Together in Spirit

Browsing From the Desk of Fr. Mike

Vatican II: Sacrosanctum Concilium

The first document that the Vatican Council Fathers issued in 1963 was the Constitution on the Divine Liturgy. It was titled Sacrosanctum Concilium which comes from the first two words of the document, which was written in the official language of the Roman Church(Latin) Those two words in The English language are translated: Sacred Council. Most all the documents that are produced at the Vatican are titled by this means. As I discuss the four documents that Pope Francis is encouraging us to study; each get their title in this way. This topic was perhaps one of the most pressing issues of the gathered Fathers. Their stated goal:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 2:4–5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. (section 14)

To accomplish this the Church Fathers opened the way for the use of the vernacular (people’s common language) shifting away from over four hundred years of Latin use. They encouraged the congregation to respond in song and prayer throughout the liturgy, so that all members of the body of Christ took their place in the prayer. They visioned the liturgy as a gradual unfolding of Christ throughout the liturgical encounter. It begins as the members of Christ’s body gather and encounter each other. The second unfolding occurs as the scriptures are proclaimed, culminating in the reading of the Gospel. This unfolding continues throughout the Eucharistic prayer and finally is completed in the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. As we are filled with His great gift we are to carry Him out into the world (the Mass is ended-go in peace).

Although this document was approved by the bishops in a vote of 2147 to 4 it’s implementation has had its challenges. Because the liturgy is the most public expression of our faith when people struggle with the application of the renewal it has led to rifts within the practice of the faith. Pope Benedict XVI thought the solution was to allow the old expression of the liturgy to co-exist with the renewed liturgy. Pope Francis has made it clear that this was not a good solution and in fact led groups of the faithful to sit in judgement of the rest. He has put severe restrictions on the use of the pre-Vatican II liturgical expressions and is calling the bishops to more closely insist that their clergy celebrate Mass in the way desired by the Council Fathers.


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