The response to my suggestion was most positive, and so we begin re-reading Sacrosanctum Concilium, one article at a time.
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Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 1
Sacrosanctum Concilium, cum sibi proponat vitam christianam inter fideles in dies augere; eas institutiones quae mutationibus obnoxiae sunt, ad nostrae aetatis necessitates melius accommodare; quidquid ad unionem omnium in Christum credentium conferre potest, fovere; et quidquid ad omnes in sinum Ecclesiae vocandos conducit, roborare; suum esse arbitratur peculiari ratione etiam instaurandam atque fovendam Liturgiam curare.
This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.
As part of the first four prefatory articles of the Constitution, SC 1 deals with two topics. Fundamentally (and this is clearer in the Latin than in the English) the Council declares that it judges that there is a particular rationale to undertake restoring/renewing (instaurandam) and cherishing/fostering (fovendam) the Liturgy. The article then specifies that rationale in four ways, two of which concern “internal” ecclesial issues (ad intra) – 1) fostering what will increase Christian life among the faithful from day to day; and 2) to accommodate those institutions whose changes have become hurtful to the necessities of our age – and two of which concern “external” ecclesial issues (ad extra) – 3) to foster whatever could lead to a union of all believers in Christ; and 4) to strengthen what could lead to calling all into the heart of the Church.
I believe the Council Fathers wished to communicate two fundamental things in this article. The ad intra and ad extra ecclesial issues serve as the initial agenda for the work of the Council. These goals are profoundly church-oriented; they do not arise from a desire to define new dogma or combat particular heresies. Rather they seek to renew the Church’s life at a particular time in its history and to (re-)focus its mission in ecumenical and evangelical ways. Secondly, the Council Fathers undertook liturgical reform and renewal as a manifestation of their desire for church reform and renewal.