Vatican Council II – Revisiting its Documents: Sacrosanctum Concilium Part X

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 X: General Principles of Reform …continued

As you’ve probably noticed in the previous sections, the Council Fathers put a visible emphasis on active participation in Liturgy. But that wasn’t because they thought there wasn’t participation before; rather, they wanted to make sure that the ways in which we participate in Liturgy were appropriate to the nature and purpose of the Liturgy.  That’s because, as we’ve seen before, the Liturgy is an expression of our theology and faith in Christ, as well as a means of encountering Him (cf. Parts V, IX). And the rubrics, which guide our actions and participation, are meant to make sure that the theology and faith contained and expressed in the Liturgy is maintained (cf. Part V). Consequently, the Liturgy teaches us about our faith and forms into disciples of Jesus Christ.

My first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Seminary (Edmonton)

My first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Seminary (Edmonton)

For this reason the Council Fathers provided norms of reform based on this educative nature of the Liturgy (nos. 33-36). This was rooted in the old saying, Lex orandi, lex credendi; that is, the law of prayer is the law of belief, or, how we pray shapes what we believe. By being faithful to the Liturgy, as handed down to us from the Church through the ages, we come to know more deeply the faith we received in Baptism, and we’re built-up into better disciples of Christ, in the same way as all who’ve come before us. It’s a part of what it means to be ‘in communion’ with the Catholic Church everywhere, and in every age (cf. Catechism, nos. 74, 1200, 1323, 1336, 1345).

This is because in the “liturgy God speaks to His people, and Christ still proclaims the Gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer” (no. 33). And through these songs and prayers, and especially through Scripture, “the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service [worship] and more abundantly receive His grace” (no. 33).

As such, then, the Liturgy is not to be sloppy or cluttered; “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity” (no. 34), so that “the intimate connection between words and rites may be apparent in the liturgy” (no. 35), especially connections with the Word of God. The rites should also be “within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation” (no. 34). With this in mind, the Council Fathers gave 8 norms (nos. 35-36):

1) More ample use of Scripture; 2) the homily is part of the Liturgy, and should be related to Scripture or the Liturgy; 3) liturgical formation should be provided for the people; 4) Liturgies of the Word by a Deacon should be encouraged when no Priest is available; 5) the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rite; 6) since the vernacular can be useful, “a wider use may be made”; 7-8) the national conferences of Bishops are to make decisions regarding language, and have them approved by the Pope. (To be continued…)

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