Authentic worship has been on the mind of Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He published a noteworthy article on this theme on June 12 in L’Osservatore Romano. The topic drawing most attention in the article was the direction of liturgical prayer — specifically, how the priest and people should be facing the same way during many parts of the Mass.Share
While some see this as a return to a “pre-Vatican II” liturgy, Cardinal Sarah showed it is quite the opposite — that it is, in fact, consonant with conciliar teachings. In the opening sentence of the prefect’s letter, he sets the stage by asking, “Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI, will the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum Concilium] finally be read?”
The African cardinal explained that “it is in full conformity with the conciliar constitution — indeed, it is entirely fitting — for everyone, priest and congregation, to turn together to the east during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic Prayer, in order to express the desire to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ.”
Cardinal Sarah emphasized that the priest must become the “instrument that allows Christ to shine through.” In the pursuit of this goal, he references Pope Francis remarking that the celebrant is not the host of a show, nor should he be seeking affirmation from the congregation, as if the primary concern of worship were a dialogue between the priest and assembly.
On the contrary, Cardinal Sarah believes that in order to enter into the true conciliar spirit, self-effacement is necessary for the priest who leads public worship. This self-effacement is implicit in the rubrics of the Roman Missal, which presume the priest will not be facing the congregation through the entirety of the Mass. (Read more.)