Paul VI on liturgical reform Part 5

In view of the canonization of Pope Paul VI, the pope of liturgical reform, in October, Pray Tell is occasionally  publishing some of his most significant statements on liturgical reform. This helps us understand the Church’s understanding of liturgy, and also reflect on how far we have to go in implementing the teaching more fully!

…Today we are, as it were, under a kind of spell. The constant invasion of modern theater and films with their overwhelming power has inured us to this spell. But there is an essential difference in the liturgy drama. The theater or a film entertains and may even absorb us, but they do not lead us to mistake their shadow for substance, their fantasy for reality. They affect our senses, penetrate our imagination, perhaps move us. But we are aware that they have nothing to do with our own real existence: the spectator is purely passive, always free to draw back from the spell of the “diversion” in its etymological sense – as a turning away from the concrete reality of our lives (see Pascal, Le mystère de Jésus, II; also Bossuet, Sur la Comédie; Oeuvres XII, 237). In contrast, the liturgical drama not only brings to mind again Christ’s deeds but reactualizes his salvific action (see ST 3a, 56. 1 and 3; Vagaggini, Il senso teologico della liturgia, 98ff). Likewise very different are the memorial, however noble, of a great personality (Socrates, for example) and the human-divine memorial of Christ, as he is the always active source of our salvation. To memorialize him reactualizes the effects belongs to him, both as exemplars and as active causes (see Pius XII, Mediator Dei no. 163), which invests the liturgical celebration with its distinguishing mark and incomparable dignity. The celebration is a representation sui generis that makes it become part of our existence, of life as it is lived. …

(Paul VI, Address to a general audience, March 26, 1975)

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