Saturday, July 7


Daily Dose of "Sacrosanctum Concilium" (para 5-6)

Today's dose of the Second Vatican Council's decree on the Liturgy, in which we read the actual text of a document not nearly enough people have read:

Actual Text

The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church's Life

5. God who "wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4), "who in many and various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1), when the fullness of time had come sent His Son, the Word made flesh, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to preach the the gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart (8), to be a "bodily and spiritual medicine" (9), the Mediator between God and man (10). For His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation. Therefore in Christ "the perfect achievement of our reconciliation came forth, and the fullness of divine worship was given to us" (11).

The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He achieved His task principally by the paschal mystery of His blessed passions resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension, whereby "dying, he destroyed our death and, rising, he restored our life" (12). For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth "the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church" (13).

6. Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also He sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This He did that, by preaching the gospel to every creature (14), they might proclaim that the Son of God, by His death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan (15) and from death, and brought us into the kingdom of His Father. His purpose also was that they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves. Thus by baptism men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him (16); they receive the spirit of adoption as sons "in which we cry: Abba, Father" ( Rom. 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks (17). In like manner, as often as they eat the supper of the Lord they proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes (18). For that reason, on the very day of Pentecost, when the Church appeared before the world, "those who received the word" of Peter "were baptized." And "they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread and in prayers . . . praising God and being in favor with all the people" (Acts 2:41-47). From that time onwards the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things "which were in all the scriptures concerning him" (Luke 24:27), celebrating the eucharist in which "the victory and triumph of his death are again made present" (19), and at the same time giving thanks "to God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:15) in Christ Jesus, "in praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12), through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Brief Commentary

If you have ever been told that "liturgy" comes from a Greek word meaning "work of the people," you were rather misled. The word "leiturgia" means something much more like "public service," particularly one done by an individual on behalf of many. (It was also used to denote the service of priests in the Temple: cf. Lk 1:23.) In the case of Christian liturgy, we are of course talking about the service of redemption which Christ performed for the sake of many; in public worship, this work of Christ is re-presented by the sacramental ministers who, in persona Christi Capitis, signify and effect in the present moment the grace of Christ's leiturgia.

Part of the reason that Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us that "the fullness of divine worship was given to us" in Christ is because Christ did the work which we call "liturgy," that is, the work of redemption for the many, and because the worship which we call "liturgy" makes that work of Christ work present today so that we can become incorporated into His human life of union with the Father.

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