Monday, July 26, 2010

An Interview with Monsignor Nicola Bux

Carlos Antonio Palad at Rorate Caeli has published a translation of a lengthy interview given by Msgr. Nicola Bux, originally published on the site, Disputationes Theologicae.

Many will know that Msgr. Bux is a professor of sacramental theology at the Theological Faculty in Bari (Italy), a Consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as for the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

Here are a few excerpts:

· For a while now even the most tenacious supporters of a “permanent revolution” in the liturgy seem to give in before the wise argumentation of the Pope, of which there’s a clear echo in your book. Are we witnessing a new (or old if you prefer) vision of the liturgy?

Liturgy is, by its nature, of divine institution, based on the unchangeable will of its divine Founder. Because this is in fact the basis of the liturgy, we may affirm that the liturgy is “of divine right.” It is not by chance that the Orientals use the term “Divine Liturgy,” because this is God’s work, the “opus Dei”, as Saint Benedict says. The liturgy is not of a thing of human origin. In the conciliar document on the liturgy, in no. 22, § 3, it is clearly stated that no one, not even a priest, may add, take away, or change anything. Why? The liturgy belongs to the Lord. During Lent, we read the passages from Deuteronomy where God Himself establishes the practical details of worship. In the New Testament, it is Jesus Himself Who tells the disciples how they should prepare the supper. God has the right to be adored as He wishes and not as we wish. Otherwise we fall into a cult of “idolatry” in the proper meaning of the Greek term, i.e. worship made in our own image. When the liturgy mirrors the tastes or creative tendencies of the priest or of a group of the laity it becomes “idolatry.” Catholic worship is worship in spirit and in truth; it is a turning towards the Father, in the Holy Spirit, but it has to pass through Jesus Christ, has to pass through the Truth. Therefore, it is necessary to rediscover that God has the right to be adored as He Himself has established. The ritual forms aren’t a matter “to be interpreted,” because these forms come out of the discerned faith, which becomes, in a certain sense, the culture of the Church. The Church has always been anxious that the rites not be the product of subjective tastes but the exact expression of the entire Church, which is “catholic.” The liturgy is catholic, universal. Therefore, even when we are dealing with a particular celebration held in a particular place, it is not possible to celebrate it in contrast to the “catholic” physiognomy of liturgy.


· The old Offertory rite spoke eloquently to mankind about God, using profound expressions about the sacrificial power, about the nature of the Mass as a sacrifice offered to God. Can a correction in this sense be considered for the new rite [of Mass]?

It is important that the old Mass (also called the Tridentine rite but more appropriately the “rite of Gregory the Great”) become [better] known, as Martin Mosebach has recently said. This Mass received its form already under Pope Damasus and afterwards, in fact, under Gregory [the Great], and not under Saint Pius V. The only thing Pope Pius V did was to make some adjustments and to codify what already existed, retaining the enrichments of earlier centuries and putting aside what had become obsolete. With that understood, we can consider this rite of Mass, an integral part of which is the Offertory. There have been many papers written by great scholars on this subject and many have asked themselves whether it would be opportune to bring back the old Offertory, which you mentioned. However, the Holy See alone has the authority to act in this way. It is true that the logic which dictated the liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council led to a simplification of the Offertory, because it was thought that there were several [alternative] forms of offertory prayers. In this way, the two prayers of blessing with a Judaic flavor were introduced. The secret prayer remained and became the “Prayer over the Gifts”; also the “Orate, fratres,” and those were considered to be more than sufficient. However, this simplicity, which was understood as a return to the purity of the origins, collides with liturgical tradition, with the Byzantine tradition, and with other Oriental and Occidental liturgies. The structure of the Offertory was seen by the great commentators and theologians of the Middle Age as the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Who goes to be immolated in a sacrificial offering. It is for this reason that the offerings are already called “holy” and that the offertory was of great importance. The modern simplification, which I have described, has led many people to demand the return of the rich and beautiful prayers of the “Suscipe, sancte Pater” and the “Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas,” to mention only a few.

However, only through a wider diffusion of the old Mass will this “infection” of the new Mass by the old be possible. Therefore, the reintroduction of the “classical” Mass – if you will allow me the expression – may be a factor of great enrichinment. It is necessary to facilitate a regular Sunday [festiva] celebration of the traditional Mass, at least in every cathedral of the world, but also in every parish. This would help the faithful get used to Latin and to feel themselves part of the Catholic Church. And as a practical matter, it would help them participate in Masses held during international gatherings at [various] shrines. At the same time, I think we have to avoid re-introducing things “out of context.” By this I mean that there is a an entire ritual context connected with the things expressed [by the prayers], which cannot be brought back simply by inserting a prayer; a more complex kind of work is involved here.

· The series of gestures and orientation certainly are of great importance, because what the faithful see is a reflection of an invisible reality. Is having the cross at the center of the altar a way to call to mind what the Mass is?

Yes, having the cross at the center of the altar is a way to bring to mind what the Mass is. I do not speak of a “miniature” cross but of a cross such as can be seen. The dimensions of the cross should be proportional to the ecclesial space. It should be brought back to the center [of the altar], aligned with the altar, and everybody must be able to see it. It should be the focal point of the faithful and of the priest, as [the former Cardinal] Joseph Ratzinger says in his Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy. It should be in the center, independently of the celebration, even if it is Mass “facing the people.” I insist on a cross that is clearly visible. Otherwise, what is the use of an image that cannot be sufficiently profited from? Images refer to the prototype... In an era in which vision has become the favored medium of our contemporaries, it does not suffice to have a little cross that lies flat or an illegible “sketch” of a cross, but it is necessary that the cross, along with the figure of the Crucified, be clearly visible on the altar, regardless of the angle from which it is viewed.

Read the entire interview in translation on Rorate Caeli.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: