Did the Liturgical Reforms of Vatican II go Further Than Sacrosanctum Concilium Called For?

It is often argued in Vatican II’s favour that the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy did not envision the depth and level of changes that ended up being the result of the liturgical reforms it called for which happened subsequent to the Council. Is this true?

It is often pointed out that Sacrosanctum Concilium called for Latin is to be preserved (Paragraph 36) and Gregorian chant given pride of place (Paragraph 116). The Council itself never dictate the exact form of the Novous Ordo it only provided guidelines which are theological solid. The exact form of the NO came as a result of post-conciliar efforts.

Yet, Sacrosanctum Concilium perhaps can be viewed as given some sort of approval to the Liturgical Renewal movement which predated Vatican II and ultimately heavily influenced the NO final form. In paragraph 23, says “Also the general laws governing the structure and meaning of the liturgy must be studied in conjunction with the experience derived from recent liturgical reforms and from the indults conceded to various places.

The text although not in a highly obvious or indicative way, does says that the experience of recent liturgical reforms and indults given to various places should be regarded as a source for insights. Some authors such as Thomas Merton make the connection that the Liturgical Renewal movement preceding Vatican II, was being responded to in the very creation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. “The Constitution on Liturgy does not merely show the Church’s approval of what has already been done by the Liturgical Movement. It is the beginning of a broad and general Liturgical reform which, it is hoped, will accomplish the most striking and significant changes in every form of Catholic Worship.” (Seasons of Celebration, Page 1-2, Thomas Merton)

Now I think we have to be careful to jumping to conclusions, but even if the NO was a creation of post-councilor activities and these activities cannot be fully found in Sacrosanctum Concilium – The timing of the document, the reference in paragraph 23, the general ethos of the council and the fact that the further reforms were approved by the Church pretty clearly indicate that the changes are guarded by the Church’s Magisterium and perhaps more strongly part of Vatican II’s ultimate spirit than is general admitted. We have to remember that it was the same Pope who ended Vatican II that also approved the NO when first issued. There is a continuity in this. Additionally, the final form of NO, if I may guess was probably close to the pre-Vatican II experimentations than we may guess.


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