Cardinal Sarah has clarified recent comments he made about celebrating Mass ad orientem, condemning some responses as inaccurate.
The cardinal, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told clergy yesterday in the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, that the talk he made last month received a lot of attention - "some of it not always very accurate".
But he reiterated some of the points he made at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London in July about the celebration of Mass ad orientem
, saying that “in recent decades in some countries the Sacred Liturgy has become too anthropocentric; man not Almighty God has become its focus”. He continued: “When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’, there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and his personality, becoming too central.”
The talk, given in the Sri Lankan capital and entitled ‘Liturgical Life and the Priesthood’, reflected on the nature of the Church and of the priest. “Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has often observed that the Church is not an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation),” he said. Rather, the Church is the people of God, nourished by the Eucharist in order to evangelise. “The Church is essentially Eucharistic,” he said, “which means that the Church is essentially liturgical.”
He therefore warned priests against the danger of letting their liturgical duties become “routine, or even be seen to be a burden.” When a priest’s heart and soul “no longer thrill with awe at the great mysteries he is called to minister, his vocation can go seriously astray,” the Cardinal said.
He recommended that priests pray the Divine Office “liturgically… most especially with your own people”; that they use the prayers given for putting on their liturgical vestments; that they carry out a “liturgical examination of conscience”, considering their fidelity to Sacred Liturgy. He warned that “minimalism is the enemy of the liturgy”, and said that “a good confessor is a priest who himself confesses often and with due preparation.”
Cardinal Sarah closed his address in Sri Lanka by speaking of the priestly example of Fr Hamel, murdered celebrating Mass in July. “Without taking away from the righteous anger that we feel, is there not also something profoundly beautiful here?” he said. “Is not the fidelity of Fr Hamel a lesson and encouragement to us priests who so often grow weary along the way? Was not his sacrifice, howsoever unjustified, nonetheless an appropriate consummation of 58 years of priesthood? My brothers, let Fr Hamel’s witness inspire us.”