OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
Benedict XVI’s liturgical celebrations
An interview with the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies
- In what terms is your collaboration with the Holy Father defined? Does he make all decisions?
Monsignor Guido Marini
- It is my duty to point out first of all that the celebrations presided over by the Pope are to be taken as a reference point for the whole Church. The Pope is the Supreme Pontiff, the great officiator of the Church, the person who, even through his celebrations, gives a highly authoritative liturgical teaching which everybody must refer to. Bearing this in mind, it is easier to understand what style the Master of Ceremonies must adopt in his collaboration with the Holy Father. His task is to make the liturgy an authentic expression of the Pope’s liturgical guidelines. From this point of view the real Master of Ceremonies is the one who becomes a humble and faithful servant of the Church’s liturgy. It is in these terms that I defined my work at the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
- Believers notice the liturgical changes introduced by Benedict XVI. How would you sum up these changes?
- These changes could be summed up as follows: they are, first of all, introduced as a development of the past. There is therefore no contrast with or departure from the work of previous popes; second, the changes introduced are aimed at the promotion of the liturgy’s authentic spirit, as suggested by Vatican Council II, which maintains that: “The subject of the liturgy’s intrinsic beauty is Christ himself, risen from the dead and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in His action.”
- The officiator’s being turned to the crucifix and turning his back on the congregation, the faithful’ s taking the communion on their tongue and on their knees, the moments of silence are all liturgical changes introduced by Benedict XVI which many people see as a return to the past, without understanding their historical or theological meaning. Could you please illustrate the meaning of these changes in a few words?
- Actually, our office receives declarations from many people who receive the above changes with favour and see them in line with an authentic renewal of the liturgy. As for the meaning of some of these changes, the following remarks could be made. The priest’s being turned to the cross is meant to emphasize the correct direction of liturgical prayer, which is addressed to the Lord; when praying, the faithful are supposed not to look at each other, but all together, towards the Saviour. The faithful’ s taking the communion on their knees is meant to rediscover the aspect of Eucharistic adoration, both as an essential part of the celebration and as an attitude towards the mystery of the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist. The moments of silence are intended to remind the faithful that during the liturgical celebration prayer can be expressed in many ways: through words, song, gestures, music ... Among the ways of expressing prayer, however, there is also silence, which has the power to foster authentic religious participation in the celebration, hence to animate all other forms of prayer from within.
- The Holy Father attaches great importance to vestments. Is it mere decoration?
- In this connection a passage from the apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis throws light on the meaning of beauty as an essential part of the liturgical celebration in the Pope’s vision: “This relationship between creed and worship is evidenced in a particular way by the rich theological and liturgical category of beauty. Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor ... This is not mere aestheticism, but the way in which the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts and delights us enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love ... the true beauty of the love of God, who definitely revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery. The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery, it is a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a way, a glimpse of heaven on earth ... Beauty then is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of liturgical action, being an attribute of God himself and His revelation.
- Benedict XVI has changed his pastoral staff: it is now in the shape of a cross. What’s the reason for this change?
- It is worth remembering that popes did not use the pastoral staff until the pontificate of Paul VI. During more solemn celebrations they used the ferula. Under Paul VI, on the contrary, the use of the pastoral cross with the crucifix became normal. Benedict XVI, who continued to use it until Whit Sunday 2008, decided to restore the use of the ferula, i.e. the cross without the crucifix, as this more suited to the tradition of the papal liturgy.
- Why is it so important for the Church to preserve the use of Latin?
- Even Vatican Council II, though introducing the use of the national language of each country, advised the preservation of Latin in the liturgy. In my opinion, there are two reasons for preserving the use of Latin. The first is that there is an invaluable cultural heritage in Latin; just think of Gregorian chant and polyphony, as well as venerable prayer books on which generations of Christians have prayed. The second is that, even nowadays, Latin is able to show the universality of the Catholic Church. Can you help experiencing this universality inside Saint Peter’s basilica or in any other place of worship where people from all over the world, who speak different languages meet, pray and sing in the same language? Who does not feel the warm welcome of a common home when, entering a church in a foreign country, he can joy, at least in part, his brethren in Christ thanks to the use of the same language?
- Is it true that the officiator’s faith is first of all expressed in the liturgy?
- Definitely. Since the liturgy is the celebration of the mystery of Christ in present of history, the priest is called on to express his faith in two ways. First, by going beyond the visible to touch the invisible i.e. the Lord’s presence and action. This is the origin of ars celebrandi, through which the faithful realize that the liturgy is not mere performance, but a living relation to and total assimilation in the mystery of God. Second, be being renewed at the end of the Eucharistic celeb ration and be ready to imitate the rite he has celebrated, i.e. to turn his life into a celebration of the mystery of Christ.
- An the Pope’s care for liturgical celebration set an example for other bishops and priests?
- It is absolutely desirable.