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Renowned as composer, conductor, theorist, author, pedagogue, and organist, Aurelio Porfiri has served the Church on multiple continents at the highest levels. Born and raised in Italy, he currently serves as Director of Choral Activities and Composer in Residence for Santa Rosa de Lima School (Macao, China).
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“The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.”
— Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, noted lawyer from Lisbon and chairman of the Bar Association (1917)

Fr. Enrico Zoffoli and the Passion of the Lord
published 17 July 2014 by Aurelio Porfiri

0319_Pope_Fran-XL F THERE IS ONE THING I have really come to despise, it is this kind of sweet Christianity that is so much in fashion in the last decades. Everything is good, everyone is nice, everything is allowed. This kind of honey atmosphere really makes me sick, because it is really far from true Christianity. As Pope Francis said, the church is more like a field hospital.

Many have criticized him for this, but I find this is a deeply Christian definition that takes into account the sickness of our souls, beyond the suffocating hypocrisy that surrounds us. Indeed the church is there to console those that are fighting in the spiritual fight, “Il combattimento spirituale”, as it says in a famous book by Lorenzo Scupoli (1530-1610).

Our liturgies are now the receptacle of sad shows with uplifting music “for the youths”, as if in life all is joyful and gracious. It is not. I know many people fight to show that scientific Darwinism is a theory. I am not in the position to judge about that. But social Darwinism is a reality, people fighting each other pursuing their own agenda. The church is not different. How many church men, priests and laypeople, are just following their own agenda to be served by the church and not to serve the church? So, this emphasis on the joyful Christianity I think is misleading, to say the least.

IT WILL NOT BE BAD here for me to remember a man that has meant a great deal to me. Father Enrico Zoffoli (1915-1996) was a Passionist, a philosopher and a man sincerely seeking God. I met him when he was already nearing 80 and I became one of his philosophy students. I remember talking with him about all his upcoming books (he wrote many, I think over 70) and for some of them I followed the whole process through his confidences. He was a man sincerely seeking God and defending the church, and for this he made many enemies. My girlfriend of that time and I were very close to him. I remember him on his death bed calling us “his angels”.

He was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas, an elite pontifical institution for philosophers and theologians. And this academy—in commemoration of him—organized a seminar with speakers, among them, Father Raimondo Spiazzi (1918-2002), a famous Dominican preacher, that I also had the pleasure to meet several times. On the occasion of the commemoration I presented one of my oratorios called “Via Crucis”, dedicated to padre Zoffoli using his texts. Padre Zoffoli in his books always emphasizes one point: the Mass is the memory of the Passion of the Lord, his Sacrifice, and so to move the emphasis on the Resurrection is misleading.

In a 1994 book called “Questa e’ la Messa, non altro!” (This is the Mass, not other!), there is this passage:

“This is, in essence, Christian theology of the mystery of the Cross; for whom the glory of the Risen Christ would be an illusion, if was not real and infinitely meritorious the atoning immolation of the Crucified Christ. Catholic worship, does not know neither offer others in the Eucharistic liturgy; and it is for this that, if the Mass would not be the Sacrament of the Sacrifice; the Church – as visible, religious, hierarchical society – would never been in existence” (pg. 18, my translation).

A few lines after saying this he emphasizes again: “Dunque, per Gesu’ – e per noi – la Passione e’ tutto, la Passione decide tutto” (And so, for Jesus – and for us – the Passion is everything, the Passion decides everything). How far is this from many of our forced joyful liturgies?

I have had the fortune of having my books reviewed in national newspapers by well-known journalists. My last book, “Il canto dei secoli” (The song of the centuries) was quoted by Camillo Langone (Il Foglio, November 19, 2013) in his column called “Preghiera” (Prayer). And after appreciating my pointing out this issue of the forced joyful liturgies, he raises this praise to Saint Cecilia: “Saint Cecilia, pray for us little loved, lovers of austere liturgical music, severe, even sad, we that in church are looking for the reasons of pain, because the reasons for pleasure we can find everywhere”. And I cannot say it better than this.

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