Articles on Vatican II - Fifty years Later
At the end of the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the council fathers went home with a mixture of exhilaration and frustration. The bishops had come to understand their authority and responsibility for helping the Church to define itself and its mission to the modern world.
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In last week's article, I referred to Pope Benedict's analysis that some people have presented the Second Vatican Council as a break with the Church's past. He maintains that the council was a council of reform in continuity with the tradition.
In his memoirs, Joseph Ratzinger, a young theologian advising Cardinal Josef Frings at the Second Vatican Council and who is today Pope Benedict XVI, recalled the atmosphere in Germany when he returned home after each of the four sessions of the council:
After the great crisis over the status of the document on the Sources of Revelation that Pope John XXIII had deftly resolved, it might have been hoped that the first session of the Second Vatican Council would slowly wind down to its conclusion two and a half weeks later.
Most of the more than 2,000 fathers of the Second Vatican Council who arrived in Rome in early October 1962 for the start of the council had no personal agenda. They had not travelled extensively and had had little, if any, exposure to new theological trains of thought.
On Nov. 14, 1962, as soon as the fathers of the Second Vatican Council had given overwhelming approval in principle to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, they turned their attention to a schema that had been proposed called the Sources of Revelation.
Before moving on from the topic of liturgy, we might do well to stop and consider what was lost in the liturgical reforms that took place after the Second Vatican Council.
One could go on at great length detailing the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The magnitude of these reforms was immense, touching virtually every aspect of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life.
For many, perhaps most, Catholics, the most frequent place of encounter with the Bible is in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, that encounter was severely restricted. The Scripture readings at Mass were on a one-year cycle and most of the Bible, including most of the New Testament, was never proclaimed.
For more than 1,000 years, liturgical reform had meant an effort to establish uniformity in worship throughout the Catholic Church. At the Second Vatican Council, reform took a different direction – the quest for uniformity gave way to an allowance for the liturgy to respect the diversity of cultures around the world.