I have been re-reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I think the first (and only) time I read these documents was when I was in the seminary. The Council began in 1962 and ended in 1965. It produced 18 documents on varied subjects that addressed the Church’s relationship with the modern world. The documents I have been reading so far have been on the Liturgy. The first document produced by the Council was Sacrosanctum Concilium, which was approved in November 1963 and enacted in December 1963. The matter that had the most immediate effect on the lives of individual Catholics was the revision of the liturgy. The central idea was that there ought to be lay participation in the liturgy which means they "take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects" (SC 11). Since the mid-1960s, permission has been granted to celebrate the Mass in vernacular languages. It has been emphasized that the language used should be known to the gathered people. The amount of Scripture read during Mass was greatly expanded, through different annual cycles of readings. The revised version of the Latin text of the Mass remains the authoritative text on which translations are based. The invitation for more active, conscious participation of the laity through Mass in the vernacular did not stop with the decree on the liturgy. It was taken up by the later documents of the council that called for a more active participation of the laity in the life of the Church. A turn away from clericalism toward a new age of the laity. Following this document there were many directives published from 1964 -1975 concerning the implementation of the directions given by the Council Fathers.
It has been a renewal for me while reading, as I move from document to document. Most of these documents were newly translated into English while I was in the seminary (1975-1983). We were educated by our professors who had just themselves read and attempted to understand the direction of the Council. We had a great advantage in our Archdiocese because the main contributors of liturgical reform were monks from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville. Because they worked with our seminary professors we had some of the most complete education about the liturgical renewal and the hopes of the Council Fathers.
At the heart of the Liturgical renewal was the desire that the whole Church (clergy and laity) take part fully and actively in the great work of the Church: The Eucharistic Liturgy. The Eucharist is described as the “source and summit” of our lives as Catholic Christians. The Council Fathers vision is that everything in our experience should lead to the Eucharist and everything in our life should flow from it. Today as we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) we take some time after the 10:00 am Mass to have a procession of the great gift of the Eucharist so we can reflect on its effects in our lives.