Monthly Archives: December 2013

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

A multi-part series honouring the Vatican Council II by reviewing its documents.  We continue with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Part XII: General Principles of Reform …continued

A Diocese is the faithful gathered in a particular geographical territory around their Bishop. This union of faith and worship is made most visible in the celebration of Eucharist with the Bishop. But since the Bishop can’t be everywhere in his Diocese, parishes exist to regroup the faithful in a particular area. Nonetheless, the parish’s liturgical life must express and foster this communion with the local Bishop.

For this reason, the Council Fathers expressed the need for the proper education of the faithful in the Liturgy (nos. 14, 19 and 35.3). This is to help them to better participate in the Liturgy, to better appropriate for themselves the prayer of the Church, and to allow the Liturgy to be the foundation of their daily lives (Liturgy isn’t something we do, it’s something we live). This formation of the faithful — which always refers to both clergy and laity — is what the Council calls the Pastoral-Liturgical Action, because it’s about forming the Baptised in the faith and in the worship of God.

To help with this formation, the Council promoted the establishment of ‘liturgical commissions’ on the national and diocesan levels (nos. 44-46) “to regulate pastoral-liturgical action throughout the territory, and to promote studies and necessary experiments whenever there is question of adaptations to be proposed to the Apostolic See” (no. 44). In Canada, the national commission is called the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and the Sacraments. In the Archdiocese of Edmonton, the local commission is called the Office of Divine Worship.

These commissions are to: promote the Liturgy; provide and promote liturgical formation; provide approved ritual and liturgical books; ensure proper adherence to liturgical laws; assist Bishops in their duty to oversee the liturgical life of the Diocese; promote sacred art and music; provide resources for liturgical music; and, when necessary, study and experiment when questions of adaptation are to be proposed to the Apostolic See (nos. 44-46).

This zeal and concern for the promotion and proper execution of Liturgy got special attention from the Council Fathers because of the important place (and consequence) Liturgy has in the life of the Church, and the importance it needs to have in the life of each of her members. As the Council Fathers wrote in the first line: they wanted to “impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful,” a life which, rooted in the Eucharist, flows from the Liturgy and leads us back to it (no. 1). For in the Liturgy we encounter God in a particularly intimate way, and the deeper we get into the Mass, the more we become members of the Body of Christ and the more His Kingdom grows within us. And as we’re beginning to see, this deeper relationship with Christ, this more profound and active Christian life, this is the ultimate goal of the whole Council.

This concludes the first chapter, General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy. (To be continued…)

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

Forgive me for not posting this segment last week; I was on vacation before Advent and I forgot…  As it would have it, however, as I post this part today, it’s precisely the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium as the first document of the Vatican Council II.  The goal of my series has been to celebrate this document and to renew our knowledge and understanding of its teachings.  What a great moment in the life of the Church; may we now work tirelessly to make present what it hands down to us!vatican-council-ii

A multi-part series honouring the Vatican Council II by reviewing its documents.  We continue with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Part XI: General Principles of Reform …continued

In the final sections on the Principles of Reform, the Council Fathers discuss enculturation, Liturgy in the life of the Diocese and the parish, and the promotion of Liturgy.

Recognising that the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel and to worship God has taken different forms according to different times and cultures, the Council Fathers wanted to make room for suitable and reasonable cultural adaptations to the Liturgy: “Provisions shall also be made […] for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved” (no. 38). Examples what the Council Fathers foresaw as legitimate adaptations for culture were music, liturgical language, sacred arts, sacramentals, processions, and how the Sacraments were to be administered (no. 39).

But of course, any adaptation must “harmonize with [the] true and authentic spirit” of the Liturgy (no. 37), must be planned by the national conference of Bishops, and be approved by the Holy See (no. 40). This was to ensure that the Liturgy might keep its own proper character and the universal unity that it expresses and demonstrates.

Following with this, the Constitution then speaks about how the local Bishop is the centre and guarantor of this unity within the Church: “the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists” in the people gathered around their Bishop, “surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers”, for the celebration of the Eucharist (no. 41). The Diocese is what we call the ‘local Church’; a group of the faithful in a particular geographical territory gathered around the Bishop, who is their High Priest, the successor of the Apostles who continues the teachings of Christ for us today.

“But because it is impossible for the Bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he cannot do other than establish lesser groupings of the faithful [parishes…], set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the Bishop… [I]n some manner [these parishes] represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world” (no. 42).

And since the Church is made visible through the gathering of the faithful around their Bishop, “the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the Bishop must be fostered theoretically and practically among the faithful and clergy; efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass” (no. 42). A parish never functions in isolation, but is, in a sense, the very presence of the Bishop, of the Church — indeed of Christ! — in the neighbourhood in which it gathers. That’s why the parish isn’t the building, but the people themselves, and the communion they hold with their Bishop and, through him, with the whole Church. For this reason, we’re to be united to our local Bishop not merely in name, but in faith, in charity and in Liturgy. For he is truly the presence of Christ the Good Shepherd in our midst. (To be continued…)

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