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Are You Fully Conscious?

13 Nov

During the “Year of Faith,” Pope Benedict has asked us to take a fresh look at the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which he and Bl. John Paul II have called a “sure compass” for the Church at this crucial moment in human history. Therefore, over the next several weeks, we will post reflections on key teachings from the 16 documents of Vatican II, and will also provide references and resources for further study.

We will first turn to Sacrosanctum Concilium, also known as the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. It was the first document promulgated by the Council, and it is one of the four “constitutions.” The constitutions are considered Vatican II’s most significant documents. And of course, given the dramatic liturgical changes that came from the Council, it is important to understand the mind of the Church as reflected in this pivotal document.

Today I want to focus on paragraph 14 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which provides, in part:

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

“In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else . . .”

The Council clearly teaches that all men and women are called to a “fully conscious and active participation” at Mass. As one of the aims of the Council was to reinvigorate the faith of the people, the Church desired to make the sacred liturgy more accessible, but without sacrificing substance or the overarching sense of reverence we must have in the face of this sacred mystery. Fifty years later, we still recognize the need for a “new evangelization,” a “new springtime.” Therefore, fostering greater participation at Mass–what Vatican II called the “source and summit of the Christian life”–continues to be a significant objective for the Church (see Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 9).

But this needs to be understood properly. Continue reading