THE OXFORD DECLARATION

Oblatio munda

THE
OXFORD DECLARATION


(1996)







(The appearance
of the Oxford Declaration and the immediate response to it is one indication of the
fact that a revived liturgical movement is now gaining strength and confidence in
England as well as the United States. The Declaration was published in the name of
the Liturgy Forum of the Centre for Faith and Culture, constituted under the chairmanship
of Mgr Peter J. Elliott, a Vatican official and author of Ceremonies of the
Roman Rite, at the conclusion of the Centre’s summer conference).

1. Reflecting
on the history of liturgical renewal and reform since the Second Vatican Council,
the Liturgy Forum agreed that there have been many positive results. Among these
might be mentioned the introduction of the vernacular, the opening up of the treasury
of the Sacred Scriptures, increased participation in the liturgy and the enrichment
of the process of Christian initiation. However, the Forum concluded that the preconciliar
liturgical movement as well as the manifest intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium
have in large part been frustrated by powerful contrary forces, which could be described
as bureaucratic, philistine and secularist.

2. The effect
has been to deprive the Catholic people of much of their liturgical heritage. Certainly,
many ancient traditions of sacred music, art and architecture have been all but destroyed,
Sacrosanctum Concilium gave pride of place to Gregorian chant, yet in many places
this “sung theology” of the Roman liturgy has disappeared without trace.
Our liturgical heritage is not a superficial embellishment of worship but should
properly be regarded as intrinsic to it, as it is also to the process of transmitting
the Catholic faith in education and evangelization. Liturgy cannot be separated from
culture; it is the living font of a Christian civilization and hence has profound
ecumenical significance.

3. The impoverishment
of our liturgy after the Council is a fact not yet sufficiently admitted or understood,
to which the necessary response must be a revival of the liturgical movement and
the initiation of a new cycle of reflection and reform. The liturgical movement which
we represent is concerned with the enrichment, correction and resacralization of
Catholic liturgical practice. It is concerned with a renewal of liturgical eschatology,
cosmology and aesthetics, and with a recovery of the sense of the sacred–mindful
that the law of worship is the law of belief. This renewal will be aided by a closer
and deeper acquaintance with the liturgical, theological and iconographic traditions
of the Christian East.

4. The revived
liturgical movement calls for the promotion of the Liturgy of the Hours, celebrated
in song as an action of the Church in cathedrals, parishes, monasteries and families,
and of Eucharistic Adoration, already spreading in many parishes. In this way, the
Divine Word and the Presence of Christ’s reality in the Mass may resonate throughout
the day, making human culture into a dwelling place for God. At the heart of the
Church in the world we must be able to find that loving contemplation, that adoring
silence,which is the essential complement to the spoken word of Revelation, and the
key to active participation in the holy mysteries of faith.

5. We call for
a greater pluralism of Catholic rites and uses, so that all these elements of our
tradition may flourish and be more widely known during the period of reflection and
‘ressourcement’ (going back to the sources) that lies ahead. If the liturgical movement
is to prosper, it must seek to rise above differences of opinion and taste to that
unity,which is the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Body of Christ. Those who love the Catholic
tradition in its fullness should strive to work together in charity, bearing each
other’s burdens in the light of the Holy Spirit, and persevering in prayer with Mary
the Mother of Jesus.

6. We hope that
any future liturgical reform would not be imposed on the faithful but would proceed,
with the utmost caution and sensitivity to the sensus fidelium, from a thorough understanding
of the organic nature of the liturgical traditions of the Church. Our work should
be sustained by prayer, education and study. This cannot be undertaken in haste,
or in anything other than a serene spirit. No matter what difficulties lie ahead,
the glory of the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s love, his cosmic sacrifice and his childlike
trust in the Father – shines through every Catholic liturgy for those who have eyes
to see, and in this undeserved grace we await the return of spring.



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