The Liturgy and the II Vatican Council
On the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy "Sacrosantum Concilium"
November 11, 2012 The Gospel talks to us about exterior appearances that don't correspond with the interior life. The Pharisees show that they pray a lot, but their heart is full of evil. The people who put money in the temple show that they collaborate a lot, but this is not true, because the Lord knows that they just put in what is remaining. I'm not telling you that this is happening here, but that the Lord sees our heart when we do something, not our exterior appearance.
One of the most important tasks of the II Vatican Council was the renovation of the liturgy. The most important in the Liturgy, on the human side of it, is the internal disposition, the prayer of your heart. The rites help you to pray with your heart, and at the same time the rites are an expression of that prayer.
Now, the rites help you to pray if you understand the rites. That was at the heart of the renovation: that the faithful may take more advantage from the liturgy. The goal was to make the liturgy clear, to make people understand, so that they can participate better.
Of course, in the Liturgy there are things we cannot change, because they were instituted by Jesus. For example, the words we use in the consecration of the Body and Blood of Jesus. But other things may change; for example, to say the Mass facing the altar or facing the people. Only this kind of thing has changed after the II Vatican Council. Other than that, the Mass is almost the same as in the time of the apostles.
Let me share with you today one of the first documents issued by the II Vatican Council, the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, "Sacrosantum Concilium". First, a short survey of the content, then one point in the document.
1. Content: The document has a general introduction and seven chapters.
The Introduction and Chapter I set General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy. In Chapter II the title is "The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist" and contains the principles for the reform of the Holy Mass, which is considered the most important action in the Church. A whole chapter is devoted to the Mass. Chapter III refers to the "Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals". Chapter IV talks about the meaning of the Liturgy of the Hours or "The Divine Office", and the revision of the same according to its meaning. This is important to notice: the reform of the liturgy has tried to bring back the liturgy to its original sources and meaning. Forms of expression that were inadequate were abandoned, and adapted to our times, but according to the treasures of the Tradition. That's why many new texts are taken from the writings of the first centuries of the Church.
Chapter V is about the reform of "The Liturgical Year". Chapter VI: "Sacred Music". In this document, although other worthy documents are allowed to be used in church, the II Vatican Council repeats the primacy of the pipe organ, as the most fitting instrument to raise the hearts to God. Chapter VII is about Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings: it is the chapter for the sacristans and the members of our altar society. It says that everything we use for the Mass has to be clean, noble, beautiful, not necessary luxurious, but worthy of so great a celebration. I'm very happy that in our parish the Church is so well cared. Thanks for that.
2. Participation in the Liturgy
The one point I wanted to treat is related to the Gospel, and it is our participation in the Liturgy. How should our participation at Mass be? What does the II Vatican Council say? Our participation should be full, conscious, activeÿand fruitful. Full means that it is exterior and interior: exterior, because we do the rites properly; interior, because we commit ourselves to praise the Lord not only with our lips, but also with our lives, not only in church, but everywhere. At Mass, we try to offer our whole life to the Lord.
Conscious means that we know what to do, and we know why we do it. We all can still learn many things about this. Why we ask forgiveness at the beginning, why we kneel at the consecration, why we stand for the Our Father, why we sing "Lamb of God", etc.
Active means that we have to do our job. We have to know all the responses and speak them loud and clear. We have to sing if we can. We have to do the sign of the cross when required, sit down, stand, etc. We have to listen attentively. In a word, we are not to be here just waiting for the end; we don't come to Church to see what the priest does. I have something to do at Mass, I have to pray, I have a role in the liturgy, and the only one who can play that role is myself.
The last characteristic, fruitful. Fruitful is the participation that takes the best fruit of the Mass, which is holy communion. If I am ready to do so, if I haven't committed any mortal sin after my last confession, the best I can do is to receive communion. Come to receive Communion! If I'm not ready, I need to get ready for communion, through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Every Sunday the Lord invites us to a banquet, the banquet of his Body and Blood. We have to be ready, and wear the "wedding clothes" (Cf. Matthew 22:1-14), which is the state of grace.
Full, conscious, active and fruitful participation. May the Lord grant us to live our holy Mass as a wonderful encounter with God, who is Love. Fr. Andrew
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