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The Liturgical Vision of Pope Benedict XVI: A Theological Inquiry.

The Liturgical Vision of Pope Benedict XVI: A Theological Inquiry. By Mariusz Biliniewicz. New York: Peter Lang, 2013. Pp. x + 341. $71.95.

It is often said that one cannot tell a book by its cover. Biliniewicz's book may be an exception. The cover photo shows Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass at the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica. The photo is taken from the rear, showing Benedict facing the wall and wearing an elaborate red chasuble. He is flanked by masters of ceremonies, and a deacon vested in an equally elaborate dalmatic stands below and off to the side. The altar features the so-called Benedictine arrangement with a large cross in the middle flanked by six equally tall candles. From the outset one has the impression that Biliniewicz will be arguing on behalf of the liturgical positions favored by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.

This study originated as a doctoral dissertation at the Jesuit Milltown Institute in Dublin. The first three chapters are an able summary of Ratzinger's theology of the liturgy, evaluation of the post-Vatican II liturgical reform, and proposal for a "reform of the reform." B. then turns to changes and continuity that one can discern after Ratzinger became pope. A fifth chapter reviews Ratzinger/Benedict's critics with regard to the liturgy. In all this B. shows a steady hand, carefully and fairly evaluating both Ratzinger and his critics on issues like the nature of the reform undertaken after Vatican II: organic vs. radical rupture, eucharistic sacrifice as opposed to a mere banquet, the position of the priest at the altar, attitude toward liturgical translation, the proper posture for receiving communion, and appropriate forms of liturgical music. Moreover B. regularly underlines Ratzinger's insistence that the liturgy must be received as a gift from God rather than as something that humans construct by their own wits and is therefore easily changeable.

Chapter 6, which evaluates Ratzinger/Benedict's liturgical vision as well as his critics, will be the focus of the remainder of this review. Although B.'s sympathies are clearly with the liturgical vision of Ratzinger/Benedict, he has some reservations regarding some of the latter's ideas and actions, particularly when it comes to the way that the liberalization of the pre-Vatican II liturgy was introduced and the question of whether two forms of the Roman Rite can continue to coexist. The book was written during Benedict's pontificate, and it is unclear at this point what direction ongoing liturgical reform will take, though I would hazard a guess that it will not eventually be a melding of the pre- and post-Vatican II liturgies. B. also deals with the question of Ratzinger's apparent about-turn regarding Vatican II, especially the liturgy. He argues (rightly so, in my opinion) that Ratzinger's pre-Vatican II support of liturgical reform was colored by his experience of the post-Vatican II reform as it played out.

One of the most controversial issues that B. deals with is Ratzinger's claim that the post-Vatican II liturgical reform was a rupture. (Benedict modified that stance somewhat.) Following Ratzinger and Alcuin Reid, he outlines (295-97) five criteria for discerning whether a particular reform was organic according to the principle laid down in Sacrosanctum concilium no. 23: Does the principle represent a turning back to a golden age (antiquarianism)? Does it shed more light on the theological reality at stake? Does it contribute to the genuine good of the church and the glorification of God? Was introducing it genuinely and certainly necessary?

B. also proposes four more criteria that could be used to judge whether a reform was legitimate--for example, Does it promote active participation? On each issue B. judges reforms like Mass versus populum, receiving communion in the hand, and standing to be wanting and in need of further reform. B. concludes that Benedict did not so much initiate a liturgical reform of the reform as encourage an enriched attitude toward the liturgy. Whether that attitude is promoted or mitigated in the present pontificate and those that will succeed it is anyone's guess.

DOI: 10.1177/0040563913519056

John F. Baldovin, S.J.

Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
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Author:Baldovin, John F.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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