The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known. Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice. At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities. The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.
The above paragraph from a message of Benedict XVI to the Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last year is a great summary of the Holy Father’s teaching on liturgical reform. The statement reaffirms the importance of the liturgical reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council which center on the fostering the full and active participation of the faithful. The external changes were intended to help bring about an internal change, namely, the transformation that takes place when the soul has a personal encounter with Christ. According to the Pope, the relative failure to accomplish this task has consisted in the changes remaining on a merely external level. For this reason these changes have been distorted into something that was never intended, namely, liturgical abuse. Thus, the “reform of the reform” consists in properly understanding the meaning of active participation and the external reforms in relationship to it. Continue reading