In 1994 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) released its first Vatican II implementation document in over two decades, Varietates Legitimae, covering the topic “Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy.”
Church scholars nearly always refer to Roman documents by the first few Latin words in the original text. In English, “legitimate differences” seems an unusual first salvo, but there we have it. Over the next two months, we’ll cover its 8600-some words and 70 sections. If you’ve found other liturgy documents interesting, I’m sure this will not disappoint.
To give some context, remember other post-conciliar liturgy documents coming from Rome that treat the implementation of Vatican II. Three documents were released in 1964-1970 that were described as instructions “on the Orderly Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy.” These are:
- Inter Oecumenici, 1964, on which we blogged four years ago.
- Tres Abhinc Annos, 1967, covered here too.
- Liturgicae Instaurationes, 1970, ditto.
Musican Sacram (1967) is simply titled an “instruction.” I would count it as being of the same likeness as the other three, though with a singular and important theme. Not unlike a topical document treating inculturation or translation principles, I suppose.
Varietates Legitimae, like its younger and more famous sister Liturgiam Authenticam, is listed as an “Instruction for the Right Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.” Many have noted the change in language from “orderly” to “right.” Make of that as you will.
I confess I have yet to read this document, so I will be learning with you as we go along in this series. If you’re not sure what inculturation is, no worries: the document will define it, then address concerns of Rome as the Church engages the notion of adapting liturgy for the pastoral benefit of non-European believers. Given the hand-wringing over the state of affairs in the Christian (post-Christian?) West, it might be that a renewed European/North American Church may well need to embrace the principles of inculturation.
Christianity may well remain the cultural substrate of Western civilization. But there is no argument other philosophies and influences have layered in on top of that foundation. More, one can soundly argue that Christianity has, at its worst, already inculturated non-Christian values into the liturgy, if not other aspects such as governance, finances, and the like. I’d like this exploration to take Varietates Legitimae seriously, and that will include an honest assessment of the Church as it is today.
Ready for that adventure? I know I am.