Papal Message on Liturgy as Source of Catechesis

“The Liturgy Is Not What Man Does, But What God Does”

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message sent on behalf of Benedict XVI to the 62nd Italian Liturgical Week, under way through Aug. 26.

The Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, signed the message.

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To His Most Reverend Excellency

Monsignor Felice di Molfetta

Bishop of Cerignola-Ascoli Satirano

Most Reverend Excellency,

I am happy to transmit the Holy Father’s cordial greeting to you and to the participants in the 62nd National Liturgical Week, which will be held from August 22-28 in Trieste. The theme of the meeting — “God Educates His People: The Liturgy, Inexhaustible Source of Catechesis” — comes in the context of the Pastoral Guidelines of the Church in Italy for the 2010-2020 decade, geared to addressing the present educational emergency, and it attempts to put “the primacy of God unequivocally in the light … the first of all, God” (J. Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Opera Omnia, XI, p. 5), his absolute priority in the educational role of the liturgy.

The Church, especially when she celebrates the divine mysteries, recognizes and manifests herself as a reality that cannot be reduced to a solely earthly and organizational aspect. It must appear clearly in these mysteries that the beating heart of the community should be recognized beyond the narrow yet necessary limits of ritualism, because the liturgy is not what man does, but what God does with his admirable and gratuitous condescendence. This primacy of God in the liturgical action was highlighted by the Servant of God Paul VI at the closing of the second period of the Vatican Council, when he announced the proclamation of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “In this event we observe that the correct order has been respected of the values and duties: thus we have recognized that the post of honor is reserved to God; that as first duty we are called to raise prayers to God; that the sacred Liturgy is the primary source of this divine exchange in which the life of God is communicated to us; it is the first school of our soul, it is the first gift that must be made by us to the Christian people.” (Paul VI, Address for the Closing of the Second Period, December 4, 1963, AAS [1964], 34).

In addition to expressing the absolute priority of God, the liturgy manifests its being “God with us,” since “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Benedict XVI, encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 1). In this connection, God is the great educator of his people, the loving, wise, tireless guide in an through the liturgy, the action of God in the today of the Church.

From this foundational aspect, the 62nd National Liturgical Week is called to reflect on the educational dimension of the liturgical action, in as much as it is a “permanent school of formation around the Risen Lord, educational and relative place in which the faith acquires form and is transmitted” (Italian Episcopal Conference, Educare alla Vita Buona del Vangelo, n. 390). For this purpose, it is necessary to reflect ever better on the relation between catechesis and liturgy, yet rejecting all undue instrumentalization of the liturgy with “catechetical” ends. In this regard, the living Patristic tradition of the Church teaches us that the liturgical celebration itself, without losing its specificity, always has an important catechetical dimension (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33). In fact, in as much as it is the “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (ibid., 14), the liturgy can be called the permanent catechesis of the Church, the inexhaustible source of catechesis, precious catechesis in act (cf. Italian Episcopal Conference, Il Rinnovamento della catechesis, Feb. 7, 1970, 113). As an integrated experience of catechesis, celebration and life, it expresses in addition the maternal support of the Church, thus helping to develop the growth of the believer’s Christian life and the maturation of his conscience.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI willingly assures his prayer so that the 62nd National Liturgical Week will be fruitful for the participants and for the Church that is in Italy. He hopes that this important conference, as well as the initiatives promoted by the Center of Liturgical Action, will be placed increasingly at the service of the genuine meaning of the liturgy, favoring a solid theological-pastoral formation in full consonance with the magisterium and the tradition of the Church. To this end, the Supreme Pontiff invokes upon all the participants the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, and he imparts from his heart to Your Excellency, to the archbishop of Trieste, to the bishops and to the priests present, to the speakers and to all the congressmen a special Apostolic Blessing.

With fraternal greetings and good wishes, I take advantage of the circumstance to greet you.

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone

Secretary of State of His Holiness

[Translation by ZENIT]

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