the glories of the Catholic liturgy.
Benedict XVI is deeply unhappy with the way Mass is celebrated in most of our parishes. But, says Eamon Duffy, in reforming the liturgy he will be careful not to overstep the limits of papal power The election of Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI in April 2005 put a professional theologian at the helm of the Catholic Church for the first time in centuries. The theologian in question is a controversial figure, whose election was greeted with ecstasy in some quarters, and with alarm and dismay in others. The delight and dismay had a common cause in the reputation which this shy Bavarian professor had acquired for himself during his 24-year tenure of the most influential post in the Vatican, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At least in his early years at the CDF he was a prolific writer and, most unusually for high-ranking curial officials, he gave a series of very highprofile book-length interviews to favoured journalists in which he made clear his unease with many developments in the post-conciliar Church.
High among these unwelcome developments is his view of the general character of the post-conciliar Roman liturgy, repeatedly expressing his concern at the direction of liturgical change. That unease is often perceived as part of a general rejection on his part of the conciliar reforms, or, to put it mom crudely, as part of a more general reactionary repudiation of the Council. But behind his criticisms of the modem liturgy lies a considered and coherent theology and ecelesiology which, even if he were not pope, would merit a proper hearing: since he now occupies the chair of Peter, his views on these issues are a matter of the keenest interest.
The first thing to register is the extent to which Joseph Ratzinger's views on the liturgy are shaped by his prewar experience of growing up in small-town Bavaria, and the worship of his parish church. He was the pious son of a pious family. His father, a policeman, was a devout Mass-goer, and the child Ratzinger was given a series of bilingual Missals by his parents, to help him to understand what was going on at the altar. Pope Benedict has left a vivid account of his own awakening with the help of these books to the beauty and immemorial antiquity of the Mass: "It was a riveting adventure," he writes, "to move by degrees into the mysterious world of the liturgy, which was being enacted before us at the altar. It was becoming more and more clear to me that here I was encountering a reality that no one had simply thought up, a reality that no official authority or great individual had created. This mysterious fabric of texts and actions had grown from the faith of the Church over the centuries. It bore the whole weight of history within itself, and yet, at the same time, it was much more than the product of human history."
For him, the "whole weight of history" meant both the history of Christianity over 2,000 years and in many cultures, of course, but also, in a very concrete way, the liturgical culture of his own Bavaria. He is a man very much at ease with, even gratefully uncritical of, the communal religion which formed him, because he believes it to have been a healthy and an authentic historical and cultural expression of Catholic Christianity, everything from the musical glory of a Haydn Mass in the gold and white splendour of a southern Baroque church, to the folk customs of the Bavarian countryside. Here he is, in a characteristic essay on "What Corpus Christi means to me", recalling the Corpus Christi processions of his youth. He has been reflecting on St Thomas's aphorism about the service of God, "Quantum poles aude — dare to do all that you are able to", and he goes on: "I can still smell those carpets of flowers and the freshness of the birch trees: I can see all the houses decorated, the banners, the singing; I can still hear the village band which, indeed, somedirnes dared to do more, on this occasion, than it was able to! I remember the joie de vivre of the local lads, firing their gun salutes."
There is certainly a strong element of nostalgia in all this, and one may legitimately raise an eyebrow at the apparent lack of distance in this nostalgia directed so uncritically to the thought of young men processing with guns in 1930s Bavaria. Yet Ratzinger's gut knowledge that all this had made him what he was joined with his intellectual conviction that this was authentic Catholic Christianity at its best. Together, they make him suspicious of those professional liturgists who, during and after the Council, rejected such celebrations as evidence of a decadent or defective theology of the Eucharist, one which had forgotten that the Eucharist had been instituted to be eaten, not carried about on carpets of flowers or shot over by lads with guns. By contrast, these processions for Ratzinger represented deep tradition, the authentic transmission of Catholic belief in and love for the Eucharist, within a culture shaped by and saturated in loyalty to Catholicism. If such celebrations did not square with the fashionable theology, then it was just too bad for that theology. So he comments "when we walk our streets with the Lord on Corpus Christi, we do not need to look anxiously over our shoulders at our theological theories to see if everything is in order and can be accounted for, but we can open ourselves wide to the joy of the redeemed".
Love and gratitude for his own Catholic upbringing was, however, only one dimension in the formation of his attitudes towards liturgy. Like most theologically engaged Catholics of his generation, Ratzinger was profoundly influenced by the Liturgical Movement which had become one of the major sources of theological excitement between the wars, and especially by the writings of the Munich-based theologian Romano Guardini, Karl Rahner's predecessor in the chair of Theology and Catholic Weltanschauung, or world view, at Munich. In 1918 Guardini published a series of lectures under the title The Spirit of the Liturgy This little book, which had no scholarly bibliography or learned footnotes, became almost at once one of the foundational texts behind the 20th-century Liturgical Movement. In it, Guardini argued that the liturgy was the main vehicle for and expression of the Church's inner essence. Into its words and actions was distilled the deepest convictions and aspirations of the Christian community, so an appreciation of the meaning and methods of the liturgy was the best means of penetrating to the heart of the Church's Gospel. The liturgy was not just the sum total of roles governing the performance of the obligatory worship of God, it was the very heart of what it meant to be a Catholic, a school of wisdom and understanding, in which all the resources of human culture, in words, visual art, architecture and music were deployed into "the supreme example of an objectively established rule of
spiritual life". Guardini laid great emphasis on the communal aspects of the liturgy, "the Liturgy does not say 'I' , but 'we' ", and on its transcendence of the merely local or any particular congegation. In the liturgy, the Christian "sees himself face to face with God not as an entity, but as a member of the unity" of the Church. The liturgy was the immemorial distillation of Christian experience, so just as it discouraged individualism or the merely local, it also discouraged strong and immediate emotion in favour of restraint. Yet it was never frigid, its texts full of longing, hope, and love for God "emotion flows in its depths... like the fiery heart of the volcano. The liturgy is emotion, but it is emotion under the strictest control." This universalising restraint, the "style of the liturgy", in the words of another of Guardini 's chapter titles, trained and liberated Christians into wider and deeper feelings than their own, drew them into the universal aspirations of the whole of redeemed humanity, identified them with the Christ whose prayer the liturgy was.
Joseph Ratzinger revered and reveres Guardini. He first read The Spirit of the Liturgy shortly after he began his theological training in 1946, and the book was a milestone in his intellectual and religious development. Reflecting on its importance in 2000, he wrote that "It helped us to rediscover the liturgy in all its hidden beauty, hidden wealth, and time transcending grandeur, to see it as the animating centre of the Church, the very centre of Christian life. It led to a striving for a celebration of the liturgy that would be "more substantial Lie, which would reveal the fundamental substance or structure]. We were now willing to see the liturgy in its inner demands and form as the prayer of the Church, a prayer moved and guided by the Holy Spirit himself, in which Christ unceasingly becomes contemporary with us, enters our lives."
The Liturgical Movement was, of course, a movement for reform. Driven by a passionate belief that the liturgy preserved the deepest insights and the most fundamental longings of Christianity, Guardini and many of his colleagues and disciples were also driven by the conviction that in practice the liturgy was often cluttered by the accumulated rubbish of centuries, bogged down in excessive legalism and so no longer able to communicate with modem people. Guardini himself celebrated so-called "dialogue Masses" at an altar in a whitewashed chapel facing the people, and using vernacular hymns, in a desire to let the liturgy speak clearly once again. And like many of the brightest minds of his generation, the young Joseph Ratzinger shared this reforming impatience. As a peritus at the Council, he was to deploy a rhetoric of impatience and disparagement which stressed the problems of a Latin liturgy rather than its glories, designed to speed along liturgical reform. So, before the Council, the same Ratzinger who has written time and again of his deep and nostalgic love of the liturgy of his childhood could deplore the communal dynamic of the old Mass, "a lonely hierarchy facing a group of laymen each one of whom is shut off in his own missal or devotional book". During the Council he would declare that the Latin Mass of his youth was "archaeological", and presented a picture "so encrusted that the original image could hardly be seen": it was therefore "a closed book to the faithful", which was why the liturgy had been marginal to many of the greatest Catholics, why the great mystics, like St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, in his opinion, had drawn link or nothing of their spiritual nourishment from the Mass. The actual outcome of the Liturgical Movement, its drift away from a rediscovery of sources to a search for modernity, a departure, as Ratzinger understood it, from the lines laid out by Guardini and others, however, was to change his mind about all this. From a bastion of daunting antiquarianism inaccessible to ordinary Catholics, the Latin liturgy came to seem to him a precious protection against a rootless aggiornamento reform understood as the adoption merely of modem intellectual and cultural fads and fashions. In common with many of the fathers of the Liturgical Movement, he had hoped for a reform which would clarify and make more intelligible the beauty and wisdom of the ancient
worship of the Church: he was not looking for fundamental change, but careful conservation and restoration. What he thought he saw in the wake of Vatican was a crass and faddish liturgical revolution which jettisoned Latin, and with it a thousand years of liturgical music, from the Gregorian chant which Pius X had tried to revive after centuries of neglect, to the great polyphonic Masses from Palestina to Haydn. Along with the loss of Latin went other changes which Ratzinger was convinced represented fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of liturgy: these included the introduction of improvised prayer formulae., and the universal adoption of the westward-facing position of the priest at Mass.
For Ratzinger all this represented a disastrous break in the Church's tradition, the "magnificent work" of Guardini and others "thrown into the wastepaper basket", the introduction into the Church's worship of a restless modern obsession with change and innovation for their own
sakes, and a preoccupation with human community which excluded or hindered true openness to God. All this came for him to be summed up for him in the new Mass, introduced by Paul VI in the wake of the Council. Here is what Cardinal Ratzinger had to say about these issues, in his memoir Milestones, published in 1998. The extract, which is an extended one, comes from his discussion of the early 1970s, when he was professor of dogmatic theology at Regensburg.
"The second great event at the beginning of my years at Regensburg was the publication of the Missal of Paul VI, which was accompanied by the almost total prohibition, after a transitional phase of only half a year, of using the Missal we had had till then. I welcomed the fact that now we had a binding liturgical text after a period of exploration that had often deformed the liturgy. But I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old Missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy... The prohibi don of the Missal that was now decreed, a Missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries.„ introduced a breach into the history of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic. It was reasonable and right of the Council to order a revision of the Missal such as had taken place before and which this time was to be more thorough than before, above all because of the introduction of the vernacular. But more than this now happened. The old building was now demolished, and another was built, to be sure largely using the old building plans," He concedes that the new Missal had many marvellous things in it, but "setting it as a new construction over against what had grown historically, forbidding the results of that historical growth, thereby makes the liturgy appear to be no longer a living development, but the product of erudite work and juridical authority. This has caused us enormous harm."
This matters because, Ratzinger believed, "when liturgy is self-made... it can no longer give us what its proper gift should be, the encounter with the mystery that is not our own product, but rather our origin and the source of our life".
Declaring his conviction that "the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy", he called for a new liturgical movement, a movement of liturgical reconciliation which would recognise "the unity of the history of the liturgy, and that understands Vatican II not as a break but as a stage of development".
In recent years he has returned again and again in his writings and speeches to his conviction that the imposidon of the Missal of Paul VI as the sole legitimate liturgical norm for Roman Catholics was nothing short of a catastrophe. For Ratzinger the theologian, following Guardini, the power of the Tradidon to mediate to us the Divine is derived from the fact that we experience that tradition as a given, something which is in the first place the self-giving of God, a participation in the worship of the Incarnate Logos, directed to the Father in the Spirit, and, secondarily, the distillation of the Church's age-old encounter with that Lord. On both counts, it is emphatically not something we make up or improvise for ourselves. Liturgical change and revision is a constant of the Church's life, whose necessity and :value he accepts, but that revision must always happen, and, till Vatican II, historically he believes only ever happened, as a process of refinement and purification of what went before, never as a fresh start. It is of the essence of our encounter of God within the liturgy that we experience the liturgy precisely as the gift of God, an entry into the obsequium rationabile, the rational worship of the Logos, and therefore as an inheritance, a space we inhabit as others have inhabited it before us, never as an instrument we design or manipulate, He considers that we in the West have much to learn from the orthodox description of the liturgy as "Divine liturgy", for this reminds us that we receive it, not invent it. Selfmade liturgy is for him an abomination, and indeed a contradiction in terms, and so he distrusts and resists liturgies which emphasise spontaneity, self-expression and local inculturation at the expense of the tried and tested forms. In 2000 he published a major study of the liturgy called, in tribute to Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy. In it, at the end of a somewhat
pedestrian exploration of the Exodus story as a theological paradigm for understanding the liturgy, he comes up with the following revealing — and really rather savage — passage on the Golden Calf, behind which can be discerned his low opinion of much modem Catholic liturgy: "The worship of the Golden Calf is a self-generated cult. When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back. Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking and making merry. It is a kind of banal self-gratification. The narrative of the Golden Calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship. Ultimately it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one's own resources."
Ratzinger's fundamental objections to what I may call the spirit of the new liturgy lie in what he sees as its humancentred frenetic business, which instead of opening us out to God closes us in on ourselves. He believes that behind this phenomenon lies a whole raft of disastrous cultural, sociological and aesthetic convergences linked to the time in which the liturgical reforms were carried out, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a catastrophic theological mistake. Twentieth-century theologies of the Eucharist, he believes, have placed excessive emphasis on the paradigmatic character of the Last Supper, and hence have constructed liturgical practice round the mistaken notion that the fundamental form of the Eucharist as that of a meal, in the process underplaying the cosmic, redemptive, and sacrificial character of the Mass. Calvary and the empty tomb, rather than the Upper Room, are the symbolic Incadons of Christian liturgy. This takes us to the heart of Ratzinger's theological reflecdon on the meaning of the Mass, and the roots of his unease with much in modem Eucharistic celebration.
Ratzinger accepts that the Passover dimension of the Last Supper was crucial to Christian understanding of the meaning of the death of Jesus, and hence of the Eucharist, but the Passover meal, a oncea-year event, was not what Jesus commanded to be continued in the Church's breaking of bread, any more than was the Apostolic agape to which the Eucharist at Corinth in the first Christian generation was attached. So, with considerable daring, he asserts: "The real mistake of those who attempt uncritically to deduce the Christian liturgy from the Last Supper lies in their failing to see this fundamental point: the Last Supper of Jesus is certainly the basis of all Christian liturgy, but in itself it is not yet Christian." We may therefore take the earlier suggestions of the Liturgical Movement and turn them on their head: "The last Supper is the foundation of the dogmatic content of the Christian Eucharist, not of its liturgical form. The latter does not yet exist."
He has returned to this theme in later writings, seeing in the evolution of the Mass away from the Supper and from the Apostolic agape not a falling away from primitive purity and simplicity, but the right and natural freeing of the Christian rite, with its immense Trinitarian significance and its sacrificial heart, from the historical contingencies which surrounded its origins. The emergence of the Mass rite, combining liturgy of the word and liturgy of sacrifice, was thus the fulfilment of the whole of Israelite religion, both teaching and cult. "This new and allencompassing form of worship could not be derived from the meal, but had to be defined through the interconnection of Temple and Synagogue, Word and sacrament, Cosmos and Liturgy."
There is behind all this a characteristic insistence on the integrity of the tradition as a whole, a rejection of the idea of any rift between the Church and the Apostles or Christ. The actual shape of the unfolding tradition is the legitimate and right expression of Christ's will for his Church, hence his growing resistance to the idea of Vatican II as a drastic purification of the decadent forms of Christianity. And it will be evident that this specific questioning of one of the building blocks of modern liturgical reform places Ratzinger at right angles to a good deal of the most characteristic features of the post-conciliar liturgy. Once one rejects the paradigm of the meal as the interpretative key to the Mass, the inner logic of many of the post-conciliar changes, from the reorientation of sanctuaries to the deliberate cultivation of community spirit in such institutions as the holy handshake, collapses.
Ratzinger, incidentally, 4 though insistent on the
communal dimensions of Eucharistic union with Christ, nevertheless thinks "community", Gemeinde,as a theological category is a Protestant rather than a Catholic, concept, pointing out that it is a term barely used by the Council, and then without any consistency in what the term denotes. In a word, he finds himself at odds with a good deal that has been taken to be most characteristic of postconciliar liturgical practice. We now have a Pope profoundly unhappy about much of what goes on in our parish churches Sunday by Sunday.
I think I can best convey the essence of his position by considering three related issues: the notion of the "active participation" of everyone present at Mass, the role of silence in the Mass, and the position of the priest at the altar.
Perhaps the most crucial single utterance in the whole of the documents of the Second Vatican Council occurs at paragraph 14 of the Council's constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Conedhon. It runs like this: "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the 'faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people... have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism.
"In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else... Therefore, in all their apostolic activity, pastors of souls should energetically set about achieving
it through the required pedagogy."
Later in the document, in paragraph 30, this "participatio actuosa" is characterised and described in the following terms: "To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, hymns, as well as by actions, gestures and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time a reverent silence should be observed."
"Full, conscious and active participation", pastoral energy and liturgical pedagogy: these were momentous notions. As anyone who has lived through the two generations of change which flowed from these paragraphs knows, they were to have revolutionary implications for the character and celebration of Catholic liturgy and sacraments, for in accordance with them both rites and texts were revised and simplified so that the people "should be able to understand them with ease and take part in them fully, actively, and as a community", and the Mass itself became an altogether more vocal and activity-centred event.
We are only now, I think, beginning to be in a position to draw up a balance sheet of loss and gain from these changes, which were based on the assumption that the mysteries celebrated in the sacraments could br should be "understood with ease", that the liturgy was an activity concerned primarily with pedagogy, that liturgical rites should be "short, clear and free from useless repetitions", or that "full, conscious and active participation" in worship and sacraments inevitably involved ritual regimentation, with everybody doing or saying or listening to the same things, at the same moment, all the time.
Pope Benedict believes that all this is destructive of true worship. The liturgy is meant to still and calm human activity, to allow God to be God, to quiet our charter in favour of attention to the Word of God, in reflection on the scripture, in which Christ too is present, and in our sacramental encounter, in adoration and communion, with the great self-gift of the Word incarnate in the Blessed Sacrament. So excessive business, and too much talk, even holy talk, subvert the essence of the Mass. The call for instant accessibility is a mistake and a misunderstanding, which has dumbed down the mystery we celebrate, and left us with a banal, thin and inadequate language of prayer. He deplores the "theatricalisation" of liturgy by the introduction of too many actions, too many people, too much business. He rejects especially the value of improvisation and spontaneity, as contradicting the universal character of liturgy, and as subjecting congregations to the often lamentably deficient talents of those doing the improvising. As he has said: "Only respect for the liturgy's fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us which we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as a gift." He doubts the value of offertory processions, the kiss of peace (which disrupts the adoring silence of Communion) and even the desirability of the invariable recitation of the Eucharistic prayers aloud. He considers that it would deepen our awareness that the Mass was more than a meal celebrating and consolidating community if we more often abstained from Communion — maybe by discontinuing the Communion of the faithful on Good Friday. He deplores the disappearance of the magnificent repertoire of European liturgical music and its replacement with vulgar and trivialised "utility music", often derived from a profane and secularising culture which he believes is incompatible with the Gospel. In part, his objection here is unashamedly elitist. He thinks most modem liturgical music is banal, and that we have wantonly thrown away the highest fruits of European culture in favour of what is cheapest and most ephemeral. He has commented sarcastically that: "It is strange, that in their legitimate delight in
the new openness to other
cultures, many people seem
to have forgotten that the countries of Europe also have a musical inheritance which has sprung from the very heart of the Church and her faith."
Hence he offers an explanation of "active participation", which while hardly plausible as an account of the intentions of the drafters of Sacrosanctum Concilium goes to the heart of his own liturgical convictions. The phrase, actuosa participatio he argues, emphatically does not mean participation in many acts. Rather, it means a deeper entry by everyone present into the one great action of the liturgy, its only real action, which is Christ's self-giving on the cross. For Ratzinger, Article 30 of Sacrosanctum Concilizan does not mean we should all be active at Mass all the time. Quite the contrary. With its mention of bodily gesture and of silence as well as words and activity as modes of participation, the Council suggests, he maintains, that we can best enter into the action of the Mass by a recollected silence, and by traditional gestures of self-offering and adoration — the sign of the cross, folded hands, reverent kneeling. And above all silence, silence by the people and silence by the priest: he has repeatedly argued that it would be a good thing if the Eucharistic prayer were not always recited aloud. Instead, the priest might simply recite
aloud the opening words of each paragraph, so that the laity are able to identify the point in the prayer he has reached. They can then follow in their missals and in their hearts, reverently internalising in silence the meaning of the prayer, in a way impossible when they have to listen to the priest reciting aloud words which in any case threaten to lose their impact from over-familiarity and boredom.
Pope Benedict's views on the position of the priest at the altar are in line with all this, and above all here we can see one of the practical workings out of his privileging of the Eucharistic prayer over the sharing of food in the Mass, For 20 years he has argued that the spread of the celebration of Mass versus populwn, facing the people, is a catastrophic error. Derived from the currency of the meal paradigm, it was not in fact ordered by the Council, and rests, he believes, on bad historical scholarship, bad theology, and bad social anthropology. As we've seen, Guardini had pioneered this form of celebration as a means of restoring among his students a sense of the reality and immediacy of their involvement in the liturgy, but no one anticipated its universal adoption in the wake of the Council, and the reconstruction and reordering of most Catholic churches to make any other form of celebration impossible. The rationale for this development will be familiar to all of you. Here is how Cardinal Ratzinger described it in 2000: "The Eucharist, so it was said, had to be celebrated versus populism, The altar, as can be seen in the normative model of St Peter's, had to be positioned in such a way that the priest and people looked at each. other and formed together the circle of the celebrating community. This alone, so it was said, was compatible with the meaning of the Christian liturgy, with the requirement of active participation. This alone conformed to the primordial model of the Last Supper."
All of this, he believes, is founded in misunderstanding. As we have seen, he does not consider that the Mass is properly understood primarily as a meal, and hence, the physical dispositions for a meal can have no normative function in the liturgy. In any case, meals in antiquity did not resemble. or mandate, celebration versus populism. At the Last Supper, Jesus did not face the apostles. but in the classical manner must have lain to one side of the loop of a U-shaped table. The pope at the altar of St Peter's does indeed stand facing the people, but this is because St Peter's, unlike the majority of
ancient churches, is orientated West-East, not EastWest, and so the Pope in standing behind the altar, faces East, the universal position for both priest and people during the Eucharistic prayer in the early Church. This eastward-facing position for the priest is not a matter of standing back to the people, but of everyone, including the priest, facing the same way, towards the rising Sun which symbolises the Risen Christ, the Second Coming, and the eschatological dimension of the Eucharist. In this gesture the Church expresses the true form of the Mass, the Eucharist/a, confesses the sovereignty of God, and expresses her hope and conviction that the Eucharist opens outwards towards eternity. She acknowledges the incompleteness of our salvation here, and displays her yearning for the return of our Saviour. By contrast, the closed circle of the community when priest and people face each other across the altar is, in his view, a closing down against the transcendent God, a centeredness on ourselves and our self-created community which represents a break with the eschatological openness symbolised by the orientation of two millennia of Christian celebration. So, he says, is reordering, he insists "not only signifies a new external arrangement of the places dedicated to the liturgy, but also brings with it a new idea of the essence of the liturgy, the liturgy as a communal meal".
"The turning of the priest to the people has turned the community into a selfenclosed circle. In its outward form it no longer opens out towards what is ahead and above, but is closed in on itself... [Whereas in the past, by facing East at Mass] They did not close themselves into a circle; they did not gaze at one another; but as the pilgrim people of God they set off for the Or/ens, for the Christ who comes to meet us."
In the light of these strong opinions of Cardinal Ratzinger, what is Pope Benedict XVI likely to do to remedy what he perceives as this great breach in the Catholic memory? We have a Pope who has made clear his strong and controversial views on many contested aspects of Catholic worship, and these include a decisive rejection of types of music, art and language which in his view are Trojan horses, smuggling into Christian worship values deeply inimical to it. If the Eucharist is the Church's entrance into the rational worship of the
Logos, everything in the liturgy must reflect the coherence and enhancement of meaning which the Logos brings. Hence his rejection of rock music — and many kinds of ethnic music — in Catholic worship, for they represent the chaotic and elemental triumph of the Dionysian over the harmony of Apollo/Christ. He believes that the Tridentine Mass, whatever the difficulties of comprehension and participa tion it presented, embodied fundamental Christian perceptions undervalued or ignored in modern Catholic worship: and he wishes to see the return of a Eucharistic prayer recited silently in whole or in part, and the celebration of Mass with both priest and people facing East.
Not much of this, it seems, is likely to become papal policy: after the sometimes hectic energy of his predecessor, Benedict XVI has proved gratifyingly inert as Pope. He has more than once indicated his sensitivity to the dangers of liturgical fatigue among the laity, and he has said that constant change, even change back towards the traditional ways of doing things, can be very destructive. The liturgy
is about stability and openness towards eternity, not about restless innovation or the restoration of the past. Certainly, he believes that there is an urgent need to correct abuses in Catholic worship: at his inauguration Mass, loudspeakers issued warnings against nonCatholics in St Peter's square taking Communion, and lectured Catholics on the proper posture and frame of mind for devout and fruitful reception. The encyclical Ecclesia in Eucharistia which he helped John Paul II draft speaks rather ominously of "juridical interventions" to correct liturgical abuse, and in his inaugural address to the cardinals he called on Catholics everywhere to demonstrate their Eucharistic faith in the "solemnity and correctness" of their Eucharistic celebrations. But the interventions of Vox Clara over the translations of the Sacramentary suggest the limited nature of what may have been in mind here. It has recently been rumoured that Benedict is about to lift the restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine liturgy, restrictions which, as we have seen, for him embody a deep and disastrous rupture in the continuity of Catholic tradition, and a scarring of the Church's memory. He has not yet done so.
But you may recall that among the disastrous consequences which Ratzinger the theologian saw flowing from the imposition of the new liturgy was the fact that it rested not on immemorial tradition, on the liturgy as the received product of two
millennia of the Church's
lived experience, but instead, derived its binding force from a juridical act of the Pope, Paul VI: in the imposition of the Missal of Paul VI Ratzinger saw the tradition set aside in the name of a liturgy invented by scholars and imposed by arbitrary and irresponsible papal command, or, as he says, living development set aside in favour of a"niedirittyework and juridical authority".
It is a paradox that a man universally seen as the chief defender of and apologist for a strongly centralising papal authority should feel so deeply that that the exercise of that authority under Paul VI had created a disastrous hiatus in the continuity of the tradition, from the evil consequences of which the Church is still suffering. Ratzinger the theologian understands the nature of tradition as an organic cumulative growth, a plant unfolding, not a machine constructed, and possessing an inherent authority and identity deeper than and prior to the exercise of any hierarchical jurisdiction, however much the
instincts of Ratzinger the curial official might be thought to be at odds with that perception. In his book on the Spirit of the Liturgy, in 2000, he even spelled out the limits on the Pope's right to change the liturgy. In the history of the Western Church, he ,remarked "the pope more and more clearly took over responsibility for liturgical legislation, thus providing a juridical authority for the continuing formation of the liturgy. The more vigorously the primacy was displayed, the more the question came up about the limits and extent of this authority... After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the Pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually the idea of the giveruiess of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one
will, faded from the public
consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Counsel had in no way defined the Pope as an absolute moriarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantee of obedience to the revealed Word. The Pope's authority is bound to the tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not manufactured by the authorities. Even the Pope can only be the humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity."
We are accustomed to think of Joseph Ratzinger as an apologist for central authority and papal power. It is salutary, and ironic, to reflect that here, in the central prayer and sacramental life of the Church, he recognises a more fundamental dimension of Catholicism, which takes precedence over mere authority, and demands our deeper loyalty.
This is an abridged version of an address entitled "Benedict XVI and the Liturgy", given by Eanzon Daffy at the CIEL UK 2006 Colloquium at Merton College, 0Aford