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

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 XXIV: Chapter V: The Liturgical Year, continued

As discussed in previous segments, the entire Liturgical Year hinges on the Paschal Mystery, annually at Easter and weekly on Sunday; our whole faith-life revolves around the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. The Council Fathers sought to help us rediscover the importance, beauty and spiritual wealth of the Liturgical Year.

As we saw, they restated our obligation to attend Sunday Mass (no. 106) and directed our hearts and minds towards the feasts of the Lord (no. 108). But the they also wanted us rediscover the true meaning of the sacred Seasons, especially Lent:

…by recalling or preparing for Baptism and by penance, [Lent] disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the Word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the Paschal Mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the Liturgy and by liturgical catechesis. Hence: a) More use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy. Some of them which were part of an earlier tradition are to be restored…

  1. b) The same may be said of the penitential elements. But catechesis, as well as pointing out the social consequences of sin, must impress on the minds of the faithful the distinctive character of penance as detestation of sin because it is an offence against God. The role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the need to pray for sinners should be emphasized.

During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social… Nevertheless, let the [solemn] Paschal Fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind (nos. 109-110, emphasis added).

But in all of this we must always remember that penance is not about suffering. Penance is about sacrificial love: it’s about letting go of something good for the sake of something better, out of love for Someone greater. Love is to be the motivation for penance; in this way it helps us to grow in charity and in the detestation of sin (no. 109). It also helps us to refocus our hearts and minds on Jesus and the importance He is to have in our lives, and to redirect our efforts toward our salvation.

[Jesus’] divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, … so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world …[and] become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:3-7, 10).

This concludes Chapter V, The Liturgical Year. (To be continued…)

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