A multi-part series honouring the Vatican Council II by reviewing its documents. We continue with a review of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
Part VIII: General Principles of Reform …continued
The Liturgy is really gift of faith received by the Church from her Lord, and faithfully transmitted through the ages from one generation to another. In itself, the Liturgy is the “celebration of the mystery of the Lord, of His death and resurrection for our redemption” (Msgr. Marini, 2011). This is why no one, not even the Pope, may randomly change the Liturgy. It must always remain faithful to the Lord’s gift and will, as St. Paul’s wrote: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you… (1 Cor 11:23 and following).
This is also why, as we saw in the last segment, the Liturgy is composed of both divine and human elements. Because in itself, in its very nature, the Liturgy reflects the Incarnation; it embodies within it the very mystery of God becoming man and that of man becoming God (the divinization of man): the sanctifying effect of grace that transforms us into the image and likeness of Christ. (The early Church Fathers have a lot to say on this matter.)
As such then, any ‘change’ or ‘development’ can only be made (by the Pope) in continuity with this Tradition and teaching given to the Church by Christ, because the Liturgy has an impact on the holiness of God’s People. With this in mind, the Council Fathers decreed that before anything be changed, “careful investigation — theological, historical, and pastoral — should always be made”, and that no innovations are made unless absolutely needed for the good of the Church (no. 23).
The Constitution also highlights the importance of Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy: “it is from it that lessons are read and explained…, and psalms sung[; …] that the prayers, collects, and hymns draw their inspiration and their force, and that actions and signs derive their meaning” (no. 24). In other words, Scripture is the root of everything we say, hear and do in the Liturgy. That’s because Scripture is both the Word of God and the written Tradition of the Church (cf. Catechism, nos. 80-83). As such, then, it’s at the heart of our faith in God and of our worship of Him.
The Council Fathers, therefore, called for a greater selection of Scripture in the Liturgy so as to promote a deep love and respect for Scripture (cf. nos. 51, 24), and to encourage people to regularly read and meditate on Scripture as an important part of their personal prayer (cf. Catechism, nos. 131-133). This is to help us grow in our knowledge of Christ and of salvation history, as well as to prepare us for a deeper and more active participation in the Liturgy. (To be continued…)