How Should We Worship?
Preface to The Organic Development of the Liturgy by Alcuin Reid, O.S.B.
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

In the last few decades, the matter of the right way to celebrate the Liturgy has increasingly become one of the points around which much of the controversy has centred concerning the Second Vatican Council, about how it should be evaluated, and about its reception in the life of the Church.

There are the relentless supporters of reform, for whom the fact that, under certain conditions, the celebration of the Eucharist in accordance with the most recent edition of the missal before the Council––that of 1962––has once more been permitted represents an intolerable fall from grace. At the same time, of course, the Liturgy is regarded as "semper reformanda", so that in the end it is whatever "congregation" is involved that makes "its" Liturgy, in which it expresses itself. A Protestant "Liturgical Compendium" (edited by C. Grethlein [Ruddat, 2003]) recently presented worship as a "project for reform" (pp. 13-41) and thereby also expressed the way many Catholic liturgists think about it. And then, on the other hand, there are the embittered critics of liturgical reform––critical not only of its application in practice, but equally of its basis in the Council. They can see salvation only in total rejection of the reform.

Between these two groups, the radical reformers and their radical opponents, the voices of those people who regard the Liturgy as something living, and thus as growing and renewing itself both in its reception and in its finished form, are often lost. These latter, however, on the basis of the same argument, insist that growth is not possible unless the Liturgy's identity is preserved, and they further emphasise that proper development is possible only if careful attention is paid to the inner structural logic of this "organism": Just as a gardener cares for a living plant as it develops, with due attention to the power of growth and life within the plant and the rules it obeys, so the Church ought to give reverent care to the Liturgy through the ages, distinguishing actions that are helpful and healing from those that are violent and destructive.

If that is how things are, then we must try to ascertain the inner structure of a rite, and the rules by which its life is governed, in order thus to find the right way to preserve its vital force in changing times, to strengthen and renew it. Dom Alcuin Reid's book takes its place in this current of thought. Running through the history of the Roman rite (Mass and breviary), from its beginnings up to the eve of the Second Vatican Council, it seeks to establish the principles of liturgical development and thus to draw from history––from its ups and downs––the standards on which every reform must be based. The book is divided into three parts. The first, very brief part investigates the history of the reform of the Roman rite from its beginnings up to the end of the nineteenth century. The second part is devoted to the Liturgical Movement up to 1948. By far the longest part––the third––deals with liturgical reform under Plus XII up to the eve of the Second Vatican Council. This part is most useful, because to a great extent people no longer remember that particular phase of liturgical reform, yet in that period––as, of course, also in the history of the Liturgical Movement––we see reflected all the questions concerning the right way to go about reform, so that we can also draw out from all this criteria on which to base our judgments. The author has made a wise decision in stopping on the threshold of the Second Vatican Council. He thus avoids entering into the controversy associated with the interpretation and the reception of the Council. Yet he can nonetheless show its place in history and show us the interplay of various tendencies on which questions as to the standards for reform must be based.

At the end of his book, the author enumerates some principles for proper reform: it should keep openness to development and continuity with the Tradition in a proper balance; it should include awareness of an objective liturgical tradition and therefore take care to ensure a substantial continuity. The author then agrees with the Catechism of the Catholic Church in emphasising that "even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy" (CCC 1125). As subsidiary criteria we then encounter the legitimacy of local traditions and the concern for pastoral effectiveness.

From my own personal point of view I should like to give further particular emphasis to some of the criteria for liturgical renewal thus briefly indicated. I will begin with those last two main criteria. It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law; rather, he is the guardian of the authentic Tradition and, thereby, the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and he is thereby able to oppose those people who, for their part, want to do whatever comes into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The "rite", that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living Tradition in which the sphere using that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit that is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis, the handing-on of Tradition.

It is important, in this connection, to interpret the "substantial continuity" correctly. The author expressly warns us against the wrong path up which we might be led by a Neoscholastic sacramental theology that is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the "substance" to the matter and form of the sacrament and say: Bread and wine are the matter of the sacrament; the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary; everything else is changeable. At this point modernists and traditionalists are in agreement: As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly "pastoral", around this remnant, this core that has been spared and that is thus either relegated to the realm of magic or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of Tradition that had taken concrete form, that cannot be torn apart into little pieces but that has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone who, like me, was moved by this perception at the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.

I should like just briefly to comment on two more perceptions that appear in Dom Alcuin Reid's book. Archaeological enthusiasm and pastoral pragmatism––which is in any case often a pastoral form of rationalism––are both equally wrong. These two might be described as unholy twins. The first generation of liturgists were for the most part historians. Thus they were inclined to archaeological enthusiasm: they were trying to unearth the oldest form in its original purity; they regarded the liturgical books in current use, with the rites they offered, as the expression of the rampant proliferation through history of secondary growths that were the product of misunderstandings and of ignorance of the past. People were trying to reconstruct the oldest Roman Liturgy and to cleanse it of all later additions. A great deal of this was right, and yet liturgical reform is something different from archaeological excavation, and not all the developments of a living thing have to be logical in accordance with a rationalistic or historical standard. This is also the reason why––as the author quite rightly remarks––the experts ought not to be allowed to have the last word in liturgical reform. Experts and pastors each have their own part to play (just as, in politics, specialists and decision-makers represent two different planes). The knowledge of scholars is important, yet it cannot be directly transmuted into the decisions of pastors, for pastors still have their own responsibilities in listening to the faithful, in accompanying with understanding those who perform the things that help us to celebrate the sacrament with faith today and the things that do not. It was one of the weaknesses of the first phase of reform after the Council that to a great extent specialists were listened to almost exclusively. A greater independence on the part of pastors would have been desirable.

Because it is often all too obvious that historical knowledge cannot be elevated straight into the status of a new liturgical norm, this archaeological enthusiasm was very easily combined with pastoral pragmatism: people first of all decided to eliminate everything that was not recognised as original and was thus not part of the "substance", and then they supplemented the "archaeological remains", if these still seemed insufficient, in accordance with "pastoral insights". But what is "pastoral"? The judgments made about these questions by intellectual professors were often influenced by their rationalist presuppositions and not infrequently missed the point of what really supports the life of the faithful. Thus it is that nowadays, after the Liturgy was extensively rationalised during the early phase of reform, people are eagerly seeking forms of solemnity, looking for "mystical" atmosphere and for something of the sacred. Yet because––necessarily and more and more clearly––people's judgments as to what is pastorally effective are widely divergent, the "pastoral" aspect has become the point at which "creativity" breaks in, destroying the unity of the Liturgy and very often confronting us with something deplorably banal. That is not to deny that the eucharistic Liturgy, and likewise the Liturgy of the Word, is often celebrated reverently and "beautifully", in the best sense, on the basis of people's faith. Yet since we are looking for the criteria of reform, we do also have to mention the dangers, which unfortunately in the last few decades have by no means remained just the imaginings of those traditionalists opposed to reform.

I should like to come back to the way that worship was presented, in a liturgical compendium, as a "project for reform" and, thus, as a workshop in which people are always busy at something. Different again, and yet related to this, is the suggestion by some Catholic liturgists that we should finally adapt the liturgical reform to the "anthropological turn" of modern times and construct it in an anthropocentric style. If the Liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the Liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age. As against this, the Liturgy should be setting up a sign of God's presence. Yet what happens if the habit of forgetting about God makes itself at home in the Liturgy itself and if in the Liturgy we are thinking only of ourselves? In any and every liturgical reform, and every liturgical celebration, the primacy of God should be kept in view first and foremost.

With this I have gone beyond Dom Alcuin's book. But I think it has become clear that this book, which offers a wealth of material, teaches us some criteria and invites us to further reflection. That is why I can recommend this book.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
26 July 2004

Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was for over two decades the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II. He is a renowned theologian and author of numerous books. A mini-bio and full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press are available on his Author Page.


An excerpt from     Mary: The Church at the Source

[Excerpted from the chapter "'Hail, Full of Grace': Elements of Marian Piety According to the Bible", from Mary: The Church at the Source by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar, pp. 61-69. Footnotes have been omitted.]

"Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger |

"From henceforth all generations will call me blessed"––these words of the Mother of Jesus handed on for us by Luke (Lk 1:48) are at once a prophecy and a charge laid upon the Church of all times. This phrase from the Magnificat, the spirit-filled prayer of praise that Mary addresses to the living God, is thus one of the principal foundations of Christian devotion to her.

The Church invented nothing new of her own when she began to extol Mary; she did not plummet from the worship of the one God to the praise of man. The Church does what she must; she carries out the task assigned her from the beginning. At the time Luke was writing this text, the second generation of Christianity had already arrived, and the "family" of the Jews had been joined by that of the Gentiles, who had been incorporated into the Church of Jesus Christ. The expression "all generations, all families" was beginning to be filled with historical reality. The Evangelist would certainly not have transmitted Mary's prophecy if it had seemed to him an indifferent or obsolete item. He wished in his Gospel to record "with care" what "the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Lk 1:2-3) had handed on from the beginning, in order to give the faith of Christianity, which was then striding onto the stage of world history, a reliable guide for its future course.

Mary's prophecy numbered among those elements he had "carefully" ascertained and considered important enough to transmit to posterity. This fact assumes that Mary's words were guaranteed by reality: the first two chapters of Luke's Gospel give evidence of a sphere of tradition in which the remembrance of Mary was cultivated and the Mother of the Lord was loved and praised. They presuppose that the still somewhat naive exclamation of the unnamed woman, "blessed is the womb that bore you" (Lk 11:27), had not entirely ceased to resound but, as Jesus was more deeply understood, had likewise attained a purer form that more adequately expressed its content. They presuppose that Elizabeth's greeting, "blessed are you among women" (Lk 1:42), which Luke characterizes as words spoken in the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:4 1), had not been a once-only episode.

The continued existence of such praise at least in one strand of early Christian tradition is the basis of Luke's infancy narrative. The recording of these words in the Gospel raises this veneration of Mary from historical fact to a commission laid upon the Church of all places and all times.

The Church neglects one of the duties enjoined upon her when she does not praise Mary. She deviates from the word of the Bible when her Marian devotion falls silent. When this happens, in fact, the Church no longer even glorifies God as she ought. For though we do know God by means of his creation––"Ever since the creation of the world [God's] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom 1:20)––we also know him, and know him more intimately, through the history he has shared with man. just as the history of a man's life and the relationships he has formed reveal, what kind of person he is, God shows himself in a history, in men through whom his own character can be seen.

This is so true that he can be "named" through them and identified in them: the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Through his relation with men, through the faces of men, God has made himself accessible and has shown his face. We cannot try to bypass these human faces in order to get to God alone, in his "pure form", as it were. This would lead us to a God of our own invention in. place of the real God; it would be an arrogant purism that regards its own ideas as more important than God's deeds. The above cited verse of the Magnificat shows us that Mary is one of the human beings who in an altogether special way belong to the name of God, so much so, in fact, that we cannot praise him rightly if we leave her out of account.

In doing so we forget something about him that must not be forgotten. What, exactly? Our first attempt at an answer could be his maternal side, which reveals itself more purely and more directly in the Son's Mother than anywhere else. But this is, of course, much too general. In order to praise Mary correctly and thus to glorify God correctly, we must listen to all that Scripture and tradition say concerning the Mother of the Lord and ponder it in our hearts. Thanks to the praise of "all generations" since the beginning, the abundant wealth of Mariology has become almost too vast to survey. In this brief meditation, I would like to help the reader reflect anew on just a few of the key words Saint Luke has placed in our hands in his inexhaustibly rich infancy narrative.

Mary, Daughter Zion––Mother of Believers

Let us begin with the angel's greeting to Mary. For Luke, this is the primordial cell of Mariology that God himself wished to present to us through his messenger, the Archangel Gabriel.

Translated literally, the greeting reads thus: "Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). "Rejoice": At first sight, this word appears to be no more than the formulaic greeting current in the Greek-speaking world, and tradition has consistently translated it as "hail". But looked at against the background of the Old Testament, this formula of greeting takes on a more profound significance. Consider, in fact, that the same word used by Luke appears four times in the Septuagint, where in each case it is an announcement of messianic joy (Zeph 3:14; Joel 2:21; Zech 9:9; Lam 4:21).

This greeting marks the beginning of the Gospel in the strict sense; its first word is "joy", the new joy that comes from God and breaks through the world's ancient and interminable sadness. Mary is not merely greeted in some vague or indifferent way; that God greets her and, in her, greets expectant Israel and all of humanity is an invitation to rejoice from the innermost depth of our being. The reason for our sadness is the futility of our love, the overwhelming power of finitude, death, suffering, and falsehood. We are sad because we are left alone in a contradictory world where enigmatic signals of divine goodness pierce through the cracks yet are thrown in doubt by a power of darkness that is either God's responsibility or manifests his impotence.

"Rejoice"––what reason does Mary have to rejoice in such a world? The answer is: "The Lord is with you." In order to grasp the sense of this announcement, we must return once more to the Old Testament texts upon which it is based, in particular to Zephaniah. These texts invariably contain a double promise to the personification of Israel, daughter Zion: God will come to save, and he will come to dwell in her. The angel's dialogue with Mary reprises this promise and in so doing makes it concrete in two ways. What in the prophecy is said to daughter Zion is now directed to Mary: She is identified with daughter Zion, she is daughter Zion in person.

In a parallel manner, Jesus, whom Mary is permitted to bear, is identified with Yahweh, the living God. When Jesus comes, it is God himself who comes to dwell in her. He is the Savior––this is the meaning of the name Jesus, which thus becomes clear from the heart of the promise. Renéé Laurentin has shown through painstaking textual analyses how Luke has used subtle word play to deepen the theme of God's indwelling. Even early traditions portray God as dwelling "in the womb" of Israel––in the Ark of the Covenant. This dwelling "in the womb" of Israel now becomes quite literally real in the Virgin of Nazareth. Mary herself thus becomes the true Ark of the Covenant in Israel, so that the symbol of the Ark gathers an incredibly realistic force: God in the flesh of a human being, which flesh now becomes his dwelling place in the midst of creation.

The angel's greeting––the center of Mariology not invented by the human mind––has led us to the theological foundation of this Mariology. Mary is identified with daughter Zion, with the bridal people of God. Everything said about the ecclesia in the Bible is true of her, and vice versa: the Church learns concretely what she is and is meant to be by looking at Mary. Mary is her mirror, the pure measure of her being, because Mary is wholly within the measure of Christ and of God, is through and through his habitation. And what other reason could the ecclesia have for existing than to become a dwelling for God in the world? God does not deal with abstractions. He is a person, and the Church is a person. The more that each one of us becomes a person, person in the sense of a fit habitation for God, daughter Zion, the more we become one, the more we are the Church, and the more the Church is herself.

The typological identification of Mary and Zion leads us, then, into the depths. This manner of connecting the Old and New Testaments is much more than an interesting historical construction by means of which the Evangelist links promise and fulfillment and reinterprets the Old Testament in the light of what has happened in Christ. Mary is Zion in person, which means that her life wholly embodies what is meant by "Zion". She does not construct a self-enclosed individuality whose principal concern is the originality of its own ego. She does not wish to be just this one human being who defends and protects her own ego. She does not regard life as a stock of goods of which everyone wants to get as much as possible for himself.

Her life is such that she is transparent to God, "habitable" for him. Her life is such that she is a place for God. Her life sinks her into the common measure of sacred history, so that what appears in her is, not the narrow and constricted ego of an isolated individual, but the whole, true Israel. This "typological identification" is a spiritual reality; it is life lived out of the spirit of Sacred Scripture; it is rootedness in the faith of the Fathers and at the same time expansion into the height and breadth of the coming promises. We understand why the Bible time and again compares the just man to the tree whose roots drink from the living waters of eternity and whose crown catches and synthesizes the light of heaven.

Let us return once more to the angel's greeting. Mary is called "full of grace". The Greek word for grace (charis) derives from the same root as the words joy and rejoice (chara, chairein). Thus, we see once more in a different form the same context to which we were led by our earlier comparison with the Old Testament. Joy comes from grace. One who is in the state of grace can rejoice with deep-going, constant joy. By the same token, grace is joy.

What is grace? This question thrusts itself upon our text. Our religious mentality has reified this concept much too much; it regards grace as a supernatural something we carry about in our soul. And since we perceive very little of it, or nothing at all, it has gradually become irrelevant to us, an empty word belonging to Christian jargon, which seems to have lost any relationship to the lived reality of our everyday life. In reality, grace is a relational term: it does not predicate something about an I, but something about a connection between I and Thou, between God and man. "Full of grace" could therefore also be translated as: "You are full of the Holy Spirit; your life is intimately connected with God." Peter Lombard, the author of what was the universal theological manual for approximately three centuries during the Middle Ages, propounded the thesis that grace and love are identical but that love "is the Holy Spirit".

Grace in the proper and deepest sense of the word is not some thing that comes from God; it is God himself. Redemption means that God, acting as God truly does, gives us nothing less than himself The gift of God is God––he who as the Holy Spirit is communion with us. "Full of grace" therefore means, once again, that Mary is a wholly open human being, one who has opened herself entirely, one who has placed herself in God's hands boldly, limitlessly, and without fear for her own fate. It means that she lives wholly by and in relation to God. She is a listener and a prayer, whose mind and soul are alive to the manifold ways in which the living God quietly calls to her. She is one who prays and stretches forth wholly to meet God; she is therefore a lover, who has the breadth and magnanimity of true love, but who has also its unerring powers of discernment and its readiness to suffer.

Luke has flooded this fact with the light of yet another round of motifs. In his subtle way he constructs a parallel between Abraham, the father of believers, and Mary, the mother of believers. To be in a state of grace means: to be a believer. Faith includes steadfastness, confidence, and devotion, but also obscurity. When man's relation to God, the soul's open availability for him, is characterized as "faith", this word expresses the fact that the infinite distance between Creator and creature is not blurred in the relation of the human I to the divine Thou. It means that the model of "partnership", which has become so dear to us, breaks down when it comes to God, because it cannot sufficiently express the majesty of God and the hiddenness of his working. It is precisely the man who has been opened up entirely into God who comes to accept God's otherness and the hiddenness of his will, which can pierce our will like a sword.

The parallel between Mary and Abraham begins in the joy of the promised son but continues apace until the dark hour when she must ascend Mount Moriah, that is, until the Crucifixion of Christ. Yet it does not end there; it also extends to the miracle of Isaac's rescue-the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Abraham, father of faith-this title describes the unique position of the patriarch in the piety of Israel and in the faith of the Church. But is it not wonderful that-without any revocation of the special status of Abraham––a "mother of believers" now stands at the beginning of the new people and that our faith again and again receives from her pure and high image its measure and its path?


Petrine Ministry an Exercise in Love, Says Cardinal Ratzinger

In Homily at Mass for Repose of the Souls of Paul VI and John Paul I

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 ( Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger says "the two poles of the mission" entrusted to Popes revolve around love and truth.

The dean of the College of Cardinals made that point when presiding over a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the eternal repose of Paul VI and John Paul I, the immediate predecessors of John Paul II.

The occasion gave Cardinal Ratzinger the chance to reflect on the meaning of the Petrine ministry, whose essence, he said, "is not an exercise of power, but to 'bear the burden of others.' [It] is the responsibility of love."

To preside over the Church "in charity is above all to precede 'in the love of Christ,'" the cardinal said. He recalled that the definitive conferring of the primacy to Peter after Christ's resurrection is linked to the thrice repeated question by the Lord: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"

"To feed the flock and love the Lord are the same thing. It is love of Christ, which guides the sheep on the right path and builds the Church," Cardinal Ratzinger said during his homily Tuesday.

"Love is precisely the opposite of indifference before the other," said the cardinal. "It cannot allow the love of Christ to be extinguished in the other, or friendship and knowledge of the Lord to be attenuated."

"The love of Christ is love for the poor, for those who suffer," he continued. "We know well how our Popes were committed with force against injustice, and for the rights of the oppressed, those who lack power."

"The love of Christ is not something individualistic" or "only spiritual," but also "concerns the world" which it must transform, added the cardinal, who is prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

However, "love would be blind without truth," he said. "And because of this, the one who must precede in love receives from the Lord the promise: 'Simon, Simon ... I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.' The Lord sees that Satan seeks to 'sift us like wheat.'"

It is a test that "concerns all the disciples," but "Christ prays in a special way 'for you,' for Peter's faith, and on this prayer is based the mission to 'strengthen your brethren,'" the cardinal added.

"Peter's faith does not come from his own efforts," Cardinal Ratzinger said. Rather, the "infallibility of Peter's faith is based on the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God: 'I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.'"

"This prayer of Jesus is the sure foundation of Peter's function for all centuries," the cardinal said.

He added that it "can justly be said that the Supreme Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul I confirmed their brethren 'with apostolic valor.'"

The cardinal concluded: "At a time when we see how Satan sifts Christ's disciples like wheat, the imperturbable faith of the Popes has been, visibly, the rock on which the Church is established."