Last week the Congregation for Eastern Churches hosted a Liturgical Congress to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Instruction for the Application of the Liturgical Prescriptions within the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
In his opening remarks, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, encouraged participants “to avoid solitary escapes in pursuit of reforms that do not take into account the heritage shared with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches.” This encouragement to promote the Eastern Churches to use a common liturgical rite with the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches seems to be a constant theme in recent Roman thought on Eastern liturgies.
Pope Francis gave an audience to the members of the Congress on Friday 18 February. Here the Pope made some remarks on Eastern liturgy. Some of these might be of interest to PrayTell readers. The Pope informed his listeners that “Mystagogical catechesis is lacking in the Latin Church.”
A little further on he continued stating that “the beauty of the Eastern rites is much more that simply an oasis of escape or of conservation. The liturgical assembly recognizes itself as such, not because it was called together of its own accord, but because it hears the voice of Another, is constantly turned towards him, and, precisely for this reason, feels the urgent need to go forth towards our brothers and sisters, and to bring them the message of Christ. Even those traditions that preserve the use of the iconostasis, with the royal door, or the veil that conceals the sanctuary at some moments in the rite, teach us that these are architectural or ritual elements that speak not of distance from God, but rather heighten the mystery of the ‘condescension’ – of the synkatabasis – by which the Word came and continues to come to the world.”
Finally, the Holy Father concluded his remarks reminding the Eastern liturgists that, “fidelity to uniqueness is what creates the ‘symphonic’ richness of the Eastern Churches. One can discuss, for example, the possibility of introducing editions of the liturgy in the languages of the countries where their faithful are found, but where the form of the celebration is concerned, it is necessary that unity be experienced in accordance with what has been laid down by the Synods and approved by the Apostolic See, avoiding liturgical particularisms that in reality manifest divisions of another kind within the respective Churches. Furthermore, let us not forget that our brothers and sisters of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches are watching us: even if we cannot sit at the same Eucharistic table, nonetheless we almost always celebrate and pray the same liturgical texts. Let us be attentive therefore to forms of experimentation that can harm the journey towards visible unity of all Christ’s disciples. The world needs the witness of our communion. If we give scandal by our liturgical disputes, and unfortunately there have been some recently, we play the game of the master of division.”
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Eastern Catholic bishops at the Canonization of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII