The first post-conciliar liturgy document was a motu proprio from Pope Paul VI. Dated 25 January 1964, it was a relatively short piece, outlining eleven norms to take effect in just a few weeks, at the beginning of Lent 1964. This type of document is indicative of a personal initiative of a pope, and often contains relatively minor point of law or custom. Such an effort does not preclude consultation of the reception of advice from others, but the promulgation is the Holy Father’s alone.
Before we get to the eleven norms, let’s read the preliminaries:
The many documents on liturgical questions that have been published and are well known to all demonstrate how it was the ceaseless concern of our predecessors in the supreme pontificate, of ourselves, and of the holy shepherds to preserve diligently, to cultivate and to renew the sacred liturgy according to need. Another proof of this solicitude is given by the Liturgical Constitution which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has approved by general consent and which we in the solemn public session of December 4, 1963, ordered to be promulgated.
Paul VI sets out the argument that preservation, cultivation, as well as renewal of liturgy is something based on pastoral need. In other words, the sanctification of people. The pope appeals to Sacrosanctum Concilium (henceforth SC in the references) to begin his explanation.
This lively interest stems from the fact that “in the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle. We sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army. Venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them. We eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory” (SC 8).
Liturgy is at once an aspect of heaven, but also a means of sanctification. Additionally, it is a sign of hope for what is to come.
For this reason the souls of the faithful worship God, the principle and model of all holiness, in such a way as to be, in this earthly pilgrimage, “imitators of the heavenly Zion” (from hymn of Lauds of the Feast of the Dedication of a Church).
For these reasons it is apparent to all that it is our uppermost concern that all Christians, and especially all priests, should consecrate themselves first of all to the study of the already-mentioned Constitution and from now on, resolve to implement its individual prescriptions in good faith as soon as they enter into force. And since it is necessary by the very nature of things that the prescriptions concerning the knowledge and spread of the liturgical laws should take place immediately, we earnestly exhort shepherds of dioceses that with the help of the sacred ministers, “dispensers of God’s mysteries” (SC 19), they should hasten to act in order that the faithful entrusted to their care may understand, to the degree permitted by age, by the conditions of their own life and by their mental formation, the strength and inner value of the liturgy and at the same time participate very devoutly, internally and externally, in the rites of the Church (SC 19).
We get into the meat of it. Study of SC is prescribed. Some liturgical changes will be heading into churches “immediately.” Bishops should act quickly, and also ensure a proper preparation and catechesis for the laity. Without totally dissing the notion of “organic development” as touted by traditionalists these days, we do not see that principle explicitly considered by either the pope in this motu proprio. That would bei n keeping with the one passing reference to it in SC 23.
Meanwhile, it seems evident that many prescriptions of the Constitution cannot be applied in a short period of time, especially since some rites must first be revised and new liturgical books prepared. In order that this work may be carried out with the necessary wisdom and prudence, we are establishing a special commission whose principal task will be to implement in the best possible way the prescriptions of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy itself.
Some liturgical changes will not be made immediately. The long-term renewal will be handed over to a commission, says the pope. This would be the much-maligned Consilium headed by Bugnini.
However, since among the norms of the Constitution there are some which can be made effective now, we desire that they may enter immediately into force, so that the souls of the faithful may not be further deprived of the fruits of the grace which are hoped for from them.
The thinking behind a rapid implementation was to allow worshippers the benefit of changes that could be made right away. In the next post, we’ll take a close look at those norms which were to take effect a mere three weeks from publication.
One can sense the urgency from the pope and council to make liturgical changes right out of the chute. This document was promulgated only seven weeks after the end of the second council session and the publication of SC. It probably exposes the falsehood that rapid liturgical change in the 60′s went against the wishes of the pope and bishops.
I think a fair argument can be made that this rapidity might have been imprudent. But there’s no denying that the pope and bishops were solidly behind immediate liturgical changes as early as 1964.