From an interview with Cardinal Ratzinger

Let’s talk for moment about the Second Vatican Council, and particularly the implementation of the Council. You have written so much about this, and talked so much about this. For people of my generation, I suppose the thing that most stands out from the faith too of our fathers and grandfathers is the liturgy, the Mass. You’ve spoken about the reform of the reform, reforming the reform. How do you see that actuating? How do you see it concretely taking shape as we move forward?

Cardinal Ratzinger: Generally, I would say it was not well implemented; the liturgical reform, because it was a general idea. Now, liturgy is a thing of the community. The community is representing itself and so with the creativity of the priest or of the other groups they will create their own liturgies. It is, more the presence of their own experiences and ideas than meeting with the Presence of the Lord in the church. And with this creativity and self-presentation of the community is disappearing the essence of liturgy. Because in essence we can go over our own experiences and to receive what is not from our experience, but is a gift of God. And so, I think we have to restore not so much certain ceremonies, but the essential idea of liturgy – to understand in liturgy, we are not representing ourselves, but we receive the grace of the presence of the Lord with the Church of the heaven and of the earth. And the universality of the liturgy, it seems to me, is essential. Definition of liturgy and restoring this idea would also help to be more obedient to the norms, not as a juridical positivism, but really as sharing, participating what is given to us from the Lord in the Church.

Raymond: And that sense of sacrifice and worship that you’ve talked about so eloquently, how do you see that being restored concretely? Will we see a return to the ad orientem posture, facing the East, the priest facing away from the people during the Canon, a return to the Latin, more Latin in the Mass?

Cardinal: Versus orientem, I would say could be a help because it is really a tradition from the Apostolic time, and it’s not only a norm, but it’s an expression also of the cosmical dimension and of the historical dimension of the liturgy. We are celebrating with the cosmos, with the world. It’s the direction of the future of the world, of our history represented in the sun and in the cosmical realities. I think today this new discovering of our relation with the created world can be understood also from the people, better than perhaps 20 years ago. And also, it’s a common direction – priest and people are in common oriented to the Lord. So, I think it could be a help. Always external gestures are not simply a remedy in itself, but could be a help because it’s a very classical interpretation of what is the direction of the liturgy. Generally, I think it was good to translate the liturgy in the spoken languages because we will understand it; we will participate also with our thinking. But a stronger presence of some elements of Latin would be helpful to give the universal dimension, to give the possibilities that in all the parts of the world we can see “I am in the same Church.”

Note: The interview first aired on EWTN on 5 September 2003.