But it is also clear that our predecessors St. Pius X and John XXIII laid down several rules aimed at restoring Sunday to its original rank and place of esteem in the mind of all as the "first holyday of all." They also renewed the celebration of Lent.
It is true as well that our predecessor Pius XII decreed for the Western Church restoration of the Easter Vigil, as the occasion for the people of God to reaffirm their spiritual covenant with the risen Lord during the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation.
Faithful to the teaching of the Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church, these popes rightly preceived the true nature of the liturgical year's cycle. It is not simply the commemoration of the historical events by which Christ Jesus worn or salvation through his death and a calling to mind of the past that instructs and nurtures the faithful, even the simplest, who meditate on it. They taught also that the cycle of the liturgical year "possesses a distinct sacramental power and efficacy to strengthen Christian life." This is also our own mind and teaching.
Thus as we celebrate the "sacrament of the birth of Christ" and his appearance in the world, it is right and proper for us to pray that "through him who is like us outwardly, we may be changed inwardly." And that while we are celebrating his passage from death to life, we ask God that those who are reborn with Christ may "by their life hold fast to the sacrament they have received by faith." In the words of Vatican Council II, "recalling the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of the Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age in order that the faithful may lay hold on them and be filled with saving grace."
The purpose of the reordering of the liturgical year and of the norms
accomplishing its reform, therefore, is that through faith, hope, and love
the faithful may share more deeply in "the whole mystery of Christ as it
unfolds throughout the year."
Undeniably, however, over the course of the centuries more feasts of the saints were introduced than was necessary; therefore the Council pointed out: "Lest the feasts of the saints take precedence over the feasts commemorating the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be celebrated by a particular Church or nation or religious family; those only should be extended to the universal Church that commemorate saints of truly universal significance."
To put these decrees of the Council into effect, the names of some saints have been deleted from the General Calendar and permission was granted to restore the memorials and veneration of other saints in those areas with which they have been traditionally associated. The removal of certain lesser-known saints from the Roman Calendar has allowed the addition of the names of martyrs from regions where the Gospel spread later in history. In consequence, the single catalogue displays in equal dignity as representatives of all peoples those who either shed their blood for Christ or were outstanding in the heroic virtues.
For these reasons we regard the new General Calendar drawn up for the Latin rite to be more in keeping with the spirituality and attitudes of the times and to be a clearer reflection of the Church's universality. In this last regard, the Calendar carries the names of the noblest of men and women who place before all the people of God striking examples of holiness and a wide diversity of forms. The immense spiritual value of this to the whole Christian people hardly need mention.
After carefully considering before the Lord all these matters, with our apostolic authority we approve the new Roman Calendar drawn up by the Consilium and also the general norms governing the arrangement of the liturgical year. The effective date for them is 1 January 1970. In accordance with the decrees that the Congregation of Rites has prepared in conjunction with the Consilium, they will remain in force until the publication of the duly reformed Roman Missal and Breviary.
We decree all we have established motu proprio in this Letter
to be valid and confirmed, nothwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the
contitutions and apostolic ordinations issued by our predecessors, as well
as other directives, even those worthy of explicit mention and amendment.