Beauty in the liturgy

Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Rev. Msgr. Guido Marini, Papal Master of Ceremonies, about the changes in liturgical celebrations introduced by Benedict XVI.

We can see them always standing by the Pope; they are his shadows, concentrated on his movements and gestures; they direct him, remind him what to do; help him when it is required; discreet and indispensable. They are papal masters of ceremonies. People recognise their faces as they recognise the faces of popes themselves. During almost the whole pontificate of John Paul II the Papal Master of Ceremonies was Fr Piero Marini who was appointed archbishop in 2003. He served Benedict XVI for over two years. In October 2007 a new Master of Ceremonies appeared – by strange coincidence he has the same surname but his Christian name is Guido. Fr Guido Marini comes from Liguria. He was born in Genoa in 1965. After his studies in the Archdiocesan Major Seminary in his home town he was ordained in 1989 by Cardinal Giovanni Canestri. He continued his formation in Rome, at first at the Pontifical Lateran University where he received his doctor’s degree ‘in utroque iure,’ and then at the Salesian Pontifical University where he studied psychology of communication. After returning to Genoa he worked as the personal secretary and master of ceremonies of the archbishops: Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. He gave lectures and fulfilled various functions in the local Curia. In October 2007 Benedict XVI appointed him, most likely following the advice of the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, the Master of Ceremonies of the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. Thus the young priest was made responsible for the hard task to implement the papal reform of liturgical celebrations aiming at returning to the true spirit of the liturgy. (W.R.)

Wlodzimierz Redzioch: – What does the collaboration between Benedict XVI and his Master of Ceremonies look like? Does the Pope decide about everything?

Msgr. Guido Marini: – At first, I would like to stress that the celebrations the Holy Father presides over are to be the points of reference for the whole Church. The Pope is the highest priest, the one who offers the sacrifice of the Church, the one who shows the liturgical teaching through celebrations – the point of reference for all. Considering this explanation it is easier to understand what the style of collaboration between the Papal Master of Ceremonies and the Holy Father should be. One should act in the way to make the papal liturgies the expressions of his authentic liturgical orientation. Therefore, the Papal Master of Ceremonies must be a humble and faithful servant of the liturgy of the Church. I have understood my work in the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations in this way since the very beginning.

– We all can see the changes introduced to the liturgical celebrations by Benedict XVI. How can we synthesize these changes?

– I think that these changes can be synthesized in the following way: first of all, these are changes made in accordance with the logic of development of continuity with the past. So we do not deal with breaking with the past and juxtaposing with the former pontificates. Secondly, the introduced changes serve to evoke the true spirit of liturgy like the Second Vatican Council wanted, ‘The "subject" of the liturgy's intrinsic beauty is Christ himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in his work.’

– Celebrations directed towards the cross, Holy Communion received directly by mouth and while keeling, longer moments of silence and meditation – these are the most visible liturgical changes introduced by Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the theological and historical meanings of these changes and what is worse, they can see them as ‘return to the past.’ Can you briefly explain the meanings of these changes?

– To tell you the truth our office has received many testimonies of the faithful who have favourably received the changes introduced by the Pope because they see them as the authentic renewal of the liturgy. As for the significance of some changes I will say a few synthetic reflections. Celebrating towards the cross stresses the correct direction of liturgical prayer, i.e. towards God; during prayers the faithful are not to look at themselves but should direct their eyes towards the Saviour. Giving hosts to people kneeling aims to giving value to the aspect of adoration both as the fundamental element of celebration and the necessary attitude while facing the mystery of God’s real presence in the Eucharist. During the liturgical celebration prayer assumes various forms: words, songs, music, gestures and silence. Furthermore, moments of silence let us participate truly in the act of worship, and what’s more, from the inside evoke every other form of prayer.

– The Pope attaches importance to the liturgical vestments. Is it a matter of pure aestheticism?

– In order to understand better the Pope’s ideas concerning the meaning of the beauty as an important element of liturgical celebrations I would like to quote the apostolic exhortation ‘Sacramentum caritatis, ’This relationship between creed and worship is evidenced in a particular way by the rich theological and liturgical category of beauty. Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor. […] This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love. The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery. […] The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God's glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth. Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.’

– Benedict XVI has changed his pastoral staff – currently he is using the cross-shaped staff. Why?

– I would like to remind you that till the pontificate of Pope Paul VI popes did not use crosiers at all; on special occasions they carried a ferula (cross-shaped staff). Pope Montini, Paul VI, introduced a cross-shaped crosier. And so did Benedict XVI till the Pentecost Sunday of 2008. Since then he has been using ferula because he thinks that it is more suitable for the papal liturgy.

– Why is it so important that the Church preserves using Latin in the liturgy?

– Although the Second Vatican Council introduced national languages it recommended using Latin in the liturgy. I think it is for two reasons that we should not give up Latin. Above all, we have a great liturgical legacy of Latin: from the Gregorian chant to polyphony as well as ‘testi venerandi’ (sacred texts) that Christians have used for ages. Besides, Latin allows us to show catholicity and universality of the Church. We can experience this universality in a unique way in St Peter’s Basilica and during other international gatherings when men and women from all continents, nationalities, languages, sing and pray in the same language. Who will not feel at home when being at church abroad can join his/her brothers in the faith at least in some parts by using Latin?

– Do you agree that the faith of priest is expressed in the liturgy in a special way?

– I have no doubts about it. Since the liturgy is the celebration of Christ’s mystery here and now the priest is called to express his faith in a twofold way. Firstly, he should celebrate with eyes of the one that looks beyond the visible reality to ‘touch’ what is invisible, i.e. God’s presence and work. It is ‘ars celebrandi’ (art of celebration) that lets the faithful check whether the liturgy is only a performance, spectacle for the priest or whether it is a vivid and attractive relation with Christ’s mystery. Secondly, after the celebration the priest is renewed and ready to follow what he has experienced, i.e. make his life a celebration of Christ’s mystery.

"Niedziela" 14/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Ireneusz Skubis • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl