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Cardinal Sarah: One Holy Catholic Liturgy—One Holy Catholic Church

Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from Cardinal Robert Sarah’s Address to the Colloquium “The Source of the Future” (“Quelle der Zukunft), delivered March 20-April 1, 2017 at Herzogenrath, near Aachen, Germany, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the publication of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu propio on the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Following the publication of my book God or Nothing, people have asked me about the “liturgy wars” which for decades have too often divided Catholics. I stated that that is an aberration, because the liturgy is the field par excellence in which Catholics ought to experience unity in the truth, in faith and in love, and consequently that it is inconceivable to celebrate the liturgy while having in one’s heart feelings of fratricidal struggle and rancor. Besides, did Jesus not speak very demanding words about the need to go and be reconciled with one’s brother before presenting his own sacrifice at the altar? (See Mt 5:23-24.)

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with “the paschal sacraments,” to be “one in holiness” (Cf. Postcommunion for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday); it prays that “they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith”; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10)

In this “face-to-face encounter” with God, which the liturgy is, our heart must be pure of all enmity, which presupposes that everyone must be respected with his own sensibility. This means concretely that, although it must be reaffirmed that Vatican Council II never asked to make tabula rasa of the past and therefore to abandon the Missal said to be of St. Pius V, which produced so many saints, not to mention three such admirable priests as St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) and St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, at the same time it is essential to promote the liturgical renewal intended by that same Council, and therefore the liturgical books were updated following the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, in particular the Missal said to be of Blessed Pope Paul VI. And I added that what is important above all, whether one is celebrating in the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, is to bring to the faithful something that they have a right to: the beauty of the liturgy, its sacrality, silence, recollection, the mystical dimension and adoration. The liturgy should put us face to face with God in a personal relationship of intense intimacy. It should plunge us into the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity. […]

I vehemently refuse therefore to waste our time pitting one liturgy against another, or the Missal of St. Pius V against that of Blessed Paul VI. Rather, it is a question of entering into the great silence of the liturgy, by allowing ourselves to be enriched by all the liturgical forms, whether they are Latin or Eastern. Indeed, without this mystical dimension of silence and without a contemplative spirit, the liturgy will remain an occasion for hateful divisions, ideological confrontations and the public humiliation of the weak by those who claim to hold some authority, instead of being the place of our unity and communion in the Lord. Thus, instead of being an occasion for confronting and hating each other, the liturgy should bring us all together to unity in the faith and to the true knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…and, by living in the truth of love, we will grow into Christ so as to be raised up in all things to Him who is the Head (cf. Eph 4:13-15).

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa. He was made an Archbishop by Pope Saint John Paul II, a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, and named the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis in 2014.