Saturday, June 28, 2008

Magister on the Marini Interview

Sandro Magister, the well known Vaticanista of l'espresso, has published an article on the recent interview of Mgr. Guido Marini to the Osservatore Romano. After quoting much of the interview itself, this is how Magister classifies it and puts it into context with the thought of Pope Benedict himself:

It is beyond doubt that the positions expressed by the current master of pontifical liturgical celebrations faithfully reflect the thought of Benedict XVI. To understand this, it is enough to reopen, for example, a book published by Joseph Ratzinger in 2001: "Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy."

In that book, Ratzinger wrote that the solution to the many current liturgical "absurdities" is the not that of changing everything again, because "nothing is more harmful for the liturgy than for everything to be turned constantly upside-down."

But about the orientation of the liturgy and of the placement of the cross, he showed that he has extremely clear ideas:

«In ancient times, facing east was closely related to the "sign of the Son of man," to the cross, which announces the return of the Lord. The east was therefore quickly associated with the sign of the cross. Where it is not possible for everyone to face the east together in an evident manner, the cross can serve as the inner east of faith. It should be placed at the center of the altar, and should be the spot where the attention of both the priest and the praying community is turned. In this way, we follow the ancient exhortation pronounced at the beginning of the Eucharist: "Conversi ad Dominum," turn to the Lord. Let us look together to Him whose death ripped the veil of the temple, to Him who stands before the Father on our behalf and holds us in his arms, to Him who makes of us a new living temple. Among the truly absurd phenomena of our time, I would add the fact that the cross is placed on one side of the altar in order to give the faithful an unobstructed view of the priest. But does the cross represent an annoyance during the Eucharist? Is the priest more important than the Lord? This error should be corrected as soon as possible, and this can be done without any new architectural modifications. The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history. This cross can either be that of the passion, which represents the suffering Jesus who allows his side to be pierced for us, releasing blood and water – the Eucharist and Baptism – or a triumphal cross, which expresses the idea of Jesus' return, and draws attention to this. Because in any case it is He, the one Lord: Christ yesterday, today, and forever.»

Since then, Ratzinger has not changed these judgments by one iota. Nor does he silence them.

Last March 22, in fact, at the Easter Vigil Mass at the basilica of Saint Peter, Benedict XVI concluded his homily by returning to the exhortation "Conversi ad Dominum":

«In the early Church there was a custom whereby the bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: "Conversi ad Dominum" – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, this involved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light. Linked with this, then, was the other exclamation that still today, before the Eucharistic Prayer, is addressed to the community of the faithful: "Sursum corda" – lift up your hearts, high above the tangled web of our concerns, desires, anxieties and thoughtlessness – "Lift up your hearts, your inner selves!" In both exclamations we are summoned, as it were, to a renewal of our Baptism: "Conversi ad Dominum" – we must distance ourselves ever anew from taking false paths, onto which we stray so often in our thoughts and actions. We must turn ever anew towards him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must allow our hearts to be withdrawn from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love. At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards.»

This is a very encouraging sign that the liturgical programme of this pontificate becomes ever more conspicuous, which is why I thought the interview (go and read it here if you haven't yet) was so important. The more widely this is noticed, and the more clearly it is stated, which was certainly done with the interview, the more difficult it will become for the opponents of this programme and of a traditional concept of liturgy to ignore what Pope Benedict is doing or to belittle it as inconsequential personal predilections. We can help in this by spreading information about the actions and the teaching of the Holy Father and by explaining the ideas behind it to those who do not follow these things of their own accord, in a serene, helpful and charitable manner, without triumphalism.

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