Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The priest and eucharistic concelebration

Cardinal Cañizares, Primate Emeritus of All Spain
Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, the incumbent Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, yesterday presented a new book on the subject of eucharistic concelebration by Mgr Guillaume Derville, Eucharistic Concelebration: from symbol to reality.

The Cardinal's preface to the book is published by ZENIT today.

In our times, concelebration in the Latin rite has been controversial; even Pope Benedict has raised questions about it, as the Cardinal mentions in his preface. Has the intention of the Council Fathers been distorted these past 40 years by bad practice? Has the intended symbolism of concelebration been lost in translation? Was it ever properly understood in the first place?

The Cardinal quotes an elucidates some words of the Holy Father:

“Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.” 
That is to say: the liturgy, and within it the act of concelebration, will be beautiful when it is true and authentic, when its innate splendour is really reflected. It is in this context that we should understand the question posed by the Holy Father regarding concelebrations with a large number of priests: “For my part,” said the Pope, “I have to say, it remains a problem because concrete communion in the celebration is fundamental, and I do not consider that the definitive answer has really been found. I also raised this question during the last Synod but it was not answered. I also had another question asked regarding the concelebration of Mass: why, for example, if a thousand priests concelebrate, do we not yet know whether this structure was desired by the Lord?” 
The question is precisely one of keeping “the structure desired by the Lord”, because the liturgy is a gift from God. It is not something fabricated by us men; it is not at our disposition. Indeed, “By his command to ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk 22:19; cf. 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament.”

The whole preface is available on ZENIT

The book, published in French, is not yet available on the more commonly used book shops, but I've found it available in English from various US vendours, including Canon Law Books, and the MTF. Perhaps I'd better get hold of this work. I've always found concelebration quite difficult to understand and sometimes is an obstacle to my personal piety. Maybe this will provide some insights...

I'll leave you with another paragraph from the Cardinal:

As Benedict XVI stated: “I join the Synod Fathers in recommending ‘the daily celebration of Mass, even when the faithful are not present’. This recommendation is consistent with the objectively infinite value of every celebration of the Eucharist, and is motivated by the Mass’s unique spiritual fruitfulness. If celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest’s configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation.” 
For each priest, the celebration of the Holy Mass is the reason for his existence. It is, it must be, an entirely personal encounter with the Lord and with his redemptive work. At the same time, each priest, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is Christ himself present in the Church as Head of his body; and he also acts in the name of the whole Church “when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice”. When we experience the wonder of the Eucharistic gift, which transforms us and configures us to Christ, there is only room for amazement, gratitude and obedience.

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