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Papal liturgist sees need for 'reform of the reform'

January 07, 2010

Msgr. Guido Marini, the master of ceremonies for papal ceremonies, called for a liturgical “reform of the reform” in a January 6 address to a conference organized by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. Msgr. Marini explained that this movement should “move one more step ahead in understanding the authentic spirit of the liturgy.”

The Vatican’s chief liturgist said that a renewal of the liturgy must reflect “the uninterrupted tradition of the Church,” incorporating the suggestions of Vatican II into that tradition. The conciliar reforms, he insisted, must be understood as being in continuity with the traditions of previous centuries. “The only disposition which permits us to attain the authentic spirit of the liturgy,” he said, “is to regard both the present and the past liturgy of the Church as one patrimony in continuous development.”

Msgr. Marini lamented that the need for renewal is evident in the widespread abuses of the liturgical norms. He observed that “it is not difficult to realize how far distant some modes of conduct are from the authentic spirit of the liturgy.” He added: “For this, we priests are largely responsible.”

Citing the works of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, from before his election as Benedict XVI, the Italian cleric emphasized that the form of the liturgy is established by the whole Church, and should not be altered arbitrarily by an individual priest-celebrant. He decried the “despotic behavior” of priests who disregard liturgical rules, and emphasized that the liturgy “is not made available to us in order to be subjected to our personal interpretation; rather, the liturgy is made available so as to be fully at the disposal of all, yesterday just as today and also tomorrow.”

Msgr. Marini continued:

What casual folly it is indeed, to claim for ourselves the right to change in a subjective way the holy signs which time has sifted, through which the Church speaks about herself, her identity and her faith!

Offering a few reflections on means of renewing the sense of the sacred in the liturgy, the Vatican official spoke first about the traditional ad orientem posture, “a tradition which goes back to the origins of Christianity.” He argued that when priest and congregation alike face toward the east, it is “a characteristic expression of the authentic spirit of the liturgy.” He went on:

In our time, the expression “celebrating facing the people” has entered our common vocabulary. If one’s intention in using this expression is to describe the location of the priest, who, due to the fact that today he often finds himself facing the congregation because of the placement of the altar, in this case such an expression is acceptable. Yet such an expression would be categorically unacceptable the moment it comes to express a theological proposition. Theologically speaking, the holy Mass, as a matter of fact, is always addressed to God through Christ our Lord, and it would be a grievous error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is the community.

Msgr. Marini said that every aspect of the liturgy should be designed to encourage adoration. He pointed out that Pope Benedict has begun the practice of having the faithful, at papal liturgies, receive Communion kneeling, on the tongue, as a way to “render visible the proper attitude of adoration before the greatness of the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord.” While he wholeheartedly endorsed the call for active participation in the liturgy, the papal liturgist said that the participation of the laity would not be “truthfully active if it did not lead to adoration of the mystery of salvation in Christ Jesus, who for our sake died and is risen.”


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  • Posted by: - Jan. 08, 2010 11:46 AM ET USA

    The monsignor seems at times a bit too excessive, as for example when he indicatess the mass is basically not for the people or some such.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2010 7:27 PM ET USA

    Why doesn't any of this trickle down to the parish music 'ministers', the 'liturgists' nor the various parish leadership entities? It is not a matter of ignorance because I have personally supplied all of the documents in teaching moments at various levels. It seems like they hear it, understand it and then go about their business of doing whatever they 'feel' will be good for the assembly in the liturgy, especially disregard for any attempt to change the profane for sacred music.