Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)


Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s works being published in 16 volumes   


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s works being published in 16 Volumes – Started in October, 2008 – Holy Father, Pope Benedict’s Preface to Vol. I on Liturgy, which speaks on Liturgy in general and celebrating Eucharist facing the people, is given below:


The Second Vatican Council began its works with the discussion of the draft on the sacred liturgy, that later on was solemnly voted on 4th December of 1963, as the first fruit of the great assembly (sitting) of the Church with the rank of a constitution.  That the theme of liturgy happening to be at the initial works of the Council and that the constitution on the liturgy becoming its first result, was at first considered a mere coincidence.  With a decision shared by all with joy, Pope John had summoned the assembly of bishops, to confirm the presence of the Christianity in an epoch of radical changes, but without proposing a definite program.  The preparatory commission had put together an ample series of projects.  But was lacking a clear direction so as to pave the way amidst an abundance of proposals.  Among all the projects the text on the sacred liturgy seemed the least controversial.  Thus, it appeared right away apt: as it were, a kind of exercise (drill) with which the (Council) Fathers could learn the methods of the Council functioning.


What at first appeared to be a mere chance, when explored in relation to the hierarchy of themes and duties of the Church, was found to be most appropriate even intrinsically. Beginning with the theme the “liturgy”, one highlights unequivocally the primacy of God, the priority of the theme of “God”.  God first of all, thus says the beginning of the constitution on the liturgy.  Unless we fix our eyes on God, every thing else loses its orientation. The words of the Benedictine rule “Ergo nihil Operi Dei Praeponatur” (43, 3: “Therefore, let nothing be preferred to the Work of God”) are valid in special way for the Monasticism, but as the order of priorities, have value also for the life of the Church and for each one in his respective manner.  Perhaps, it is useful here to remember that in the term “orthodoxy” the second half of the word, “doxa” does not mean “opinion”, but “splendour”, “glorification”: it does not deal with a correct “opinion” on god, but of a right way to glorify him, to give him an answer.  For this is the fundamental question of a man who starts to understand himself in the right way: how should I meet God ?  Thus, the understanding of the right way of the adoration – of the orthodoxy – is what above all bestowed upon us by faith.  When I decided, after some hesitation, to accept the project of an edition of all of my works, it had been very clear to me that the order of the priorities of the Council should be applied, and, therefore, the first volume to come out must be that with my writings on the liturgy.


The liturgy of the Church has been for me, since my infancy, the central activity of my life, and then at the theological school with the teachers as Schmaus, Sohngen, Pascher and Guardini, also became the center of my theological study.


As specialized subject I had chosen the fundamental theology, because first of all I wanted to go deep into the question: why do we believe ?  But in this question it was included from the very beginning the other (question) on the right response to be given to God, and, therefore, also the question on the divine service.  It is really from here that my works on the liturgy be understood.  I was not interested in the specific problems of the liturgical science, but always on the anchorage of liturgy in the fundamental act of our faith, and, therefore, its place in our whole human existence.


This volume now gathers all my works of small and medium dimension with which during the years, in different occasions and diverse perspectives, I took position on liturgical matters.  After all the contributions were born in this way, I was urged to present a whole-vision, that appeared in the Jubilee year 2000 under the title “The Spirit of the Liturgy – An introduction” and that constitutes the central text of this book.  Unfortunately, all the reviews flung on a single chapter: “The altar and the orientation of the prayer in the liturgy”.  The readers of the reviews had to deduce that the whole work was about the orientation of the celebration.  The content of the book was thus reduced to the desire of reintroducing the celebration of the mass “with the back to the people”.  On account of this misrepresentation I thought for a moment to suppress this chapter (of just nine pages out of two hundred) so as to bring back the discussion on the true matter that interested me and continue to interest me in the book.  This would have been much more easily possible for the fact that in the meantime two excellent works have appeared in which the matter of the orientation of the prayer in the Church of the first millennium has been clarified in persuasive way.  I, first of all, think about the important short book of Uwe Michael Lang, “Turning towards the Lord.  The orientation in the liturgical prayer”, and in a very particular way the big contribution of Stefan Heid, “Atteggiamento ed orientamento della preghiera nella prima epoca cristiana  (“Attitude and orientatation of the prayer in the first Christian epoch”) (in the Rivista d’Archeologia Cristiana” 72, 2006), in which sources and bibliography on the matter broadly result illustrated and adjourned.


The result is very clear: the idea that priest and people should reciprocally look each other in the prayer was born only in the modern Christianity and it is completely extraneous in the ancient.  Priest and people do not pray towards each other, but towards the unique Lord.  Therefore, in prayer they look in the same direction: or towards East as cosmic symbol for the Lord that comes, or, where this was not possible, towards an image of Christ in the apse, toward a cross, or simply toward the heaven, as the Lord did in the priestly prayer in the eve before his Passion (Jn 17, 1).  Meanwhile, the way is fortunately being paved, to my proposal at the end of the chapter on the matter in my work: don’t proceed to new transformations, but simply set the cross at the center of the altar, toward which priest and faithful can look together at, thus permitting to guide towards the Lord, that we all pray together.


But with this perhaps I have said again too much on this point, that represents only a detail of my book, which I could even leave away.  The fundamental intention of the work was to set liturgy beyond the narrow matters around this or that form, in its important relationship that I  have tried to describe in three spheres that are present in all single themes.  There is, first of all, the intimate relationship between Old and New Testament: without the relationship with the Old Testament inheritance, the Christian liturgy is absolutely incomprehensible.  The second sphere is the relationship with the religions of the world.  And there is finally the third sphere: the cosmic character of the liturgy, that represents something more than a simple reunion of a circle more or less big of human beings; the liturgy is celebrated inside the ampleness of the cosmos, it embraces creation and history at the same time.  This is what is intended in the orientation f the prayer: that the Savior that we pray to is also the Creator, and so in the liturgy, the love remains also always for the creation and our responsibility towards it.  I would be pleased if this new edition of my liturgical writings could contribute to illustrate the great perspectives on our liturgy and to reread in their correct place some narrow controversies on external forms.