

Just as a Pope cites his predecessors in his documents, to show the
continuity of the magisterium, a Pope also does the same in the liturgical
sense when he uses the vestments and sacred accessories that previous Popes
have used, to indicate the same continuity in the lex orandi.

Thus during the Christmas season liturgies, Pope Benedict XVI will be
wearing miters that belonged to Benedict XVI, John XXIII, John Paul I and
John Paul II.

So, attention to external elements reflects attention to the spiritual content of the liturgy?

The beauty of a liturgical celebration in all its entirety is not simply
external, even if this has its value because it reminds us that the liturgy
is an act of worship, that the Eucharist is the greatest treasure of the
Church, and we can never 'give' it enough.

The beauty also tries to express humanly the infinite beauty of God and his
love. And therefore, liturgy cannot be not beautiful, nor lacking in
dignity, order, precision and harmony, even in the smallest details.

The Crucifix will be at the center of the altar even for the Christmas Mass. How do you reconcile a nativity event with a symbol of death?

The Crucifix on the altar indicates the centrality of the Cross in the
eucharistic celebration, which is the precise orientation that the
congregation is called on to have during the liturgy. We do not look at each
other - we look at Him who was born, died and resurrected for us, the

The Lord bring salvation. He is the Orient, the Sun who rises, to whom we
should all look, and from whom we may all receive the gifts of grace.

What can a Christian today, a man or woman of the third millennium, gain
from the celebration of an event that took place two centuries ago?
The liturgical celebrations of the season, starting with the Midnight Mass,
allow us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. In contemplating
that mystery, everything should contribute to inspire awe and wonder.

How can we fail to wonder at the event of the Son of God becoming a baby for
us and for our salvation? In him, the true and previously unknown face of
God was revealed, and with him, the truth about man's life and destiny. The
liturgy makes manifest the beauty of that mystery and the love of God which
is rich with his infinite mercy. It is a splendid wonder that conquers the
human heart.

So the star that shone over that cave in Bethlehem remains 'contemporary'?
The birth of Jesus is not just a fact of the past - it is a fact that is
present and vivid today in the eucharistic celebration. Jesus Christ is the
Living One. And there is a keyword which indicates this - the word 'today'
which recurs so many times in the celebrations of the Christmas season.


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