Benedict XVI’s Reform: The Liturgy Between Innovation and Tradition

By Nicola Bux

Ignatius Press, 2012

144 pages, $14.95

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One year has passed since the changes to the English version of the Mass. After taking effect last Advent, familiar responses such as “and also with you” were replaced with “and with your spirit,” as an attempt to improve upon the English translation of the Latin Mass.

While the subtle changes may have resulted in a few weeks of confusion for the laity and priests alike, the changes have been widely embraced and are beginning to become ordinary routine for Catholics.

While familiarity is generally a good thing, the liturgy of the Mass is no ordinary event. In his  recent book, Benedict VXI’s Reform: The Liturgy Between Innovation and Tradition,  Nicola Bux provides a thoughtful reflection on the significance of the Catholic liturgy and our need for greater recognition of the Divine meaning.

As a priest in the Archdiocese of Bari, Italy, and a professor of Eastern liturgy and sacramental theology, Bux provides both a history of liturgical reform within the Catholic Church and an examination of the purpose and intents of the liturgy. For Bux, the very purpose of liturgy is to point man toward God, and, as such, adoration and sacrifice are at the heart of the liturgy, as awareness of our need for salvation and redemption.

Bux focuses on the work of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who frequently stated that every generation must both celebrate the liturgy, while also undergoing a struggle to interpret it.

While much is often made of the notion of liturgical “reform,” Bux is quick to warn readers that the content of the liturgy does not change — only our uses and interpretations of it. As such, Bux is highly critical of those who condemn the use of the Latin Mass today, as he, along with Pope Benedict, believes that there is much to be gained from the reverence and contemplation of the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass.

Ultimately, the liturgy is a reflection on the mysteries of God, which culminate in God becoming man and taking the form of human flesh and blood through the simple elements of bread and wine. While Bux recognizes how difficult it is to fully understand every aspect of this, he does charge the reader to encounter this mystery with openness and respect for the Divine.

In an age dominated by technology, media and high-paced lifestyles, Bux’s reflections on the liturgy may seem antiquated and misplaced. Readers who would write him off for this will miss his larger point, as the liturgy offers stability in times of constant flux, rest for the weary and, ultimately, the hope of heaven.

While Pope Benedict XVI may not have the  charisma that excites crowds like that of his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, the primacy that he has given to the liturgy will leave an equally important legacy for the Church.

For without a deep understanding of what the liturgy offers in this world, we will be left unprepared for the world to come. Readers interested in taking time to consider the great significance of this Divine mystery will be well served by Benedict XVI’s Reforms.

Christopher White writes from New York.