Wednesday, December 4, 2013

3 minute celebration of 50 years!

You know you're freaking out, just a little. Admit it. Today, Dec. 4,  is the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the first major document of the Second Vatican Council, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (known by the shorthand Latin name Sacrosanctum Concilium). 

And if, like me, you are kicking yourself for not throwing a huge party and/or taking the day off to meditate on this awesomeness, fear not! 

I took the liberty of sketching out a little cliff-note-like sketch of the highlights what the Council said about the liturgy, using--get this--the words of the Council itself, and that from (for the most part) the Constitution that today turns the big five-0. This blog's name is inspired by the very purpose of the Sacred Liturgy. If you get that, you get a lot of what the Council wants us to know. 

Skim it, pour over it, or glance at it--either way, happy 50th, SC!

What is the Sacred Liturgy, according to the Second Vatican Council? 

The sacred liturgy, especially the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is where “the work of our redemption is accomplished.” (SC 2)

The sacred liturgy is the action whereby Jesus Christ the High Priest performs “full public worship,” in his Mystical Body, that is, “the Head and his members.” (SC 7)

The sacred liturgy is a “foretaste of that heavenly liturgy,” which is celebrated in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God with all the heavenly army.” (SC 8)

Mass is inseparably the following things: the sacrifice of the cross, a memorial of the Paschal Mystery, a sacred banquet of the Lord’s Body and Blood, and the foreshadowed and anticipated eschatological banquet “when he comes.” (Eucharisticum Mysterium, EM 3a, a few years after SC).

What is active participation, according to the Second Vatican Council?

Participation in the Lord’s Supper is always communion with Christ offering himself for us as a sacrifice to the Father. (EM 3b: *quoting Mediator Dei)

“In liturgical celebrations each person, minister, or layman who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy.” (SC 28)

The Nature of Active Participation in the Mass: The priest alone, in persona Christi, consecrates the bread and wine, but the role of the faithful is the Eucharist is to recall the passion, resurrection, and glorification of the Lord, to give thanks to God, and to offer the immaculate victim not only through the hands of the priest, but also together with him; and finally, by receiving the Body of the Lord, to perfect that communion with God and among themselves which should be the product of participation in the sacrifice of the Mass.” (EM 12)

“(The faithful) should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves.” (SC 48)

“The faithful participate more fully in this sacrament of thanksgiving, propitiation, petition and praise, not only when they whole-heartedly offer the sacred victim, and in it themselves, to the Father with the priest, but also when they receive this same victim sacramentally.” (EM 3e)

To produce its “full effects,” the faithful must come with “proper dispositions,” with “minds attuned to their voices,” understanding what they are doing, to be “actively engaged in the rite and enriched by it.” (SC 11)

“The Church, the spouse and minister of Christ, performs together with him the role of priest and victim,” offering Him and herself in union with Him. (EM 3c)

This sacrifice “has no effect (in the faithful) except in those united to the passion of Christ by faith and charity;” the benefit {not the sacramental validity, etc) for the faithful is “in proportion to their devotion.” (EM 12)

The community, in its unity, is arrange in hierarchical order. Therefore, “each person, performing his role as a minister or as one of the faithful, should do all that the nature of the action and the liturgical norms require of him, and only that.” (EM 16)

Concretely speaking, What did the Second Vatican Council say about sacred art and other externals used in the liturgy?

“In liturgical celebrations each person, minister, or layman who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy.” (SC 28)

In Catholic institutions and schools, “great importance is to be attached” to the teaching and practice of the “treasury of sacred music.” (SC 115)

Sacred Music forms a “necessary and integral part of the solemn liturgy,” and is a “treasure of inestimable value,” greater than any other art.” (SC 112)

The purpose of sacred music, like that of the divine liturgy itself, is “the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.” (SC 112b)

 “Care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (SC 54)

All things set apart for divine worship should be worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of things supernatural. (SC 122)

In the sacred arts, e.g., sacred art, vestments, and ornaments, etc., “noble beauty” is to be sought. (SC 124)

 “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” Vernacular may be used, “especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants.” (SC 36)

Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, no the Apostolic See;” therefore, “no other person , not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” (SC 22)

 “Liturgical ceremonies should be celebrated with the utmost perfection.” For this reason: The rubrics are to be observed carefully, under the watchful scrutiny of the ecclesiastical superiors. (IE 13)

 “In the celebration of the Eucharist above all, no one, not even a priest, may on his own authority add, omit, or change anything in the liturgy.”  (EM 45)

Where are concrete instructions for the celebration of the liturgy be found?

The Typical Edition of the Roman Missal is the primary source for the “what’s” and “how’s” of the Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM, or IGMR) has further clarifications. Book IV of the Code of Canon Law has helpful laws and principles for the liturgy. The above mentioned Conciliar and post-Conciliar documents are helpful. The U.S. bishops council also published liturgical documents, available at Other privately written books are helpful, e.g., Elliot, Peter. Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995.

HAPPY 50th, Sacrosanctum Concilium. In some ways, you're just beginning.