Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wounded Liturgy

Intervention by His Excellency, Msgr. Rev. M. Aillet, Bishop of Bayonne, France from the Theological Convention in Rome earlier in March of this year. The theme was "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of the Priest".

Here's an excerpt by New Liturgical Movement posted in March.
The opening to the world called for by Vatican II has often been interpreted, in the years after the Council, as a sort of "conversion to secularisation": This attitude was not lacking in generosity, but it led to obscuring the importance of the liturgy and to minimise the need for observing the rites, which were considered too distant from the life of the world which had to be love and with whom one had to be fully connected, up to being fascinated by it. The result was a grave crisis of identity of the priest who could no longer perceive the importance of the salvation of souls and the need to announce to the world the newness of the Gospel of Salvation. The liturgy is, without doubt, the privileged place of deepening the identity of the priest, called to "fight the secularization"; for, as Jesus says, in his priestly prayer: "I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth." (John 17, 15-17).

This certainly will be possible through a more rigorous observation of the liturgical norms that preserve the priest from the requirement, even the unconscious one, to draw the attention of the faithful on his person: the liturgical ritual which the celebrant is called to receive filially from the Church in fact allows the faithful to come more easily to the presence of Christ the Lord, of which the liturgical celebration must be a telling sign, and which must always come first. The liturgy is wounded when the faithful are left to the arbitrariness of the celebrant, his quirks, his personal ideas or opinions, to his own wounds. Hence also follows the importance of not banalising the rites which, tearing us away from the secular world and thus from the temptation of immanentism, have the gift to immerse us suddenly in the Mystery and open ourselves to the Transcendent. In this sense, one can never stress enough the importance of the silence preceding the liturgical celebration, an inner narthex, where we are freed of the concerns, even if legitimate, of the secular world, in order to enter the sacred space and time where God will reveal his Mystery; [sc. one can never stress enough the importance] of silence in the liturgy to open oneself more readily to the action of God; and [sc. one can never stress enough] the appropriateness of a period of thanksgiving, integrated or not into celebration, to apprehend the inner extent of the mission that awaits us, once we were back in the world. Teh obedience of the priest to the rubrics is also itself a silent and eloquent sign of his love for the Church of which he is but the minister, i.e. the servant.

Hence also the importance of the formation of future priests in the liturgy and especially in the interior participation, without which the outward participation advocated by the reform would be soulless and would favor a partial understanding of the liturgy that would express itself in terms of excessive theatricalisation of the roles, reductive cerebralisation of the rites and abusive self-celebration of the assembly. If active participation, which is the operating principle of the liturgical reform, is not the exercise of the "supernatural sense of faith," the liturgy is no longer the work of Christ, but of men. Stressing the importance of liturgical formation of priests, Vatican Council II made the liturgy one of the main subjects of ecclesiastical studies, avoiding reducing it to a purely intellectual formation: in fact, prior to being an object of study, the liturgy is living, or rather, is "to transcend one's own life to merge into the life of Christ." It is the ultimate immersion of all Christian life: immersion in the sense of faith and in the sense of the Church, in praise and in adoration, as in the mission.

We are therefore called to a true "Sursum corda". The phrase from the preface, "lift up your hearts", introduces the faithful to the heart of hearts of the liturgy: Christ's Passover, that is, his passing from this world to the Father. The meeting of the Risen Jesus with Mary Magdalene on the morning of the Resurrection, is very significant in this sense: with his "Noli me tangere" Jesus invites Mary Magdalene to "look to the realities of the highest", making her realise in her heart that he is not yet ascended to the Father and requesting her to go and tell his disciples that he must go up to his God and our God, his Father and our Father. The liturgy is exactly the place of this elevation, this stretching towards God which gives life a new horizon, and thereby its decisive orientation. Provided that we do not regard it as material available to our all too human manipulations, but that we observe, with filial obedience, the prescriptions of Holy Church.

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