Bishop's Blog / Further Reflections on the Constitution on the Liturgy

By Joseph Strickland
Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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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 [36], a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is
filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us [37].

48. The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when
present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent
spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and
prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are
doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's
word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks
to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the
priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through
Christ the Mediator [38], they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect
union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.

49. For this reason the sacred Council, having in mind those Masses which are
celebrated with the assistance of the faithful, especially on Sundays and feasts
of obligation, has made the following decrees in order that the sacrifice of the
Mass, even in the ritual forms of its celebration, may become pastorally
efficacious to the fullest degree.

50. The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic
nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them,
may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the
faithful may be more easily achieved.

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to
preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be
duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded;
other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now
to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as
may seem useful or necessary.

51. The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer
fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way a
more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in
the course of a prescribed number of years.

52. By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles
of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of
the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of
the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the
assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be
omitted except for a serious reason.

53. Especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation there is to be restored,
after the Gospel and the homily, "the common prayer" or "the prayer of the
faithful." By this prayer, in which the people are to take part, intercession
will be made for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by
various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the entire world [39].

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be
allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the
readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to
those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art.
36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say
or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which
pertain to them.

And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears
desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be

55. That more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful,
after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice,
is strongly commended.

The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining
intact [40], communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think
fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be
determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the
Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their
religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their

56. The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the
liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with
each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly this sacred
Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they
insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on
Sundays and feasts of obligation.

57. 1. Concelebration, whereby the unity of the priesthood is appropriately
manifested, has remained in use to this day in the Church both in the east and
in the west. For this reason it has seemed good to the Council to extend
permission for concelebration to the following cases:


a) on the Thursday of the Lord's Supper, not only at the Mass of the Chrism, but
also at the evening Mass.

b) at Masses during councils, bishops' conferences, and synods;

c) at the Mass for the blessing of an abbot.

2. Also, with permission of the ordinary, to whom it belongs to decide whether
concelebration is opportune:

a) at conventual Mass, and at the principle Mass in churches when the needs of
the faithful do not require that all priests available should celebrate


1. The regulation, however, of the discipline of con-celebration in the diocese
pertains to the bishop.

2. Nevertheless, each priest shall always retain his right to celebrate Mass
individually, though not at the same time in the same church as a concelebrated
Mass, nor on Thursday of the Lord's Supper.

58. A new rite for concelebration is to be drawn up and inserted into the
Pontifical and into the Roman Missal.


This section begins by restating the most basic understanding of the purpose of
the mass in our Catholic faith.  It exists to "perpetuate the sacrifice of the
cross through the centuries" this simple description reminds us of the very
heart of the meaning of the mass.  We are awestruck to realize that on any given
day, in any given year, in any given century, in whatever place the faithful
gather the mass has been celebrated and the wondrous power of the cross has once
again been made available to the people of God.

The document goes on to describe more in depth what the focus of the mass should
be and calls for revisions that simplify the rite.  We have witnessed this
process of simplification through the years since the Council.  At times it has
gone awry and our experience tells us how important it is to return to the
cautions contained in this text.  The Constitution urges these revisions to
preserve what is ancient and true to the liturgy and remove anything extraneous. 
We have all lived through the debates these revisions have prompted.  It seems
especially worthwhile to return to the mandate this text proclaims in order to
constantly purify our efforts to understand more clearly where the liturgy is

We can see that subsequent documents through the years have seen fit to repeat
the admonitions contained here. A clear reminder that we are on a journey which
continues and it is easy to slip off the path which these words lay out for us.

These paragraphs touch on the significance of the Word of God in the mass, the
homily, the prayers of the faithful, communion under the species of bread and
wine and concelebration.  It is worthwhile to return to this seminal text as we
seek to clarify these elements which can easily be taken for granted.


Joseph Strickland

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was named the fourth bishop of Tyler in September of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to being named bishop, he served a number of roles in the diocese, including vicar general, judicial vicar, and pastor of the Cathedral parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.
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