Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 2

Liturgia enim, per quam, maxime in divino Eucharistiae Sacrificio, “opus nostrae Redemptionis exercetur”(1), summe eo confert ut fideles vivendo exprimant et aliis manifestent mysterium Christi et genuinam verae Ecclesiae naturam, cuius proprium est esse humanam simul ac divinam, visibilem invisibilibus praeditam, actione ferventem et contemplationi vacantem, in mundo praesentem et tamen peregrinam; et ita quidem ut in ea quod humanum est ordinetur ad divinum eique subordinetur, quod visibile ad invisibile, quod actionis ad contemplationem, et quod praesens ad futuram civitatem quam inquirimus(2). Unde, cum Liturgia eos qui intus sunt cotidie aedificet in templum sanctum in Domino, in habitaculum Dei in Spiritu(3), usque ad mensuram aetatis plenitudinis Christi(4), miro modo simul vires eorum ad praedicandum Christum roborat, et sic Ecclesiam iis qui sunt foris ostendit ut signum levatum in nationes(5), sub quo filii Dei dispersi congregentur in unum(6) quousque unum ovile fiat et unus pastor(7).

Vatican Website Translation:

For the liturgy, “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,” [1] most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek [2]. While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit [3], to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ [4], at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations [5] under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together [6], until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd [7].

Slavishly Literal Translation:

For the Liturgy, through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist “the work of our Redemption is accomplished” [Secret of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost in the Missale Romanum in use at the time of the Council], makes it possible in the highest degree for the faithful to express by living and to manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the genuine nature of the true Church, to which it is proper to be simultaneously human and divine, visible and endowed with invisible things, fervent in action and intent on contemplation, present in the world and nevertheless a pilgrim; and indeed in such a way that in it that which is human is ordered and subordinated to the divine, that which is of action to contemplation, and that which is present to the city to come which we seek [cf. Hebrews 13:14]. Whence, while the Liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple in the Lord, into an abode of God in the Spirit [cf. Ephesians 2:21-22], unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ [cf. Ephesians 4:13], in a wondrous way it simultaneously strengthens people for their proclaiming Christ, and so it displays the Church to those who are outside it as a sign lifted unto the nations [cf. Isaiah 11:12], under which the scattered children of God may be gathered into one [cf. John 11:52], until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd [John 10:16].

I do not think that the importance of this article for interpreting the subsequent conciliar discussions as well as for the implementation of the liturgical reforms can be overestimated. The document declares the intimate connection between liturgy and ecclesiology.

I would call our attention to at least the following topics raised in the article:

1) The liturgy (laos + ergon) is action/work (God’s work conjoined to the Church’s work on behalf of humanity in Christ): divine and human activity [theandric] by which redemption takes place.
2) The liturgy, while finding its deepest expression in the celebration of the Eucharist, comprises more than the Mass.
3) The liturgy is the premiere (but not the only) means by which the faithful may “express by living” and “display to others” two supernatural realities: a) the mystery of Christ (and we could spend much time reflecting on the recovery of “Mystical Body” theology as well as Odo Casel’s “theology of the mysteries” as background to this declaration) and b) the “genuine nature of the true Church” (and we could spend much time reflecting on the enrichment of Bellarmine’s juridical notion of the Church as “perfect society” by this notion of the Church arising from the liturgy/Eucharist).
4) Like the liturgy, the Church manifests itself in the nature of a sacrament, the visible/material elements both manifesting/giving access to and concealing/pointing beyond themselves to the invisible/spiritual.
5) Connecting the liturgy to the goals of the council articulated in the previous article, the text declares that the liturgy (considered ad intra) deepens the spiritual life of the faithful and equips them for evangelical mission while (considered ad extra) it manifests in sign the nature of the Church to “the scattered children of God” as an invitation for unity.
6) Finally, I think the footnotes are interesting: one citation taken from a liturgical text and six allusions to biblical texts. Is it significant that, at least at this stage, there is little citation of other sources?

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22 comments

  1. Before commencing with this next valuable thread, I’d like to let the great readership of PTB know that our brother, Fr. Allan McDonald lost his mother to illness on Sept. 18th. My her beautiful Italian soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of Christ, rest in peace. Amen.

  2. May the angels lead her into Paradise, may the throng of martyrs come to welcome her, and with Lazarus, poor no longer, may she have eternal life.

  3. Regarding the citations, it might be worth noting that the liturgical text quoted is also quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae 3.83.1, in his discussion of the rite of the Eucharist (specifically it’s sacrificial character). I do not know if Thomas is unique in citing this particular text, but I would be surprised if his use of it was not a factor in its inclusion in the conciliar text.

    I think in addition to the six points mentioned by Michael, it is worth looking at:

    she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek.

    Arguably some of the worst excesses in the post-conciliar period came from a view of liturgy that over-emphasized the human, visible, active and this-worldly dimension of the liturgy at the expense of the divine, invisible, contemplative and other-worldly aspects of the liturgy. These excesses are perhaps understandable, given the overemphasis perviously given to the latter set of aspects, but the Constitution seems prescient in identifying the importance of keeping a proper balance.

    Prayers for Fr. Allan’s mother.

  4. Fr. Mike, I fully admit I’m way over my head amongst nearly all who’ve participated in the SC threads, but would I be in the ballpark to interpret that the meaning of topic 1, especially if all sacramental roads lead to #2, Eucharist, to be that liturgies are redemptive acts “on” our behalf, or are they such that we aren’t witness/participants only? To paraphrase St. Paul, liturgy cannot be totally effective (redemptive) without missio that follows?

  5. Charles, I’m sure you’re doing just fine with your insights into the meaning of the text of SC.

    I presented the first topic in a rather dense way: “The liturgy (laos + ergon) is action/work (God’s work conjoined to the Church’s work on behalf of humanity in Christ): divine and human activity [theandric] by which redemption takes place.” I started by reminding us that the etymology of “liturgy” yokes the Greek words for “people” and “work” together. Frequently people have taken that to define liturgy as “the work of the people.” It’s actually more complex, insofar as liturgy is both God’s work on behalf of God’s (covenant) people and God’s (covenant) people’s work on behalf of all humanity and the cosmos at once. The liturgy enshrines and mediates Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf and associates us with Christ’s redemptive work on behalf of the cosmos as members of his Body in the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as the divine and human energies of Christ worked together [“theandric” is the theological code word for this] so the divine and human energies of the Church are to work together, preeminently in the celebration of the sacraments/sacramentals/Liturgy of the Hours and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist.

    If I may be personal for a moment, I am filled with wonder when I contemplate the goodness of our God who could have redeemed us in all sorts of ways, but who chose instead to enter into our human reality in Christ, who “delivered himself into our hands,” and continues to do so in the sacramental/liturgical economy. How blest we and our world are to bear the potential manifestation of our redeeming God!

  6. The document declares the intimate connection between liturgy and ecclesiology

    How does SC look as a modern organizational document? My resource model for understanding organizations such as Catholicism is based upon human capital (people and their talents), social capital (institutions and their social networks) and cultural capital (beliefs and values). Organizations need all three.

    Article 1 dealt with human capital, i.e. the customers, e.g. consumers, middlemen, other Christians, and all mankind. As I mentioned in a previous comment http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/09/17/re-reading-sacrosanctum-concilium-article-1/#comment-356709 Article I comment #28 defining the customers rather than the nature of the organization or what it does is according to Drucker the first step in defining the purpose of an organization.

    Article 3 will deal with the major forms of cultural capital of the liturgy, namely the various rites.

    This Article 2 deals with social capital in terms of the institutions of the Liturgy.

    Now the church has many social institutions (e.g. parishes, religious orders, schools, hospitals, social service agencies). These generate social capital in terms of networks of people working together for themselves and others. All of these are means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.

    Almost all these institutions are ones that have been far more subject to change than the institutions of the Liturgy, i.e. Article 1 to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change . Also many of these institutions, e.g. the parishes, or schools are good candidates in terms of being very important institutions that might serve as good starting points. So the decision of starting with the Liturgy and connecting its change to orgranization change is a very important one.

  7. “5) Connecting the liturgy to the goals of the council articulated in the previous article, the text declares that the liturgy (considered ad intra) deepens the spiritual life of the faithful and equips them for evangelical mission while (considered ad extra) it manifests in sign the nature of the Church to “the scattered children of God” as an invitation for unity.”

    One thing which stands out is the exuberance and confidence with which these declarations are made: “possible in the highest degree”; “fervent in action”; “in a wondrous way.” Language like that makes it clear that the Council Fathers had in mind deep and broad revival and renewal. I think the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully in them to, as Father Joncas says, deepen the spiritual life of the faithful through the liturgy and equip the whole Church for evangelical mission and unity. The broader context of the reference to Ephesians 2 is also important (verses 11-22, “One in Christ”)’ with its themes of peace, reconciliation, and unity.

  8. May I join Charles in 5 above as a non-expert?
    This paragraph seems to describe liturgy but does not define it. From the contents of SC it seems to be Mass and the Divine Office. Is that it?
    Would not the Blessed Sacrament procession at Lourdes count as liturgy?
    As a description it consists of those long sentences that are hard to translate and seems to describe the effects of liturgy rather than what it looks or sounds like.
    I think that paragraphs 5 and after provide a fuller description. This paragraph is setting out the importance of liturgy in a concise way cramming ideas into few words.

  9. ad Deacon Fritz #3
    ‘ordinetur ad divinum atque ei subordinetur’ — a wonderful phrase that nevertheless leaves open questions of how this is to be done.

  10. Re: Peter Haydon at #8: The commentaries I have consulted all agree that this paragraph deliberately chooses NOT to “define” liturgy in the way that a scholastic might expect by genus and specific difference, rather to speak more evocatively and biblically about it. (You’ll see the same thing happening when the Council Fathers come to speak of the mystery of the Church.) The closest the document comes to a definition of the liturgy will appear later in article 7.

    According to Cyprian Vagaggini (one of the periti working on the conciliar committee shaping SC who is the source of the finest scholastic definition of the liturgy I’ve ever read) liturgy would include the celebration of the all the sacraments (including the Mass), the sacramentals, and the Divine Office.

    I agree that the article is very dense, but I think that’s because it’s still part of the Preface/Introduction and is speaking about the work of the Council in general. The heart of the article is the Council Father’s affirmations about the character of the Church embodied and manifest in the Liturgy.

    1. @Fr. Jan Michael Joncas – comment #10:
      Thank you Fr.
      Yes, as a lay person, an accountant by profession, I like to know what one is thinking about. It makes it harder to understand if these sorts of things are assumed. This is not me complaining but rather trying to show why it is hard work as it is not the approach I find easy. If I summed up the paragraph as “Liturgy brings us closer to God” I realise that the experts will say that I have over simplified. From my perspective the point is not in dispute so does not need to be underlined. So thank you for decoding it.
      Don’t assume that I think that accounting rules are better written or easier to understand: they are not and they have their own translation issues.

  11. Fr. Joncas – appreciate your synopsis. Have way too often posted that ecclesiology and liturgy are interconnected. Wonder if the early reform efforts in terms of ecclesiology were accomplished? Your synopsis uses the word *action* – typically my posts describe eucharist or sacraments as *verbs* not sacred objects. It uses the sacramental system of Schillebeeckx and imagery such as Emmaus story rather than a Trentan or Scholastic category approach. Did the *divine* get lost in this? Raises a question that can be summed up in the truism – are folks made for the liturgy or is the liturgy made for folks?
    To address the second question – *How did we do?* Just to skim over some terms – would say that folks shifted to an understanding and use of *people of God*; taking ownership of liturgical roles; taking ownership of the liturgy and even the local church; acted as the body of Christ in both liturgy and mission; supported a re-emphasis on baptism and RCIA; enjoyed the expanded scriptural universe. Did we lose the concept of *vertical* and over-emphasized the *horizontal*? (human & divine) Did we lose or get lost around internal debates about sacrifice versus meal? Institutional church versus body of Christ or a pilgrim people? SC2 ends with – *…..preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together, until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.*. Wonder if this focus hasn’t been changed over the last 20 years – is there too much focus on *identity* (Church defined a specific way) versus *ecumenical mission*? Has the institutional church re-centralized and moved away from the concept of bishops as servants and decentralized focus?
    Finally, the third question – *how can we do better* – wonder if recent decisions such as Summorum Pontificum; Pastoral Provision for Anglicans; even some of the new papal sanctioned communities have redirected efforts that have swung too far away from the ecclesiology of the council fathers? SP, specifically, seems to raise ecclesiological questions that play out in the hermeneutical debates. The shift from the Consilium around 1975 to Episcopal conferences seems to have impacted SC.

  12. It is quite interesting that this article positions liturgy in the context of a vision of our church that I’m not certain we’ve completely internalized: an evangelizing church, a pilgrim church, a church that is a sign of God’s kingdom.

  13. Read James. This is as far away from the 1st century congregations as you can get. You can disect this as much as you want from your Roman background, but it has no meaning for the congregation in the pew. No wonder there are so many people going to Crossroads to worship. They speak to today not the holy Roman Church. Michael you have sipped the tea and it is poison.

  14. From SC 2: […] in mundo praesentem et tamen peregrinam […] [my ellipses]

    Both the Vatican translation and Fr. Joncas’s translation of the chapter bring out two complementary valences of tamen peregrinam. The Vatican translation interprets this phrase as “that city yet to come”, while Fr. Joncas interprets this phrase as “nevertheless a pilgrim”. Fr. Joncas’s translation of tamen is certainly more literal — the Vatican paraphrase significantly distorts the Latin syntax and semantics. Even so, both interpretations capture a contrast within the Christian sense of the word peregrinus. Persons travel in their earthly life on pilgrimage, on a path to find revealed truth. Yet, Christianity also teaches that this path to revelation is also eschatological in nature. Fr. Joncas’s translation hints at the former, while the Vatican translation hints at the latter.

  15. Massimo Faggioli in True Reform sees multiple ecclesiologies present in the Vatican II documents.

    After Vatican II, commentaries began interpreting the relationship between Sacrosanctum Concilium and Lumen Gentium to reframe an ecclesiological equilibrium centered far more on the outcomes of the main battlegrounds of ecclesiology (chap 5 of Lumen Gentium on papacy and episcopate) than on the Eucharistic ecclesiology of the liturgical constitution.

    Faggioli argues that the SC ecclesiology is the more radical being based primarily on biblical and patristic sources, and should be given priority in the interpretation of Vatican II not only for these reasons but because it was the best prepared and best received of the documents of Vatican II.

    He notes that SC did not carry the burden of interventions from a higher authority, Paul VI and his ‘red pencil,” and that the liturgical reform was one that owed much more to pre-Vatican II theological movements than the “political mechanisms of Vatican II and the uneasy balance of power between the floor of St. Peter’s, the Roman Curia and Paul VI.

    Faggioli sees SC2 as central to this liturgical ecclesiology: The definition of the Church as both human and divine clearly represented for Vatican II a step toward a more ecumenical concept of the Church centered in the mystery of Christ far more than in the Counter-Reformation idea of the Catholic Church as the societas perfecta – “a perfect institution.”

    Faggioli says It has been said that Vatican II stopped halfway… SC managed to develop in the most coherent and consistent way the ecclesiology of the preconciliar era pointing toward a sacramental concept of the Church. Later developments of the ecclesiological debate at Vatican II leave the impression of an interruption of this theological stream in a favor of a rehabilitation of the juridical dimension of the Church, in the delusional attempt to balance Vatican I with Vatican II.

  16. As a social scientist I deal with Catholicism as a modern large organization, but it might be useful to compare my approach to the definition of Church in SC2 according to how I understand Faggioli.

    I include Article 1 (the human capital of all the customers) Article 2 (not only the liturgical as a social institution but all other social institutions of Catholicism) and Article 3 (not only the cultural capital of all the rites but also the Scripture, the Fathers, etc.).

    In most large institutions that I can think of, the institutions (e.g. a school and its classrooms) are where the human capital (teachers, students, financial supports) and the cultural capital (academic subjects) come together. So I have a prejudice in favor of seeing the institutional as “central” but not primary, because with Drucker I would say the customers (article 1) are primary. See @Jack Rakosky – comment #6:

    My concept of social institutions is considerably broader than theological approaches that are “juridical” since there is a social network which is associated with each institution, e.g. the parish, the people who attend Mass, the people who are in the choir. And those social networks are rather flexible, e.g. people come to Mass who are not Catholics, or who are not members of the parish, etc. They also interact about many things that have little to do with “church.”

    Of course since I defined the customers as the human capital, the question of whether a particular person is a member of the faithful, or another Christian group, or a non-Christian is not primary since Article 1 defines them all as customers, though in different ways.

  17. What about the “human and divine” “visible and invisible?” Actually I have another form of capital, spiritual capital that handles some of that.

    Most social scientists roughly agree on what constitutes human capital, social capital, and cultural capital. However there is not much agreement on what constitutes spiritual and religious capital.

    I define religious capital, i.e. the wealth of religious organizations as consisting of their human capital, social capital and cultural capital. But that is also true of most other organizations, e.g. educational organizations can be defined similarly.

    However under human capital, I have a special subcategory called spiritual capital which I define as the asset of a personal relationship to the Divine.

    Human capital does include things like virtues. Becker who won the Noble Prize concedes that even though virtue (e.g. honesty, industry) may be difficult to measure it is still an asset.

    So spiritual capital can be conceptualized as consisting of one’s subjective religious experiences (largely invisible but accessible to some degree thru self report) plus some visible ones, e.g. virtues, charisms.

  18. While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit [3], to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ [4], at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations [5] under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together [6], until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd [7].

    This is another example of organic growth (capitalization) processes. In my language, liturgy forms human capital in terms of growth in understanding and virtue, social capital in terms of the various social networks of church organizations, and religious cultural capital (greater shared understandings and values).

    The processes take place both at the personal level and the organizational level. As someone trained in both psychology and sociology, one of the things I like most about the capital concepts (human, social, and cultural) is that they use the same language to describe both personal and organization growth.

    The above description therefore quite rightly blends the personal and organizational processes while giving us both internal (ad intra) and external (ad extra) views of the result.

  19. Michael, I looked up the translation for “vacantem” and two of the meanings are “absent” and “idle.” It seems to me that the translation “idle in contemplation” would contrast nicely with “fervent in action”, or “absent in contemplation” with the following phrase “present in the world.” I’ve read that contemplation is the highest form of prayer and perhaps that is the goal of good liturgy as well.

  20. In De Civitas Dei, St. Augustine gives “peregrinam” the sense of “alien,” hence the Vatican’s translation “not at home.” Alien seems to be appropriate to the context: “present in this world and yet alien to it.”

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