Pope Francis gave an important address on the liturgical reform on Thursday, speaking to participants of the 68th Italian National Liturgical Week.
The liturgical reform, he said, did not “flourish suddenly,” but was the result of a long preparation. It was brought to maturity by the Second Vatican Council with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, “whose lines of general reform respond to real needs and to the concrete hope of a renewal; it desired a living liturgy for a Church completely vivified by the mysteries celebrated.”
The direction marked out by the Council, the Pope continued, found expression in the revised liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Paul VI. But “it is not enough to reform the liturgical books; the mentality of the people must be reformed as well.” The reformation of the liturgical books was the first step in a process, he said, “that requires time, faithful reception, practical obedience, wise implementation” on the part first of the ordained ministers, but also of the other ministers, and indeed, of all who take part in the liturgy.
Today, Pope Francis said, “there is still work to do in this direction, in particular rediscovering the reasons for the decisions made with the liturgical reform, overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, partial receptions, and practices that disfigure it.” He said that this is not a question “of rethinking the reform by reviewing its choices, but of knowing better the underlying reasons [for it]… [and] of internalizing its inspirational principles and of observing the discipline that governs it.”
The Supreme Pontiff insisted, “After this magisterial, and after this long journey, we can assert with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”
Reflecting on the theme of this year’s Liturgy Week – “A living Liturgy for a living Church” – Pope Francis dwelt on three points:
1)The liturgy is “living” in virtue of the living presence of Christ; Christ is at the heart of the liturgical action.
2)The liturgy is life through the whole people of God. By its nature, the liturgy is “popular” rather than clerical; it is an action for the people, but also by the people.
3) The liturgy is life, and not an idea to be understood. It brings us to live an initiatory experience, a transformative experience that changes how we think and act; it is not simply a means of enriching our own set of ideas about God.
The Church, Pope Francis said, “is truly living if, forming one single living being with Christ, it is a bearer of life, it is maternal, it is missionary, going out to encounter the neighbour, careful to serve without pursuing worldly powers that render it sterile.”
The Holy Father concluded his reflection by noting that the Church in prayer, insofar as it is catholic, “goes beyond the Roman Rite” which, although it is the largest, is by no means the only Rite within the Church. “The harmony of the ritual traditions, of the East and of the West, by means of the same Spirit, gives voice to the one only Church praying through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, to the glory of the Father, and for the salvation of the world.”