The liturgy shows God’s glory – An interview with Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, part 3

In the 3rd part of his exclusive interview with journalist Peter Jennings for CTS, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB tells us little things matter, but warns against the Liturgy becoming a precise theatre.

Peter Jennings: I was impressed by your quotations from the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, especially his words: “The beauty of the Liturgy is a sublime expression of God’s glory”. How do you interpret these particular words of the Holy Father?

Abbot Cuthbert Johnson: The Liturgy, no matter where or in what rite it is celebrated is intrinsically beautiful, and this is the true meaning of Father Faber’s words that the Mass is: “The most beautiful thing this side of heaven”. The Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite, the various Eastern Rites and now the rite of our own newly established Ordinariate are all a beautiful thing and a sublime expression of God’s glory.

Whether celebrated in a magnificent cathedral or in a humble mission station devoid of decoration, whether in Latin or any other liturgical language this always is and always will be “the Mass of the ages”.

Peter Jennings: Many of the suggestions in your new CTS booklet strike me as being very practical and down to earth. Yet you insist on the need for a theological underpinning. Please elaborate on this?

Abbot Cuthbert Johnson: Perhaps you have in mind the remark that standards in church should be no less than that required in secular society, especially as regards behaviour, body language and dress code.

Well, we have to begin somewhere and small practical details can contribute to the work of enhancing the beauty and dignity of the Liturgy. Moments of silence before the celebration help to create the right atmosphere in which we can enter into the presence of God singing for joy. Let everything be in its right place and everyone know when and how to perform his or her particular function. There should be nothing artificial or affected, nothing that appears military in its style and precision.

Quite simply the putting into practice the of art of celebration is taking care to do what is right and contributes to the building up of the body of Christ. Even in moving about and in gestures we could learn something from the discipline of stage directions yet without becoming theatrical.

In the last part of the interview which we will publish tomorrow, Abbot Cuthbert will talk about working with the CTS.

Participating in the Mass is available from the CTS website priced £2.50

Of related interest:

D745 Simple Guide to the Mass – Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, a Consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, provides a simple and concise guide to the new translation of the Mass introduced by the Church on Sunday, 4 September 2011. Pope Benedict XVI has expressed the wish that the introduction of the new translation will mark the beginning of: “A renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world”.
Participating in the Mass –Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, in this companion to his widely acclaimed CTS booklet Understanding the Roman Missal, provides an informative, step-by-step guide to the celebration of the Mass, to enable the Liturgy to be celebrated with reverence.
Understanding the Roman Missal – the New Translation –A presentation and explanation of the new translation, accompanied by liturgical and spiritual reflections. This presentation and explanation of the new translation is accompanied by a series of liturgical and spiritual reflections.

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