Thursday, December 27, 2007

Papal use of old vestments connects with past, Vatican liturgist says

The Vatican's Christmas liturgies and rituals included a mix of old and new to demonstrate continuity with the past, said the master of papal liturgical ceremonies.

"The vestments used, like some of the details of the rite, aim to underline the continuity of today's liturgical celebration with that which characterized the life of the church in the past," said Msgr. Guido Marini.

In an interview published in the Dec. 24-25 edition of the Vatican newspaper, the master of ceremonies spoke about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to use older miters and vestments at his Christmas events and the decision to place a crucifix on the altar in St. Peter's Basilica.

Under Msgr. Marini's predecessor, a crucifix was carried into the basilica during the entrance procession and placed alongside the altar.

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, asked Msgr. Marini to explain why the crucifix, the symbol of Christ's death, was being given such prominence even at midnight Mass when the church was celebrating Christ's birth.

"The position of the cross at the center of the altar indicates the centrality of the crucifix in the Eucharistic celebration and the exact orientation the entire assembly is called to have during the eucharistic liturgy: We do not look at each other, but at the one who was born, died and rose for us, the Savior," he said.

"Salvation comes from the Lord. He is the east, the sun that rises, the one whom we all must watch," Msgr. Marini said.

In his 2000 book, "The Spirit of the Liturgy," Pope Benedict argued that facing the east while praying is a physical expression of turning toward God, toward the sun that rises for the salvation of all men and women.

"Where a direct, common turning toward the east is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior 'east' of the faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community," he wrote.

As for Pope Benedict's use of older, much taller miters, Msgr. Marini said they are a sign of how the church moves forward in history without ignoring or forgetting its past.

"Just as in his documents, a pope cites the pontiffs who preceded him in order to indicate the continuity of the church's magisterium, so in the liturgical sphere, a pope uses the vestments and sacred furnishings" of previous popes, demonstrating a continuity in prayer, he said.

Celebrating Mass, presiding over prayer services and giving his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world), "the pope will wear his own miters, as well as those belonging to Benedict XV, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II," the master of ceremonies said.

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