17/6/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II: Liturgical Renewal

The Year of GraceYear of Grace, which began at Pentecost, is an opportunity for us to step back from the challenges we encounter as a Church today, and focus once again on Christ, as the centre of our lives.

This year, 2012, also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.  For many Catholics, it remains an event that symbolises the significant change that occurred in the Church during the 20th century.  Blessed Pope John XXIII announced his desire to convene the Council in January 1959, less than three months into his pontificate.

Opening of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council

One aspect of the Church’s life that changed dramatically last century was the liturgy.  It is so central is it to our lives as Catholics that it was the subject of the Council’s first constitution; Sacrosanctum Concilium (Latin for “this sacred Council”, the opening words of the document), or the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  Pope Paul VI promulgated the constitution at the end of the second period of the Council, on 4 December 1963.

People will often name the Council as the point in time from which the liturgical changes of the Church took place.  The Council, and its liturgical constitution were often cited, both rightly and wrongly, as calling for changes that took place in parishes across the world.  “Vatican II has called for…” is a phrase that has been used many times over.

As significant as it was, the Second Vatican Council was not the point at which the Church’s understanding of the liturgy suddenly changed, leaving behind past ways.  The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy reflected a much longer process of liturgical renewal in the Church, and its vision is still not fully realised forty-nine years later.

Over coming weeks we will continue to examine the constitution and the liturgical renewal that continues to surround it.

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