This is 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 XXII: Chapter V: The Liturgical Year, continued
As discussed in last week’s segment, the entire Liturgical Year hinges around the solemn celebrations of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus: the Paschal Mystery, or the Easter mysteries. This enables us, each year, to rediscover and relive the whole of the life of Christ, by which we sanctify time, as it were, dedicating each year and season to Jesus our Lord (think here A.D.: Anno Domini, Latin for Year of the Lord). Consequently, it’s not by accident that we begin each Liturgical Year by preparing for the Nativity of Christ and finish it by anticipating His return in glory with a feast in honour of His Kingship, the Solemnity of the Christ the King of the Universe, on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time (usually at the end of November).
Additionally, “[i]n celebrating this annual cycle of Christ’s mysteries, holy Church honours with especial love the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son” (no. 103) as well as the Martyrs and canonised Saints, who, “[r]aised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God, and already in possession of eternal salvation, … sing God’s perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us” (no. 104). In doing so, the Church proposes these men and women to us as models of faith and examples of God’s grace and mercy. And they give us the hope that if we, too, open our hearts to God’s grace and mercy, allowing the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and lives can become like them.
“Finally, in the various seasons of the year and according to her traditional discipline, the Church completes the formation of the faithful by means of pious practices for soul and body, by instruction, prayer, and works of penance and of mercy” (no. 105). Thus the Liturgical Seasons aren’t just ceremonial, they’re also catechetical: by living out the Liturgical Year through the various practices and celebrations it contains, we learn about Jesus Christ, about faith in Him, about what it means to be His disciple, and we grow in our understanding of this mystery; in fact, if we do it well, we’re drawn deeper into this mystery to share more perfectly in the life of Christ, the life to which we are called!
It’s for these reasons that the Church makes attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation a moral obligation (no. 106, can. 1246-47): except for illness or another ‘grave reason’ (speak to a Priest about what this means), it’s a grave sin to miss Mass on a Sunday, one that requires sacramental Confession before receiving Holy Communion again. For these same reasons we should also “abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body” (can. 1247).
The Church wants us to share in the life of Christ! She wants us to be nourished by His Word and Eucharist, because she knows how much we need God’s life-giving grace in order to survive in a world full of distractions, anxiety, temptation and suffering. May we always make Mass the priority of every Sunday, indeed of the entire week! (To be continued…)