Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Council at 50: Mass Post-Vatican II, A Participatory Event

Welcome to one of the series of blogs on the Second Vatican Council. Each piece reviews one of the 16 documents produced by the Council Fathers during the extraordinary occasion in Church history. Vatican II, which drew together the world’s bishops, opened fifty years ago in St. Peter’s Basilica, October 11, 1962.

(Photo courtesy Catholic News Service)

Looking over the 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, it’s clear that the most obvious effects of the Council’s work are seen in the liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Mass.  Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was the first of the Council’s major documents and set the course for the liturgical reform.

Its influence,still visible today, continues to chart the course for the celebration of Mass and the other sacraments. Five lasting effects of Sacrosanctum Concilium stand out.

1.      Participation: One oft quoted statement of the Council is paragraph 14 of the Liturgy Constitution: “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.” When the Church gathers for Mass or any other sacrament, all assembled are engaged in what is taking place, by praying aloud, singing, standing, kneeling, moving in procession, and, for some, fulfilling particular functions such as assisting as altar servers, proclaiming the Scripture readings, or presiding over the celebration as the celebrant (the priest). Now taken for granted, these changes in the liturgy were steps to foster and express our interior participation of the heart and mind in the work of Jesus. In the Mass, all the faithful participate in the offering of the gifts, and in doing so participate by offering themselves – their devotion and lives of service – to the Lord.

2.      Enculturation: Even as Catholics throughout the world celebrate the same Mass, we do so now in our own languages, making use of elements of our own cultures: styles and forms of music, art, and architecture, and praying about what concern us. The liturgy is both the experience of God’s saving presence, it is also an expression of who we are before God. In a culturally diverse society, we are still challenged to celebrate the liturgy in a way that enables everyone to worship and pray. 

3.      Ministry: Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Council, the liturgy was seen as the work of the priest and those few assistants at the altar. Today the liturgy is supported by a variety of ministries (deacons, readers, servers, music ministers, etc.), and the work of the Church is carried out daily by a broad spectrum of people serving, leading, and teaching in the name of the Church. 

4.      Catechesis: The liturgical reforms introduced in the years after the Second Vatican Council required a great deal of explanation and instruction for everyone. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stressed the importance of such teaching as a way to lead the faithful to effective and fruitful participation in the liturgy. Today we continue to teach about what the Mass means and how to worship well. Recently, for example, dioceses and parishes underwent a great effort to teach about the Mass in preparation for the introduction of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.

5.      Mission: Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches that the liturgy is the “source and summit” of the Christian life (see paragraph 10). We don’t just gather at Mass to worship, but also to be energized and sent forth on a mission: to keep the commandments, above all to love God and love our neighbor. And the Mass ends with that reminder: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life.” 


Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans chairs the Committee on Divine Worship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


1 comment:

James K Savonarola said...

Until people understand that the Mass is not about them but about Christ, nothing will ever be accomplished. Most people in the pews dont even know that the Mass is the once and for all sacrafice of the Son to the Father on Golgotha. Some might say that we need a thousand different "ministers" (not my words), but ask whether having this new function in the church has really brought about a greater understanding of the truths of the faith or has it just blurred the line between the layity and the clergy, for my money there is no doubt this has happened.
So too where do we come up with the idea that participation means being busy doing things. The laity has become so obsesed with doing things that too often they forget that it is not their work but Gods that matters. Thats why the silence in the Low mass was so amazing, as well as the beauty, incense and chanting of the high mass. For 40 years these things that had developed as part of the mass were thrown out. The Priests responsibility became about gathering people to make them feel good, rather than to offer the sacrifice and forgive sins.
This is just my observation, but Im just a millennial tired of the me first generation that cant see that its not about them but about God. I cant save myself, but by his grace and my working out my salvation in fear and trembling perhaps even a miserable pharasaic sinner like myself can get to Heaven. But the road is narrow. So pray for me.
Thank you for your post.