DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF CHRISTIAN LITURGY & HERITAGE THROUGH “THE SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY”Melinda A. Sequeira
By Melinda A. Sequeira | 05 June 2021
The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI is one of the most intricately written books to help us understand the true meaning of the Liturgy, its significance in our faith and in our daily lives. His Holiness compares his work in this book to an older classic of the same title by Romano Guardini because Pope Benedict believes that his insights in The Spirit of the Liturgy are very similar to what Guardini accomplished in his time in regards to a renewed understanding of the Liturgy.
Pope Benedict says, “My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. The only difference is that I have had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes and dangers. Like Guardini, I am not attempting to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give the faith its central form of expression in the Liturgy.”
The Commemorative Edition has been published in honor of its 40th anniversary from 1978 to 2018.
“The Spirit of the Liturgy” consists of four major parts. The first one is “The Essence of the Liturgy”, where Cardinal Ratzinger shows his concern by saying “cult embraces the ordering of the whole of human life,” and hence he places liturgy inside the matrix of cosmos and history. He traces back God saving the economy from natural religion, through the Old Testament, into the New Testament.
The second part is “Time and Space in the Liturgy.” We as humans mark sacred space and sacred time because we live between the “already” and the “not yet.” Pope Benedict regards the symbolisms of the Christian Church, including the altar, the ancient symbol of facing east in liturgical prayer, and the tabernacle.
The third part consists of “Art and Liturgy.” He says that “incarnation is aimed at man’s transformation,” it’s been a task for the liturgy to portray this already occurring in physical form. Here he represents the role of both iconography and music, and this is why he states that “when man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough.”
And finally, the fourth part of the book talks about “Liturgical Form”. This includes the historical ritual forms of the liturgy, and the active participation of the body through singing, posture, gesture, voice, vestment, and material sacrament.
It is quite clear that the Liturgy is the heart and pinnacle of Christian faith. And even though it is true that what we take away from it isn’t as much as what we are willing to give, the gains are immeasurable and much more than the efforts we put in. In this book, Pope Benedict has set out to safeguard the liturgy from various challenges that have been points of concern in the past. However, he clearly talks from a Catholic perspective, but it is safe to say that this book is general enough to be applied and appreciated by all Christians who believe in the importance of Liturgy.
Pope Benedict utilizes all of his intellectual capabilities in guiding us through various aspects of Liturgy. He presents his views in a calm voice of reason and an open mind to accept that every individual is entitled to their opinion.
All of Pope Benedict’s work depicts his ability of careful and systematic thinking, and this extends a lot to the modern world. The book testifies to this. It is a great and worthwhile read for each and every one who are keen on obtaining a deeper, and a more profound comprehension of our Christian faith and it’s heritage.
Here is a short extract from The Spirit of the Liturgy:
• Liturgy and Music: The significance of music in biblical perspective is shown very plainly by the fact that the verb “to sing” (with related words such as “song”, and so forth) is one of the most frequently used words in the Bible.
• The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer: The reformation so far described, of the Jewish synagogue for the purpose of Christian worship, simply portrays that as mentioned before, even in architecture, there are both continuity and innovation in the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.
This, in my opinion, was very helpful in understanding the place of the liturgy in the contemporary church. Both Pope Benedict XVI and Guardini accentuate the unity of contrasting elements that make the liturgy alluring to large numbers of very different groups of people. Simultaneously, there is an obvious demand to make the church more relevant and appealing. Many of the simple fixes that are proposed can jeopardize what is vital or crucial in the liturgy. Both authors propose that understanding the place and inner logic of liturgy can help renew a commitment to its essence.
His Holiness surely puts the “Lit” back in “Liturgy” with this fascinating and radiant view of the recently watered-down Catholic Mass. With unabashed defenses of incense, Gregorian chants and literary scriptural roots, Pope Benedict expresses a much needed return back to basics of liturgy and provides us with cliffs notes or a study guide on how to get the Mass back on track.
Despite me growing up Catholic, I had very little knowledge on how important the Liturgy and Mass is. And I am certain I’m not the only one. This book brought my skin-deep understanding of what we do at Mass into reality. There is so much more meaning to the Liturgy, one that links us with the past, present, and future as heaven on Earth.
The Spirit of the Liturgy is the most informative book on the Liturgy written by Pope Benedict XVI, along with a few other of his bestsellers. I will be linking all of these books below. Please visit our website for more.
Something out of the ordinary happens a few times in life, and this is an extremely powerful one for us at ATC. We are eternally grateful to receive this personally signed letter from His Holiness – Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. His Holiness had specifically recommended Asian Trading Corporation as a publishing house to publish his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy” in order to reach the faithful in Asia with an affordable edition. And this was only the beginning. ATC then went on to publish several of his other bestsellers. It’s not everyday that the Holy Father would take time out on an extremely busy day to personalise a letter, and for this we will be forever indebted. We thank God everyday for placing ATC in Pope Benedict’s path.