The opening of the Second Vatican Council occurred 49 years ago today (October 11, 1962).  Announcements of this fact have been numerous, coupled with promises of “celebrations” of this fiftieth year.  Vatican II is undoubtedly one of the most significant ecclesial events of the twentieth century.  I do cringe a little, though, at the prospect that in three years we’ll probably have to celebrate the golden anniversary of the conclusion of the Council, and then the anniversaries of the promulgation of the conciliar documents.

If all this actually gets people to read and study the conciliar documents themselves, this would be a marvellous thing.  We hear a lot about the so-called “spirit of Vatican II.”  I suggest that many people (not all) who speak of this “spirit” haven’t actually read the conciliar texts in any depth.  I sometimes think that there is a one-page sheet that floats around with “all-the-quotes-from-Vatican II-that-you’ll-ever-need” typed on it.  Top of the list, of course, is “full, conscious and active participation,” as if that’s the only thing the document on the Sacred Liturgy had to say.  Most people, I think, might be surprised to see what’s actually in (and not in) the document on the liturgy.

Thankfully, the Holy Father will continue to help us to correctly interpret the conciliar teaching of Vatican II, in a spirit of continuity, and not rupture as has so often been done in the past.

It’s also good to remember that there have been many councils in the church’s history, and each of them is important in the contribution it has made to our church’s life.  So as some go ‘retro’ and celebrate Vatican II, I’m going to add my own ‘retro’ celebration alongside: celebrating the anniversaries of another significant council of the church: the Council of Trent.  Slightly tongue-in-cheek, I know, but the church’s history is to be seen in continuity.

And, after all, Jesus himself was pre-Vatican II!

For more serious reflection, you might be interested in an article over at The Catholic Thing:  The Spirit of Vatican II.