Second Vatican Council and Liturgical Changes

The liturgy of the Church has often been described as an organic unity, followed by the assertion that the liturgy, as with any living organism, experiences development and change.1 Many people were disappointed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, because of the radically different liturgies that emerged following the implementation of the decrees of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. Some would go as far as condemning the Council itself, claiming that it represented a break with Catholic tradition. The fact that the liturgy experiences development and change is undeniable: from the fixing of the date of the celebration of Easter in the earliest times of the Church, through the uniformity and fixation of the liturgy at Trent, to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. After all, Jesus didn’t leave the Church a detailed blue print with instructions on how to celebrate the memorial of his death and resurrection, leaving it to the Church to determine most of the shape and form of the celebration. The issue of the historical development of the liturgy is crucial to understanding the current state of the celebration of the mass. My intention in these posts is to raise a historical awareness of the historical development of the liturgy, in order to propose a hermeneutic of continuity as a proper interpretative key to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, rather than the discontinuity model proposed when historical developments of the liturgy are ignored. A better historical understanding will assist us in gaining a better appreciation of contemporary liturgical celebration.

1. Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, Kindle location 79.

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