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Cardinal Sarah praises ad orientem worship, suggests appendix to Roman Missal

June 12, 2015

Paying tribute to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as a liturgical “Magna Carta,” Cardinal Robert Sarah called for a more faithful implementation of its text, lamented misinterpretations of its teaching on “active participation,” and suggested an appendix to the Roman Missal that might better manifest the continuity of the extraordinary and ordinary forms of the celebration of the Mass.

“The liturgy is essentially the action of Christ,” the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship wrote in the June 12 edition of L’Osservatore Romano. “If this vital principle is not received in faith, it is likely to make the liturgy a human work, a self-celebration of the community.”

He continued:

To speak of a ‘celebrating community’ is not without ambiguity and requires real caution. The participatio actuosa [active participation] should not therefore be understood as the need to do something. On this point the teaching of the Council has often been distorted. It is instead to let Christ take us and associate us with his sacrifice.

Citing the teaching of Pope Francis, Cardinal Sarah criticized the attitude of priests who make themselves the focal point of the liturgy.

“It is entirely consistent with the conciliar constitution, it is indeed opportune that, during the rite of penance, the singing of the Gloria, the orations, and the Eucharistic prayer, everyone, priest and faithful, should turn together towards the East, to express their will to participate in the work of worship and of redemption accomplished by Christ,” he continued. “This manner of doing things could opportunely be put into place in cathedrals, where liturgical life must be exemplary.”

Continuing his discussion of “active participation,” Cardinal Sarah criticized the “contemporary Western mentality” in which the faithful are to be “constantly busy” and in which the Mass is to be rendered “convivial.”

On the contrary, “sacred awe” and “joyful fear require our silence in the presence of the divine majesty. It is often forgotten that sacred silence is one of the means set forth by the Council to encourage participation.”

Cardinal Sarah recalled the Council’s teaching that the faithful should “be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them,” and said that the liturgy “must stop being a place of disobedience to the requirements of the Church.”

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, he emphasized, should not be read with a “hermeneutic of rupture.”

“It would be wrong to consider the extraordinary form of the Roman rite as coming from another theology,” he said. To manifest that the ordinary form and the extraordinary form are “in continuity and without opposition,” it would be “desirable” that there be an appendix in an upcoming edition of the Roman Missal that would permit celebrants in the ordinary form to use the penitential rite and the offertory of the extraordinary form.

“If we live in this spirit, then the liturgy will cease to be the place of rivalry and criticism,” and instead be the place in which we participate actively in the heavenly liturgy, the cardinal concluded.


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  • Posted by: tcflanagan - Jun. 15, 2015 6:23 PM ET USA

    May God bless this man.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Jun. 14, 2015 6:04 PM ET USA

    Seems like a lot of prayers are being heard.

  • Posted by: lak321 - Jun. 13, 2015 8:04 PM ET USA

    Yes!!!!!!!!!! AMEN!!!!!!

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Jun. 13, 2015 2:23 PM ET USA

    Occidental orientation of the priest in a Church that spiritually, traditionally and architecturally faces "ad orientem" is a major problem that is only partially addressed in Card. Sarah's proposal. Certainly I can't be the only person who is uneasy when the priest speaks the words of the Canon as if he is speaking to the people in the congregation, making seemingly meaningful facial expressions. It is even worse than addressing the "Adoro Te" to us. It renders the words meaningless.

  • Posted by: billG - Jun. 12, 2015 8:51 PM ET USA

    Hmm? Vernacular out, Latin in? The quoted directive from Sacrosanctum Concilium was ignored in a rush to a dumbed-down vernacular. 40 years to get a decent English translation of the Mass because the original translators had an agenda to remove the sense of the sacred, and of sacrifice, from the text. As Danielou wrote in 1968 "Horizontalism has minimized the "vertical dimension" of the love of God, of worship, of prayer, with the purpose of reducing Christianity to a form of social service."

  • Posted by: chady - Jun. 12, 2015 5:21 PM ET USA

    'If we live in this Spirit, then the liturgy......... will be the place in which we participate actively in the heavenly liturgy.' All that Cardinal Sarah says in this article can be summarised in his last abbreviated sentence. We need to pray to be infused with the Holy Spirit who will teach us everything [John 14: 26] ........ whichever way we are facing!

  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - Jun. 12, 2015 5:05 PM ET USA

    "Cardinal Sarah criticized the 'contemporary Western mentality' in which the faithful are to be 'constantly busy' and in which the Mass is to be rendered 'convivial'.” This perfectly describes the ordinary form masses where I live, at which one tacky vernacular hymn after another is sung from the moment the priest enters the sanctuary until he leaves. I can only hope that others, like me, who have no choice but to attend this kind of mass can accept it as a great cross that is pleasing to God.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 12, 2015 11:40 AM ET USA

    Does Cardinal Sarah read or what? It was only one week ago that I posted my comment about the different theologies of the ordinary and extraordinary forms. Now Cardinal Sarah has answered magnificently. He suggests that with the priest facing the people, the focus of the sacred liturgy might be placed on him. This can surely be a danger, but consider this. With everyone facing inward, might not the focus become the immanent as opposed to the transcendent? This is crucial.