(Left) A session of Vatican Council II held in St. Peter's Basilica;
(right) Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 4. (CNS photos)
The Liturgy, Fifty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
Dom Alcuin Reid reflects upon what the landmark document on the liturgy did—and did not do—and what it has meant for Catholic worship.
Fifty years ago today, December 4, 1963, Pope Paul VI solemnly promulgated the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. To mark the 50th anniversary of this significant document, Catholic World Report spoke with liturgical scholar and writer Dom Alcuin Reid, OSB, author of The Organic Development of the Liturgyand a specialist in 20th-century liturgical reform, about the constitution, the reform that followed it, and the importance of Sacrosanctum Concilium today.
CWR:In order to have some necessary context, what should be known about the liturgical renewal movement that lead up to the Second Vatican Council?
Dom Alcuin Reid: The liturgical movement of the 20th century arose from currents in the previous centuries which promoted the Sacred Liturgy as the primary source of the spiritual life and which sought to enable people to partake of the treasures of our liturgical tradition. People such as Saint Guiseppe Maria Tomasi (1649-1713) and Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875) come to mind as promoters of this.
In the 20th century itself, Saint Pius X gave great impetus to these currents by speaking of the necessity of the restoration of the “true Christian spirit” and of all the faithful “acquiring this spirit from its indispensable fount, which is the active participation in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church”—i.e., the Sacred Liturgy.
This had a great impact. The Belgian monk Dom Lambert Beauduin and others organized this call into what became known as the “liturgical movement.” It spread quickly throughout Europe and across the world. Dom Virgil Michel of Collegeville, Minnesota brought it to the United States, and through his journal Orate Fratres and other publications gave the movement great impetus throughout Anglophone countries.
The movement’s aims were simple: to enable ordinary Catholics to participate in the liturgical rites of the Church so that they could draw from that wellspring of grace all that they needed to sustain daily Christian life. The initiatives of many pioneers in this period are inspiring, and are worth revisiting today.
This aim raised a question: was ritual reform needed to facilitate people’s participation in the liturgy? Discussion of this gathered momentum from the 1930s (Pius X had himself reformed the breviary), and after the Second World War Pius XII established a commission for liturgical reform whose brief was to work toward a general reform of the liturgy of the Roman rite. This commission produced reforms of Holy Week, the liturgical calendar, the rubrics of the breviary and missal, etc. that were implemented in the decade before the Council.
There are differing assessments of these reforms and of the principles from which some of the reformers were operating, but the overall aim was to facilitate that fruitful participation in or connection with action of Christ in the Sacred Liturgy as the basis of Christian life for all Catholics.
CWR:Why then the need for Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC]?