In the ordination rites, following the section on admission to candidacy, the publication provides five pages of Paul VI’s 1968 apostolic constitution, Approval of New Rites for the Ordination of Deacons, Presbyters, and Bishops.
We’ll take a pause in posts on the actual ordination rituals because I think this document gives us some significant insight as to the formulation of these rites. Pope Paul addresses the notion of “simplifying” rites, still a controversial method forty years later. Where the traditionalists and reform2 crowd often raise the specter of malice, we’ll see there were reasons for preparing the rites as they are.
For the fringe Catholics who question the very validity of the post-conciliar rites, Paul VI addresses that too.
Let’s leap in:
The revision of the Roman Pontifical is prescribed in a general way by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium 25) and is also governed by special norms in which the holy Synod ordered that the rites of ordination be changed “in ceremonies and in texts.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 76)
The reform is grounded in the charge given the post-conciliar church by the Vatican II bishops.
Among the rites of ordination the first to be considered are those which constitute the hierarchy through the sacrament of orders, conferred in several grades: “Thus the divinely instituted ministry of the Church is exercised in various orders by those who already in antiquity are called bishops, presbyters, and deacons.” (Lumen Gentium 28)
Start at the top, in other words.
In the revision of the rites of sacred ordination, besides the general principles which must direct the entire restoration of the liturgy according to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, the greatest attention should be paid to the Council’s important teaching, in the constitution on the Church, on the nature and effects of the sacrament of orders. It is evident that the liturgy itself should express this doctrine in its own way, for “the texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 21)
This paragraph gives a succinct reasoning behind the preparation of all the reformed rites, not just ordination. The authority for change comes from the council, as does a brief framework. What is left to the post-conciliar period are the details.
What are the nature and effects of the sacrament? These should be drawn out “more clearly” for the benefit of the people. Implied in this statement is the Church’s understanding of all public sacramental rituals: they are celebrated for the need of the community, and not solely for the benefit of those honored by sacramental reception.
That’s enough for now. The next post will detail Paul VI’s understanding and teaching on the three orders themselves and will touch on the significance of that for the liturgy. Meanwhile, any comments?