.- Pope John Paul II signed his latest Apostolic Letter yesterday, December 4, marking the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosantum Concilium.
In the 16-paragraph letter, the Holy Father says that the anniversary of Sacrosantum Concilium provides an opportunity to ârediscover the underlying themes of the liturgical renewal sought by the Council Fathers, verify in some way their acceptance and set our eyes on the future.â
In the first chapter entitled, âA look at the Conciliar Constitution,â the Pope says, âthe liturgical life of the Church, in the perspective of Sacrosantum Concilium, assumes a cosmic and universal spirit, profoundly marking manâs time and space.â
The Pope later recalls the importance the Council gives to sacred music, âwhose end is âthe glory of God and the sanctification of the faithfulâ,â and to sacred art, which allows âworship to shine forth through the decorum and beauty of liturgical art.â
The Pope also points out in the document that â40 years later, a review of progress thus far has become opportuneâ and therefore he raises important questions for the Church:
- âIs the Liturgy lived out as the âsource and summitâ of ecclesial life?â
- âHas the rediscovery of the value of the Word of God, brought about by the liturgical reforms, brought forth positive results in our celebrations?â
- âTo what extent has the liturgy entered into the life of the faithful and set the pace for each community?â
- âIs the liturgy understood as a path to sanctity, as the interior strength behind apostolic zeal and the Churchâs missionary spirit?
The Pope also calls for a review of liturgical books, emphasizing that it should be based on âa principle of complete fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, authoritatively interpreted in particular by the Second Vatican Council.â This fidelity, he adds, âdemands commitment first of allâ from the bishops.
Later the Pope recalls that Sacrosantum Concilium motivates the Christian community âto intensify its prayer life not only through the Liturgy but also through âpious exercisesâ done in harmony with it and which in a sense flow from and lead to the Liturgy.
Challenges for the future
In the chapter entitled, âPerspectives,â the Pope says that âlooking towards the future, the Liturgy must respond to various challenges. In the course of these 40 years, in fact, society has undergone profound changes, some of which have sorely tried the Churchâs work. âBefore us is a world in which, even in places of ancient Christian tradition, the signs of the Gospel are diminishing. Itâs time for a new evangelization. The Liturgy is directly involved in a such a challenge.â
In the ârenewed necessity for spiritualityâ which todayâs world seeks, the Pope sees âproof of the fact that in the deepest recesses of man it is impossible to erase God.â Therefore, adds the Pope, âthe Liturgy offers the most profound and effective answer to this desire to encounter God, especially through the Eucharist.â
Therefore, âone aspect that needs to be cultivated with greater commitment in our communities is the experience of silence,â the Pope says. âIn a society where life has become increasing frantic, deafened by noise and caught up in the moment, the rediscovery of silence is vital,â he added. For this reason, liturgical ministry, by introducing people to the different liturgical celebrations, should inspire a fondness for prayer.â
In the letterâs conclusion, the Holy Father emphasizes that the promulgation of Sacrosantum Concilium âhas marked an important period for the Church in the promotion and development of the Liturgy,â and he encourages the fostering, âat the dawn of this millennium, of a âliturgical spiritualityâ which recognizes Christ as the first âliturgistâ, who never ceases to work in the Church for the glory of God and the unity of the Holy Spirit.â