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HALL OF FAMEon 25 April 2005
Cardinal Ratzinger, newly elected as Pope Benedict XVI, is perhaps one of the greatest intellectuals in the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy since the second world war. Examples of his ability in the historical and theological disciplines abound, but perhaps a more practical expression of this intelligence is contained in this book, `The Spirit of the Liturgy'. The subject of this book is the central rite of the church, the Eucharistic feast, and the liturgy - the word `liturgy' actually translates into `work of the people', and this includes clergy and laity alike.
The first section of the book works to connect liturgy in the church with the wider world, and indeed the entire cosmos. Ratzinger draws on ideas East and West, from philosophical traditions in the church as well as the biblical witness (both Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament). He sees Jesus as both a role model as well as the central figure in the Eucharist, drawing on all of these sources to make the point of the way worship is done, and what meaning can be derived from it.
Following this introductory section, Ratzinger continues to look at the practical aspects, everything from the language used and the movements done to the architectural implications and the musical elements. Ratzinger was a leading figure in the Second Vatican Council, but navigates an interesting line between some of the traditional elements and the more recent innovations in liturgical worship. He is suspicious of the idea of changing music in service to being popular forms simply for the sake of relating to the culture, seeing that as somewhat of a sell-out to changing forms; he generally disapproves of rock-concert-type music in the liturgy, for example, because it is less a part of the worship as it is a part of the general culture outside.
There is a metaphor that Ratzinger uses near the beginning of the book about the liturgy being akin to a fresco which has been uncovered from the accumulations over time. While the picture is now more visible and able to be participated in by viewers, it is also now more susceptible to damages and ravages of the elements. Ratzinger emphasises both pieces, ultimately straddling the fence between traditional and modern.
During Vatican II, Ratzinger was considered one of the liberal theologians of the church. Now, he is considered as the newly-elected pope the champion of conservative views. This book gives an insight into the way he thinks, and how we might be in for an interesting time; those who think Ratzinger a knee-jerk conservative might be in for a surprise, as may be those who are hopeful for changes in various areas of his thought.
Regardless, this book demonstrates the quality of mind and clarity of expression Ratzinger has. This is must read for those who want insight into directions of the new pope.
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on 4 July 2005
This short book is a gem. It is a book to be cherished and to be returned to time and time. For many of us Catholics (and I point out here that I am relatively young, merely in my late thirties), there is a real feeling that something has been lost in recent times in the liturgy. The Holy Father, as he is now, gives an insight into precisely what has been lost, that sense of the Mass being an unfathomable mystery which we much approach with a cosmic awe - a witness to the everlasing sacrifice of the Son to the Father (the pictorial representation by Dali comes close to illustrating this). I note here that this mystery is presented very well in the Roman Canon, but seems to be hidden in the other Eucharistic prayers, Eucharistic prayer no. 2 being a prime example of brevity potentially disguising truth. A reader of this book with an open heart cannot but find his/her outlook being transformed by this book. There are some difficult ideas but Benedict's humanity shines through, in particular the heart breaking and loving manner in which he recollects the way his parents used to bless him and his brother and sister, as children. Buy this book and keep it close.
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on 23 February 2005
Ive still not completed the book, but its been amazing from page 1! I bought it to try to get an understanding on what liturgy was all about and why the Catholic church gives it so much importance - a catholic myself and one quite drawn to the High Mass and the liturgy but having never comprehended it, I should say this book has not been dissapointing at all!! Its been great and brings out the beauty, the theology, the biblical understanding and necessity all excellently. Highly recommended!
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Liturgy is the heart and apex of Christian life. And even though it is not true that we take away from it as much as we are willing to give (we always gain more than we could ever hope to give), it behooves us to know and understand deeply and thoughtfully the significance and importance of liturgy's various parts. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now pope Benedict XVI) has set out in this relatively slim volume to examine and meditate on various aspects of the Liturgy, and to defend it from various challenges that have been raised in recent years. Although he clearly comes from Catholic perspective, this book is general enough that can be used and appreciated by all Christians who hold to the importance of Liturgy.

Cardinal Ratzinger uses his entire intellectual prowess in guiding us through various aspects of Liturgy. He is equally at home as a biblical scholar, a theologian, an exegete and a pastor. This combination of talents and worldviews makes him uniquely qualified to take a look at the liturgy that is both deep and wide. Although a teacher and a guardian of faith, his statements are not "dogmatic" in the pejorative sense of the term. Throughout the book one gets the impression that the ideas and the statements promulgated are ultimately propositional in nature, although they come with all the authority that he has. This frees him to make statements about many contemporary topics, such as the use of modern music and dance for which he doesn't seem to have much use. Nonetheless he presents his views in a tone of voice and with an attitude that implies that he would be open for discussion, although it is not very likely that he would be much swayed from his positions.

All of Pope Benedict's writings have an imprint of a careful and systematic thinker, who has a lot to offer to the modern world. This book is a further testament to this, and a wonderful and worthwhile read for anyone interested in deeper exploration of our Christian heritage.
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on 30 October 2005
In this book the Holy Father clearly demonstrates his grasp of all liturgical matters. He shows that, contrary to the portrait his detractors paint of him, he recognises the good things that come from reform as well as loving the tradition of Holy Mother Church.
Although scholarly the book is pretty much accessible to anyone. The first chapter is the most metaphysical and it gets easier after that. Essential reading is the chapter on the orientaion of the altar. The Holy Father gives insightful and well reasoned arguements for priest and people praying in the same direction (not, as the modernists have it, the priest with his back to the people).
Overall, a wonderful little book.
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on 30 November 2012
If you are interested to know about the Mass, then read this book. I found this book to be very fascinating. It has taught me so much about the Liturgy. It has made Sacrosanctum Concilium more understandable. The Pope explained so many things about the practice of our faith, as in going to Mass. I think this is a book which Catholics should read during the Year of Faith and beyond. Now I know the prime purpose of me going to Mass is to worship God. I also face east when I pray too. The book is so beautiful. Buy yourself this book for Christmas.
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on 27 March 2013
These are excellent reflections concerning the pinnacle of our existence, when we are blessed to receive the most Sacred Body and Blood of our Redeemer.
It is a chance to open our eyes, that they really see; and our ears and heart, that we really listen, and are transformed.
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on 16 October 2013
Pope Benedict as always delivers an amazing insight and depth into the Liturgy, bringing Catholics and other Christians into a deeper understanding of the Liturgy. An eloquently and absolutely superb work of genius.
Viva Benedicto !!!
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on 9 May 2014
Very nice publication looking at the issue of the liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, in the eyes of Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope). Thoroughly recommend. Written nicely, clearly and is good to read.
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on 4 March 2014
Lucidly written, clear in his arguments. This is without a doubt one of Ratzinger's greatest works. A high minded and cutting rebuke to liturgical liberals who would seek to un-Catholicise the Mass.
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