Introductory remarks of Bishop Dominique Rey at the opening of Sacra Liturgia in Rome last evening, following Solemn Vespers.
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, dear friends:
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Pontifical University, Santa Croce for Sacra Liturgia 2013. We have come together from more than 35 countries throughout the world. Welcome!
Our work has already begun with the solemn celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of St Apollinare. This was a very deliberate act, because before we speak about the Sacred Liturgy we must be immersed in the liturgical life of the Church.
The reality of the liturgy, into which we are initiated at the moment of our Baptism, precedes any study of the liturgy. To be liturgical comes first. To talk about the liturgy comes second. But it is important to talk about and study the question of the liturgy! Here, in the aula magna, we shall listen to the contributions of many experts and leaders in this field.
I am particularly grateful to Their Eminences Cardinals Ranjith and Burke, and to my brother bishops, for giving of their time to teach us. So too, I wish to thank their Eminences Cardinal Canizares and Brandmueller who will celebrate Holy Mass for us, and preach. And I thank all our speakers, especially those who have travelled far, for coming to share their expertise and insights with us.
Sacra Liturgia 2013 was inspired by the liturgical teaching and example of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict taught us the importance of the ars celebrandi, reminding us that “everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty” (Sacramentum Caritatis n. 41). He taught us that there needs to be no opposition between the older and newer forms of the Roman rite – that both have their rightful place in the Church of the New Evangelisation.
He taught us that within the embrace of Catholic unity, other liturgical traditions can be welcomed as “precious gifts” and “treasures to be shared” (cf. Anglicanorum Cœtibus, § 5, III); for that reason I am particularly delighted that the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, Msgr Keith Newton, will be present with us.
I wish this conference to be a tribute to the liturgical vision and achievements of our beloved Emeritus Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI: may God reward him for all he has given us and grant him health and long life!
Pope Benedict initiated the Year of Faith to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council during which we are meeting. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has continued this initiative. From the outset it was my wish that we should meet here in Rome, during this Year of Faith, so as to be close to Peter, to manifest our communion with him, and to pray with him on the great feast of Saints Peter and Paul. That we have the opportunity to do this with our new Holy Father is a providential blessing.
Fifty years ago, in June 1963, the first session of the Second Vatican Council had concluded. Blessed John XXIII had just been succeeded by the Venerable Paul VI, who continued the work of the Council. It was Paul VI who promulgated its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, on December 4th 1963, at the end of the Council’s second session. Fifty years later we need to look again at Sacrosanctum Concilium. The liturgical reform which followed the Constitution’s promulgation gave us much of value, especially in its promotion of participation in the liturgy. But it also caused controversy, both in its official reforms, in its translation into the vernacular languages, and in its varied local implementations. We need to recognise, as did Blessed John Paul II, that there have been both “lights” and “shadows” in the liturgical life of the Church in the past 50 years (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 10). We need to celebrate the legitimate progress that has been made. We need to consider the lessons that the mistakes made during these fifty years teach us.
We need to look again at the liturgical Constitution and re-discover its true meaning. Perhaps we need to correct some practices or recover some things that we have lost through what Cardinal Ratzinger called a “reform of the reform”? Perhaps there are areas in which that “mutual enrichment” spoken of by Benedict XVI is necessary?
Above all, we need to promote authentic liturgical renewal in all its Catholic richness and diversity. We need to promote the Sacred Liturgy celebrated as the Church gives it to us, as the Fathers and Popes of the Second Vatican Council desired. This must not be dismissed as a marginal concern. The liturgy is not a peripheral matter for the Church. As Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1997: “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.” And as Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches us, the Sacred Liturgy is the ‘culmen et fons,’ the source and the summit, of the life and mission of the whole Church (cf. n. 10).
My friends, the Sacred Liturgy is not a hobby for specialists. It is central to all our endeavours as disciples of Jesus Christ. This profound reality cannot be over emphasised. We must recognise the primacy of grace in our Christian life and work, and we must respect the reality that in this life the optimal encounter with Christ is in the Sacred Liturgy.
As a bishop it is my duty to do all I can to promote the New Evangelisation initiated by Blessed John Paul II. Here, I wish to say very clearly that the New Evangelisation must be founded on the faithful and fruitful celebration of the Sacred Liturgy as given to us by the Church in her tradition – Western and Eastern.
Why? Because it is in the Sacred Liturgy that we encounter the saving action of Jesus Christ in his Church today in a manner in which we encounter it nowhere else. In the liturgy Christ touches us, nourishes us and heals us. He strengthens us and orders us with particular graces. When we pray liturgically we do so in communion with the whole Church, present, absent, living or dead. Yes, there are other good and valuable spiritual practices, but none enjoys the objectivity and singular efficacy of the Sacred Liturgy (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7).
The New Evangelisation is not an idea or a program: it is a demand that each of us comes to know the person of Christ more profoundly and, by doing so, become more able to lead others to him. The only way to begin this is through the Sacred Liturgy, and if the liturgy is somehow not right, or I am not properly prepared, this encounter with Christ will be impeded, the New Evangelisation will suffer. That is why our celebration of the liturgy is so important.
We must maximise, not limit, the action of Christ in the liturgy. If I change or re-create the Church’s liturgy according to my own wishes or a subjective ideology, how can I be sure that what I am doing is truly His work? Whereas, if I faithfully celebrate that which the Church has given to us – and celebrate it as beautifully as possible – I am assured that I am a servant of Christ’s action, a minister of His sacred mysteries, not an obstacle in his path (cf. Mt 16:23).
Each of us, ordained ministers, religious and lay men and women, are called to this fidelity and respect for Christ, for His Church and for her liturgical rites. And that is why liturgical formation is crucial. I must obtain ‘from within’ as it were, the conviction that Christ is indeed at work in the Church’s sacred rites. I must immerse myself in this privileged dynamic and discover its ways. This will bring me to the person of Jesus Christ again and again. And this will enable me to bring Christ to others.
Liturgical formation, liturgical celebration and the mission of the Church: all three are intrinsically related. That is why we are here: to consider this relationship and to examine its meaning and importance for the Church at the beginning of the twenty-first century. If we do this well, we will lay very sound foundations for the New Evangelisation indeed.
It would be impossible for Sacra Liturgia 2013 to take place without the support of many people. I am grateful to the Rector of the beautiful Basilica of St Apollinare, Msgr Pedro Huidobro, for welcoming us. I am profoundly grateful to our many sponsors for their material help: The Knights of Columbus, Ignatius Press, CIEL UK, Granda, The Cardinal Newman Society, Human Life International, De Montfort Music, Arte Poli, Una Voce International, Ars Sacra, La Nef, Libreria Leoniana, and Editions Artège. For the welcome we have been given here at the Pontifical University Santa Croce and for the use of their excellent facilities, we are all indebted.
So too, I thank the team of organisers and volunteers who have done so much to prepare for this event.
My friends, we are here to listen, to learn and to share with others.
But we are also here to pray – here in the Basilica of S. Apollinare and also with Holy Father, Pope Francis, in St Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.
If we do all of these things well we shall come closer to Christ whom we worship in the Sacred Liturgy, and we shall be empowered to be become the evangelists our world so desperately needs.
May God bless our efforts! Thank you.