Benedict XVI: Obscuring God in the Liturgy Is Root Cause of Crisis

Writing in the preface of a Russian edition of his book ‘Theology of the Liturgy,’ the Pope emeritus says a misunderstanding of liturgical reform has placed the Church in danger.

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In rare public remarks, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has lamented “obscuring” God in the liturgy, which he says is the root cause of the current crisis in the Church.

In the preface to a new Russian edition of his book Theology of the Liturgy, Benedict writes that a widespread misunderstanding of the liturgical reform led to man placing “his own activity and creativity at the center of worship.”

He adds that the Church lives from the “correct celebration of the liturgy,” but if the pre-eminence of God is no longer evident in the liturgy and in life, then the Church herself “is in danger,” according to an Oct. 4 article in La Stampa.

Benedict goes on to write: "Nothing precedes divine worship. With these words, St. Benedict, in his Rule (43.3), established the absolute priority of divine worship over any other task of monastic life.”

He notes that even then, demands on time in agriculture or craftsmanship could make such work seem more important than the liturgy. St. Benedict therefore made sure priority was given to the liturgy, unequivocally emphasizing “the priority of God Himself in our lives.”

“At the hour of the Divine Office, as soon as you hear the bell, leave everything you have between hands, he cautions with utmost care,” Benedict XVI writes, recalling the Rule.

But today, he adds, “the things of God and thus the liturgy do not appear urgent at all.” He says there is an urgent need “for everything possible” but the things of God “do not seem to be urgent.”

“Now, one might say that monastic life is in any case something different from the life of men in the world, and that is certainly right,” Benedict says. “And yet the priority of God which we have forgotten is worth it for everyone.

“If God is no longer important, the criteria move which establish what is important,” he explains. “Man, in setting aside God, submits himself to the constraints that make him the slave of material forces and thus opposed to his dignity.”

See here a translation of the full text, on the blog CathCon. 

This is the second time Benedict in recent months has referred to a Church in crisis.

In a message given at the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner in June, he said the cardinal lived “increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave his Church, even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of capsizing.”