Monday, 17 May 2010

"Bringing the Mass to the people" : The Reform of the Roman Liturgy

The reform of the Roman Liturgy, which had been substantially unchanged from the time of St Gregory the Great (Pope from September 3rd 590 to March 604), began much earlier than the Second Vatican Council and indeed had nothing to do with that Council.

In an address given at the First International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy held at Assisi and Rome from September 18th to 22nd 1956, Mgr Wagner, Director of the Liturgical Institute at Trier, said: "those who like to pinpoint the historical beginnings of great movements in the history of the Church are unusually fortunate in the case of what, for the sake of convenience is known as the Liturgical Movement". He referred to the Conference which took place at Malines in 1909, at which a young Benedictine monk, Dom Lambert Beaudin, of the Abbey of Mont César made certain proposals which led, with the support of Cardinal Mercier, to the establishment of the Belgian Liturgical Movement. Dom Lambert wrote a book: Liturgy the Life of the Church. This was not primarily concerned with the reform of the ritual. It and the Liturgical Movement were above all concerned with the return of the spirituality of the liturgy to the centre of the life of the Church. The Malines Conference was a defining moment in the history of the Liturgical Movement.

The origins of the Liturgical Movement actually go further back, to the nineteenth century, to another Benedictine, Prosper-Louis-Pascal Guéranguer, who was born in 1805, the year after Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor of France. Guéranger was ordained priest in 1827 and became Curé of Solesmes. The monks of the eleven century abbey there had been expelled at the time of the French Revolution. M le Curé Guéranguer bought the abbey buildings and restored a monastic community in them. Pope Gregory XVI (Pope from March 2nd 1831 to June 1st 1846) appointed him its first Abbot.

Dom Guéranger reacted against Gallicanism and campaigned for the abolition of the Gallican liturgy. As Abbot, he set about restoring "authentic" plainsong.

Ironically, when you consider whence a certain traditionalist priestly society takes its name; from the beginning of the twentieth century, we find Pope St Pius X (Pope from August 4th 1903 to August 20th 1914) stating: " a long period of years must pass before the liturgical edifice, which the mystical Spouse of Christ has formed in her zeal and understanding, to proclaim her piety and faith, may again appear splendid with dignity and harmony, as cleansed of the accumulations of age"(1) he had already modified the rubrics of the Missal with Divino inflato of November 1st 1991, and had also reformed the Breviary.

The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy would have it that: "At the outset of the twentieth century, St Pope Pius X (1903-1914) proposed bringing the Liturgy closer to the people, thereby 'popularizing' it. He maintained that the faithful assimilated the 'true Cristian spirit' by drawing from its primary and indespensable (sic) source, prayer of the Church'. In this way, St Pope Pius X gave authoritative recognition to the objective superiority of the Liturgy over all other forms of piety; dispelled any confusion between Liturgy and popular understanding of the relationship that must obtain between them.

"Thus was born the Liturgical Movement which was destined to exercise a prominent influence on the Church of the twentieth century..."(2)

After the first World War, the Belgian movement, which had a strong pastoral emphasis, merged with the liturgical renewal movement inspired by yet two more Benedictines: Abott Ildefons Herwegen and Dom Odo Casel. This movement was theological and intellectual in character. These movements also became associated with what led by Pius Parsh and the Augustinian Canons of Klosterneuburg in Austria who were concerned with the rediscovery of the Bible. Throughout the twentieth century, we have seen the advance of liturgical reform, or "Restoration" as the reformist clergy like to call it.

In 1930, Pope Pius XI (Pope from February 6th 1922 to February 10th 1939) established an historical section of the Congregation of Sacred Rites and Ceremonies to provide for the historical study required to reform and correct new editions of liturgical books.

It is often said that his successor Pius XI (Pope from March 2nd 1939 to October 9th 1958) did not want reform of liturgy and was simply mislead by others. The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy does not agree, it refers to "Pius XII, in his encyclical Mediator Dei of 21 November 1947, with which he assumed the leadership of the liturgical movement..."(3) That Pontiff's reported words when speaking to a group of European liturgists in the 1950s also suggest otherwise. He said that the liturgists had tried to bring " the People to the Mass", by various means. He mentioned inter alia, dialogue Mass, but that proved unsuccessful. It was now time, he told them, to"bring the Mass to the People by reform and adaption" (my emphasis) and he told them he hope to achieve so much in this field before his death that the advance would be irreversible and would lay down clear principles for future work. He sanctioned a revision of the Holy Week Liturgy, evening Masses, a relaxation of the eucharistic fast and a modification of rubrics of the Missal in 1958. By the time he died, liturgical reform was well advanced. It is he, not Blessed John XXIII (Pope from October 28th 1958 to June 3rd 1963) or Paul VI (Pope June 21st 1963 to August 6th 1978) who is responsible for the present state of the liturgy.


On May 28th 1948, Pius XII established a Pontifical commission for the general "restoration" (ie reform) of the liturgy. During his pontificate, a series of conferences were held with this intention. These were held at the Abbey of Maria Laach in Germany in 1951, Monte-Sainte Odile in France in 1952, Lugano in Switzerland in September 1953, Louvain in Belgium in 1954, and culminated in the First International Congress of Pastoral liturgy at Assisi and Rome. Later there were to come further conferences at Montserrat in Spain in 1958 and Munich in 1960.

The first intimation of the reform was the approval of an experimental Easter Vigil service authorised in 1951. The form of the new Mass had been pretty well decided by 1954; the writer had a complete description of the new Mass in that year. A book published by Burns Oates in 1960, "Bringing the Mass to the People" by Revd. H.A. Reinhold, also gives a full description of the likely form of the new Mass.

In that book Fr Reinhold wrote: "By now it ought to be common knowledge that a thorough reform of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church is being prepared..." Although he was much in favour of this reform, he also said: "It is obvious that reforming zeal finds its limits, unless we are to make a new liturgy and abandon the old". Would that we had seen those limits.

Although the people had shown no desire for change, the reforms came fast and furious during the Fifties and Sixties: the simplification of the rubrics of the Breviary and Missal in 1954, the new 1956 Holy Week, rubrical reforms of 1958; all in the reign of Pius XII. The decree which introduced the so-called 1962 Mass was promulgated in 1960, under John XXIII, but its preparation had been done under his predecessor: its rubrics came into use on January 1st 1961. Thereafter came the reforms to the Mass in 1965 and the Instructio altera of 1967. By then the new Mass was almost complete. The Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of 1969 brought in the final form of the reform in 1970...except, not the final form of the continuing reform. Another new Missal was published in 2000.


At the congress at Maria Laach, it was proposed to abolish the reading of the Epistle and Gospel by the celebrant at a High Mass - this change was made in 1961 -. Other proposals were: the abolition of the psalm Iudica me in the Preparatory Prayers (abolished in 1965) :renaming the Mass of the Catechumens as the Liturgical of the Word (how many souls have been saved by this momentous change I can not tell) and moving the Liturgy of the Word away from the altar: reducing the number of Collects to one (a change made in 1961): a three (or four) year cycle of readings (the three year cycle was introduced in the Ritus Modernus): less frequent use of the Creed (begun in 1961): the insertion of Bidding Prayers in the Mass: the chalice not to be placed on the altar until the Offertory (1970): more Prefaces (and more, and more, with more to come): the Celebrant to wait until the end of the sung Sanctus before continuing with the Mass, and various Amens to be omitted from the Canon: the Confiteor before Holy Communion to be done away with (1961): no Last Gospel (1965): the Secreta to be renamed Oratio super oblata and its recitation aloud (renamed in the Missal of 1962, and recited aloud from 1970): to sing per ipsum... at the end of the Canon and to omit the signs of the cross over the chalice (both introduced in 1970).

The Congress recommended the regrouping of the prayers and ceremonies after Pater noster... and the finding of a way for the congregation to take part in the Pax ( hand shaking, 1970). It also recommended the development of an interval between Communion and the Postcommunio, suggesting prayers and singing and advised consulting other liturgies (this consultation presumably resulted in the silent sit down of 1970): also recommended was the regulation of the use of Ite missa est and Benedicamus Domino (this - that is to say abolition of Benedicamus Domino - was done in the Maundy Thursday Mass in 1956 and completed in 1961).

The congress at Monte-Sainte Odile the next year suggested that the experimental Easter Vigil liturgy of 1951 be the model for future reforms. Other suggestions emanating from that congress included: the abolition of the signs of the cross over the chalice during per ipsum..., no genuflection and to elevate the sacred species during the doxology (these were introduced in 1970): the omission of Amen at the end of Pater noster, to sing or recite aloud Liberia nos and to do away with the sign of the cross with the paten (all were introduced in 1970). Along with suggestions which were not officially accepted, but now occur, such as the celebrant receiving only half the Host and the other half being used either to communicate the servers or be put into the ciborium to be distributed to the people, came the shortening of the formula for the distribution of Holy Communion (Corpus Christi, introduced 1965): the abolition of Placeat tibi... before the Blessing (1970): the abolition of the Leonine Prayers after Low Masses (1965).

Fr Reinhold, in his book from which I have quoted, says that having finished writing it, he described its contents to a Jewish Rabbi friend. The Rabbi's response, interestingly, was: "We Jewish reformed our rites a hundred years ago; we cut off what was wild growth, as we saw it, and we learned that we made a mistake: we lost the sacredness and the mystery of our rites. Now all is obvious and trite; the beauty has gone" (my emphasis). We have learned the same.

To bring the story of reform almost up-to-date we have the new Missal of 2000. With it, we have the arguments being made up by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which are that what has been done in the twentieth century, was what the Council of Trent would have done if the times had been different.

The 2000 edition of the Roman Missal attempts to relate this Missal to that of 1570. Under the heading Traditio non intermissa declaratur (The Uninterrupted Tradition) (6) it states: " when the Second Vatican Council announced the rules by which the Order of Mass would be revised, it also commanded, among other things that some rites should be restored to the original norm of the holy Fathers, that is, using the same words as St Pius V, written in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, by which, in the year 1570, the Tridentine Missal was promulgated. So indeed, on account of this very agreement of wording, it can be noted how both Roman Missals, despite the intervening four centuries, were intended to comprehend one and the same (aequalem et parem) tradition. If, however, the interior elements of this tradition are considered, it is also clear how admirably and successfully the former is completed by the latter.

"Certainly, in different times, when Catholic faith in the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the ministerial priesthood, and the real abiding presence of the Christ in the Eucharist, had been brought into dispute, St Puis V was concerned to preserve the more recent tradition, which had been undeservedly attacked, by implementing only very small changes in the sacred rite. For the truth of the matter is that the Missal of the year 1570 differs very little from the first printed Missal of 1974, which in turn faithfully repeats the Missal of the time Pope Innocent III. Moreover, in that investigation of ancient and authoritative sources, the books of the Vatican Library, although they had enabled some emendations of wording, did not permit the consultation to go beyond the liturgical commentators of the Middle Ages."

It might be thought that we also are "certainly, in difficult times, when Catholic faith in the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the ministerial priesthood, and the real and abiding presence in Christ under the appearances [of bread and wine] in the Eucharist, had [all] been brought into dispute.

"...The liturgical norms of the council of Treat have surely in many places been fulfilled and completed in this way by the norms of the second Vatican Council, which has brought to a conclusion the efforts undertaken to move the faithful more closely to the liturgy during those four centuries but chiefly and most of all in more recent times through the zeal for liturgical matters promoted by St Pius X and his Successors."

We might well wonder if that is, in fact, true in, most places!

1 Motu proprio, October 23rd 1913
2 Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 46, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, CTS 2000.
3 Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 46.
4 Introduced by the decree Maxima Redemptoris, November 16th 1955.
5 General Decree Novum Rubricarum published July 26th 1960, the new rubics came into effect on January 1st 1961 and were incorporated into the 1962 reformed Missal.
6 Missal of 2000, General Instruction.


bgeorge77 said...

Good read, lots of typos though. ("1991", "Paul X", etc.)

Rubricarius said...


Brilliant that you have started blogging.

Some points I must disupte above in another comment but for the moment can I suggest you write a post about the Traditional Movement in the 1960s and 1970s based on your unrivalled experience in terms of liturgical praxis.


Anonymous said...


I'm 48, and for the last five years have with my family attend an FSSP apostolate here in Pennsylvania, USA.

I enjoyed your post immensely. I hope you can write often, and I, too, would enjoy a reflection on the Traditional resistance of the 60's and 70's from your unique perspective. I think others and myself might also appreciate your views on Summorum Pontificum, and the chances you see for the success of the reform of the reform.

In Domino,


Arthur Crumly said...

Dear Jon And Rubricarius,

Thanks for your comments. I will be writing something on the 1960's and 1970's and my views on Summorum Pontificum.

God Bless,


Unknown said...

This web diary is separation fascinating Very skillfully made information. It will be epic to everyone who uses it, including myself. Appreciative Hi!This is particularly useful post for everyone. Appreciative to you so much this post.Just about everything turns amazing indicated upward
Singapore seo

Post a comment