Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Cardinal Cañizares on Moderating the Use of Concelebration

On March 5th, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera gave a paper at the pontifical university of Santa Croce, presenting Msgr. Guillaume Derville's work, La concélébration eucharistique. Du symbole à la réalité (Eucharistic Concelebration: From Symbol To Reality).

In his paper the Cardinal commented on the importance of beauty within the sacred liturgy, noting the "intrinsic link between the liturgy and beauty" and quoting Pope Benedict XVI who himself noted that the sacred liturgy is "a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth... Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation."

Turning his attention to the matter of concelebration, the subject of Msgr. Guillaume Derville's work, the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship continued:

...the liturgy, and within it the act of concelebration, will be beautiful when it is true and authentic, when its innate splendour is really reflected. [...]

The question is precisely one of keeping “the structure desired by the Lord”, because the liturgy is a gift from God. It is not something fabricated by us men; it is not at our disposition. [...]

For this reason, “we must learn to understand the structure of the Liturgy and why it is laid out as it is. The Liturgy developed in the course of two millennia, and even after the Reformation was not simply something worked out by a few liturgists. It has always remained a continuation of this on-going growth of worship and proclamation. Thus, to be well in tune, it is very important to understand this structure that developed over time and to enter with our mens into the vox of the Church.”


In this sense, it is important to look, however briefly, into the history of concelebration. The historical panorama that Msgr. Derville offers us... is sufficient to let us glimpse areas of obscurity, that show the absence of clear data on Eucharistic celebration in the earliest times of the Church. At the same time, and without falling into a ingenuous “archaeologism”, it does provide us with enough information to be able to state that concelebration, in the genuine tradition of the Church, whether eastern or western, is an extraordinary, solemn and public rite, normally presided over by the Bishop or his delegate, surrounded by his presbyterium and by the entire community of the faithful. But the daily concelebrations of priests only ... do not form part of the Latin liturgical tradition.

Moreover, the author seems to me to succeed fully when he examines in depth the underlying reasons mentioned by the Council for extending concelebration. This widening of the faculty to concelebrate needs to be moderated, as we can see when we read the Council texts. And it is logical that it should be so: the purpose of concelebration is not to solve problems of logistics or organization, but rather to make the Paschal mystery present...

You can read the entire address over on Zenit: Cardinal Cañizares on Beauty in the Liturgy and Concelebration

But before I leave you on this matter, there was one final idea posed by the Cardinal which I wanted to quote here, because I think it is an idea that needs to be quoted and re-quoted. Cardinal Canizares talks about "the right of the faithful to take part in a liturgy where the ars celebrandi makes their actuosa participatio possible." This hits home a very pertinent reality: the poor celebration of the sacred liturgy is, in point of fact, not a minor matter of aesthetics or pickiness, but actually a real hindrance to actuosa participatio.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: