Some Writings of Ratzinger

My little library lists

  • Some Writings; Joseph Ratzinger

for which my current preference is:

Credo for Today

An selection of articles, mostly from the 70s and 80s, organized around the Apostle’s Creed, with a subtitle: What Christians Believe. This little book is a useful introduction to the current Pope Benedict XVI’s theological writing.

Jesus of Nazareth

This first volume, written after his being elected to the papacy, on Jesus’ teaching ministry, is scheduled to be complemented by another volume early next year covering our Lord’s birth, death and resurrection.

Called to Communion

An introduction to Catholic ecclesiology.

Also, Dom Alcuin Reid’s book The Organic Development of the Liturgy now has, as a preface, Ratzinger’s book review, from which I quote:

At the end of his book, the author enumerates some principles for proper reform: this should keep being open to development, and continuity with the Tradition, in a proper balance; it includes awareness of an objective liturgical tradition, and therefore takes care to ensure a substantial continuity. The author then agrees with the Catechism of the Catholic Church in emphasizing that “even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the Liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the Liturgy”. (CCC No. 1125, p. 258) As subsidiary criteria we then encounter the legitimacy of local traditions and the concern for pastoral effectiveness.

Criteria for Liturgical Renewal

From my own personal point of view I should like to give further particular emphasis to some of the criteria for liturgical renewal thus briefly indicated. I will begin with those last two main criteria.

It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The “rite”, that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living tradition in which the sphere which uses that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit which is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis — the handing-on of tradition.

It is important, in this connection, to interpret the “substantial continuity” correctly. The author expressly warns us against the wrong path up which we might be led by a neo-scholastic sacramental theology which is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the “substance” to the material and form of the sacrament, and say: Bread and wine are the material of the sacrament, the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary, everything else is changeable.

At this point Modernists and Traditionalists are in agreement: As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly “pastoral”, around this remnant, this core which has been spared, and which is thus either relegated to the realm of magic, or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of tradition which had taken concrete form, which cannot be torn apart into little pieces, but has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.

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