Archbishop's Homilies 2003

Seminar to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the publication of “The Constitution of the Liturgy"

Address given by Archbishop Denis Hart
at the Thomas Carr Centre, East Melbourne,
on Friday, 5th December, 2003, at 7.30pm


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Archbishop it is a great privilege for me to introduce with joy this Seminar of Thanksgiving to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council on 4th December, 1963.

I am particularly grateful to Father Bill Jordan and Mr. Paul Taylor, members of the Liturgy Commission of our Archdiocese and to so many of you who have worked so hard and with such flair and zeal in the work of liturgical education and renewal throughout those forty years. Truly this is a moment for thanksgiving.

We all know well that liturgy is the activity of the Church, head and members, by which we, through Christ, give perfect worship to the Father and through which the activity of the work of our redemption is exercised in our lives in place and time. It is the summit of every activity of the Church and the source from which her power flows.

With an almost total unanimity the Bishops of the Council sought to make the liturgy with its full richness central in the life of the Church, so that our people would be nourished with the Church’s prayer and Word of God as the basis of their living the Christian life.

This was the reason why the Constitution was the first material treated in the Council. Throughout these forty years the Church has put that document in a central place in its life and through education and instruction we have learnt again that the nature of liturgy is theocentric and seeks to direct us towards our ultimate purpose sustained by the loving care of our God.

The document itself has stressed many themes picked up with enthusiasm:- The nature of liturgy, the importance of active participation, the richer fare of Scripture, the importance of education and pastoral life both in diocese and parish, the Eucharist as the peak linked with Sacraments, Office and Sacramentals, the importance of music to participation. These are the great pluses and we can thank God for them.

Other things, not so well remembered, are that liturgy is an activity of the Church and that it is unity with the Apostolic See which draws us as a worldwide Church united under the Successor of Peter. As Bishop and chief Liturgist of this Archdiocese, it is my mind for us to be totally one with the Apostolic See in the joyful celebration of liturgy, using the full resources, which the Church provides.

Forty years is a time for challenge and examination. We will certainly be encouraged to be more clearly and exactly in union with the Apostolic See when the third edition of the Roman Missal and its accompanying General Instruction are published soon. Because liturgy is a celebration of the whole Body of the Church it has been the principle of reform that it grow organically from what has gone before. These have been strong points.

What must be remembered, however, and what is critical to our understanding the nature of liturgy is the fact that what we are doing is being caught in the mystery of a human encounter with the wonder of God. The transcendence which leads us beyond our consciousness of self and community to the glory of God whom we worship and to the wonder of his intervention in our times of prayer and our daily lives.

Liturgy will always challenge us to go further and to reach into the mysterious. Liturgy will always engage symbol, sight, sense and beauty to challenge us to go further and to enrich our worship with a perception beyond our own human consciousness.

It can be said that after forty years this outreach is only just beginning and there is some writing indicating that even transcendence, beauty and wonder have been neglected because of the imperative nature of the important change to the vernacular and the development of a vernacular liturgy in such a short period of time without adequate linkage to what went before, to art and to beauty.

Father Peter Steele, linguist, poet, Professor of English, Jesuit, who has worked in our Archdiocese for most of his priestly life comes tonight to reflect precisely on where the liturgy is leading us. How it seeks to engage us with the wonder of God and how then our life is enriched. He picks up life and eternity and demonstrates a theme often quoted by Pope John Paul II, that those in the Church are called to be ministers of hope.

We, who wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist above all, engage in his saving action, reminding us that thanksgiving is the antidote to sadness, challenging us to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit filled with joy at the resurrection of the Lord, reaching to where all our hopes will be fulfilled.


+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.