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The Spirit of the Liturgy

- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
(Pope Benedict XVI)

Format: Book
Edition: Hardcover
Published by: Ignatius Press
Translator: John Saward

This concise (232 pages) yet profound book on a topic very dear to Pope Benedict's heart, was written during his tenure as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Ratzinger was always noted as a brilliant theologian, and his work on "the great prayer of the Church," written in 1999 with the German title, Einführung in den Geist der Liturgie, is a treatise on what many call "the reform of the reform." It is evident that the exuberance of the decades after Vatican II have led the liturgy in a direction not necessarily in keeping with the intent of the documents or the council fathers who wrote them — witness the paucity of Latin and the fading of Gregorian chant.

Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) understands the power of the liturgy to inspire awe and to engage the faithful in the transcendance of the Almighty. He speaks of all the aspects of liturgy (history, architecture, art, posture), not the least of which is music. Here's an excerpt from the chapter on Music and Liturgy:

The importance of music in biblical religion is shown very simply by the fact that the verb "to sing" (with related words such as "song," and so forth) is one of the most commonly used words in the Bible. It occurs 309 times in the Old Testament and thirty-six in the New. When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough. Areas of his existence are awakened that spontaneously turn into song. Indeed, man's own being is insufficient for what he has to express, and so he invites the whole of creation to become a song with him: "Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds" (Psalm 57:8f).

We find the first mention of singing in the Bible after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has now been definitively delivered from slavery. In a desperate situation, it has had an overwhelming experience of God's saving power. Just as Moses as a baby was taken from the Nile and only then really received the gift of life, so Israel now feels as if it has been "taken out of the water" — it is free, newly endowed with the gift of itself from God's own hands.

Year by year at the Easter Vigil, Christians join in the singing of this song, because they know that they have been "taken out of the water" by God's power, set free by God for authentic life.

The Apocalypse of Saint John draws the bow back even farther. The final enemies of the People of God have stepped onto the stage of history: the Satanic trinity, consisting of the Beast, its image and number of its name. But then the Seer is given the vision of the conquerors, "standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Revelation 15:3).


Part One: The Essence of the Liturgy
  1. Liturgy and Life: The Place of Liturgy in Reality
  2. Liturgy — Cosmos — History
  3. From Old Testament to New: The Fundamental Form of the Christian Liturgy — Its Determination by Biblical Faith
Part Two: Time and Space in the Liturgy
  1. The Relationship of Liturgy to Time and Space: Some Preliminary Questions
  2. Sacred Places — The Significance of the Church Building
  3. The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer
  4. The Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament
  5. Sacred Time
Part Three: Art and Liturgy
  1. The Question of Images
  2. Music and Liturgy
Part Four: Liturgical Form
  1. Rite
  2. The Body and the Liturgy
    • "Active Participation"
    • The Sign of the Cross
    • Posture
      Kneeling (prostratio)
      Standing and Sitting — Liturgy and Culture
    • Gestures
    • The Human Voice
    • Vestments
    • Matter


Order #: 9111
Price: $19.95


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