Wednesday, April 30, 2014

St John Paul II on the liturgy.

I was in Manchester at the time of the canonisations, so I haven't had the chance to blog about it. I think Fr Zuhlsdorf makes an excellent point about these canonisations underpinning the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council proposed by Pope John Paul II: it gives St John Paul's writings greater authority.

This is important. One of the things I have understood better in the course of editing the FIUV Position Papers is just how much Pope St John Paul had to say about the liturgy, and I mean good things, obviously! Not just in documents explicitly about the Old Rite, such as Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, but all over the place. He was a Pope with a liturgical imagination.

I include below three quotations from just one Position Paper, 'The Extraordinary Form and Western Culture.' Read the paper here. He is also quoted to important effect in the paper on Silence and on Latin as a Liturgical Language.

Address to the Bishops of the North Western region of the United States, in their ad limina visit in 1998:
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening... In a culture which neither favours nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.

Address to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Divine Worship, September 21, 2001.
The People of God need to see priests and deacons behave in a way that is full of reverence and dignity, in order to help them to penetrate invisible things without unnecessary words or explanations. In the Roman Missal of Saint Pius V, as in several Eastern liturgies, there are very beautiful prayers through which the priest expresses the most profound sense of humility and reverence before the Sacred Mysteries: they reveal the very substance of the Liturgy.

Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (2003) 60.
Nor should we overlook the positive contribution made by the wise use of the cultural treasures of the Church. These can be a special element in the rekindling of a humanism of Christian inspiration. When properly preserved and intelligently used, these living testimonies of the faith as professed down the ages can prove a useful resource for the new evangelization and for catechesis, and lead to a rediscovery of the sense of mystery. … artistic beauty, as a sort of echo of the Spirit of God, is a symbol pointing to the mystery, an invitation to seek out the face of God made visible in Jesus of Nazareth.

St John XXIII also had a lot to say, and to counter the strange view that he was some kind of free-wheeling liberal I've blogged about his writings a number of times, notably his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia on the importance of Latin. Yes, the man who called Vatican II almost simultaneously defended the use of Latin and demanded it be not only retained by restored, and teaching in it strengthened. See here and here.


  1. Having lived through JPII's pontificate, it didn't feel like this. Not at all. He was a pope with liturgical imagination? Well, yes, one only had to witness those papal masses in stadiums to see that. As for Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, this was the document that severely restricted access to the Old Rite only two years after he'd been advised by nine cardinals that it had never been abrogated and that permission was not required to celebrate it, which was not a good thing. And of course Summorum Pontificum directly contradicts this.
    I think the best we can say about JPII as far as liturgy was concerned is he talked the talk, but he didn't walk the walk.

    1. For Popes, words are deeds.

    2. Papal words are deeds if they are obeyed and if the pope in question sees to it that they are obeyed. That was the failure of St. John Paul's pontificate.

    3. No, they are deeds even if they are ignored. Many documents ignored when they were written have come to be seen as important contributions to the magisterium later.

      Also, legally, JPII stopped abuses becoming licit as customs:

  2. If I may use baseball terminology (I know, not quite cricket of me, is it?), none of these quotes is a home run of the sort you can find in, say, Veterum Sapientia or some of John XXIII's other writings...but they might be solid doubles. They are worthy observations, and worth quoting, since this is now a Pope raised to the altars.

    And it is good to note, because I know most of us here are not nearly as inclined to credit John Paul II's liturgical views as we might those of John XXIII, a more profoundly liturgically traditional mind. It may not change the fundamentally negative judgment on JPII and his pontificate on this issue (especially given the wide range of bizarre and even shocking liturgical experimentation we saw in his pontifical Masses, and his willingness to tolerate and even officially authorize many abuses, such as altar girls), it might qualify and nuance it in certain respects.