The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Of all the reforms that took place because of Vatican II, none was more extensively or intensively felt than those associated with the liturgy. Not surprisingly, this document had the most influence in the emergence of the laity after the Council. It was approved on Dec. 4, 1963, by a vote of 2,147 to 4. Here are a few highlights:

  • The Church seeks to invigorate the Christian life of the faithful, by adaptinging what is changeable to the needs of today, promoting union among all who believe in Jesus, and strengthening the Church’s mission to all humankind.
  • The Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life. Therefore, for the liturgy to be effective, the faithful must be well disposed, know what they are doing, and participate.
  • Some elements of the liturgy are changeable (its language, books, prayers, music, ministers, and places). Some elements are not changeable (the use of Scripture, bread, wine, offertory, consecration, communion).
  • The liturgy may be celebrated in the language of the people.
  • The Eucharist is an act of thanksgiving rather than a static devotional object. (This meant a downplaying of devotions outside of Mass [the Rosary, Benediction, etc.], which was felt very strongly by average Catholics).
  • The Divine Office should be reformed so that the laity may pray it as well; the liturgical year should be reformed so that more feasts are confined to local observance; sacred music should be composed so that the faithful are involved as singers, not just listeners; and sacred art should emphasize beauty rather than sumptuous display.
  • Priests do not have the only role in liturgy, but share liturgical ministry with many others. (This had a profound sociological impact on the overall understanding of the place of the priest in the parish).