Category Archives: Vatican II

May 22 – Wed of 5th Week of Easter – First Council

Lessons from the First Reading from Acts 15

The 1st Reading for May 22, Acts 15:1-6 , sets the stage for the 1st Council of the Church, presenting the sensitive issue at stake (circumcision), identifying the council participants (Apostles and presbyters), and introducing the meeting itself. To stick with the Lectionary, one has to wait till May 23rd to see what happened at the meeting, but, unlimited by that, we proceeded to discuss the action taken on whether the Christians were to be bound by terms of the covenant between God and Abraham. (Genesis 17:9-14)

Trouble-making activists were arguing that since the resurrection and arrival of the Holy Spirit, believers were following a different set of rules. Probably very familiar with the words of the Prophet Jeremiah(Jeremiah 4:4) council members made the right decision, even without the benefit of St. Paul’s much later letter to the Romans in which he discussed “circumcision of the heart.” 

Councils of the Catholic Church (22)

A second important issue resolved by this precedent in Acts 15 is the teaching authority of The Church, a precedent which has been followed 21 times down through the centuries. Wikipedia provides a very handy list of the Catholic Church Councils, The 1st Century Council of Jerusalem to the 20th Century Vatican 2, complete with hot links to more information about each. Here is the list copied from the article. I think the links should work.

Council List from Wikipedia

Circumcision Wrap Up

The 15th Century Council of Florence, by the way, according to this footnote in the Wikipedia article, soundly condemned those who “observe” or “practice” circumcision as a religious practice. Still, it raises an interesting trivia question: Is Michelangelo’s David, on display in Florence, circumcised?

Council of Florence

Law and Grace, Works and Faith, and Luther

The discussion about circumcision led deeper and deeper into discussion of law and grace and works vs. grace and Lutheran and Catholic theologies. As a student at a Lutheran seminary I was taught that Father Martin, in his younger years at least, free from any possible dementia, was a faithful Catholic, aligned with the teachings of the church fathers, and that it was actually Pope Leo X who had strayed into such as sale of indulgences to raise money for the church. Luther provided one written defense against the charges against him in the form of an essay, The Freedom of a Christian.

In 2002, nine years before being received into the Catholic Church, I wrote an “academic” paper on Luther’s essay. Then, a year or so after becoming Catholic, I reviewed the paper and published it with some introduction, on my Last of blog on church and faith issues. I read it again just now and still believe it is sound theology consistent with Catholic teaching. If you are interested in such, take a look at it HERE and let me know what you think. I am always willing to listen and learn.

I have often quipped that if Pope Leo X, instead of excommunicating Luther, had just appointed him to a task force charged with organizing, for the Pope’s approval of course, reformation of the Church, the whole Protestant Reformation upheaval could have been avoided. But of course that is not true. The primary drivers of the Reformation were not the “reformers,” but the rise in literacy and the printing press, the beginnings of free enterprise replacement of feudalism, and the beginning of the ending of the unholy alliance of church and state which had allowed secular rulers to dictate the religion of all who lived in their domains regardless of what the citizens believed.

And of course such reform continues. I am personally very thankful for two particular Vatican II (1962-65) changes advocated 400 years earlier by Luther, Mass in the language of the people and increased participation of lay persons in the Mass. I was happily Southern Baptist at the time, preoccupied with college, Karen, and starting my first professional employment and had absolutely zero interest in the Catholic church. But without those two changes, I doubt I would have had the privilege of being received into the Catholic Church at Pentecost in 2011.

Extra: The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

The Christians in the World is the title of an excerpt from this 1st or 2nd century epistle. The excerpt is included in the Office of Readings for 5/22/2019 and can be read at the Vatican website. If you don’t click any other link in this post, click this one and read very early and profound insights about living as a Christian.

Here is a teaser sentence: “They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

If you really get steamed about the Epistle to Diognetus, you can read the whole thing HERE.


Sacrosanctum Concilium – 1963


The Office of Readings today includes a brief excerpt from the document in the title, the explanation of what Vatican II was all about. Here is the brief excerpt:

From the constitution on the sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council

Christ is present to his Church

Christ is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the Eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone baptizes, Christ himself baptizes. He is present in his word, for it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.

Indeed, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men, Christ is always joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church, which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.

It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which through signs addressed to the senses man’s sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its fullness by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the head and by his members.

Accordingly, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a pre-eminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.

In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, as minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Lord; as we reverence the memory of the saints, we hope to have some part with them, and to share in their fellowship; we wait for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, who is our life, appears, and we appear with him in glory.

By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is rightly called the Lord’s day. On Sunday the Christian faithful ought to gather together, so that by listening to the word of God and sharing in the Eucharist they may recall the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God who has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord’s day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon it, so that it may be also a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and the kernel of the whole liturgical year.

I thought that was pretty interesting so looked up the whole document, about twenty typewritten pages, printed it, and read it. I know it is not without controversy but found it enlightening. I especially liked the last sentence in item 69:

69. In place of the rite called the “Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant,” a new rite is to be drawn up. This should manifest more fittingly and clearly that the infant, baptized by the short rite, has already been received into the Church. And a new rite is to be drawn up for converts who have already been validly baptized; it should indicate that they are now admitted to communion with the Church.

If you are inclined to read the whole document, it is HERE.