The Five Positive Results of the Litugical Reform
Sept 12, 2004
From the Keynote address to the USA convention of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, at the Omni San Antonio Hotel, October 7-11, 2003.
In the liturgical life of the Church, some very good developments have taken place since Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated. Let us begin by listing some of them. In this way we thank God who guides his Church all through the ages. We also express gratitude to all those who have had a hand in this liturgical promotion, from those who worked on the liturgical texts, to the bishops, priests and members of liturgical committees or commissions like yourselves.
Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter, Vicesimus Quintus Annus, of December 4, 1988, in commemoration of twenty-five years of SC, lists five of these positive results (cf no. 12). The first is the place given to the Bible in the liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium insisted that the table of God's word is to be made more abundantly available to the people of God in the liturgy. If we reflect back to the past forty years, we see how the renewed liturgical rites have been made much richer with biblical texts. In the Mass, the lectionary is so arranged as to cover most of the Bible in a three-year Sunday reading and a two-year weekday lessons program. The responsorial psalms help to elucidate the readings. The sacramental rites and the celebrations of the sacramentals are suitably fitted with rich biblical texts. So is the Liturgy of the Hours. In this way not only are the faithful exposed, as it were, to a greater part of Holy Scripture so as to become more familiar with it, but each community has the opportunity, in the specific setting of the liturgical celebration, to enter ever more deeply at all the levels of the human person into the great mystery of God's transforming love which the Scripture proclaims. In country after country, immense effort is undertaken to provide the Christian people with translations of the Bible.
A second happy development is the sustained effort to translate the various liturgical texts into the current language of the people and also to face the challenges of adapting liturgical celebration to the culture of each people.
A third reason for gratitude is "the increased participation of the faithful by prayer and song, gesture and silence, in the Eucharist and the other sacraments" (VQA, no. 12). One has only to compare the way an average parish community takes part at Sunday Mass today to the way it did fifty years ago.
We are also encouraged because of "the ministries exercised by lay people and the responsibilities that they have assumed in virtue of the common priesthood into which they have been initiated through Baptism and Confirmation" (VQA, no.12). Very many happy developments have really taken place on this point.
Lastly, and as a summary of the above four areas, we must thank God "for the radiant vitality of so many Christian communities, a vitality drawn from the wellspring of the liturgy" (VQA, no. 12).
Each of these five positive results offers us reasons for joy and encouragement. But each also assigns us a task, poses us a challenge and enjoins on us to see that the developments remain truly positive, according to the desire and directives of the Council, and of the Pope and the Bishops who guide us today and tomorrow in the Church that Christ founded. How this applies to each of these five developments will be the focus for the rest of this paper. 3. Bible and Liturgy