Sacrosanctum Concilium 59

Time to begin another chapter. Number three covers the other six sacraments, plus sacramentals.

The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify (people), to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called “sacraments of faith.” They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.

It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.

Again, the conciliar emphasis is on comprehension. Comprehension, the council bishops thought, would lead to greater holiness. Notice the last sentence of the first paragraph. Not only do the sacraments serve as a conduit of grace from God to the people, but the “effective” celebration leads to a greater receptivity. How would the bishops define “effective?” Would it be the same as we would–with ritual clarity as well as quality? It would seem so.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Sacrosanctum Concilium 59

  1. John Heavrin says:

    “Comprehension, the council bishops thought, would lead to greater holiness.”

    Well, who knows what they thought? This is your inference; mine might be that this excerpt is little more than platitude, and evinces that they thought…platitudes were enough.

    Since the Blessed Sacrament seems to be excepted from this excerpt (you refer to “the other six”) , and the excerpt exhorts “frequent” reception, I suppose the excerpt refers to the Sacrament of Penance. I fail to see how this sacrament is hard to comprehend, pre- or post-council (except in the obvious sense that one can never comprehend a supernatural mystery; perhaps that’s the point to remember). Perhaps the council fathers thought hearing the words “I absolve you” would make clear that which “Ego te absolvo” made unclear, who knows? Perhaps they thought that understanding the words would mean understanding the mystery, would mean the faithful would be more zealous to receive the Sacrament, not less; hard to believe they would have committed such a fallacy.

    With regard to the Sacraments, we’re called to devotion, not comprehension, or its pretense.

    Everybody knows this: the Sacrament of Penance has been all but abandoned by most who call themselves Catholic, and the necessary link between frequent confession and frequent Communion has been all but lost. Are the faithful holier? Do they commit fewer sins? If so, this is a laudable success.

    It would seem that the more the Sacrament of Penance is “comprehended,” the more it is judged to be unnecessary by the faithful.

    My observation is that the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is necessary for growth in holiness; until we “comprehend” that, we’re going backwards.

    And “going backwards” would have been the last result these guys would have wanted, right? :)

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