Learning About the Liturgy

In the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Church makes clear that we "must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful and also their active participation in the liturgy, both internally and externally". (#19)

One of the high priorities in our parish pastoral plan is liturgical catechesis: helping our parishioners know why we do what we do at Mass, how the liturgy influences our lives, how to make the most out of Mass, and be transformed by the liturgical celebration.

This page will be devoted to learning about the liturgy with articles, links, videos, and other forms of liturgical catechesis.  Discover more about the richness of our Catholic liturgical tradition...share this page with that the liturgy might truly be the "source and summit" of the Church's life...and yours!

YouTube Videos: 50 Years of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: 50th Anniversary
​December 4th, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the first document issued by the Second Vatican Council.

The United States Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship has published a statement, Stewards of the Tradition, on this occasion, affirming the past 50 years of liturgical reform and looking ahead for many more years of liturgical renewal.

Below, you'll find many more resources related to this important document in the life of the Church.

Walking Through the CSL

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and its impact on the Church, each Sunday we’ll reflect upon a few words from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy –the first conciliar document which has continued to shape our common prayer and impact our life of faith to this day.

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“Thus by baptism all are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with him, are buried with him, and rise with him…in like manner, as often as they eat the supper of the Lord they proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (6)

The Council Fathers, in the interest of relating the liturgy – especially Mass – to the other sacraments, state right up front that Baptism and Eucharist are intimately related.  It is the community of the baptized who comprise the Church.  And, baptized as “priest, prophet, and king” like Jesus, the Eucharist is our community meal.  Because of our baptism, we can offer the sacrifice of our lives - right along with bread and wine - as we sacramentally participate in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Baptism is our common identity. St. Paul reminds us that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.  Just as a family is bound together by “blood”, it is “water” that binds the Church together.  Through our baptism, the Council notes, we are made adopted children of God the Father, Abba. (Romans 8:15) We recall our baptism each time we prepare for Mass by blessing ourselves with holy water upon our entry into the church.  On some Sundays (especially during Eastertide), we are sprinkled with baptismal water in remembrance of the importance of baptism.

And each time we gather to eat the Lord’s Supper we proclaim the death of the Lord as we wait for his coming again. The Eucharist is the pre-eminent celebration of the Paschal Mystery. In the Eucharist  - especially the Sunday Mass – we not only remember the death and resurrection of Christ, but participate in it sacramentally. We are mystically transported to the foot of the cross, and share in the dying and rising of Jesus. Our baptism not only incorporates us into this Paschal Mystery, but also gives us hope for his return in glory!

“The Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the Paschal Mystery.” (6)

In this statement, the Second Vatican Council affirms what the Christians have done to celebrate the Paschal Mystery since the earliest days: keep holy the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday.  Christians have always kept Sunday holy as it is the Day of Lord’s Resurrection from the dead.  This is the core of the Paschal Mystery that the Church celebrates. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his letter Dies Domini (“The Day of the Lord”) gives Sunday several titles and explains the significance of each.

Dies Domini: Sunday is the day to celebrate the Creator, the Lord God of the universe.  Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, a day of rest, a day to honor the Lord.

Dies Christi: Sunday is a weekly celebration of Easter, of Christ and His rising from the dead.  It was on a Sunday that Christ rose and appeared to his apostles.  And on the next Sunday, the Gospel of John recounts, Jesus appeared again and showed Thomas his wounds.

Dies Ecclesiae: Sunday is the day of the Church. Of the Sunday Eucharist, John Paul writes: “It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations. Each community, gathering all its members for the ‘breaking of the bread’, becomes the place where the mystery of the church is concretely made present.” (DD, #34)

Dies Hominis: Sunday is also the day of humanity.  It is a day for us to rest and contemplate God’s great love for us in the Paschal Mystery…a day for family and for relaxation.

Dies Dierum: Sunday is the primordial feast, the “day of days”.  Before the Church celebrated the feasts now known as Christmas or Easter, we celebrated Sunday.  Almost immediately after Christ’s Ascension to the Father, the first disciples realized the need to gather each Sunday to celebrate the Risen Christ and the presence of His Spirit in their midst.

John Paul writes: “Keeping Sunday holy is the important witness that [Christians] are called to bear, so that every stage of human history will be upheld by hope.” (DD, #75.) This Sunday, let us celebrate with renewed enthusiasm Christ’s victory over death and our hope in the resurrection!

“Christ is always present in His Church, especially in its liturgical celebrations. (7)

Christians have confidence in Christ’s promise that “when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”  Thus the Christian liturgical assembly isn’t simply a memorial, or only a human undertaking, or a gathering to worship a deity who is distant and removed.  On the contrary, the Council Fathers assert what the Church has always believed: that Christ is truly and really present when the Church prays and sings.  God is with us (Emmanuel) in Christ’s Body the Church and Christ’s Spirit, who dwells within us.

While the mystery of Christ’s sacramental, abiding presence in consecrated bread and wine had developed into a identity marker for Catholic Christians and remains at the center of the sacramental mystery, the Council Fathers go on to enumerate the manifold modes of Christ’s true and real presence in the liturgy…teaching that was not new, but perhaps underappreciated.

Christ is truly present in the assembly that is gathered to pray, whether two, three, or three thousand! Christ is present in the Word when the scriptures are read in the church: it is Christ who speaks, not merely the lector or the psalmist or the deacon.  Christ is present in the ordained presider, who sacramentally stands in the person of Christ the Head of the Church. Christ is truly and really present in the Church’s celebration of the sacraments. When one baptizes, it is really Christ who baptizes.

The liturgy, then, is the prayer of the whole Body of Christ – united with its Head – in the worship of God the Father.  Christ is truly and really present to us in so many ways in the liturgy: are we present to Him?

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