As the first document of Vatican II, promulgated on December 4, 1963, Sacrosanctum Concilium, or The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, sets the stage for the entire council by listing (in its very first paragraph) the four goals of the council. The document then goes on to discuss the nature of the sacred liturgy; offer suggestions for liturgical reform; and describe the riches of the Eucharistic mystery, the other sacraments, the Divine Office, the liturgical year, sacred music, and sacred art.
Here's a sampling of the topics and ideas you'll find in each section of Sacrosanctum Concilium:
* The four goals of Vatican II are: 1. to increase the vigor of Christian life among the faithful; 2. to adapt to the needs of the modern world, at least in those institutions and traditions within the Church that are able to change; 3. to promote union among Christians; and 4. to call all people into the Church.
* The power of the liturgy enables the faithful to live the mystery of Christ, manifest the true nature of the Church, become temples of the Lord, and present Christ to the world.
* The Church is both human and divine, visible and invisible, active and contemplative.
Chapter 1: General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy
* Jesus Christ is the source of the sacred liturgy.
* Jesus willed that His great work of salvation should continue through the sacraments, and since Jesus' Resurrection, the Church has celebrated the paschal mystery in sacred liturgy.
* Jesus is present in the sacrifice of the Mass in many ways and especially in the Eucharist.
* The liturgy is the public worship of the Church. It uses signs that are perceptible to human senses and is performed by the entire Mystical Body of Christ, both Head and members.
* The sacred liturgy allows us to experience the heavenly liturgy on earth.
* Faith and conversion are prerequisites to the celebration of the liturgy, which in turn helps Christians shine like lights in the world.
* The liturgy is the summit of the Church's activity and the fount of power and grace.
* The faithful must come to the liturgy with the proper dispositions. They must strive to be fully, actively, and consciously engaged in the liturgical celebration, participating both internally and externally in the sacred rites. The liturgy then pours over into their private prayer and into every aspect of their lives.
* Both clergy and laity must be instructed in the nature and practice of the liturgy.
* Some parts of the liturgy have been instituted by God and are unchangeable; others may and should change to meet the needs of modern world. Changes should not be made simply for the sake of change but for the good of the Church and in continuity with past and current practices.
* If the faithful are to participate fully, actively, and consciously in the liturgy, its texts and rites must be clear and understandable. The connection between words and rites must be easy to grasp. Latin should be retained, but the vernacular may be used in some parts of the liturgy.
* Scripture must take a central place in sacred liturgy.
* The liturgy is a communal event. Each member of the Church must perform his or her own role in the liturgy with reverence and decorum.
* God speaks to His people in the liturgy, instructing them, nourishing them, raising their minds to Him, and guiding them to proper worship.
* All reformations of the sacred liturgy must be carried out by the proper authorities, all of whom answer to the Apostolic See.
Chapter 2: The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
* The Eucharist perpetuates the sacrifice of the Cross. It is a sacred mystery in which the faithful are truly nourished by Jesus' Body and Blood.
* At every Mass, the lay faithful join the priest in offering the Divine Victim, and in doing so, they must offer themselves also that they might enter into a more perfect communion with God and each other.
* The “treasures of the Bible” must be lavishly poured out at ever Mass, and the faithful must realize that the Liturgy of the World and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form a single, united act of worship.
Chapter 3: The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals
* The sacraments sanctify human beings, build up the Church, offer worship to God, instruct and nourish the faithful, and confer grace.
* The sacraments sanctify nearly every event in the lives of the faithful as divine grace flows from the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
* The rites of the sacraments must be updated so that the faithful clearly understand their signs and effects.
Chapter 4: The Divine Office
* The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, is the public prayer of the whole Church, both Head and members. It offers praise to God, intercedes for the entire world, and sanctifies each day.
* Those who pray the Divine Office, whether they are clergy, religious, or laity, must do so with attention and devotion. They must seek to understand what they are praying and to allow the Divine Office to nourish their piety and personal prayer.
Chapter 5: The Liturgical Year
* The Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ throughout the liturgical year in order to allow the faithful to receive the riches of Christ and to make present His saving work.
* The Church honors the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints by celebrating their feast days and acknowledging their merits, examples, intercession, and love.
* Sunday is “the original feast day” that commemorates Jesus' Resurrection. The faithful are bound to gather together on Sundays to listen to the Scriptures, take part in the Eucharistic celebration, and give thanks and praise to God.
* Lent is a time of special penance and fasting that helps the faithful repent of their sins and lift their minds to God.
Chapter 6: Sacred Music
* Sacred music is a “treasure of inestimable value” that gives glory to God and helps sanctify the faithful. It also enhances prayer and contributes to the solemnity of the sacred liturgy. This treasure must be “preserved and cultivated with great care.”
* The faithful should actively participate in sacred music during the liturgy. Gregorian chant retains “pride of place” in the liturgy, but other kinds of sacred music are allowed and encouraged.
Chapter 7: Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings
* Sacred art expresses the beauty of God in a way people can experience and understand. In doing so, it raise people's minds to God and gives Him praise and glory.
* Works of sacred art must be protected and cultivated so that they may be “worthy, becoming, and beautiful signs and symbols of things supernatural.”
The full text of Sacrosanctum Concilium is available online on the Vatican website.