A Healthy Crisis for the Liturgy

Interview With Father J. Castellano, Vatican Consultor

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Jesus was a liturgist -- in the sense that he made his whole life a liturgy, says a theologian-consultor to the Vatican.



Discalced Carmelite Father Jesús Castellano recently published a book, "Liturgy and Spiritual Life: Theology, Celebration, Experience," through the Library of Barcelona's Center of Liturgical Pastoral Care.

Father Castellano is a professor at the Teresianum Faculty of Rome and consultor in the Vatican congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith; for Clergy; and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

He shared some ideas about the liturgy in this interview with ZENIT.

Q: Is it true, as we read in your book, that we are going through a moment of salutary crisis of the liturgy?

Father Castellano: The Fathers of last October's Synod were very much concerned with giving a new splendor and beauty to the liturgy.

Among the most important topics were the propositions that speak of mystagogy, a very beautiful word of Christian antiquity which comprises catechetical initiation, the worthy celebration of the mysteries and assimilation in life.

There has been much talk of the art of celebrating. I believe, therefore, that a salutary crisis of the liturgy must lead us to know better what we celebrate, to celebrate in a more worthy manner the mystery of Christ in our life and to assimilate better what we celebrate, to manifest in life what we have received in the sacrament.

Q: Was Jesus a "liturgist"?

Father Castellano: He certainly was. He is so called in the Letter to the Hebrews, but with a very special connotation.

Jesus made his whole life a liturgy; he transmits to us the word and the Father's sanctification, with all his works of love toward men, and leads us to the Father with his prayer, his oblation and his obedience to the worship of love.

This is why the paschal mystery -- from the Supper to the cross and the resurrection -- is the high point of Christ's liturgy, of his life lived as a liturgy pleasing to the Father and perfectly sanctifying. This is the priesthood and worship of Christ.

Christian liturgy is the memorial, the ritual celebration, with words, gestures, prayers, of Jesus' life, of his mysteries, and in a particular way, of his paschal mystery.

Christian liturgy is the celebration of Christ's life itself, of the signs he has left us, of the mysteries he lived and now offers us so that we will live them.

Q: You allude to a "living liturgy." Do you think that in some cases the liturgy is not sufficiently alive?

Father Castellano: A living liturgy, exactly as I see it and try to celebrate it, is a liturgy in which we give primordial value, in the first place, to the living and sharing of faith, hope and love.

It is the liturgy which has a vitality in the Holy Spirit, in the presence of Christ, in communion with the Father, in an awareness of celebrating with the whole Church, in the communion of saints.

Starting from this indispensable condition, a living liturgy is that which values the word, gestures, prayer, the whole symbolic world of Christian worship, in a harmony of orthodoxy and orthopraxis of the texts and rites that the Church proposes to us, with a dignity and beauty capable of evangelizing today's world, which can still relish the beauty of God and recover the meaning of the mystery that envelops him.

Q: As a child, Pope Benedict XVI relished the liturgy with the German missals and became interested in the liturgical movement. What was this movement?

Father Castellano: The liturgical movement in Germany was altogether a resurgence of initiatives to know better and celebrate in a more conscious way the Church's liturgy, to favor the participation of the faithful and to recover the treasures of the Church of the first centuries.

Although there were some exaggerations, the liturgical movement was very positive in the liturgical and pastoral realm and gave new impulse to a Christian life more centered on the Bible, on the paschal mystery of Christ, on Christian initiation, on the recovery of liturgical times. Romano Guardini was a teacher of Ratzinger's thought on liturgy.

Q: How are liturgy and politics related?

Father Castellano: We must understand well what politics is. If it is understood, as the Pope explains in his encyclical, as a dimension of charity, which influences the life of society and shapes it according to the exigencies of the Kingdom of heaven, if it widens in love the dignity of all of God's children, if it is commitment to a new world, according to the will of the Father and the doctrine of the Gospel, then the liturgy leads as a consequence to a "political charity," as Pius XI called it.

In my book I quote a famous phrase of St. John Chrysostom who invites us to live the charity that comes from the Eucharist: to live charity with brothers "so that the earth will become heaven."

It is not utopian to think that the Kingdom of God begins on this earth when what is celebrated in the liturgy is lived in daily experience.