The Pope has written an Apostolic Letter to the people of God on the liturgy, to recall the profound meaning of Eucharistic celebrations as it emerged from the Council and to encourage liturgical formation.
Pope Francis published “Desiderio desideravi” on Wednesday, which includes 65 paragraphs elaborating on the results of the February 2019 plenary of the Dicastery of Divine Worship and follows the motu proprio “Traditionis custodes.”
The Pope’s Apostolic Letter reaffirms the importance of ecclesial communion around the rite that emerged from the post-conciliar liturgical reform. It is not a new instruction or a directive with specific norms, but rather a meditation on understanding the beauty of liturgical celebration and its role in evangelization. It concludes with an in appeal: “Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Let us safeguard our communion. Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy” (65).
Recalling the importance of Vatican II’s constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” which led to the rediscovery of the theological understanding of the liturgy, the Pope adds,” I want the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the Church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue” (16).
‘Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Let us safeguard our communion. Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy.’
After warning against “spiritual worldliness” and the Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism that fuel it, Pope Francis explains that “Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice is not our own achievement, as if because of it we could boast before God or before our brothers and sisters” and that “the Liturgy has nothing to do with an ascetical moralism. It is the gift of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord which, received with docility, makes our life new. The cenacle is not entered except through the power of attraction of his desire to eat the Passover with us” (20).
To heal from spiritual worldliness, we need to rediscover the beauty of the liturgy, but this rediscovery “is not the search for a ritual aesthetic which is content by only a careful exterior observance of a rite or is satisfied by a scrupulous observance of the rubrics. Obviously, what I am saying here does not wish in any way to approve the opposite attitude, which confuses simplicity with a careless banality, or what is essential with an ignorant superficiality, or the concreteness of ritual action with an exasperating practical functionalism” (22).
The Pope explains that “every aspect of the celebration must be carefully tended to (space, time, gestures, words, objects, vestments, song, music…) and every rubric must be observed. Such attention would be enough to prevent robbing from the assembly what is owed to it; namely, the paschal mystery celebrated according to the ritual that the Church sets down. But even if the quality and the proper action of the celebration were guaranteed, that would not be enough to make our participation full.” In fact, if “astonishment at the fact that the paschal mystery is rendered present in the concreteness of sacramental signs, we would truly risk being impermeable to the ocean of grace that floods every celebration.” (24). This amazement, the Pope clarifies, has nothing to do “the vague expression ‘sense of mystery’ [which is] sometimes among the presumed chief accusations against the liturgical reform.” The amazement of which the Pope speaks of is not a kind of bewilderment before an obscure reality or an enigmatic rite, but is, “on the contrary, marvelling at the fact that the salvific plan of God has been revealed in the paschal deed of Jesus” (25).