Liturgy Matters, Vatican II

15 Nov

Earlier this week, we began a series on the 16 documents of Vatican II with a reflection on the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), the first document promulgated by the Council. We focused on the document’s emphasis on the “fully conscious and active participation” of all the faithful in the sacred liturgy, and how this objective helped to guide subsequent liturgical reforms.

Given the significance of the widespread liturgical reforms following Vatican II, I thought that before we move on to the next conciliar document I would offer this “top ten list” of other teachings found in Sacrosanctum Concilium that I have found to be particularly interesting, important, or misunderstood. I have chosen to let the quotes speak for themselves rather than “spin” them through the use of commentary (aside from the captions!).

(1) Source and Summit (no. 10)

“[T]he liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”

(2) Continuity and Change (no. 21)

“In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.”

(3) Don’t Mess with Our Mass (no. 22, sec. 3)

“[N]o other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

(4) Catholics Are “Bible Christians” (no. 35, sec. 1; see also no. 51)

“In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from Holy Scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.”

(5) Latin or English? (no. 36; see also no. 54)

“[T]he use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants . . .”

(6) Where the Bishop Is, There Is the Church! (no. 41)

“The bishop is to be considered as the high priest of his flock, from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and dependent. Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of all God’s holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers.”

(7)  Parts of the Mass (and check out the second sentence) (no. 56)

“The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation.”

(8) The Return of RCIA (no. 64)

“The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. By this means, the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time.”

(9) The Liturgy of the Hours Is for Everyone (no. 100)

“Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers [commonly known today as ‘Evening Prayer’], are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.”

(10) Not Everyone Got This Memo (no. 116; same goes for pipe organ in no. 120)

“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

Now, Sacrosanctum Concilium had many other significant teachings, from general liturgical principles to specific statements about particular liturgical/sacramental celebrations. Are there any other quotes that you readers would include in your own “top ten”?

2 Responses to “Liturgy Matters, Vatican II”

  1. rwarnell November 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    (9) The Liturgy of the Hours Is for Everyone (no. 100)

    This is such a neglected area in our modern world. I would highly encourage parishes to seriously consider Sunday evening vespers. They are a fitting end to the Sabbath, and a chance to step out of the “spin cycle”.

    For anyone wishing to experience this beautiful liturgical tradition, St. Benedict’s Abbey Church in Atchison, Kansas has Vespers at 5:05 pm Sundays. Grace and Holy Trinity (Episcopal) Cathedral in Kansas City, Missouri has Choral Evensong (a combination of Vespers and Compline) the second Sunday of each month at 5:00 pm.

  2. adDeum November 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    It is also interesting to read this document and see what is NOT actually in it. For example, there is no mention whatsoever in Sacrosanctum Concilium of the new practice of Mass facing the people. Pope Benedict himself has, in the last few years, offered Mass not facing the people, but rather what we may call ad orientem, or toward the East.

    It is important to note that that is not turning his back to the people, or facing the wall, crucifix, or tabernacle. From the earliest centuries, Christian prayer has been offered facing east, the direction of the rising sun, which is a reminder of the Resurrection of Christ and our hopeful waiting for His Second Coming. Accordingly, churches were generally oriented so that the altar and the people both faced east. This is appropriate as the Mass includes prayers directed to God the Father, through Jesus Christ the one Mediator between God and Man and in the Holy Spirit; it also celebrates and makes present the Sacrifice through which Christ, in Himself, has offered the world to the Father, and in which we participate. Retaining this position clearly shows that the Mass directs us from ourselves, gathered in the body of the church, through the mediation of Christ, in whose stead we have the ordained ministry of the priesthood to continue His work of salvation and sanctification, toward God and eternity.

    This is the fundamental purpose of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist – through signs and symbols and human participation, lead us beyond what can be felt or understood to the eternal, that which cannot be captured in any words, no matter how noble, or beautiful, or meaningful: to the very mystery of God Himself and our life in Him.

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