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Book: The Spirit of the Liturgy
Author: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA pp. 232

Excerpt from Introduction:

One of the first books I read after starting my theological studies at the beginning of 1946 was Romano Guardini’s first little book, “The Spirit of the Liturgy. It was published at Easter 1918 as the opening volume in the Ecclesia Orans series edited by Abbot Herwegen, and from then until 1957 it was constantly reprinted.

This slim volume may rightly be said to have inaugurated the Liturgical Movement in Germany. Its contribution was decisive. It helped us to rediscover the liturgy in all its beauty, hidden wealth, and time-transcending grandeur, to see it as the animating center of the Church, the very center of Christian life. . . .

My purpose in writing this little book, which I now lay before the public, is to assist this renewal of understanding. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve in his owntime with the “Spirit of the Liturgy.” That is why I deliberately chose a title that would be immediately reminiscent of that classic of liturgical theology. The only difference is that I have had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes, and dangers. I am not attempting, any more than Guardini was, to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give the faith its central form of expression in the liturgy. If this book were to encourage in a new way, something like a “liturgical movement”, a movement toward the liturgy and toward the right way of celebrating the liturgy, inwardly and outwardly, then the intention that inspired its writing would be richly fulfilled.

Excerpt from Book:

The importance of music in biblical religion is shown very simply by the fact that the verb “to sing” (with related words such as “song”, and so forth) is one of the most commonly used words in the Bible. It occurs 309 times in the Old Testament and thirty-six in the New. When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough. Areas of his existence are awakened that spontaneously turn into song. Indeed, man’s own being is insufficient for what he has to express, and so he invites the whole of creation to become a song with him: “Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

We find the first mention of singing in the Bible after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has now been definitely delivered from slavery. In a desperate situation, it has had an overwhelming experience of God’s saving power. Just as Moses as a baby was taken from the Nile and only then really received the gift of life, so Israel now feels as if it has been taken out of the water; it is free, newly endowed with the gift of itself from God’s own hands. In the biblical account, the people’s reaction to the foundational event of salvation is described in this sentence: They believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

but then follows a second reaction, which soars up from the first with elemental force: “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord.”

Year by year, at the Easter Vigil, Christians join in the singing of this song. They sing it in a new way as their song, because they know that they have been “taken out of the water” by God’s power, set free by God for authentic life.

The Apocalypse of St. John draws the bow back even farther. The final enemies of the People of God have stepped onto the stage of history: the satanic trinity, consisting of the beast, its image, and the number of its name. Everything seems lost for the holy Israel of God in the face of such overwhelming odds. But then the Seer is given a vision of the conquerors, “standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and he song of the Lamb.”

The paradox now becomes even more powerful. It is not the gigantic beasts of prey, with their power over the media and their technical strength, who win the victory. No, it is the sacrificial Lamb that conquers. And so once again, definitely, there resounds the song of God’s servant Moses, which has now become the song of the Lamb.

Liturgical singing is established in the midst of this great historical tension.

Table of Contents:

Part One: The Essence of the Liturgy

1. Liturgy and Life: The Place of the liturgy in reality

2. Liturgy — Cosmos — History

3. From Old Testament to New: The fundamental form of the Christian liturgy — its determnation by Biblical Faith

Part Two: Space in the liturgy

1. The relationship of the liturgy to time and space: some preliminary questions

2. Sacred Places — the significance of the church building

3. The altar and the direction of liturgical prayer

4. The reservation of the Blessed Sacrament

Part Three: Art and liturgy

1. The questions of image

2. Music and liturgy

Part Four: Liturgical form

1. Rite

2. The body and liturgy

1. “Active participation”

2. The sign of the Cross

3. Posture


Standing and Sitting — liturgy and culture

4. Gestures

5. The human voice

6. Vestments

7. Matter