Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ratzinger 1988 - Desacralization of the Liturgy

I only have a few minutes to lead you elsewhere for a most inspiring read...

With hat-tips to the Pontifications blog and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf at WDTPRS, I would like to draw your attention to a 1988 speech by Cardinal Ratzinger when he visited Chile that year.

The entire speech is worth reading and I have only gotten through two-thirds of it. But, I want to lead you into it before heading off to work.

While the article discusses Lefebvre and SSPX, Cardinal Ratzinger delves deeply into discussion around the liturgy, how it was desacralized following Vatican II, and how attitudes changed during that era. He explores these things in his speech not to excuse Lefebvre, but in a spirit of a shepherd who sees the need for the Church to do some soul searching on those attitudes and changes seen in liturgy. He is not questioning Vatican II, but to my mind, going after the perversion of Vatican II.

I will only give you one excerpt here and you will need to follow the link to Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog, where he provides interesting tidbits, comments, and emphases throughout the speech. Here, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, gets into the first of three points around which he makes an "examination of conscience". (The emphases and red comments are that of Fr. Z).

While there are many motives that might have led a great number of people to seek a refuge in the Traditional liturgy, [1] the chief one is that they find the dignity of the sacred preserved there. After the council there were many priests who deliberately raised “desacralization” to the level of a program, [Pay attention to what follows: Ratzinger describes a theological argument for the undermining of sacral liturgy.] on the plea that the New Testament abolished the cult of the Temple: the veil of the Temple which was torn from top to bottom at the moment of Christ’s death on the cross is, according to certain people, the sign of the end of the sacred. The death of Jesus, outside the City walls, that is to say, in the public world, is now the true religion. Religion, if it has any being at all, must have it in the nonsacredness of daily life, in love that is lived. Inspired by such reasoning, they put aside the sacred vestments; they have despoiled the churches as much as they could of that splendor which brings to mind the sacred; and they have reduced the liturgy to the language and the gestures of ordinary life, by means of greetings, common signs of friendship, and such things. [Okay… does that not sound like the arguments used by H.E. Donald W. Trautman when he runs down the translation norms of Liturgiam authenticam and argues for liturgical language in the style of everyday common speech?]

There is no doubt that, with these theories and practices, they have entirely disregarded the true connection between the Old and the New Testaments: It is forgotten that this world is not the Kingdom of God, and that the “Holy One of God” (John 6:69) continues to exist in contradiction to this world; that we have need of purification before we draw near to Him; that the profane, even after the death and the Resurrection of Jesus, has not succeeded in becoming “the holy.” The Risen One has appeared, but to those whose heart has been opened to Him, to the Holy; He did not manifest Himself to everyone. It is in this way a new space has been opened for the religion to which all of us would now submit; this religion which consists in drawing near to the community of the Risen One, at whose feet the women prostrated themselves and adored Him. I do not want to develop this point any further now; I confine myself to coming straight to this conclusion: We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again. The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills. In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director. [As WDTPRS repeats incessantly, the true Actor in the sacred action of Holy Mass is Christ, the Hight priest: Christ as Head of the Body is seen in the priest, alter Christus; Christ the Body is the congregation united to the Head; together they are Christus totus. Thus, we must be interiorly disposed and united to the action and obey the Church’s norms so that Christ acts in our words and gestures.]

Fr. Zuhlsdorf: Flashback 1988: Ratzinger 1988 on the Lefebvre "Schism" (with commentary)

Original Pontifications post
(just the speech without commentary)