Sep 20, 2005
The Spirit of the Liturgy
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
trans. by John Saward (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2000)
250 pp., $19.95
Since his elevation to the See of Peter, newshounds and pundits of all stripes have speculated about what our new pope, Benedict XVI, thinks and what he is likely to do. But no one need speculate. As a priest, theologian, archbishop and finally as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the man who is now the Pope has made himself and his views known in interviews with the press and in print. Of his many books, 22 are available in English from Ignatius Press. These include The Ratzinger Report; his autobiography, Milestones; and The Spirit of the Liturgy.
Our word “liturgy” comes from a Greek word which means “public duty” or “public work.” Used in reference to Holy Church, it means the forms of prayer, acts and ceremonies used in her public and official worship. The liturgy includes the praying of the Divine Office, the administration of the Sacraments and, most particularly, the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Mass.
In The Spirit of the Liturgy, the future Benedict XVI uses “liturgy” in this last sense; he makes clear his concern for the way in the Mass has been celebrated. In the book’s preface, he employs the striking metaphor of a whitewashed fresco to describe the situation of the liturgy during the Twentieth Century: