50 years ago this month, Pope John XXIII presided over the opening of the Second Vatican Council, perhaps better known as Vatican II. The effects of this council are still being felt, nowhere more strongly than in our liturgy. Over the next few weeks we are going to look at the changes that are part of the legacy of Vatican II, how these changes came to be and how they have affected our celebration of – not only the Eucharistic Liturgy – but our other liturgies as well.
When Vatican II began 50 years ago there had already been a tremendous amount of work done on what would be the first document promulgated by the council Sancrosanctum Concilium: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The reforms that would finally come to fruition in this document actually began many years earlier in the monastery of Mont César in the Louvain. A young diocesan priest, who had entered the abbey in 1906, Lambert Beauduin, would, three years later, in 1909, deliver a paper, “The Prayer of the Church”, at the National Congress on Catholic Works in Malines Belgium. There he met Godefroid Kurth, a Catholic layman, who, with the approval of the bishop of Brussels, would work out a plan to implement the reforms that Fr. Beauduin put forth in his paper. This series of event is, according too many Church historians, the beginning of the liturgical reform movement.
At first this was a movement of education and study and for the next 38 years, that was all it was.  In 1947 Pope Pius XII stepped into liturgical reform with the encyclical, Mediator Dei. This letter gave papal approval to the liturgical movement and enhanced the standing of this work. The Holy Father stated that “all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion” but with “earnestness and concentration.” He also said that the people should offer themselves, united to the sacrifice of Christ. These ideas would later become key points in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
Pope John XXIII has garnered most of the credit for the liturgical renewal that came directly from Vatican II, and rightly so, but the work of many liturgists years before and the support of Pope Pius XII, paved the way for the work that would culminate in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

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