Friday, February 23, 2007

Twenty Years of Greatness

Twenty years ago tomorrow, John Paul II named then-Msgr Piero Marini as Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations.

And he's still there.

The liturgist of the age and now an archbishop, Marini's quiet presence at the side of two Popes culminated in his arrangement of the interregnum of 2005, the most-watched manifestations of Catholic worship in human history. His tenure's signal accomplishment, most prominently in those days but consistent over the thousands of events conducted under his watch, has been the development of the papal Eucharistic celebration as captivating media event, while maintaining its premium on dignity, richness of heritage, and especially its chief purpose as an experience of prayer.

As English translations of Marini's reflections on the history of papal liturgy and Sacrosanctum Concilium -- the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Liturgy -- are on their way, the Holy See has published an English translation of Marini's intro to his latest, a commentary on the rite of inauguration of the Petrine ministry. In light of the conciliar renewal, the definitive Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi [Order of Rites for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome] was prepared by the Maestro and his staff as the fruit of a years-long process.

To commemorate the milestone, here's a big snip:
The words Jesus which spoke to Peter at Caesarea Philippi and on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he repeated to Benedict XVI at the beginning of his ministry, through the liturgy of the Church. Celebrating God's fidelity to his Church, these liturgies made present the hodie of the Petrine ministry.

It is this same hodie which explains why the ministry of the Bishop of Rome begins with a liturgy. It is always in the liturgy, and in particular in the Eucharistic assembly, that the Church recognises, acclaims and thanks God for his gifts. So by clearly inaugurating the Petrine Ministry with liturgical celebrations, the Church shows that this ministry is first and foremost a gift of God to his Church. It is the Lord's own Church over which the successor of St Peter is called to preside in charity. That is why the Evangelists stress that in the words with which Jesus institutes the Petrine ministry, he reminds Cephas that the Church remains the Lord's Church, his own Church: “You are Peter, the rock and upon this rock I will build my Church” and “Feed my lambs... Feed my sheep”.

At the same time the Church reminds herself that, although the new Pope, like Saint Peter, receives from the Lord and from him alone the mandatum to feed the flock, he receives it only in Ecclesia and propter Ecclesiam. That is why, as the Fathers of the Church emphasized, in the Gospel accounts it is always in the presence of the apostles, and never without them, that Jesus makes Peter the rock of the Church and shepherd of his flock. The beginning of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome takes place in the ekklesia, in the liturgical assembly, the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church, inasmuch as the Petrine ministry is a gift of God and is always bestowed in medio Ecclesiae....

The Petrine ministry of Benedict XVI began with the liturgy in a special way. The Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi was the first official document approved by the Pontiff, on the very day after his election to the Chair of Peter, as can be seen from the rescript ex audentia Summi Pontificis dated 20 April 2005. I am moved as I recall my first audience with His Holiness, at which I submitted the new rite for his examination. The Pope went through the whole liturgy, noting and endorsing the various decisions made for the new Ordo. Indeed, as he examined the document, the Pope repeatedly commented on the beauty of the texts, the signs and the unfolding of the rite, and he expressed his appreciation that the work had been done in so a short period of time. Noting the rite's clear biblical inspiration and its continuity with the great tradition of the Catholic Church, the Pope identified the various patristic citations in the texts, including expressions of Ignatius of Antioch, Gregory the Great and Leo the Great. His Holiness asked if he could keep the book, in order to prepare for the liturgy and to meditate on the euchological texts and the signs of the imposition of the pallium and the fisherman’s ring. One fruit of that meditation was the evocative mystagogical commentary on the pallium and the ring which the Pope offered during his homily at the liturgical celebration of the beginning of his ministry.
We owe the Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi to the liturgical sense and the initiative of the Master and the Consultors of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. The tradition of a specific ritual for the inauguration of the Petrine ministry of the Bishop of Rome had been gradually lost in the papal celebrations of more recent times. Although the process of simplifying papal rites begun by Vatican II had abolished certain ritual elements connected with the papal court and others which no longer corresponded to the new biblical-liturgical awareness - for example, the solemn coronation of the new Pontiff with the tiara, the rite “sic transit gloria mundi”, or the presentation of the keys of the Lateran Basilica - it had failed to identify and incorporate in the rites for the beginning of the pontificate signs and ritual actions capable of expressing the essence of the Petrine ministry “according to the norm of the holy Fathers”. This meant that the “solemn inauguration of the ministry of the Pastor of the universal Church” celebrated for Popes John Paul I and John Paul II consisted in a solemn Mass in Saint Peter's Square, in which the new Pontiff was invested with the same pallium worn by metropolitan archbishops and received the obedience of the College of Cardinals....

The text of the homilies of 24 April and 7 May 2005 is introduced by a study highlighting the mystagogical method employed by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope situated the homilies in God's saving plan and “involved the faithful in the adventure to which the Lord had called him: an adventure which began with the journey of the liturgy which is the journey of the Church”.

“'The norm of the holy Fathers' demands not only the preservation of what our immediate forebears have passed on to us, but also an understanding and a more profound study of the Church's entire past and of all the ways in which her one and only faith has been set forth in the quite diverse human and social forms prevailing in the Semitic, Greek and Latin areas. Moreover this broader view allows us to see how the Holy Spirit endows the People of God with a marvellous fidelity in preserving the inalterable deposit of faith, even amid a very great variety of prayers and rites” (No. 9).

The new Ordo succeeds in “preserving unchanged the deposit of faith” regarding the Petrine ministry, as received and passed on by the great Catholic tradition in uninterrupted communion through the centuries. The rites of the new Ordo “for the beginning of the pastoral service of the Bishop of Rome” as His Holiness Benedict XVI approved them and, above all, celebrated them, testify to and hand on a vision of the Petrine primacy which is faithful to the biblical data, the tradition of the Church Fathers and the essential understanding which the Church has always had of this ministry. Hence the liturgy of the Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi can be considered a legitimate locus theologicus and an authoritative witness to the handing on the Catholic vision of the Petrine ministry. The Ordo, now fully integrated into the lex orandi of the Church, can henceforth serve as an essential resource for the theological formulation of the Petrine ministry.

The Ordo Rituum pro Ministerii Petrini Initio Romae Episcopi, as this commentary shows, can be considered, because of its singular ecclesial and ecumenical value, a gift and an encouragement not only for scholars, historians and the faithful in general, but for all the Churches of West and East.

The Rites of the beginning of the Petrine ministry, broadcast all over the world by the communications media in the Easter season of 2005, were a celebration of the mystery of Christ the Good Shepherd, who down through the centuries, by means of the Petrine ministry entrusted to the humble fisherman of Galilee, continues, as Head of the College of Bishops (cf. Lumen Gentium, 22), together with the Bishops who are members of the same body (cf. Christus Dominus, 4), to guide his flock towards the Kingdom. This presence and ministry find in the liturgical celebration their origin and their relevance. Truly, the rites for the beginning of the pontificate, celebrated in the spirit of the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, are a sign and a source of hope for the pilgrim Church's journey in the world.
Buona festa, Maestro.... Suffice it to say, somewhere in the great beyond, Bugnini is smiling.