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Week 1: Vatican II and the Liturgy

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Perhaps the document from Vatican II that had the most immediate and practical impact on Catholics was the first document that the Council approved: the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (often called by its Latin title Sacrosanctum Concilium). For many years before the Council there had existed a “Liturgical Movement” which called for greater participation of people in the Liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, and called as well for the Liturgy to be celebrated not in Latin but in the local languages of people. This movement was brought to fulfillment in this breakthrough document.

The document begins with a short introduction, followed by a lengthy chapter that offers some general principles of the reform of the Liturgy. Chapter II lays out the changes that are called for in the celebration of the Eucharist, Chapter III outlines what is to be reformed in the other Sacraments, Chapter IV speaks of the Liturgy of the Hours or the official prayer of the church that priests and women and men in monasteries are obliged to pray daily, Chapter V reflects on the riches of the Liturgical Year, and Chapters VI and VII talk about sacred music and sacred art.

In many ways, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is the most foundational document of the Council. It’s basic principle is that the liturgy calls for the “full, conscious, and active participation,” and goes on to say that “Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people’ (1 Peter 2:9; see 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism” (paragraph 14). The spirituality of Vatican II flows from these important sentences: Baptism is the key sacrament; it confers on Christians a fundamental equality as members of the People of God; it calls all Christians to  ministry and mission, and calls them as well to holiness of life.  We do well to begin our retreat with this amazing and challenging document.


DAY 1

Quote of the Day:

“… the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all its power flows” (paragraph 10).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. When I participate in liturgy, I bring everything I do, everything I dream of, everything I struggle with in my life. It is the “summit” of my life. What are those things that I bring to the liturgy? What are my dreams? What are my struggles?
  2. There is a saying that “we do liturgy in church in order to worship God in our lives.” How does my participation in the liturgy translate into mission and ministry in my life? How does everything flow from the liturgy in my life?

Prayer of the Day:

Gracious and loving God, give me a love for our church’s liturgy. Let it be the place where I can present my whole life to you, where I can be touched and inspired by your Word, where I can be nourished for my life of ministry. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


DAY 2

Quote of the Day:

“… Christ is always present in his church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same one now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially under the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a person baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church. He is present, finally, when the church prays and sings, for he promised: ‘Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20)” (paragraph 7).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. This paragraph talks about the various ways Christ is present in the liturgy. How have you sensed Christ’s presence in the priest, in the Eucharist, in other sacraments, in the word, in the gathered assembly?
  2. Which modes of Christ’s presence present a particular challenge to you as you develop a “liturgical spirituality”?

Prayer of the Day:

Lord Jesus Christ, give me new eyes to see your presence in my life, but especially in the sacred liturgy. Give me deeper reverence for the priest who presides, for your Eucharistic presence, for your holy word, for my brothers and sisters who are my fellow worshippers. In your holy name I pray. Amen.


DAY 3

Quote of the Day:

“… the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, the fountain from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of women and men and the praise of God” (paragraph 61).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Besides the Eucharist, what other sacraments have you received? Why were they meaningful to you? How do you think they could be more meaningful in your life?
  2. Sacramentals are things like holy water, the rosary, medals, statues. Why are these important to you? Can you think of any other sacramentals that help you encounter God?

Prayer of the Day:

Gracious and loving God, because your Spirit is everywhere, there is nothing in my life, nothing in creation that cannot speak to me of you. Thank you for this beautiful world. Thank you for people who surround me with love. Thank you for events in my life that lead me to you. Make me more attentive to these things and help me realize how much the world is charged with your grandeur. I pray in Jesus’ name, the sacrament of your presence in the world. Amen.


DAY 4

Quote of the Day:

“By an apostolic tradition which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day; with good reason this, then, bears the name of the Lord’s day or the day of the Lord. For on this day Christ’s faithful should come together into one place so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection, and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, and may thank God who ‘has begotten us again, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope’ (1 Peter 1:3). Hence the Lord’s day is the original feast day, and it should be proposed to the piety of the faithful and taught to them in such a way that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations, unless they be truly of overriding importance, must not have precedence over this day, which is the foundation and nucleus of the whole liturgical year” (paragraph 106).

Question for Reflection

  1. How might you make Sunday a really special day for yourself—a real “Sabbath”?

Prayer of the Day:

O God, you are beyond all time, and yet time is one of the ways we come to know you. Thank you for Sunday, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, and let me celebrate this day in ways that honor the freedom and joy that Jesus’ resurrection brings. Let Sunday be a real day of rest for me, and of peace. Through Christ our Lord, in his Holy Spirit. Amen.


DAY 5

Quote of the Day:

“The church has not adopted any particular style of art as its very own; it has admitted fashions from every period according to the natural talents and circumstances of peoples, and the needs of the various rites. Thus, in the course of the centuries, it has brought into being a treasury of art that must be very carefully preserved. The art of our own days, coming from every race and region, shall also be given free scope in the church, provided that it adorns the sacred buildings and holy rites with due honor and reverence. It will thereby be enabled to contribute its own voice to that wonderful chorus of praise in honor of the Catholic faith sung by great women and men in times gone by” (paragraph 123).

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Do you have a favorite piece of music or art that helps you pray? Why do you like it so much?
  2. Why do you think that things of beauty are so important in our prayer life?

Prayer of the Day:

Gracious God, you are the source of all beauty. Thank you for the gift of musicians and artists who help me tune my heart and soul to your presence. Let me be more attentive to and appreciative of these works, and always surround myself with these small but true signs of your beauty and grace. Through Christ in his Spirit. Amen.


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