Pope: Liturgy must look to God without being worldly
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the Italian Associazione dei Professori e Cultori di Liturgia (Association of Professors and Practitioners of Liturgy) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the organization’s foundation.
The Pope noted that fifty years corresponds to “the ecclesial season of this liturgical reform”: following the initial phase marked by the publication of new liturgical books, "we are now in a period of deepening acceptance of the reform." This process, he said, requires not only time but also “passionate and patient care,” “spiritual and pastoral understanding,” and ongoing formation.
He encouraged members of the Association to continue to pursue their work in a spirit of dialogue.
Listening key in liturgical study
In order to ensure that their efforts “are never separated from the expectations and needs of the People of God," Pope Francis said, listening to the Christian communities is “indispensable.”
The Holy Father noted, too, that the academic work of liturgists cannot be separated from the pastoral and spiritual dimension of liturgy, saying that liturgical formation must reach the people of God. In this regard, he held up the model of Romano Guardini, a German priest and scholar who, among other notable accomplishments, was able to spread the "achievements of the liturgical movement" in a way that was accessible to the ordinary faithful.
Progress rooted in tradition
Finally, the Pope insisted that progress in the understanding of the liturgy and the art of celebrating it “must always be rooted in tradition.” At the same time, he warned of a worldly spirit of going backward (IT: “indietrismo”, literally: backwardness).
Going back to the roots, he said, does not mean going backward, but instead means allowing true tradition to lead one forward. He cautioned liturgists to carefully distinguish between tradition and “traditionalism,” warning that “today the temptation is ‘backwardness’ disguised as tradition.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis reminded his audience that the study and promotion of liturgy “must be imbued with prayer and the living experience of the Church that celebrates, so that liturgical ‘thought’ might always flow, like a vital sap, from the lived liturgy.”
All theology, he said, but especially liturgical study – precisely because it is directed to “the act of celebrating the beauty and greatness of the mystery of God who gives Himself to us” – must be done “with an open mind, and at the same time, ‘on one’s knees’,” in prayer.