We can begin todays segment on our series on the Liturgy of Vatican II with the introduction to the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.” It begins by speaking about the reasons for calling the Second Vatican Council: “It desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. “ In light of these aims, we hear that, “the Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.”
Immediately following this, the document goes on to explain that the liturgy is not just a symbolic remembrance or an opportunity for a group of people to pray. It is far more than that. The document clearly states that it is in and through the liturgy that “the work of our redemption is accomplished.” The liturgy leads us to salvation.
We hear, also, that the liturgy, like the Church, has two elements: human and divine. Of these two, the divine always takes precedence so that, all that is human about both the church and the liturgy (Mass) must be directed by and toward the divine. “It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine.” This is important, because often we would like it the other way around. We would prefer that the divine conform to what we prefer as humans, what is most comfortable, familiar, or easiest. This however, is not the nature of the Church nor is it the nature of the liturgy. Rather, in the liturgy, it is we who are called to be transformed, to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Therefore, the liturgy will not always be comfortable, entertaining or enjoyable in the every day sense of these words. Indeed, it cannot be these things, at least, not if it is to achieve its aim, to make us like God.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
P.S. Since the word ‘liturgy’ will be so often used in this series, it seemed fitting to provide a definition here at the beginning:
Liturgy – From a Greek word that means “public work.” In its most ancient usage, liturgy meant a work done for the good of a community. It has often been mistranslated or misrepresented as meaning “work of the people.” This is incorrect and misleading, especially when used in the Christian context. The liturgy is not primarily the work of the people for God. The liturgy is the work of God for the people, for us.