Inter Oecumenici Introduction (1-8)

Inter Oecumenici was an instruction from the Consilium, published on 26 September 1964, about eight months after the motu proprio Sacram Liturgiam and just a few weeks before the third session of Vatican II was to commence. This document will take us longer than two posts to cover, but I’ll be taking the ninety-nine numbered sections in logical chunks.

The introduction covers the first eight numbered sections, and is divided into three parts, first a description of the “Nature of this Instruction.”

1. Among the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s primary achievements must be counted the Constitution on the Liturgy, since it regulates the most exalted sphere of the Church’s activity. The document will have ever richer effects as pastors and faithful alike deepen their understanding of its genuine spirit and with good will put it into practice.

The Consilium advocates understanding the “spirit” of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and urges “good will” as people put its principles into effect. The Consilium also defines its own role:

2. The Consilium, which Pope Paul VI established by the Motu Proprio Sacram Liturgiam, has promptly taken up its two appointed tasks: to carry out the directives of the Constitution and of Sacram Liturgiam and to provide the means for interpreting these documents and putting them into practice.

… and reminds Catholics they operate with papal authority, as they call for implementation. This document clarifies the roles of the episcopal conferences in the coming years. It also communicates a sense of urgency that the liturgy be reformed wherever it can be done, even prior to the changes in the rites themselves.

3. That these documents should immediately be properly carried out everywhere and any possible doubts on interpretation removed are matters of the utmost importance. Therefore, by papal mandate, the Consilium has prepared the present Instruction. It sets out more sharply the functions of conferences of bishops in liturgical matters, explains more fully those principles stated in general terms in the aforementioned documents, and authorizes or mandates that those measures that are practicable before revision of the liturgical books go into effect immediately.

Part two of the introduction outlines “Principles to be kept in mind,” starting with the need to promote active participation:

4. The reason for deciding to put these things into practice now is that the liturgy may ever more fully satisfy the conciliar intent on promoting active participation of the faithful.

The faithful will more readily respond to the overall reform of the liturgy if this proceeds step by step in stages and if pastors present and explain it to them by means of the needed catechesis.

Even in 1964, care was urged in implementing reform. Parish priests were seen, and rightly so, as the key link in liturgical renewal. The Consilium was also aware that Vatican II’s point was not change for the sake of change, but to revitalize the liturgy so that it could be effective as a means of faith formation and the spiritual life:

5. Necessary before all else, however, is the shared conviction that the Constitution on the Liturgy has as its objective not simply to change liturgical forms and texts but rather to bring to life the kind of formation of the faithful and ministry of pastors that will have their summit and source in the liturgy (SC 10). That is the purpose of the changes made up to now and of those yet to come.

Christ remains at the center of the liturgy:

6. Pastoral activity guided toward the liturgy has its power in being a living experience of the paschal mystery, in which the Son of God, incarnate and made obedient even to the death of the cross, has in his resurrection and ascension been raised up in such a way that he communicates his divine life to the world. Through this life those who are dead to sin and conformed to Christ “may live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15).

Faith and the sacraments of faith accomplish this, especially baptism (SC 6) and the mystery of the eucharist (SC 47), the center of the other sacraments and sacramentals (SC 61) and of the cycle of celebrations that in the course of the year unfold Christ’s paschal mystery (SC 102-107).

Liturgy’s connection with other activities of the Church must be more evident”

7. The liturgy, it is true, does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church (SC 9); nevertheless the greatest care must be taken about rightly linking pastoral activity with the liturgy and carrying out a pastoral liturgy not as if it were set apart and existing in isolation but as it is closely joined to other pastoral works. Especially necessary is a close, living union between liturgy, catechesis, religious formation, and preaching.

The introduction ends with a third part titled, ” Results to be Hoped For,” first advocating that the clergy see and enact the connection between their pastoral ministry and the liturgy. And second, the laity are charged with proclamation in the world and with its evangelization:

8. Bishops and their assistants in the priesthood should, therefore, attach ever greater importance to their whole pastoral ministry as it is focused toward the liturgy. Then the faithful themselves will richly partake of the divine life through sharing in the sacred celebrations and, changed into the leaven of Christ and the salt of the earth, will proclaim that divine life and pass it on to others.

I think it’s clear we see no lessening of fervor for quick implementation, and the desire that liturgical renewal begin to bear fruit even before the Council completes its tasks. The Consilium sees liturgy as not just an isolated discipline or an effort in rule-making. It does appeal for obedience, calling upon the authority of the pope. But it also reminds the Church that the connection between liturgy and life must be more evident in any tasks that are undertaken in liturgical reform.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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