Stewards of the Tradition – Fifty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium
A statement by the Committee on Divine Worship. © 2013 USCCB.

Living What We Celebrate

Having been gathered in the Lord Jesus, the Church participates in the saving mysteries of our faith. The Sacred Liturgy enables us to live more committed to the Lord who sanctifies us in a privileged way through sacramental signs. The Constitution also reminds us that the Church's mission moves from worship to charity and evangelization: "For all these works make it clear that Christ's faithful, though not of this world, are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father in the eyes of all" (no. 9). This perennial challenge to go forth from the Liturgy as witnesses of the risen Lord was taken up by Pope Benedict XVI when, in response to the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, he added two texts for the dismissal to the Roman Missal, Third Edition, linking the Liturgy with the living of the Christian life each day: "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord," and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."

There must be an intrinsic link between what we do in the Liturgy and what we do in the world. In the Eucharist, we partake of the Bread of life and share in the Chalice of salvation in order to strengthen our union and to become a leaven—a source of unity and healing—for a world wounded by sin and division and hungry for the holy. At the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, the Church does two things that illustrate the relationship between the Eucharist and the Christian life: washing of feet and collecting gifts for the poor. The ritual gesture of service leads to the work of charity. Christ is present in the liturgical act and in the charity that flows from it: "Where true charity is dwelling, God is present there" (antiphon for Offertory Chant, Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper). Christ's command, "Do this in memory of me," is therefore not only a call to partake of the Eucharist, but also a summons to charity and service.


As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, we thank you for your ongoing, sustained, and ever-deepening contribution to liturgical ministry. We offer these reflections as an encouragement and an exhortation to continue the work you have undertaken so faithfully for the Church. It is our fervent hope and daily prayer that we might live in the Word proclaimed and the sacraments enacted. "What we have received we hand on to you" (see 1 Cor. 11:23). In the Liturgy we celebrate the dying and rising of Christ, and through him our own dying and rising in the communio of the Church. The words of the Prayer over the Offerings for December 20 ring true; we pray together that:

by participating in this mystery,
we may possess at last the gifts we have awaited
and for which our faith bids us hope.

In the meantime we celebrate the Liturgy as both privileged and humble stewards of the tradition.