The other day at the used book store, an older title by Joseph Ratzinger–not yet Benedict XVI–caught my eye: The Feast of Faith, a collection of reflections on the liturgy. I am primarily interested in political issues, but I like to read anything by Benedict. From experience, I usually expect to encounter in his writings erudition, sobriety, generosity of spirit. I am never disappointed. So even though I am not a student of liturgical matters, I thought it would be worth picking up.
From the moment I started to read it, however, I was given the additional reward of finding the future pope noting an important connection between politics and the liturgy: the quality of our worship, he suggests, contributes a great deal to the quality of our society. Here is the first paragraph of his preface:
Faced with the political and social crises of the present time and the moral challenge they offer to Christians, the problems of liturgy and prayer could easily seem to be of second importance. But the question of the moral standards and spiritual resources that we need if we are to acquit ourselves in this situation cannot be separated from the question of worship. Only if man, every man, stands before the face of God and is answerable to him, can man be secure in his dignity as a human being. Concern for the proper form of worship, therefore, is not peripheral but central to our concern for man himself.
The whole quality of our civilization, he suggests, depends on the quality of our relationship with God. But the mass is, for Catholics, the highest form of worship of God. How we worship God in the mass cannot help but influence how we think about Him, our relationship to Him, and our duties to Him and our fellow creatures. This is something worth reflecting on as we embark on a new liturgical year.