The Spirit of the Liturgy
Considered by Ratzinger devotees as his greatest work on the Liturgy, this profound and beautifully written treatment of the "great prayer of the Church" will help readers rediscover the Liturgy in all its hidden spiritual wealth and transcendent grandeur as the very center of our Christian life. In his own foreward to the book, Cardinal Ratzinger compares this work to a much earlier classic of the same title by Romano Guardini because Ratzinger feels that his insights here are similar with what Guardini achieved in his time regarding a renewed understanding of the Liturgy. "My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. 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. Like Guardini, I am not attempting 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."
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Liturgy is the heart and apex of Christian life. And even though it is not true that we take away from it as much as we are willing to give (we always gain more than we could ever hope to give), it behooves us to know and understand deeply and thoughtfully the significance and importance of liturgy's various parts. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now pope Benedict XVI) has set out in this relatively slim volume to examine and meditate on various aspects of the Liturgy, and to defend it from various challenges that have been raised in recent years. Although he clearly comes from Catholic perspective, this book is general enough that can be used and appreciated by all Christians who hold to the importance of Liturgy.
Cardinal Ratzinger uses his entire intellectual prowess in guiding us through various aspects of Liturgy. He is equally at home as a biblical scholar, a theologian, an exegete and a pastor. This combination of talents and worldviews makes him uniquely qualified to take a look at the liturgy that is both deep and wide. Although a teacher and a guardian of faith, his statements are not "dogmatic" in the pejorative sense of the term. Throughout the book one gets the impression that the ideas and the statements promulgated are ultimately propositional in nature, although they come with all the authority that he has. This frees him to make statements about many contemporary topics, such as the use of modern music and dance for which he doesn't seem to have much use. Nonetheless he presents his views in a tone of voice and with an attitude that implies that he would be open for discussion, although it is not very likely that he would be much swayed from his positions.
All of Pope Benedict's writings have an imprint of a careful and systematic thinker, who has a lot to offer to the modern world. This book is a further testament to this, and a wonderful and worthwhile read for anyone interested in deeper exploration of our Christian heritage.
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