Rorate Caeli

Summorum Pontificum: A real application of Sacrosanctum Concilium

On December 11, 2009, Rinascimento Sacro published a report on the talk on the sacred liturgy given by Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera on November 28 of the same year in Gubbio. The report, which transmits the substance of the Cardinal's discourse and of his replies to some questions rather than his exact words, has by and large escaped the notice of the English-speaking Catholic blogosphere. Although it contains little that is new, some turns of phrase and expressions of the Cardinal should be very interesting and helpful for the cause of all who love Sacred Tradition. Hence the translation below.

Not a few will point out that what we need is action, and not more words or discourses. I agree with that. We ceaselessly pray that the Holy Father will concretely and firmly set the whole Church upon the course of recovering the liturgical and theological tradition that by and large has been abandoned However, while we are waiting with hope, who are we to belittle any and all support – whether in word or deed -- that is given to liturgical tradition by the hierarchs of the Church, whether they be auxiliary bishops or eminent Cardinals of the Roman Curia? Given the state of the Church, any expression of support must be gratefully received and not spurned.

A note of caution: in the portion that reports on the Q&A, there might be some difficulty in drawing the line between the thought of the Cardinal and the thought of the redactor, RDA. CAP.

Cardinal Canizares at the conference in Gubbio

From our correspondent, a complete and comprehensive report of the conference held on November 28 in Gubbio by Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship on the theme "The true spirit of the Liturgy. Catholic worship in the light of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI" by R. D. A. On Saturday, November 28, at 9.15 p.m. at the Beniamino Ubaldi Hotel in Gubbio was held the first Italian conference of His Eminence Reverend Card. Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who had been invited to speak by the Cultural Association “Benedetto XVI”, in collaboration with the magazine Il Timone (whose director, Giampaolo Barra, was present) and with the Diocese of Gubbio (led by His Ecc. Rev. Mons. Pietro Bottaccioli) .

The meeting began by showing a video where the work of the Congregation of the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was presented. It contained a biography of the speaker, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, appointed Prefect of the Congregation by Pope Benedict XVI in December 2008. After that, Prof. Luigi Girlanda (President of the Association “Benedict XVI” which has done similar meetings and initiatives) and Cardinal Cañizares Llovera made their entrance into the hall.

(Here comes the report of the substance of the Cardinal’s address. CAP)

After the preliminary greetings, the Cardinal at once introduced the principal subject of the conference: the Liturgy, defined as the "source and summit" of the Christian and ecclesial life of by the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council, and certainly also an important topic of debate, above all in the last years. The Prefect declared, in a simple and clear manner, that the Church and the whole of humanity cannot disregard the Liturgy and that if the liturgy is in crisis and danger, then the whole Church is in crisis and danger.

The liturgy (from Greec λειτουργία, or "service to others"), according to the traditional teaching, is the true and efficacious service to God (of praise and glorification) and to fellow-men (of help, prayer and sanctification) , and is not a simple human creation, but comes from Christ himself and from the apostles, from the first Fathers and from the first Christians. The Liturgy is the cornerstone of the Church and, one may say, also of the Papacy of Benedict XVI, who by the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis and the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (both primulgated in the year 2007), wanted to popularize again the old principle according to which the lex orandi corresponds to the lex credendi and that the liturgy be understood as true worship of God and service to Christ, focusing the attention on the sense of the sacred, and the adoration of the mystery that belong to it.

Sacrosanctum Concilium which is the constitution of Second Vatican Council dedicated to the Liturgy, (which should be interpreted in continuity with the preceding tradition) is the first constitution to point out the importance that the Liturgy, that is adoration, communion and participation in God in spirit and truth (as we find in the Gospel of John) has in the life and vocation of the Christian.

The Eucharist is rightly called the living source of holiness, whose only origin is God; the Liturgy has in fact been living and real nourishment – as living and real as the consecrated Bread and Wine – of innumerable persons and innumerable saints: it is enough to think, I believe, of Saint John Maria Vianney and Saint Pio da Pietrelcina, Saint Isidoro the Farmer and the Servant of God Pierre Toussaint (who rose early to attend morning mass), of the Holy Martyrs of Gorkum and of Saint John Mary Scolarici (a 16th-century Orthodox Sicilian priest canonized by the non-canonical “Orthodox Church of Italy” in 2009 – CAP), who were martyred, one of them by the Protestants and the other one by the Muslims, for their defense of the Mass and of the Eucharist; of so many workers who get up early in order to attend the first Mass of the day, of the sick ones who find strength and nourishment in the body of Christ, the prisoners and the poor who receive Christ from the hands of holy priests who give their lives for others, of the families who participate together in the Eucharistic celebrations.

But the problem of the subject of the Liturgy may arise: are we, the individuals, the community, the priest – however important we may be – the protagonists, or is the protagonist God and His immolated Lamb, Jesus Christ? There can be only one answer: the true and unique protagonist is God, and signs of his presence and centrality are the altar and the crucifix, on which everybody, the community and the priest, shall look.

As stated earlier, the ultimate ends of the Liturgy on one hand is the knowledge and glorification of God, and on the other the salvation and sanctification of men: in the East and in the West, fromthe early Christian era to the present, until the end of the world, this is and always will be.

If the Second Vatican Council was very clear on the question of the Liturgy, on the Church, on the authority of the Pope and of the Bishops, unfortunately things have deteriorated during the post-conciliar period, where we have seen an interpretation and implementation of the dictates of the Council Fathers which has not fully corresponded to their intentions. Spreading a certain unhealthy anthropocentrism (very different - I would say – from authentic Christian humanism, as expressed in the great works of Saint Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, Marsilio Ficino, and even more different from the Incarnation and the Passion of the Son of God, wonderfully called Philanthropist in the splendid Oriental liturgies) and not fully understanding the Sacrosanctum Concilium (which called for small adjustments, but only in the wake of the Tradition, no great modifications) : this is the origin of the "silent apostasy" denounced by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and before them Paul VI with his famous remark on the "smoke of Satan”.

Joseph Ratzinger – who focuses much of his theological vision on the oratio rationabilis, in Greek λογική λατρεία – has given a strong statement: "I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today to a large extent is due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur (as if God does not exist): in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not he speaks to us or hears us." (CAP: the quote is from Milestones, the autobiography of Joseph Ratzinger.) Indeed, this is the problem, as explained by Cardinal Cañizares Llovera: When it is man who is creating the liturgy – the real meeting-place with God – then this real sense is irretrievably lost; unfortunately this is just what has been happening during the last forty years, during which period the declarations of the Popes of the Council have been forgotten. Because of these misconceptions as to the Reform and the Tradition it has been necessary to make a 'Hermeneutic of continuity' in respect to the past and to urge the faithful to discover and share with all Christians the patrimony of the Liturgy, according to the intentions of the best Liturgical Movement (that started with the Servant of God Prosper Guéranger and was continued and encouraged by St. Pius X and the Venerable Pius XII) and of the Second Vatican Council itself.

The task of the Church, Christ's mystical body, founded by Jesus on Peter and on his faith in Him, is the transmission of the faith, and it is not possible to transmit the faith without the Liturgy, which is the indispensable center of the Church and of each and every man. Benedict XVI proposes over and over again (let me use some Latin…: Tradidi quod et accepi; ...repetita iuvant... I delivered unto you that which I myself have received… that which is repeated helps) that the Gospel be considered as the heart of theology (but that it is too often reduced to mere sociology and psychology), and reminds us that the Liturgy is the heart of the Church. And Liturgy is identified in the Tradition (which is a gift, a legacy given us by our fathers and which comes from Jesus and from his Apostles), which, together with Scripture and the living and true Magisterium of the Popes who are the successors of Peter, is the source of Truth (Nulla Veritas sine Traditione).

With the Liturgy, the Eucharist and the Gospel (living hearts and centers of the Church) our Lord Jesus Christ is placed in the heart of the Church and in each of us, and only the one who does not have a narrow, partial and even ideological view (and therefore, I believe, we must avoid every kind of progressivism as well as every kind of traditionalism) (CAP: the original Italian reads as e, quindi, come credo, bisogna fuggire da ogni progressismo come da ogni tradizionalismo) can understand it, love it and transmit it.

In the secularized society of today, even more than the one of yesterday, it is necessary to worship and give testimony to God (who is the Summit of Wisdom and the Summit of Love) and to Christ (the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end of everything): let us remember that Jesus has said that He will be ashamed of us on the Last Day if we were ashamed of Him during our life here on earth; let us also remember that the best way to worship and give testimony to God and to Christ is in the Liturgy, which exactly puts this fact in the center (As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said: "Know, oh Christian, that it is better to devoutly hear one Holy Mass than to distribute to the poor one's own properties or walk as a pilgrim over the whole earth").

Connected with the Liturgy is also the problem of actuosa participatio, or attentive and sensible participation, each one according to one's own role and own sensibility. Today it is often the case, as Benedict XVI has affirmed more than once (most recently during his discourse to the Brazilian bishops on September 2009), there is a risk of the clericalization of the laity and the lacization of the priests, and the distinction between laymen and priests is lost (in the Gospels and in the Acts the distinction between Apostles and disciples is very clear), united in the same mission and in the same Church, with different tasks but equally worthy and important.

Another problem is the conception of the Eucharist as being 'only' a Banquet and not above all a Sacrifice: it is true that the Mass is 'also' the assembly of the faithful and the Holy Supper (this term has certainly not been invented by the Protestants! ), but the Mass is most of all a Sacrifice; the living, true and bloodless Sacrifice of Jesus, whom on each altar, in each mass, is presented again united with that of the Calvary; and it is also from the Sacrifice that the Supper, the Banquet and the feast celebrating the Resurrection are celebrated. There is no distinction or contradiction between the Supper and the Sacrifice, and even more between Christ and the Church, be it not in the minds of certain theologians.

Let us therefore remember the words of the Fathers and of the Doctors, according to Saint Cyprian of Cartage: "The liturgy is the medicine for the cure of ailments and the holocaust to pay for sins", and according to Saint John Chrysostom: "The Liturgy has in a certain manner, as much value as for our souls as the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross".

The insane 'liturgical archaelogism' , which Pius XII feared and denounced in the encyclical Mediator Dei, seems almost to have become reality, precisely with the reduction of the Mass to only a Supper.
However, as the Cardinal so rightly noted, the Last Supper of Jesus is the theological foundation (Accipite, et manducate ex hoc omnes. Hoc est enim Corpus meum...Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes. Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis mei, novi et aeterni Testamenti) but not the liturgical foundation, of the Mass. As a matter of fact, the Liturgy was formed in the apostolic times among the first Christians. Saint Paul in his letters, Saint Justin in his works, and the pictorial testimonies clearly distinguish the Lord's Supper from the supper of the community.

The mass has a very special dimension in the prayer: let us remember that Jesus starts the Passion, in the Cenacle and on the Mount of Olives, praying, in the same way as he ends it praying on the Holy Cross. Also here there is no contradictions and distinctions between Scientia, the Theologia Crucis, and the Mysterium Paschae, as recorded in marvelous pages by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

The interpretations made after the Council have led to a certain primacy of the community (important also), which is considered more important than God (it would then seem that it is the community that does the Liturgy, whereas it is from God that it is derived), and to the loss of the true meaning of the Mass (the glory of God and the salvation of men), together with the sense of adoration and of prayer which had been the accompaniment of the whole Eucharist.

Together with the problem of the 'conception' of the Eucharist, there is also the problem of its 'reception', which cannot be anything but adoration and intimate and true communion with Christ (as was often emphasized by the Holy Fathers and Doctors Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan and Maximus of Turin). The reception of the Eucharist leads to the question of the behavior and of the actions of the Christian, in his life (how can we not think of the Pope and his Sacramentum Caritatis, or of Jesus' own stern warning: 'Why do you call me Lord, and then you do not do what I say?") and in the Mass even more (suffices it to think of the admonition, which then is taken up in the Byzantine and Latin prayers before the administration of the Communion, of Saint Paul: the Apostle wrote that the one who receives the Body and Blood of Christ in an undignified manner receives his own sentence): and here returns in joy the life of the Mass that is the famous and so much abused participatio actuosa.

The “participatio actuosa”
is free, conscious and fruitful, but it does not mean to always participate and intervene, and even silence (which is a sign of adoration and respect) is 'active' participation.
The source of participation is prayer which is the conversation between us and even more with God, it means to act cum Ecclesia: participation, then does not mean movement; silence is not empty. Connected to participation is devotion, which cannot and must never be banal, superficial, mundane, something which obliges. No, indeed, it is free from those defects.

(Here ends the report on the substance of the Cardinal’s address. What follows is the report on the Q&A. CAP)

Thus is the substance of the intervention of the Cardinal, followed by the lively and heartfelt applause of those present; after that followed some questions from the participants, which His Eminence answered in a timely and exhaustive manner.

The first question concerned the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum from 2007, which introduced the possibility of celebrating according to the venerable rite of Saint Pius V. The central point in the question concerned the intention of the document: is it an act of papal farsightedness and charity, or is it a way to mend relations with the "lefebvriani"? Cardinal Cañizares Llovera said that first of all a Motu Proprio, in general, is not a high degree of teaching (magistero), but in this case it certainly is (we have here to do with an exception!). Immediately thereafter he spoke about the Liturgy as a combination of Communion and Tradition (the latter being indispensable and imperative: we may think of St. Vincent of Lerins and his wonderful page on the relationship between Tradition, Catholicism and Orthodoxy); and of liturgy intended as showing the primacy of God, as adoration, praise and glory, and not as all the things that we do. It (Summorum Pontificum – CAP) also solved a colossal misunderstanding spread among many priests and faithful: the rite called the Tridentine was not born from the Council of Trent! St. Pius V (who among other things was relentless against the 'medieval encrustations', which are wrongly affirmed by some liturgists to abound in the antique rite) had limited himself to extending to the universal Church the old and venerable rite that had spread to Rome since ancient times and and which in its core went back to Saint Gregorius the Great and from him descending to Saint Damasus and Saint Gelasius, to the Fathers and the Apostles. The Cardinal continued his answer to this question by expanding some subjects: the relation between lex orandi and lex credendi and the concept of 'hermeneutic of continuity' proposed by Benedict XVI for the reading of the conciliar texts. Finally, the Cardinal said that the papal document is a true call for communion (which has its source in the liturgy itself), and a real application of the Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Another question concerned the West and its crisis. The world, perhaps even more than during the times of Pius XII and JohnXXIII (who had the intention of convoking an Eucumenical Council precisely in order to fight secularization and ecclesial modernism), is now far from Christ and the Church, and in society there is the spread of ideologies that are anti-Christian and, despite the name (“humanism”) anti-human. The 'humanism' in question (and the Cardinal knows very well what he is talking about, due to the vicissitudes of his country of origin, Spain) is completely misunderstood, and is an ideology very far from Christian humanism, because it emanates from the opposition between God and man (as if the Father had not sent his Son to earth because of his love for men and the Creation) and from the negation of God. If God is denied, He who is the ground of everything, then also Nature itself is denied, which is so uncritically extolled by certain schools of thought. The Liturgy (a gift of Christ, not something made by men), and the Saints who have loved it (as for instance Saint Jean Marie Vianney, whom Blessed John XXIII loved so much, and for whose death anniversary Pope Benedict XVI has dedicated the Year of the Priests), is and will be the true and only antidote to the ills of this modernity and to this world that is further and further distant from Jesus and from his Mystical Body, the Church.

The next question concerned Beauty: today it seems that the Church has lost Beauty, first of all musical Beauty. We can only look at the progressive abandonment of Gregorian chant. Beauty – I would say – according to the thinking of the great Russian author and philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky, of Pope Benedict XVI and of the philologist and noted blogger Francesco Colafemmina, is the encounter with God; we must not forget that, according to Dostoevsky, only Beauty may save the world: and is it not perhaps Christ the Beauty incarnate? Nor should we forget that chant and prayer are equivalent; how could we forget the famous dictum attributed to Saint Augustine : "He who sings, prays twice"?

Another question focused on rumors of a 'reform of the liturgical reform', as can be gathered from many texts and interventions of Ratzinger (either as a cardinal or Pope) and the anticipations of an Italian journalist (Andrea Tornielli). Such reform would consist in a harmonious 'merger' of three Missals, that of 1962 (the "Tridentine" missal, now in use for the celebration in the extra-ordinary form of the Roman Rite), the one of 1965 (the Missal of 1962 slightly modified and partly translated into the vernaculars) and that of 1970 (the truly 'modern' Misssal). The Cardinal smiled at this question and said with humor that the question should be put to the journalists, not to him!

We come now to a very interesting question, above all as for the answer. A gentleman stood up and asked His Eminence how the (presumed) discrepancy between life and liturgy may be resolved. How to reconcile democracy, concern for the oppressed, with the liturgy? Needless to say, as soon as the gentleman in question quoted theologians like Rahner and Schillebeeckx, in the hall there was heard panting noices and murmurs of disapproval. The Cardinal responded in a firm and timely manner, stating that only with the rediscovery of the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) is it possible to discover the preferential option for the poor (Gaudium et Spes). Finally Sacramentum Caritatis was mentioned, in which Pope Benedict has brought forward the inextricable link between engagement in the world (politics, society, culture, family) and the Eucharist. The response made by Cañizares Llovera was – needless to say – followed by a long and thunderous applause.

I think the comment by the Cardinal is to be framed in this way: how can we explain the many 'social' saints and priests (SS. Jean-Marie Vianney, John Bosco, Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, Leonardo Murialdo, Bl. Vincent Romano, Padre Pio di Pietrelcina) and laymen (Bartolo Longo, Contardo Ferrini, Gabriel García Moreno, Frederic Ozanam, Joseph Moscati), who drew their strength from the 'old' Mass (because there was no other, at the time...), from Eucharistic Adoration, from the Rosary? How is it possible not to recall the Basilian and Benedictine monks living on alms and on hard work, but through the Divine Office receive precious gifts? How not to mention Saint Francis of Assisi, who dispossessed himself of all his possessions, lived on alms and embraced the poor and the lepers, at the same time recommending fidelity to the Pope and the Church, and the use of precious sacred vessels for the Mass? How can we forget the Servant of God, Giorgio La Pira, the 'holy mayor' of Florence, who received so much criticism from the right, who lived in a monastery, took part in the daily liturgy, and during the storms of '68 recommended fidelity to the local Bishop, criticizing the base communities? And how not to mention these precepts of the Holy Curé of Ars ("All good works put together do not equal the Sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the work of men, while the Mass is a work of God") and of Saint Peter Julian Eymard ("The Holy Mass is the most holy act of religion, you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God, that can be more advantageous to our souls. We receive strength which enables us to have greater love for God and our fellow-man, and to be able to forgive")?

The next question concerned a sore point of this crisis: the liturgical abuses. What could and should a simple lay faithful do facing the abuses that are performed during the Mass? The Cardinal replied that the faithful must operate according to the evangelical principle of fraternal correction, gentle and yet firm (we could remind of the recent action of the Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue). The faithful must at first speak with the priest who has committed the abuse. If the priest is unwilling to be corrected (It. indisponibile), then the faithful should contact the Bishop, who is the moderator of the liturgy of his diocese. If even the Bishop shows himself unwilling to act, then you should address yourself to the Congregation for the Divine Worship. Liturgical abuses do happen, due to either excessive devotion or to mere ideology, thus perverting the adoration of God and service of the faithful, who have the right to participate in a Mass which is celebrated in the correct way and, if necessary, should be able to have recourse to ecclesiastical authorities.

Yet another question was asked about Eucharistic Adoration, namely the problems of our time arising due to the reduced faith in Transubstantiation and the Real Presence, and the fact that the tabernacles and Crucifixes in the modern churches often seem to have been almost hidden or have simply disappeared. The Cardinal invited us to go back to considering, as has always been the case, the church as a place for adoration and prayer, and for the reinvigoration of faith in the Eucharist.

The last two questions were about the care of the proper translations to be done (of the Bible, of the Missal and of the Liturgy of the Hours) and the publication of an Italian translation of the third edition (going back to 2002) of the Roman Missal from 1970. His Eminence answered that the translations are under the responsibility of the individual Vatican commissions and of the national episcopal conferences.
Both the report made by the Cardinal and the answers he gave to the questions were followed by long and heartfelt applause.

His Eminence then stayed on for a while to talk and to share opinions with those present, and to be photographed together with them, and to give them his blessings.
This conference, held in a climate of lively cordiality, was a marvelous occasion to meet each other: the hall was jammed and many were young, laics, religious and the priests (it was nice to note the presence of a group of young nuns in religious habit!) who had the occasion to meet and share common ideas.

Everybody left the hall really happy and confident of the future.

Laudetur Jesus Christus!

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!