Tres Abhinc Annos: Introduction

Tres Abhinc Annos is the second instruction on the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. It was to take effect on 29 June 1967, just a bit longer than the two years since the first instruction, Inter Oecumenici, took effect and not quite four years after the promulgation of SC. In contrast to the papal encyclical we’ve just finished reading, this document will concern itself with some particular ways of celebrating liturgy.

An unnumbered introduction begins the text:

Three years ago the Instruction Inter Oecumenici, issued by the Congregation of Rites, 26 September 1964, established a number of adaptations for introduction into the sacred rites. These adaptations, the firstfruits of the general liturgical reform called for by the conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy, took effect on 7 March 1965.

Their rich yield is becoming quite clear from the many reports of bishops, which attest to an increased, more aware, and intense participation of the faithful everywhere in the liturgy, especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

The Consilium presents a broad and favorable reaction from the Catholic faithful to the beginnings of liturgical reform. They also suggest that some of the prescriptions offered in this current document come from the world’s bishops and have been examined by the CDWDS and the Consilium. Let’s keep in mind this suggests a good degree of teamwork between the Consilium, the curia, and the participating bishops.

To increase this participation even more and to make the liturgical rites, especially the Mass, clearer and better understood, the same bishops have proposed certain other adaptations. Submitted first to the Consilium, the proposals have undergone careful examination and discussion by the Consilium and the Congregation of Rites.

At least for the moment, not every proposal can be sanctioned. Others, however, do seem worth putting into effect immediately, because pastoral considerations commend them and they seem to offer no hindrance to the definitive reform of the liturgy yet to come. Further, they seem advantageous for the gradual introduction of that reform and are feasible simply by altering rubrics, not the existing liturgical books.

On this occasion it seems necessary to recall to everyone’s mind that capital principle of church discipline which the Constitution on the Liturgy solemnly confirmed. “Regulation of the liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church. Therefore no other person, not even if he is a priest, may on his own add, take away, or change anything in the liturgy” (SC art. 22, §§ 2-3).

So the “full speed ahead” principle is tempered by the instruction that bishops are the proper source for liturgical changes, not the folks at the parish level.

Ordinaries, both local and religious, should therefore be mindful of their grave duty before the Lord to watch carefully over observance of this norm, so important for church life and order. All ministers of sacred rites as well as all the faithful should also willingly conform to it.

Individual spiritual growth and well-being demand this, as do harmonious cooperation in the Lord and mutual good example among the faithful in any local community. It is required also by the serious responsibility of each community to cooperate for the good of the Church throughout the world, especially today when the good or evil that develops in local communities quickly has an impact on the fabric of the whole family of God.

All should heed the warning of the Apostle: “For God is not a God of discord but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

The following adaptations and changes are instituted to achieve the more specific actualization and measured progress of the liturgical reform.

And in the posts ahead, we’ll get to these specifics. Meanwhile, any comment as we embark on a new document?

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About catholicsensibility

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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