Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, gave a talk on Liturgical Life and the Priesthood Aug. 23 in Colombo that is a delight to read and something I hope is read and shared widely. New Liturgical Movement has published the talk in full.
For if the Sacred Liturgy is no longer a joy to us, a source of spiritual refreshment, and if it becomes simply one of the duties that we have to be performed, we priests of the Lord may merit the condemnation announced by the prophet Isaiah: “this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote” (Is. 29:13). We must guard against this temptation my brothers. If we have succumbed to it, we must exorcise ourselves of this vice and recapture the spirit and power of the liturgy in our priestly life and ministry without delay, for the good of our own souls and for the good of Christ’s faithful whom we serve.
How can we pursue such a renewal, a renewal that so many of us need? It would be wonderful for the priests of any diocese to have annual retreats in which the preachers would address this need and where the liturgical celebrations of the Holy Mass and the Divine Office were themselves exemplary, indeed refreshing, for our priestly souls. That is a matter for your Father, the diocesan bishop to consider! Nevertheless, whilst His Eminence considers this (!) each of us can make a start individually, or perhaps with the support of a small number of brother priests.
Firstly, let us ask ourselves: how do we pray the Divine Office? Is it something that we have to ‘get done’ as soon as possible each day so as to be ‘free’ to get on with other tasks? Do I even neglect to pray it sometimes? Certainly, pastoral life is busy, but if I do not pray the Prayer of the Church as I have solemnly promised to do, or if I do not pray it with fervour, with devotion, and indeed liturgically, then I am failing to nourish my soul and I am endangering my vocation.
Practically speaking I would suggest this: as often as is possible pray the Divine Office liturgically, together with others, most especially with your people, for the Office is not a text to be read but a rite to be celebrated, with its own rituals, postures, chant, etc. And if circumstances dictate that you must pray the Office by yourself, do as much as you can to make it a liturgical rite—pray it in an oratory if possible, standing and sitting and so on at the appropriate times. Sing the Office if it is possible—it is not a book to be read in an armchair; rather it is the loving song of the Church, of the Bride, to Him Who has redeemed us.
There’s a lot more like this: limpid, refreshing, beautiful.
It’s also good to know he is not bowed after his talk to the Sacra Liturgia Conference in England earlier this year that prompted a response from the Vatican Press Office clarifying there was no new directive about worshipping ad orientem and news the Pope summoned him to his office for a “slap down”.
What Cardinal Sarah had done was encourage priests to begin to celebrate Mass facing East perhaps the First Sunday of Advent after a period of catechesis about the reasons for facing God during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Cardinal Sarah was not calling for anything that is not already licit in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal or GIRM for the Ordinary form of the Mass.
Cardinal Sarah mentions the Sacra Liturgica talk in Colombo:
There are many other elements of our liturgical lives as priests we could talk about. Last month, in London, I gave a presentation “Towards an authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium” in which I spoke of others. This talk received a lot of attention—some of it not always very accurate! In any case, I recommend that you read the text of this address (it is available on the Internet). Perhaps we can talk about some different questions together later.