Of all the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, led to some of the most significant and visible reforms of the Church’s life. While many of those changes are easily identifiable, such as greater participation of all Christ’s faithful in the liturgy and use of vernacular languages, the impact of the reforms were felt well beyond the walls of Catholic churches.
One could easily argue that the Council Fathers achieved much of what they set out to do, as stated in the document’s opening paragraph:
“This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.”
Certainly many of these objectives came to fruition and continue to develop. Of particular note, however, is the deepening of friendships among Christian communities. Aside from collaboration among the different churches in justice and peace efforts, profound relationships have been formed between communities of faith. Countless men and women continue to commit great amounts of time and energy to understanding each other’s traditions, ways of theological thinking and experiences of God. Even liturgically, we’ve seen various Christian churches experience a renewed appreciation of Western liturgy. Common lectionaries were developed and liturgical rites shaped so as to more closely align with the structure of worship inherited by centuries of Christians. Although we may not yet share fully in the Eucharist, many churches have rediscovered the centrality of the eucharistic celebration in the life of their communities.
The bishops at the Council clearly understood the vital importance of the liturgy in not only renewing the life of the Church, but also in fostering the unity of all Christians. While many may continue to debate the merits of the liturgical reforms implemented after the Council, we cannot overlook God’s grace active in the journey towards the unity of all Christians. For that we ought to be thankful and to continue to join our voices with Christ in our liturgical prayer: “Father, I pray that they may be one as you and I are one.” (John 17:22)
-Don Beyers, Marketing Manager