L’Osservatore Romano: Mons. Guido Marini on the position of the Cross for the concistory

In L’Osservatore Romano today we read a description of the recent papal ceremonies for the consistory.  The one explaining them is the Master of Pontifical Ceremonies Mons. Guido Marini.

My translation and emphasis.

Monsignor Guido Marini explains the ceremony
In tradition under the sign of collegiality

A rich rite of symbolic meanings which express a continuity between the past, present and future.  Thus did Msgr. Guido Marini, Master of the Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies illustrate the celebratory dimensions of the ordinary public concistory for the creation of 23 new cardinals, presided over by Benedict XVI on Saturday morning, 234 November, in the Vatican Basilica.

The first liturgical element that made an impact is the position of the Cross at the center of the assembly.

The Crucifix placed at the feet of the Altar of the Confession turned toward the faithful is an expression of the desire that all those present be oriented toward it.  [Il crocifisso posto ai piedi dell’altare della confessione e rivolto verso i fedeli è espressione del desiderio che tutti i presenti siano orientati verso di esso.] It is the sign of continuity between present and past in a liturgical tradition that looks forward. 

Which vestments were used by Benedict XVI?

This continuity between past, present and future is visible also in the vestments.  The cope is of guilded silk with a stolon taken from an older vestment (perhaps the 15th century), with images of the lives of saints, among whom are Peter and Paul; on the other hand the miter belonged to Pius IX.  And the fact that the Pope wore the cope, something that didn’t happen in the last years, underscored that the concistory takes place in a liturgical context.

Especially evocative was the entrance procession, in which the Pope  – in a different way from the last concistories – was accompanied by the new cardinals.

Once the concistory was situated within the celebration of the liturgy of the word.  Thus, the entrance procession with the Pope, preceeded by the cardinals – reaffirms this dimension which is already brought to light by the vestments.

With Benedict XVI there were two assisting deacons, … as was traditional.

There was also the cathedra of Leo XIII which was used on other occasions by the Pope, but not during the liturgical celebrations; it is the first time, therefore, at least in recent times, that it was used as a cathedra by the Roman Pontiff.


Folks, if you haven’t heard them, tune in the PODCAzTs wherein I presented Joseph Ratzinger’s thinking on the position of the altar.  He explains the theology of the Cross for the orientation of the altar and actually suggests precisely what was done with the Cross in this concistory. 

043 07-08-23 Benedict XVI on Mass “toward the Lord” and a prayer by St. Augustine
041 07-08-09 Ratzinger on liturgical silence; silent Eucharist Prayer
038 07-07-25 Ratzinger on “active participation”; The Sabine Farm; Merry del Val’s music
037 07-07-18 The position of the altar and the priest’s “back to the people”

This suggests to me that we should review very closely what His Holiness has written in the past if we want to know what he did in Summorum Pontificum and what he is going to do in the future.  The Pope is being consistent.   He is acting on his long-time convictions.  He has thought through the issues and has sound theological and historical reasons for his decisions.

We should in the near future review what he has written especially about sacred music: I suspect he will be making changes to the Cappella Sistina to match what he did with the Office of Pontifical Ceremonies.  Given what he thinks about the importance of sacred music, a change is a sine qua non in carrying forward his vision, his "Marshall Plan".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Fr. Paul McDonald says:

    Reverend and dear Father Z:

    “…an expression of the desire that all those present are oriented toward it.”
    Perhaps I think too much in French but wouldn’t it be nice to use the subjunctive here.
    …that all those present BE oriented towards it.
    How about a hermeneutic of continuity in grammar?
    Seriously after working in a French milieu for 27 months, I find English’s practical paucity of the subjunctive an impoverishment.

  2. WFW says:

    The crucifix was on the altar in the center facing the pope for the mass today and the pope celebrated in pontificals with two cardinal deacons vested in dalmatics.

  3. GOR says:

    “This suggests to me that we should review very closely what His Holiness has written in the past…”

    I couldn’t agree more, Father. And a good start would be: “The Spirit of the Liturgy”

  4. Celibatarian says:

    It is an exciting time to be becoming a Catholic. Even though the leap is perhaps a bit larger for Evangelicals than Anglicans, I think we are going to see all kinds of Christians with traditional leanings coming home over the next decade because of what this Pope is doing right now.

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