Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to play an extraordinarily

constructive role in continuing the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II







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3 jan 2013

Review of Francis Cdl. Arinze Celebrating the Holy Eucharist (Ignatius, 2006) 126 pp.

Edward Peters, Review of

F. Arinze, Celebrating the Holy Eucharist (2006), in Antiphon 10 (2006) 212-213.



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Miranda's info on

Francis Cdl. Arizne

Nigerian-born and raised, convert from Ibo at the age of 9, and since 2002 prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Francis Cardinal Arinze has written a very accessible overview of modern liturgy. Exploring the source and summit of the Christian life from several angles, the cardinal’s latest book serves equally well as a basic introduction to or thoughtful review of the magnificent constellation of topics circling the Eucharist.


Cardinal Arinze professes no startlingly new insights on the liturgy (I recall no citations to scholarly works or secondary sources) and he harbors no reactionary sentiments. Instead, he writes and thinks with the Church in presenting the centrality of the liturgy for Christian life, and in turn the centrality of the Eucharist for the liturgy. With accuracy and simplicity, for example, he explains the need for and the contributions of the Liturgical Renewal Movement of the early 20th century, how the Council exercised it charism of discernment over that movement of the Holy Spirit, and the degree to which that movement and its conciliar fruits have been marshaled, or betrayed, by post-conciliar events.


Cardinal Arinze, at one time the youngest bishop in the world and now among the last conciliar participants still exercising a significant administrative office in the Church, has an almost unparalleled vantage point from which to assess the post-conciliar liturgical experience. Happily, his writing on the liturgy is marked not only by firm faith, but by a refreshing freedom from the penchant of some other highly-placed dicastery officials to nuance practically to nothing every theological utterance lest some group somewhere feel slighted by one’s simply pointing out the obvious.


A particular strength of the cardinal’s book is the ease with which he incorporates quotations from or close paraphrases of Sacrosanctam Conciliam, the Roman Missal, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a variety of dicasterial statements on liturgy, the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, and even the Code of Canon Law. With disarming directness, students will find themselves alerted to (or reminded of, as the case may be) the major liturgical books, those dicasterial statements which are most important to understand, and the conciliar or papal documents that should most inform one’s thinking. At no point, though, does any of this come across as resort to proof-texts, but rather, as a holy prelate’s utilization of the living resources with which every liturgist can and should be familiar. Indeed, his “seamless garment” discussion style has contributed to my sense of a man writing from within the Church’s liturgical tradition, and not as one simply commenting on it.


If pressed to find any weakness in the work, I suppose one could wish that the connection between the other sacraments and the Eucharist had been made in more detail (because reliable post-conciliar resources in that area are so few), and that the link between the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist had received more than a passing mention. Beyond that, there is only my nagging concern that many recent ecclesiastical statements about “inculturation” of liturgy seem to take a naively optimistic view about the feasibility of such a process. Too little recognition is given, I think, to the need for a frank admission that some cultures might, in the end, simply have nothing to offer authentic Christian liturgy.  But I tread lightly here: Cardinal Arinze is not only more balanced on this point than are many others, but ,who am I to advise a prelate who, some forty years ago, wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of London on “Igbo sacrifice as an introduction to the catechesis of Holy Mass”.