“To ruin the liturgy…”

Here is Cardinal Sarah on the “reform of the reform”:

But here is my hope: God willing, when he wills and as he wells, the reform of the reform will take place in the liturgy. Despite the gnashing of teeth, it will happen, for the future of the Church is at stake. To ruin the liturgy is to ruin our relationship to God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. (Sarah 134)

Here Cardinal Sarah sees a direct connection between the liturgy (from the Greek λειτουργία, meaning “the work of the people), to our faith. I would guess he would see the way we do liturgy today is not unlike whether the ancient Israelites followed the temple rules in their day, or instead made up new rules and tried to innovate. What would God have thought? How well would those Israelites have created a liturgy better than what God gave them? Is it likely they would have created a liturgy more suited to their souls, more in harmony with their human nature? According the the cardinal, ruining the liturgy ruins our relationship to God.

I was trained to believe none of this is true, or not very important. I was trained to view liturgy as basically inconsequential. I have come to believe otherwise. Much of my understanding derives from a better anthropology than what I once had. I also believe what we have in the Old Testament, though we are not bound to worship exactly as the Israelites did, is a picture of what a human being needs in terms of ritual, liturgy, and cult. When God gave Moses the law and instructions for the tabernacle, and then later to David and Solomon instructions for the temple, and gave them specific instructions for worship, He did so in complete accord with how He created them. God knows what a human being is and needs. We should keep that in mind when we consider how best to do liturgy today, and from what & where we draw our models and our inspiration.

An aside: There are those who would stop the “reform of the reform” because they think it’s not necessary and is grounded in a love of traditions than in more important things. Others say it does not go far enough because the Mass of Paul VI is too fundamentally broken that it should just be scrapped altogether rather than reformed. I don’t know where I stand, I’m not theologian or liturgist, but from what I know of Cardinal Sarah, I stand with him.

And from what I’ve read, I would guess the cardinal seeks reform that is more traditional than even many reforms might seek.


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Liturgy, Reading, Sacraments, Tradition

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