Liturgical Changes to the Roman Rite-12

When the Council opened in October 11th, 1962, the first subject to be treated was the liturgy. By this time, the preparatory commission and the council fathers had the advantage of being able to draw from the expertise on liturgical matters from the liturgical movement. In fact, since 1948, Pius XII had established a liturgical commission to work on liturgical projects. The director of this commission, Antonelli, went on to be named the secretary of the council’s liturgical commission.(52) In the antepreparatory phase of the council, liturgical reform was very much in the minds of the bishops of the world, as attested by the wide range of suggestions stemming from their responses.(53) Among the eleven commissions and three secretariats of in charge of the preparatory phase, the commission in charge of the sacred liturgy was established, and its members were elected with the following criteria in mind: 1) balance between science and pastoral experience, 2) international representation, 3) collaboration of specialists from different liturgical areas of expertise: theology, art, music, history, pastoral, canon law etc.(54) The commission prepared four successive drafts. Among the most hotly debated issues was the use of vernacular in the liturgy, sacred music, concelebration.(55) It was finally promulgated towards the end of the council’s second session on December 4th, 1963 with a final vote of 2147 in favor, with 4 against.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was in some ways the culmination of the push for reform initiated by the liturgical movement. Following Rita Ferrone’s assessment of the constitution, we can count among the greatest contributions to liturgical renewal: the paschal mystery, liturgy as summit and source of the church’s life, active participation, ecclesiology, and inculturation; followed by the renewal of the liturgical books, music, art, and artifacts of the liturgy, and the education and formation of both the clergy and the faithful in liturgical matters.(56) The concept of paschal mystery came to replace the previous emphasis on the death and suffering of Christ, and its ascendance is owed to the patristic renewal, and specially the work of Dom Odo Cassel, a pioneer of the liturgical movement.(57) The notion of the liturgy as summit and source of the church’s life was met with some opposition from the council fathers, who viewed the liturgy as an instrument to save souls and glorify God, not an end to itself. (58) Their concerns were assuaged, when it was explained that reason for the liturgy being source and summit is the action of Christ and the Holy Spirit within it.(59) Important for our purposes, is the mention of the modes in which Christ is present in the liturgy in the constitution’s discussion of the Christ’s action in the liturgy. The constitution mentions the presence of Christ in the liturgy in the person of the minister, in the Eucharist, in the celebration of the sacraments, in the assembly, and in the proclamation of the Word. The first four modes stand in continuity with Pius XII’s Mediator Dei, while the last mode, Christ’s presence in the Word. This last mode is testament of the growing appreciation in catholic circles for Scripture studies since Pius XII Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943.(60) Active participation, which had been the norm from the earliest of times, and had declined particularly since the Council of Trent, was recovered by the council. Active participation had been lauded since 1903 by Pius X, echoing the calls for renewal made by the liturgical movement.(61) In ecclesiology, the constitution restored balance by emphasizing the common priesthood of the faithful that, much like their full participation, stems from baptism. Finally, in the area of inculturation, the constitution allowed the liturgy to be adapted to the genius of different cultures, conceding that the liturgy would look different in different places.(62) In this way, the liturgy returned to its roots of unity in diversity present from ancient times, and moved away from the centralizing tendency necessitated by the Reformation and enabled by the invention of the printing press.


52. Casimiro Morcillo Gonzales, Comentario a la Constitucion sobre la Sagrada Liturgia, p. 87.
53. Ibid., p. 99.
54.Ibid., p. 101.
55.Ibid., p. 111.
56. Rita Ferrone, Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium, loc. 302
57. Ibid., loc. 315.
58. Ibid., loc. 351.
59. Ibid., loc .357.
60. Ibid., loc. 377.
61. Ibid., loc. 400.
62. Ibid., loc. 465.

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