IT is 40 years since Pope Paul VI signed a document during Vatican II that changed the face of liturgy in the Catholic Church.
The anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) was celebrated at an invitation-only symposium on December 4 at St Paul’s Theological College at Banyo in Brisbane. It was sponsored by the college and the Brisbane archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.
Six speakers considered various aspects of the council document.
In his presentation, Liturgical Commission director, Fr Tom Elich looked at the debate that resulted in changing the language of the liturgy from the mother tongue, Latin, to the vernacular languages, one of Sacrosanctum Concilium’s best remembered outcomes.
‘The reception by the Church of the vernacular in liturgy was swift and overwhelming. By 1967, the whole liturgy was being celebrated in the vernacular,’ Fr Elich said.
‘As the council predicted, it has proven to be of great advantage and has been eagerly welcomed.’
Fr Elich said there is a minority view that what has happened to the language of the liturgy is not what the Second Vatican Council intended.
‘I would say not. The pastoral decisions were taken at local level as the council had decreed and every step was approved by the Holy See.’
‘What of the statement that the use of Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites? I would argue that this is so by the very fact that the typical editions of our liturgical books are produced in Latin.
‘This remains a powerful sign of Catholic unity and a safeguard of ancient liturgical tradition.’
Elizbaeth Harrington, who is the Liturgical Commission’s education officer, spoke of the document’s desire to encourage the regular reading of Scripture by all Catholics.
‘No doubt, there has been great progress made in the last 40 years in a greater appreciation of Scripture,’ she said.
President of St Paul’s Theological College, Fr Ormond Rush, said the need for formation of a sacramental imagination as a necessary complement to well performed liturgical ritual is still to be realised.
‘Schooling in a sacramental imagination must include as its primary art the art of mystical attentiveness in daily life, a spirituality of the ordinary, a mysticism of the everyday.
‘Whether in the workplace with its hardships and sense of achievement, or at the family dinner table with its conflicts and its quiet joys, attention to God in the ordinary is a vital preparation for attending to the symbols and rituals of liturgy.
‘In this area, the reception of Sacrosanctum Concilium has hardly begun.’
Browns Plains parish priest and scholar, Fr John Fitz-Herbert, said there was a radical departure from the language of duty to the language of shared responsibility in the document.
‘It is no exaggeration to claim that the issue of authority, especially its practical expression between the local and universal Church, lay at the heart of the liturgy debate.
‘The tensions voiced and unvoiced during the council over the respective responsibilities and competencies of the bishop, the bishops’ conference, and the Apostolic See can now be seen as accurate indicators of what lay ahead for the Church after Sacrosanctum Concilium was proclaimed.
Good Samaritan Sister Ursula O’Rourke, a lecturer in liturgy at St Paul’s Theological College, argued more pastoral work was needed to restore the Liturgy of the Hours.
She said the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council had directed that the Divine Office be restored to its original purpose, namely, as the prayer of the entire community of the faithful, not just among clergy and religious orders.
Julie Moran from Brisbane Catholic Education’s Youth Adult Ministry, who has a Masters degree in liturgical studies, said church buildings, sacred art, vessels and furnishings needed to reflect more the innovation and insight of the second Vatican Council, providing sacred spaces whose noble beauty draws people, communally and individually, into an intimate relationship with God.
‘The church building is called to be not so much a fearsome place, as a home in which we are nourished by God’s word and sacraments,’ she said.
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