• Rev. Noah Carter

Vatican II & Liturgy - Part 6

“The bishop is to be considered as the high priest of his flock, from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and dependent. Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists in the full active participation of all God's holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers (Cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, To the Smyrnians, 8; To the Magnesians, 7; To the Philadelphians, 4).


“But because it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he cannot do other than establish lesser groupings of the faithful. Among these the parishes, set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the bishop, are the most important: for in some manner they represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world. And therefore the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the bishop must be fostered theoretically and practically among the faithful and clergy; efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.


“Zeal for the promotion and restoration of the liturgy is rightly held to be a sign of the providential dispositions of God in our time, as a movement of the Holy Spirit in His Church. It is today a distinguishing mark of the Church's life, indeed of the whole tenor of contemporary religious thought and action” (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 41-43).


Last week, we saw how the ritual books themselves cannot be changed by the priest. Above, however, we see another model for the liturgical celebration apart from the written instructions. In the Ceremonial of Bishops, a book that explains how a bishop celebrates the different liturgies at which he presides, we read, “These celebrations [at which the bishop presides] also serve as a model for the entire diocese…” (para. 12). Two frequent answers I give people when they say, “Why do you do that?” are, “Because the rubrics tell me to do it that way,” or, “Because the bishop does it that way.” This approach allows the priest the freedom to step back to pray the Mass and let the person of Christ step forward to minister.

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