Before suggesting the questions to discuss, I thought it might be helpful to give a little background. I do so with some trepidation, as I am not an expert in these matters, and further, the period and events we are considering are much contested. I have tried to stick to facts, but even that is a selective process. My hope is that these notes, as much as anything else, will be subject to discussion and improvement, if they are in any way inadequate or biased.
Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) is one of the four constitutions promulgated by the Second Vatican Council. The other three are:
- Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)
- Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)
- Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)
These four Constitutions are the weightiest documents issued by the Council, which was the twenty first Ecumenical Council of the Church.
Unusually for an Ecumenical Council, it was not convoked to combat heresy or define dogma. Rather, it was seen as a continuation of the work of the First Vatican Council, which had been halted prematurely in 1870, after defining Papal Infallibility, due to the taking of Rome and the Papal States by Victor Emmanuel ll. It was thus heralded as a pastoral Council.
The Council was opened in October 1962 by Pope John XXlll but quickly suspended as some Cardinals (led by Cardinals Liénart and Frings) declined to go along with the suggested process of electing the conciliar commissions, and asked for time to make alternative suggestions. This move by Cardinals Liénart and Frings brought to the surface a tension that was played out throughout the Council between (some of) the Cardinals of Northern Europe and the Vatican Curia (and others). Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVl, was theological advisor to Cardinal Frings.
The subsequent preparations were automatically suspended on the death of Pope John in June 1963. His successor, Pope Paul Vl, announced immediately on his election in the same month that he would re-convene the Council. The Council then met in three further sessions, in 1963, 1964, and 1965.
Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first of the four Constitutions to be promulgated (December 4, 1963), and was voted for by an overwhelming majority of the Fathers of the Council: 2,147 – 4.
One other piece of contextual information seems particularly relevant to me. In the 1950s, the Rites for Holy Week were revised. In some ways, this was a major breach with the continuity of tradition (the New Liturgical Movement blog carries extensive analysis of the changes). However, in many ways, they retain the feel of the Traditional Mass, certainly when compared with the New Rite of Mass introduced in 1969. I think it reasonable to assume that when the Fathers of the Council voted for Reform of the Liturgy, this most recent experience of it will have informed their thinking.
The impact of Sacrosanctum Concilium developed over time. Initially, the impact was the introduction of the vernacular to some parts of the Mass, while a committee was established to consider and propose revisions to the Mass. Thus at first, the Mass (the Extraordinary Form as we now call it) was simply, in part, translated. The Canon was retained in Latin, and no substantial changes were made. In 1967, the Canon was permitted to be said in the vernacular, and in 1969, the New Rite (Ordinary Form) was introduced.
The reaction of Cardinal Heenan of Westminster to his first exposure to the New Rite of Mass (in 1967, when it was celebrated in draft form, as it were, for the synod of bishops) is documented here. Indeed it was discussion of this post, along with posts on Ttony’s blog, that led to this Catholic Reading Group being established.
With the promulgation of the New Rite, the previous Mass was de facto, if not de jure suppressed, an astonishing and I think unprecedented occurrence in the history of the Church. (When Pius V standardised the Mass in the 16th Century, he allowed any rite that could demonstrate 200 years of use to continue…)
Since then, the celebration of the New Rite (Ordinary Form) has changed in many ways, such that its celebration may fairly be said (in my view) to be very different from the celebration of the Traditional Mass (Extraordinary Form). See here and here for discussions of this.
Finally, in terms of impact, it is worth noting that Sacrosanctum Concilium is cited 85 times (if I counted correctly) in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That makes it (I think) the sixth most cited source, after the Holy Bible, Lumen Gentium, Gaudiem et Spes , the Code of Canon Law, and the Council of Trent.
That, I think, gives the context for some of the questions which I, at least, am keen to discuss.
3.1 Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium, what can we conclude about the intentions of the Council?
3.2 What are the principles underlying the proposed changes?
3.3 What is meant by Active Participation?
3.4 Reading Chapter l Part lll: Reform of the Liturgy, what do we believe the intentions of the Council Fathers were, specifically?
3.5 What does Sacrosanctum Concilium intend with regard to Latin and the Vernacular?
3.6 What does Sacrosanctum Concilium intend with regard to Sacred Music and Art?
At around 04.30 this morning, I remembered the question Ttony wants us to discuss:
3.7 What problem (if any) were the Fathers of the Council trying to fix?
Courtesy of Part Time Pilgrim, another good question to discuss:
3.8 Are there any recommendations of the Council that have yet to be implemented? If there are, would the Church benefit from implementing them now?
These are some questions I would find interesting to discuss: feel free to ignore the boring ones, and to add better ones!