Cardinal Ranjith on the Error of Archeologism


With Sacra Liturgia USA only a few months away, I would like to use the next few posts to look back at one of the best talks given at the first Sacra Liturgia international conference held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome in 2013.  

The Sacred Liturgy, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church” was presented by His Emminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka and the former Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship during the papacy of Benedict XVI.  The complete text, along with the remaining talks from that first Sacra Liturgia, are available from Ignatius Press in a single volume edited by Dom Alcuin Reid.  From Cardinal Ranjith’s talk:

Erroneous Ideas

“Another aspect of the process of ushering in a truly profound renewal of the Church, given the decisive role that worship plays in its life and mission is the need to purify the liturgy of some of the erroneous ideas that have entered its portals in and through the euphoria of reform ushered in…after the Council.”


“First among these is a kind of false archeologism which echoed the slogan: “let us go back to the liturgy of the early Church.”  In this was an implicit assumption that only what happened in liturgy in the first millennium of the Church was valid.  This was supposed to be part of the process of aggiornamento

Mediator Dei indicates that this view is in error when it states: “The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration.  But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity” (n. 61).  Moreover, since information on the liturgical practice of the early centuries is not so clearly attested to in the written sources available to us from that era, the danger of a simplistic arbitrariness in defining these practices is greater and runs the risk of being pure conjecture.  Also, it is not respectful of the natural process of growth of the traditions of the Church over the subsequent centuries.  Neither is it consonant with the belief in the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church down the centuries…” 

Reid, ed., Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), 2014.

Posted on March 22, 2015, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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