Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano has made significant rounds, especially on reform2 sites. It’s not a terribly long piece, and I thought it worthwhile to have an in-depth look at it. I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report.
I’ve also titled this series of posts according to the first few words of the Italian original, citing fifty years since Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Two months ago, many reform2 Catholics were heartened by positive mentions for such principles as clergy facing liturgical east away from the people. For friendly nods to such principles, Vatican II and its liturgy constitution get favorable nods.
For my part, a leader like the CDWDS prefect certainly deserves a basic respect for his writings, but as you might guess, I won’t withhold a gentle criticism based on the American experience of good liturgy this past half century. Let’s get to it …
Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI, will the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy finally be read? Sacrosanctum Concilium is actually not just a catalogue of “recipes” for reform, but a veritable Magna Carta of all liturgical action.
This strikes me as accurate of both the intent of the document as well as how it was implemented in the years following. The council bishops did not offer an exhaustive blueprint. They offered principles such as participation being more vital than organic development. They endorsed initiatives such as the restoration of the catechumenate that had consequences far beyond the composition of new liturgical rites. They also permitted local bishops and national conferences the space to apply their “Magna Carta” to developments such as the use of the vernacular. On that last point, celebrating liturgy in local languages is something less of an innovation attached to whim or fancy, but a natural consequence of exploring the “freedoms” and the deeper intent of liturgy.
In it the Ecumenical Council gives us a magisterial lesson in methodology. Indeed, far from being content with a disciplinary, external approach to the liturgy, the Council wishes to have us contemplate what it is in its essence. The Church’s practice always results from what she receives and contemplates in revelation. Pastoral ministry cannot be detached from doctrine.
This is absolutely right. All aspects of liturgy, even and especially reform and preparation, require a contemplative spirit. My own experience has been that the effective minister must also bring the faith community into this contemplation. It is at the intersection of the given rites, the abilities of the local Church, and the carrying of a community in one’s heart that we can find the expression of Jesus Christ offering worship to the Father (the classical definition of liturgy) in an authentic and faithful way.
A corollary: a focus on tradition to the exclusion of people is not of Christ, not how Christ would act, and places its practitioners outside of the example and will of the Lord.
Note: I Wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site. Reader comments, however, are most welcome.