Monday, April 12, 2010

Interesting Liturgical Commentaries from Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff on Vatican Website

The Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has provided (in Italian so far, though with at least an English index at this point as well) some documents on various aspects of the sacred liturgy.

Some aspects are general, and others very clearly relate to elements which are particularly characteristic of the Benedictine liturgical reform both in relation to the liturgy generally and in relation to the papal liturgy specifically.

Some of the most interesting topics include:

The Cross in the Centre of the Altar
Communion Received on the Tongue and while Kneeling
The Chant of the Gospel in Greek During Some Papal Celebrations
The Use of Latin
The Cardinal Deacons and the Use of the Dalmatic
Beauty in Each Aspect of the Liturgical Rite

Additionally, there are articles on the pallium, the crozier, the resurrexit rite and silence within the sacred liturgy.

In the document on The Cross in the Centre of the Altar, for example, it notes [unofficial NLM translation]: the heart of the liturgical Church is Christ, the Eternal High Priest, and his Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death and Resurrection. The liturgical celebration should reveal this theological truth. For many centuries, the sign chosen by the Church for the orientation of heart and body during the liturgy was the representation of Jesus crucified.

The centrality of the crucifix in the celebration of divine worship stood out more in the past when the custom existed that the priest and the faithful turned, during the Eucharistic celebration, toward the crucified in the centre, above the altar, which usually stood against the wall. In the current custom of celebrating "[facing] the people", often the crucifix is today placed beside the altar, thus losing its central location.

The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a theologian, had repeatedly stressed that during the celebration "[facing] the people," the crucifix should maintain its central position, being impossible to consider that the image of the crucified Lord - who expresses his sacrifice and then the most important meaning of the Eucharist - could somehow be a disturbance.

The crucifix at the centre of the altar draws many beautiful meanings within the Sacred Liturgy, which can be summarized with a quotation from paragraph 618 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church...

In the article, The Cardinal Deacons and the Use of the Dalmatic, we read [unofficial NLM translation]:
The cardinal deacons wear the dalmatic when serving the Pontiff, either in the Holy Mass or in other liturgical celebrations, but not when concelebrating with him. In this second case, they wear the vestments proper to the priest celebrant, that is the chasuble. To wear the dalmatic when serving the pontiff serves in reality to manifest exteriorly their function as ministers of the Pontiff. Without forgetting that, as history has shown us, the truth of the sign of the dalmatic does not necessarily suppose that only deacons can wear it.

On the other hand, Bishops wear it in greater solemnities, under the chasuble, or even as a principle vestment in consecrating an altar or the washing of feet. In this last case, as the Caeremoniale Episcoporum 301 indicates, the bishop takes off the mitre and chasuble but not the dalmatic. It is desired to place emphasis not so much on the fullness of the priesthood as the character of service of the episcopal ministry. In the case of cardinal deacons vesting with the dalmatic, it serves to underline their character as servants, strict collaborators of the Roman Pontiff even in the liturgy. The dalmatic is a sign of service, dedication to the Bishop and others. But even when the bishop wears the dalmatic it is to serve: whether in the washing of feet, or in special liturgical service performed by bishops--cardinal deacons--in the presence of the Roman Pontiff.

Finally, we make mention of the article, Beauty in Each Aspect of the Liturgical Rite [unofficial NLM translation]:
You must therefore take all the attention and care possible because dignity of the liturgy shines even in the smallest details in the form of true beauty. We must remember that those saints that lived poverty with particular ascetic commitment always desired that the most beautiful and precious objects be set apart for divine worship.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: