Tuesday, July 10


Sacrosanctum Concilium on a Stick (para 9-10)

More of Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, to go!

Actual Text

9. The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: "How then are they to call upon him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15).

Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance (Cf. John 17:3; Luke 24:27; Acts 2:38). To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded (Cf. Matt. 28:20), and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ's faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men.

10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness" (Postcommunion for both Masses of Easter Sunday); it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith" (Collect of the Mass for Tuesday of Easter Week); the renewal in the eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.

Brief Commentary

It is very easy to be, or to "feel," holy at Mass. Pope Benedict has observed (the citation elludes me) that holiness consists, not so much in affective devotion during Mass (with such love being poured out upon the congregation at that time, it is hardly difficult to have devotion during Mass!) as it consists in how our existence is changed by the encounter with Christ Himself which occurs in the Sacrament. St. Therese spoke of holiness as the level of water which fills a cup: each cup is a different size, some greater than others, but it is how full the cup is relative to its own capacity that signifies its "holiness." The same analogy applies: of course we are easily filled with the love of God during Communion, but how well do we "retain" that love, as it were, thereafter? Here the Council insists that the encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which is central to the Christian life, must have ramifications for our entire lives if it is to be that sanctifying grace or love by which we are saved. We live life differently because of the Jesus we receive: we live a Christocentric life.

Some Council Fathers objected to calling the Liturgy "source and summit," reasoning that the "source" of the Church's life is the Holy Spirit and the "summit" is the salvation of souls and the love of God. This position was rejected by a vote of 2004 to 101, on the grounds that the phrase does not deny that the goal of the life of the Christian is to love God and that this love comes from the grace of the Holy Spirit; but the sentence speaks not of the individual Christian, but of the Church as a whole: and therefore the intended meaning is that the Church orders all of its pastoral activities, as we see in section 9, towards "right worship" (ortho-doxia) and its pastoral activities all receive, in turn, renewed stimulus from that worship. In short, the Church is the community called together to worship God--which is precisely what the Hebrew qahal, and the Gree k ecclesia, signify.

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