Cardinal Ratzinger on the old and the new Mass
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
On 23-26 October 1998, the tenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's motu proprio 'Ecclesia Dei' was celebrated in Rome by thousands of supporters of the traditional Latin Mass (Missal of 1962). 'Ecclesia Dei' had called on the world's Catholic bishops to make generous provision for those Catholics preferring celebrations of the old form of the Latin rite liturgy and since that time there has been a steady increase in the availability of traditional Latin Masses throughout the world.
A highlight of the 10th anniversary celebrations in Rome was an address by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was delivered at the Ergife Palace Hotel, Rome, on Saturday 24 October, to an audience of almost 3,000 traditional Catholics. In his address, the Cardinal weighed up the respective roles of the old and new forms of the Latin rite in the modern Church in the light of the teachings of Vatican II.
'AD2000' is indebted to Michael Davies for the text of the Cardinal's address, a shortened version of which is published here.
Ten years after the publication of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, what sort of balance-sheet can one draw up? I think this is above all an occasion to show our gratitude and to give thanks. The divers communities that were born thanks to this pontifical text have given the Church a great number of priestly and religious vocations who, zealously, joyfully and deeply united with the Pope, have given their service to the Gospel in our present era of history.
Through them, many of the faithful have been confirmed in the joy of being able to live the liturgy, and confirmed in their love for the Church, or perhaps they have rediscovered both. In many dioceses - and their number is not so small - they serve the Church in collaboration with the bishops and in fraternal union with those faithful who do feel at home with the renewed form of the new liturgy.
However, it would not be realistic if we were to pass-over in silence those things which are less good. In many places difficulties persist, and these continue because some bishops, priests and faithful consider this attachment to the old liturgy as an element of division which only disturbs the ecclesial community and which gives rise to suspicions regarding an acceptance of the Council made "with reservations", and more generally concerning obedience towards the legitimate pastors of the Church.
We ought now to ask the following question: how can these difficulties be overcome? How can one build the necessary trust so that these groups and communities who love the ancient liturgy can be smoothly integrated into the life of the Church? But there is another question underlying the first: what are the deeper reasons for this distrust or even for this rejection of a continuation of the ancient liturgical forms?
The two reasons which are most often heard, are lack of obedience to the Council, which wanted the liturgical books reformed, and the break in unity, which must necessarily follow if different liturgical forms are left in use.
It is relatively simple to refute these two arguments on the theoretical level. The Council did not itself reform the liturgical books, but it ordered their revision, and to this end, it established certain fundamental rules. Before anything else, the Council gave a definition of what liturgy is, and this definition gives a valuable yardstick for every liturgical celebration.
It is in the light of these criteria that liturgical celebrations must be evaluated, whether they be according to the old books or the new. It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow.
The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer and the very life of whole generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man. Such rites can die, if those who have used them in a particular era should disappear, or if the life- situation of those same people should change.
The authority of the Church has the power to define and limit the use of such rites in different historical situations, but she never just purely and simply forbids them. Thus the Council ordered a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not prohibit the former books. The criterion which the Council established is both much larger and more demanding; it invites us all to self-criticism. But we will come back to this point.
We must now examine the other argument, which claims that the existence of the two rites can damage unity. Here a distinction must be made between the theological aspect and the practical aspect of the question. As regards what is theoretical and basic, it must be stated that several forms of the Latin rite have always existed, and were only slowly withdrawn, as a result of the coming together of the different parts of Europe.
Before the Council there existed side by side with the Roman rite, the Ambrosian rite, the Mozarabic rite of Toledo, the rite of Braga, the Carthusian rite, the Carmelite rite, and best known of all, the Dominican rite, and perhaps still other rites of which I am not aware. No one was ever scandalised that the Dominicans, often present in our parishes, did not celebrate like diocesan priests but had their own rite. We did not have any doubt that their rite was as Catholic as the Roman rite, and we were proud of the richness inherent in these various traditions.
Moreover, one must say this: that the freedom which the new order of Mass gives to creativity is often taken to excessive lengths. The difference between the liturgy according to the new books, how it is actually practised and celebrated in different places, is often greater than the difference between an old Mass and a new Mass, when both these are celebrated according to the prescribed liturgical books
An average Christian without specialist liturgical formation would find it difficult to distinguish between a Mass sung in Latin according to the old Missal and a sung Latin Mass according to the new Missal. However, the difference between a liturgy celebrated faithfully according to the Missal of Paul VI and the reality of a vernacular liturgy celebrated with all the freedom and creativity that are possible - that difference can be enormous.
With these considerations we have already crossed the threshold between theory and practice, a point at which things naturally get more complicated, because they concern relations between living people. It seems to me that the dislikes we have mentioned are as great as they are because the two forms of celebration are seen as indicating two different spiritual attitudes, two different ways of perceiving the Church and the Christian life. The reasons for this are many.
The first is this: one judges the two liturgical forms from their externals and thus one arrives at the following conclusion: there are two fundamentally different attitudes. The average Christian considers it essential for the renewed liturgy to be celebrated in the vernacular and facing the people; that there be a great deal of freedom for creativity; and that the laity exercise an active role therein. On the other hand, it is considered essential for a celebration according to the old rite to be in Latin, with the priest facing the altar, strictly and precisely according to the rubrics, and that the faithful follow the Mass in private prayer with no active role.
From this viewpoint, a particular set of externals [phénoménologie] is seen as essential to this or that liturgy, rather than what the liturgy itself holds to be essential. We must hope for the day when the faithful will appreciate the liturgy on the basis of visible concrete forms, and become spiritually immersed in those forms; the faithful do not easily penetrate the depths of the liturgy.
The contradictions and oppositions which we have just enumerated originate neither from the spirit nor the letter of the conciliar texts. The actual Constitution on the Liturgy does not speak at all about celebration facing the altar or facing the people. On the subject of language, it says that Latin should be retained, while giving a greater place to the vernacular "above all in readings, instructions, and in a certain number of prayers and chants" (SL 36:2).
As regards the participation of the laity, the Council first of all insists on a general point, that the liturgy is essentially the concern of the whole Body of Christ, Head and members, and for this reason it pertains to the whole Body of the Church "and that consequently it [the liturgy] is destined to be celebrated in community with the active participation of the faithful". And the text specifies, "In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or lay faithful, when fulfilling his role, should carry out only and wholly that which pertains to him by virtue of the nature of the rite and the liturgical norms" (SL 28). "To promote active participation, acclamations by the people are favoured, responses, the chanting of the psalms, antiphons, canticles, also actions or gestures and bodily postures. One should also observe a period of sacred silence at an appropriate time" (SL 30).
These are the directives of the Council; they can provide everybody with material for reflection
Amongst a number of modern liturgists there is unfortunately a tendency to develop the ideas of the Council in one direction only. In acting thus, they end up reversing the intentions of the Council. The role of the priest is reduced, by some, to that of a mere functionary. The fact that the Body of Christ as a whole is the subject of the liturgy is often deformed to the point where the local community becomes the self-sufficient subject of the liturgy and itself distributes the liturgy's various roles.
There also exists a dangerous tendency to minimalise the sacrificial character of the Mass, causing the mystery and the sacred to disappear, on the pretext, a pretext that claims to be absolute, that in this way they make things better understood. Finally, one observes the tendency to fragment the liturgy and to highlight in a unilateral way its communitarian character, giving the assembly itself the power to regulate the celebration.
Fortunately, however, there is also a certain disenchantment with an all too banal rationalism, and with the pragmatism of certain liturgists, whether they be theorists or practitioners, and one can note a return to mystery, to adoration and to the sacred, and to the cosmic and eschatological character of the liturgy, as evidenced in the 1996 "Oxford Declaration on the Liturgy" (see August 1996 AD2000, p. 7).
On the other hand, it must be admitted that the celebration of the old liturgy had strayed too far into a private individualism, and that communication between priest and people was insufficient. I have great respect for our forefathers who at Low Mass said the "Prayers during Mass" contained in their prayer books, but certainly one cannot consider that as the ideal of liturgical celebration. Perhaps these reductionist forms of celebration are the real reason that the disappearance of the old liturgical books was of no importance in many countries and caused no sorrow. One was never in contact with the liturgy itself
On the other hand, in those places where the Liturgical Movement had created a certain love for the liturgy, where the Movement had anticipated the essential ideas of the Council, such as for example, the prayerful participation of all in the liturgical action, it was those places where there was all the more distress when confronted with a liturgical reform undertaken too hastily and often limited to externals.
This is why it is very important to observe the essential criteria of the Constitution on the Liturgy, which I quoted above, including when one celebrates according to the old Missal. The moment when this liturgy truly touches the faithful with its beauty and its richness, then it will be loved, then it will no longer be irreconcilably opposed to the new Liturgy, providing that these criteria are indeed applied as the Council wished.
If the unity of faith and the oneness of the mystery appear clearly within the two forms of celebration, that can only be a reason for everybody to rejoice and to thank the good Lord. Inasmuch as we all believe, live and act with these intentions, we shall also be able to persuade the bishops that the presence of the old liturgy does not disturb or break the unity of their diocese, but is rather a gift destined to build-up the Body of Christ, of which we are all the servants.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 12 No 1 (February 1999), p. 10
Condensed from the 30 Days printing of
Cardinal Ratzinger's preface to La Reforme
liturgique en question, by Klaus Gamber,
Editions Sainte-Madeleine. (Only the
French translation is on hand.)
The Mass Reduced to a Show
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
A Young priest recently told me: "Today we need a new liturgical movement". He was expressing a desire, these days, only deliberately superficial souls would ignore.
What matters to that priest is not the conquest of new, bolder liberties. For, where is the liberty that we have yet to arrogate ourselves? That priest understood that we need a new beginning born from deep within the liturgy, as liturgical movement intended . . .
In its practical materialization, liturgical reform has moved further away from this origin. The result was not re-animation but devastation.
On the one hand, we have a liturgy which has degenerated so that it has become a show which, with momentary success for the group of liturgical fabricators, strives to render religion interesting in the wake of the frivolities of fashion and seductive moral maxims.
Consequently, the trend is the increasingly marked retreat of those who do not look to the liturgy for a spiritual show-master but for the encounter with the living God in whose presence all the "doing" becomes insignificant since only this encounter is able to guarantee us access to the true richness of being.
On the other hand, there is the conservation of ritual forms whose greatness is always moving but which, when pushed to extremes, manifests an obstinate isolationism and leaves, ultimately, a mark of sadness.
There is no doubt that between these two poles there are priests and parishioners who celebrate the new liturgy with respect and solemnity. But they, too, are made to feel doubtful by the contradiction of the two extremes and, in the final analysis, the lack of unity within the Church makes their faith seem - and wrongly so in most cases - just their own personal version of neo-conservatism.
Therefore, a new spiritual impulse is necessary so that the liturgy becomes a community activity of the Church for us once again and to remove it from the will of parish priests and their liturgical teams.
There can be no "fabricating" a liturgical movement of this kind, just as there can be no "fabricating" something which is alive. But a contribution can be made to its development by seeking to re- assimilate the sprit of the liturgy and by defending publicity that which was received.
The new beginning needs "fathers" who would serve as models, who would not content themselves with just showing the way . . . It is difficult to express in just a few words what is important in this diatribe of liturgists and what is not. But perhaps what I have to say will be of use. J.A. Jungman, one of the truly great liturgists of our century, offered his definition of the liturgy of his time, as it was intended in the West, and he represented it in terms of historical research. He described it as "liturgy which is the fruit of development".
This is probably in contrast with the Eastern notion which does not see liturgy as developing or growing in history but as the reflection of eternal liturgy whose light, through the sacred celebration, illumines our changing times with its unchanging beauty and greatness. Both conceptions are legitimate and by definition they are not irreconcilable.
What happened after the Council was totally different: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy.
We left the living process of growth and development to enter the realm of fabrication. There was no longer a desire to continue developing and maturing, as the centuries passed and so this was replaced - as if it were a technical production - with a construction, a banal on-the-spot prod
Ratzinger Junior on liturgical reform at Vatican II
April 26, 2007, 1:07 pm
After each of the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, Joseph Ratzinger published a pamphlet with reflections on the events and achievements of that session. These were then gathered together and translated into English as Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966).
Given the discussion in several threads of the possible action of Pope Benedict XVI with regard to the Tridentine Rite, some may find it interesting to know how the young conciliar peritus saw the question of liturgy at the time. (Page numbers are given from that English edition.)
In his review of the first session, he had a number of comments:
“The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct6 move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church wi8th her Lord, actualized in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfills its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated … the main theme of the entire Council–its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the ‘hierarchological’ Congar) narrowness’ of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins” (14).
Ratzinger pointed to five important elements in the liturgical schema. (1) “the return to Christian origins and the pruning of certain accretions that often enough concealed the original liturgical nucleus; examples: priority of Sunday over saints’ days; of mystery over devotion, of “simple structure over the rank growth of forms”; “defrosting’ of ritual rigidity; restoration of the liturgy of the Word; “the dialogical nature of the whole liturgical celebration and its essence as the common service of the People of God; “reduction in the status of private Masses in favor of emphasis on greater communal participation.”
(2) a stronger emphasis on the Word as an element of equal value with the sacrament:” new arrangement of biblical readings.
(3) “a more active participation of the laity, the inclusion of the whole table-fellowship of God in the holy action”.
(4) “the decentralization of liturgical legislation,” which represents “a fundamental innovation.” Conferences of bishops now will have responsibility for liturgical laws in their own regions and this, “not by delegation from the Holy See, but by virtue of their own independent authority.” This is to introduce “a new element in the Church’s structure, … a kind of quasi-synodal agency between individual bishops and the pope. This decision may even have “more significance fore the theology of the episcopacy and for the long desired strengthening of episcopal power than anything in the ‘Constitution on the Church.’”
(5) the language of the liturgy. Behind this vigorous debate lay the need for a “new confrontation between the Christian mind and the modern mind. For it can hardly be denied that the sterility to which Catholic theology and philosophy had in many ways been doomed since the end of the Enlightenment was due not least to a language in which the living choices of the human mind no longer found a place. Theology often bypassed new ideas, was not enriched by them and remained unable to transform them” (14-18).
In a talk delivered in October 1964, Ratzinger remarked “that the first real task of the Council was to overcome the indolent, euphoric feeling that all was well with the Church, and to bring into the open the problems smoldering within” (83). An example was the question of the liturgy, which represented a “profound crisis in the life of the Church.” Its roots lay back in the late Middle Ages, when “awareness of the real essence of Christian worship increasingly vanished. Great importance was attached to externals, and these choked out the whole.” Trent’s reaction to Reformation challenges was inadequate, even if it eliminated a number of abuses. It did not sufficiently deal with Reformation difficulties with the notions of adoration and sacrifice. It did cut back the medieval overgrowth and took measures to prevent it in the future. But the main measure was to centralize liturgical authority in the Congregation of Rites.
“New overgrowths were in fact prevented, but the fate of liturgy in the West was now in the hands of a strictly centralized and purely bureaucratic authority. This authority completely lacked historical perspective; it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters. This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy had become a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety the more attention was paid to its prescribed forms. We can see this if we remember that none of the saints of the Catholic Reformation drew their spirituality from the liturgy….
“The baroque era adjusted to this situation by super-imposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archeologized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera in which the chants of the priest functioned as a kind of periodic recitative. The entire performance seemed to aim at a kind of festive lifting of the heart, enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered over with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. Even Leo XIII recommended that the rosary be recited during Mass in the month of October. In practice this meant that while the priest was busy with his archeologized liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. They were united with the priest only by being in the same church with him and by entrusting themselves to the sacred power of the eucharistic sacrifice” (85-86).
After the baroque period, it was clear that the efforts of the Congregation of Rites had resulted in the total impoverishment of the liturgy. If the Church’s worship was once again to become the worship of the Church in the fullest sense-i.e., of all the faithful-then it had to become something in movement again. The wall of Latinity had to be breached if the liturgy were again to function either as proclamation or as invitation to prayer… It was now clear that behind the protective skin of Latin lay hidden something that even Trent’s cutting away of late medieval ornamentations had failed to remove. The simplicity of the liturgy was still overgrown with superfluous accretions of purely historical value. It was now clear, for example, that the selection of biblical texts had frozen at a certain point and hardly met the needs of preaching. The next step was to recognize that the necessary revamping could not take place simply through purely stylistic modifications, but also required a new theology of divine worship. Otherwise the renewal would be no more than superficial” (87).
His concluding comments: “If we view the Council’s initiatives for liturgical reform in their historical context, then we may well consider them a basic reversal. The value of the reform will of course substantially depend on the post-conciliar commission of Cardinal Lercaro and what it is able to achieve3. The problems and hopes of liturgical reform anticipate some of the crucial problems and hopes of ecclesiastical reform in general. Will it be possible to bring contemporary man into new contact with the Church, and through the Church into new contact with God? Will it be possible to minimize centralism without losing unity? Will it be possible to make divine worship the starting point ofr a new understanding among Christians? These three questeions represent three hopes, all bound up with liturgical reform, and all in line with the basic intentions of the recent Council” (88)From The Spirit of the Liturgy.
- The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer, excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy. Art, Image and Artists: Sacred art, inspired by faith, both reflects and informs the culture Art & Liturgy: The Question of Images, excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy Music and Liturgy: How does music express the Word of God, the Vision of God?, excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy. Ignatius Press, 2000. The Theology of Kneeling, excerpt from a chapter, "The Body and the Liturgy", in The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ignatius Press, 2000. What Does 'Rite' Mean in the Context of Christian Liturgy?. pp. 164-167.