Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Liturgical Year Narrated by Benedict XVI

From Sandro Magister at Chiesa: Homilies. The Liturgical Year Narrated by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope

Magister describes a new book that is out tomorrow (in Italian) collecting together some of the liturgical preaching of the Pontiff as is particularly tied to catechesis about the liturgy and the liturgical year.

His liturgical preaching is one of the high points of Benedict XVI's pontificate. It's also the least examined and familiar. There's been news and noise over his lecture in Regensburg, his book about Jesus, his encyclical on hope. But much less, extremely little, about the preaching that he addresses to the faithful at the Masses that he celebrates in public.

And yet, without the homilies, the magisterium of this pope theologian would be incomprehensible. Just as without these, it would be impossible to understand a St. Leo the Great, the first pontiff whose liturgical preaching has been preserved to our day, a St. Ambrose, a St. Augustine, all of those great pastors and theologians, pillars of the Church, whom Joseph Ratzinger has as instructors.

More than anything else, the homilies are the most genuine thing that issues from the mind of Pope Benedict. He writes them almost start to finish by himself, and sometimes improvises them. But above all, he stamps upon them the unmistakable character that distinguishes his homilies from any other part of his magisterium: the fact that they are part of liturgical action, and are even a liturgy unto themselves.

Benedict XVI said it clearly in the homily that he delivered on June 29, 2008, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul: his vocation is to "to serve as liturgist of Jesus Christ for the nations." The striking expression is from Paul, in chapter 15 of the Letter to the Romans. And the pope has made it his own. He has identified his mission as successor of the Apostles precisely in being the celebrant of a "cosmic liturgy." Because "when the world in all its parts has become a liturgy of God, when, in its reality, it has become adoration, then it will have reached its goal and will be safe and sound."

It is a dizzying vision. But Pope Ratzinger has this unshakable certainty: when he celebrates the Mass, he knows that the entire action of God is contained in it, woven together with the ultimate destiny of man and of the world. For him, the Mass is not a mere rite officiated by the Church. It is the Church itself, with the triune God dwelling within it. It is the image and reality of the entirety of the Christian adventure. The educated pagans of the early centuries were not mistaken when they identified Christianity by describing its act of worship. Because this was also the faith of those first believers. "Sine dominico non possumus," without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live, the martyrs of Abitina replied to Emperor Diocletian when he banned them from celebrating it. And they sacrificed their lives for this.

Read more over at Chiesa.

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