Liturgy Corner

Carmel Parish Bulletin articles from the Liturgy Committee

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11/11/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II: Promotion of the Liturgy

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution reflected a strong desire in the Church for the reform of the liturgy.  The constitution, therefore, spoke of the promotion of the liturgy, and people’s participation in it.

The constitution recommended, therefore, that every territorial authority (eg Conference of Bishops) set up a liturgical commission.  In Australia, the National Liturgical Council (NLC) supports and advises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on liturgical matters.  The liturgical commission should also be supported by experts in specific areas.  Again in Australia, the bishops approved the establishment of both a music board, and an art and architecture board.

Such consultative groups are also recommended for each diocese to support and support the bishop in the promotion of the liturgy.  In the Diocese of Parramatta, the Diocesan Liturgical Commission and the Office for Worship have been established to promote and support the celebration of the liturgy.

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21/10/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Language

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

CredoOne of the most significant liturgical reforms of the past fifty years has been the translation of the liturgical texts into vernacular languages.  When addressing the matter of language, Sacrosanctum Concilium began by stating that Latin was to be preserved.  It did go on, however to say that use of vernacular languages could be extended, as it could be of advantage to the people.

It then stated that territorial authorities (such as the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in our case) were to determine whether other languages were to be used and to what extent, which would then be confirmed by the Vatican.  Bishops’ conferences would also be responsible for approving the translations that were to be used.

The matter of language highlights the fact that the Constitution laid a foundation for the liturgical reforms that were to come, but that later work and documents would become necessary to “nut out the details”.  Already in the past half a century, the Vatican has released two differing instructions on liturgical translations.  In some cases, additional requirements have been added to what Sacrosanctum Concilium proposed.  For example, English translations for the liturgy have to be approved not only by the local bishops’ conference, but reviewed by Vatican committee prior to approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

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14/10/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Noble Simplicity and Scripture

On Thursday, the Church marked the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of Vatican II.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

After addressing general principles that were to underpin the constitution’s understanding of the liturgy, it began to articulate some general norms that were to be observed when implementing the liturgical reforms the constitution would subsequently propose.

The first was that the liturgical rites were to be marked by a “noble simplicity”, that they be clear and generally comprehensible.  It should not, for example, be necessary for there to regularly be lengthy explanations needed during a liturgical celebration for people to understand that is taking place.

Gospel According to MarkAnother general principle was that of the importance of sacred scripture in liturgical celebrations.  Sacrosanctum Concilium called for an increased use of a wider range of scripture texts.  It emphasised the importance of good preaching, helping people to come to a better understanding of the scriptures and the liturgical rites.  Finally, the constitution also encouraged an more frequent use of what it called “Bible services”, especially on more important occasions during the liturgical year, and in places and on occasions when a priest is not available.

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23/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Ministry

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution continued on naturally from the topic of participation to speak more specifically about liturgical ministry.  It began by stating that any ordained or lay person fulfilling a ministerial role should undertake only the one role during a celebration, and undertake all the duties of that role.  The importance of liturgical ministers as leaders of prayer was emphasised; that ministers should carry out their duties in an appropriate manner, and be properly formed and trained for their role.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, also noted the liturgical role of the assembly or congregation – that in fact all people have a part to play in the celebration.  The constitution’s call for full, conscious and active participation was misunderstood by some people, who interpreted this as an insistence that everybody had to have a “ministry” to take part in.  The role of the assembly, as articulated in the constitution, however, gives a clearer picture of what was intended:

To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.  (Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 30)

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16/9/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – Participation

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The constitution spoke strongly about the importance of participation.  Participation in the liturgy was described not as something desirable or preferred, but as the right and duty of every baptised Christian.  The constitution called for everyone to be led to this “full, conscious and active participation”.  Participation in the liturgy was the goal to be “the aim to be considered before all else” when reforming and promoting the liturgy.

The constitution also strongly called for people to be provided proper formation and study in liturgy, so that they could participate in celebrations as fully, consciously and actively as possible.

The Eucharistic Prayer celebrated at Mass according to pre-Vatican II ritesThis was a significant change in thought for many in the Church at the time, who often believed that the liturgy was the almost exclusive duty of the priest.  In fact, the liturgy belongs to the entire Church, with each member of the Church participating in their own way.  It unites us together as the Body of Christ.  Every liturgical celebration is a public act of Christ and his Church, and is never to be considered a private function.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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5/8/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II – The Work of Christ and His Church

During this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.  In the opening paragraphs of the constitution, the Church sought to make clear some foundational principles.

Firstly, the liturgy is the work of Christ and his Church.  In the liturgy, we, the people of God, are made holy through “signs perceptible to the senses” (such as bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ).  Christ is made present in the Mass, not only through the consecrated bread and wine, but also through the proclaimed Word, the entire people of God assembled, and the person of the priest.

In the celebration of the liturgy here on earth, we are given a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy, to which we all aspire and journey towards.

One of the key statements made in the constitution is that the liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life.  We come to Mass to celebrate and give thanks to God for all that we experience in our lives.  We are also nourished and inspired to go out into the world again and live out the mission of Christ.  Other aspects of Christian life may help to sustain us outside of the liturgy, but nothing else is as essential as the liturgy, particularly the Mass.

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15/7/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II: “Back to the Future”

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum ConciliumDuring this Year of Grace, we have been invited to revisit the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this year.  The first of these constitutions was on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

While the liturgical changes that occurred after Vatican II appeared to be a significant departure from how the liturgy had been celebrated, they were not intended to be new innovations.  Rather, they could be described more as going “back to the future”.

St Justin (Martyr)

An account of the celebration of Mass given by St Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) recounts many elements still included in the Mass today, and in much the same order (including the taking up of a collection!)

Over the course of many years prior to Vatican II, increased research and scholarship within the Church saw it uncover and rediscover much more of its earliest history than it previously knew.  The Church came to a greater understanding of how the liturgy was celebrated in the first few centuries.  The accounts of saints and martyrs, the sermons of bishops, ancient missals, manuscripts and other artefacts helped the Church develop a clearer picture.

As such, when the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy was developed and promulgated at the Second Vatican Council, it called for the Church to restore earlier liturgical practice, to draw upon the earliest traditions as the foundation for any liturgical reforms that were to take place.  Some of those reforms were explicitly named in the constitution, while others grew out of the general principles that were provided.

The increased participation of all the people in liturgical celebrations, the use of vernacular languages, increased use of scripture, and changes to the Christian initiation of children and adults are just some examples of reforms put forward in Sacrosanctum Concilium that find their origins not as new ideas of the twentieth century, but in the liturgical celebrations of the Church before it had even gained the approval of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century.

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17/6/12 – Fifty Years Since Vatican II: Liturgical Renewal

The Year of GraceYear of Grace, which began at Pentecost, is an opportunity for us to step back from the challenges we encounter as a Church today, and focus once again on Christ, as the centre of our lives.

This year, 2012, also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.  For many Catholics, it remains an event that symbolises the significant change that occurred in the Church during the 20th century.  Blessed Pope John XXIII announced his desire to convene the Council in January 1959, less than three months into his pontificate.

Opening of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council

One aspect of the Church’s life that changed dramatically last century was the liturgy.  It is so central is it to our lives as Catholics that it was the subject of the Council’s first constitution; Sacrosanctum Concilium (Latin for “this sacred Council”, the opening words of the document), or the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  Pope Paul VI promulgated the constitution at the end of the second period of the Council, on 4 December 1963.

People will often name the Council as the point in time from which the liturgical changes of the Church took place.  The Council, and its liturgical constitution were often cited, both rightly and wrongly, as calling for changes that took place in parishes across the world.  “Vatican II has called for…” is a phrase that has been used many times over.

As significant as it was, the Second Vatican Council was not the point at which the Church’s understanding of the liturgy suddenly changed, leaving behind past ways.  The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy reflected a much longer process of liturgical renewal in the Church, and its vision is still not fully realised forty-nine years later.

Over coming weeks we will continue to examine the constitution and the liturgical renewal that continues to surround it.

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22/1/12 – The Year of Mark

Gospel according to MarkDuring much of Ordinary Time this year, we will listen to readings from the gospel according to Mark.  For Sundays we have three years worth of readings.  Year A is comprised mostly of Matthew; Year B, Mark; and Year C; Luke.  Parts of John are proclaimed during the Easter Season, and on other feast days and occasions across the three-year cycle.

It has not always been this way, however.  For a long time the same readings were proclaimed every year.  In the first half of the 20th century, biblical scholarship began to develop once again in the Church.  This was reflected in the proceedings at the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this October.  The Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy spoke of the importance of scripture in liturgical celebrations, and called for the larger, more extensive collection of readings we use today.

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony… In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from holy scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.  (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 24, 35)

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18/7/10 – Unity, Hierarchy, Order and Ministry

At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process.  Having considered active participation, we now consider the third principle, namely:

Unity, hierarchy, order and ministry

This principle is a reminder to us that every person has a role; a part to play in the life of the parish community, especially in its liturgical celebrations.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (see article 28) insisted that in the liturgy, each of us should do all, but only those things that our role requires us to do.  In other words, there should not be one or a few people doing everything.  Furthermore, as we’ve emphasised recent weeks, the celebration of the Mass is not task of the priest, but is an action of Christ and his Church (AKA: us!)

This means that our parish needs to have a full range of ordained and lay ministers who are properly formed and prepared to carry out their duties.  To celebrate the Mass, we require a large number of people – sacristans, art and environment ministers, altar servers, acolytes, music ministers and projector/computer operators, ministers of the word, collectors and ushers, people to present the gifts, extraordinary ministers of communion and the like.  These are a very significant way in which lay people can participate in the life of our community.

It also means that when someone is engaging in one of these ministries during Mass, they should not be doing any other ministry.  In our parish, for example, a number of Ministers of the Word are also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  It is fine for these people to carry out these ministries on different occasions.  Yet, when they are required to read or commentate at Mass, they cannot minister communion during that same celebration.

The various liturgical ministries of our parish are necessary for the effective celebration of the Mass.  They reflect our belief that we, the entire assembly gathered to worship, celebrate the Mass in unity with Christ and with each other.  We all have particular ways in which we participate in the celebration of Mass, and we need to encourage others to find ways in which they can serve the community through liturgical ministry.