1163 "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."
1164 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.
1165 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. 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 Passover.
1166 "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." 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." The Lord's Supper is its center, for there the whole community
of the faithful encounters the risen Lord who invites them to his
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 rays.
1167 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":
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 without fear.
1168 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." 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.
1169 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" 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.
1170 At the 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.
1171 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.
1172 "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 be."
1173 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."
1174 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." 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." In this "public prayer of the Church," 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.
1175 The 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." 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 individually."
1176 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."
1177 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.
1178 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 Blessed Sacrament.
1179 The worship "in Spirit and in truth" 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." 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."
1180 When the exercise of religious liberty is not thwarted, Christians 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.
1181 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." In this "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.
1182 The altar of the New Covenant is the Lord's Cross, 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. In certain Eastern liturgies, the altar is also the symbol of the tomb (Christ truly died and is truly risen).
1183 The tabernacle is to be situated "in churches in a most worthy place
with the greatest honor." The dignity, placing, and security of the
Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really
present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
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.
1184 The chair (cathedra) of the bishop or the priest "should express his
office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer."
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 Word."
1185 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.
1186 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." 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 to it.
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). P> 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 world.
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.
1200 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.
1201 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 whole Church.
1202 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," in 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 of cultures.
1203 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."
1204 The celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples. In order that the mystery of Christ be "made known to all the nations . . . to bring about the obedience of faith," 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: 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.
1205 "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 peoples."
1206 "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."
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.
ENDNOTES 1 Rev 4:2, 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; 10:19-2. 3 Rev 22:1; cf. 21:6; Jn 4:10-14. 4 Cf. Rev 4-5; 7:1-8; 14:1; Isa 6:2-3. 5 Rev 6:9-11; Rev 21:9; cf. 12. 6 Rev 7:9. 7 SC 26. 8 SC 27. 9 LG 10; cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5. 10 Cf. LG 10; 34; PO 2. 11 SC 14; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9; 2:4-5. 12 Rom 12:4. 13 Cf. PO 2; 15. 14 SC 29. 15 SC 28. 16 Cf. Wis 13:1; Rom 1:19f; Acts 14:17. 17 Cf. Lk 8:10. 18 Cf. Jn 9:6; Mk 7:33ff.; 8:22ff. 19 Cf. Lk 9:31; 22:7-20. 20 SC 112. 21 Eph 5:19; St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 72,1: PL 36, 914; cf. Col 3:16. 22 SC 112 # 3. 23 Cf. SC 112. 24 St. Augustine, Conf. 9, 6, 14: PL 32, 769-770. 25 Cf. SC 119. 26 SC 118; 121. 27 St. John Damascene, De imag. 1, 16: PG 96: 1245-1248. 28 Council of Nicaea II (787): COD 111. 29 Heb 12:1. 30 Cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Jn 3:2. 31 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600. 32 St. John Damascene, De imag. 1, 27: PG 94, 1268A, B. 33 SC 102. 34 Cf. Mt 6:11; Heb 3:7-4:11; Ps 95:7. 35 St. Hippolytus, De pasch. 1-2 SCh 27, 117. 36 SC 106. 37 Byzantine liturgy. 38 Cf. Jn 21:12; Lk 24:30. 39 St. Jerome, Pasch.: CCL 78, 550. 40 SC 106. 41 Fanqith, The Syriac Office of Antioch, vol. VI, first part of Summer, 193 B. 42 Lk 4:19. 43 St. Athanasius (ad 329) ep. fest. 1: PG 24, 1366. 44 SC 103. 45 SC 104; cf. SC 108, 111. 46 Cf. SC, Ch. IV, 83-101. 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 4:24. 54 1 Pet 2:4-5. 55 2 Cor 6:16. 56 Cf. DH 4. 57 PO 5; Cf. SC 122-127. 58 Cf. SC 7. 59 Cf. Heb 13:10. 60 Cf. GIRM 259. 61 Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei: AAS (1965) 771. 62 Cf. SC 128. 63 GIRM 271. 64 GIRM 272. 65 Rev 21:4. 66 Cf. Paul VI, EN 63-64. 67 2 Tim 1:14 (Vulg.). 68 Cf. LG 23; UR 4. 69 SC 4. 70 Cf. SC 37-40. 71 Rom 16:26. 72 Cf. CT 53. 73 John Paul II, Vicesimus quintus annus, 16; cf. SC 21. 74 John Paul 11, Vicesimus quintus annus, 16.