Having decreed in article 51 that richer scriptural fare is to be provided to the faithful at Mass, the Council Fathers now turn their attention to preaching at Mass.
Vatican website translation:
52. By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.
52. Homilia, qua per anni liturgici cursum ex textu sacro fidei mysteria et normae vitae christianae exponuntur, ut pars ipsius liturgiae valde commendatur; quinimmo in Missis quae diebus dominicis et festis de praecepto concurrente populo celebrantur, ne omittatur, nisi gravi de causa.
Slavishly literal translation [through the kindness of Jonathan Day]:
52. The homily, through which during the course of the liturgical year the mysteries of the faith and the norms of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, is firmly to be designated as a part of the liturgy itself; indeed, in those Masses celebrated on Sundays and feasts of obligation with the people participating [or ‘with the people present in large numbers’], it is not to be omitted except for a serious reason.
The Council Fathers choose the term “homily” to refer to liturgical preaching at Mass, understood as a genuine element of the liturgy. (This probably challenges the custom of preachers at the time of the Council making the sign of the Cross at the beginning and conclusion of their preaching at Mass, thus indicating that they were “exiting” from the formal liturgy for the sermon [sometimes prefaced by announcements and concluded by the prone] and “returning” to it when this insertion was ended.) They characterize this liturgical preaching at Mass as “expounded from the sacred text”; the presumption is that the “more lavish” scriptural fare decreed in article 51 would found homiletic biblical preaching, rather than sermons offered individually or in series on topics extraneous to the biblical lections. They further characterize liturgical preaching as both doctrinal (“the mysteries of the faith”) and paraenetic (“the norms of the Christian life”), presuming that the preacher will be able to ground the Church’s teachings in faith and morals in biblical insight. Wisely they note that no one homily is able to communicate the entirety of Christian belief and practice, but that homilizing in this way will have a cumulative effect over the course of the liturgical year. Finally they emphasize the importance of liturgical preaching at Mass especially when large numbers of the faithful are present, such as on Sunday and holy days of obligation.
Pray Tell readers may wish to discuss any of the following:
1) the further development of the understanding of the homily in official and scholarly documents since SC;
2) how effectively formation programs have prepared preachers to homilize according to these understanding;
3) how effectively liturgical preaching is practiced in our parishes and communities of faith;
4) to what extent this description of homiletic preaching at Mass may be extended to other sacramental and devotional situations;
5) what characteristics mark an effective liturgical homily;
6) what can be done to improve liturgical preaching.