With Thankfulness & Praise

I can get as nostalgic as the next ex-seminarian about the worship we experienced at St. Joseph Abbey, circa 1960. Filing into the abbey church at early-winter dusk as the monks chanted the last of vespers, joining them in the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament as the church filled with incense, color, and chant-for some of us, the magic of such worship was itself reason enough to become a Benedictine monk.

A layperson now for over thirty years, I still miss the pageantry of the monastic ritual during Holy Week. Still, this is a small and private grief next to the great joy I feel every week when participating in the celebration of the Eucharist at my local parish in downtown Atlanta.

The reform-and renewal-of the liturgy is arguably the most visible, important, and successful accomplishment of the Second Vatican Council. Preceded by decades of pioneering efforts, grounded in meticulous historical scholarship, and carried out with considerable conflict and sometimes personal pain, the transformation of Catholic worship life over the past forty years provides evidence that the Holy Spirit can indeed work even through clumsy human processes.

Although the loudest public battles were fought over changes in the Mass, reform extended to all the sacraments and their associated catechesis. The recovery of the ancient Catechumenate leading to adult baptism at Easter is a notable example of how the...

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About the Author

Luke Timothy Johnson, a frequent contributor, is the R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Two of his most recent books are Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity (Yale) and Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (Eerdmans).