Thursday, May 05, 2005

"The Reform of the Reform" has already begun ...

As Sandro Magister observes, "The 'Reform of the Reform' Has Already Begun" (Roma, May 5, 2005, www.chiesa). His first acts as pontiff--from his words to the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel to the carefully chosen symbolism of his inauguration Mass--make clear the intended direction of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate.

He describes the Eucharist as "the permanent center and source of the Petrine ministry that has been entrusted to me." This from a pope who, as Cardinal, addressed the problems of the context of the Eucharist as it is celebrated all-too-often in contemporary Masses: "How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that He is there!" "He," of course, refers to Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the overlooked Person in so many new liturgies, which have become "meaningless dances around the golden calf that is ourselves." His Holiness will take the reform of the liturgical reform seriously, if his writings are any indication. His remarks addressing the issue in Alcuin Reid's recent anthology, Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy With Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference (St. Augustine Press, 2004), are but the most remarkable of his recent statements. His long friendship with his fellow Regensberger, the late Klaus Gamber, author of Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background (reprinted by Roman Catholic Books, 2003), is well-known, as is his sympathy for traditionalists who would like to see a far broader and more generous implementation of Pope John Paul II's indult "Ecclesia Dei," granting permission for the continued celebration of the pre-Vatican II "Tridentine Mass," known for its dignity, reverence, and rich transcendent symbolism. [pictured right: Pope Benedict XVI celebrating a Tridentine Mass while still a cardinal--link]

Not only are the implications of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate clear for the reform of the reform where liturgy is concerned. There is no doubt as to his intentions regarding the truth of the Gospel. Before being elected pope, he was probably best known to the wider world for his August 6, 2000 declaration, "Dominus Iesus: on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church." This declaration, which insisted on Jesus Christ and His Church as the sine qua non of salvation for all peoples, met with vociferous hostility from liberal Catholics and from the world at large. Sandro Magister observes:
Benedict XVI did not cite this explicitly during his first week as pope. But in the opening mass of his pontificate, on Sunday, April 24, he did in fact repeat with great emphasis the central doctrine of "Dominus Jesus." This doctrine is the nucleus of the faith of the New Testament.

In his homily, he said that his agenda is not "to pursue my own ideas, but to listen to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him."

No sooner said than done. The first reading of the mass was from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 4, in which Peter says of Jesus:

"There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved."

That same day, Sunday, April 24, in all the churches of the world the Gospel reading was from the fourteenth chapter of John, in which Jesus says of himself:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."
When Benedict XVI says that his agenda is not "to pursue my own ideas, but to listen to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him," I have no doubt he is being utterly truthful and sincere. But nobody should expect this to mean he has any intention of compromising his commitment to the Lord Jesus and His Church. This commitment is the passion that has animated his entire life.

(Gratia tibi, Benjamin, Ad Limina Apostolorum, May 2, 2005)

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