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Vatican Council II – Revisiting its Documents: Sacrosanctum Concilium Part XXVII (Final)

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 XXVII: Chapter VII: Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings, continued

Abbey church of Westminster Abbey, Mission, BC.

Abbey church of Westminster Abbey, Mission, BC.

Sacred art — music, architecture, paintings, furniture, etc. — isn’t for it’s own sake; it’s always subservient to the Liturgy and to the Faith. It’s purpose is to help us enter more deeply into prayer, to raise our hearts and minds to contemplate the mysteries of God, and to teach us about the Faith. Hence, the nature and purpose of the Liturgy is the measure by which any work of art is evaluated in order to be called ‘sacred’.

These works of art should seek for noble simplicity rather than sumptuous display (no. 124). As the current General Instruction for the Roman Missal explains, the nobility and beauty of vestments, furnishings and art are found more in the quality of their materials and construction than in their outward decoration (see no. 344). The sacredness of these objects comes from their use, not their beauty or value. Nevertheless, these objects should reflect the beauty and value of the sacred actions for which they are used.

Therefore, the laws that govern the provision of material things involved in sacred worship are to be revised (no. 128). Especially those that refer to the worthy and well planned construction of sacred buildings, the shape and construction of altars, the nobility, placing, and safety of the eucharistic tabernacle, the dignity and suitability of the baptistery, the proper ordering of sacred images, embellishments, and vestments (no. 128).

The Council Fathers also insisted that the use of sacred images in churches for the veneration of the faithful be maintained, but that their number should be moderate and their relative positions should reflect right order. For otherwise they may create confusion among the Christian people and foster devotion of doubtful orthodoxy (no. 125). Sacred images are praiseworthy and useful to the faithful, but they’re not more important than the sacred mysteries celebrated in church. There shouldn’t be multiples of the same image (i.e., only one image of Divine Mercy), and there’s a hierarchy among the images themselves: images of our Lord are of the highest importance, then those of Mary and Joseph, then those of the other Saints. Titular or patronal Saints should have a greater importance than other Saints. In the same way, it wouldn’t be logical for the Priest’s chair to be larger and more elegant than the Altar.

Station IV - Jesus Meets His Mother, Chapel of St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, AB.

Station IV – Jesus Meets His Mother, Chapel of St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, AB.

Consequently, it’s desirable that schools or academies of sacred art should be founded… so that artists may be trained. For, prompted by their talents, [and] desire to serve God’s glory…, [they] should ever bear in mind that they are engaged in a kind of sacred imitation of God the Creator, and are concerned with works destined to be used in Catholic worship, to edify the faithful, and to foster their piety and their religious formation (no. 127).

Seminaries are also to include courses about the history and development of sacred art, and about the sound principles governing the production of its works, so that Priests themselves will be able to appreciate and preserve the Church’s venerable monuments, and be in a position to aid, by good advice, artists who are engaged in producing works of art (no. 129).

This concludes our review of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the sacred Council’s first document, and perhaps the one that has most impacted our lives since.

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

Looks like i previously missed part XXV…

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 XXV: Chapter VI: Sacred Music

chantMost people know that music in the Liturgy has been an area of conflict since Vatican II. What they often don’t realise is that it’s actually been a battlefront for centuries. St. Ambrose (d. 397) fought the use of secular (non-religious) music at Mass when musicians were putting Christian lyrics to common drinking songs so that people would sing more. Similar battles occurred in the 1500s. And in the 1800s, operatic music was banned from the Mass, as various composers and divas were turning Mass into concerts and competitions.

Such abuses detract from the prayer of the Eucharist and distort the Mass. Safeguarding Liturgy and preventing such abuses were the primary reasons why it took so long for vernacular hymns (in the people’s language) to be allowed. It wasn’t until Pope St. Pius X defined sacred music and set parameters that vernacular hymns were allowed, but only for liturgies other than Mass (Tra le sollecitudine, nos. 7, 21).

He defined sacred music as music that clothe[s] with suitable melody the liturgical text and add[s] greater efficacy to the text so that the faithful may be the more easily moved to devotion and better disposed for the reception … of grace (Tra le, no 1). It must be holy, and … exclude all profanity not only in itself, but also in how it is executed. And lastly, [i]t must be true art (no. 2). Notice how the text is more important than the tune. Popes Pius XI and XII also wrote about music in the Liturgy.

The Council Fathers at Vatican II built on these foundations: The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. …it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy, meant to [make] prayer more pleasing, [promote] unity of minds, [and confer] greater solemnity upon the sacred rites for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful (no. 112). In other words, music isn’t a decoration to the Mass; it’s part of it. Sacred music is intended to help us better experience and pray the rites and liturgies of the Church.

Pipe organ of the chapel of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal.

Pipe organ of the chapel of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal.

Consequently, the Council Father decreed that while the vernacular may be used (no. 113), [t]he treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted (no. 114). Liturgical music must be taught and practiced in seminaries, religious communities and Catholic schools (no. 115). Composers and singers, especially boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training (no. 115).

Gregorian chant [is] specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, … it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded … so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action (no. 116). This last phrase is the essential guide to discerning what’s appropriate for Mass.

[S]inging by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that … the voices of the faithful may ring out (no. 118). In other words, singing isn’t just for the choir. Rather the choir and the musicians are there to lead, support, and sustain the assembly.  [T]he pipe organ is to be held in high esteem… But other instruments also may be admitted … with the knowledge and consent of the [Bishop], again, so long as they accord with the spirit of the Liturgy (no. 120).

It is the vocation of composers to cultivate sacred music… Let them produce compositions [with] qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not just for large choirs, but also for small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful. The texts … must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; [and] should be drawn chiefly from holy Scripture and from liturgical sources (no. 121). This concludes Chapter VI, Sacred Music. (To be continued…)

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

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 XXV: Chapter VI: Sacred Music

Most people know that music in the Liturgy has been an area of conflict since Vatican II. What they often don’t realise is that it’s actually been a battlefront for centuries. St. Ambrose (d. 397) fought the use of secular (non-religious) music at Mass when musicians were putting Christian lyrics to common drinking songs so that people would sing more. Similar battles occurred in the 1500s. And in the 1800s, operatic music was banned from the Mass, as various composers and divas were turning Mass into concerts and competitions.

Such abuses detract from the prayer of the Eucharist and distort the Mass. Safeguarding Liturgy and preventing such abuses were the primary reasons why it took so long for vernacular hymns (in the people’s language) to be allowed. It wasn’t until Pope St. Pius X defined sacred music and set parameters that vernacular hymns were allowed, but only for liturgies other than Mass (Tra le sollecitudine, nos. 7, 21).

He defined sacred music as music that clothe[s] with suitable melody the liturgical text and add[s] greater efficacy to the text so that the faithful may be the more easily moved to devotion and better disposed for the reception … of grace (Tra le sollecitudine, no 1). It must be holy, and … exclude all profanity not only in itself, but also in how it is executed. And lastly, [i]t must be true art (no. 2). Notice how the text is more important than the tune. Popes Pius XI and XII also wrote about music in the Liturgy.

The Council Fathers at Vatican II built on these foundations: The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. …it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy, meant to [make] prayer more pleasing, [promote] unity of minds, [and confer] greater solemnity upon the sacred rites for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful (no. 112). In other words, music isn’t a decoration to the Mass; it’s part of it. Sacred music is intended to help us better experience and pray the rites and liturgies of the Church.

Consequently, the Council Father decreed that while the vernacular may be used (no. 113), [t]he treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted (no. 114). Liturgical music must be taught and practiced in seminaries, religious communities and Catholic schools (no. 115). Composers and singers, especially boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training (no. 115).

Gregorian chant [is] specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, … it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded … so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action (no. 116). This last phrase is the essential guide to discerning what’s appropriate for Mass.

[S]inging by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that … the voices of the faithful may ring out (no. 118). In other words, singing isn’t just for the choir. [T]he pipe organ is to be held in high esteem… But other instruments also may be admitted … with the knowledge and consent of the Bishop, again, so long as they accord with the spirit of the Liturgy (no. 120).

It is the vocation of composers to cultivate sacred music… Let them produce compositions [with] qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not just for large choirs, but also for small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful. The texts … must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; [and] should be drawn chiefly from holy Scripture and from liturgical sources (no. 121). This concludes Chapter VI, Sacred Music. (To be continued…)

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

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 XIX: Chapter IV: The Divine Office

Before we can discuss what the Council Fathers said about the Divine Office, I think it would be useful to first discuss what the Divine Office is, since it’s not a Liturgy we often talk about.

Together with Mass, the Divine Office forms the Church’s official public worship; only these two can be properly called Liturgy (with a capital ‘L’); any other liturgical prayer else is rooted in one or the other. Also known as the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Breviary, it is a liturgical prayer of the Church rooted in Scripture, particularly the Psalms. It’s composed of five to seven ‘Offices’ or ‘Hours’ that are linked to different times of the day: Office of Readings or Matins (early morning); Lauds (morning); Terce (mid-morning); Sexte (midday) and None (mid-afternoon); Vespers (evening); and Compline (night). Monastic and contemplative religious communities say the full seven Offices, while diocesan clergy and ‘active’ religious communities usually only pray five Offices.

While clergy and religious are bound by their promises and vows to pray these Offices, the Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole Church, and lay people are also encouraged to pray this Liturgy, even if only in part. While it’s properly celebrated publicly or ‘in common’ (with other people) and in song, it can be prayed individually, but always in communion with the whole Church and the Communion of Saints. Some of you may remember that each Nothing More Beautiful session began with the praying of Vespers.

This ancient liturgical prayer is rooted in the Jewish practice of singing the Psalms, in St. Paul’s command to pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17), and in the Church’s desire to constantly remember God’s presence and grace in our daily lives. It is “a kind of necessary complement to the fullness of divine worship that is contained in the eucharistic sacrifice, by means of which that worship might overflow to reach all the hours of the day” (Pope Paul VI, Laudis canticum, Apostolic Constitution promulgating the revised Divine Office, 1970).

For their part, the Council Fathers described the Office as the “hymn … sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven” by which Christ the High Priest “attaches to Himself the entire community of mankind” and unites them to Himself “in singing His divine song of praise” to the Father (no. 83). In this way the Church is “ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the entire world”. And “when this wonderful song of praise is correctly celebrated … it is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom” (no. 83).

More information on the history and development of the Divine Office, as well as instructions on how to pray it, can be found on EWTN. And the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, which has a beautiful overview of the purpose and importance of prayer, can be found in the Catholic Liturgical Library. (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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Vatican Council II – Revisiting its Documents: Sacrosanctum Concilium Part X

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 X: General Principles of Reform …continued

As you’ve probably noticed in the previous sections, the Council Fathers put a visible emphasis on active participation in Liturgy. But that wasn’t because they thought there wasn’t participation before; rather, they wanted to make sure that the ways in which we participate in Liturgy were appropriate to the nature and purpose of the Liturgy.  That’s because, as we’ve seen before, the Liturgy is an expression of our theology and faith in Christ, as well as a means of encountering Him (cf. Parts V, IX). And the rubrics, which guide our actions and participation, are meant to make sure that the theology and faith contained and expressed in the Liturgy is maintained (cf. Part V). Consequently, the Liturgy teaches us about our faith and forms into disciples of Jesus Christ.

My first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Seminary (Edmonton)

My first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Seminary (Edmonton)

For this reason the Council Fathers provided norms of reform based on this educative nature of the Liturgy (nos. 33-36). This was rooted in the old saying, Lex orandi, lex credendi; that is, the law of prayer is the law of belief, or, how we pray shapes what we believe. By being faithful to the Liturgy, as handed down to us from the Church through the ages, we come to know more deeply the faith we received in Baptism, and we’re built-up into better disciples of Christ, in the same way as all who’ve come before us. It’s a part of what it means to be ‘in communion’ with the Catholic Church everywhere, and in every age (cf. Catechism, nos. 74, 1200, 1323, 1336, 1345).

This is because in the “liturgy God speaks to His people, and Christ still proclaims the Gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer” (no. 33). And through these songs and prayers, and especially through Scripture, “the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service [worship] and more abundantly receive His grace” (no. 33).

As such, then, the Liturgy is not to be sloppy or cluttered; “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity” (no. 34), so that “the intimate connection between words and rites may be apparent in the liturgy” (no. 35), especially connections with the Word of God. The rites should also be “within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation” (no. 34). With this in mind, the Council Fathers gave 8 norms (nos. 35-36):

1) More ample use of Scripture; 2) the homily is part of the Liturgy, and should be related to Scripture or the Liturgy; 3) liturgical formation should be provided for the people; 4) Liturgies of the Word by a Deacon should be encouraged when no Priest is available; 5) the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin Rite; 6) since the vernacular can be useful, “a wider use may be made”; 7-8) the national conferences of Bishops are to make decisions regarding language, and have them approved by the Pope. (To be continued…)

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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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