Today we will begin a series on the Sacred Liturgy, that is the Mass. The way in which we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass has developed over the last two millennia. Some things have been added, others have faded away. At times one aspect of the Mass was highlighted and, at other times, a different aspect was highlighted.
We could spend years of bulletin reflections looking at this organic growth and development, the excesses and the reforms. However, it is perhaps more fruitful to reflect on the modern expression and experience of the Mass – the Mass we encounter every Sunday and at daily services. In other words, we will reflect on the expression of the Mass envision by the Second Vatican Council.
This vision of the Sacred Liturgy is found, first and foremost, in the council document dedicated to this theme. It is fittingly called “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” or Sacrosanctum Concilium. This is the bedrock document that underlies the Mass as we know it and directs the manner in which it is to be celebrated. It is within the words of the document that we can find the authentic spirit of Vatican II, especially as it applies to the Mass.
We have all heard so many different things about what the Church says the Mass is or should be. Different priests and bishops have different emphasis and interpretations. I, too, have my own. If they are authentic interpretations or emphasis, they all must find their root and source in this document. This is the guiding document for the post Vatican II Mass, sometimes called the Novus Ordo (New Order).
To highlight the importance of the text, I will quote from the document extensively throughout the series. This will allow everyone to see for themselves the underlying guiding principles of Vatican II regarding the Sacred Liturgy. If you wish to see the broader context, it is easily accessible online. Simply type the name of the document as indicated above and it will be the first option.
For now, I will simply provide an outline of the document and, in subsequent weeks, we will move through it and reflect upon its content and meaning.
The document consists of an introduction and seven chapters: I) General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy, II) The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist, III) The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals, IV) The Divine Office, V) The Liturgical Year, VI) Sacred Music, VII) Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings.
Next week we will look at the introduction of the document, where we will see both the purpose of the liturgy in its most basic terms as well as the aim the Council had in reforming it.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!