The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter
Fr. John Mole, author of "The ABC Catechism," wrote: "The Roman rite is identified with the Roman Catholic Church, who, like her Founder, is 'yesterday, today and the same forever' (Heb. 13:8). It has fallen to the Traditonal Mass movement to carry the Roman rite through this most difficult period of its history."
The Mass is, as we know, the very center of Catholic worship. All prayer, devotion, ritual, and Sacraments are clustered around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the supreme act of worship of Almighty God. Through the Mass we render to God our reverence and thanksgiving; through the Mass we implore His forgiveness and mercy for the many sins which we have committed; through the Mass we ask Him to fulfill the needs of our bodies and souls. We are not alone in the Mass, for it is Christ Himself who pleads on our behalf.
The Tridentine Mass is the Mass of most of the Church's life. When Pope St. Pius V codified the Mass, he was making official the rite of Mass which had been developing for a thousand years. He stated that it was to be the official Latin rite, although rites 200 years or older could be retained. To worship at the Tridentine Mass is to worship in the same rite as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernadette, St. Thérèse and a countless number of other holy men and women.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), stated, "The celebration of the Mass, as an action of Christ and the people of God hierarchically ordered, is the center of the whole Christian life for the universal Church, the local Church and for each and every one of the faithful." How is it, then, that this same council set about constructing a Mass that would bring about such confusion?
We must remember that it was this same council which declared, "The use of the Latin language...is to be preserved in the Latin rites." The result of the so-called reforms of Vatican II quickly became obvious. Latin was abandoned almost universally. In the name of this renewal, statues, crucifixes, Communion rails, and kneelers were taken out of the churches. The inspiring images of the saints, our Lord, and our Blessed Mother, once thought to move us to a deeper devotion, were now seen as distractions. The Blessed Sacrament, once occupying the central location in churches everywhere, was relegated to a side altar, or even a separate chapel. Without any decree from the Second Vatican Council or papal authority, altars were turned around, allowing the priest to face the congregation. Most serious of all, the Traditional Roman rite, a rite of Mass dating back at least 1,500 years, and which was the result of slow, organic growth, was abandoned in favor of the Novus Ordo Missae, a rite which was thrown together rather quickly by a committee. This was an unprecedented act in the History of the Church. We never see an entirely new Mass being imposed upon the people by a pope following a council, as was the case with Pope Paul VI following Vatican II.
I will provide here a brief examination of the history of the Mass to show how it has developed, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, since the beginning of Christianity, and why it never should have changed. My opinion is that of Michael Davies, who said in his booklet, Communion Under Both Kinds, "Long established liturgical customs can rarely be discarded without spiritual damage ensuing."
The first issue which must be covered is that of Latin in the Mass. The use of the Latin language is one of the major objections raised by those unfamiliar with the Traditional rite.
In spite of appearances to the contrary, Latin is still the official language of the Church. The Latin language was, at one time, the language of the Roman Empire. It was a language generally understood and spoken by many of those who lived in the civilized world at the time that the Roman Catholic Faith was established by Jesus Christ. St. Peter, the first head of the Church, set up his See in the capital of the Empire, and the Church soon adopted the language of Rome. From there, it spread to other parts of the world.
Latin was not, however, the sole language of the Roman Empire. Latin, as a vernacular language, was not spoken extensively in various provinces, and as such was confined mainly to central Italy. In northern Italy, Gaul, and Spain there was a form of Celtic spoken. In Germany the language was Teutonic. Aside from the various languages spoken throughout the Empire, it was Greek which held the place of honor as the language of culture and every educated Roman was expected to know it. Greek was the language of communication, and was so popular, as a matter of fact, that it led to the writing of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and the writing of almost all of the New Testament in that language. Even St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans was written in this language, not Latin. The early Fathers of the Church, as well as the first Popes, wrote in Greek. Latin, in contrast, was used for the Liturgy, law, the army, and the government.
This should prove once and for all that when the Church adopted the Latin language, it was not so Mass would be in the "language of the people." The Papacy, through divine providence, had established itself in Rome. Thus, the the language of the Church was the language of the imperial city.
We must remember when priests began evangelizing the people of the world, they were used to offering the Mass in Latin. In their missionary journeys, the priests came across many languages that were far too crude to be used in the true worship of God. They, therefore, retained Latin for the Mass and Sacraments, while giving instructions in the vernacular.
In time, because the clergy were the writers and educators, Latin became the language of literature in western Christendom. Latin was a stablizing force in a world of chaos. It also became the language of unity between men of different kingdoms and the means of communication between bishops and the Apostolic See.
Holy Church retained the use of Latin for her Liturgy, even as the Latin of Gaul gradually became French, the Latin of Italy became Italian, and the Latin of Iberia became Spanish and Portuguese.
This is the wisdom of our Mother Church. In Latin, unity and theological concepts are expressed with such exactness. It is this language, a dead language resurrected by the Church, which assures us that the Theology of the Mass, and perhaps most importantly for our time, the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, does not become distorted with the changing of languages and local dialects. Witness how quickly the English language changes and how often new translations of the Novus Ordo are issued. As long as Mass remains in the vernacular, there will be a constant need for change and adaptations. We have in the Traditional rite a Mass which has remained virtually unchanged for almost 1,500 years. Let us look now at the rite of Mass and how it has developed.
The prayers said at the foot of the altar at the beginning of Mass are the latest addition to this august Sacrifice. They were originally a part of the preparation for the priest. These prayers were said by the priest as he approached the altar of God. It was a manifestation of the priest's acknowledgment of his own unworthiness. These prayers became an official part of the Mass in 1570 when Pope St. Pius V codified the Mass.
Following the sign of the cross, the psalm, and the confiteor, the priest ascends to the altar. He kisses the altar stone (which contains relics of martyrs), then proceeds to the Epistle (right) side of the altar for the Introit. The Introit was originally a processional psalm chanted as the priest entered the sanctuary, but when the chanting was no longer used, the first verse only was retained and became a part of the Mass. Nearly all the Introits for the older feasts go back to the time of St. Gregory the Great!
The Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy") is Greek and is the only Greek in the Latin Mass. It does not, however, go back to the days when Mass was celebrated in Greek (first and second centuries), but came into use in the East as a kind of litany which was recited by everyone. It is now said between the altar boy and the priest.
The first Kyrie elesion is said three times in honor of God the Father. The Christe eleison ("Christ, have mercy") is said three times in honor of God the Son. The second Kyrie elesion is said three times in honor of God the Holy Ghost. It is a beautiful prayer in honor of the Holy Trinity.
The Gloria is a translation of a very ancient Greek hymn addressed to the Holy Trinity. The addition of the Gloria into the Mass is attributed to Pope Telesphorus in the year 130. Even though it is now said at nearly all Masses, in the beginning it was only sung on Christmas day in imitation of the angels at Bethlehem and later was said only on certain important feasts.
The collect is said immediately after the Gloria. The history of the collect goes back many centuries, and we still use collects which were present in the Leonine Sacramentary. These prayers express our dependence on God, with petitions for help and security.
The number of collects depends on the concurrence of feast days. The collects are recited by the priest, facing the altar, with hands uplifted in the ancient attitude of prayer.
We use this name for the reading which takes place shortly before the Gospel, even though this reading is not always one of the New Testament Epistles. Many times this reading is from the Old Testament such as Exodus or Wisdom, the Acts of the Apostles, etc. The Epistles were read at Mass in the early Church by the Apostles.
Between the Epistle and the Gospel come the Gradual, Alleluia, Tract and Sequence. They are usually short and were once psalms. They were sung as part of the Mass, but were shortened, in time, to just a few verses.
The Gradual takes its name from the word "gradus," meaning an elevated step, because in the Medieval times a chanter intoned the first verse of the psalm from one of the steps of the ambo, or pulpit.
The Sequences were once very numerous; however, after the Council of Trent all but five of them were removed. The first is the Easter Sequence, Victimae Paschali, written in 1048 by a priest named Wipo.
In 1274, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a complete Office for the new feast of Corpus Christi. As part of that Office, he wrote Lauda Sion, Savatorem ("Praise the Saviour, O Sion").
The Stabat Mater Dolorosa was written about 1306 by Jacopone da Todi for the two feasts of the Seven Dolors. It has been the text for many compositions by great musicians, my favorites being those of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Francis Poulenc.
The Veni, Sancte Spiritus, used at Pentecost, was written by King Rober of France in 1031.
Finally, the Dies Irae ("Day of Wrath") is used at the Requiem Masses and was written by Thomas of Celano in the thirteenth century.
The priest now moves to the center of the altar to make his preparation for the Gospel. He then moves to the north side of the altar. Facing slightly to the north, the priest reads the Gospel.
The priest takes off his maniple and then moves to the ambo to preach. This is a custom dating to the time of the Apostles and is a fulfillment of the Church's divine mission to preach to all the peoples of the world.
The Creed, a rather late addition to the Mass, is said often. In the early days, Creeds were used only in Baptisms as a profession of faith. This was the Apostles' Creed.
In Mass, we use the Nicene Creed because it was drawn up by the Council of Nice, in 325. It began to become a part of the Mass in Spain in 589 and was first said after the Consecration of the bread and wine. It was Pope Benedict VIII, in 1014, who ordered it to be used after the Gospel. It is not said in Masses of martyrs, confessors and female saints (except the Blessed Mother and St. Mary Magdalen), on vigils, and in votive and Requiem Masses.
In the early Church, those who were studying the Faith would leave at this point, as well as those who were penitents. The real Sacrifice was now to begin, with only the priest and faithful present.
After the Gospel or Creed the priest says: Dominus vobiscum and then Oremus ("Let us pray"), but there is no prayer at this point. In the earliest centuries of the Church the people offered prayers together, with a deacon chanting a litany to which all responded. This is a practice that was dropped because of the useless repetition.
The offertory was an action involving the congregation. The people would bring their gifts (bread and wine) and give them to the deacon. Since the eleventh century, this procession has not existed in the Mass.
In the Roman rite, we use unleavened bread for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Eastern Catholic's, except for the Armenians and the Maronites, use leavened bread. Unleavened bread was used by Our Saviour at the first Mass since He was celebrating Passover. Unleavened bread alone was permitted for this sacred meal.
Altar-bread is baked between heated irons. Often there are holy images on the bread, such as the crucifixion, the letters I H S and the Sacred Heart. The small round altar-breads used for the people, which are smaller than the priest's, are usually very plain.
The wine must be true wine; i.e., it must be fermented. A small amount of water is mixed with the wine in the Mass, with a short prayer, and symbolizes our union with Christ in the sacrifice.
Note: The ancient offertory prayers, used for centuries to offer the bread and wine, were replaced by Jewish meal prayers in the new Mass following the Second Vatican Council.
While reciting a portion of the twenty-fifth Psalm, "I will wash my hands among the innocent," the priest washes his fingers in a symbolic gesture of the cleansing of the soul from sin. In every rite of the Church, the priest washes his hands before handling the offerings. This washing is a sincere desire to meet God with an humble and contrite heart.
The priest then says the prayer, "Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation," which is a later addition to the Mass. It was not used much before the codification of the Missal in 1570.
The priest then turns facing the people and says the, "Orate, fratres," and the altar boy makes the response, "May the Lord receive the sacrifice from Thy hands..."
Then comes the Secret prayers. Again, as with the collects, the number depends upon the feasts falling on a given day. After the last of the Secreta, the conclusion, Per omnia saecula saeculorum is said.
Historically, we can find many of the prayers used today in the most ancient liturgical books of the Church.
The Preface of the Mass is actually a part of the Canon of the Mass as it is recorded in the old Sacramentaries. The name Preface was first used in the Middle Ages. The Preface begins as a dialogue between the priest and the altar boy, followed by the introduction to the Sanctus.
The Canon of the Mass follows the Sanctus and is one of the most ancient parts of the Mass. The Canon is said in a low voice by the priest and is interrupted only seven times by the priest raising his voice. This is symbolic of the seven last words of Christ. Seven times during the silence of the passion, Our Blessed Lord speaks, and seven times during the holiest part of the Mass the priest raises his voice.
It is said in a low voice to foster devotion in the faithful and to point to the sacredness of what is taking place upon the altar. In the history of Christianity, there were those who called for the Canon to be said aloud, so that all could hear. It was Protestant heretics who demanded that the Canon be said aloud and in the vernacular. In our own day, we call them "liturgical experts."
At the Consecration the priest bows low to pronounce the words which will make present the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
After the Consecration of the bread, the priest makes a genuflection in adoration, raises the Host for the people to see, and then genuflects again. This elevation was introduced in the Middle Ages. Before the twelfth century there was no trace of it. Then, it was the custom to raise the host chest high. As it is done in the present, it seems to have been first decreed by Bishop Eudes de Sully of Paris, about 1200. Within just a hundred years, the practice had been spread throughout the Roman rite. The genuflections became mandatory with the publication of the Missal of Pope St. Pius V.
The reason for the elevation is for the devotion of the people, but we must always remember that the Mass is not an Eucharistic devotion but the unbloody re-presentation of the bloody Sacrifice of Calvary. It is right, however, for the people to look at the Host; Pope St. Pius X granted a special indulgence at the elevation for those who bow their head or say the prayer, "My Lord and My God."
For centuries the Church has used the ringing of a bell during Mass to draw our attention to certain portions. During Mass it is rung three times at the Sanctus, once at the Hanc igitur just prior to the Consecration, three times at the elevation of the Host and the chalice, and once after the Agnus Dei.
The Eucharistic Sacrifice is completed in the reception of Communion by the priest, but the faithful are exorted to receive as well. First, however, is the preparation. It consists in the Pater Noster, the Breaking of the Host, the mingling of the Sacred Species, the Agnus Dei, the prayer for peace, two personal prayers of the priest, and the Domine, non sum dignus.
Our Lord Himself taught us the Pater Noster, and as such, it is one of the most ancient parts of the liturgy. Throughout the introduction to the end, we have a wonderful sense of being united with our brethren in the earliest days of the Church.
At the end of the Pater Noster, we have a prayer which is an embolism asking for deliverance from evil - past, present, and to come - through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints Peter and Paul and St. Andrew. In centuries past this list of saints was different in various countries.
The priest then breaks the Host while reading the prayer for deliverance. The priest places a particle of the Host into the chalice after reciting the Pax Domini. He makes the sign of the cross three times over the chalice when he does this.
The breaking of the Host is one of the most ancient practices in the Mass. It was used in the first Mass said by Our Blessed Lord on the night before His death.
The mingling of the small part of the Host is actually what our Lord did at the Last Supper (John xiii, 26). This is to mark the union of the Body and the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in His glorious resurrection. It is also a symbol of the unity of the Church and the continuity of the sacrifice.
The Agnus Dei is now recited by the priest. It was added to the Mass by Pope Sergius I, about 700. In the twelfth century, the dona nobis pacem was added.
The priest then says the three prayers of preparation.
Following the priest's preparation, he recites the Domine non sum dignus, echoing the humble prayer of the centurion in the Gospel: "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." These words were included officially in the revised Missal of 1570.
The priest then receives the Sacred Host and drinks the Precious Blood from the chalice. Following the priest's Communion comes that of the congregation.
We know that in the early Church the Sacred Host was put into the hands of the people in the reception of Holy Communion. In the seventh century this practice was ended, and the laity were allowed to receive only on the tongue. Communion was also receive under both species until the twelfth century, and the practice continues in the Eastern Church, where a small portion of the Host is soaked in the Precious Blood. The Latin Church ended these practices for practical and disciplinary reasons. The reasons, as given by the Catholic Encyclopedia are the reverence due to this most august Sacrament, the danger of spilling the Precious Blood and other forms of irreverence; the inconvenience and delay in administering the Precious Blood to large numbers of people; the fact that the Precious Blood cannot be reserved for Communion outside of Mass; and the objections which are based on hygiene.
The Latin rite has given Communion under the species of bread alone for eight centuries and only on the tongue for 1,400 years. These practices did not prove to be an impediment to the sanctification of countless numbers of saints who never once received Communion in the hand or from the chalice.
Following Holy Communion, the Mass comes to a quick conclusion. The priest purifies the chalice with water and wine, washing his fingers as he does so. The ablutions are done with the appropriate prayers. He then covers the chalice and goes to the Epistle side to recite the Communion verse, which formerly was a long chant while the people received Holy Communion. This is followed by the Post-Communion prayer, which corresponds to the Collect and Secret.
The Mass now concludes with the dismissal, blessing, and last Gospel. The Ite, missa est are the words which form the dismissal, and have been used since ancient times. The blessing arose from the episcoplal blessing which the pope or bishop would impart to the people as he left the altar to go to the sacristy.
The prologue of St. John's Gospel has been used for centuries. The faithful were very much attached to the recitation of this passage, and after a time it became universally recited after the blessing of the Mass. This continues to our own day, save for the special feasts which call for a different Gospel to be read at the end. The last Gospel is a beautiful summary of our Faith in the Incarnation, and the one whom we have received in Holy Communion.
After the recitation of the Leonine Prayers, the priest goes back up to the altar, takes his veiled chalice in hand, goes to the bottom of the steps, genuflects, and returns to the sacristy.
This is one of the most exciting times to be alive because we have the chance to defend Christ and the Mass to an extent perhaps unprecedented in the history of the Church. We can rejoice that the Traditional Mass has not died, as many had wished, but continues to thrive because of dedicated traditionalists throughout the world. We can be assured that as the number of religious orders devoted exclusively to the celebration of the Traditional rites continues to increase, the future of the Mass will be secure.
*The responses to the Tridentine Mass should be made by the altar boy alone! The priest represents Christ and the altar boy represents the people. Liberalizing trends before Vatican II led to the introduction of the "dialogue Mass." There were many things being pushed in the Traditional Mass in the 1950's that we do not wish to imitate; i.e., men reading the readings in English while the priest read them in Latin at the altar, not saying the prayers after Mass, and saying Mass facing the people!
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X
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The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter
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AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM