On Sacred Liturgy
Reforms included: use of local languages, priest facing people, role of the assembly emphasized, reestablishment of RCIA
On Divine Revelation
Personal interaction between God And Humanity, both Scripture and Tradition are important
On the Church
Church as people of God, Community, Baptismal Equality- everyone is called to Holiness, laity share in ministry of church
On the Church in the Modern World
Vatican I tried to address Church's role in an increasingly secular world
12 other documents: On the Means of Social Communication, On the Catholic Eastern Churches, On Ecumenism, On the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, On the Up-to-Date Renewal of Religious life, On the Training of Priests, On Christian Education, On the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, On the Apostolate of Lay People, On Religious liberty, On the Churches Missionary Activity, On the Ministry and life of Priests
Start at around the year 250 AD
Let's say you live in Asia Minor north of Palestine and speak Greek. There are many pagan god's and pagan rituals that surround you. There are other groups though, like the Christians. The Christians are an offshoot of Judaism and are known for their strong belief in one God and are also known for their high moral standards.
Christians seem especially concerned about the people who are overlooked by the rest of society - widows, orphans, slaves, foreigners, the poor.
Christianity is illegal and they live with the possibility of persecution.
Christians don't live up to the rumors of cannibalism and drunken orgies. Instead, they were joyful in the face of death threats, and they promoted unity and equality in a world where boundaries were solidly built between rich and poor, citizen and noncitizen, free and slave, men and women.
The life and teachings of Jesus helped people change their lives for the better. Christian people greet each other warmly, sang psalms enthusiastically, and listened to readings about Jesus that a bishop then applies to their present lives.
Only baptized members of the Christian community could participate in certain rituals however. Through bread and wine, Christians believed that they shared Jesus' body and blood. By doing this, they would enter the mystery of Christ's dying and rising, and it would remind them of their commitment to sacrifice themselves in Jesus' name and for His truth.
During this time, Christianity was a prohibited organization composed of small, secret communities, and it had been illegal since the reign of Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 AD). In spite of its illegal status and the periodic persecutions that came with it, the church managed to survive and spread throughout the Mediterranean area from the foundations laid by the Apostles. Increasingly, converts came from the non-Jewish (Gentile) world. Evidence suggests that early Christian missionaries made their way as far as India.
Early Christian Worship
Christians during this time would have gleaned their models for community life and ritual celebrations from the examples set by the very first Christian communities described in writings such as Saint Paul's epistles and the Acts of the Apostles. These rituals included Baptism, Eucharist, and the laying on of Hands (An early version of Anointing of the Sick).
Formality Begins to Emerge
Around 250 AD, the Church had already become somewhat formed in its worship and ministry. There was something called "agape" which is another name for a "friendship meal" which had many similarities to today's Mass. There was singing, reading from Scriptures, preaching of a Homily by the bishop (the ordained leader of the community who presided at its liturgical celebrations), and a sharing in the Eucharist (bread and wine). The Eucharist was shared only by the baptized members of the community. All those who were still preparing to become Christian were taken aside during this time. In this period, the Church also had a formal initiation process for those who wanted to join.
Christian and Pagan Rites Mingle
When new cultural groups converted to Christianity, their traditional religious rites were often mingled with those already in use by Christians. For example, the early Church borrowed popular pagan festivals and Christianized them into Christmas and other annual holy days. Likewise, much of the wedding service as we know it originated in common Roman practices. Rings, the mutual kiss, the exchange of promises, and the wedding banquet were all typical elements of weddings in the Mediterranean area before the appearance of Christianity.
Early Church Teachings on Sacraments Emerge
Around the year 210, a Christian writer named Tertullian first used the Latin word sacramentum in a sense similar to how Catholic Christians use the word sacrament today. At the time, Roman religious rites - such as the initiation ceremony for young Romans entering the army - were called sacramenta, the plural of sacramentum. In his writings on Baptism, Tertullian borrowed the word to describe this Christian ritual. Eventually, sacramenta was used to describe a variety of religious rituals practiced by Christians.
As mentioned earlier, Christians of this historical period looked to the very early church writings (St. Paul's epistles, the Acts of the Apostles) to find models for their rituals, faith, and practices, including those practices that were being called sacramenta. They wanted to know what these rituals and symbols meant. Based on their own experiences and on what they read in the Scriptures, these Christians began to see the connections between the sacraments and the mysteries of the Christian faith. And they began to recognize that these rituals and symbols were true encounters with God.
Christianity Becomes the Official Religion of the Empire
The prospects for the Christian church's continued survival and growth were given a large boost in the fourth century. First, the emperor Constantine lifted the ban on Christian worship in the year 313. Christians could now gather openly and freely without fear of persecution from government authorities. Then, by the end of that century, Christianity was declared not only legal but the official religion of the Roman Empire - a far cry from its previous persecuted status.
Christianity's big chance came at about the same time that the Roman Empire was in a serious state of decline - both culturally and politically (certainly morally).
The period of Western history from about 400-1000 AD is often called the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages were brought about by the fall of the Roman Empire in the West.
The Fall of the Roman Empire
In the year 326, Constantine, the same emperor who made Christianity legal, angered the citizens of Rome by refusing to participate in a pagan procession. Subsequently, in the year 330, he moved the Roman Empire's headquarters east from Rome to the city of Byzantium, or Constantinople, as the city was renamed. When a succeeding emperor died in 395, the Roman Empire was split in two, never again to be reunited.
Over the next century, the Western Empire was constantly being attacked, first by the Huns from central Asia and then by the Vandals, who sailed across the Mediterranean from North Africa. In 476 the last Roman emperor in the West was killed. The collapse of the Western Empire soon followed. In the political and cultural chaos resulting from this collapse, the church and its popes would play an increasing role in governing the West.
The Eastern Churches
In 451 AD, the Council of Chalcedon (the fourth ecumenical, or general, council of the Catholic Church) declared that the bishop of Rome was the highest authority in the Church. At the same time, the patriarch of Constantinople (the head of the Church in the East) was named second in authority. Because of the split in the Roman Empire between Rome and Constantinople, relations between the church leaders of the two cities were frequently strained. Eventually, the tensions between western and eastern Christians resulted in a formal split between the Churches led by the bishop of Rome and those led by the patriarch of Constantinople.
Today some of these Eastern Christian churches, which have their roots in Asia, northern Africa, and eastern European countries, are officially part of Catholicism and united with the pope. These are called Eastern Catholic churches and they are often referred to as rites. For instance, the Byzantine Rite and the Chaldean Rite are Catholic, united with the pope, but they are not in the Latin or Roman Rite of Catholicism, the rite of most of the world's Catholics. The churches called Eastern Orthodox are not officially in union with Rome, although relations between the two are more friendly than they have been in the past.
Saint Augustine: "Administering and Receiving" Sacraments
The general anxiety caused by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire spilled over into the Church. By the time Augustine became bishop of the North African city of Hippo in 395, controversy and division plagued the Church.
Saint Augustine taught that the sacrament of Baptism confers a new character or a permanent "seal" on the person, marking him or her forever as Christ's. Because a seal was conferred in the sacrament, Augustine spoke of the "administering" and "receiving" the sacraments, terms that eventually were tied to the other sacraments as well. Today Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders are said to each confer its own permanent character, and for this reason they can be received only once in a lifetime.
A Broad View of Sacraments
Although Augustine began to narrow down the Church's understanding of what constituted a sacrament, he still thought of sacraments in the broad sense as "signs of a sacred thing." To him, sacraments included not only rituals such as Baptism but also the sign of the cross, the Lord's Prayer and the oil used for anointing. Augustine believed that almost anything could be a sacrament, or a sign of God, because all of creation was a reflection of God.
Some Sacraments Seem as More Important
While believing that many things could be sacraments, Augustine also believed that some sacraments were more important to the Church than others. He listed these sacraments of greater importance in two categories: "sacraments of the word," such as sermons, prayers, reading of the Scriptures; and "sacraments of action," such as the various symbols and rituals used in Christian worship. It would be more than eight hundred years before the church, guided by the Holy Spirit, limited its use of the word sacrament to the seven official rituals celebrated by Catholics today.
Sacramental Practice in the Dark Ages
After Augustine died, little new thinking about the sacraments took place until about the eleventh century, largely because of the social and cultural upheaval of the Dark Ages.
During the five hundred years or so following the fall of Rome, the Church continued to spread across Europe. With that spread and growth, numerous developments in sacramental practices took place as well. Examples include these developments:
Confirmation became separated from Baptism
Public penance was replaced by private confession
Lay involvement in the Mass decreased significantly
Marriage came to be seen as a sacramental rite
Anointing of the Sick became Anointing of the Dying
Presbyters (priests) were ordained to preside at liturgical functions as the bishop's representatives
By the year 1000, social and political stability began to return to Europe, the world of the Roman church. The stability brought with it a revival of activities centered on studying the Christian faith. Once again the climate was ripe for looking at the meaning of sacramental symbols and rituals.
A Medieval Christian
Whereas growth, formation, risk, and turmoil characterized much of the church's first one thousand years of existence, formality and relative stability were the hallmarks of the period between the years 1000 and 1300, a period often referred to as the High Middle Ages.
Medieval Catholics had a very different experience from the Early Christian people. Their existence centered around the Church whether they were rich or poor. Baptism was done during infancy and Confirmation took place early on by the local bishop. Simple Roman Basilicas were gradually replaced by soaring Cathedrals that were showplaces of beauty and splendor. Buildings which could truly be called "House of God". The cathedral itself was a symbol of harmony and symmetry, giving a clear impression of an orderly universe. Everyone worshipped there, from the bishop to the serf.
Responsibility was to the local lord and bishop. Lay people took a silent and reverent place during worship services.
A Different World
In this time, the culture of medieval, feudal Europe and that of the Christian church of the West were pretty much the same. Because most political rulers in medieval Europe were Christian, so were their subjects. Not being a Christian meant not being a citizen. The Church was the center of life for the ordinary citizens of Europe.
Church rituals are much more formal during this period. The ceremony of the Mass became much more elaborate.
The sacraments in the medieval church had accumulated quite a few extras in terms of ornamental details. Part of this accumulation happened because the ceremonies used in the royal courts were often adapted for religious purposes. For example, if, as a medieval person, you had to kiss the ring of an earthly king, then you would have felt it only proper to kiss the ring of the Heavenly King's representative, the bishop. In interacting with its surroundings, the church was naturally influenced by them.
The Middle Ages: A Significant Time for Sacramental Theology
Part of an explosion of intellectual interests during the High Middle Ages included a renewed interest in the sacraments by Christian scholars. In many ways the medieval period was a pivotal time, one of the most significant periods of growth and change in the Catholic understanding of sacraments.
Seven Sacraments Made Official
Up until - and into - the twelfth century, Christian writers shared Augustine's broad view of the sacraments; that is, many symbols and rituals were considered sacraments. One twelfth -century document even listed thirty sacraments. By this time, however, the rituals Catholics now know as the seven sacraments were becoming recognized as different from other Catholic symbols and rituals. Then in the thirteenth century, the Second Council of Lyons affirmed that there were only seven official sacraments of the Church, basically those that Catholics celebrate today. (Later, in the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent would reaffirm this teaching, this time to emphasize the validity of all seven sacraments.)
With the word sacramentum being restricted in application to the seven rituals of Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders, other changes came as well. Rituals became more standardized, and the theological explanations of them became more uniform.
Thomas Aquinas and the Sacraments
The medieval church's understanding of the sacraments reached its peak in the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas. One of Aquinas's most significant contributions to the Catholic Church's understanding of the sacraments came from his discussion of the sacraments as causes of God's grace. That is, not only were the sacraments signs of sacred reality, as Augustine and others had taught, but the sacraments also served as instruments that actually brought about God's grace.
An Emphasis on Correct Form Emerges
Over the years a focus on standardizing the sacraments and the proper performance of the sacramental rituals emerged. This became necessary so that people would know when a ritual really was a sacrament in the eyes of the church, and when it was just one person's idea of a sacrament.
People also wondered if the priest's holiness or sinfulness made a difference. What if the priest offering Mass was himself a sinner - did the bread and wine indeed become the body and blood of Christ? Were the power and grace of the sacrament truly present regardless? (The answer is yes because the sacrament's power comes from God, not from the minister's personal qualities.)
Minimum requirements were set for a sacrament to be valid and therefore effective - such as the proper materials, symbolic actions, and words to be used.
Literal Thinking Leads to Magical Thinking
The emphasis on "correct form" in ceremonies was needed to prevent abuses and confusion, but unfortunately this focus tended to encourage literal thinking. As a result, many people put their faith in proper performance of the externals rather than in the meaning or experience underlying a ritual.
Inevitably the sacraments were affected by this magical attitude. Merely following the correct forms, it was believed, automatically guaranteed special graces: Saying certain words or doing certain actions was thought to force God to act in a desired way. It was assumed that the sacrament always took in the person regardless of whether the person's heart was receptive to it or whether the person had faith in Jesus Christ as savior.
In fact the church never officially promoted such a magical approach to the sacraments. It has always taught that a sacrament will have an effect in a person according to the person's disposition to it. But that official teaching did not stop a magical attitude from flourishing among the people.
On the Brink of a Religious Revolution
There is something to be said for the spirit of wonder and awe underlying an emphasis on objects and actions properly performed. "Magical" attitudes and practices certainly communicate the awesome power of God and of those persons and things viewed as God's intermediaries - priests, sacred objects (such as the relics of saints), and of course, the elements used in the sacraments. However, a superstitious attitude suggests that God's power can be bought, bargained for, or manipulated to suit one's own ends. Superstition fails to distinguish magic from religion; it represents an attempt to control rather than accept God's power.
Although the superstitious, magical attitude toward the sacraments was never part of the church's official teachings, it was widespread during the Middle Ages. By the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, abuses concerning the sacraments and other church practices were so out of hand that the situation was ripe for a religious revolution. In 1517 a monk named Martin Luther publicly protested these abuses, and a religious revolution indeed took place. The movement that Martin Luther initiated was soon known as the Protestant Reformation.
Early Attempts at Reform Fail
As suggested by the prevalence of a magical view toward the sacraments and many other pious practices, the stability and optimism of the High Middle Ages had declined during the two centuries preceding the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther's call for church reform, a protest that by then was firmly entwined in the politics of Europe, was not the first. Between 1123 and 1517, church leaders officially gathered nine times to deal with clerical and political abuses in the church. By and large, however, these attempts at reforming the church were to no avail.
What came to be called the Protestant Reformation started out as an attempt to reform the Christian church from within. For reasons having as much to do with politics as with religion, the reform movement eventually organized itself into various Protestant denominations that denied the central authority of the pope, the bishop of Rome.
The Council of Trent: The Catholic Church's Reformation
Although leaders in the Catholic church felt attacked by the reformers, they also recognized that many of the grievances were legitimate (ie: no one can sell indulgences or require payment for absolution) To respond to these grievances, as well as to the doctrinal challenges of the reformers, the Council of Trent was convened in 1545 and met off and on until 1563.
Addressing the Major Complaints
One of the major complaints of the reformers was that the church took a casual attitude toward popular superstitions about religious matters. As a result essential beliefs such as grace and faith in God had become distorted.
To accomplish reform, first, the Council of Trent legislated practical changes aimed at eliminating abuses. Second, it reaffirmed the belief that although the importance of performing good works cannot be denied, grace is an unmerited gift from God that cannot be bargained for.
Focusing on the Sacraments
The Council of Trent gave much of its attention to the sacraments: over half of its doctrinal teachings dealt with the sacraments. The council participants felt the need to be exact about the church's beliefs and practices pertaining to the sacraments. Otherwise the sacramental rituals and practices would have little consistent foundation, and people might interpret or recognize them differently. Many Protestant groups, for example, recognized only Baptism and Communion as sacraments; other groups recognized no sacraments.
Two Main Points Stressed by the Council of Trent
1. There are seven - and only seven - sacraments.
Council leaders declared that there were "not more nor less than" seven sacraments. (This reaffirmed what the Council of Lyons had taught three hundred years earlier in response to the tendency in that era to identify a multitude of rituals as "sacraments." But Trent's teaching was a response to the Protestant tendency to recognize few sacraments or none at all.) Catholic devotions other than the seven sacraments - like the rosary -were termed sacramentals. Sacramentals are religious practices or holy objects used in religious practices that can be spiritually enriching but that are less central to Catholic Christian faith than the seven official sacraments.
2. The Church approves a scholastic understanding of the sacraments.
The theology of Thomas Aquinas and his successors, which was known as Scholasticism, was deemed the official Catholic interpretation of the sacraments. In particular the council emphasized the sacraments as causes of grace and declared that the sacraments were necessary for salvation. It also affirmed that the sacraments convey grace in and of themselves, not on account of the holiness of the minister or the recipient.
The Council of Trent: It's Impact on the Church and the Sacraments
The two major emphases of the Council of Trent on how the sacraments would be understood and practiced, as well as the other teachings that came from the council, defined Catholicism for the next four hundred years. Further changes were not made until the Second Vatican Council met (1962-65). In particular the Council of Trent had these two effects:
1. The Sacraments were solidified. They could no longer be changed, added to, or discarded
2. Soon after the Council of Trent, the official Roman missal for the Mass and an official book on the rites of the other sacraments were published. Both of these publications, which were used by all Roman Catholics throughout the world, gave grater uniformity in how the sacraments were practiced - including Language (Latin), words said, actions used, and performance of these actions. Neither book underwent substantial changes until the 1960s.
In short the trend toward standard practices and a unified understanding of the sacraments that began in the Middle Ages became solidified with the Council of Trent.
Much of this uniformity was done to protect the sacraments from the kinds of abuses that came about before the Council of Trent. A Mass in South America before the mid-1960s would have been nearly identical to one celebrated in Italy or the United States. They would have all been the same Mass.
Nearly four hundred years passed before the Catholic Church made any significant changes in its official sacramental teachings and practices.
in the Twentieth Century
The Church Rediscovers its Roots
By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Catholic Church's defensive stance toward the emerging modern world began to subside. Among the many contributing factors to the church's more open attitudes were several developments happening within the Church. Around this time Catholic scholars began to look closely at the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, the worship practices of the early Church, and the biblical roots of the Christian faith.
When people began looking into the history of the Church in the Middle Ages and earlier, they discovered that church practices and ways of expressing its theology had not always been the same as what they experience. Although this may seem obvious to us living in the 2000s, it was a liberating realization at the time. Eventually, these new developments within the church led Pope John XXIII to call the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
The Second Vatican Council:
A Call for Change and Renewal
By calling the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican Council II, Pope John XXIII declared that it was time to examine all aspects of church teachings and practices in an open and forthright manner, using the best information and insights of modern thought. He wanted to "open the windows and let in fresh air."
Reclaiming the Past
Chief among the concerns at Vatican Council II was helping the church get back in touch with those aspects of its Tradition, especially from the early church, that had been de-emphasized over the centuries. Regaining such elements, the bishops felt, would help the church better respond to the contemporary world.
Given the social and cultural changes that had occurred in the world and within the church itself since the Council of Trent, the church recognized the need to open itself up to other ways of thinking about and practicing the sacraments than those imposed by the Council. Delving into the past and seeing the differences that existed there helped everyone in the church realize that the church's theology and sacramental practices had been changing all the time.
Keeping the Clear, Letting Go of the Cloudy
In the Second Vatican Council, the Church committed itself to renewal based on a fresh look at its origins and its long history. It saw that over the years, many of the changes had helped bring out the true meaning of the sacraments. These changes, the council leaders decided, were worth keeping or reinstating. Other changes had not necessarily been for the better. For instance, over the centuries many unwanted practices and notions had crept into the sacramental life of the church and were clouding the true spirit of the sacraments. These other changes, the council leaders decided, should be set aside. (For example: exorcism rite was taken away during baptism/ Eucharist in the form of body and blood was now available to laity)
A Continuing Challenge
With Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church entered a new phase in history and understanding of the sacraments. Once church leaders had studied the historical development of the sacraments, they saw that change and renewal were necessary and even natural. At the same time, they also realized that a great challenge faced the church. This was the challenge of keeping the church's teaching on the sacraments true to the Spirit of Jesus and allowing the church's sacramental practice more effectively to be an instrument of God's grace in the world.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the seven Sacraments have undergone changes for the specific purpose of pointing more clearly to the one sacrament who is the center of Christian belief: Jesus. This focus continues today, fifty years later. The Second Vatican Council also serves as a reminder to the church that the challenge of growth is to remain true to one's spirit while facing the changes that inevitably come along.