Click to return to the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page

Jump to Page Content Jump to Navigation Links
THE REAL PRESENCE The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST

Eucharist Introduction Real Presence Scripture Early Church Vatican II Testimonies Miracles Priesthood and Religious Life Mass and Liturgy Holy Communion Adoration Other Topics Resources Links

Book - The Scandal of the Liturgy

by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Reviewed by Father Paul Scalia

The Scandal of the Incarnation poses a threat to the health of the Church, and the difficulty of accepting the Church's teaching that God became man. People resist the idea that God would limit Himself in that way, or stoop to our level. They reject God's descent to earth, that He became a particular man in a particular place, in a particular time. That God should choose one time, place and group over any other strikes them as unfair, undemocratic.

They resent the fact that they cannot do as they please with the liturgy. And resent that there be demands regarding the time, place, and actions of the liturgy strikes many people as unfair, undemocratic.

The essence of the liturgy, the liturgy "takes flesh" in our world, is a consideration of the incarnation of worship. Two basic points, the liturgy possesses a definite form; that certain particulars in the liturgy flow from its very essence. The liturgy could easily be misunderstood.

In our culture, "spirit" indicates something vague and easily and endlessly refined. Cardinal Ratzinger makes it clear that "spirit" means the liturgy's inner demands and form. Important points are essential features, essential form, inward essence and preexisting identity. The spirit of the liturgy is not one thing today and another thing tomorrow. To have true reform of the liturgy, we must first respect the form of the liturgy.

Modern man is accustomed to manipulate, control and dominate the world, the suggestion that there exists a definite, objective meaning to the liturgy scandalized him. He resists the spirit of the liturgy and would rather dominate the liturgy to make it fit his own whims and desires. Behind every liturgical abuse and every call for "updating" the liturgy we find his arrogant view that the liturgy is something we create and manipulate. This view displays an attitude of rebellion and an unwillingness to receive the true worship that Christ gives us.

     "Man himself cannot simply 'make' worship." Proper worship is "received from God in faith."

Creativity cannot be an authentic category for matters liturgical. We receive the liturgy; we do not produce it. Before we can discover what constitutes "right worship", we must first accept that there is such a thing as "right worship", the "pre-existing identity" becomes flesh.

Regarding a particular action, gesture, kind of music, or art. Many liturgical writers today say, "We should do this because it will produce that". "Will it work?" seems to be their first and only question. Cardinal Ratzinger states we should ask whether a particular action, gesture, kind of music or art pertains to the essence of the liturgy.

The issue of kneeling at Mass is not a question of what "works", but of what the liturgy demands. Whether the priest may face East depends not on sociological political and cultural factors, but on the spirit of the liturgy itself. Cardinal Ratzinger does not presume the ability to create the answers himself. He "asks" the liturgy itself to answer.

How the liturgy becomes flesh scandalizes people. They object to the specifics of worship - time, place, movement, posture, words. They would rather have their own liturgy that does not make demands on them. The disagreement here is not so much over the specific changes to be made, but over what determines the particulars: Do we decide, or do we let the liturgy speak for itself?

Cardinal Ratzinger states the terms of debate:

The life of the liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and planning groups. On the contrary, it is God's descent upon our world, the source of real liberation (168).
"Incarnation does not mean doing as we please." For years many liturgists have separated the liturgy from the Incarnation, precisely so that they may do as they please with it. The Spirit of the Liturgy reasserts the liturgy's utter dependence on the Incarnation. The Scandal of the Liturgy really has its roots in the Scandal of the Incarnation. The scandal of the Incarnation stems from pride. Since God became a particular man in a particular time and place, we must meet Him according to the particulars of His life. We must meet Him on His terms, not ours. The proud resist this, because they want to determine their relationship with God. They want to set the terms. They do not want to receive God, but to possess Him.

Scandal of the Liturgy stems from pride. We must abide by the essence of His worship. The "creators" of liturgy do not want to worship in the form that Christ gave us. They want to set the terms. Like the builders of the tower of Babel, they want to make a name - and a liturgy - for themselves. Ultimately, they do not want to receive the liturgy, but to possess it.

The remedy for the Scandal of the Incarnation is to receive the truth about the Incarnation, its true spirit:

The more priests and faithful humbly surrender themselves to this descent of God, the more "new" the liturgy will constantly be, and the more true and personal it becomes (168-169).

VOL. VI, No. 9 - December 2000 - January 2001

search tips advanced search

What's New    Site Index

Eucharist Introduction Real Presence Scripture Early Church Vatican II Testimonies Miracles Priesthood and Religious Life Mass and Liturgy Holy Communion Adoration Other Topics Resources Links


Home | Directory | Eucharist | Divine Training | Testimonials | Visit Chapel | Hardon Archives

Adorers Society | PEA Manual | Essentials of Faith | Dictionary | Thesaurus | Catalog | Newsletters

Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
718 Liberty Lane
Lombard, IL 60148
Phone: 815-254-4420
Contact Us

Copyright © 2000 by
All rights reserved worldwide.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of