With this number we begin the twentieth year of publication of Ecclesia Orans. The previous nineteen volumes together present a wealth of authors, of history, and of themes connected with the liturgical life of the church. We hope they contribute to with the liturgical life of the church. We hope they contribute to fostering a more adequate understanding of the liturgy itself, past, present and for the future. The very range of topics examined illustrates the complexity of the development and renewal of the church’s worship through the ages and the complexity of the contemporary situation within and outside of the Roman Catholic tradition.
The liturgy frequently affords us a series of paradoxes in its celebration and study.
In the present debate the unfolding of the church’s worship is too often simplified in terms of decline and progress and typically in a somewhat polemical tone: Some see the past as decadent and the present as advance; others have characterized the liturgical renewal as deterioration and the previous liturgy as superior, especially as an expression of the «mystery» of the liturgy. Some seem to give more value to sentiment and personal devotion than to sense and understanding the liturgical action. Or can it be emblematic of nostalgia for a simpler and surer epoch?
All certainly realize that the heart of worship is always above and beyond the rites celebrated. The external forms in words and gestures do not determine the effect on a person -the spiritual preparation and receptivity of the individuai is primary. Each person must enter to the extent possible into the celebration (actuosa participatio)1. External contrapositions can too easily lose sight of the intrinsic values all hold in common.
The study of liturgy and the fruitful celebration of christian worship both cali for a solid base of memory, tradition and innovation. The renewal of liturgy may have its fluctuations, but changes are inevitable as the history of the liturgy clearly shows. The Tridentine liturgical books themselves have undergone revisions in various stages from their inception to the nineteen sixties (e.g. under Urban VIII, Benedict XIV, St. Pius X, and Pius XII).
The liturgy, which necessarily emphasizes αναμνμησις (memory) of the Paschal Mystery, can in study and practice, however, become guilty of αμνμησια (amnesia, forgetfulness, lack of memory) in some sectors of the faithful. Living in the present and for the future is realistic and advantageous, but only if at the same time liturgists and those engaged in worship actively cultivate the «memory» of tradition which some want to overcome as passé. The present needs to be evaluated at the same time that the past is re-evaluated in terms of their liturgical celebrations.
A particular peril for liturgists and students of liturgy is the temptation to concentrate unduly on the external aspects, usually the prayers and gestures (per ritus et preces)2, to the «amnesia» of the heart of the liturgy. Already forty years ago on the occasion of the promulgation of the Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope Paul VI in his address to the council fathers on Dec. 4, 1963 underlined the primacy of that indispensible, spiritual core of the liturgy as a reminder for us ali:
The liturgy is the first source of the divine communion in which God shares his own life with us. It is also the first school of the spiritual life. The liturgy… is also a primary invitation to the human race, so that ali may lift their now mute voices in blessed and genuine prayer and thus may experience that indescribable, regenerative power to be found when they join us in proclaiming the praise of God and the hopes of the human heart through Christ and the Holy Spirit3.
In line with the above observations the editorial staff of Ecclesia Orans intends to continue to present to its readers articles and notes on the questions of the rapport of liturgy with theology and spirituality, as well as its rapport with the human sciences, linguistics, ecumenism, art and music. We hope to do so with a sensibility towards the needs of renewal, with an openness to the present, while giving proper attention to an objective presentation of the tradition in the richness of its variations and epochs and its profound significance for the liturgy of every age. Only thus is it possible to arrive at a balanced and far-sighted consideration of the questions that stili remain open. Such an approach demands that all of us have dose to our hearts both the rich multiple liturgical traditions of the church and equally the future of the liturgy for the good of God’s people.
1 Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (4 dec. 1963) 14, AAS 56 (1964) 104.
2 Sacrosanctum Concilium 48, AAS 56 (1964) 113.
3 Paul VI, Allocutio ad patres conciliares (4 dec. 1963), AAS 56 (1964) 34: «Sacram liturgiam primum esse fontem illius divini commercii, quo ipsa Dei vita nobiscum communicatur,· primam esse animi nostri scholam,· […] primam denique humani generis invitationem, ut mutam suam linguam solvat in beatas veracesque preces, utque ineffabilem illam vim sentiat, animum veluti recreantem, quae sita est in canendis nobiscum Dei laudibus hominumque spe, per Iesum Christum et in Spiritu Sancto»; English from Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979, Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN 1982, 27-28, # 132.