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The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council

History of the eucharistic celebration XIV

English Spanish Rogelio Zelada Profile

All the journalists who have arrived are amazed at the long procession of more than 2,500 Council fathers who, in an orderly formation, solemnly enter the great Basilica of St. Peter. The white miters suggest to some a sea of candles or a fluttering of doves or a sign of the Holy Spirit, who has broken into the Church once again to set it on its way to the future.

Against all odds, the elderly pontiff, St. John XXIII, had succeeded in mobilizing the old structures of the Church to rediscover the ever-present and living ways of the Gospel of Christ. The Holy Father wanted to open the windows of the Church to the hurricane-force wind of the Spirit so that it could tear away the dust and cobwebs that the centuries had deposited on the beautiful face of the bride of Christ.

The Council was a difficult task, promoted by John XXIII and concluded by Paul VI, in which 2,625 bishops participated, along with a large number of advisors, specialists, observers, and others. The Council wanted to lead the Church to a renewed way of updating the Gospel, understanding divine worship as the work of the whole people of God, by promoting the full, active, and conscious participation of the entire believing community and recognizing that the baptized are the foundation of the reality of the Church.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium," was promulgated Dec. 4, 1963 by Pope Paul VI and set the tone for the other documents promulgated by the Council. Out of 2,152 Council fathers, it received the approval of 2,147, with one null vote and four against. The Council fathers reaffirmed that the liturgy is, first and foremost, the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, a sacramental and incarnational worship because "the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses."

To this end, through the sacrament of baptism, we are all called to participate fully, actively and consciously in the liturgical celebrations. The liturgy is rediscovered as the center that calls to unity all ecclesial action because "it is the summit to which all the Church's activity tends and, at the same time, the source from which all its strength flows." Thus the liturgy expects all the faithful to be integrated into the community's celebratory action in order to participate in the sacred action, as a manifestation of the very communitarian nature of Catholic worship.

To achieve this active participation of all the baptized, the Council decided to approve the translation of the liturgical texts into the vernacular languages, as well as their use in all the ecclesial community; the number of Bible readings was increased to three each Sunday, and the responsorial psalm was recovered. In order to feed the faithful with greater biblical richness, the reading of the Gospel was divided into three cycles of three years. The voice of Matthew will be heard during Cycle A, Mark’s during B, and Luke’s during C. The Gospel of John is distributed and interspersed in the three cycles of the Synoptics. The ferial lectionary (weekdays) is divided into two years (even and odd) of two readings each day.

The Council gave great importance to liturgical catechesis (for both clergy and laity), with a solid formation in the seminaries; creation of liturgical institutes and centers; with offices and diocesan liturgical commissions as an instrument to continuously promote and activate the renewal of divine worship and the better participation and understanding of the great richness of the Church's prayer tradition. The Council expects that "the rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation."

Sacrosanctum Concilium restored the process of the catechumenate; the celebration of all the sacraments; the centrality of Sunday, the Lord's Day, and all the feasts and solemnities of the liturgical calendar; the ministries given to the laity; the structure of the homily. It recovered the concelebration and the prayer of the faithful; Communion under both species and in the hand; and the Liturgy of the Hours.

The desire of the Second Vatican Council was that the Constitution on the Liturgy would serve to increase the spiritual life of the people of God, a long road and an extraordinary goal that has remained a permanent and daily task of the whole Church.

Rogelio Zelada
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Comments from readers

Michael Kramer - 12/03/2020 10:29 PM
While there is much more to address than what I will about this post I'll limit myself to a few major points. I am a bit bewildered by the notion that the Holy Spirit spoke through the Second Vatican Council (He did) but the notion that it had been some time since that had happened is quite a remarkable statement since the church was only a few years removed from a Dogmatic definition and less than century removed from Vatican I. The Holy Spirit spoke then too, I assure you. The extent that we frame our spirituality and our faith to others as being entirely up-ended to reflect the early church through a Council in the 1960s is the extent to which we remove ourselves from our entire patrimony. I am grateful to the calls of the Council for full, conscious and active participation. This notion has helped me participate not just according to the rites of Paul VI but also in the Old Mass. What followed the Council liturgically at the parish level often had nothing to do with what the Council said or even the decrees of Paul VI that followed, such that many liturgies were "hard to bear" (Benedict XVI). I'd contend that Sunday and the centrality of this day in the life of a Christian has absolutely fallen apart since Sacrosanctum Concilium not because of it but in spite of it. The centrality of Sunday was not at all in question before the 1960s. Entire towns would close businesses to observe it. To be clear, many octaves and feasts were set aside in the Missal of Paul VI and much of the calendar in the ordinary form is formed by optional memorials. Communion in the hand absolutely was not decreed, considered, or even mentioned in the texts or debates of Vatican II. It came years later, often in spite of manifest disobedience to the way Rome intended to concede it in rare circumstances and under specific conditions. The current communion rite is nearly unbearable in most places. This needs to be addressed by tapping our tradition rather than false antiquarianism
Martin Lopez - 11/30/2020 04:46 PM
I am saddened by the unintended consequences of Vatican II. Liturgical reverence and beauty have nearly disappeared. Sacramental art and architecture have been stripped of their beauty and of their didactic power. Seminary formation declined. Bishops engage in dialogue with unrepentant public sinners and don’t reprimand those who cause scandal. Those who love the traditional liturgy are often seen as extremists. I’m sad when people criticize the Tridentine Mass without understanding anything about it. The triumphalism of those who demean the pre Vatican II church rings very hollow to me. I attend the Novus Ordo by the way and the liturgy itself is not uplifting especially when priests improvise. Would that the Tridentine Mass be widely available! Would that bishops spoke courageously and confidently. Vatican II Iwas far from a triumph in Salvation History.
Rafael María Calvo Forte - 11/30/2020 11:00 AM
Lo viví intensamente. Pido a Dios que se mantenga viva la liturgia de Vaticano II. Que no haya involución, como tampoco excesos. Ambas cosas he visto y me duelen. El: celebrar la misa sobre el césped con un alimento ( no pan) y una bebida ( no vino)...! Y caritas que nunca vieron la misa tridentintina, juntando los dedos, multiplicando las cruces sobre las especies sacramentales, albas de encajes, bonetes y en algún lugar ( esto último no le he visto) misa de espalda al pueblo, Entonces me pregunto: dónde quedó Vaticano II?
Valli - 11/30/2020 10:54 AM
Thanks so much, dear Rogelio, for this excellent historical article on the Second Vatican Council, which I have always treasured in my heart as one of the greatest moves of the Holy Spirit in our contemporary Catholic Church. The gates of hell will not prevail against Her! Alleluia! This we decree and declare by the blood of Jesus Christ. His word is trustworthy and true! Happy, Holy Advent to all of my brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Miami and everywhere! JESUS NEVER FAILS! As we deck the halls, let us never forget to also decorate our hearts with prayer, praise, the Word of God and the Eucharist. They will know we are Christians by our love! ❤️🎄❤️
Neida D Perez - 11/30/2020 10:48 AM
"...should not require much explanation..." I have been thinking about the "pictures" in the cathedrals of Europe. Today, with the information explosion, people seem to say, "just give me the main idea, the center." Not exactly the same, but close.

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