The Pope met with the members of the Italian Association of Teachers and Educators of the Liturgy. Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Asks Specialists “Not To Reduce The Liturgy to Rubric Detail Disquisitions”

The Pope called for a liturgy that is not mundane, but one that raises the eyes to heaven, to feel that the world and life are inhabited by the Mystery of Christ.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 01.09.2022).- On Thursday morning, September 1, the Pope received in audience –in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace–, the members of the Italian Association of Professors and  Fosterers of the Liturgy.

Here is the text in English, of the Pope’s address in Italian.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning and welcome! 

I’m happy to meet with you in these days in which you are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Association of Professors and Fosterers of the Liturgy. I join you in  thanking the Lord. In the first place, we are grateful for those that, 50 years ago, had the courage to take the initiative and give life to this reality. Then we are grateful for those that have participated over this half century, offering their contribution to the reflection on the liturgical life of the Church. And we are grateful for the contribution that the Association has made to the reception in Italy of the liturgical reform inspired by Vatican II. 

This period of life and commitment corresponds, in fact, to the ecclesial time of this liturgical reform – a process that has gone through various phases, from the initial phase, characterized by the publication of new Liturgical Books, to the articulated phases of its reception in the following decades. This endeavour of acceptance continues and sees us all committed to further reflection, which requires time and care, a passionate and patient care. It requires spiritual intelligence and pastoral intelligence. It requires formation for a celebratory wisdom, which cannot be improvised and must be constantly refined. 

Your study and research activity has also been placed at the service of this task, and I hope it will continue to do so with renewed impulse. Hence, I encourage you to continue it in dialogue among you and with others, because Theology can and must also have a synodal style, involving the different theological disciplines and the human sciences, “in a network” with institutions that, also outside of Italy, foster and promote liturgical studies. 

Understood in this connection is your intention, which is indispensable, to continue listening to the Christian communities, so that your work is never separated from the expectations and needs of the People of God. These people –of which we form part!–, always needs to be formed, to grow, and yet, they have in their interior that sense of the faith –the sensus fidei– which helps them to discern what comes from God and truly leads to Him (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 119), also in the liturgical realm.  

The Liturgy is the work of Christ and of the Church and, as such, it’s a living organism and, like a plant, it cannot be neglected or mistreated. It’s not a marble or bronze monument; it’s not a museum piece. Like a plant, the Liturgy is alive and must be cultivated with care. Moreover, the Liturgy is joyful, with the joy of the Spirit, not a worldly celebration. Hence, a Liturgy with a funeral tone, for example, is unacceptable. It’s always joyful, because it sings praises to the Lord. 

Therefore, your work of discernment and research cannot separate the academic dimension from the pastoral and spiritual [dimension]. “One of the principal contributions of Vatican Council II was, in fact, the attempt to overcome the divorce between Theology and pastoral care, between faith and life” (Apostolic Constitution  Veritatis Gaudium, 2). Today more than ever, we need a lofty vision of the Liturgy, so that it’s not reduced to rubric detail disquisitions. A Liturgy that isn’t worldly, but which raises the eyes to Heaven, to realize that the world and life are indwelt by the Mystery of Christ and, at the same time, a Liturgy with ‘feet on the earth,’ propter homines, not removed from life. Not with that worldly exclusivity, no, that has nothing to do with it. It must be serious, close to the people. The two things together: to turn one’s gaze to the Lord without turning one’s back on the world.

Recently, in the Letter Desiderio Desideravi on liturgical formation, I stressed the need to find appropriate channels for a study of the Liturgy that surmounts the academic realm and reaches the People of God.  Beginning with the Liturgical Movement, much has been done in this regard, with valuable contributions by many scholars and different academic institutions. I would like to recall with you the figure of Romano Guardini, who was distinguished for his ability to spread the achievements of the Liturgical Movement outside the academic realm, in an accessible and practical way, so that every believer –beginning with young people– can grow in a living and experiential knowledge of the theological and spiritual meaning of the Liturgy. May his figure and his focus of liturgical education, as modern as it is classic, be a point of reference for you, so that your study unites critical intelligence and spiritual wisdom, biblical foundation and ecclesial roots, openness to the inter-disciplinary and pedagogic aptitude. 

Progress in understanding and also in the liturgical celebration must always be rooted in Tradition, which always makes one advance in the direction the Lord wants. There is a spirit that isn’t of the true Tradition: the worldly spirit of “backwardness,” fashionable today: to think  that to go to the roots means to go backwards. No, they are different things. If one  goes to the roots, the roots take one upwards, always. As a tree, which grows, which grows from what reaches it from the roots. And Tradition is precisely to go to the roots, because it’s the guarantee of the future, as Mahler said. Instead, backwardness takes two steps back, that “it has always been done like this” is better. It’s a temptation in the life of the Church which leads to a worldly restorationism, disguised as Liturgy and Theology, but it’s worldly. And backwardness is always worldly, that’s why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: “We are not people that go backwards. No, advance according to the line that Tradition marks for you. To go backwards is to go against the truth and also against the Spirit. Make this distinction well, because there are many in the Liturgy that say that they go “according to Tradition,” but they’re not, at most they are traditionalists. Someone else said that Tradition is the living faith of the dead, that traditionalism is the dead faith of some of the living. They kill that contact with their roots by going backwards. Be careful: the current temptation is backwardness disguised as Tradition. 

And, finally, perhaps what is most important: may your study of the Liturgy be permeated by prayer and the living experience of the Church that celebrates, so that the “thought out” Liturgy always flows, as if it were the vital blood of the lived Liturgy. Theology is done with an open mind and, at the same time, “on one’s knees” (cf. Veritatis Gaudium, 3). This is true for all the theological disciplines, but with greater reason for yours, whose object is the act of celebrating the beauty and grandeur of the mystery of God who gives Himself to us. 

With this desire, I bless you all and your journey from my heart. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you. 


Translation from Italian to Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester


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