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The Reform of the Roman Liturgy

Daniel J. Castellano (2007)

In 1969, Pope Paul VI authorized a reformed Roman liturgy, or Order of the Mass (Ordo Missae), to implement the principles outlined by the Second Vatican Council in its liturgical constitution Sacrosanctum Consilium. Some aspects of this reformed liturgy, such as the use of the vernacular for the canon, and the introduction of alternative eucharistic prayers, went beyond the recommendations of the Council. The breadth of options allowed to the celebrant has been widely abused to promote false ecclesiology or theology, and in the English-speaking world, translations from the Latin editio typica are horribly inaccurate in places. These distortions, coupled with the aesthetic banality of most modern liturgies, tend to obscure the fact that the Mass of Pope Paul VI was not a revolutionary departure from the traditional liturgy, but a reform that retained most of the substance and order of the Tridentine rite. This reality is better appreciated by a direct comparison of the Latin texts of the 1962 and 1970 missals, following a literal translation instead of the inept paraphrases of English liturgists.

Initial Rites

The reformed Mass opens with the Introit, or Entrance Antiphon, whereas in the Tridentine rite this was at the end of the opening rites, as the medieval additions of Psalm 42 and the Confiteor preceded the Introit. The reformed liturgy restores the Introit to the beginning of the Mass, omits Psalm 42, but retains the Confiteor, preceding it with this introduction:

May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communication (communicatio) of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And with your spirit. (Et cum spiritu tuo.)

Brethren (Fratres), let us remember our sins, that we might be fit to celebrate the sacred mysteries.

The Anglophone Catholic is to be excused for not recognizing this text, which comes from the official editio typica of the Roman Missal of 1970. Most English translations distort these phrases in several locations.

First, communicatio properly means "communication", not "communion" (communio) or "fellowship" (communtas). It is derived from communicare, "to make common, share, or impart", and does not refer to communication in an abstract sense of ideas, but in typical Latin austerity, its meaning is confined to substantial objects. The communicatio of the Holy Spirit means a palpable sharing of the Spirit, so the priest is asking that the Holy Spirit may be imparted upon the people. This is a significantly stronger statement than merely requesting the "fellowship" of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the English word "communication" has equivocal meanings, more commonly referring to abstract mental representations, though it is proper English to say that the Holy Spirit can "communicate" Himself to the people, imparting His very Presence to them. The use of "communion" or "fellowship" as a translation is therefore an understandable concession to the limitations of modern English usage.

The ancient response, Et cum spiritu tuo, dating back to at least c. 200 AD, has been needlessly mangled by the English translators, who seem not to realize that their job is to reproduce the editio typica in English, not canonize their interpretation of the text. One can only imagine what was their objection to the word "spirit"; perhaps from living among Protestants, they have learned to be squeamish about such terminology.

Similarly, the phrase about being "fit to celebrate the sacred mysteries" apparently offends the sensibilities of many a celebrant who omits them, if he bothers to include the Confiteor at all.

The Confiteor of the 1970 Missal has been shortened, and now the priest and assembly say it simultaneously, whereas previously the server would say the Confiteor after the priest had done so. In keeping with the aim of the Second Vatican Council (and the liturgical movement of the early twentieth century) to increase lay participation, the server's responses are now all assigned explicitly to the entire assembly throughout the Mass.

The use of a simultaneous Confiteor has prompted a change in its initial address. Originally, the priest said, "I confess to Almighty God, to the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, to Saint Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints...", and the server did likewise, adding the phrase, "and to you, Father". Now, all simply say, "I confess to Almighty God, and to you, brethren...".

The central part of the Confiteor is identical to that of the Tridentine rite. One would never gather that from the inept English translations currently in use. A verbatim translation of the Latin would read:

...for I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, deed, and omission: [All strike themselves on the breast] through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa)

Mea culpa, mea culpa..., a phrase known even to nonbelievers, is somehow completely absent from the Mass in English, due to this miserable translation:

...that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts, in my words, in what I have done, in what I have failed to do...

It is no wonder that most English-speakers are unaware that the penitent act of striking your breast is still in the rubrics. The mea culpa has been buried between "I have sinned" and "in my thoughts", leaving no time for pause or reflection on this potent phrase, which is said only once, contrary to the Latin editio. Perhaps Anglo-Saxon pragmatism is unable to appreciate the value of repetition and meditation, or more likely, the translators are much too uncomfortable with self-accusation.

The Confiteor concludes by asking for the intercession of "Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, brethren." The Tridentine rite explicitly named St. Michael, John the Baptist, and Ss. Peter and Paul, as in the opening. Also, the server additionally asked for the priest to pray for him. Once again, the use of a simultaneous Confiteor forces a change in the wording, so that all pray for each other's intercession. This does not imply a change in ecclesiology, as it has always been valid, and praiseworthy, for laity to pray for their priests. Similarly, it implies no loss of dignity for the priest to address his confession to the people, as the priest's Confiteor has always been public, and there are many parts of the traditional Latin Mass where the priest's role is self-effacing.

In confirmation of traditional ecclesiology, the priest alone says the following prayer in both the old and new rites.

May Almighty God have mercy on us, and having forgiven our sins, bring us to everlasting life.

The current English translation changes the verb form of "forgive", to read, "...have mercy on us, forgive us our sins...", possibly to avoid the presumption that the sins have in fact been forgiven.

The modern Entrance Rites have concluded, omitting a few short traditional prayers: the Gloria Patri, further references to Psalm 42, and a prayer for the forgiveness of sins through the merits of the saints and their relics.


The entire assembly now says the server's response in the Kyrie, though this was permitted even before the reform. In the traditional rite, Kyrie eleison was said thrice, then Christe eleison thrice, and Kyrie eleison thrice, for a total of nine petitions. The priest and server would alternate, so the priest spoke five times, and the server four. For a large assembly, this could be confusing, so the new rite is simplified to an even six responses, with the priest and assembly alternating, so the assembly simply repeats what the priest says.

The Kyrie is the only part of the traditional Latin Mass that was said in Greek. The prayer's iconic status in Christendom merits the retention of this practice, and indeed, many modern parishes retain this singular exemption from the use of the vernacular.


The Gloria of the new Missal is identical to that of the Tridentine rite. An accurate translation would read:

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will. We praise thee; we bless thee; we adore thee; we glorify thee; we give thee thanks for thy great glory. Lord God; Heavenly King; God the Father Almighty. O Lord Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. O Lord God, Lamb of God, the Son of the Father. Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Thou who sitteth at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For thou alone art holy; thou alone art the Lord; thou alone art the most high, Jesus Christ. With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

There are some obvious errors and omissions in the English translation currently in use. The English Gloria does not specify "men of good will" (bonae voluntatis). More incredibly, it freely rearranges the order of the prayer, saying "Lord God, Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory." "We worship" is an adequate translation of adoramus, but the phrases, "we bless thee," and "we glorify thee" are omitted.

The English Gloria continues, "Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father," contracting "Only-Begotten Son" and "the Son of the Father" into a single expression. Inexplicably, the second instance of "have mercy on us" is replaced by "receive our prayer". This is not a translation by any stretch of language. It is understandable that some rephrasing might be necessary in order for the Gloria to be sung, but these changes are far too extensive to make that excuse credible.


The Collect is no longer preceded by Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo, but opens directly with Oremus.


In the Tridentine Mass, one of the New Testament Epistles was read at this point, followed by a Gradual, Tract, or Alleluia with verse. In the current liturgy, this part of the Mass is greatly expanded, and dignified with the title Liturgy of the Word. Using the traditional terminology, we are still in the Mass of Catechumens.

There are now two readings, an Old Testament reading and a New Testament Epistle. Between the readings comes a responsorial psalm, which may be read or sung, according to the rubrics. Unfortunately, in the English-speaking world, the liturgical industry is eager to sell copyrighted music for all occasions to Catholic parishes, so the responsorial psalm is typically accompanied by a different melody each week. This music is useless to the laity, who cannot be expected to learn a new tune in a matter of seconds (to be forgotten thereafter), so it actually has the effect of discouraging participation in the responses.

Each reading conludes with the priest saying "The Word of the Lord." In practice, these readings are usually done by a lay lector, and the lector concludes with this phrase.

The readings are concluded with an Alleluia acclamation, to be either sung or recited. An Alleluia verse is spoken by the priest or sung by the choir.

The Gospel

The Gospel reading, reserved to the clergy, is preceded by the prayer "Munda cor meum", "Cleanse my heart". Amazingly, the English translators managed to omit this defining phrase of the prayer, instead opening, "May the Lord be in my heart and on my lips," borrowing a phrase from a later part of the Tridentine Munda cor meum, rather than following the 1970 Missal.

The current Latin missal correctly translates to: "Cleanse my heart and my lips, Almighty God, that I may go worthily to proclaim thy holy Gospel." This is a much shorter version of the Tridentine Munda cor meum, which explicitly recounted the cleansing of Isaiah's lips with a burning coal.

After a Dominus vobiscum and response, the priest or deacon announces, "A reading from the Holy Gospel...", where formerly the priest would say, "The continuation (or beginning) of the Holy Gospel".

After the Gospel is read, the new rite prescribes the reader to say, "The Word of the Lord." The response is the same as in the Tridentine Rite, Laus tibi, Christe, "Praise to thee, O Christ." For some reason, in English Masses the full title Lord Jesus Christ is used.

The priest or deacon then kisses the book, and says, in both the new and old rites: "By the Gospel having been said, may our sins be blotted out." This is omitted in most English language Masses, perhaps because some misguided souls feel it sounds too "Latin" or "superstitious".

After the Gospel, the priest or deacon delivers a homily or sermon. Since this is principally a commentary on the Gospel reading, it is appropriate that the Gospel reader delivers the homily. Before the reform, it was customary for the priest to repeat the Gospel in the vernacular prior to the homily.

The Creed

The Creed was formulated by the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople to provide a clear confession of the orthodox faith. It has been held in such universal reverence throughout Christendom that the Greeks were scandalized when the Latins added a single word (filioque) to the Creed. Since the Creed is intended to be a precise formulation of orthodoxy, and its rich history demands a special reverence, it is especially important for a translation to be precise.

Unfortunately, the English translators have badly mishandled the Creed, to the extent that the translation used in Anglophone Catholic churches is inferior to that used by the Lutherans. Catholics may be excused for thinking that the Creed has changed; in fact, the Creed in the current editio typica is identical to that of the traditional missal.

The most glaring error, though theologically insubstantial, is the use of "we believe" rather than "I believe" (Credo). Incredibly, the English credo lacks the word credo. This is a deliberate and unnecessary mistranslation of the Latin, presumably to promote a sense of community. Regardless of the merits of such an objective, translators are commissioned to translate, not create their own version of the liturgy, distinct from that approved by Rome. To do otherwise is a breach of trust.

The translation of consubstantialem Patri as "one in being with the Father", though defensible, is cause for concern, since the choice of the precise word consubstantialem (Greek homoousion) is the very essence of distinction between the Nicene and Arian doctrines. Nonetheless, it would be extremely difficult to interpret "one in being" in an Arian sense, whereas "one in substance" in common English seems to imply corporeality. This shows why the Church wisely refrained from theological discussion in the vernacular for most of its history, as the Germanic languages especially are too crude in their expressions to arrive at the precision demanded by a developed theology.

The description of the Incarnation has also been botched in English. The Latin should translate:

Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.

And He became incarnate of (from) the Holy Spirit from (out of) the Virgin Mary, and was made (became) man.

Instead, we have, "By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man." The insertion of the phrase "by the power" is understandable, due to the inadequacy of matching English prepositions against their Latin counterparts. The sense of the Latin, indeed, is that Christ became incarnate because of the Holy Spirit (that is, by His power), yet He took his flesh from the Virgin Mary. The translation of the first phrase is therefore defensible.

We cannot justify the translation of incarnatus est as "was born" (natus est), since this substantially changes the meaning of the mystery described. The mystery of the Incarnation did not take place at the birth of Christ, but at His conception. The sense of the Latin is that Christ took His very flesh from the Virgin Mary, by the natural process of gestation. Christ became man in the womb, not when He was born.

The custom of kneeling at the mention of the Incarnation was replaced with a bow of the head in the 1970 rubrics. The widespread disappearance of even this minimal show of reverence resulted in a revision to the rubrics, requiring a deep bow at the waist. This has not been widely followed, as it is difficult to perfom in close pews, and is an unfamiliar liturgical posture for laity. Our current rubrics have the laity kneel for extended periods of time and are widely followed, as this is an unambiguous posture that demands obedience, lest someone be left standing alone. With modern improvements in medicine and health, it should not be burdensome for most parishioners to kneel and rise again.

Universal Prayer

The "prayer of the faithful" (oratio fidelis), or universal prayer (oratio universalis), is an addition to the modern liturgy that restores an ancient practice of the Roman Church that had been abandoned except on Good Friday. For all other days, the general intercessions were replaced by the simple expression Oremus at the start of the Offertory.

The general intercessions may be drafted and read by laymen, but require the prior approval of the pastor. Although the Prayer of the Faithful is now considered to precede the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Mass of the Faithful), by traditional standards it ought to be regarded as part of the Mass of the Faithful, since catechumens are excluded from such intercessions, and in ancient times, were sent away at this point in the liturgy.

The responses to general intercessions are Te rogamus audi nos, "We pray (ask) thee, hear us," and Kyrie eleison (in Greek). The latter is almost never used, and the former is translated very roughly, "Lord, hear our prayer." This translation mutilates the sense of the Latin, which is one of begging and supplication, not the presumption and self-assurance of Protestants. We must think our sins are much lighter than those of our ancestors, which may also explain our reluctance to use "Lord, have mercy" as a response.

Preparation of the Gifts (Offertory)

The Liturgy of the Eucharist now begins, and it is this part of the liturgy that has had the most substantial changes. The traditional Roman liturgy, like all the ancient liturgies of the East and West, contains an extensive series of Offertory prayers that describe the Sacrifice in an anticipatory way, referring to the eucharistic elements as the Body and Blood of Christ, and performing numerous genuflections before the unconsecrated species.

The liturgists who drafted the reformed Missal feared that these Offertory prayers would confuse the faithful when heard in the vernacular, as they appear to declare that the Body and Blood of Christ are present before the Consecration, and that the Sacrifice has already been offered. As most modern people are quite literal-minded, they would have little appreciation of the liturgical act of dramatic anticipation of that which is about to occur.

In view of these concerns, it was decided to replace the traditional Offertory with a relatively simple preparatory prayer that makes clear that the species are still but bread and wine. This "Preparation of the Gifts" was loosely based on the form of Jewish meal prayers of thanksgiving, with unambiguously Christian material added.

This substitution has been one of the most controversial changes to the Roman Missal, since it eliminates a series of rich, distinctively Catholic prayers using explicitly sacrificial language, invoking the Blessed Virgin and all the saints, and replaces it with a Jewish meal prayer. Thus, it is argued by traditionalists and liberals alike, that the Church has changed her understanding of the meaning of the Eucharist, reducing it from a Sacrifice to a community meal.

Needless to say, the Eucharist is still principally a Sacrifice, a fact that is attested by the Eucharistic Prayer and the Orate Fratres prayer that is retained in the modern Offertory.

The notion that the Eucharist is, or ever has been, principallly a community meal, is without theological or historical foundation. This error was introduced by nineteenth century Anglican liturgical scholars and other Protestants who employed a fundamentally flawed methodology. Unable to accept the unanimous testimonies of all ancient liturgies, which are suffused with sacrificial language, these scholars presumed to "reconstruct" the primitive form by eliminating any part that seemed to have been adapted to Byzantine or Roman forms. The flaw in this methodology is that it assumes that the Hellenic or Roman material was a pure addition, and not a replacement of earlier material that was every bit as sacrificial in form. This speculative "text criticism" is the opposite of the empirical method, as it rejects the testimony of extant manuscripts, cutting and pasting texts to fit the theory.

The most ancient liturgies, from the third century Canon of St. Hippolytus to the Syriac liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, all lack even the most elementary form of a Jewish community meal. Such meals begin with the breaking of bread, followed by a blessing and prayer of thanksgiving, then the meal itself. At the end of the meal, a blessing is said over the last cup. These prayers are brief, and take only five to ten minutes; the bulk of the time would be occupied by eating and drinking. All of the ancient liturgies have the breaking of bread and consecration of the wine together in the center of the liturgy, rather than at the beginning and end. The fact that the basic form of the Jewish community meal is universally absent from Christian liturgies dating to the second century should be a clue that these liturgies had a quite different function.

The similarities between Christian liturgy and Jewish communion meals are quite superficial, and easily accounted for by the fact that the liturgy was instituted at such a meal. It is only natural that Christians should offer thanksgiving at their liturgies, and that Jewish Christians should follow the basic form of some prayers. Yet the meal blessing and prayer of thanksgiving are much too insubstantial to constitute a full liturgy, so the meal tradition is insufficient to account for even the more primitive Christian liturgies. It is foolish to resist, against all manuscript evidence and the testimony of tradition, the conclusion that the Christian liturgy always had a distinctively sacrificial meaning. Christ Himself explicitly taught this at the Last Supper.

By omitting most of the Offertory, the reformed Mass is not restoring an ancient tradition, but setting aside a universal tradition among the most ancient liturgies in Christendom. This was done out of the pastoral concern that anticipatory references to the Sacrifice would confuse the faithful about when the Sacrifice occured, but we have witnessed that this change has resulted in a contrary confusion as to whether the Church has relinquished her teaching about the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, thereby putting herself at odds with all the Eastern Orthodox churches.

This is clearly not the case, as is evidenced by the prayer Orate Fratres and its response, which the Latin Missal of 1970 retains, completely identical to its counterpart in the Tridentine Missal. A literal translation reads:

P: Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours (ut meum ac vestrum sacrificiium) may become acceptable to God the Father Almighty.

R: May the Lord receive this sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and also that of His holy Church.

This clearly sacrificial prayer cannot have its meaning obscured even by the poor English translation, "our sacrifice", which softens the distinction between the priest and laity's roles with respect to the sacrifice. This distinction is unambiguously declared in the response, which affirms that the sacrifice is received from the priest's hands, for the good of those assembled.

Returning to the beginning of the Preparation of the Gifts, we find that the Roman genius has not been abandoned. The opening prayer, in Jewish fashion, thanks God for the bread received, but with the distinctly Christian addition that what is about to be offered to God will be made into the "bread of life". This is followed by a pericope from the traditional Roman Offertory:

Through the mystery (mysterium) of this water and wine, may we be made partakers of the Divinity, Which saw fit to be a partaker of our humanity.

Some English texts have mistranslated mysterium ("mystery") as "mingling". The Latin text implies a real partaking of the Divinity through the consecrated water and wine, the Blood of Christ. Like the rest of the traditional Offertory, this is an anticipatory prayer, regarding the mystery that is about to be manifested.

The Preparation continues with another Jewish style blessing over the wine, with the Christian addition, "from which a spiritual drink will be made for us." This is followed by another excerpt from the Roman Offertory:

In the spirit of humility and with contrite heart, we receive from thee, O Lord; and thus may our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day, that it might please thee, O Lord.

This is followed by the Lava me, and the Oratre Fratres already discussed. Thus the majority of the Preparation prayers come from the traditional Roman Offertory verbatim. The only additions are the blessings over the bread and wine, designed to emphasize that they are still mere bread and wine, though affirming they will become the "bread of life" and a "spiritual drink." The rest of the brief Preparation uses the word "sacrifice" three times, and indicates that through this "mystery" we may partake "of the Divnity, Which saw fit to be a partaker of our humanity," an unmistakable reference to Christ. If the Church intended to change its Eucharistic theology, this was a highly ineffective way of accomplishing that aim. We may further note that every General Instruction of the Roman Missal has emphasized the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and its continuity with Tridentine theology. The adoration of the Eucharist at the moment of Consecration, prescribed by the rubrics and universally observed, also testifies that the traditional faith has been preserved.

Omitted Offertory Prayers

Although the Preparation of the Gifts in its current form is entirely traditional in its theology, we would be remiss if we did not at least examine the Offertory prayers that have been omitted. These venerable prayers might have been retained, with modest changes to indicate the species have not been consecrated.

The Suscipe, Sancte Pater refers to the Host as an "immaculate victim", which the priest offers in the present tense, in dramatic anticipation. The aim of this and other anticipatory prayers is to specify the purpose of the offering: "for my innumerable sins, and offenses, and negligences, and for all those present, and for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them for salvation unto everlatsting life." It is regrettable and unnecessary that this part of the prayer was not preserved.

Similarly, there was no necessity that the beginning of the prayer over the mixed water and wine should be omitted: "O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of the human substance, and even more wonderfully restored it..." The restoration of this expression would be a fitting complement to Pope John Paul II's theology of human dignity. It also brings greater clarity to the mystery of the water and wine. The water represents human nature, and by mixing with the wine to be consecrated, it will become truly the Blood of Christ. Similarly, the human nature of Christ was mysteriously immersed in His Divinity, so that all men may partake of divinity. The mystery of the consecrated Chalice directs us to the mystery of the Incarnation.

The prayer over the Chalice calls it the "Chalice of salvation", again offering in the present tense, indicating the intention "for our salvation and that of the whole world."

Before the washing of the priest's hands, the traditional Missal has a brief invocation asking for a blessing of the sacrifice.

In place of the current Lava me ("Wash me"), the old Missal had the priest read Psalm 25:6-12, which begins "I will wash" (Lavabo).

Next comes a prayer to the Holy Trinity:

Receive, O Holy Trinity, this offering, which we offer to thee in memory of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ Our Lord: and in honor of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and of Blessed John the Baptist, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of theses, and of all saints: that it may bring to them honor, and to us salvation: and that they may see fit to intercede for us in Heaven, whose memory we make on earth.

Like the other anticipatory prayers, this petition indicates why the sacrifice is being offered: in commemoration of Christ, in honor of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints, for our salvation, and that the saints may intercede for us, as we commemmorate them on earth. This elegant summary of the relationship between the Church in heaven and on earth (the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant) would be of great value to the modern liturgy. As it is never wise to forsake the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the saints, I cannot defend the omission of this prayer. Its restoration would singlehandedly bring a distinctly Catholic flavor to the Offertory.

As my comments have indicated, the current Preparation (Offertory), though orthodox, suffers from the unnecessary omission of much of traditional Roman Offertory. The restoration of some of these prayers would not reverse the reform, but actually promote its theological and pastoral aims. In comparison with all the Orthodox liturgies of the East, our current Offertory is singularly impoverished, so brief that it is easy to miss. Fortunately, the Roman tradition has a rich treasury of prayers from which we may restore the glory of this important part of the liturgy.

Prayer over the Oblation (Secret)

This prayer is no longer said secretly, but audibly.

Preface to Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon)

In a major departure from the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI, the liturgical commission that produced the 1970 Missal composed three alternate Eucharistic prayers, or canons, to be used as optional substitutions of the Roman Canon. This was in response to the requests of reformers in Belgium and the Netherlands, some of whom were already disobediently using new Eucharistic prayers or a badly mutilated Roman Canon. The Mass of Pope Paul VI must be understood against the background of these abuses, and the Pope himself stated that this Missal would put an end to the confusion caused by liturgical experimentation. There would be four, and only four, ordinary Eucharistic prayers (though later others were introduced for special circumstances), and the Roman Canon would be preserved intact. Pope Paul was adamant that the Roman Canon could not be altered, and we will see that only the most minor variations were applied to the Canon in the 1970 Missal.

The Preface Dialogue of the Roman Canon is used for all four Eucharistic prayers, and it is identical to that of the traditional Latin Mass. In English, two of the responses are mistranslated. Et cum spiritu tuo ("And with your spirit") is mistranslated "And also with you," as noted previously. The last response, Dignum et justum est ("It is worthy [fitting] and just"), is mistranslated "It is right to give Him thanks and praise," in apparent lack of appreciation of Roman austerity.

The Preface varies by feast, except for the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer, which has a fixed preface. Many of the current prefaces closely follow their counterparts in the 1962 Missal.


The Sanctus is now generally sung by the assembly rather than spoken by the priest. The Latin text is identical to the 1962 Missal. A verbatim translation reads:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.

In English liturgy, "God of Hosts" is rendered "God of Power, God of Might," possibly for musical reasons.

Eucharistic Prayer I (Roman Canon)

The Eucharistic Prayer proper begins with the traditional formula, Te igitur, and follows the traditional Latin verbatim. We have noted that the reformed Mass reduces the genuflections and signs of the cross prior to Consecration, to emphasize the change effected by transubstantiation. Additionally, triple signs of the cross are reduced to a single sign, as at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer when the priest blesses the gifts. The kissing of the altar is now omitted.

The Eucharistic Prayer continues to follow the Roman Canon verbatim through the commemoration of the living of the saints. The modern rite follows Pope John XXIII's insertion of St. Joseph into the litany of saints, a change that was controversial at the time, since the Roman Canon was considered to be practically untouchable. Even Pope Paul's reform is extremely conservative with regard to the Roman Canon. Apart from the insertion of St. Joseph, the new rite differs from the old only in making most of the litany of apostles and saints optional, as well as making optional the repeated formula, "Through Christ Our Lord. Amen," after each prayer.

Consecration of the Host and Chalice

The same formula of consecration, that of the Roman Rite, is used for all Eucharistic Prayers.

The Host is consecrated with the same words as of old, Hoc est enim corpus meum, "For this is My Body." Most English liturgies omit the translation of enim, instead using, "This is My Body." This is a wrong translation, but the Mass is still valid and licit as no substance of the words has been lost.

The reformed missal adds the phrase (not part of the words of Consecration), quod pro vobis tradetur "which will be handed (given) over for you." This is a slight rewording of Luke 22:19 (quod pro vobis datur, "which will be given for you"), emphasizing the Sacrifice of Christ's Body, and the Real Presence of His Body in the Holy Eucharist.

The traditional formula for the consecration of the Chalice has been rearranged. The original formula read:

For this is the Chalice of My Blood, of the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith: which shall be shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.

The liturgical commission preparing the new Missal wanted to exclude the words "mystery of faith" (mysterium fidei) from the Mass altogether, as this insertion into the consecration formula was of dubious authenticity, having no parallel in Scripture or in Eastern liturgies. It also was grammatically awkward in its location, giving the impression that it was a later interpolation. Despite these weighty considerations, Pope Paul VI held the Roman Canon in such reverence that he would not permit the omission of any of its words.

As a result, the words mysterium fidei were retained immediately after the Consecration, serving the purpose of introducing a Memorial Acclamation. This acclamation, proclaiming Christ's death, resurrection, and parousia, is an ancient practice used in some Western liturgies that the Missal of 1970 restores.

The words mysterium fidei are no longer part of the Consecration, but these are not essential to effect transubstantiation, as evidenced by their absence from Eastern liturgies. It is arguable that the words mysterium fidei no longer have the same meaning as in the old rite, since the "mystery of faith" is no longer transubstantiation, but refers to the mysteries that are acclaimed. Actually, there is ambiguity on this point in the Latin text, which simply says, "The mystery of faith," not "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith," as the English translations have it.

The reformed Missal follows the consecration of the Chalice with the words of the Vulgate, Hoc facite in meam commemorationem, "Do this in my memory." (Luke 22:19) The old rite said, "As often as you shall do these things, you shall do them in memory of me."

There are several irregularities in the English translation of the consecration of the Chalice. First, calix is now translated "cup", which is technically correct, as "chalice" and "cup" are one and the same word in Latin, though this is a departure from historic Catholic usage. Second, for grammatical clarity, it was deemed necesary to insert a second instance of the word "Blood": "the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the new...". Otherwise, it would be ambiguous whether the new covenant pertained to the Blood or the Chalice.

A much more serious translation problem, used in English, Italian, Spanish, and other vernacular liturgies, is the deliberate mistranslation of pro multis as "for all". The Vatican has indicated that this is an impermissible attempt to impose catechetical instruction in an act of translation. All of the ancient liturgies follow the Holy Gospels in using the words "for many". Any speculation about what Jesus said and meant in Aramaic must be muted by the fact that the Evangelists who knew both Aramaic and Greek deliberately chose polloi rather than pantes, even though they used the latter word in other contexts. In light of the weight of Scripture and Tradition, the Vatican has ordered the episcopal conferences to catechize the laity in preparation for a return to the correct translation of pro multis as "for many". The use of "for all" is sacramentally valid, as the Church has taught that Christ died for all men, in the sense of intention (sufficient grace), but only for some men, in the sense of efficacy (efficient grace). In the context of the Institution Narrative, however, according to the unanimous testimony of the Evangelists, St. Paul, and the ancient orthodox churches, our Lord spoke in the latter sense, so the Catholic Church requires that the Institution Narrative be recited accordingly. Thus the use of "for all" is valid, but illicit, as it impermissibly departs from the meaning of the Latin editio typica, the official liturgy of the Church.

Communion Rite

The Communion Rite in the reformed Missal follows the old by opening with the Pater Noster. The traditional English translation of this prayer has been so firmly established, that even the English liturgists did not dare to change it, knowing their innovations would be ignored anyhow.

The subsequent prayer, "Deliver us," also follows the old Missal, with some revisions. The intercessions of the Blessed Virgin and the saints have been omitted. The final phrase, "waiting in the blessed hope..." is a new addition. The revised prayer now reads, as translated from the Latin:

Deliver us, we beseech thee, O Lord, from all evils, and mercifully give us peace in our days, helped by the work of thy mercy, we also may be always free from sin and safe from all disturbance (perturbatione), waiting in blessed (beatam) hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The conventional English translation of this prayer is mangled in several places:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our days. In your mercy, keep us free from sin, and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This loose translation omits the phrase, "we beseech thee", collapses "mercifully" and "helped by the work of thy mercy" into a single instance, "In your mercy", and mistranslates two Latin words.

Perturbatione, as any Latin academic knows, means "disturbance", and refers primarily to concrete misfortunes. The English liturgists have decided instead to describe a subjective psychological ailment, "anxiety", a poor choice even by that standard ("distress" would have been better), since "anxiety" admits of positive and neutral connotations.

Translating beatus as "joyful" rather than "blessed" (or "fortunate") is a common mistake, replacing the concrete objectivity of Latin with a subjective quality. It would be obviously absurd to substitute "joyful" in cases such as "Blessed (beati) are those who mourn." In the case at hand, it is not even grammatical, since beatam qualifies "hope", and it is impossible for "hope" to experience joy.

These two mistranslations reveal a banality of thought better suited to popular psychology. It is hardly any wonder that the English liturgy fails to capture the dignity of the Latin editio, and the laity believe the Mass has been substantially changed.

The "Deliver us" prayer is followed by this doxology: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever." This phrase is well known in the English-speaking world, as both the King James Bible (Matthew 6:13) and the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer erroneously include this as the final words of the "Our Father". This mistake is based on some late Byzantine manuscripts that incorporate a liturgical doxology as a Scriptural gloss. The doxology itself is of venerable antiquity, probably dating to the fifth century. The reformed Missal includes it, though taking care to set it apart from the "Our Father" so it will not be confused with that prayer.

The prayer of extending peace is taken verbatim from a slightly later portion of the traditional Missal, and reads as follows:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and see fit, according to your will to give her peace and help her.

The last phrase is distorted in the English liturgy. The 1970 Latin Missal differs from the 1962 Missal only in that the priest speaks of "our sins" rather than "my sins". The reason for this change is that this prayer now precedes an exchange of a sign of peace among the congregation.

The mixing of the Host and Chalice uses the traditional Latin prayer, with a single word change. The old prayer said, "May the consecration of this Body and Blood," while the new prayer says, "May the mixing of this Body and Blood," since the Consecration has already happened. As we have noted, one of the objectives of the reform was to impose temporal literalism in place of dramatic atemporality, to make the rite more intelligible to modern laymen.

The Agnus Dei follows in traditional form. It is widely known both in Latin and the vernacular, so there has been no alteration in the wording.

Despite the reform's emphasis on making the liturgy more accessible to the laity, the sacred practice of keeping some prayers "secret" (read silently) has been retained in the Communion rite. This style of prayer emphasizes the role of the priest as an intercessor on behalf of his flock. The priest's Communion prayer is the same as in the old Missal, with only the doxology omitted.

The remainder of the traditional prayers before the Ecce, Agnus Dei have been omitted. These include two more prayers for the priest's communion, the "Domine, non sum dignus", the priest's communion under each species, followed by a second Confiteor said first by the priest and then by the server.

Part of the reason for this change is to move the priest's communion to after the Ecce, Agnus Dei. The assembly responds, "Lord, I am not worthy," and the priest says another secret prayer before receiving Communion.

The omission of the lengthy second Confiteor is understandable, but it was hardly necessary to omit the other Communion rite prayers, as it would have sufficed to include these among the silent prayers said after the Ecce, Agnus Dei. The current Communion rite is extraordinarily sparse compared with most ancient liturgies, and is as badly in need of restoration as the Offertory.

The new rite proceeds from the priest's secret prayer to the Ecce, Agnus Dei and its response, now said once instead of thrice:

Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

This ancient response, the words of the centurion to Christ in the Gospel, formerly recited in Latin by folk of the humblest education, is now to be read in a poor vernacular translation: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." Once again, we note the translators' peculiar aversion to the term "soul" or "spirit", and a tendency to move away from concrete reality (the centurion's prayer; the existing soul) toward subjective experience.

Somewhat inconsistently with the rest of the Mass, the Latin Missal of 1970 deletes the word "soul" from the priest's prayer before receiving the Sacrament, now saying, "May the Body of Christ guard me unto life everlasting." It may be that this change implicitly professes faith in the resurrection of the body.

The traditional formula, Corpus Dominus nostri Christi custodiat animam tuam (meam) in vitam aeternam, used to be said not only for the priest's communion, but for the communion of each layman. Now, for lay communion, the priest says, Corpus Christi, and the recipient responds, "Amen." The dramatic shortening of the formula has been rationalized as a return to ancient practice, but the more likely reason is to shorten the time needed to distribute Holy Communion.

When purifying the vessels, the priest prays, as in the old rite, the Quod ore: "What we have received by mouth, O Lord, let us take with a pure mind, and may an eternal remedy be made for us from this temporal gift." This was originally to be omitted in the reformed liturgy, but it was subsequently restored.

The next prayer of the old rite, the Corpus tuum, has been excluded from the reformed Missal. It read:

May thy Body, O Lord, which I have eaten, and thy Blood, which I have drunk, adhere to my innards; and grant, that there may remain no blemish of evil in me, who have received these pure and holy sacraments.

This might be a little too graphic to be read aloud in the vernacular, but the prayer might have been preserved in a modified form. It is likely that the reformers were uncomfortable with the concrete literalness of this Latin prayer, which was a bit too visceral (literally) for their liking.

In the old rite, the Corpus tuum was follwed by a Communion verse, a brief dialogue (Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo. Oremus.), and a Postcommunion verse. The new rite has a Communion song instead of verse, which is to precede the Quod ore. In practice, it is sung by the choir during the distribution of Communion, making it impractical for the priest or congregation to participate. When there is no choir, a verse may be read by the lector as a "communion antiphon". After Communion is distributed, the priest says the Quod ore and a one-word dialogue: Oremus. Now follows the Postcommunion verse, as in the old rite.

The Rite of Conclusion

Over the course of time, several rites were appended to the end of the Mass, so that Ite, missa est no longer meant the Mass had ended. The reform restores the significance of these words, but only by eliminating most of the concluding rites.

The traditional concluding rite opens with the brief dialogue, Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spirtu tuo, which has been retained in the new rite. Next came the words, Ite, missa est. Deo gratias, followed by a prayer and benediction, and the reading of the "Last Gospel", the beautiful opening of the Gospel of St. John, which concluded the Mass.

After Low Mass, the prayers prescribed by Pope Leo XIII were recited in the vernacular. These prayers consisted of three Hail Marys, a Hail Holy Queen, a central prayer for saintly intercession "for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of the Holy Mother the Church," a prayer to St. Michael, and three Cor Jesu's.

The new rite, as noted, opens with a two-line dialogue, but changes the order thereafter, placing the benediction before the words, Ite, missa est, restoring their significance of concluding the Mass. All other concluding rites have been omitted, leaving us with very little rite at all. It is no wonder that many Catholics think it is permissible to leave immediately after Communion.

The words, Ite, missa est, literally mean, "Go, it is the dismissal." These words appeared in medieval liturgies on certain fasting days. Formerly, on such days, people were not dismissed before additional prayers after the liturgy. The new command indicated that they were no longer required to do so. Thus, in its earliest form, the Ite, missa est presumed the existence of further prayers after the liturgy, which were not mandatory to attend. Missa came to mean the name of the liturgy by a gradual development. Clerics spoke of the missa catechumenorum and missa fidelium, meaning the "dismissal of the catechumens," and the "dismissal of the faithful". With the disappearance of classical Latin, these terms came to be understood as referring to the two parts of the liturgy, a "Mass" of Catechumens, and "Mass" of the Faithful. By the sixth century, it was common to refer to the entire liturgy as simply the "Mass".

Consequently, the phrase, Ite, missa est, adopted a new meaning: "Go, it is the Mass," or to convey the sense of the Latin grammar, "Go, the Mass is ended (completed)". The ancient response Deo gratias similarly acquired a new meaning, as the assembly now unambiguously thanked God for the completion or fulfillment of the Liturgy, rather than seeming to be thankful to leave church. For this reason, it would probably better to translate the phrase as, "The Mass is complete," though "The Mass is ended," is also acceptable.

By the twelfth century, however, elements of the Mass proper were added after Ite, missa est, and the Missal of Pope St. Pius V confirmed that these practices were mandatory, up to the end of the Last Gospel. The phrase consequently lost its significance of concluding the rite. It should be noted that the prayers added by Pope Leo XIII were not formally part of the Mass, though they were widely practiced, especially when promoted by Popes Pius XI and Pius XII for the conversion of Russia.

The traditional concluding rites that are absent from the reformed Missal include the priest's prayer:

May the homage of my service please thee, O Holy Trinity; and grant, that the sacrifice which I, unworthy, have brought to the eyes of thy majesty, be acceptable to thee, and that for me and for all for whom I have offered it may be propitiable by thy mercy.

The omission of this prayer seems gratuitous, as does the deletion of the Last Gospel. It is understandable why the beautiful words of St. John were chosen to end the Mass on a spiritual high note, rather than on a plain dismissal.

The Leonine Prayers may still be performed at the priest's discretion, since they are not part of the Mass itself. In practice, however, they are observed only by priests using the Tridentine Latin rite. This is unfortunate, as these interecessory prayers are especially needed in our day, and would help develop pious practices among Catholics. The reformers were understandably concerned with imposing a strong distinction between the Sacred Liturgy and private devotions, but unfortunately the exclusion of the latter from church after Mass can give the impression that the Church no longer values these devotions.

Summary and Conclusion

This study of the 1970 Roman Missal has shown that the reform of the Ordo Missae, though substantial, was for the most part quite modest in its changes. The ancient structure of the Mass was preserved in its integrity, with only minor changes in sequence, and the substance of many of its prayers was preserved.

We have noted that the suppression of much of the Offertory, Postcommunion, and Concluding Rites was inadequately justified, and ought to be at least partially restored if the Mass is to regain a more distinctly Catholic flavor, and match the richness of the great liturgies of the East.

Despite the overall integrity of the 1970 Ordo Missae, the Mass as it is practiced often departs considerably from traditional norms, to an extent far beyond anything anticipated in Sacrosanctum Consilium. Most notable is the extensive use of the vernacular, with unbelievably trite and inaccurate translations. With the implementation of the third edition of the new Roman Missal (the revisions of 1975 and 2002 have made minor changes to the Ordo), the Vatican has made clear that it will expect more literal translations of the editio typica.

The option of four eucharistic prayers has led to the tragic disappearance of the Roman Canon, which Pope Paul VI so loved that he did not dare suppress a word of it. This venerable prayer, the great prayer of the Catholic Church for over 1500 years, the prayer of the saints, is now used only occasionally at Mass. The shorter second and third Eucharistic prayers are more commonly used, while the fourth, with its length and fixed preface, is hardly ever used. The second prayer, the shortest and by far the most popular, is based on the Canon of St. Hippolytus, yet when an alternate preface is used (as is usually the case), most of the ancient content is lost, and the prayer becomes a rough precis of the Roman Canon.

One of the purposes of multiple Eucharistic prayers was to bring variety into the Church's liturgy, but this aim is thwarted if each priest repeatedly uses his preferred Eucharistic prayer, as is commonly the case. It would be preferable to prescribe the use of a particular Eucharistic Prayer on each date in the liturgical calendar, with all priests retaining the option of using the Roman Canon at any Mass. The second Eucharistic Prayer should be said with its own preface whenever possible.

The choice of liturgical music, though not proper to the Ordo Missae, has come to have a decisive effect on the structure of Mass in many parishes. Whereas previously, liturgical music accompanied Mass as the priest proceeded with the rite without pausing, now the singers are practically co-celebrants, who compel the priest to wait patiently until they complete their last note before continuing. A "reform of the reform" of liturgical music is a topic unto itself, but suffice it to note that the incorporation of liturgical music into the rite proper, combined with the spiritually trite nature of much of its content, can lead to a powerful erosion of the sense that we are attending a Catholic Mass rather than a Protestant service, even when the rest of the rite is performed impeccably.

The Church, throughout her history, has understood better than most the power of symbolism, knowing that sights and sounds speak as powerfully to the human spirit as words and ideas. If the Church has not changed the ancient faith, she must show that in her externals, including art and architecture. This does not mean we must retain a baroque or gothic style, but we certainly should not fear to depict the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, to emphasize the distinction between the laity and the clergy, who alone enter the sanctuary, and to place the tabernacle at the center of the apse, so that all of our genuflections are before the Real Presence. If we do not do these things, we are liars and hypocrites, who speak with our mouths the empty words, "the faith has not changed," but proving with our actions that our hearts have found a new master.

As a final note, I should like to comment on the mode of reception of Holy Communion. This awe-inspiring moment at the intersection of heaven and earth, where we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, ought to be allowed the reverence it truly deserves. This sacred moment is practically non-existent in the current "buffet line" style of distribution: receive, then step aside. When receiving at an altar rail or some equivalent, one does not need to rush out of the way, but instead can remain kneeling in prayer and share this sacred moment with our Lord. Regarding those who destroy altar rails, we can only say that they have a misguided understanding of what it means to serve their parishioners, as if social egalitarianism was more important than contemplative spirituality. All of the Eastern liturgies, and even the Anglicans who disbelieve in the Real Presence, allow for a moment of peaceful prayer upon receiving Communion. The value of this sacred moment easily outweighs the loss in efficiency, and as soon as this is recognized, we will truly learn to value the things of God more than the things of man, and the rest of the "reform of the reform" will be self-evident.

© 2007 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

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