LETTER OF CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO
The Holy Father noted with pleasure the theme that was fittingly chosen for the 51st National Liturgical Week: "The Word Became Flesh: Celebration and Salvation", for this theme is fully in keeping with the Jubilee celebration of the Year 2000.
In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, the Supreme Pontiff strongly emphasized the intrinsic link between the Incarnation and the Eucharistic celebration: "In the sacrament of the Eucharist the Saviour, who took flesh in Mary's womb 20 centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life" (n. 55). And in his Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, he said with reference to the Upper Room: "Two thousand years after the birth of Christ, in this Jubilee Year, we especially need to remember and ponder the truth of what we might call his "Eucharistic birth'.... This Eucharistic presence has accompanied the 2,000 years of the Church's history, and it will do so until the end of time" (n. 13).
In view of these observations, the next National Liturgical Week will not fail to make a significant contribution to a greater understanding of several fundamental aspects of the Christian celebration which stem from the Incarnation. "The Word became flesh": Christian liturgy, inseparably linked to the event that took place 2,000 years ago in the Blessed Virgin's womb, continues to celebrate this event, knowing full well that the history of salvation had its effective beginning at that moment.
Celebration and salvation, therefore, represent two elements in the one mystery of Christ, in which the Father's love continues to be revealed to human beings.
Your conference, which each year brings together Bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity as an expression of the Church in her various roles and ministries, seeks to explore in its themes and addresses the nature of Christian liturgy, showing how it is an ever new application, in a spirit of inexhaustible gratitude, of the redemption accomplished by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Father's words in the Letter Dominicae Cenae remain ever timely: "It is therefore very opportune and necessary to continue to actuate a new and intense education, in order to discover all the richness contained in the liturgy" (n. 9). Interest in liturgical education continues to decline; we are therefore obliged to make a greater effort at every level to help our communities to have an ever better grasp of the rich content of that characteristic expresssion of Christian liturgical prayer, the fact that it is "through Christ": this phrase clearly testifies to Christ's mediation, as well as to the meaning of the celebration and of the salvation given.
The liturgy arises from faith in Christ as our only salvation. This faith is expressed in the celebration of the mystery, in which we acquire a fresh awareness that for us Christ is the "One who comes" continually in the situations of our everyday life. "Hoc faciendum quod factum": St Leo the Great's pregnant formula well expresses the meaning of liturgical actualization: "What has been done must be done" (Sermo 23, 4: PL 54, 202).
Looking to the third millennium, liturgical renewal will have to respond to the needs of our time, as the Supreme Pontiff pointedly remarked in the Apostolic Letter Vicesimus quintus annus of 4 December 1988: "The liturgy is not disincarnate.... new problems have arisen or have assumed new importance, for example: the exercise of the diaconate open to married men; liturgical tasks in celebrations which can be entrusted to lay people; liturgical celebrations for children, for young people and the disabled; the procedures for the composition of liturgical texts appropriate to a particular country.... Finally, to safeguard the reform and ensure the promotion of the liturgy, it is necessary to take account of popular Christian devotion and its relation to liturgical life" (nn. 17-18).
We have come a long way in recent years thanks to the contribution of organizations, offices, journals and conferences, which have promoted the liturgy by carrying out the requests of the Second Vatican Council and the directives of the Magisterium. We must continue in this direction with confidence and courage.
His Holiness hopes that the forthcoming Liturgical Week will make a further contribution to the formation of the faithful who participate in Sunday and weekday Eucharistic assemblies: every celebration must be an encounter with Christ's saving ministry and, therefore, an experience of grace and salvation. Every Pastor must do all he can so that the Eucharistic celebration, with its liturgical itinerary contained in the rite, becomes an opportunity for growing communion with Christ and with one's brothers and sisters.
This calls for a progressive education in the language of celebration, a language so immediate but also so complex, as its various dimensions are carried out: song, word, silence, ministry. Catechesis and liturgical leadership should be welcomed and promoted together with a great sense of dedication and competence in order to teach "full, conscious and active participation", as the Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium says (n. 14). May the liturgy always manifest and reveal the work of salvation accomplished by Christ!
With the hope that the various moments of the Liturgical Week - prayer, reports, reflections - will enable the participants to grow in their understanding of the gift of salvation given to us by God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit, the Supreme Pontiff gladly imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to the Bishop of Ischia, to the Bishops and priests present, to the speakers and to all who are attending.
Taking this occasion to express again my sentiments of deep esteem, I am devotedly yours,
Cardinal Angelo Sodano
From the Vatican , 24 August 2000