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…)