From the editors of The National Catholic Register:
Pope Benedict, also, is simply and deeply devoted to the person of Christ, in all of his clarity and depth.
When secular newspapers write about Pope Benedict’s new post-synodal apostolic exhoratation Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity), they say things like “Pope Refuses to Yield” or “Benedict Loves Latin” as if the Holy Father were merely imposing his personal preferences on the Church.
But, from the very beginning, Benedict has been telling us exactly what he would do, and why he would do it. He started before the conclave that elected him, when he spoke about friendship with Christ, a concept he has returned to several times.
Noting that Jesus defines friendship as “the communion of wills,” he cited the old Roman definition of friendship — Idem velle idem nolle (same desires, same dislikes) — as the model of our friendship with Christ.
In his first message after becoming pope, he applied that lesson to the Eucharist. “I ask everyone in the coming months to intensify love and devotion for Jesus in the Eucharist,” he said, “and to express courageously and clearly faith in the Real Presence of the Lord, especially by the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.”
He wanted us to show our friendship with Jesus in the Eucharist not just by good feelings, but by a communion of wills — “by the solemnity and correctness” of our Masses.
This love for Jesus, which is both practical and passionate — we should say practical because it is passionate — is the key to Pope Benedict’s thinking. It is front and center in is private works (such as “On the Way to Christ Jesus”), in his official works before becoming Pope (Dominus Iesus — “The Lord Jesus” — foremost among them), and in his first encyclical and latest document on charity and the Eucharist.
This passionate, practical love explains many aspects of the new document.
It’s the reason why Pope Benedict is so poetic on the Eucharist. “What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper!” he writes in the introduction, “What wonder must the Eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts!”
It’s also the reason he is so precise: “The Eucharistic celebration is enhanced,” he writes, “when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms, making available the great riches found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Readings for Mass” (No. 40).
Pope Benedict can be subtle: “It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety that preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one’s immediate neighbors.”
He can be blunt: “Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved.”
But the love of Christ pervades it all.
There is much in this document that needs to be brought to light. The Pope has specific words on everything from Communion at funerals and weddings to the proper use of music (Webster Young, on the previous page, would appreciate what he says). He says broadcast Masses should follow the local bishop’s norms, and that tabernacles should be placed in the center of most churches.
But it would be a mistake to look to the document for a list of “winners” and “losers” and try to determine on what issues Pope Benedict is a liturgical “conservative” and on which ones he is a liturgical “liberal.”
Rather, the document is exactly what our front-page headline declares it to be: a love letter to Christ, his friend and ours, the center of the Mass, and our life.