Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

MsgrLiptak_TNAs American Catholics begin to prepare for the introduction of the revised Order of Mass, those of us who were raised, or who were ordained priests when the Missals of Pius XII and, later, of Blessed Pope John XXIII, were the norms, retain within our minds and hearts experiences which later generations were never privileged to know. For example, because I was ordained in 1953, I had been celebrating Mass in Latin, using the modifications begun by Pius XII and furthered by Good Pope John, for almost 16 years.

The new Order of Mass (the "Ordinary Form" today) was announced by Pope Paul VI on 28 April 1969. On 2 May, the Apostolic Constitution establishing the new Order, Missale Romanum, was "presented" in the Vatican’s press room. At the same time, anticipatory approval was given to portions of Mass not in the Sacramentary; e.g., the Bible readings.

Pope Paul’s Constitution established the first major revision since Pius V promulgated the "Tridentine" Missal in 1570. The effective date for use of the Missal of Paul VI was fixed as 30 Nov. 1969, the First Sunday of Advent.

Unforeseen problems occurred with the implementation of the texts. Controversies, repeated "examinations," and critiques erupted. Consequently, the new Roman Missal did not appear as such until 1970, when, on 11 March, Paul VI declared in his own handwriting: "I approve in the Lord…" On 17 May 1970, Pope Paul ordained 278 priests; to each he gave a copy of the new Missal.

Adjusting to the new Order in 1970 was not at all difficult; in fact, I anticipated it eagerly. This, despite the fact that I continue to recall the Missal of John XXIII with a sense of reverence. Today, I have no problem with returning to the so-called "Latin Missal" (and I occasionally recite the Divine Office in Latin, especially when traveling).

Inaugurating and enlarging the new Lectionary required additional time and expertise. Recently, I reviewed the process as well as the goals of the various panels assigned to do this specific task, for what has famously been described as "Study Group 11." Church experts included Father G. Diekmann, P. Jounel, and, of course, the great Benedictine Cypriano Vagaggini (who, it is rumored, authored Eucharistic Prayer III).

After a temporary (pro manuscripto) Sunday Lectionary was formed and published for review (474 pages), a final work was presented to the Holy Father and approved on 25 May 1969. The Weekday Lectionary was updated and augmented as a separate project.

What I have written above is hardly thorough, of course. During the years of liturgical renewal, every day brought further questions, proposals, and, thank God, solutions. The history is extremely complex. One of the most detailed books about this is Archbishop Annibale Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975 (974 pages). Archbishop Bugnini was the Holy Father’s point man, as it were, in formulating the new Order of Mass, as well as in other aspects of liturgical renewal (e.g., the Rituals, the Divine Office).

Regulation of the Liturgy depends on the Church’s authority; namely, that of the Apostolic See. Liturgy is not a theatric event like a staged drama, over which various dramatis personae preside, even if they happen to be musicians or readers or even clergy acting on their own merits.

In odd opposition to these premisses are claims that liturgy must be "made" and "made again" by the congregation; hence popular appreciation is the supreme test of alleged "success." (Obviously, this theory feeds on the error that "good" liturgy is defined largely in accordance with what is current and passing.) Basically, however, such a view loses sight – in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s words – of "what is distinctive to the liturgy, which does not come from what we do, but from the fact that something is taking place here that all of us together cannot ‘make.’ In the liturgy there is a power, an energy at work which not every Church as a whole can generate: what it manifests is the Wholly Other coming to us through the community…" (The Ratzinger Report, 1985)

Authentic Catholic liturgy, therefore, is primarily God’s doing, not man’s. A key event in every Mass, for example, is the Epiclesis, by means of which the priest celebrant, standing in place of Christ, invokes the Father, to send the Holy Spirit, to bring about the unique miracle of transsubstantiation.

In the above observation, concerning the Holy See’s supervision of the liturgy, one could add that the Mass of the Roman Rite is not the only mode for worship. There are many, many approved Mass Ceremonials that were born or cradled in the East (e.g., the Maronite, the Byzantine). Many predate the Roman Rite, which was originally celebrated not in Latin, but in Greek. And even within the Roman Mass, modifications have occurred. In England, for instance, prior to the Protestant Reformation and the Anglican Church’s split from Rome, there were several "rites" or "uses," especially after the Norman Conquest (1066). Examples included the Use of Sarum ("the Sarum Rite"), the Use of York, the Use of Hereford, the Use of Bangor, etc.

Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of

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