Catechism of the Catholic Church / Part Two: The Celebration of The Christian Mystery
Section One - The Sacramental Economy
Chapter Two - The Sacramental Celebration of The Paschal Mystery
The catechesis of the liturgy entails first of all an understanding of the
sacramental economy (Chapter One). In this light, the innovation of its
celebration is revealed. This chapter will therefore treat of the celebration
of the sacraments of the Church. It will consider that which, through the
diversity of liturgical traditions, is common to the celebration of the seven
sacraments. What is proper to each will be treated later. This fundamental
catechesis on the sacramental celebrations responds to the first questions
posed by the faithful regarding this subject:
- Who celebrates the liturgy?
- How is the liturgy celebrated?
- When is the liturgy celebrated?
- Where is the liturgy celebrated?
CELEBRATING THE CHURCH'S LITURGY
I. Who Celebrates?
Liturgy is an "action" of the whole Christ (Christus totus). Those
who even now celebrate it without signs are already in the heavenly liturgy,
where celebration is wholly communion and feast
celebrants of the heavenly liturgy
The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church's liturgy, first reveals
to us, "A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne":
"the Lord God."1 It
then shows the Lamb, "standing, as
though it had been slain": Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest
of the true sanctuary, the same one "who offers and is offered, who gives
and is given."2 Finally
it presents "the river of the water
of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb," one of most
beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.3
"Recapitulated in Christ," these are the ones who take part in the
service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan: the heavenly
powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New
Covenants (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and
especially the martyrs "slain for the word
of God," and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the
Lamb,5 and finally "a
great multitude which no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues."6
It is in this eternal liturgy that the Spirit and the Church enable us to
participate whenever we celebrate the mystery of salvation in the sacraments.
celebrants of the sacramental liturgy
It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that
celebrates. "Liturgical services are not private functions but are
celebrations of the Church which is 'the sacrament of unity,' namely, the holy
people united and organized under the authority of the bishops. Therefore,
liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of the Church. They manifest it,
and have effects upon it. But they touch individual members of the Church in
different ways, depending on their orders, their role in the liturgical
services, and their actual participation in them."7
reason, "rites which are meant to be celebrated in common, with the
faithful present and actively participating, should as far as possible be celebrated
in that way rather than by an individual and quasi-privately."8
The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who, "by
regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a
spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that . . . they may offer spiritual
"common priesthood" is that of Christ
the sole priest, in which all his members participate:10
Mother Church earnestly
desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active
participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature
of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, "a chosen race, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people," have a right and an
obligation by reason of their Baptism.11
But "the members do not all have the same function."12
Certain members are called by God, in and through the Church, to a special
service of the community. These servants are chosen and consecrated by the
sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the
person of Christ the head, for the service of all the members of the
Church.13 The ordained
minister is, as it were, an "icon" of
Christ the priest. Since it is in the Eucharist that the sacrament of the
Church is made fully visible, it is in his presiding at the Eucharist that the
bishop's ministry is most evident, as well as, in communion with him, the
ministry of priests and deacons.
For the purpose of assisting the work of the common priesthood of the faithful,
other particular ministries also exist, not consecrated by the sacrament of
Holy Orders; their functions are determined by the bishops, in accord with liturgical
traditions and pastoral needs. "Servers, readers, commentators, and
members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical
In the celebration of the sacraments it is thus the whole assembly that is
leitourgos, each according to his function, but in the "unity of the
Spirit" who acts in all. "In liturgical celebrations each person,
minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only
those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms
of the liturgy."15
II. How is the Liturgy Celebrated?
A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and symbols. In keeping with the
divine pedagogy of salvation, their meaning is rooted in the work of creation
and in human culture, specified by the events of the Old Covenant and fully
revealed in the person and work of Christ.
Signs of the human world. In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important
place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives
spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man
needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures,
and actions. the same holds true for his relationship with God.
God speaks to man through the visible creation. the material cosmos is so
presented to man's intelligence that he can read there traces of its
Creator.16 Light and
darkness, wind and fire, water and earth, the tree
and its fruit speak of God and symbolize both his greatness and his nearness.
Inasmuch as they are creatures, these perceptible realities can become means of
expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who
offer worship to God. the same is true of signs and symbols taken from the
social life of man: washing and anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup
can express the sanctifying presence of God and man's gratitude toward his
The great religions of mankind witness, often impressively, to this cosmic and
symbolic meaning of religious rites. the liturgy of the Church presupposes,
integrates and sanctifies elements from creation and human culture, conferring
on them the dignity of signs of grace, of the new creation in Jesus Christ.
Signs of the covenant. the Chosen People received from God distinctive signs
and symbols that marked its liturgical life. These are no longer solely
celebrations of cosmic cycles and social gestures, but signs of the covenant,
symbols of God's mighty deeds for his people. Among these liturgical signs from
the Old Covenant are circumcision, anointing and consecration of kings and
priests, laying on of hands, sacrifices, and above all the Passover. the Church
sees in these signs a prefiguring of the sacraments of the New Covenant.
Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of
the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of
God.17 He performs healings
and illustrates his preaching with physical
signs or symbolic gestures.18
He gives new meaning to the deeds and
signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover,19
for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.
Sacramental signs. Since Pentecost, it is through the sacramental signs of his
Church that the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification. the
sacraments of the Church do not abolish but purify and integrate all the
richness of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and of social life. Further,
they fulfill the types and figures of the Old Covenant, signify and make
actively present the salvation wrought by Christ, and prefigure and anticipate
the glory of heaven. Words and actions
A sacramental celebration is a meeting of God's children with their Father, in
Christ and the Holy Spirit; this meeting takes the form of a dialogue, through
actions and words. Admittedly, the symbolic actions are already a language, but
the Word of God and the response of faith have to accompany and give life to
them, so that the seed of the Kingdom can bear its fruit in good soil. the
liturgical actions signify what the Word of God expresses: both his free
initiative and his people's response of faith.
The liturgy of the Word is an integral part of sacramental celebrations. To
nourish the faith of believers, the signs which accompany the Word of God
should be emphasized: the book of the Word (a lectionary or a book of the
Gospels), its veneration (procession, incense, candles), the place of its
proclamation (lectern or ambo), its audible and intelligible reading, the
minister's homily which extends its proclamation, and the responses of the
assembly (acclamations, meditation psalms, litanies, and profession of faith).
The liturgical word and action are inseparable both insofar as they are signs
and instruction and insofar as they accomplish what they signify. When the Holy
Spirit awakens faith, he not only gives an understanding of the Word of God,
but through the sacraments also makes present the "wonders" of God
which it proclaims. the Spirit makes present and communicates the Father's
work, fulfilled by the beloved Son.
"The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of
inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. the main reason for
this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms
a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy."20
and singing of inspired psalms, often accompanied by musical instruments, were already
closely linked to the liturgical celebrations of the Old Covenant. the Church
continues and develops this tradition: "Address . . . one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord
with all your heart." "He who sings prays twice."21
Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more
significant when they are "more closely connected . . . with the
according to three principal criteria:
beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the
designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration. In this way
they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory
of God and the sanctification of the faithful:23
How I wept, deeply moved by
your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion
I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears distilling the truth in
my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my
face - tears that did me good.24
The harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive
and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who
celebrate.25 Hence "religious
singing by the faithful is to be
intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in
liturgical services," in conformity with the Church's norms, "the
voices of the faithful may be heard." But "the texts intended to be
sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine. Indeed they should be
drawn chiefly from the Sacred Scripture and from liturgical
The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot
represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the
Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images:
Previously God, who has
neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But
now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can
make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the
Lord, his face unveiled.27
Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that
Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:
We declare that we preserve
intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been
entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of
representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of
the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real
and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate
each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning.28
All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are
sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly
signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the "cloud of
continue to participate in the salvation of the
world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through
their icons, it is man "in the image of God," finally transfigured
"into his likeness,"30 who is revealed to
our faith. So too
are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:
Following the divinely
inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church
(for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her)
we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of
the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and
God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and
the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of
mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches
of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on
"The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights
the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God."32
Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the
Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the
signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's
memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.
III. When is the Liturgy Celebrated?
"Holy Mother Church believes that she should celebrate the saving work of
her divine Spouse in a sacred commemoration on certain days throughout the
course of the year. Once each week, on the day which she has called the Lord's
Day, she keeps the memory of the Lord's resurrection. She also celebrates it
once every year, together with his blessed Passion, at Easter, that most solemn
of all feasts. In the course of the year, moreover, she unfolds the whole
mystery of Christ .... Thus recalling the mysteries of the redemption, she
opens up to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that
these are in some way made present in every age; the faithful lay hold of them
and are filled with saving grace."33
From the time of the Mosaic law, the People of God have observed fixed feasts,
beginning with Passover, to commemorate the astonishing actions of the Savior
God, to give him thanks for them, to perpetuate their remembrance, and to teach
new generations to conform their conduct to them. In the age of the Church,
between the Passover of Christ already accomplished once for all, and its
consummation in the kingdom of God, the liturgy celebrated on fixed days bears
the imprint of the newness of the mystery of Christ.
When the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ, there is a word that marks
her prayer: "Today!" - a word echoing the prayer her Lord taught her
and the call of the Holy Spirit.34 This "today"
of the living
God which man is called to enter is "the hour" of Jesus' Passover,
which reaches across and underlies all history:
Life extends over all beings
and fills them with unlimited light; the Orient of orients pervades the
universe, and he who was "before the daystar" and before the heavenly
bodies, immortal and vast, the great Christ, shines over all beings more
brightly than the sun. Therefore a day of long, eternal light is ushered in for
us who believe in him, a day which is never blotted out: the mystical
"By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from
the very day of Christ's Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal
mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord's Day or
Sunday."36 The day of
Christ's Resurrection is both the first day
of the week, the memorial of the first day of creation, and the "eighth
day," on which Christ after his "rest" on the great sabbath
inaugurates the "day that the Lord has made," the "day that
knows no evening."37 The
Lord's Supper is its center, for there
the whole community of the faithful encounters the risen Lord who invites them
to his banquet:38
The Lord's day, the day of
Resurrection, the day of Christians, is our day. It is called the Lord's day
because on it the Lord rose victorious to the Father. If pagans call it the
"day of the sun," we willingly agree, for today the light of the
world is raised, today is revealed the sun of justice with healing in his
Sunday is the pre-eminent day for the liturgical assembly, when the faithful
gather "to listen to the word of God and take part in the Eucharist, thus
calling to mind the Passion, Resurrection, and glory of the Lord Jesus, and
giving thanks to God who 'has begotten them again, by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead' unto a living hope":40
When we ponder, O Christ, the
marvels accomplished on this day, the Sunday of your holy resurrection, we say:
"Blessed is Sunday, for on it began creation . . . the world's salvation
... the renewal of the human race .... On Sunday heaven and earth rejoiced and
the whole universe was filled with light. Blessed is Sunday, for on it were
opened the gates of paradise so that Adam and all the exiles might enter it
Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the
Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on
either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy. It really
is a "year of the Lord's favor."42 The
economy of salvation
is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment in the
Passover of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of
history is anticipated "as a foretaste," and the kingdom of God
enters into our time.
Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the "Feast of
feasts," the "Solemnity of solemnities," just as the Eucharist
is the "Sacrament of sacraments" (the Great Sacrament). St.
Athanasius calls Easter "the Great Sunday"43
and the Eastern
Churches call Holy Week "the Great Week." the mystery of the
Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy
our old time, until all is subjected to him.
Council of Nicaea in 325, all the Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian
Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (14
Nisan) after the vernal equinox. the reform of the Western calendar, called
"Gregorian" after Pope Gregory XIII (1582), caused a discrepancy of
several days with the Eastern calendar. Today, the Western and Eastern Churches
are seeking an agreement in order once again to celebrate the day of the Lord's
Resurrection on a common date.
In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold.
This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the
incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning
of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery.
sanctoral in the liturgical year
"In celebrating this annual cycle of the mysteries of Christ, Holy Church
honors the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, with a special love. She is inseparably
linked with the saving work of her Son. In her the Church admires and exalts
the most excellent fruit of redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a
faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to
When the Church keeps the memorials of martyrs and other saints during the
annual cycle, she proclaims the Paschal mystery in those "who have
suffered and have been glorified with Christ. She proposes them to the faithful
as examples who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their
merits she begs for God's favors."45
of the Hours
The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the
Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the
time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours,
"the divine office."46 This celebration,
faithful to the
apostolic exhortations to "pray constantly," is "so devised that
the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of
God."47 In this "public
prayer of the Church,"48
The faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood
of the baptized. Celebrated in "the form approved" by the Church, the
Liturgy of the Hours "is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to
her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his
Body addresses to the Father.49
Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of
God. In it Christ himself "continues his priestly work through his
Church."50 His members
participate according to their own place in
the Church and the circumstances of their lives: priests devoted to the
pastoral ministry, because they are called to remain diligent in prayer and the
service of the word; religious, by the charism of their consecrated lives; all
the faithful as much as possible: "Pastors of souls should see to it that
the principal hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on
Sundays and on the more solemn feasts. the laity, too, are encouraged to recite
the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even
The celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours demands not only harmonizing the
voice with the praying heart, but also a deeper "understanding of the
liturgy and of the Bible, especially of the Psalms."52
The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the
psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day,
the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading
from the Word of God at each Hour (with the subsequent responses or troparia)
and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal
more deeply the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, assist in
understanding the psalms, and prepare for silent prayer. the lectio divina,
where the Word of God is so read and meditated that it becomes prayer, is thus
rooted in the liturgical celebration.
The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the Eucharistic
celebration, does not exclude but rather in a complementary way calls forth the
various devotions of the People of God, especially adoration and worship of the
IV. Where is the Liturgy Celebrated?
The worship "in Spirit and in truth"53
of the New Covenant is
not tied exclusively to any one place. the whole earth is sacred and entrusted
to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful
assemble in the same place, they are the "living stones," gathered to
be "built into a spiritual house."54 For the
Body of the
risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water
springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, "we are the
temple of the living God."55
When the exercise of religious liberty is not thwarted,56
construct buildings for divine worship. These visible churches are not simply
gathering places but signify and make visible the Church living in this place,
the dwelling of God with men reconciled and united in Christ.
A church, "a house of prayer in which the Eucharist is celebrated and
reserved, where the faithful assemble, and where is worshipped the presence of
the Son of God our Savior, offered for us on the sacrificial altar for the help
and consolation of the faithful - this house ought to be in good taste and a
worthy place for prayer and sacred ceremonial."57
"house of God" the truth and the harmony of the signs that make it up
should show Christ to be present and active in this place.58
altar of the New Covenant is the Lord's Cross,59
from which the
sacraments of the Paschal mystery flow. On the altar, which is the center of
the church, the sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs.
the altar is also the table of the Lord, to which the People of God are
invited.60 In certain Eastern
liturgies, the altar is also the symbol
of the tomb (Christ truly died and is truly risen).
tabernacle is to be situated "in churches in a most worthy place with the
greatest honor."61 The
dignity, placing, and security of the
Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present
in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.62
The sacred chrism (myron), used in anointings as the sacramental sign of the
seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, is traditionally reserved and venerated in
a secure place in the sanctuary. the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick
may also be placed there.
chair (cathedra) of the bishop or the priest "should express his office of
presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer."63
The lectern (ambo): "The dignity of the Word of God requires the church to
have a suitable place for announcing his message so that the attention of the
people may be easily directed to that place during the liturgy of the
gathering of the People of God begins with Baptism; a church must have a place
for the celebration of Baptism (baptistry) and for fostering remembrance of the
baptismal promises (holy water font).
The renewal of the baptismal life requires penance. A church, then, must lend
itself to the expression of repentance and the reception of forgiveness, which
requires an appropriate place to receive penitents.
A church must also be a space that invites us to the recollection and silent
prayer that extend and internalize the great prayer of the Eucharist.
Finally, the church has an eschatological significance. To enter into the house
of God, we must cross a threshold, which symbolizes passing from the world
wounded by sin to the world of the new Life to which all men are called. the
visible church is a symbol of the Father's house toward which the People of God
is journeying and where the Father "will wipe every tear from their
eyes."65 Also for this
reason, the Church is the house of all
God's children, open and welcoming.
1187 The liturgy is the work
of the whole Christ, head and body. Our high priest celebrates it unceasingly
in the heavenly liturgy, with the holy Mother of God, the apostles, all the
saints, and the multitude of those who have already entered the kingdom.
1188 In a liturgical
celebration, the whole assembly is leitourgos, each member according to his own
function. the baptismal priesthood is that of the whole Body of Christ. But
some of the faithful are ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders to
represent Christ as head of the Body.
1189 The liturgical
celebration involves signs and symbols relating to creation (candles, water,
fire), human life (washing, anointing, breaking bread) and the history of
salvation (the rites of the Passover). Integrated into the world of faith and
taken up by the power of the Holy Spirit, these cosmic elements, human rituals,
and gestures of remembrance of God become bearers of the saving and sanctifying
action of Christ.
1190 The Liturgy of the Word
is an integral part of the celebration. the meaning of the celebration is
expressed by the Word of God which is proclaimed and by the response of faith
1191 Song and music are
closely connected with the liturgical action. the criteria for their proper use
are the beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the
assembly, and the sacred character of the celebration.
1192 Sacred images in our
churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery
of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom
we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of
the saints, we venerate the persons represented.
1193 Sunday, the "Lord's
Day," is the principal day for the celebration of the Eucharist because it
is the day of the Resurrection. It is the pre-eminent day of the liturgical
assembly, the day of the Christian family, and the day of joy and rest from
work. Sunday is "the foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical
year" (SC 106).
1194 The Church, "in the
course of the year, . . . unfolds the whole mystery of Christ from his
Incarnation and Nativity through his Ascension, to Pentecost and the
expectation of the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord" (SC 102 # 2).
1195 By keeping the memorials
of the saints - first of all the holy Mother of God, then the apostles, the
martyrs, and other saints - on fixed days of the liturgical year, the Church on
earth shows that she is united with the liturgy of heaven. She gives glory to
Christ for having accomplished his salvation in his glorified members; their
example encourages her on her way to the Father.
1196 The faithful who
celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours are united to Christ our high priest, by the
prayer of the Psalms, meditation on the Word of God, and canticles and
blessings, in order to be joined with his unceasing and universal prayer that
gives glory to the Father and implores the gift of the Holy Spirit on the whole
Christ is the true temple of God, "the place where his glory dwells";
by the grace of God, Christians also become the temples of the Holy Spirit,
living stones out of which the Church is built.
1198 In its earthly state the
Church needs places where the community can gather together. Our visible churches,
holy places, are images of the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, toward which
we are making our way on pilgrimage.
1199 It is in these churches
that the Church celebrates public worship to the glory of the Holy Trinity,
hears the word of God and sings his praise, lifts up her prayer, and offers the
sacrifice of Christ sacramentally present in the midst of the assembly. These
churches are also places of recollection and personal prayer.
LITURGICAL DIVERSITY AND THE UNITY OF THE MYSTERY
traditions and the catholicity of the Church
From the first community of Jerusalem until the parousia, it is the same
Paschal mystery that the Churches of God, faithful to the apostolic faith,
celebrate in every place. the mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the
forms of its celebration are diverse.
The mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by
its expression in any single liturgical tradition. the history of the
blossoming and development of these rites witnesses to a remarkable
complementarity. When the Churches lived their respective liturgical traditions
in the communion of the faith and the sacraments of the faith, they enriched
one another and grew in fidelity to Tradition and to the common mission of the
The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church's
mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate
the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the
culture: in the tradition of the "deposit of faith,"67
liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the
theological understanding of the mysteries, and in various forms of holiness.
Through the liturgical life of a local church, Christ, the light and salvation
of all peoples, is made manifest to the particular people and culture to which
that Church is sent and in which she is rooted. the Church is catholic, capable
of integrating into her unity, while purifying them, all the authentic riches
The liturgical traditions or rites presently in use in the Church are the Latin
(principally the Roman rite, but also the rites of certain local churches, such
as the Ambrosian rite, or those of certain religious orders) and the Byzantine,
Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean rites. In
"faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy
Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and
dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them
in every way."69
The celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and
culture of the different peoples.70
In order that the mystery of Christ
be "made known to all the nations . . . to bring about the obedience of faith,"71
it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that
they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled:72
It is with and through their own human culture, assumed and transfigured by
Christ, that the multitude of God's children has access to the Father, in order
to glorify him in the one Spirit.
"In the liturgy, above all that of the sacraments, there is an immutable
part, a part that is divinely instituted and of which the Church is the
guardian, and parts that can be changed, which the Church has the power and on
occasion also the duty to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelized
"Liturgical diversity can be a source of enrichment, but it can also
provoke tensions, mutual misunderstandings, and even schisms. In this matter it
is clear that diversity must not damage unity. It must express only fidelity to
the common faith, to the sacramental signs that the Church has received from
Christ, and to hierarchical communion. Cultural adaptation also requires a
conversion of heart and even, where necessary, a breaking with ancestral
customs incompatible with the Catholic faith."74
1207 It is fitting that
liturgical celebration tends to express itself in the culture of the people
where the Church finds herself, though without being submissive to it.
Moreover, the liturgy itself generates cultures and shapes them.
1208 The diverse liturgical
traditions or rites, legitimately recognized, manifest the catholicity of the
Church, because they signify and communicate the same mystery of Christ.
1209 The criterion that
assures unity amid the diversity of liturgical traditions is fidelity to
apostolic Tradition, i e., the communion in the faith and the sacraments
received from the apostles, a communion that is both signified and guaranteed
by apostolic succession.
1 ⇒ Rev
8; ⇒ Isa 6:1; cf.
⇒ Ezek 1:26-28.
2 ⇒ Rev
5:6; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,
Anaphora; cf. ⇒ Jn 1:29;
⇒ Heb 4:14-15;
3 ⇒ Rev
⇒ Jn 4:10-14.
4 Cf. ⇒
5 ⇒ Rev
21:9; cf. ⇒ 12.
⇒ Rev 7:9.
7 SC 26.
8 SC 27.
9 LG 10; cf. ⇒ 1 Pet 2:4-5.
10 Cf. LG 10; 34;
11 SC 14; Cf. ⇒ 1 Pet 2:9;
⇒ Rom 12:4.
13 Cf. PO 2;
14 SC 29.
15 SC 28.
16 Cf. ⇒ Wis 13:1;
17 Cf. ⇒ Lk 8:10.
18 Cf. ⇒ Jn 9:6;
⇒ Mk 7:33ff.;
19 Cf. ⇒ Lk 9:31;
20 SC 112.
Eph 5:19; St. Augustine, En. in Ps.
72,1: PL 36, 914; cf. ⇒ Col
22 SC 112 #
23 Cf. SC
24 St. Augustine,
Conf. 9, 6, 14: PL 32, 769-770.
25 Cf. SC
26 SC 118;
27 St. John
Damascene, De imag. 1, 16: PG 96: 1245-1248.
28 Council of Nicaea
II (787): COD 111.
⇒ Heb 12:1.
30 Cf. ⇒ 1
31 Council of
Nicaea II: DS 600.
32 St. John
Damascene, De imag. 1, 27: PG 94, 1268A, B.
33 SC 102.
34 Cf. ⇒ Heb
3:7- ⇒ 4:11;
⇒ Ps 95:7.
35 St. Hippolytus,
De pasch. 1-2 SCh 27, 117.
36 SC 106.
38 Cf. ⇒ Jn 21:12;
⇒ Lk 24:30.
39 St. Jerome,
Pasch.: CCL 78, 550.
40 SC 106.
the Syriac Office of Antioch, vol. VI, first part of Summer, 193 B.
42 ⇒ Lk
43 St. Athanasius
(ad 329) ep. fest. 1: PG 24, 1366.
44 SC 103.
45 SC 104; cf. SC
46 Cf. SC, Ch. IV,
47 SC 84; ⇒ 1 Thess 5:17;
⇒ Eph 6:18.
48 SC 98.
49 SC 84.
50 SC 83.
51 SC 100; Cf. 86;
96; 98; PO 5.
52 SC 90.
53 ⇒ Jn
54 ⇒ 1
55 ⇒ 2
56 Cf. DH 4.
57 PO 5; Cf. SC
58 Cf. SC 7.
59 Cf. ⇒ Heb 13:10.
60 Cf. GIRM
61 Paul VI,
Mysterium Fidei: AAS (1965) 771.
62 Cf. SC
63 GIRM 271.
64 GIRM 272.
⇒ Rev 21:4.
66 Cf. Paul VI, EN
67 2 Tim 1:14
68 Cf. LG 23; UR
69 SC 4.
70 Cf. SC
72 Cf. CT 53.
73 John Paul II,
Vicesimus quintus annus, 16; cf. SC 21.
74 John Paul 11,
Vicesimus quintus annus, 16.
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