Vol 53 No 4 December 2023



Title Author Topic Page
Editor: The Next Sixty Years Elich, Tom History of Liturgy / Vatican II 2
Open Hands and Hearts Fitz-Herbert, John Liturgical Inculturation 3-5
The Liturgical Context Matters: Proclaiming the Scriptures Schwantes, Clare Liturgy of the Word 6-9
Early Lent and Easter Harrington, Elizabeth Easter and Lent 10
Learning from one another. Working with one another. Frawley-Mangan, Anne Indigenous Australians 11
Communion from the Cup - Eucharist / Mass 12
Catholic Lutheran Communion - Liturgy - Other Churches/Religions 12
Everyone, Everyone, Everyone - Inclusion 12
Pastoral Gestures - Symbols 12
Women's Place - Ministries – Liturgical 13
A Theological Approach - Evangelisation and Mission 13
Colin Buchanan - In Memoriam 13
Cremation - Funerals 13
Our Cover: Liturgy Snapshots - Music 13
Praying Intercessions - Texts – Liturgical 14
Blessing Gay Couples and the Divorced-Remarried - Inclusion 14
The Power of Invitation Corfield, Paul Christian Initiation 15-16
Books: Kevin Irwin - Ecology, Liturgy and the Sacraments Cronin, James Sacraments 17


The Next Sixty Years

Elich, Tom

Over lunch recently with a group of seven people, the topic of the Second Vatican Council came up. We were discussing the sixtieth anniversary of the liturgy document when someone pointed out that I was the only person there who was alive in 1963. I was a teenager already and remember it well.

I realised then that the Council was rapidly entering the category of ‘history’, even though there is still much that we need to understand and implement. The process over the last six decades has been one of learning. This means that there have been mistakes and misguided enthusiasm, along with very significant change and growth. However, the phase of reception is still unfinished. That is why there are so many diverse understandings of what the Council asked and intended.

One thing is certain. We cannot just mine the Council documents to uncover a simple blueprint for today’s pastoral strategies.

For a start, the world now is radically different from that of the 1960s when laptops and the internet, mobile phones and social media were all still in the future. These things alone have profoundly changed the way we see ourselves and the way we relate to one another and communicate, even in the Church. The Council could not have possibly imagined how the world and the Church would change. It does not make much sense therefore to keep asking ‘what did the Council say’ as though it had ready answers and solutions to the issues of our day.

In fact, even at the Council there were great debates about issues which have continued to occupy our attention in the last sixty years. Many of these were not resolved at the time of the Council. Instead contrasting statements were placed side by side to enable the bishops to agree on a document – at least each could identify a statement which expressed his personal understanding. For example, how to articulate the local and universal aspects of the Church is an issue still playing out in questions about inculturation and adaptation in the liturgy. Even particular matters such as the use of Latin or the type of music to be used in liturgy remain the cause of debate and division.

What the Council did do was to embrace change, deliberately leaving open many areas for future clarification and decision. The Council established trajectories and we are still in the process of seeing where they lead. We cannot argue that liturgical developments should now be stopped or reversed because they have gone beyond what the Council asked or imagined. The Council Fathers intended to open vistas for future exploration.

The directions for further development are established – it is now a matter of discovering what they call us to do. There has been a shift from an ecclesiology centred on ordination to a baptismal ecclesiology. We have come to see the liturgy as the communal action of the whole baptised people and this affirms that Christ is actually the celebrant of the liturgy. Thus, by our ‘full, conscious, active participation’, we are drawn into the paschal mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection and it is in the Church’s worship that we encounter Christ. However, to experience this reality we need the eyes to see and understand symbols and the sacramental signs. They open up for us windows to the sacred.

When the Second Vatican Council set up its program for reform, it encouraged the elimination of ‘useless repetitions’ and the establishment of short, clear liturgical rites, noble in their beauty and simplicity, that could be understood without much explanation. This has been very helpful in clearing away the obscure accretions of the centuries. But how is this now to be carried forward? Perhaps it is time to enrich our liturgical forms with dimensions that are more colourful and diverse. This is beginning to take place through the interchange of cultures. Growing organically from the bones of the Roman rite, popular devotion can help us listen to the voices of other cultures, loosen clerical control and promote opportunities for more visual and affective participation.

One of the unforeseen results of the liturgical reform has been a narrowing of the possibilities for liturgical celebration. The Church’s worship is easily reduced to the celebration of Eucharist which becomes, not the summit and source, but the whole mountain. If the borders between liturgy and other communal prayer became a bit more fuzzy, we might be able to open up new opportunities for liturgy, less focussed on the priest, and more inclusive of those who currently find themselves at the edges.

Another example. Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ calls the Church to engage with issues relating to the environment and the care of our common home. He raises issues of justice and an equitable share in the world’s resources. He encourages us to see ourselves not as masters of creation but part of creation. The vision of this encyclical moves us from an anthropocentric mindset to accept our place in a ‘communion of creatures’.

The seeds of such a broader vision of the liturgy (a glimpse of the eschatological ‘new heaven and new earth’) are already there in our liturgical texts. All you have created rightly gives you praise… you give life to all things and make them holy (EP III). This liturgical vision includes not only human beings, but also animals and forests. The role of human beings is that we can give voice to all the creatures which God has made and blessed. We… confess your name in exaltation, giving voice to every creature under heaven… (EP IV).

By embracing change and encouraging zeal for the promotion and restoration of the liturgy, the second Vatican Council has given us a model of tradition which is not traditionalism or historicism, but rather one of organic growth. As we seek to embrace the vision and spirit of the Council, we are called to forge a living tradition for the next sixty years.

Tom Elich