Articles on Vatican II - Fifty years Later
In his memoirs, Joseph Ratzinger, a young theologian advising Cardinal Josef Frings at the Second Vatican Council and who is today Pope Benedict XVI, recalled the atmosphere in Germany when he returned home after each of the four sessions of the council:
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After the great crisis over the status of the document on the Sources of Revelation that Pope John XXIII had deftly resolved, it might have been hoped that the first session of the Second Vatican Council would slowly wind down to its conclusion two and a half weeks later.
Most of the more than 2,000 fathers of the Second Vatican Council who arrived in Rome in early October 1962 for the start of the council had no personal agenda. They had not travelled extensively and had had little, if any, exposure to new theological trains of thought.
On Nov. 14, 1962, as soon as the fathers of the Second Vatican Council had given overwhelming approval in principle to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, they turned their attention to a schema that had been proposed called the Sources of Revelation.
Before moving on from the topic of liturgy, we might do well to stop and consider what was lost in the liturgical reforms that took place after the Second Vatican Council.
One could go on at great length detailing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The magnitude of these reforms was immense, touching virtually every aspect of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life.
For many, perhaps most, Catholics, the most frequent place of encounter with the Bible is in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, that encounter was severely restricted. The Scripture readings at Mass were on a one-year cycle and most of the Bible, including most of the New Testament, was never proclaimed.
For more than 1,000 years, liturgical reform had meant an effort to establish uniformity in worship throughout the Catholic Church. At the Second Vatican Council, reform took a different direction – the quest for uniformity gave way to an allowance for the liturgy to respect the diversity of cultures around the world.
One key statement of Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) is that the liturgy is "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows" (n. 10).
The Second Vatican Council was followed quickly by an explosion of lay liturgical ministries. Prior to the council, the sanctuary of every church had been clearly demarcated from the main body of the church by the presence of a Communion rail.