Archive for the ‘Papal Messages and Documents’ Category

Happy 86th Birthday, Pope-Emeritus Benedict!

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Some of my favorite photographs of our dear Pope Emeritus:  Let us pray for him on his 86th Birthday!

My gratitude to the wonderful Catholic editors of the weblog, Rorate Caeli (http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com) for the lengthy quote from the homily given by Pope Benedict at the Holy Mass he celebrated on the occasion of his 85th Birthday last year:

On the same day I was born, thanks to my parent’s concern, I was also reborn through water and the Holy Spirit … . First, there is the gift of life that my parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I thank them. But it cannot be taken for granted that human life in itself is a gift. Can it really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what will befall man in the dark days ahead — or in the brighter days that could come? Can we foresee to what troubles, what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it right to simply give life like this? Is it responsible or too uncertain? It is a problematic gift, if it is left to itself. Biological life is in itself a gift, but it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a true gift only if, along with it, we are given a promise that is stronger than any evil that could threaten us, if it is immersed in a power that ensures that it is good to be human, that there will be good for this person no matter what the future brings. Thus, with birth is associated rebirth, the certitude that, truly, it is good to be alive, because the promise is stronger than evil. This is the meaning of rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit: to be immersed in the promise that only God can make — it is good that you exist, and you can be certain of that whatever comes. With this assurance I was able to live, reborn by water and the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “How can an old man possibly be reborn?”. Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow in it, we must always let ourselves be immersed by God in his promise, in order to be truly reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than every weakness and than any negative power that threatens us. Therefore, this is a day of great thanksgiving.

The day I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was still customary to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would still be followed by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of light in a day of darkness, could almost be an image of the history of our times. On the one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear him speak, and through the darkness of his absence we glimpse his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the middle of an evolving history is the power that points out the way to us and helps us to go forward.

Let us thank the good Lord for he has given us this light and let us pray to him so that it might endure forever. And on this day I have special cause to thank him and all those who have ever anew made me perceive the presence of the Lord, who have accompanied me so that I might never lose the light.

I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world. And this helps me to go forward with certainty. May this help us to go forward, and at this moment I wholeheartedly thank all those who have continually helped me to perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.

-Pope Benedict XVI

Mass on the occasion of the 85th birthday

April 16, 2012

Blessed John XXIII: On Devotion to the Most Precious Blood

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011
Apostolic Letter of Pope John XXIII

ON PROMOTING DEVOTION TO THE MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
To his Venerable Brother Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See
Venerable brethren: greetings and apostolic blessings.
From the very outset of our pontificate, in speaking of daily devotions we have repeatedly urged the faithful (often in eager tones that frankly hinted our future design) to cherish warmly that marvellous manifestation of divine mercy toward individuals and Holy Church and the whole world redeemed and saved by Jesus Christ: we mean devotion to his Most Precious Blood.
From infancy this devotion was instilled in us within our own household. Fondly we still recall how our parents used to recite the Litany of the Most Precious Blood every day during July.
The Apostle’s wholesome advice comes to mind: “Keep watch, then, over yourselves, and over God’s Church, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops; you are to be the shepherds of that flock which he won for himself at the price of his own blood.”[1] Now among the cares of our pastoral office, venerable brethren, we are convinced that, second only to vigilance over sound doctrine, preference belongs to the proper surveillance and development of piety, in both its liturgical and private expressions. With that in mind, we judge it most timely to call our beloved children’s attention to the unbreakable bond which must exist between the devotions to the Most Holy Name and Most Sacred Heart of Jesus — already so widespread among Christians — and devotion to the incarnate Word’s Most Precious Blood, “shed for many, to the remission of sins.”[2]
It is supremely important that the Church’s liturgy fully conform to Catholic belief (“the law for prayer is the law for faith”[3]), and that only those devotional forms be sanctioned which well up from the unsullied springs of true faith. But the same logic calls for complete accord among different devotions. Those deemed more basic and more conducive to holiness must not be at odds with or cut off from one another. And the more individualistic and secondary ones must give way in popularity and practice to those devotions which more effectively actuate the fullness of salvation wrought by the “one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, who is a man, like them, and gave himself as a ransom for them all.” [4] Through living in an atmosphere thus charged with true faith and solid piety the faithful can be confident that they are “thinking with the Church” and holding fast in the loving fellowship of prayer to Christ Jesus, the high priest of that sublime religion which he founded and which owes to him its name, its strength, its dignity.
The Church’s wonderful advances in liturgical piety match the progress of faith itself in penetrating divine truth. Within this development it is most heart-warming to observe how often in recent centuries this Holy See has openly ap proved and furthered the three devotions just mentioned. From the Middle Ages, it is true, many pious persons prac ticed these devotions, which then spread to various dioceses and religious orders and congregations. Nevertheless it remained for the Chair of Peter to pronounce them orthodox and approve them for the Church as a whole.
Suffice it to recall the spiritual favours that our predecessors from the sixteenth century on have attached to prac ticing devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which in the previous century St. Bernardine of Siena untiringly spread throughout Italy. Approval was given first to the Office and Mass of the Most Holy Name and later to the Litany.[5] No less striking are the benefits the popes have attached to practicing devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose rise and spread owe so much to the revelations of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.[6] So highly have all the popes regarded this devotion that again and again in their official acts they have expounded its nature, defended its validity, promoted its practice. Their crowning achievement on this devotion are three splendid encyclicals.[7]
Likewise the devotion to the Most Precious Blood, which owes its marvelous diffusion to the 19th-century Ro man priest, St. Gaspar del Bufalo, has rightly merited the approval and backing of this Apostolic See. We may recall that by order of Benedict XIV the Mass and Office in honour of the divine Savior’s adorable Blood were composed. And to fulfill a vow made at Gaeta Pius IX extended the feast to the whole Church.[8] Finally, as a commemoration of the nineteenth centenary of our redemption, Pius XI of happy memory raised this feast to the rank of first-class double, so that the greater liturgical splendour would highlight the devotion and bring to men more abundant fruits of the re deeming Blood.
Following our predecessors’ example we have taken further steps to promote the devotion to the Precious Blood of the unblemished Lamb, Jesus Christ. We have approved the Litany of the Precious Blood drawn up by the Sacred Congregation of Rites and through special indulgences have encouraged its public and private recitation throughout the Catholic world. Amid today’s most serious and pressing spiritual needs, may this latest exercise of that “care for all the churches”[9] proper to our sovereign office awaken in Christian hearts a firm conviction about the supreme abiding effectiveness of these three devotions.
As we now approach the feast and month devoted to honouring Christ’s Blood —- the price of our redemption, the pledge of salvation and life eternal — may Christians meditate on it more fervently, may they savour its fruits more frequently in sacramental communion. Let their meditations on the boundless power of the Blood be bathed in the light of sound biblical teaching and the doctrine of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. How truly precious is this Blood is voiced in the song which the Church sings with the Angelic Doctor (sentiments wisely seconded by our predecessor Clement VI [10] ) :
Blood that but one drop of has the world to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin. [11]
Unlimited is the effectiveness of the God-Man’s Blood — just as unlimited as the love that impelled him to pour it out for us, first at his circumcision eight days after birth, and more profusely later on in his agony in the garden,[12] in his scourging and crowning with thorns, in his climb to Calvary and crucifixion, and finally from out that great wide wound in his side which symbolizes the divine Blood cascading down into all the Church’s sacraments. Such surpassing love suggests, nay demands, that everyone reborn in the torrents of that Blood adore it with grateful love.
The Blood of the new and eternal covenant especially deserves this worship of latria when it is elevated during the sacrifice of the Mass. But such worship achieves its normal fulfillment in sacramental communion with the same Blood, indissolubly united with Christ’s Eucharistic Body. In intimate association with the celebrant the faithful can then truly make his sentiments at communion their own: “I will take the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. . . The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul for everlasting life. Amen.” Thus as often as they come worthily to this holy table they will receive more abundant fruits of the redemption and resurrection and eternal life won for all men by the Blood Christ shed “through the Holy Spirit.”[13] Nourished by his Body and Blood, sharing the divine strength that has sustained countless martyrs, they will stand up to the slings and arrows of each day’s fortunes — even if need be to martyrdom itself for the sake of Christian virtue and the kingdom of God. Theirs will be the experience of that burning love which made St. John Chrysostom cry out:
Let us, then, come back from that table like lions breathing out fire, thus becoming terrifying to the Devil, and remaining mindful of our Head and of the love he has shown for us. . . This Blood, when worthily received, drives away demons and puts them at a distance from us, and even summons to us angels and the Lord of angels. . . This Blood, poured out in abundance, has washed the whole world clean. . . This is the price of the world; by it Christ purchased the Church… This thought will check in us unruly passions. How long, in truth, shall we be attached to present things? How long shall we remain asleep? How long shall we not take thought for our own salvation? Let us remember what privileges God has bestowed on us, let us give thanks, let us glorify him, not only by faith, but also by our very works. [14]
If only Christians would reflect more frequently on the fatherly warning of the first pope: “Look anxiously, then, to the ordering of your lives while your stay on earth lasts.
You know well enough that your ransom was not paid in earthly currency, silver or gold; it was paid in the precious blood of Christ; no lamb was ever so pure, so spotless a victim.”[15] If only they would lend a more eager ear to the apostle of the Gentiles: “A great price was paid to ransom you; glorify God by making your bodies the shrines of his presence.”[16] Their upright lives would then be the shining ex ample they ought to be; Christ’s Church would far more effectively fulfill its mission to men. God wants all men to be saved,[17] for he has willed that they should all be ransomed by the Blood of his only-begotten Son; he calls them all to be members of the one Mystical Body whose head is Christ. If only men would be more responsive to these promptings of his grace, how much the bonds of brotherly love among individuals and peoples and nations would be strengthened. Life in society would be so much more peaceable, so much worthier of God and the human nature created in his image and likeness.[18]
This is the sublime vocation that St. Paul urged Jewish converts to fix their minds on when tempted to nostalgia for what was only a weak figure and prelude of the new covenant: “The scene of your approach now is mount Sion, is the heavenly Jerusalem, city of the living God; here are gathered thousands upon thousands of angels, here is the assembly of those first-born sons whose names are written in heaven, here is God sitting in judgment on all men, here are the spirits of just men, now made perfect; here is Jesus, the spokesman of the new covenant, and the sprinkling of his blood, which has better things to say than Abel’s had.” [19]
We have full confidence, venerable brethren, that these fatherly exhortations of ours, once brought to the attention of your priests and people in whatever way you deem best, will be put into practice not just willingly but enthusiastically. As a sign of heavenly graces and our affection we impart our most heartfelt apostolic blessing to each of you and to all your flocks, and particularly to those who respond with devout generosity to the promptings of this letter.
Given at St. Peter’s in Rome, the eve of the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Most Precious Blood, June 30, 1960, the second year of our pontificate.

1. Acts 20:28.

2. Matthew 26 :2&

3. Encyclical “On the Sacred Liturgy,” America Press edition (New York: 1954), No. 46.

4. I Timothy 2:5-6.

5. Acta Sanctae Sedis 18 (1886) :509.

6. Cf. Office for the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 2nd nocturn, lesson 5.

7. “On the Consecration of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” The

Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII (New York: 1903), 454– 461; “The Reparation Due to the Sacred Heart,” The Catholic Mind

26 (1928): 221-235; “On Devotion to the Sacred Heart,” The Pope

Speaks 3 (1956): 115-149.

8. Decree “Redempti Sumus,” Aug. 10, 1849, Decreta Authentica S.RC. (Rome: 1898), II, No. 2978.

9. II Corinthians 11:28.

10. Bull “The Only Begotten Son of God,” Jan. 25, 1343, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis: 1957), No. 550.

1. Hymn “Adoro te devote.” Translation from Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford: 1930), No. 89.

12. Luke 22:43.

13. Hebrews 9:14.

14. “Homily 46,” Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist (Fathers of the Church, New York: 1957), 469, 471-472.

15. 1 Peter 1:17-19.

16. I Corinthians 6:20.

17. Cf. I Timothy 2:4.

18. Cf. Genesis 1:26.

19. Hebrews 12:22-24.

May 31: Feast of the Visitation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

FROM OUR HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI

MAY 31, 2008

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin and the memory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Therefore, everything invites us to turn our trusting glance to Mary. To her, also this evening, we addressed the ancient and ever actual pious practice of the Rosary.

The Rosary, when it is not a mechanical, traditional form of repetition, is a Biblical meditation that allows us to trace the events of the Lord’s life in the company of the Blessed Virgin, pandering them, like her, in our heart.

In many Christian communities during the month of May there is the beautiful custom of reciting the Holy Rosary in a more solemn way in families and in parishes. Now, that the month is ending, may this good habit continue. Rather, may it continue with more commitment so that, at the school of Mary, the lamp of faith may shine ever more in the hearts and homes of Christians.

In today’s Feast of the Visitation the liturgy has us listen again to Luke’s Gospel passage that recounts Mary of Nazareth’s journey to the home of her elderly cousin Elizabeth.

A new chapter begins

Let us imagine the Virgin’s state of mind after the Annunciation, when the Angel left her. Mary found herself with a great mystery enclosed within her womb; she knew something extraordinarily unique had happened; she was aware that the last chapter of salvation history in the world had begun.

But everything around her remained as before and the village of Nazareth was completely unaware of what had happened to her.

Before worrying about herself, Mary instead thought about elderly Elizabeth, who she knew was well on in her pregnancy and, moved by the mystery of love that she had just welcomed within herself, she set out “in haste” to go to offer Elizabeth her help. This is the simple and sublime greatness of Mary!

When she reaches Elizabeth’s house, an event takes place that no artist could ever portray with the beauty and the intensity with which it took place.

The interior light of the Holy Spirit enfolds their persons. And Elizabeth, enlightened from on high, exclaims: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:42-45).

These words could appear to us out of proportion with respect to the real context. Elizabeth is one of the many elderly people in Israel and Mary is an unknown young woman from a lost village of Galilee. What can this be and what can they accomplish in a world where other people count and other powers hold sway.

Overturning thrones

Yet, once again Mary amazes us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’s light. Her soul is without sin, it is not weighed down by pride or selfishness. Elizabeth’s words enkindle in her spirit a canticle of praise, which is an authentic and profound “theological” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from the one whose faith is without shadow and without wrinkle.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. Mary recognizes God’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith. It is the sentiment that gives security to human creatures and frees from fear, even in the midst of the tempest of history.

Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. This is why she is blessed, because she believed. By faith, in fact, she accepted the Word of the Lord and conceived the Incarnate Word. Her faith has shown her that the thrones of the powerful of this world are temporary, while God’s throne is the only rock that does not change or fall.

Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world’s wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us bring the same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of Mary to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence.

May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbour, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.

May the Blessed Mother, who invites us this evening to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart, obtain this grace for us.

_________________________________________________

ARTWORK: The Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary by Brigid Marlin

In the painting, Elizabeth’s mature age is represented by the tree with fruit behind her, while behind Mary is a young tree in flower. The mysterious knowledge of the coming of Christ is first known by the unborn John the Baptist and then by his mother Elizabeth.   Thus the sacred things are revealed first to the innocent one who represents the mysterious inner life within us all.  (For more information on the artist, go to www.brigidmarlin.com).

 

DAY 2: Novena in Preparation for December 8th

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

From the homily of our late Holy Father,  the Venerable John Paul II during the Mass of Beatification of  Blesseds Pius IX, John XXIII, William Chaminade, Tommasso Reggio & Columba Marmion – September 3, 2000 – St. Peter’s Square:

“Listening to the words of the Gospel acclamation: ‘Lord, lead me on a straight road’, our thoughts naturally turn to the human and religious life of Pope Pius IX, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti. Amid the turbulent events of his time, he was an example of unconditional fidelity to the immutable deposit of revealed truths. Faithful to the duties of his ministry in every circumstance, he always knew how to give absolute primacy to God and to spiritual values. His lengthy pontificate was not at all easy and he had much to suffer in fulfilling his mission of service to the Gospel. He was much loved, but also hated and slandered.

However, it was precisely in these conflicts that the light of his virtues shone most brightly: these prolonged sufferings tempered his trust in divine Providence, whose sovereign lordship over human events he never doubted. This was the source of Pius IX’s deep serenity, even amid the misunderstandings and attacks of so many hostile people. He liked to say to those close to him: “In human affairs we must be content to do the best we can and then abandon ourselves to Providence, which will heal our human faults and shortcomings”.

Sustained by this deep conviction, he called the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, which clarified with magisterial authority certain questions disputed at the time, and confirmed the harmony of faith and reason. During his moments of trial Pius IX found support in Mary, to whom he was very devoted. In proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he reminded everyone that in the storms of human life the light of Christ shines brightly in the Blessed Virgin and is more powerful than sin and death.”

Pope Benedict XVI: The Church is enjoying a “Eucharistic Springtime”

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI: The Church is enjoying a “Eucharistic Springtime”!

General Audience of November 17, 2010: On a Saint of the Feast of Corpus Christi

Dear Brothers and Sisters,This morning, too, I would like to present to you a little-known woman to whom, however, the Church owes great recognition, not only because of the holiness of her life, but also because, with her great fervor, she contributed to the institution of one of the most important liturgical solemnities of the year, that of Corpus Christi. She is St. Juliana of Cornillon, known also as St. Juliana of Liege (editor: Premonstratensian nun).   We have certain details of her life above all from a biography probably written by an ecclesiastic contemporary of hers, in which are gathered several testimonies from people who knew the saint directly.

Juliana was born between 1191 and 1192 in the neighborhood of Liege, in Belgium. It is important to stress this place, because at that time the Diocese of Liege was, so to speak, a true “Eucharistic cenacle.” Before Juliana, eminent theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the sacrament of the Eucharist and, always at Liege, there were women’s groups generously dedicated to Eucharistic worship and to fervent communion. Led by exemplary priests, they lived together, dedicating themselves to prayer and to charitable works.

Orphaned at 5 years of age, Juliana and her sister Agnes were entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns of the convent-leper hospital of Mont Cornillon. She was educated above all by a sister named Sapienza, who followed her spiritual maturation, until Juliana herself received the religious habit and became as well an Augustinian nun. She acquired notable learning, to the point that she read the works of the Fathers of the Church in Latin, in particular St. Augustine and St. Bernard. In addition to keen intelligence, Juliana showed from the beginning a particular propensity for contemplation; she had a profound sense of the presence of Christ, which she experienced by living in a particularly intense way the sacrament of the Eucharist and pausing often to meditate on the words of Jesus: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

At 16 she had her first vision, which was then repeated many times in her Eucharistic adorations. The vision showed the moon in its full splendor, with a dark strip that crossed it diametrically. The Lord made her understand the meaning of what had appeared to her. The moon symbolized the life of the Church on earth; but the opaque line represented the absence of a liturgical feast. Juliana was asked to do her utmost in an effective way to bring about its institution: a feast, namely, in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist to increase their faith, advance in the practice of virtue and make reparation for offenses to the Most Holy Sacrament.

For about 20 years Juliana, who in the meantime had become prioress of the convent, kept secret this revelation, which had filled her heart with joy. Then she confided in two other fervent adorers of the Eucharist, Blessed Eva, who led an eremitical life, and Isabella, who had joined her in the monastery of Mont Cornillon. The three women established a sort of “spiritual alliance” for the purpose of glorifying the Most Holy Sacrament. They wished to involve also a much esteemed priest, John of Lausanne, canon of the church of St. Martin in Liege, asking him to question theologians and ecclesiastics about what they had in their hearts. The answers were positive and encouraging.

What happened to Juliana of Cornillon is frequently repeated in the life of saints: to have the confirmation that an inspiration comes from God, it is always necessary to be immersed in prayer, to be able to wait with patience, to seek friendship and encounters with other good souls, and to subject everything to the judgment of the pastors of the Church. It was, in fact, the bishop of Liege, Robert of Thourotte, who, after initial hesitations, took up this proposal from Juliana and her companions, and instituted, for the first time, the solemnity of Corpus Domini in his diocese. Later, other bishops imitated him, establishing the same feast in territories entrusted to their pastoral care.

To saints, however, the Lord often asks that they overcome trials, so that their faith is enhanced. This happened also to Juliana, who had to suffer the harsh opposition of some members of the clergy and even of the superior on whom her monastery depended. Then, of her own volition, Juliana left the convent of Mont Cornillon with some companions, and for 10 years, from 1248 to 1258, was a guest of several monasteries of Cistercian Sisters. She edified everyone with her humility; she never had words of criticism or rebuke for her adversaries, but continued to spread with zeal Eucharistic worship. She died in 1258 in Fosses-La-Ville, in Belgium. In the cell where she lay the Most Blessed Sacrament was exposed and, according to the words of her biographer, Juliana died contemplating with a last outburst of love the Eucharistic Jesus, whom she had always loved, honored and adored.

Won over also to the good cause of the feast of Corpus Domini was Giacomo Pantaleon of Troyes, who had known the saint during his ministry as archdeacon in Liege. He, in fact, having become Pope in 1264 and taking the name Urban IV, instituted the solemnity of Corpus Domini as a feast of obligation for the universal Church, the Thursday after Pentecost. In the Bull of institution, titled “Transiturus de hoc mundo” (Aug. 11, 1264), Pope Urban also re-evoked with discretion the mystical experiences of Juliana, giving value to their authenticity. He wrote: “Although the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every day, we hold it right that, at least once a year, there be a more honored and solemn memoria of it. The other things, in fact, of which we make memoria, we do so with the spirit and with the mind, but we do not obtain, because of this, their real presence. On the other hand, in this sacramental commemoration of Christ, Jesus Christ is present with us in his substance, even if under another form. In fact, while he was about to ascend to heaven he said: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

The Pontiff himself wished to give an example, celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Domini in Orvieto, the city where he then dwelled. By his order, in fact, the famous corporal with the traces of the Eucharistic miracle that happened the previous year, in 1263, in Bolsena, is the kept in the cathedral of the city — and it is still kept there. [The miracle was this:] While a priest consecrated the bread and the wine, he was prey to strong doubts about the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Miraculously some drops of blood began to spurt from the consecrated Host, confirming in that way what our faith professes. Urban IV asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St. Thomas Aquinas — who at that time was accompanying the Pope and was in Orvieto — to compose texts of the liturgical office for this great feast. These are masterpieces in which theology and poetry fuse, still in use today in the Church. They are texts that make the cords of the heart vibrate to express praise and gratitude to the Most Holy Sacrament, while the intelligence, penetrating the mystery with wonder, recognizes in the Eucharist the living and true presence of Jesus, of his sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation.

Even if after the death of Urban IV the celebration of the feast of Corpus Domini was limited to some regions of France, Germany, Hungary and northern Italy, it was again a Pontiff, John XXII, who in 1317 revived it for the whole Church. Henceforth the feast experienced a wonderful development, and is still much appreciated by the Christian people.

I would like to affirm with joy that today in the Church there is a “Eucharistic springtime”: How many persons pause silently before the Tabernacle to spend time in a conversation of love with Jesus! It is consoling to know that not a few groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of praying in adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament. I am thinking, for example, of our Eucharistic adoration in Hyde Park, in London.

I pray so that this Eucharistic “springtime” will spread increasingly in every parish, in particular in Belgium, the homeland of St. Juliana. The Venerable John Paul II, in the encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” said: “In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned” (No. 10).

Remembering St. Juliana of Cornillon we also renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we are taught by the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (No. 282).

Dear friends, fidelity to the encounter with the Eucharistic Christ in Sunday’s Holy Mass is essential for the journey of faith, but let us try as well to frequently go to visit the Lord present in the Tabernacle! Gazing in adoration at the consecrated Host, we discover the gift of the love of God, we discover the passion and the cross of Jesus, and also his Resurrection. Precisely through our gazing in adoration, the Lord draws us to himself, into his mystery, to transform us as he transforms the bread and wine. The saints always found strength, consolation and joy in the Eucharistic encounter. With the words of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro te devote,” let us repeat before the Lord, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament: “Make me believe ever more in You, that in You I may have hope, that I may love You!”   Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our catechesis today deals with Saint Juliana of Cornillon, better known as Saint Juliana of Liege. Born at the end of the twelfth century, Juliana was orphaned young and became an Augustinian nun. Intelligent and cultured, she was drawn to contemplative prayer and devotion to the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the result of a recurring vision, Juliana worked to promote a liturgical feast in honor of the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi was first celebrated in the diocese of Liege, and began to spread from there. Pope Urban IV, who had known Juliana in Liege, instituted the solemnity of Corpus Christi for the universal Church and charged Saint Thomas Aquinas with composing the texts of the liturgical office. The Pope himself celebrated the solemnity in Orvieto, then the seat of the papal court, where the relic of a celebrated Eucharistic miracle, which had occurred the previous year, was kept. As we recall Saint Juliana of Cornillon, let us renew our faith in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist and pray that the “springtime of the Eucharist” which we are witnessing in the Church today may bear fruit in an ever greater devotion to the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.

I extend a warm welcome to the delegation from the International Catholic Migration Commission. I offer prayerful good wishes to the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld meeting in General Chapter. I also greet the priests from England and Wales celebrating their anniversaries of ordination. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially the pilgrim groups from Israel, Nigeria, England and the United States of America, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2010 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Complete Text of Msgr. Marini’s Conference of January 6th – INTRODUCTION to the SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Msgr. Guido Marini

INTRODUCTION TO THE SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY

(Editor’s note: Section 3 — on the direction the Celebrant faces during the Liturgy of the Eucharist–  is in bold for your convenience.   Please take note of its relevance.)

Vatican City, January 6, 2010

A Conference for the Year of the Priest

by Msgr. Guido Marini,

Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies

I propose to focus on some topics connected to the spirit of the liturgy and reflect on them with you; indeed, I intend to broach a subject which would require me to say much. Not only because it is a demanding and complex task to talk about the spirit of the liturgy, but also because many important works treating this subject have already been written by authors of unquestionably high caliber in theology and the liturgy. I’m thinking of two people in particular among the many: Romano Guardini and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

One the other hand, it is now all the more necessary to speak about the spirit of the liturgy, especially for us members of the sacred priesthood. Moreover, there is an urgent need to reaffirm the “authentic” spirit of the liturgy, such as it is present in the uninterrupted tradition of the Church, and attested, in continuity with the past, in the most recent Magisterial teachings: starting from the second Vatican council up to the present pontificate. I purposefully used the word continuity, a word very dear to our present Holy Father. He has made it the only authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the Church, and more specifically, the conciliar documents, including all the proposed reforms contained in them. How could it be any different? Can one truly speak of a Church of the past and a Church of the future as if some historical break in the body of the Church had occurred? Could anyone say that the Bride of Christ had lived without the assistance of the Holy Spirit in a particular period of the past, so that its memory should be erased, purposefully forgotten?

Nevertheless at times it seems that some individuals are truly partisan to a way of thinking that is justly and properly defined as an ideology, or rather a preconceived notion applied to the history of the Church which has nothing to do with the true faith.

An example of the fruit produced by that misleading ideology is the recurrent distinction between the preconciliar and the post conciliar Church. Such a manner of speaking can be legitimate, but only on condition that two Churches are not understood by it: one, the pre Conciliar Church, that has nothing more to say or to give because it has been surpassed, and a second, the post conciliar church, a new reality born from the Council and, by its presumed spirit, not in continuity with its past. This manner of speaking and more so of thinking must not be our own. Apart from being incorrect, it is already superseded and outdated, perhaps understandable from a historical point of view, but nonetheless connected to a season in the church’s life by now concluded.

Does what we have discussed so far with respect to “continuity” have anything to do with the topic we have been asked to treat in this lecture? Yes, absolutely. The authentic spirit of the liturgy does not abide when it is not approached with serenity, leaving aside all polemics with respect to the recent or remote past. The liturgy cannot and must not be an opportunity for conflict between those who find good only in that which came before us, and those who, on the contrary, almost always find wrong in what came before. The only disposition which permits us to attain the authentic spirit of the liturgy, with joy and true spiritual relish, is to regard both the present and the past liturgy of the Church as one patrimony in continuous development. A spirit, accordingly, which we must receive from the Church and is not a fruit of our own making. A spirit, I add, which leads to what is essential in the liturgy, or, more precisely, to prayer inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, in whom Christ continues to become present for us today, to burst forth into our lives. Truly, the spirit of the liturgy is the liturgy of the Holy Spirit.

I will not pretend to plumb the depths of the proposed subject matter, nor to treat all the different aspects necessary for a panoramic and comprehensive understanding of the question. I will limit myself by discussing only a few elements essential to the liturgy, specifically with reference to the celebration of the Eucharist, such as the Church proposes them, and in the manner I have learned to deepen my knowledge of them these past two years in service to our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. He is an authentic master of the spirit of the liturgy, whether by his teaching, or by the example he gives in the celebration of the sacred rites.

If, during the course of these reflections on the essence of the liturgy, I will find myself taking note of some behaviours that I do not consider in complete harmony with the authentic spirit of the liturgy, I will do so only as a small contribution to making this spirit stand out all the more in all its beauty and truth.

1. The Sacred Liturgy, God’s great gift to the Church.

We are all well aware how the second Vatican Council dedicated the entirety of its first document to the liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. It was labeled as the Constitution on the sacred liturgy.

I wish to underline the term sacred in its application to the liturgy, because of its importance. As a matter of fact, the council Fathers intended in this way to reinforce the sacred character of the liturgy.

What, then, do we mean by the sacred liturgy? The East would in this case speak of the divine dimension in the Liturgy, or, to be more precise, of that dimension which is not left to the arbitrary will of man, because it is a gift which comes from on high. It refers, in other words, to the mystery of salvation in Christ, entrusted to the Church in order to make it available in every moment and in every place by means of the objective nature of the liturgical and sacramental rites. This is a reality surpassing us, which is to be received as gift, and which must be allowed to transform us. Indeed, the second Vatican Council affirms: “…every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others…” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.7)

From this perspective it is not difficult to realise how far distant some modes of conduct are from the authentic spirit of the liturgy. In fact, some individuals have managed to upset the liturgy of the church in various ways under the pretext of a wrongly devised creativity. This was done on the grounds of adapting to the local situation and the needs of the community, thus appropriating the right to remove from, add to, or modify the liturgical rite in pursuit of subjective and emotional ends. For this, we priests are largely responsible.

For this reason, already back in 2001, the former Cardinal Ratzinger asserted: “There is need of, at the very least, of a new liturgical awareness that might put a stop to the tendency to treat the liturgy as if it were an object open to manipulation. We have reached the point where liturgical groups stitch together the Sunday liturgy on their own authority. The result is certainly the imaginative product of a group of able and skilled individuals. But in this way the space where one may encounter the “totally other” is reduced, in which the holy offers Himself as gift; what I come upon is only the skill of a group of people. It is then that we realise that we are looking for something else. It is too little, and at the same time, something different. The most important thing today is to acquire anew a respect for the liturgy, and an awareness that it is not open to manipulation. To learn once again to recognise in its nature a living creation that grows and has been given as gift, through which we participate in the heavenly liturgy. To renounce seeking in it our own self-realisation in order to see a gift instead. This, I believe, is of primary importance: to overcome the temptation of a despotic behaviour, which conceives the liturgy as an object, the property of man, and to re-awaken the interior sense of the holy.” (from ‘God and the World’; translation from the Italian)

To affirm, therefore, that the liturgy is sacred presupposes the fact that the liturgy does not exist subject to the sporadic modifications and arbitrary inventions of one individual or group. The liturgy is not a closed circle in which we decide to meet, perhaps to encourage one another, to feel we are the protagonists of some feast. The liturgy is God’s summons to his people to be in His presence; it is the advent of God among us; it is God encountering us in this world.

A certain adaptation to particular local situations is foreseen and rightly so. The Missal itself indicates where adaptations may be made in some of its sections, yet only in these and not arbitrarily in others. The reason for this is important and it is good to reassert it: the liturgy is a gift which precedes us, a precious treasure which has been delivered by the age-old prayer of the Church, the place in which the faith has found its form in time and its expression in prayer. It is not made available to us in order to be subjected to our personal interpretation; rather, the liturgy is made available so as to be fully at the disposal of all, yesterday just as today and also tomorrow. “Our time, too,” wrote Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist.” (n. 52)

In the brilliant Encyclical Mediator Dei, which is so often quoted in the constitution on the sacred Liturgy, Pope Pius XII defines the liturgy as “…the public worship… the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members.” (n. 20) As if to say, among other things, that in the liturgy, the Church “officially” identifies herself in the mystery of her union with Christ as spouse, and where she “officially” reveals herself. What casual folly it is indeed, to claim for ourselves the right to change in a subjective way the holy signs which time has sifted, through which the Church speaks about herself, her identity and her faith!

The people of God has a right that can never be ignored, in virtue of which, all must be allowed to approach what is not merely the poor fruit of human effort, but the work of God, and precisely because it is God’s work, a saving font of new life.

I wish to prolong my reflection a moment longer on this point, which, I can testify, is very dear to the Holy Father, by sharing with you a passage from Sacramentum Caritatis, the Apostolic Exhortation of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, written after the Synod on the Holy Eucharist. “Emphasising the importance of the ars celebrandi,” the Holy Father writes, “also leads to an appreciation of the value of the liturgical norms… The eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms… Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case. These texts contain riches which have preserved and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its two-thousand-year history.” (n. 40)

2. The orientation of liturgical prayer.

Over and above the changes which have characterised, during the course of time, the architecture of churches and the places where the liturgy takes place, one conviction has always remained clear within the Christian community, almost down to the present day. I am referring to praying facing east, a tradition which goes back to the origins of Christianity.

What is understood by “praying facing east”? It refers to the orientation of the praying heart towards Christ, from whom comes salvation, and to whom it is directed as in the beginning so at the end of history. The sun rises in the east, and the sun is a symbol of Christ, the light rising in the Orient. The messianic passage in the Benedictus canticle comes readily to mind: “Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the Orient from on high hath visited us”

Very reliable and recent studies have by now proven effectively that, in every age of its past, the Christian community has found the way to express even in the external and visible liturgical sign, this fundamental orientation for the life of faith. This is why we find churches built in such a way that the apse was turned to the east. When such an orientation of the sacred space was no longer possible, the Church had recourse to the Crucifix placed upon the altar, on which everyone could focus. In the same vein many apses were decorated with resplendent representations of the Lord. All were invited to contemplate these images during the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Without recourse to a detailed historical analysis of the development of Christian art, we would like to reaffirm that prayer facing east, more specifically, facing the Lord, is a characteristic expression of the authentic spirit of the liturgy. It is according to this sense that we are invited to turn our hearts to the Lord during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, as the introductory dialogue to the Preface well reminds us. Sursum corda “Lift up your hearts,” exhorts the priest, and all respond: Habemus ad Dominum “We lift them up unto the Lord.” Now if such an orientation must always be adopted interiorly by the entire Christian community when it gathers in prayer, it should be possible to find this orientation expressed externally by means of signs as well. The external sign, moreover, cannot but be true, in such a way that through it the correct spiritual attitude is rendered visible.

Hence the reason for the proposal made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, and presently reaffirmed during the course of his pontificate, to place the Crucifix on the center of the altar, in order that all, during the celebration of the liturgy, may concretely face and look upon Lord, in such a way as to orient also their prayer and hearts. Let us listen to the words of his Holiness, Benedict XVI, directly, who in the preface to the first book of his Complete Works, dedicated to the liturgy, writes the following: “The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord. Therefore, they stare in the same direction during prayer: either towards the east as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes, or, where this is not possible, towards the image of Christ in the apse, towards a crucifix, or simply towards the heavens, as our Lord Himself did in his priestly prayer the night before His Passion (John 17.1) In the meantime the proposal made by me at the end of the chapter treating this question in my work ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ is fortunately becoming more and more common: rather than proceeding with further transformations, simply to place the crucifix at the center of the altar, which both priest and the faithful can face and be lead in this way towards the Lord, whom everyone addresses in prayer together.” (trans. from the Italian.)

Let it not be said, moreover, that the image of our Lord crucified obstructs the sight of the faithful from that of the priest, for they are not to look to the celebrant at that point in the liturgy! They are to turn their gaze towards the Lord! In like manner, the presider of the celebration should also be able to turn towards the Lord. The crucifix does not obstruct our view; rather it expands our horizon to see the world of God; the crucifix brings us to meditate on the mystery; it introduces us to the heavens from where the only light capable of making sense of life on this earth comes. Our sight, in truth, would be blinded and obstructed were our eyes to remain fixed on those things that display only man and his works.

In this way one can come to understand why it is still possible today to celebrate the holy Mass upon the old altars, when the particular architectural and artistic features of our churches would advise it. Also in this, the Holy Father gives us an example when he celebrates the holy Eucharist at the ancient altar of the Sistine Chapel on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

In our time, the expression “celebrating facing the people” has entered our common vocabulary. If one’s intention in using this expression is to describe the location of the priest, who, due to the fact that today he often finds himself facing the congregation because of the placement of the altar, in this case such an expression is acceptable. Yet such an expression would be categorically unacceptable the moment it comes to express a theological proposition. Theologically speaking, the holy Mass, as a matter of fact, is always addressed to God through Christ our Lord, and it would be a grievous error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is the community. Such an orientation, therefore, of turning towards the Lord must animate the interior participation of each individual during the liturgy. It is likewise equally important that this orientation be quite visible in the liturgical sign as well.

3. Adoration and union with God.

Adoration is the recognition, filled with wonder, we could even say ecstatic, (because it makes us come out of ourselves and our small world) the recognition of the infinite might of God, of His incomprehensible majesty, and of His love without limit which he offers us absolutely gratuitously, of His omnipotent and provident Lordship. Consequently, adoration leads to the reunification of man and creation with God, to the abandonment of the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, to loss of self, which is, moreover, the only way of regaining oneself.

Before the ineffable beauty of God’s charity, which takes form in the mystery of the Incarnate Word, who for our sake has died and is risen, and which finds its sacramental manifestation in the liturgy, there is nothing left for us but to be left in adoration. “In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries,” affirms Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “there is a truly enormous capacity which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist.” (n.5)

“My Lord and my God,” we have been taught to say from childhood at the moment of the consecration. In such a way, borrowing the words of the apostle St. Thomas, we are led to adore the Lord, made present and living in the species of the holy Eucharist, uniting ourselves to Him, and recognising Him as our all. From there it becomes possible to resume our daily way, having found the correct order of life, the fundamental criterion whereby to live and to die.

Here is the reason why everything in the liturgical act, through the nobility, the beauty, and the harmony of the exterior sign, must be condusive to adoration, to union with God: this includes the music, the singing, the periods of silence, the manner of proclaiming the Word of the Lord, and the manner of praying, the gestures employed, the liturgical vestments and the sacred vessels and other furnishings, as well as the sacred edifice in its entirety. It is under this perspective that the decision of his Holiness, Benedict XVI, is to be taken into consideration, who, starting from the feast of Corpus Christi last year, has begun to distribute holy Communion to the kneeling faithful directly on the tongue. By the example of this action, the Holy Father invites us to render visible the proper attitude of adoration before the greatness of the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. An attitude of adoration which must be fostered all the more when approaching the most holy Eucharist in the other forms permitted today.

I would like to cite once more another passage from the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis: “During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church’s experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy. As Saint Augustine put it: ‘nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.’ In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy.” (n.66)

I think that, among others, the following passage from the text I just read should not go unnoticed: “[The Eucharistic celebration] is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration.” Thanks to the holy Eucharist, his Holiness, Benedict XVI, asserts once more: “The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realised in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing in his body and blood.” (Deus Caritas est, n.13) For this reason, everything in the liturgy, and more specifically in the Eucharistic liturgy, must lead to adoration, everything in the unfolding of the rite must help one enter into the Church’s adoration of her Lord.

To consider the liturgy as locus for adoration, for union with God, does not mean to loose sight of the communal dimension in the liturgical celebration, even less to forget the imperative of charity toward one’s neighbour. On the contrary, only through a renewal of the adoration of God in Christ, which takes form in the liturgical act, will an authentic fraternal communion and a new story of charity and love arise, depending on that ability to wonder and act heroically, which only the grace of God can give to our poor hearts. The lives of the saints remind and teach us this. “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians.” (Deus caritas est, n. 14)

4. Active Participation.

It was really the saints who have celebrated and lived the liturgical act by participating actively. Holiness, as the result of their lives, is the most beautiful testimony of a participation truthfully active in the liturgy of the Church.

Rightly, then, and by divine providence did the second Vatican Council insist so much on the necessity of promoting an authentic participation on the part of the faithful during the celebration of the holy mysteries, at the same time when it reminded the Church of the universal call to holiness. This authoritative direction from the council has been confirmed and proposed again and again by so many successive documents of the magisterium down to the present day.

Nevertheless, there has not always been a correct understanding of the concept of “active participation”, according to how the Church teaches it and exhorts the faithful to live it. To be sure, there is active participation when, during the course of the liturgical celebration, one fulfills his proper service; there is active participation too when one has a better comprehension of God’s word when it is heard or of the prayers when they are said; there is also active participation when one unites his own voice to that of the others in song….All this, however, would not signify a participation truthfully active if it did not lead to adoration of the mystery of salvation in Christ Jesus, who for our sake died and is risen. This is because only he who adores the mystery, welcoming it into his life, demonstrates that he has comprehended what is being celebrated, and so is truly participating in the grace of the liturgical act.

As confirmation and support for what has just been asserted, let us listen once again to the words of a passage by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, from his fundamental study “The Spirit of the Liturgy”: “What does this active participation come down to? What does it mean that we have to do? Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action. However, the word ‘part-icipation’ refers to a principal action in which everyone has a ‘part’…By the actio of the liturgy the sources mean the Eucharistic prayer. The real liturgical action, the true liturgical act, is the oratio….This oratio—the Eucharistic Prayer, the “Canon”—is really more than speech; it is actio in the highest sense of the word.” (pp. 171-2) Christ is made present in all of his salvific work, and for this reason the human actio becomes secondary and makes room for the divine actio, to God’s work.

Thus the true action which is carried out in the liturgy is the action of God Himself, his saving work in Christ, in which we participate. This is, among other things, the true novelty of the Christian liturgy with respect to every other act of worship: God Himself acts and accomplishes that which is essential, whilst man is called to open himself to the activity of God, in order to be left transformed. Consequently, the essential aspect of active participation is to overcome the difference between God’s act and our own, that we might become one with Christ. This is why, that I might stress what has been said up to now, it is not possible to participate without adoration. Let us listen to another passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium: “The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.” (n. 48)

Compared to this, everything else is secondary. I am referring in particular to external actions, granted they be important and necessary, and foreseen above all during the Liturgy of the Word. I mention the external actions because, should they become the essential preoccupation and the liturgy is reduced to a generic act, in that case the authentic spirit of the liturgy has been misunderstood. It follows that an authentic education in the liturgy cannot consist simply in learning and practicing exterior actions, but in an introduction to the essential action, which is God’s own, the paschal mystery of Christ, whom we must allow to meet us, to involve us, to transform us. Let not the mere execution of external gestures be confused with the correct involvement of our bodies in the liturgical act. Without taking anything away from the meaning and importance of the external action which accompanies the interior act, the Liturgy demands a lot more from the human body. It requires, in fact, its total and renewed effort in the daily actions of this life. This is what the Holy Father, Benedict XVI calls “Eucharistic coherence”. Properly speaking, it is the timely and faithful exercise of such a coherence or consistency which is the most authentic expression of participation, even bodily, in the liturgical act, the salvific action of Christ.

I wish to discuss this point further. Are we truly certain that the promotion of an active participation consists in rendering everything to the greatest extent possible immediately comprehensible? May it not be the case that entering into God’s mystery might be facilitated and, sometimes, even better accompanied by that which touches principally the reasons of the heart? Is it not often the case that a disproportionate amount of space is given over to empty and trite speech, forgetting that both dialogue and silence belong in the liturgy, congregational singing and choral music, images, symbols, gestures? Do not, perhaps, also the Latin language, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphony belong to this manifold language which conducts us to the center of the mystery?

5. Sacred or liturgical music.

There is no doubt that a discussion, in order to introduce itself authentically into the spirit of the liturgy, cannot pass over sacred or liturgical music in silence.

I will limit myself to a brief reflection in way of orienting the discussion. One might wonder why the Church by means of its documents, more or less recent, insists in indicating a certain type of music and singing as particularly consonant with the liturgical celebration. Already at the time of the Council of Trent the Church intervened in the cultural conflict developing at that time, reestablishing the norm whereby music conforming to the sacred text was of primary importance, limiting the use of instruments and pointing to a clear distinction between profane and sacred music. Sacred music, moreover, must never be understood as a purely subjective expression. It is anchored to the biblical or traditional texts which are to be sung during the course of the celebration. More recently, Pope Saint Pius X intervened in an analogous way, seeking to remove operatic singing from the liturgy and selecting Gregorian chant and polyphony from the time of the Catholic reformation as the standard for liturgical music, to be distinguished from religious music in general. The second Vatican Council did naught but reaffirm the same standard, so too the more recent magisterial documents.

Why does the Church insist on proposing certain forms as characteristic of sacred and liturgical music which make them distinct from all other forms of music? Why, also, do Gregorian chant and the classical sacred polyphony turn out to be the forms to be imitated, in light of which liturgical and even popular music should continue to be produced today?

The answer to these questions lies precisely in what we have sought to assert with regard to the spirit of the liturgy. It is properly those forms of music, in their holiness, their goodness, and their universality, which translate in notes, melodies and singing the authentic liturgical spirit: by leading to adoration of the mystery celebrated, by favouring an authentic and integral participation, by helping the listener to capture the sacred and thereby the essential primacy of God acting in Christ, and finally by permitting a musical development that is anchored in the life of the Church and the contemplation of its mystery.

Allow me to quote the then Cardinal Ratzinger one last time: “Gandhi highlights three vital spaces in the cosmos, and demonstrates how each one of them communicates even its own mode of being. Fish live in the sea and are silent. Terrestrial animals cry out, but the birds, whose vital space is the heavens, sing. Silence is proper to the sea, crying out to the earth, and singing to the heavens. Man, however, participates in all three: he bares within him the depth of the sea, the weight of the earth, and the height of the heavens; this is why all three modes of being belong to him: silence, crying out, and song. Today…we see that, devoid of transcendence, all that is left to man is to cry out, because he wishes to be only earth and seeks to turn into earth even the heavens and the depth of the sea. The true liturgy, the liturgy of the communion of saints, restores to him the fullness of his being. It teaches him anew how to be silent and how to sing, opening to him the profundity of the sea and teaching him how to fly, the nature of an angel; elevating his heart, it makes that song resonate in him once again which had in a way fallen asleep. In fact, we can even say that the true liturgy is recognisable especially when it frees us from the common way of living, and restores to us depth and height, silence and song. The true liturgy is recognisable by the fact that it is cosmic, not custom made for a group. It sings with the angels. It remains silent with the profound depth of the universe in waiting. And in this way it redeems the world.” (trans. from the Italian.)

At this point I would like to conclude the discussion. For some years now, several voices have been heard within Church circles talking about the necessity of a new liturgical renewal. Of a movement, in some ways analogous to the one which formed the basis for the reform promoted by the second Vatican Council, capable of operating a reform of the reform, or rather, one more step ahead in understanding the authentic spirit of the liturgy and of its celebration; its goal would be to carry on that providential reform of the liturgy that the conciliar Fathers had launched but has not always, in its practical implementation, found a timely and happy fulfillment.

There is no doubt that in this new liturgical renewal it is we priests who are to recover a decisive role. With the help of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of all priests, may this further development of the reform also be the fruit of our sincere love for the liturgy, in fidelity to the Church and the Holy Father.

Msgr. Guido Marini

Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies

World Day of Communications

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

VATICAN CITY – The Holy Father’s Message for the 44th World Day of Communications – “The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word”

Nota Bene: The complete text of the Holy Father’s message is available by clicking here:  World Day of Communications 2010

Pope Benedict told priests on Saturday, saying they must learn to use new forms of communication to spread the gospel message.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church‘s World Day of Communications, the pope, who is 82 and known not to love computers or the internet, acknowledged priests must make the most of the “rich menu of options” offered by new technology.

“Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources — images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites — which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis,” he said.

Priests, he said, had to respond to the challenge of “today’s cultural shifts” if they wanted to reach young people.

But Benedict warned priests not to strive to become stars of new media.

“Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart,” he said.

After decades of being wary of new media, the Vatican has decided to dive in head first. Last year, a new Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, went live, offering one application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

Benedict still writes most of his speeches by hand in German and it is younger aides who manage his forays into cyberspace.

HAITI: Pope calls for prayer, solidarity and generosity

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2010 / 10:57 am (CNA).- During the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal to the world on behalf of Haitians. Referring to the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that had rocked the Caribbean country just hours earlier, the Pontiff called for prayer, solidarity and generosity to aid the victims of the catastrophe.

The Pope invited “everyone” to join with him in prayer for the dead as he also implored that God provide consolation and relief from suffering to the survivors.

He assured Haitians of his “spiritual closeness” and that there would be no delay in the mobilization of aid from the Church’s charitable institutions “to fulfill the most immediate needs of the population.”

The Holy Father appealed especially for generosity in giving to “these brothers and sisters who are living a moment of necessity and pain, our concrete solidarity and the proactive support of the international community.”

Urbi et Orbi – Christmas, 2009

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Following is the text of Our Holy Father’s Christmas Message to the city and the world:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world, and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

 Lux fulgebit hodie super nos, quia natus est nobis Dominus.

[A light will shine on us this day,the Lord is born for us:  from the  Roman MissalIntroit (Entrance Chant) for the Second Mass of Christmas, or the Mass at Dawn]

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”. This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Savior, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendor, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigor and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn.  In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light!  Happy Christmas to all!

The Venerable Pope Pius XII: CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, 1942

Friday, December 25th, 2009

THE VENERABLE POPE PIUS XII’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, 1942

My Dear Children of the Whole World:

As the Holy Christmas Season comes round each year, the message of Jesus, Who is light in the midst of darkness, echoes once more from the Crib of Bethlehem in the ears of Christians and re-echoes in their hearts with an ever new freshness of joy and piety. It is a message which lights up with heavenly truth a world that is plunged in darkness by fatal errors. It infuses exuberant and trustful joy into mankind, torn by the anxiety of deep, bitter sorrow. It proclaims liberty to the sons of Adam, shackled with the chains of sin and guilt. It promises mercy, love, peace to the countless hosts of those in suffering and tribulation who see their happiness Shattered and their efforts broken in the tempestuous strife and hate of our stormy days.

The church bells, which announce this message in every continent, not only recall the gift which God made to mankind at the dawn of the Christian Era; they also announce and proclaim a consoling reality of the present, a reality which is eternally young, living and life-giving; it is the reality of the “True Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this World,” and which knows no setting. The Eternal Word, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, began His mission of saving and redeeming the human race by being born in the squalor of a stable and by thus ennobling and hallowing poverty.

He thus proclaimed and consecrated a message which is still, today, the Word of Eternal Life. That message can solve the most tortuous questions, unsolved and insoluble for those who bring to their investigations a mentality and an apparatus which are ephemeral and merely human; and those questions stand up, bleeding, imperiously demanding an answer, before the thought and the feeling of embittered and exasperated mankind.

The watchword “I have compassion on the multitude” is for Us a sacred trust which may not be abused; it remains strong, and impelling in all times and in all human situations, as it was the distinguishing mark of Jesus.

The Church would be untrue to herself, ceasing to be a mother, if she turned a deaf ear to her children’s anguished cries, which reach her from every class of the human family. She does not intend to take sides for any of the particular forms in which the several peoples and States strive to solve the gigantic problems of domestic order or international collaboration, as long as these forms conform to the law of God. But on the other hand, as the “Pillar and Ground of Truth” and guardian, by the will of God and the mandate of Christ, of the natural and supernatural order, the Church cannot renounce her right to proclaim to her sons and to the whole world the unchanging basic laws, saving them from every perversion, frustration, corruption, false interpretation and error.

This is all the more necessary for the fact that from the exact maintenance of these laws, and not merely by the effort of noble and courageous wills, depends in the last analysis the solidity of any national and international order, so fervently desired by all peoples. We know the qualities of courage and sacrifice of those peoples, and We also know their straitened conditions and their sorrow; and in this hour of unspeakable trial and strife We feel Ourselves bound to each and every one of them without exception, by a deep, all-embracing, unmovable affection, and by an immense desire to bring them every solace and help which is in any way at Our command.

Primary Elements of Social Life

In our last Christmas Message, We expounded the principles- which Christian thought suggests, for the establishment of an international order of friendly relations and collaboration such as to conform to the demands of God’s Law. Today We shall, with the consent, We feel, and the interested attention of all upright men, pause to consider very carefully and with equal impartiality, the fundamental laws of the internal order of the States and peoples.

International relations and internal order are intimately related. International equilibrium and harmony depend on the internal equilibrium and development of the individual States in the material, social and intellectual spheres. A firm steady peace policy towards other nations is, in fact, impossible without a spirit of peace within the nation which inspires trust. It is only, then, by striving for an integral peace, a peace in both fields, that people will be freed from the cruel nightmare of war, and the material and psychological causes of further discord and disorder will be diminished in a desire for peace, and hence aims at attaining peace, that “tranquil living together in order” in which St. Thomas finds the essence of peace. Two primary elements, then, regulate social life, a living together in order, and a living together in tranquillity.

Order

Order, which is fundamental in an association of men (of beings, that is, who strive to attain an end appropriate to their nature) is not merely external linking up of parts which are numerically distinct. It is rather, and must be, a tendency and an ever more perfect approach to an internal union; and this does not exclude differences founded in fact and sanctioned by the will of God or by supernatural standard.

A clear understanding of the genuine fundamentals of all social life has a capital importance today as never before, when mankind, impregnated by the poison of error and social aberrations, tormented by the fever of discordant desires, doctrines, and aims, is excitedly tossing about in the disorder which it has itself created, and is experiencing the destructive force of false ideas that disregard the Law of God or are opposed to it. And since disorder can only be overcome by an order which is not merely superimposed and fictitious (just as darkness with its fearful and depressing effects can only be driven away by light and not by will o’ the wisps); so security, reorganizations, progressive improvement cannot be expected and cannot be brought about unless by a return of large and influential sections to correct notions about security.

It is a return which calls for the Grace of God in large measure, and for a resolute will, ready and prepared for sacrifice on the part of good farseeing men. From these influential circles who are more capable of penetrating and appreciating the beauty of just social norms, there will pass on and infiltrate into the masses the clear knowledge of the true, divine, spiritual origin of social life. Thus the way will be cleared for the reawakening, the growth and fixing of those moral principles without which even the proudest achievements create but a Babel in which the citizens, though they live inside the same walls, speak different and incoherent languages.

From individual and social life we should rise to God, the First Cause and Ultimate Foundation, as He is the Creator of the first conjugal society, from which we have the society which is the family, and the society of peoples and of nations. As an image, albeit imperfect, of its Exemplar, the One and Triune God, Who through the Mystery of the Incarnation, redeemed and raised human nature, life in society, in its ideals and in its end, possesses by the light of reason and of revelation a moral authority and an absoluteness which transcend every temporal change. It has a power of attraction that, far from being weakened or lessened by delusions, errors, failures, draws irresistibly the noblest and most faithful souls to the Lord, to take up with renewed energy, with added knowledge, with new studies, methods and means, the enterprises which in other times and circumstances were tried in vain.

The origin and the primary scope of social life is the conservation, development and perfection of the human person, helping him to realize accurately the demands and values of religion and culture set by the Creator for every man and for all mankind, both as a whole and in its natural ramifications.

A social teaching or a social reconstruction program which denies or prescinds from this internal essential relation to God of everything that regards men, is on a false course; and while it builds up with one hand, it prepares with the other the materials which sooner or later will undermine and destroy the whole fabric. And when it disregards the respect due to the human person and to the life which is proper to that person, and gives no thought to it in its organization, in legislative and executive activity, then instead of serving society, it harms it; instead of encouraging and stimulating social thought, instead of realizing its hopes and expectations, it strips it of all real value and reduces it to a utilitarian formula which is openly rejected by constantly increasing groups.

If social life implies intrinsic unity, it does not, at the same time, exclude differences which are founded in fact and nature. When we hold fast to God, the Supreme Controller of all that relates to man, then the similarities no less than the differences of men find their allotted place in the fixed order of being, of values, and hence also of morality. When, however, this foundation is removed, there is a dangerous lack of cohesion in the various spheres of culture; the frontier of true value becomes uncertain and shifting, even to the point where mere external factors, and often blind instincts, come to determine, according to the prevalent fashion of the day, who is to have control of this or that direction.

After the fateful economy of the past decades, during which the lives of all citizens were subordinated to the stimulus of gain, there now succeeds another and no less fateful policy which, while it considers everybody with reference to the State, excludes all thought of ethics or religion. This is a fatal travesty, a fatal error. It is calculated to bring about far-reaching consequences for social life, which is never nearer to losing its noblest prerogatives than when it thinks it can deny or forget with impunity the external source of its own dignity: God.

Reason, enlightened by faith, assigns to individuals and to particular societies in the social organization a definite and exalted place. It knows, to mention only the most important, that the whole political and economic activity of the State is directed to the permanent realization of the common good.

In a conception of society which is pervaded and sanctioned by religious thought, the influence of economics and of every other sphere of cultural activity represents a universal and most exalted center of activity, very rich in its variety and coherent in its harmony, in which men’s intellectual equality and diversity of occupation come into their own and secure adequate expression. When this is not so, work is depreciated and the worker is belittled.

That social life, such as God willed it, may attain its scope, it needs a juridical order to support it from without, to defend and protect it. The function of this juridical order is not to dominate but to serve, to help the development and increase of society’s vitality in the rich multiplicity of its ends, leading all the individual energies to their perfection in peaceful completion, and defending them with appropriate and honest means against all that may militate against those who only by this means can be held within the noble discipline of social life. But in the just fulfillment of this right, an authority which is truly worthy of the name will always be painfully conscious of its responsibility in the sight of the Eternal Judge, before Whose Tribunal every wrong judgment, and especially every revolt against the order established by God, will receive without fail its sanction and its condemnation.

The precise, bedrock, basic rules that govern society cannot be prejudiced by the intervention of human agency. They can be denied, overlooked, despised, transgressed, but they can never be overthrown with legal validity. It is true indeed that, as time goes on, conditions of life change. But there is never a complete break or a complete discontinuity between the law of yesterday and that of today, between the disappearance of old powers and constitutions and the appearance of a new order. In any case, whatever be the change or transformation, the scope of every social life remains identical, sacred, obligatory; it is the development of the personal values of man as the image of God; and the obligation remains with every member of the human family to realize his unchangeable destiny, whosoever be the legislator and the authority whom he obeys.

In consequence, there always remains, too, his inalienable right, which no opposition can nullify—a right which must be respected by friend and foe—to a legal order and practice which appreciate and understand that it is their essential duty to serve the common good.

The juridical order has, besides, the high and difficult scope of insuring harmonious relations both between individuals and between societies, and within these. This scope will be reached if legislators will abstain from following those perilous theories and practices, so harmful to communities to their spirit of union, which derive their origin and promulgation from false postulates. Among such postulates We must count the juridical positivism which attributes a deceptive majesty to the setting up of purely human laws, and which leaves the way open for a fatal divorce of law from morality.

There is, besides, the conception which claims for particular nations, or classes, the juridical instinct as the final imperative and the norm from which there is no appeal; finally, there are those various theories which, differing among themselves, and deriving from opposite ideologies, agree in considering the State, or a group which represents it, as an absolute and supreme entity, exempt from control and from criticism even when its theoretical and practical postulates result in and offend by, their open denial of essential tenets of the human Christian conscience.

Anyone who considers with an open and penetrating mind the vital connection between social order and a genuine juridical order, and who is conscious of the fact that internal order in all its complexity depends on the predominance of spiritual forces, on the respect of human dignity in oneself and in others, on the love of society and of its God-given ends, cannot wonder at the sad effects of juridical conceptions which, far from the royal road of truth, proceed on the insecure ground of materialistic postulates. But he will realize at once the urgent need of a return to a conception of law which is spiritual and ethical, serious and profound, vivified by the warmth of true humanity and illumined by the splendor of the Christian Faith, which bids us seek in the juridical order an outward refraction of the social order willed by God, a luminous product of the spirit of man which is in turn the image of the Spirit of God.

On this organic conception which alone is living, in which the noblest humanity and the most genuine Christian spirit flourish in harmony, there is marked the Scripture thought, expounded by the great Aquinas: <Opus Justitiae Pax>—The work of justice shall be peace—a thought which is applicable to the internal as to the external aspect of social life. It admits of neither contrast nor alternative such as expressed in the disjunction, love or right, but of the fruitful synthesis, love and right. In the one as in the other, since both radiate from the same Spirit of God, We read the program and the seal of the human spirit; they complement one another, give each other life and support, walk hand in hand along the road of concord and pacification, while right clears the way for love and love makes right less stern, and gives it a higher meaning. Both elevate human life to that social atmosphere where, even amid the failings, the obstacles and the difficulties of this earth a fraternal community of life is made possible.

But once let the baneful spirit of materialist ideas predominate; let the urge for power and for predominance take in its rough hands the direction of affairs; you shall then find its disruptive effects appearing daily in greater measure; you shall see love and justice disappear; all this as the sad foretaste of the catastrophes that menace society when it abandons God.

Tranquillity

The second fundamental element of peace, towards which every human society tends almost instinctively, is tranquillity.

O blessed tranquillity, thou has nothing in common with the spirit of holding fixedly and obstinately, unrelenting and with childish stubbornness, to things as they are; nor yet with the reluctance—child of cowardice and selfishness—to put one’s mind to the solution of problems and questions which the passage of time and the succession of generations, with their different needs and progress, make actual, and bring up a burning question of the day. But for a Christian who is conscious of his responsibilities even towards the least of his brethren, there is no such thing as slothful tranquillity; nor is there question of flight, but of struggle, of action against every inaction and desertion in the great spiritual combat where the stakes are the construction, nay the very soul, of the society of tomorrow.

In the mind of Aquinas, tranquillity and feverish activity are not opposed, but rather form a well-balanced pair for him who is inspired by the beauty and the urgency of the spiritual foundations of society, and of the nobility of its ideals. To you, young people, who are wont to turn your back on the past, and to rely on the future for your aspirations and your hopes, We address Ourselves with ardent love and fatherly anxiety; enthusiasm and courage do not of themselves suffice, if they be not, as they should be, placed in the service of good and of a spotless cause. It is vain to agitate, to weary yourselves, to bustle about without ever resting. You must be inspired with the conviction that you are fighting for truth, that you are sacrificing in the cause of truth your own tastes and energies wishes, and sacrifices; that you are fighting for the eternal laws of God, for the dignity of the human person, and for the attainment of its destiny.

When mature men and young men, while remaining always at anchor, in the sea of the eterna11y active tranquillity of God, coordinate their differences of temperament and activity in a genuine Christian spirit, then if the propelling element is joined to the refraining element, the natural differences between the generations will never become dangerous, and will even conduce vigorously to the enforcement of the eternal laws of God in the changing course of times and of conditions of life.

In one field of social life, where for a whole century there was agitation and bitter conflict, there is today a calm, at least on the surface. We speak of the vast and ever growing world of labor, of the immense army of workers, of breadwinners and dependents. If we consider the present with its wartime exigencies, as an admitted fact, then this calm may be called a necessary and reasonable demand; but if we look at the present situation in the light of justice, and with reference to a legitimately regulated labor movement, then the tranquillity will remain only apparent, until the scope of such a movement be attained.

Always moved by religious motives, the Church has condemned the various forms of Marxist Socialism; and she condemns them today, because it is her permanent right and duty to safeguard men from currents as thought and influences that jeopardize their external salvation. But the Church cannot ignore or overlook the fact that the worker in his efforts to better his lot, is opposed by a machinery which is not only not in accordance with nature, but is at variance with God’s plan and with the purpose He had in creating the goods of earth.

In spite of the fact that the ways they followed were and are false and to be condemned, what man, and especially what priest or Christian, could remain deaf to the cries that rise from the depths and call for justice and a spirit of brotherly collaboration in a world ruled by a just God? Such silence would be culpable and unjustifiable before God, and contrary to the inspired teaching of the Apostle, who, while he inculcates the need of resolution in the fight against error, also knows that we must be full of sympathy for those who err, and open-minded in our understanding of their aspirations, hopes and motives.

When He blessed our first parents, God said: “Increase and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” And to the first father of a family, He said later: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” The dignity of the human person, then, requires normally as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth. To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation regulating private ownership may change and more or less restrict its use. But if legislation is to play its part in the pacification of the community, it must prevent the worker, who is or will be a father of a family, from being condemned to an economic dependence and slavery which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person. Whether this slavery arises from the exploitation of private capital or from the power of the state, the result is the same. Indeed, under the pressure of a State which dominates all and controls the whole field of public and private life, even going into the realm of ideas and beliefs and of conscience, this lack of liberty can have the more serious consequences, as experience shows and proves.

Five Points for Ordering Society

Anyone who considers in the light of reason and of faith the foundations and the aims of social life, which we have traced in broad outline, and contemplates them in their purity and moral sublimity, and in their benefits in every sphere of life, cannot but be convinced of the powerful contribution to order and pacification which efforts directed towards great ideals and resolved to face difficulties, could present, or better, could restore to a world which is internally unhinged, when once they had thrown down the intellectual and juridical barriers, created by prejudice, errors, indifferences, and by a long tradition of secularization of thought, feeling, action which succeeded in detaching and subtracting the early city from the light and force of the City of God. Today, as never before, the hour has come for reparation, for rousing the conscience of the world from the heavy torpor into which the drugs of false ideas, widely diffused, have sunk it. This is all the more so because in this hour of material and moral disintegration the appreciation of the emptiness and inconsistency of every purely human order is beginning to disillusion even those who, in days of apparent happiness, were not conscious of the need of contact with the eternal in themselves or in society, and did not look upon its absence as an essential defect in their constitutions. What was clear to the Christian, who in his deeply founded faith was pained by the ignorance of others, is now presented to us in dazzling clearness by the din of appalling catastrophe which the present upheaval brings to man and which portrays all the terrifying lineaments of a general judgment even for the tepid, the indifferent, the frivolous. It is indeed, an old truth which comes out in ever new forms and thunders through the ages and through the nations from the mouth of the Prophet: “All that forsake thee shall be confounded; they who depart from thee, shall be written in the earth; because they have forsaken the Lord, the Vein of Living Waters.”

The call of the moment is not lamentation but action; not lamentation over what has been, but reconstruction of what is to arise and must arise for the good of society. It is for the best and most distinguished members of the Christian family, filled with the enthusiasm of Crusaders, to unite in the spirit of truth, justice and love to the call; God wills it, ready to serve, to sacrifice themselves, like the Crusaders of old.

If the issue was then the liberation of the land hallowed by the life of the Incarnate Word of God, the call today is, if We may so express Ourselves, to traverse the sea of errors of our day and to march on to free the holy land of the spirit, which is destined to sustain in its foundations the unchangeable norms and laws on which will rise a social construction of solid internal consistency. With this lofty purpose before Us, We turn from the crib of the Prince of Peace, confident that His grace is diffused in all hearts, to you, beloved children, who recognized and adore in Christ your Savior; We turn to all those who are united with Us at least by the bond of faith in God; We turn, finally to all those who would be free of doubt and error, and who desire light and guidance; and We exhort you with suppliant paternal insistence not only to realize fully the dreadful gravity of this hour, but also to meditate upon the vistas of good and supernatural benefit which it opens up, and to unite and collaborate towards the renewal of society in spirit and truth.

The essential aim of this necessary and holy crusade is that the Star of Peace, the Star of Bethlehem, may shine out again over the whole mankind in all its brilliant splendor and reassuring consolation as a pledge and augury of a future better, more fruitful and happier. It is true that the road from night to full day will be long; but of decisive importance are the first steps on the path, the first five mile-stones of which bear chiseled on them the following maxims:

1. Dignity of the Human Person. He who would have the Star of Peace shine out and stand over society should cooperate, for his part, in giving back to the human person the dignity given to it by God from the very beginning; should oppose the excessive herding of men, as if they were a mass without a soul; their economic, social, political, intellectual and moral inconsistency; their dearth of solid principles and strong convictions, their surfeit of instinctive sensible excitement and their fickleness.

He should favor, by every lawful means, in every sphere of life, social institutions in which a full personal responsibility is assured and guaranteed both in the early and the eternal order of things. He should uphold respect for and the practical realization of the following fundamental personal rights; the right to maintain and develop one’s corporal, intellectual and moral life and especially the right to religious formation and education; the right to worship God in private and public and to carry on religious works of charity; the right to marry and to achieve the aim of married life; the right to conjugal and domestic society; the right to work, as the indispensable means towards the maintenance of family life; the right to free choice of state of life, and hence, too, of the priesthood or religious life; the right to the use of material goods; in keeping with his duties and social limitations

2. Defense of Social Unity. He who would have the Star of Peace shine out and stand over society should reject every form of materialism which sees in the people only a herd of individuals who, divided and without any internal cohesion, are considered as a mass to be forded over and treated arbitrarily; he should strive to understand society as an intrinsic unity, which has grown up and matured under the guidance of Providence, a unity which within the bounds assigned to it and according to its own peculiar gifts—tends, with the collaboration of the various classes and professions, towards the eternal and ever new aims of culture and religion.

He should defend the indissolubility of matrimony; he should give to the family—that unique cell of the people—space, light and air so that it may attend to its mission of perpetuating new life, and of educating children in a spirit corresponding to its own true religious convictions, and that it may preserve, fortify and reconstitute, according to its powers, its proper economic, spiritual, moral and juridic unity. He should take care that the material and spiritual advantages of the family be shared by the domestic servants; he should strive to secure for every family a dwelling where a materially and morally healthy family life may be seen in all its vigor and worth; he should take care that the place of work be not so separated from the home as to make the head of the family and educator of the children a virtual stranger to his own household; he should take care above all that the bond of trust and mutual help should be reestablished between the family and the public school, that bond which in other times gave such happy results, but which now has been replaced by mistrust where the school, influenced and controlled by the spirit of materialism, corrupts and destroys what the parents have instilled into the minds of the children.

3. Dignity of Labor. He who would have the Star of Peace shine out and stand over society should give to work the place assigned to it by God from the beginning. As an indispensable means towards gaining over the world that mastery which God wishes, for His glory, all work has an inherent dignity and at the same time a close connection with the perfection of the person; this is the noble dignity and privilege of work which is not any way cheapened by the fatigue and the burden, which have to be borne as the effect of original sin, in obedience and submission to the will of God.

Those who are familiar with the great Encyclicals of Our predecessors and Our Own previous messages know well that the Church does not hesitate to draw the practical conclusions which are derived from the moral nobility of work, and to give them all the support of her authority. These exigencies include, besides a just wage which covers the needs of the worker and his family, the conservation and perfection of a social order which will make possible an assured, even if modest, private property for all classes of society, which will promote higher education for the children of the working class who are especially endowed with intelligence and good will, will promote the care and the practice of the social spirit in one’s immediate neighborhood, in the district, the province, the people and the nation, a spirit which, by smoothing over friction arising from privileges or class interests, removes from the workers the sense of isolation through the assuring experience of a genuinely human, and fraternally Christian, solidarity.

The progress and the extent of urgent social reforms depend on the economic possibilities of single Nations. It is only through an intelligent and generous sharing of forces between the strong and the weak that it will be possible to effect a universal pacification in such wise as not to leave behind centers of conflagration and infection from which new disasters may come. There are evident signs which go to show that, in the ferment of all the prejudices and feelings of hate, those inevitable but lamentable offspring of the war psychosis, there is still aflame in the people the consciousness of their intimate mutual dependence for good or for evil, nay, that this consciousness is more alive and active. It is not true that deep thinkers see ever more clearly in the renunciation of egoism and national isolation, the way to general salvation, ready as they are to demand of their peoples, a heavy participation in the sacrifices necessary for social well-being in other peoples?

May this Christmas Message of Ours, addressed to all those who are animated by a good and generous heart, encourage and increase the legions of these social crusades in every nation. And may God deign to give to their peaceful cause the victory of which their noble enterprise is worthy.

4. The Rehabilitation of Juridical Order. He who would have the Star of Peace shine out and stand over social life should collaborate towards a complete rehabilitation of the juridical order. The juridic sense of today is often altered and overturned by the profession and the practice of positivism and a utilitarianism which are subjected and bound to the service of determined groups, classes and movements, whose programs direct and determine the course of legislation and the practices of the courts. The cure of this situation becomes feasible when we awaken again the consciousness of a juridical order resting on the supreme dominion of God, and safeguarded from all human whims; a consciousness of an order which stretches forth its arm, in protection or punishment, over the unforgettable rights of man and protects them against the attacks of every human power.

From the juridic order, as willed by God, flows man’s inalienable right to juridical security, and by this very fact to a definite sphere of rights, immune from all arbitrary attack. The relations of man to man, of the individual to society, to authority, to civil duties; the relations of society and of authority to the individual, should be placed on a firm juridic footing and be guarded, when the need arises, by the authority of the courts. This supposes:

a) A tribunal and a judge who take their directions from a clearly formulated and defined right.

b) Clear juridical norms which may not be overturned by unwarranted appeals to a supposed popular sentiment or by merely utilitarian considerations.

c) The recognition of the principle that even the State and the functionaries and organizations depend on it are obliged to repair and to withdraw measures which are harmful to the liberty, property, honor, progress of health of the individuals.

5. Christian Conception of the State. He who would have the Star of Peace shine out and stand over human society should cooperate towards the setting up of a State conception and practice founded on reasonable discipline, exalted kindliness and responsible Christian spirit. He should help to restore the State and its power to the service of human society, to the full recognition of the respect due to the human person and his efforts to attain his eternal destiny. He should apply and devote himself to dispelling the errors which aim at causing the State and its authority to deviate from the path of morality, at severing them from the eminently ethical bond which links them to individual and social life, and at making them deny or in practice ignore their essential dependence on the will of the Creator. He should work for the recognition and diffusion of the truth which teaches, even in matters of this world, that the deepest meaning, the ultimate moral basis and the universal validity of “reigning” lies in “serving.”

Postwar Renovation of Society

Beloved Children, may God grant that while you listen to Our voice your heart may be profoundly stirred and moved by the deeply felt seriousness, the loving solicitude, the unremitting insistence, with which We drive home these thoughts, which are meant as an appeal to the conscience of the world, and a rallying-cry to all those who are ready to ponder and weigh the grandeur of their mission and responsibility by the vastness of this universal disaster.

A great part of mankind, and, let Us not shirk from saying it, not a few who call themselves Christians, have to some extent their share in the collective responsibility for the growth of error and for the harm and the lack of moral fiber in the society of today.

What is this world war, with all its attendant circumstances, whether they be remote or proximate causes, its progress and material, legal and moral effects? What is it but the crumbling process, not expected, perhaps, by the thoughtless but seen and depreciated by those whose gaze penetrated into the realities of a social order which hid its mortal weakness and its unbridled lust for gain and power? That which in peace-time lay coiled up, broke loose at the outbreak of war in a sad succession of acts at variance with the human and Christian sense. International agreements to make war less inhuman by confining it to the combatants to regulate the procedure of occupation and imprisonment of the conquered remained in various places a dead letter. And who can see the end of this progressive demoralization of the people, who can wish to watch helplessly this disastrous progress? Should they not rather, over the ruins of a social order which has given such tragic proof of its ineptitude as a factor for the good of the people, gather together the hearts of all those who are magnanimous and upright, in the solemn vow not to rest until in all peoples and all nations of the earth a vast legion shall be formed of those handfuls of men who, bent on bringing back society to its center of gravity, which is the law of God, aspire to the service of the human person and of his common life ennobled in God.

Mankind owes that vow to the countless dead who lie buried on the field of battle: The sacrifice of their lives in the fulfillment of their duty is a holocaust offered for a new and better social order. Mankind owes that vow to the innumerable sorrowing host of mothers, widows and orphans who have seen the light, the solace and the support of their lives wrenched from them. Mankind owes that vow to those numberless exiles whom the hurricane of war has torn from their native land and scattered in the land of the stranger; who can make their own the lament of the Prophet: “Our inheritance is turned to aliens; our house to strangers.” Mankind owes that vow to the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline. Mankind owes that vow to the many thousands of non-combatants, women, children, sick and aged, from whom aerial war-fare—whose horrors we have from the beginning frequently denounced—has without discrimination or through inadequate precautions, taken life, goods, health, home, charitable refuge, or house of prayer. Mankind owes that vow to the flood of tears and bitterness, to the accumulation of sorrow and suffering, emanating from the murderous ruin of the dreadful conflict and crying to Heaven to send down the Holy Spirit to liberate the world from the inundation of violence and terror.

And where could you with greater assurance and trust and with more efficacious faith place this vow for the renewal of society than at the foot of the “Desired of all Nations” Who lies before us in the crib with all the charm of His sweet humanity as a Babe, but also in the dynamic attraction of His incipient mission as Redeemer? Where could this noble and holy crusade for the cleaning and renewal of society have a more significant consecration or find a more potent inspiration than at Bethlehem, where the new Adam appears in the adorable mystery of the Incarnation? For it is at His fountains of truth and grace that mankind should find the water of life if it is not to perish in the desert of this life; “Of His fullness we all have received.” His fullness of grace and truth cows as freely today as it has for twenty centuries on the world.

His light can overcome the darkness, the rays of His love can conquer the icy egoism which holds so many back from becoming great and conspicuous in their higher life. To you, crusader-volunteers of a distinguished new society, live up to the new call for moral and Christian rebirth, declare war on the darkness which comes from deserting God, of the coolness that comes from strife between brothers. It is a fight for the human race, which is gravely ill and must be healed in the name of conscience ennobled by Christianity.

May Our blessing and Our paternal good wishes and encouragement go with your generous enterprise, and may they remain with all those who do not shirk hard sacrifices—those weapons which are more potent than any steel to combat the evil from which society suffers. Over your crusade for a social, human and Christian ideal may there shine out as a consolation and an inspiration the star that stands over the Grotto of Bethlehem, the first and the perennial star of the Christian Era. From the sign of it every faithful heart drew, draws and ever will draw strength; “If armies in camp should stand against me, my heart shall not fear.” Where that star shines, there is Christ. “With Him for leader we shall not wander; through Him let us go to Him, that with the Child that is born today we may rejoice for ever.”