23/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Ministry

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution continued on naturally from the topic of participation to speak more specifically about liturgical ministry.  It began by stating that any ordained or lay person fulfilling a ministerial role should undertake only the one role during a celebration, and undertake all the duties of that role.  The importance of liturgical ministers as leaders of prayer was emphasised; that ministers should carry out their duties in an appropriate manner, and be properly formed and trained for their role.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, also noted the liturgical role of the assembly or congregation – that in fact all people have a part to play in the celebration.  The constitution’s call for full, conscious and active participation was misunderstood by some people, who interpreted this as an insistence that everybody had to have a “ministry” to take part in.  The role of the assembly, as articulated in the constitution, however, gives a clearer picture of what was intended:

To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.  (Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 30)

16/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Participation

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution spoke strongly about the importance of participation.  Participation in the liturgy was described not as something desirable or preferred, but as the right and duty of every baptised Christian.  The constitution called for everyone to be led to this “full, conscious and active participation”.  Participation in the liturgy was the goal to be “the aim to be considered before all else” when reforming and promoting the liturgy.

The constitution also strongly called for people to be provided proper formation and study in liturgy, so that they could participate in celebrations as fully, consciously and actively as possible.

The Eucharistic Prayer celebrated at Mass according to pre-Vatican II ritesThis was a significant change in thought for many in the Church at the time, who often believed that the liturgy was the almost exclusive duty of the priest.  In fact, the liturgy belongs to the entire Church, with each member of the Church participating in their own way.  It unites us together as the Body of Christ.  Every liturgical celebration is a public act of Christ and his Church, and is never to be considered a private function.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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.