Cardinal Cañizares on the Supreme Importance of the Liturgy

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Big Ratzinger and Little Ratzinger

by Gregor Kollmorgen, NLM

The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, recently attended a conference in Barcelona. On this occasion, he was interviewed by Catalunya Cristiana. Here is an NLM translation of the parts of this quite inspiring interview, which concern the liturgy. I have taken the liberty to highlight the passages which speak to the supreme importance of the liturgy, a point sadly still often overlooked:

Soon it will be a year that you were appointed by the Pope as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship … How do you assess your debut in the Vatican Curia?

It is not for me to assess my performance. All I have to say is that it is a very important time for all, intense work is being done, a plenary meeting of the Congregation has taken place, proposals have been reached which the Holy Father approved and which constitute the plan of our work [NLM: this appears to refer to the “reform of the reform proposals” mentioned by Andrea Tornielli in August, cf. here]. The great objective is to revive the spirit of the liturgy throughout the world.

What have been the most pressing issues that you have had to attend to?

Urgent business there is every morning, referring to excesses and errors which are being committed in the liturgy, but above all, the most urgent issue that is pressing all over the world, is that the sense of the liturgy be truly recovered. This is not about changing rubrics or introducing new things, but what it is about, is simply that the liturgy be lived and that it be in the center of the life of the Church. The Church cannot be without the liturgy, because the Church is there for the liturgy, that is, for praise, for thanksgiving, to offer the sacrifice to the Lord, for worship … This is fundamental, and without this there is no Church. Indeed, without this there is no humanity. It is therefore an extremely urgent and pressing task.

How can the sense of the liturgy be recovered?

At present we work in a very quiet manner on an entire range of issues having to do with educative projects. This is the prime necessity there is: a good and genuine liturgical formation. The subject of liturgical formation is critical because there really is no sufficient education [at the moment]. People believe that the liturgy is a matter of forms and external realities, and what we really need is to restore a sense of worship, i.e. the sense of God as God. This sense of God can only be recovered with the liturgy. Therefore the Pope has the greatest interest in emphasizing the priority of the liturgy in the life of the Church. When one lives the spirit of the liturgy, one enters into the spirit of worship, one enters into the acknowledgment of God, one enters into communion with Him, and this is what transforms man and turns him into a new man. The liturgy always looks towards God, not the community; it is not the community that makes the liturgy, but it is God who makes it. It is He who comes to meet us and offers us to participate in his life, his mercy and his forgiveness … When one truly lives the liturgy and God is truly at the centre of it, everything changes.

So far away are we today from the true sense of the mystery?

Yes, there is currently very great secularization and secularism, the sense of mystery and the sacred has been lost, one does not live with the spirit truly to worship God and to let God be God. This is why it is believed to be necessary constantly to be changing things in the liturgy, to innovate and that everything has to be very creative. This is not what is needed in the liturgy, but that it really be worship, i.e. recognition of the One who transcends us and who offers us salvation. The mystery of God, which is the unfathomable mystery of his love, is not something nebulous, but is Someone who comes to meet us. We must recover the man who adores. We must recover the sense of the mystery. We must recover what we never ought to have lost. The greatest evil that is being done to man is trying to eliminate from his life transcendence and the dimension of the mystery. The consequences we are experiencing today in all spheres of life. They are the tendency to replace the truth with opinion, confidence with unease, the end with the means … Therefore it is so important to defend man against all the ideologies which weaken him in his triple relationship to the world, to others and to God. Never before has there been so much talk of freedom, and never before have there been more enslavements.

After so many years of teaching and episcopal ministry, how have you experienced the call to serve in the Roman Curia as “minister of the Pope”?

I accept it with great joy, because it means fulfilling the will of God. When one does the will of God one is very happy, although I must confess that I did not expect something like this. At the same time, the fact of working together with the Pope allows me to live intensely the mystery of communion. I feel very united to him, happy to help him in all he really is asking for. As is known, one of his principal concerns is the concern for the liturgy.

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