Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 9

Vatican Website Translation:

9. The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: “How then are they to call upon him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15).
Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be converted from their ways, doing penance [24]. To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded [25], and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ’s faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men.

Latin Text:

9. Sacra Liturgia non explet totam actionem Ecclesiae; nam antequam homines ad Liturgiam accedere possint, necesse est ut ad fidem et conversionem vocentur: “Quomodo invocabunt in quem non crediderunt? Aut quomodo credent ei quem non audierunt? Quomodo autem audient sine praedicante? Quomodo vero praedicabunt nisi mittantur?” (Rom 10,14-15).
Quare Ecclesia non credentibus praeconium salutis annuntiat, ut omnes homines solum Deum verum et quem misit Iesum Christum cognoscant et a viis suis convertantur, paenitentiam agentes(24). Credentibus vero semper fidem et paenitentiam praedicare debet, eos praeterea debet ad Sacramenta disponere, docere servare omnia quaecumque mandavit Christus(25), et allicere ad omnia opera caritatis, pietatis et apostolatus, quibus operibus manifestum fiat christifideles de hoc mundo quidem non esse, sed tamen esse lucem mundi eosdemque Patrem glorificare coram hominibus.

Slavishly Literal Translation:

9. The Sacred Liturgy does not occupy completely the total action of the Church; for before human beings could approach to the Liturgy, it is necessary that they be called to faith and conversion: “How will they be able to call upon the one in whom they have not believed? Or how should they believe him whom they have not heard? Indeed how should they hear without preaching? In fact how will they preach unless they should be sent?” [Romans 10:14-15]

Thus the Church announces the proclamation of salvation to those not believing, so that all human beings might acknowledge the one true God and the one whom he sent, Jesus Christ, and might be turned from their ways, doing penance [cf. John 17:3; Luke 24:27; Acts 2:38]. In fact [the Church] ought always to preach faith and penitence to believers, moreover it ought to dispose them to the Sacraments, to teach them to observe all the things that Christ commanded [cf. Matthew 28:20], and to draw to all works of charity, piety and the apostolate, by which works it will be manifest that Christ’s faithful [though] indeed not to be of this world, are nonetheless to be the light of the world and the same are to glorify the Father before human beings.

Articles 9 – 13 describe more exactly the relationship between the liturgy and other ecclesial actions. The proximate background to this article is Pius XII’s address to the 1956 International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy at Assisi and Rome, where the Pontiff repudiated any notions that the liturgy could or should absorb all others functions and actions of the Church. If the present article recalls Pius’ teaching, it places it in a new context: ecclesial action directed to non-believers (evangelization and catechesis) and believers (sacramental and moral catechesis conjoined to the works of charity) is oriented toward the liturgy as source and summit, which will be explicitly taught in article 10.


  1. Sacra Liturgia non explet totam actionem Ecclesiae.

    But didn’t Jesus say, “Save the liturgy, save the world”?

    Oh, wait, that was someone else.

    On the whole, this is a salutary reminder that liturgy, while vitally important, is not the only thing the Church does and that, believe it or not, there are saints out there who don’t have strong opinions about how the liturgy is celebrated — where the Pope wears a fanon or not; whether there are one, two, three or four ambos; whether we sing Glory and Praise or Gregorian chant. These things are important in their own way, but it’s good for people like me to keep things in perspective.

  2. Christian life is about love of God and love of neighbor. There is not enough about love of neighbor in this paragraph.

    In his landmark random study of congregations, Chaves found that almost every congregation, even all the very small ones of less that 50 people that he was able to locate by his special methodology, had a weekly worship service almost always consisting of some singing and something like a sermon. They also had some form of religious education. He concluded that congregations are primarily transmitters of religious culture.

    The excessive focus of Christianity upon religious culture and its transmission to the neglect of building social relationships in a community of love is the biggest threat to its existence.

    Fortunately some religious entrepreneurs will likely notice the finding of American Grace that worship by itself has few documented effects unless people are also part of religious networks of family, friends and small groups. The effect of these religious networks upon health, happiness, and stewards is very substantial. And many Christians have the talents to build such networks, you don’t need a lot of specialized religious knowledge and paid staff.

    This paragraph comes too close to the liturgy and religious education model of most Christian congregations in the USA today.

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