In hindsight, I really should have planned a "Why I Love Pope Benedict" series to coincide with his last days as Holy Father. I came across an article today by Dom Alcuin Reid that summarizes very nicely why Benedict's papacy has been such a blessing to the Church. The piece is titled "Farewell to a Gentle Liturgical Reformer" and is worth a read. Some snippets:
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Why the liturgy? Because Pope Benedict knows that “the Church stands [or] falls with the liturgy” and that “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever”. His profound concern is that the Church worships Almighty God correctly, and thereby be fully connected to the indispensible source which sustains and empowers Christian life, witness and mission. If the liturgy is impoverished or off-track our ability to live the Catholic faith and to evangelise suffers.
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These reforms have not been arbitrary impositions: he knows only too well the limitations of authority in respect of the Sacred Liturgy. Rather, they have been incisive, calm, even quiet corrections or exhortations – in words and by example.
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At the heart of his reform is Pope Benedict’s conviction that Catholic liturgy “is not about us, but about God”. This explains the crucifix at the centre of the altar. It is why he publically celebrated the modern Mass facing East in the Sistine and other papal chapels. There never was a need to put a table altar in front of the altar in the Sistine Chapel (or elsewhere), but it took a pope with liturgical vision quietly to remind us of this. Similarly, his manifest conviction that the normative, if not also most appropriate, manner of receiving Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion is kneeling and on the tongue remains a challenging invitation to reform local practice.
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His words, acts and example since have indeed inspired a movement toward the right way of celebrating the liturgy, inwardly and outwardly. However much more we may have liked to see, he has quietly laid deep and solid foundations for a new liturgical movement upon which others can now build.
This piece (and really, Benedict's whole pontificate) fits in nicely with my posts this week on liturgical matters in the context of what the Second Vatican Council said in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Our Holy Father rightly sees the sacred liturgy as essential to the life of the Church, which is why he has devoted so much time and energy to speaking and writing on these matters. He has led by example, not imposition -- much as I personally would have liked him to revoke the indult allowing Communion in the hand or mandate that Mass be celebrated ad orientem, I know he has taken the correct approach with his gentle and pastoral style. As with the all of the Church's doctrine, Pope Benedict has proposed, not imposed. I pray that our next Holy Father will continue this work of revitalizing Catholic worship so that with our minds focused on the things of heaven, we may more effectively show the world what it means to be followers of Christ.