Dom Philippe Piron is currently Prior of the Benedictine Monastery of Sainte Thérèse, which is dedicated to welcoming the infirm or disabled in order to offer them an experience of contemplative life near Rennes. As Abbot Emeritus of Kergonan, he deals in particular with the liturgical questions related to the Motu proprio Traditionis Custodes in the Solesmes Congregation, where certain monks celebrate Masses in an exceptional way (including the Abbey of Fontgombault or that of Randol). In the Abbey of Kergonan, Mass is celebrated in Latin and Gregorian chant, but according to the usual form of the Roman rite.
With this new Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis sends a great message to all believers, inviting us to marvel at the powerful beauty of the liturgy.
This very powerful text is of great spiritual depth. It is consistent with the great theological reflection of Vatican II, which always favors and emphasizes the primacy of divine initiative. If the liturgy is really the celebration of the covenant between God and man, it is always God who takes the initiative.
In this way, the liturgy leads us to marvel at God’s love for his creatures, which is still realized today in the concreteness of the Paschal Mystery. Our conscious and active participation in the liturgy is therefore our response, letting ourselves be drawn to this desire of God for us.
The Pope begins his letter with these words of Jesus to his disciples: “Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum antequam patiar: I have longed very much to eat this Passover with you before I suffer (Lk 22:15). These words of Jesus, with which the story of the Last Supper begins, are, says the Holy Father, the gap through which we have the surprising possibility of perceiving the depth of the love of the persons of the Holy Trinity for us” (n. 2).
In this way, the liturgy brings us back to the present of salvation history and allows us to rediscover Christ, also in the concrete form of the Incarnate Word, after having passed through the celebration of the sacraments. The liturgy is not the place of remembrance but the place of reality. “A vague memory of the Last Supper would do us no good. We must be present at that meal in order to hear his voice, eat his body, and drink his blood. We need him. In the Eucharist and in the sacraments we have the guarantee of being able to meet the Lord Jesus and to be touched by the power of his paschal mystery” (n. 11).
And the Pope invites us to rediscover every day not the beauty of the Christian celebration, which would be simply an aesthetic beauty – which would not be so bad – but the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration, which amazes us more and more in the study of the Paschal Mystery.
This does not happen without liturgical formation, and the Pope strongly emphasizes the fundamental importance of the formation of the faithful and clergy, to perceive ever better the meaning of signs and symbols, to connect ever better to the heart of the mystery of salvation is concretely realized before our eyes .
A few paragraphs are then reserved for the art of celebration, the ars celebrandi, which cannot be reduced to the mere observation of a rubric system and is even less to be regarded as imaginative – sometimes wild – creativity without rules. It is always about rediscovering the reality of Christ’s presence among us. The protagonists of the liturgy are thus shaped in depth by the liturgical action itself.
unity of our popes
With this text, which is magnificent in terms of its beauty, depth and accuracy, the Pope joins the continuity of his direct predecessors, with whom some would nevertheless like to break.
In fact, with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta of July 2, 1988, Saint John Paul II had opened a door “to allow the faithful to adhere to the specific liturgical and disciplinary forms before the Latin tradition, in full communion with the Church to stay and thus avoid separation, division, schism.
Pope Benedict XVI expanded the possibilities in this area with the motu proprio “Summorum pontificum” of July 7, 2007. But we must not forget that Pope Benedict XVI. self-determined on the plane that took him to France on September 12, 2008 “This motu proprio was simply an act of tolerance, for a pastoral purpose for people who have been formed in this liturgy, love it, know it and want to live with this liturgy. It’s a small group because that requires training in Latin, training in a particular culture. But that these people have the love and tolerance to be able to live with this liturgy seems to me to be a normal requirement of the faith and pastoral care of a bishop of our church. There is no contradiction between the liturgy renewed by the Second Vatican Council and this liturgy… And it is clear that the renewed liturgy is the ordinary liturgy of our time. »
And in the same spirit, Pope Francis, who does not want this tolerance to lead some people to believe that we can imagine a return to the ancient form of celebrating the Mass, says that we “cannot return to this ritual form which the Council Fathers, cum Petro et sub Petro, felt the need, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and according to their pastoral conscience, to reform the principles from which the reform was born. Holy Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, by approving the Reformed liturgical books ex decreto Sacrosancti Œcumenici Concilii Vaticani II, guaranteed the faithfulness of the conciliar reform” (n. 61).
receiving the advice
Saint John Paul II himself took part in this Second Vatican Council, which was attended by about 2,500 bishops. There he felt the touch of the Spirit and often referred to Vatican II as “the greatest grace of the 20th century.” He dedicated his entire pontificate to its realization and application, to his “reception” in the Church.
Also Benedict XVI. was involved as an expert for the then Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings, and worked in the same direction.
Church history teaches us that a Council, because it is an act that commits the whole Church in the long term, always asks to be “accepted”, that is, known, understood and implemented. in its theological content and in its pastoral orientation. This reception work is going through the test of time. It was more than a century before the first ecumenical council, that of Nicaea (325), was received in both East and West, with its affirmations of the divinity of Jesus truly begotten of the Father and of the same substance as Him, as opposed to what the heresy of Arius thought.
If, in fact, the Second Vatican Council “rejects the greatest grace of the 20th, or rejects it in whole or in part under the deceptive pretense that it is not dogmatic, that it breaks with tradition, that it is progressive, when in fact it is only misapplied.
The Second Vatican Council ended on December 8, 1965, making it just over fifty years old. No wonder the church still has the demanding mandate to receive him today. We must therefore continue along the path outlined by the Council to reap the fruits of it through greater spiritual assimilation and greater practical application.
Our popes dedicate themselves to this work of reception and in particular this great apostolic exhortation of our Pope Francis: Desiderio desideravi.
May he be warmly thanked! And bless the Lord!