Tag Archives: Liturgical Movement

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

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 IX: General Principles of Reform …continued

So far the Council Fathers have taught that Liturgy is an expression of our theology and of our faith in Christ, as well as a means of encountering Him today. That’s why it’s important for us to participate fully — body and soul — in the Liturgy, especially the Mass, where we are nourished by the Word and the Eucharist to become evermore the Body of Christ, the Church.

It’s for this very reason that “Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the whole Church” (no. 26). No one can ever be refused attendance to any liturgical celebration (obviously except for cases of disturbance, safety, or sacrilege). That’s because Liturgy concerns “the whole Body of the Church” (no. 26): “the holy people united and arranged under their bishops” make visible the unity of the Church and, through Liturgy, build it up (no. 26).

That’s not to say that there is no room for ‘individuals’ in the Liturgy: we don’t participate as a mob. Rather, each one of us participates “in different ways, depending on [our holy] orders, [our] role in liturgical services, and [our] actual participation in them” (no. 26). And we are to “carry out all and only those parts which pertain to [our] office” (no. 27), “with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by [our office] and rightly expected of [us] by God’s people” (no. 28); this is an essential factor of active participation. But no special distinction is to be made as regards private persons other than what liturgical law states regarding Holy Orders, liturgical function, or civic honours; no one is to have, or be perceived as having, privilege in Liturgy (no. 32).

However, to properly carry out our offices and participate actively in the Liturgy, we must “be deeply imbued with the spirit of the Liturgy” (no. 29). We need to know more than just the external ‘rules’ of Liturgy; we need to understand the meaning, the theology, the symbolism, and the intentions behind these rules and the various actions and gestures we carry out. If we don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing, then we’re not participating actively, not engaging in the prayer and worship that is Liturgy.

With this in mind, the Constitution lists a few ‘tools’ to help build active participation: “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, hymns, as well as by actions, gesture and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time a reverent silence should be observed” (no. 30).

Active participation is more than just being present in body and physically doing: we must also be present in mind and spirit, aware of what we’re saying and doing so as to do it with awareness and intentionality. (To be continued…)

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

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 VIII: General Principles of Reform …continued

The Liturgy is really gift of faith received by the Church from her Lord, and faithfully transmitted through the ages from one generation to another. In itself, the Liturgy is the “celebration of the mystery of the Lord, of His death and resurrection for our redemption” (Msgr. Marini, 2011). This is why no one, not even the Pope, may randomly change the Liturgy. It must always remain faithful to the Lord’s gift and will, as St. Paul’s wrote: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you… (1 Cor 11:23 and following).

This is also why, as we saw in the last segment, the Liturgy is composed of both divine and human elements. Because in itself, in its very nature, the Liturgy reflects the Incarnation; it embodies within it the very mystery of God becoming man and that of man becoming God (the divinization of man): the sanctifying effect of grace that transforms us into the image and likeness of Christ. (The early Church Fathers have a lot to say on this matter.)

As such then, any ‘change’ or ‘development’ can only be made (by the Pope) in continuity with this Tradition and teaching given to the Church by Christ, because the Liturgy has an impact on the holiness of God’s People. With this in mind, the Council Fathers decreed that before anything be changed, “careful investigation — theological, historical, and pastoral — should always be made”, and that no innovations are made unless absolutely needed for the good of the Church (no. 23).

The Constitution also highlights the importance of Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy: “it is from it that lessons are read and explained…, and psalms sung[; …] that the prayers, collects, and hymns draw their inspiration and their force, and that actions and signs derive their meaning” (no. 24). In other words, Scripture is the root of everything we say, hear and do in the Liturgy. That’s because Scripture is both the Word of God and the written Tradition of the Church (cf. Catechism, nos. 80-83). As such, then, it’s at the heart of our faith in God and of our worship of Him.

The Council Fathers, therefore, called for a greater selection of Scripture in the Liturgy so as to promote a deep love and respect for Scripture (cf. nos. 51, 24), and to encourage people to regularly read and meditate on Scripture as an important part of their personal prayer (cf. Catechism, nos. 131-133). This is to help us grow in our knowledge of Christ and of salvation history, as well as to prepare us for a deeper and more active participation in the Liturgy. (To be continued…)

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

I just noticed I hadn’t yet published Part V; it was still just listed as a draft, so here it 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 V: General Principles …continued

The Sacred Liturgy is not the only activity of the Church. Faith and conversion are required before someone can properly worship God (no. 9). And so, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, changing our ways, and penance, must all precede the Liturgy. In this way, we’re prepared for the Sacraments and for the worship of God, because “the Liturgy is the summit to which the [whole] activity of the Church is directed” (no. 10). To borrow from another Council document, Lumen Gentium, “the Eucharistic sacrifice [is] the source and summit of the Christian life” (LG, 11). Everything in the life of grace flows from the worship and sacrifice Jesus offered the Father. When we enter into that one sacrifice through Mass, we enter into Christ’s dynamic of sacrifice and love, of grace and salvation.  That’s why the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel has communion as its goal: communion with God, communion with the Church, Communion with the Eucharist, communion with each other. And it’s precisely by this communion with the Father through Christ in the Eucharist that we’re sanctified: “[t]he renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire” (no. 10). And this sanctification, our sanctification in Christ, is how God’s glory is revealed to the world, and how we most suitably give Him glory. This sanctification of the faithful — and indeed of the whole world —, this is the mission of Church!

“But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions” (no. 11).  It isn’t sufficient to simply be present, to merely ‘watch’ what’s happening during Liturgy: we must actually enter into the prayer that is the Mass.  This is where the Council begins to speak about ‘active participation’ (which is actually a concept first mentioned by Pius XII in Mediator Dei! See no. 78). Our minds must be as engaged as our voices, our spirit must be as present as our bodies, and our hearts must be as full of prayer as our mouths.  And this is even for the Priest!

Our participation at Mass cannot stop at the ‘rubrics’ (the rules that govern the actions). The rubrics are there to make sure that we actually do what’s intended by the Church, that we maintain the proper theological message and foundations that the Liturgy carries and expresses. In short, the rubrics make sure the Mass is the Mass and not something else. But if we stop at the rubrics, if that’s all we do, then we miss the point. And this is even for the laity! (To be continued…)

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

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 VII: General Principles …continued

Over the last six weeks this series has looked at the background and motivations for the Council’s desire to ‘reform’ and ‘renew’ the Sacred Liturgy. The last three parts looked at the nature of the Mass, and why it’s important in the life of the Church. These principles can be summarised as follows:

The Sacred Liturgy is the action of Christ the High Priest, the Paschal Mystery in which He creates and involves His people, the Church. Through the Liturgy, we enter into Christ’s worship of the Father and experience a foretaste of Heaven. This encounter with God works for our sanctification and salvation. This is why we have an obligation go to Church on Sundays, and why an active participation is necessary for us.

Having laid out these foundations, the Constitution then moves to establish principles of reform (nos. 21-46). This third part of Chapter 1 deals with the parameters and directions of the liturgical restoration. It’s divided into six sections: a) General Norms; b) Norms Drawn from the Hierarchic and Communal Nature of the Liturgy; c) Norms Based upon the Didactic and Pastoral Nature of the Liturgy; d) Norms for Adapting the Liturgy to the Culture and Traditions of Peoples; e) Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish; and, f) The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action.

The Liturgy is made up of two components: Divine and human (no. 21). The Divine elements were given to us by Christ as recorded in Scripture and Tradition, and these may never be changed. Examples of Divine elements are the use of bread and wine for the Eucharist, the male Priesthood, and the words of institution. Human elements, on the other hand, developed over time through various cultures to express and communicate the faith. These are open to appropriate change as time and cultures evolve. Examples of human elements are the vestments used at Mass and their colours, the language of the Liturgy, and the shape and style of sacred vessels.

However, only the Pope —and in some cases the local Bishop or the national conference of Bishops — can make such changes: “no other person, even if he be a Priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (no. 22.3). This is to ensure that the Liturgy remains universal (the same throughout the world), and that it remains true to its nature as being a gift given to us by God in Christ Jesus. We don’t own the Liturgy. Rather the Liturgy teaches us and forms us. (To be continued…)

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

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 VI: The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (no. 14).

As we saw last week, the Council Fathers spoke of participating in Mass with the proper dispositions (spiritual and mental), and to allow liturgical laws to shape how our hearts, minds and bodies enter into the Mass (see no. 11). But our participation in Mass depends on our personal prayer life: if we don’t pray, we aren’t properly disposed to enter into, and benefit from, the prayer that is the Mass (see no. 12). Personal prayer outside Mass is the key to active participation within Mass. And this active participation is the obligation and right of all the baptised, precisely because of Baptism (no. 14). Because to pray and to offer sacrifice is at the heart of the Royal Priesthood we received in Baptism (see 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10; Rom 12:2); it’s at the heart of what it means to be sharers in Christ.

But it’s impossible for the lay faithful to properly enter into the Liturgy “unless [Priests] themselves become fully imbued with the spirit and power of the Liturgy and attain competence in it” (no. 14). That is, unless the Priest understands the Mass and offers it properly and well (according to the law and spirituality it carries) then the he becomes an obstacle to the proper participation of the assembly. Priests themselves must live the spirit of the Liturgy so as to help the laity participate in Mass. The Constitution issues 4 directives for the proper education of Priests in the area of Liturgy (nos. 15-18). But this liturgical education isn’t just for the Priest. He in turn must educate his people so that their lives, too, may be permeated with the Liturgy, and be directed to it (no. 19), and so properly pray the Mass with and through the Priest.

Now we begin to see that the Council’s meaning of active participation isn’t one of visible or physical action, but rather it’s a spiritual action, an interior awareness rooted in understanding what the Mass is and what’s happening, so as to enter into Christ’s prayer and sacrifice, and with Him, to offer oneself to the Father in love, worship and adoration. (To be continued…)

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

 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 IV: General Principles …continued

From the sided of Christ crucified flows the wondrous mystery of the Church (SC, 5).  She springs from the action of Christ, from His act of sacrifice and worship offered to the Father for our salvation. By Baptism, we enter into the Paschal Mystery, and receive from Christ the spirit of adoption (cf. Rom 8:15), which enables us “to become true adorers” (SC, 6). Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, Christ’s victory on the Cross is made present; indeed, Christ Himself is made present!

He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross’, but especially under the Eucharistic species”. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings… The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ” (no. 7).

And the wonder of all this, is that Jesus, in His mercy and wisdom, wants us to participate in His priestly office of giving worship and thanks to the Father! As members of His Body, we’re included in the actions of Him who is our Head. And so, in the Liturgy, then, a sacred mystery is revealed as we enter into Christ’s worship of the Father: we’re united to Him, and we’re sanctified by Him. This is why the Liturgy is the most sacred action in which we participate (no. 7). And through the Liturgy, we experience even now “a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy” (no. 8; cf. Rev. 21:2; Col 3:1; Heb 8:2).

But, “before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and conversion” (no. 9). This is why we have an imperative to proclaim at all times the Good News of Jesus Christ, for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom 10:14). Indeed, each one of us must constantly be reminded of the faith we’ve received, and to continually turn away from our sinful ways through prayer and penance. In this way, and through charity and by living according to Christ’s commandments, the Baptised become a lights for the world (no.9).

And so we begin to see here that Liturgy — specifically the Mass — is a means of experiencing Christ today, of being sanctified by Him, and the beginning of our proclamation of His Good News. (To be continued…)

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

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.  Previous segments can be found by clicking on Part I and Part II.

Part III: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Chapter 1: General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of 
the Sacred Liturgy

As mentioned last week, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was intended to provide practical direction for those assigned to reform the Liturgy, while Mediator Dei sought to educate those celebrating the Liturgy and making decisions in its regard, especially Bishops and the leaders of the Liturgical Movement. Consequently, Mediator Dei provided a rather thorough and practical explanation of the nature and purpose of the Liturgy and the theology behind it. It it’s turn, the Constitution focused it’s liturgical theology on Scripture and the Liturgy as the celebration of the Paschal Mystery — that is, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ —, a theme that flows throughout the document.

The term ‘Paschal Mystery’ comes from Biblical language, and is most often used to describe the Mass, which is the celebration and memorial of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. It’s used to more clearly describe Christ’s redemptive act, which is continued in the activity of the Church. The term underlines the victorious character of Easter at the heart of Christianity and of the work of the Church.

Now, Mediator Dei had already clearly defined Liturgy (no. 20) and explained its Christological origins (nos. 1-3, 17-20). This had been necessary in virtue of the uniqueness of the document, as well as to fight the errors and excesses in certain aspects of the Liturgical Movement. What it said wasn’t new, but it needed to be said clearly, in a way all could understand, in a document all could access. Mediator Dei defined the sacred Liturgy as: “The public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the Heavenly Father” (no. 20).

The Council’s Constitution seems to presume this definition in its own description: The “sacred liturgy is principally the worship of the divine majesty” (no. 33). “[I]t is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church […by which…] we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy” (no. 7).It involves the presentation of man’s sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs” (no. 7). Through it, “the faithful are enabled to express their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church” (no. 2). (To be continued…)

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