"Liturgy Commits Us to What Has Been Celebrated"

Interview With President of Pontifical Liturgical Institute

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ROME, MARCH 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The liturgical life of the Church of the past 40 years is encouraging, says the president of the St. Anselm Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

In this interview with ZENIT, Benedictine Father Juan Javier Flores Arcas says he is committed to the liturgical reform envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.

He considers the liturgy «Christian living stemming from a life suffused with faith and charity, in the hope that we can and must fashion a better and more human world.»

Q: Do young people approach the source of the liturgy?

Father Flores: Whoever is a Christian cannot but drink from this «source of living water» that slakes his thirst for God. It is a source of concern to me that young people leave this source and seek substitutes.

It is a challenge for the liturgy of today and requires from pastors a notable effort to present it with authenticity and not detract from it.

All this calls for faith, the conviction that the sacred liturgy is «source and summit of the life of the Church,» as stated in «Sacrosanctum Concilium.»

If a Christian moves away from this authentic source, he must examine his identity. … If he shows contempt for it, he must examine his Christian foundations. If he seeks it, he is on the right path, the same path on which he began with his baptism and to which Sunday Mass gives direction.

Q: Does the liturgy lead automatically to commitment in life?

Father Flores: The problem might lie in the fact that the liturgy in its turn commits us to what has been celebrated and, after the celebration, there is life and the commitment to which the latter introduces us. Perhaps this is what makes some flee: the commitment, what follows after the celebration, the very life that springs from the celebration.

The liturgy is an encounter with Christ and with brothers who help us share Christ. It is Christian living suffused with faith and charity, in the hope that we can and must fashion a better and more human world.

Q: It might be that the liturgy forgets Jesus Christ, a paradox?

Father Flores: If the liturgy is the celebration of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, and salvation is full and total insertion in Jesus Christ, both realities are profoundly united, because the liturgy enables Christians to enter into the divine life that is the total salvation of Christians.

Our baptism is the door of life and of the Church. Once we pass through that door we are in the Church and we are to live according to Christian demands.

Q: The liturgy is traditional and modern at the same time. How are these tensions reconciled?

Father Flores: The liturgy is traditional by its very nature, but modern by its very need. It is anchored in the past but is not paralyzed in it. It is based on the past but looks toward the future.

Paul VI’s Roman Missal is profoundly traditional, but at the same time accepts the world of today and its needs. See its rituals for peace and justice, or for man’s work, etc.

See the Book of Blessings with the possibilities it has to confer a divine blessing on the works of men, wherever they are. The riches enclosed in the renewed liturgical books are enormous and favor the man of today, drawing on the experience of the past and of men of all times.

The different rituals of the sacraments have been thought out precisely to respond to the man of today and his concrete needs.

With the passing of the centuries, the Church will have to return to what she was in the beginning and what her founded intended for her, the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ.

Q: So the liturgy is timely by definition?

Father Flores: Adhering to this paschal line, the liturgy will help people of all times to relate to Christ and with him, to reach the Holy Trinity. They will not be lacking in dangers of being diverted, of moving away from the original paschal line. But if they keep the paschal line, they will always be able to return to their own reality.

The early Christian community was very conscious of the liberating role of the Word of God and of the reception of the sacraments.

If the liturgy returns continually to the liberating actions of God in the course of the history of the chosen people, that is, to the anamnesis of God’s liberating event, it will be the specific task of all liturgical celebrations to take into account this liberation of the past and make it present in daily human affairs.

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