The comments Pray Tell readers offers assessing our article-by-article reading of Chapter One of Sacrosanctum Concilium were not numerous, but I took from them the following conclusions:

1) that at least some readers would like the series to continue
2) that having the Latin text and at least one English translation should continue
3) that Jonathan Day might be called on to offer a “slavishly literal translation” of the Latin text (if he is interested in doing so, I’d invite him to contact me directly so we could discuss the practical ways in which this could be done)
4) that offering background information on the text as it was formulated for and by the Council Fathers is helpful
5) that offering some questions to trigger blog conversation is also helpful, although I should not be surprised if no one addresses them or if the discussion goes in other directions
6) that the articles should be posted more rarely (and therefore I’ll try once a week for Chapter Two)

We now begin our article-by-article reading of Chapter Two of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

Vatican website translation:


47. At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

Latin text:


47. Salvator noster, in Cena novissima, qua nocte tradebatur, Sacrificium Eucharisticum Corporis et Sanguinis sui instituit, quo Sacrificium Crucis in saecula, donec veniret, perpetuaret atque adeo Ecclesiae dilectae Sponsae memoriale concrederet Mortis et Resurrectionis suae: sacramentum pietatis, signum unitatis, vinculum caritatis, convivium paschale, “in quo Christus sumitur, mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur”.

Slavishly literal translation:

Chapter Two: Concerning the Most Holy Mystery of the Eucharist

47. Our Savior, at the Last Supper, on the night when he was handed over, instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his own Body and Blood, by which he would perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross through the ages until he should come [again], and so would consign to the Church, his beloved Spouse, the memorial of his Death and Resurrection: the sacrament of devotion, the sign of unity, the bond of charity, the paschal banquet, “in church Christ is consumed, the soul is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” [Roman Breviary in use at the time of the Council, On the Feast of the Most Holy Body of Christ, at Second Vespers, the antiphon for the Magnificat].

Having completed their articulation of the general principles underlying the restoration/reforming/renewal (instaurandam) and promoting/cherishing/fostering (fovendam) of the sacred liturgy, the Council Fathers now turn their attention to particular areas of liturgical reform. They begin with the celebrational forms of the Eucharist. As is the pattern in other parts of the document, they first offer a succinct doctrinal prelude (arts. 47-49) as foundation for their practical decrees (arts. 50-58).

Article 47 proclaims a Catholic understanding of the foundation of the sacrament of the Eucharist as a divine act (“Our Savior…instituted”) and therefore strictly sacramental; it emphasizes (without attempting to explain) the connection between Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Sacrifice of the Cross; it declares that the Eucharist is entrusted to the Church (without articulating the means by which that consignment is enacted); it acknowledges the Eucharist as a memorial of the Paschal Mystery (without attempting to explain the notion of zikkaron/anamnesis); it quotes St. Augustine in a series of appositive phrases highlighting different aspects of the Eucharistic mystery; and it concludes with a truncated citation of the prose text of “O Sacrum Convivium” ascribed to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Pray Tell readers will immediately recognize how dense yet balanced this paragraph is. It clearly confirms some of the theological reflection on the eucharist that had graced the late 19th and early 20th centuries: conceiving the Church as Grund-Sakrament, the development of a “theology of the mysteries,” the biblical movement presenting Jewish notions of liturgical memorial and how they impact Christian sacramental anamnesis, the patristic movement recovering multiple metaphors for the Eucharistic mystery. We might want to discuss: 1) how effectively have these foundational insights taken root among Catholic believers? 2) what ecumenical fruit have these insights borne? 3) what further developments in Eucharistic theology have taken place since the Council that we need to be aware of?

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