During a conference in Peru last week, a Spanish cardinal expressed sadness over the fact that often, the Mass is “reduced to a mere banquet, a celebration of the community,” instead of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.
He noted that “Worship becomes perverted when we have a celebration in which the community celebrates itself.” The prelate added that the primary focus of the Mass should be God. Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, made his remarks at the Eucharistic and Marian Congress taking place in Lima, Peru, earlier this week.
Speaking to some 2,000 participants at the event organized by the Archdiocese of Lima, Cardinal Canizares first emphasized that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the life of every Christian and that “the Church is the living and efficacious sacrament of union with God and unity among the entire human race.” This union, he said, “is only possible through participation in the Body of Christ. This is what happens in the Eucharist.” “The Eucharist is only possible through the priesthood,” he added. “Consequently, the Church can exist only with priests.” “We priests are necessary not only so that the Church can function or be well organized or can teach doctrine,” the cardinal continued. “We are priests in order for there to be Eucharist. If we do not recover this, there will be no vocations. Consequently, what is at stake is the future.”
Cardinal Canizares also underscored the centrality of the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, saying that oftentimes, the Mass is “reduced to a mere banquet, a celebration of the community, a commemoration, but not the very sacrifice of Christ who gives himself up for us on the Cross.” “Without this we can understand nothing about the Eucharist and we celebrate nothing more than ourselves,” he said. “We have become secularized and convinced that everything has been the result of our own creativity,” the prelate remarked. However, what truly matters is that “we recognize the mystery, that the mystery be celebrated. We must remember God’s right. God tells us how the mystery, how the celebration should be carried out.” After underscoring the spirit of renewal proposed by Vatican II, Cardinal Canizares noted that the council fathers placed a priority on liturgical renewal because “we cannot understand (the Vatican II document) Gaudium et Spes if our understanding is not based on the foundation for everything: the Eucharist.” “There will not be a Gaudium et Spes Church if it is not a Sacrosantum Concilium Church,” he added. For this reason, the Pope has a great interest in the liturgy. For this reason, when renewal is understood merely in terms of changes to the rite, we do not understand anything that the Holy Father is telling us,” he added. “Renewal does not mean a different puppet show every day,” the cardinal underscored. “It means making it possible to celebrate the mystery of faith that occurs. This renewal must express the entire reality of the mystery. Worship becomes perverted when we have a celebration in which the community celebrates itself. The principle should be that God occupies the central place.”
The Spanish prelate noted that in Communion, it is not we who assimilate Christ, “but rather He who assimilates us unto himself,” and consequently we are pulled out of our individuality. “Thus the Eucharist takes on a social nature.” “To celebrate the Eucharist is to bring about the renewal of society,” he said. “For this reason, renewing the sense of the Eucharist is what guarantees a future for the Church. This is the true danger for a humanity that does not acknowledge God.”