Cardinal Cañizares on the New Missal Translation
Jun 15, 2010

Cardinal Cañizares on the New Missal Translation

Online Edition: June 2010

Vol. XVI, No. 4

Editor’s Note: Following is an English translation of responses given by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW), in a February 2010 interview for a video presentation, “A New Translation for a New Roman Missal”, produced by Midwest Theological Forum. The English translation is by Jonathan Carlyon, provided through the courtesy of Midwest Theological Forum.

The video (as reported in AB May 2010 ) features Monsignor James Moroney as moderator, and comments of other members of Vox Clara, the committee that has been working with the CDW on the English Missal translations, and Cardinal Arinze, former CDW prefect. Information on the DVD from Midwest Theological Forum:

The Holy Mass is at the center of the whole Church, and it is the center of the Liturgy. For this reason, to talk about liturgical formation is to talk about Eucharistic formation. If we say that the liturgy is the center of the life of the Church, we must then add, in following, that this center is the Eucharist, where we offer the authentic worship of God.

It is Christ’s sacrifice. It is the Son of God who offers Himself to the Father on behalf of all men. He gives thanks to the Father for all of us. And at the same time He also surrenders His life so that we men might also have the life of God. And in this way God’s plan for mankind from the moment of creation may be realized.

The Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ, the same sacrifice that He offers on the Cross. It is His entire body, all of His blood, and for this reason it is also His body and blood delivered for us, for us men. For this, it is the real presence of Christ. It is the same Christ in person.

The same one who eternally lives with the Father, who has descended to us, becoming man by the power of the Holy Spirit in the virginal breast of Mary, the one who has offered Himself on the cross, and the one who, now resurrected, continues to intercede for all men before the Father. This is achieved in the Eucharist. It is all here, the wonder is here, the astonishment and the grandeur of what is the event of Christ is here.

The Eucharist is Christ, and the liturgy, at its core, is Christ: Christ who offers this true worship to the Father, who completely surrenders His life to Him, in obedience so that we men might also accept and join ourselves to Him. For this reason the Eucharist is always the incorporation of the body of Christ, it was said about the Church, of all of the faithful of Christ Himself. It is to offer ourselves with Christ to the Father. It is to live and to accept the will of the Father so that it may be carried out in us. It is to the same life God offers us, in us. And, as a consequence of this the Christian life emerges: it is the source of Christian life, summit and source of Christian life.

There are other aspects attributed to the Eucharist. The Eucharist for this very reason is a memorial. The Eucharist is also a banquet. Now, lately this aspect of banquet has been greatly emphasized, in detriment to the fundamental reality that it was to be Christ’s sacrifice. However, it is also a banquet, because it is Christ Himself who gives Himself to us as bread and drink: as bread of life and drink of salvation. The body that is given up for us, and the blood that is spilled for us, so that we may enter into communion with Him. And for this reason the Eucharist is also communion. It is communion with Christ, it is communion with this body of Christ. It is communion, it is the same blood of Christ. And for this reason, the Eucharist demands living in this unity with Christ, which is, quite simply, identifying ourselves with Him in the sacrifice that He offers to the Father. In this life of obedience to the Father, which is living in the love and also our complete surrendering to mankind, as Christ has surrendered Himself for all.

A living catechesis is paramount

There is a necessary imperative, and it is to transmit the true faith of the Church in the sacrament of the faith in the Eucharist, where truly everything is present. For this reason, there will not be a renovation in liturgical participation, there will not be a true liturgical renovation, if there is not a catechetical renovation, a Christian initiative that brings us all into the mystery of Christ and into the complete mystery of our faith.

For this reason, in order to have a living liturgy we need, in the first place, to have a living catechesis that instructs in all aspects of Christian faith: in the Creed, in the sacraments, in moral life, and in prayer. Simply put, what the Catechism of the Catholic Church does. And specifically about what the Eucharist is, about what the liturgy, where the complete history of salvation is condensed, is. Where it is precisely the today of this history of Christ’s salvation, and the anticipation of His future glory.

For this reason, it is a catechesis on the faith, a catechesis on hope and a catechesis on charity. And all of this means also that we should communicate, and for this we have made the Catechism, the Eucharistic Compendium, that communicates all of it — the elements that are contained in the Eucharist — all of it, without exception, without accentuating one while leaving the others in the dark. All of it in its unity because if not, we disfigure the Eucharistic reality, the Eucharistic mystery, the center and foundation of our entire faith.

All of this also entails a great number of demands on education. It entails the fundamental demand of recognizing that God is God. This is the key to everything: to recognize that God is God. To recognize that we are before God, from whom all is given. That it is He who is working, He who brings about the salvation of man, and the history of the salvation of man. It is He who has the initiative of creation and salvation. Without this, without this education in the meaning of God, there cannot be a true liturgical celebration. Because this then leads to the acknowledgement of God, it leads to recognizing what He is, as the source of all good. It leads to recognizing the mystery of the Holy Trinity, without which we cannot understand any part of the Eucharistic celebration, and even less of the Christian life. God in the center of everything, and man, who is created and loved by God, created and redeemed by God. And for this reason, the man who kneels before God, the man who recognizes God, lets Him be God. That is what adoration is. It is to kneel before Him, it is to acknowledge Him as the only one in whom man has — finds his meaning, his life, his hope, his most definite everything.

This, indeed, is something that we need above all else in these times. It is a society so secularized. It is a society in which it seems that all depends on man, that in everything man is the one who does things, when it is in fact God who is truly working. Let God work. But God also requires and also demands our participation in turn. It is God who speaks, and man who answers; God who acts, and man who accepts, and who accepts, moreover, this gift of God for living in conformity with Him.

All this demands an education in the fundamental attitudes that are involved: in faith, in adoration, in hearing the Word, in accepting the gift of God, in knowing oneself truly to be a creature, in thanksgiving, in praise, in action, in petition, in pleas, in trusting pleas, in confidence.

All of this is given in the Eucharist as a matter of fact. And this guides us steadily in a true participation of the Eucharist. If not — with our doing things, with our celebrating only ourselves — it will be to convert the liturgy in something that is pure creativity. Many of the problems from which the liturgy currently suffers is on account of thinking that it is the action of man; it is what man should do to appease, I-know-not-whom he must appease — or better yet, many times just to appease himself.

How can we convey these truths, the mystery of the Eucharist?

In the first place, I believe that we must instruct, from childhood, the youth and also the adults in what it means to be astonished by God, by the majesty of God, by the supremacy of God, by the love, and the vast mercy of God. And for this, we must teach them how He showed this to us in His revelation, in this word; show them the word of God, educate in the meaning of the word of God, of the revelation of God, of the communication of God, who has spoken to man as if to friends. To discover all that is the reality of the sacred, of something that we cannot attain, of something that is beyond our reach, of something that transcends us, of something that is indispensable, but that reaches us — that reaches us as grace, as gift, as benevolence, as closeness; a supreme closeness that surpasses all the heights, it descends from on high and comes down to us, down to the most inferior, so as to raise up man.

There then appears the necessary movement in man for thanks, marvel, wonder; and that is fundamental for being able to live not just the liturgy — the liturgy is the expression — it is all that it means to be Christian, all, I would go so far as to say, that it means to be human.

Here, this sense of the mysterious has been lost. And we have also lost the sense of the Eucharist. And, we have lost the sense of the Eucharist because we do not marvel at it. We don’t feel the astonishment, the grandeur of what is taking place there. What is taking place there is a reality that is nothing less than the Son of God, who has descended unto us: on our behalf, He is offering Himself to the Father with the same sacrifice of the cross. And it is man loved by God in the extreme.

Who isn’t marveled by this? Who doesn’t feel astonished by this reality of the Eucharist? For this reason, I feel it is the key to recovering the mystery, to recovering all that God is, all that God has revealed to us, all that God does. And above all, to recovering the person of Jesus Christ, the truth of Jesus Christ. Not as a teacher of morals, which is how we see Him, or as a teacher of values: He is much, much more than this. He is the Son of God who comes down to us being of divine condition, He strips Himself of His rank, He takes on the condition of slave, He passes for just another man. And, He lowers Himself even unto death and obedience, so shameful a death as that of the cross. And in this way He is exalted, and mankind is raised with Him. And with Him, all of humanity enters into the kingdom of heaven, enters at the side of God.

Historically, it’s nothing short of amazing. And without this we cannot celebrate the Eucharist. And it’s more than that: the Eucharist, when it is celebrated well, helps us to recover all of this. Because the Eucharist is unity: it isn’t, so to speak, like juxtaposed parts, now it’s time for the Gospel, now it’s time for the rites. It is all one unity, it is the same giving of God. It is Christ Himself present, who makes us wake up and enter into this mystery. And not to enter into this mystery as spectators, but to enter into this mystery as actors, together with Jesus Christ who joins us to His divinity.

What does “active participation” mean? How are we to understand this?

The protagonist of the celebration is Jesus Christ, not us. For this reason, active participation means uniting ourselves to Christ; uniting ourselves to Christ, who offers Himself to the Father; uniting ourselves to Christ, who receives the gift of God; uniting ourselves to Christ, who loves the Father above all else; uniting ourselves to Christ in praise of the Father; uniting ourselves to Christ in thanksgiving; uniting ourselves to Christ in His very attitude before the Father and in favor of man. This is how there will be active and fruitful participation. And it will be truly fruitful because then it is Christ who acts in us when we unite ourselves to Him, He acts in us. And He effectively makes us worshipers. And He makes us become hearers of the word, and He makes us become obedient to this word, and He causes us to lose our solitude, invoking God, praising God, worshiping Him, giving Him thanks, and receiving also His love in order truly to love others.

For this reason, the true active and fruitful participation about which the Second Vatican Council speaks to us is not just in doing things, it is not just having Mass as entertainment. It is not just getting nearer to something different.

Quite simply, it is uniting oneself to Christ and receiving the gift of God so as to respond with Him to the Father in the same way that He responds, which is in this total and absolute obedience. And for this reason, the Eucharist is silence. The Eucharist is prayer. The Eucharist is thanksgiving. The Eucharist is song. The Eucharist is jubilation. The Eucharist is all that is — that truly is — although one isn’t doing anything.

It is something that man lives from the very interior of his heart and that needs to express itself exteriorly via the gestures. And for this reason, the various signs and various gestures are part of this active and fruitful participation of the faithful and of the priests.

Because it is also the priest: the priest isn’t the one who directs the orchestra. The priest is the one who, united, is the servant of Christ, who offers himself with Christ to the Father. Moreover, he lends Him his hands, he lends Him his mouth, he lends Him all of his being so that it may be “this is my body”. The priest, if he is not united to Christ, really does not participate even though he is doing things. And if we are not united by the priestly ministry of Christ — the gathered faithful — to the praise and acknowledgement of God as God, everything else will be, well, simply entertainment. But we will not have participated truly in the Eucharist.

There are some who say that, “The Eucharist bores me.” That is, “Let’s see, what do you all do with the youth so that it might be more attractive?” But it is not about it being more attractive. It’s about the youth entering in the mystery, their entering in Christ, their entering in the very life of Christ, in that it is Christ Himself there truly present.

Then, the songs will be very different. Then the gestures of silence will not be something like, “Let’s see, when will the silence end?” The gospel won’t be, “Let’s see, who is going up to read?” And we all have to read, even though we might read poorly. No, it is principally in the word that one truly hears the word and listens to and receives the word. Making it enter into us or making us enter into ourselves. And this is not merely “fun”, but it is, even more, something that changes us, something that gratifies us, something that fills us, something that truly shows us that Christianity isn’t just another thing to do, but that it is truly the center of all we do.

For this reason they need to discover Jesus Christ.

Special challenges in catechizing young people

In order to discover the mystery of the Eucharist, so that the youth and the young adults and the children enter into the mystery of what we are celebrating, it is necessary that they discover Jesus Christ. The greatest problem of our catechesis is, precisely, the partial presentation of the reality of Jesus Christ.

The problem that one has at times regarding the Eucharist is the same one that we have regarding baptism, that we have regarding confession or any of the other sacraments — indeed, the same that we have regarding the Church. The Church seems to them to be a society that transmits some standard teachings, fundamentally some set of moral teachings. When the Church is Christ present in Her and the mystery of Christ — then the Church also belongs with the mystery of Christ — His presence in the Church, the saving work of Christ — and not just the continuation of His mission, but Christ really and truly present in His Church.

The Son of God made man, true God and true man that has a historical reality. It is He who has saved us, and who has sent the Holy Spirit to us, so that we may enter in communion with Him and He may be present in us. It is simply the mystery of the presence of Christ. And for this reason we need to have a Christian education, a catechesis that draws one to discover completely the mystery of Christ.

This is how we participate in the Eucharist. This is how we will see that it is not a mere memory of Jesus, nor will it be just some odd things that the Church does these days, but that it is Christ present and at work in the concrete “today” of the Church. The same Christ born of the Virgin Mary, the same one who has been crucified, who has entered with His body into the kingdom of Heaven with the Father, and who is interceding for us, and who is working through the Church by way of the sacraments, which are efficacious signs of the presence of Christ.

And this is fundamental — and this is what leads us to something that these days has been, we might say, in a way, reduced: and it is to see Jesus Christ only in His historical dimension, basically as a moral teacher, but not as a present Christ, a living Christ, a Christ that lives, a Christ that works, a Christ that is at the center of us, saving us, bringing about His work of salvation through the Church.

This completely changes everything. And the children understand this, and the youth, when they really let it sink in, understand this. Because then Jesus Christ is not something from the past, is not someone from another time. He is someone from today with whom we can talk. He is the encounter on the road to Emmaus.

Faithful translation of the Liturgy and Church tradition

I believe that what is most fundamental is that it be a translation very faithful to everything said in the original texts of writings in Latin, and without interpretations that truly disfigure the text. Quite simply, that the text of Tradition be transmitted to us — of the Tradition that we have received. It is not something that we create and apply according to our ways of seeing and thinking. Instead, it is simply that which we have received. And we have received it within the Church and in the communion of the Church. I believe that this is the great contribution of this translation, which is being finished up in these moments.

The Church is fundamentally tradition. It is what it has received — what it has received from God in His Son Jesus Christ that has been given once and for all to everyone; we are unable to do without it. And, additionally, it is a tradition of something that has been given to us live, real, authentic, without being manipulated by us men, nor accommodated to us men, to distinct circumstances. For this reason, the Church fundamentally is Eucharist, and the Eucharist is fundamentally also tradition. As Saint Paul says, that which I have received, this I pass on to you. [I Cor 15:3] The night in which Jesus Christ was to be betrayed, at this moment He presents the Eucharist as tradition, as a fundamental act of the Tradition.

Because, what is the Church? The Church is Christ present in Her, Christ present in the world, Christ who brings man together, and this is what He gives to the Church, and this is the Tradition. It is where we fundamentally accomplish this, the Eucharist is fundamentally realized.

For this reason, the Eucharist is not separable from Tradition, from the Tradition of the faith. The law of prayer is also the law of faith. And it is inseparable — it is inseparable. For this reason, it’s also inseparable, not just from the Church of today, the Church that at the moment exists today in a given place, but from the Church of time eternal, the Church that we have received, the one and only Church. The Church also of heaven. We associate all this with her. All this makes up what the Church is, as tradition in its entirety.

Unity in the celebration of Mass leads to unity of faith — lex orandi, lex credendi

One of the key aspects that we also have for the revival of the meaning of the liturgy — of the spirit of the liturgy, so that the people may participate, and live, and live not only the moment of the liturgy but live the liturgy centered principally on the Eucharist — for this, then, it is necessary that the entire ensemble of the liturgy be of one unity.

It is necessary to have a true sense of beauty, to have a sense of the good, of what it means to be amazed by realities that we cannot control and that transcend us and fill the hearts of man, and raise man far beyond what man could have imagined. All this assumes, also, that it remains reflected in the liturgy: it remains reflected in the liturgy, in the texts.

One translation is not the same as another. One word is not the same as others in the liturgy. This, then, is seen reflected in the word of God in a fundamental way; and it is what God has sent to us, contained in the Holy Scripture, and what we must proclaim with true veneration and what we must see for what it is: the word of God that God sends to men now, today.

All of this also assumes a talent for proclaiming, for reading, and also for commenting. The homily was also a part of what this word of God that we have received is.

And, and it implies the various gestures where all of man is brought together (this is something that doesn’t amaze you?) that everyone becomes incorporated in this, and becomes incorporated in nature — incorporated also in the heavenly signs that the very liturgy has, but also the corporal signs: standing or kneeling, raising our eyes, keeping silent. And it implies also the beauty, it implies one space is not the same as another. It implies, also, “In what direction are we looking?” It isn’t that we are there as if in an assembly, confronting each other. No, we are all looking at God. All of these gestures are entailed in the ars celebrandi [art of celebration].

When the Congregation for Divine Worship published Redemptionis sacramentum, it signaled some abuses, [but] it wasn’t [about] abuses so much as to say “this is how to celebrate”: this is what the dignity, grandeur, truth of the celebration require.

The liturgy needs to be expressed in gestures, in words, also in forms from various communities. And this is how different liturgical traditions have arisen. The various rites are not an invention of any one group, in which that group has prevailed over others. But instead they truly express the faith of the Church that carries on what it has received, and celebrates the mystery of what it has received. And for this reason, the various rites: the Latin Rite, the Oriental Rites, the Malabar Rite, the Mozarabic Rite, the Ambrosian Rite, etc., etc.

But all of this expresses a unity. It is the same lex orandi [law of prayer] for all of them, expressed in diverse gestures that are not gestures of human creativity, but gestures that simply express the action of God carried on in the different spheres where these very same traditions arose. They are, we might say, like the law of God. God wants to be worshiped, to be recognized, to be praised, to be taken up in worship, and with these concrete expressive forms of the worship that we ourselves cannot change.