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The Spirit of the Liturgy

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  2,164 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Considered by Ratzinger devotees as his greatest work on the Liturgy, this profound and beautifully written treatment of the great prayer of the Church will help readers rediscover the Liturgy in all its hidden spiritual wealth and transcendent grandeur as the very center of our Christian life. In his own foreward to the book, Cardinal Ratzinger compares this work to a ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Ignatius Press (first published October 1st 1998)
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booklady yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image", through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the…moreyes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image", through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.(less)

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Aug 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity, e-books
Meh. This was a free e-book I found on Amazon. Previously I had read his monumental book length meditation on the life of Christ, The Lord. That one kind of goes beyond things Catholic, and works itself deeply, and beautifully, into the gospels. Spirit of the Liturgy, written in 1918, also starts out beautifully, but by chapter 2 it gets a bit creepy with its Christian as Hive member characterization. This book was probably aimed at the clergy. And at the time it was written, the liturgy was in ...more
June 7, 2011 Update: Listened to the first podcast last night. I really like Fr. Riccardo. Thanks again for the recommendation Lynda.

May 31, 2011 Update: A friend just recommended this set of podcasts by Fr. John Riccardo as very helpful in understanding this book. Can't wait 'til I have some time to listen! Thanks Lynda!

I'm not sure if it was good or bad that it took me so long to finish this book. It isn't what I'd call a 'cover-to-cover' read anyway. By that I mean, you don't necessarily
May 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Benedict XVI surely puts the "Lit" back in "Liturgy" with this fascinating and refulgent view of the recently watered down Catholic Mass. With unabashed defenses of incense, gregorian chant and literary scriptural roots, His Holiness expresses a much needed return to the basics of liturgy and provides the Cliff's Notes of how to get the Mass back on track. I for one will regurgitate at the next "Folk Mass" I am obligated to attend.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even though I grew up Catholic, I had no idea how important the Liturgy and Mass was. This book brought my one-dimensional understanding of what we do at Mass into reality. There is much more meaning to the Liturgy, one that connects us with the past, present, and with the future as heaven on Earth.
Father Nick
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Catholics
"The Spirit of the Liturgy" will forever be within arm's reach. This simple statement of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's theology of liturgy opened my eyes to the genius and the beauty of Catholic worship--admittedly a dry subject but one that is increasingly important for Catholics to grow in appreciation of. One might claim that it is precisely the failure to convey the intention and meaning of the Council's revision of the liturgy that has created the confusion and apathy so many Catholics now face ...more
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
As a Protestant, despite some high church leanings, I find plenty to disagree with here. But this book wasn't written for me, and I greatly respect Ratzinger's learned, devout approach to his topic. This is the best overview of Catholic worship I have found.

He named this book intentionally after his hero, Guardini's 1918 book of the same name. It is divided into four parts (The Essence of the Liturgy, Time and Space in the Liturgy, Art and Liturgy, Liturgical Form)

It is very important to note
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Third (maybe fourth) time reading this, but first time reviewing. It's still five stars and always will be. Along with Introduction to Christianity, this is, in my mind, the classic Raztinger/Benedict title. Up front, it really is a Catholic insider baseball book with a tiny secular audience, so may not be everybody's cup of tea - in other words, you may want to move on from this review and book.

That being said (or his dictis since we're in a Catholic realm) it should live on the shelf of all
Barbara Moeller
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Prayers, music, postures, gestures, history, and development of the liturgy. Immensely readable. Best part: "Liturgical dance has no place in Christian worship." I feel so validated.
Scott Kemp
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable book, by one of the greatest, and most unappreciated, humans of the past 150 years.
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The following sections were strong ones in the text: the cosmic and historical dimensions of the liturgy; liturgical art; corporal gestures in the liturgy.

Well written, but can be challenging for those who have not had much experience in academic and theological writings (though this book isn't so much theological as theoretical about liturgy...).
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was awesome even if it was a deep study. I understand so much more
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it
The liturgy is a pretty big deal. This is a nice introduction/meditation on it.
Katie Marquette
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Christians see themselves as people who truly live. They have found their way out of an existence that is more death than life. They have discovered real life."

Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) is a man with immense intellectual gifts. The depth of his theological thinking is truly astounding and this book is a fine example of the breadth of his knowledge. As someone who has recently experienced the very, very beautiful (usually in the form of the Tridentine Mass) and the very,
Duane Prejean
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a fantastic treatise on the Catholic Liturgy by Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict 16).
This book is amazing.
Dagmara R
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely phenomenal work on Liturgical theology. This is a must read for anybody who wants to understand Liturgy in all its hidden spiritual and historical wealth. My experience of the Mass has been changed forever. I would give it 10 starts if I could. Pope Benedict, I love you!
Bojan Tunguz
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Richard Grebenc
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Written by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2000. Wonderful book that really gets to the heart of Catholic liturgy as God-focused not human-focused. Four parts: The Essence of the Liturgy, Time and Space in the Liturgy, Art and Liturgy, and Liturgical Form. The first section is the most esoteric but the last three parts are increasingly more practical. Anyone discouraged by the density of some of the early pages should plow through anyway, picking up nuggets here and there. For regular Mass-goers, the last ...more
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Hands down- a book that every Catholic MUST read. Then Cardinal Ratzinger, now His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, goes through great lengths to explain that the liturgy is connected to time, and yet connected outside of time to the Divine. Through its connection to time, the liturgy is bound by history, yet is organically in development. I went to this book looking some opinions from our current Pope on how to bring liturgical renewal back into the church. He lays out the elements of the liturgy, ...more
Yong Cho
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So far I have learned from Benedict's Biblical interpretation of Scripture in faithfulness to the early Father's, why and how Jesus' life, death and resurrection restores man's relationship with God. Benedict's selection of key scripture verses and its interpretation, gave me a clear picture of the role Jesus played in Salvation History. At first, it was difficult reading. I had to reread the first couple of chapters to get used to the writing style and gain some foundation to build on the next ...more
Apr 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
An informative, though sometimes-too-esoteric, treatment of the source, meaning, and purpose of the liturgy. The pontiff emeritus has a really big brain, and it shows as he moves smoothly from the historical to the mystical to the cultural aspects and influences of the form of worship as exercised in the Roman Catholic Church. He does give some shouts out to the Eastern Orthodox, and even shows his spirit of ecumenism with a Luther dig. If you want to understand why the spoken, performed, worn, ...more
Brett Salkeld
Guardini's expertise ranges beyond theology and liturgy into the realm of psychology and sociology, though it is probably more accurate to simply say he understood the human soul.

This masterpiece does something very difficult and does it well, namely, it articulates what it is that makes good liturgy good. One finds oneself nodding along as Guardini discusses the various aspects of good liturgy and the human tendencies which such liturgy both counters and nurtures. Further, it is difficult not
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So much of this went over my head, I fear... That said, I think I caught onto enough of the fantastic spiritual insights for it to make a difference in the way I experience and participate in the liturgy. My particular favorite sections were on the "cosmic" role of liturgy in history, space, and time; on art and music in relation to liturgy; and his brief overview of the physicality of participation in Mass and what gestures, postures, and even silence means.

I hope to read it again someday with
Kevin de Ataíde
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Card. Ratzinger always makes good sense and presents his thoughts and arguments clearly. You don't have to be a theologian to understand him. Here, he speaks of the spirit of the traditional liturgy, and debates the trends that followed the liturgical renewal after the Second Vatican Council. This is a must read for all Catholics, that they may understand the difference between what the Council intended and what actually happened. There was, in many places, a disastrously large difference in ...more
Thom Willis
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book! Pope Benedict's book on the liturgy is a must-read really for any Catholic, and I would also recommend it to Protestants as well, or even non-Christians who want to understand just exactly what worship is about. It's even more of a must-read for priests and seminarians, who will have to lead the new liturgical movement called for by Ratzinger, and repair the damage done in the post-conciliar fallout.
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tob
There are many things I never considered about Liturgy. The connection to the cosmic beginning and the old testament about a celebration that renews the most beautiful sacrifice made for all. Sadly not all will embrace it, but those of use who appreciate and taste the goodness of Liturgy, we'll have to keep praying for the others.
Sep 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kathy by: Benedicts Book Club
This book was wonderful. I've taken several classes on liturgy and though I had a firm grasp of the mysteries, but there were chapters that really amazed me. The stuff about cosmology and the liturgy is facinating. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about history. This is a wonderful read if you want to learn to love liturgy more.
David Pucik
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Concise introduction to the spiritual meaning of the liturgy, especially as relates to larger philosophical categories like cosmos and history, matter and spirit. Not light reading, but aimed toward the non-liturgist. While His Holiness writes from a Catholic perspective (obviously...), there is much insight to be gained regardless of one's tradition.
As this is the book which inspired Pope Benedict to write The Spirit of the Liturgy, I thought it would be a good idea to read this book along with the Holy Father's book, however that did not happen. Still want to read it ... hopefully some day very soon!
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more I read of Pope Emeritus Benedict Ratzinger the more I love and appreciate him.

I learned so much about the liturgy and I am a Catholic priest! I think the lay faithful would benefit as well. He writes so clearly with great wisdom, insights and understanding. It's helping me to pray the mass with even more reverence and awareness.

I wanted more when it ended!
Jane Francis
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
It took me a long time to get through this one; lots of information to process. Unlike Pope Benedict's other books, which tend to be meditative, this one is very instructional. A good study-book. (For me, a little too heavy, and a bit dry)
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Pope Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI.; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) was the 265th Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the head of the Catholic Church. He was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and ...more
“The glory of God is the living man, but the life of man is the vision of God', says St. Irenaeus, getting to the heart of what happens when man meets God on the mountain in the wilderness. Ultimately, it is the very life of man, man himself as living righteously, that is the true worship of God, but life only becomes real life when it receives its form from looking toward God.” 16 likes
“Whether it is Bach or Mozart that we hear in church, we have a sense in either case of what gloria Dei, the glory of God, means. The mystery of infinite beauty is there and enables us to experience the presence of God more truly and vividly than in many sermons. But there are already signs of danger to come. Subjective experience and passion are still held in check by the order of the musical universe, reflecting as it does the order of the divine creation itself. But there is already the threat of invasion by the virtuoso mentality, the vanity of technique, which is no longer the servant of the whole but wants to push itself to the fore. During the nineteenth century, the century of self-emancipating subjectivity, this led in many places to the obscuring of the sacred by the operatic. The dangers that had forced the Council of Trent to intervene were back again. In similar fashion, Pope Pius X tried to remove the operatic element from the liturgy and declared Gregorian chant and the great polyphony of the age of the Catholic Reformation (of which Palestrina was the outstanding representative) to be the standard for liturgical music. A clear distinction was made between liturgical music and religious music in general, just as visual art in the liturgy has to conform to different standards from those employed in religious art in general. Art in the liturgy has a very specific responsibility, and precisely as such does it serve as a wellspring of culture, which in the final analysis owes its existence to cult.” 8 likes
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