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Tridentine Mass
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Tridentine Mass

A surviving Pre-Vatican II altar and reredos, with High Mass candles
This altar was not radically re-ordered because of its historical importance. Note the steps up to the altar. Different parts of a Tridentine Mass were performed on different steps, with the consecration taking place in front of the tabernacle. A modern wooden altar (out of shot) which is now used in the celebration of Mass, stands between the old altar and the altar rails, which remain intact also.

The Tridentine Mass is the name given to the Latin-language Mass celebrated in accordance with the Roman Missal promulgated on December 5 1570 following the Council of Trent in Trent, Italy (Tridentine is the adjectival form of Trent) and repeatedly revised by later Popes up to but not including Pope Paul VI's revision in 1969.

Table of contents
1 Purpose of codification
2 Other Rites replaced by codification
3 Liturgy of the traditional Mass
4 Sober and formal ritual
5 Pontifical High Mass
6 The replacement of the Tridentine Mass
7 Traditional Catholics
8 Tridentine Mass increasingly celebrated again
9 See Also
10 Footnotes
11 External links and Further Reading

Purpose of codification

The Mass was codified by the Council of Trent in order to standardize the celebration of the Mass in the Western Church[1]. The rite was largely unchanged for centuries before its standardization, and was formally standardized as a response to the theological and ritualistic changes of the new Protestant faith communities. Today, traditional Catholics prefer to not call it the "Tridentine Mass," but simply the "ancient Mass," the "traditional Mass," etc., as they find that referring to it as "the Tridentine Mass" leads people to believe it wasn't in existence until the 1570s.

The Council of Trent solemnly declared that the "Sacrifice of the Mass" is at the centre of the Roman Catholic liturgy, contrary to what it deemed the heresy of Martin Luther, who denied that the Mass was a sacrifice. The Council dealt with the issue of the Mass in three sessions: the thirteenth session in October 1551, the twentieth session in July 1562, (which dealt with the Sacrament of the Eucharist), and in particular the twenty-second in September 1562. This latter session produced the 'dogmatic chapters' and canons on the Mass.

Other Rites replaced by codification

The local rites that it superseded were for example, the Gaulic and Irish (although these were only different in small ways), though the new Missal containing the new Tridentine Mass retained any other rites that had existed for at least 200 years. This allowed the presevation of the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites, which are still praticed in Milan and Toledo respectively, as well as the rites of the Dominicans, the Carthusians, and the Carmelites.

Liturgy of the traditional Mass

The following is an approximation of the liturgy of the traditional Latin-rite Mass. Variations exist across time, regions, liturgical season, whether it is a high or low Mass, and whether or not there may be a special intention associated with the Mass. This summary is pulled from sources ranging in date from the late 1800s through 1962. This is, therefore, an impression of traditional liturgy. Many small variations exist.

Mass of the Catechumens

See Missal.

  1. Preparation; Acts of Contrition
    • Asperges (Sprinkling of the holy water, Psalm 51:9, 3)
      • Often omitted, but the faithful will sign themselves with holy water upon entering the church or chapel.
    • Sign of the Cross
      • The priest makes the sign of the Cross at the foot of the altar, after processing in to the chapel or church with other clergy and servers, if any.
    • Introíbo ad altáre Dei; Júdica me (Psalm 43)
      • The priest prays, and other clergy or the servers symbolically respond on behalf of the people at certain points.
    • Public Confession (Confíteor)
    • The priest at the altar
    • Introit
      • The Introit is usually taken from a Psalm. Exceptions occur: e.g. the Introit for Easter Sunday is adapted from Wis 10:20-21. On Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent, it is adapted from Ezek 36:23-26.
    • Kyrie
      • This part of Mass is a linguistic marker for the ancient origins of the liturgy: in Greek, it reads: "Kyrie, eléison; Christe, eléison; Kyrie, eléison." I.e., "Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy;..." Each phrase is repeated thrice. See also Gregorian chant and the music of the Mass.
    • Gloria in excélsis Deo
      • The first line of the Gloria is taken from Lk 2:14. The Gloria is omitted during liturgical seasons calling for penitence, such as Advent and Lent, both generally having the liturgical color purple.
  2. Instruction; Acts of Faith
    • The Collect
      • The priest turns toward the people: Dóminus vobíscum. Et cum spíritu tuo. This means, The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit. The Collect follows, a prayer not drawn directly from Scripture. It will tend to reflect the season. For example, a portion of a collect for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent: "Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that we, who are chastised by fasting, may rejoice with holy devotion...." A collect from the Second Sunday of Advent: "Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son; that through His coming...." In each case one can observe the seasonal relevance of the prayer.
    • The Epistle or writings of the Prophets (major or minor) and Apostles
    • The Gradual and Alleluia
      • The Gradual is partly comprised of a portion of a Psalm. For example, the Gradual for Sexagesima Sunday, one of the Sundays after Epiphany and before Lent, is from Psalm 83:19, 14.
    • The Gospel or the words of our Lord
      • Before reciting or singing the Gospel the priest prays, in part: "Cleanse my heart and my lips, O almighty God, who didst cleanse the lips of the prophet Isaias...", a reference to Isaiah 6:6. After being cleansed by the angel, Isaias was instructed to prophesy.
    • The Sermon
      • Before the sermon commences, announcements are made, especially of marriages, requirements of the liturgical season such as fasting, events for the week, and requests to pray for the ill or deceased.
    • The Creed
      • This is the Nicene Creed. There are six points of special focus: belief in God, in God the Father, in God the Son, in the Word made flesh (incarnation), in the Holy Ghost, and in the Holy Church. When the incarnation is mentioned, the celebrant kneels.

Mass of the Faithful

See Missal.

Offertory; Acts of Self-surrender
  • Consecration; Acts of Gratitude and Hope
  • Communion [1]
  • Thanksgiving; Acts of Gratitude
  • Sample prayers after Mass (not part of the liturgy)[1]

    Sober and formal ritual

    Compared to other Catholic rites at the time, the Roman rite was noted for its sobriety. It features very precise coordination and structure in movement, with everything done in a smooth, deliberate fashion. One of the main reasons for the codification of the rite was to prevent pious Priests from improvising their own additional prayers. The Roman rite usually does not have the Iconostasis that almost all other Catholic rites use, and this influences much of the liturgy.

    The style of chant by which the mass is sung is much simpler than any other liturgy, especially when compared to the Coptic rites. Whole prayers are usually sung by the priest or Bishop on series of three notes.

    Pontifical High Mass

    The basic liturgical function, from which others are derived, is the Pontifical Mass, the Mass of the Bishop. As the faithful spread and grew, one Bishop was not sufficient to provide the sacraments to everyone, so Priests were delegated to say Mass. This led to a reduction in ceremonies unbeffitting to a simple Priest. Later, when poorer churches could not afford choirs, Mass was simply spoken, instead of sung; this was called a low mass. The distinction was shown symbolically by the use of candles. In the Pontifical High Mass, all the candles were lit. In a Low Mass, only the lowest candles on the reredos were lit.

    The replacement of the Tridentine Mass

    On 4 December 1963, the Second Vatican Council decreed in Chapter II of its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/v2litur.htm] that there should be a general revision of the rite of the Mass, including authorization for vernacular languages (i.e. those used by the people), rather than Latin, in parts of the liturgy. With the promulgation of the revised Roman Missal on Holy Thursday 3 April 1969 (with effect from 30 November 1969)[www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul06/p6missal.htm], Pope Paul VI presented the Church with what its detractors call the Novus Ordo Missae. Some prayers in the traditional Missal were removed, others rearranged and re-worded, and new ones were added. The accusation was made that the focus of the new liturgy changed to more of a "celebratory meal" as reflected in the new "Paschal Theology" rather than the offering of the Son to the Father for the remission of sins.

    Redesigning the Sanctuary

    In the Tridentine Mass, the priest celebrated Mass with his back to the congregation (symbolically leading the congregation and worshiping God with them), together with the congregation facing the tabernacle that was on the altar in front of a reredos (or retable), and which usually faced towards the east as a symbol of the rising sun of Christ who was to be worshipped.² In the modern Mass introduced by Pope Paul VI the physical structure of the sanctuary where Mass is celebrated is changed dramatically, a fact reflected in the manner of the celebration of the Mass. In the new Mass, the celebrant faces the congregation over the altar. Though some churches merely moved the altar away from the reredos, many removed the often spectacularly carved reredos altogether. (See Ugly as Sin reference, below.)

    Relocation of the Tabernacle

    Many other changes occurred. Many churches moved the tabernacle from the centre of the sanctuary to a side chapel. The large-scale removal of altar rails that had originally marked the boundary between the sanctuary where the clergy were permitted and the nave, where the faithful were permitted. In the traditional Mass, the faithful who were receiving communion at a given Mass would be very close to the sanctuary by kneeling at the altar rails; reception now is further away from the sanctuary, at dispersed locations throughout the church, which some Catholics feel decreases their intimacy with God. The vestments were substantially altered, while an increased use of native language music, often involving traditional, folk, rock and sometimes secular music has replaced Latin hymns and Gregorian chant.

    Public attitudes towards the two Masses

    The introduction of the revised Roman Missal proved to be one of the most controversial changes that came after [[Vatican II]|the Second Vatican Council]. While Catholics generally accepted the revision, some reluctantly, many with enthusiasm, a minority of laity, bishops, and priests, allegedly including Padre Pio, criticized it, claiming that it went against papal bulls and encyclicals dating back half a millennium, or failed to promote proper reverence.

    In October 1967, when a meeting of the Synod of Bishops was asked to pass judgment on an experimental celebration of a preliminary draft form of the Novus Ordo Missae, 78 of the 187 members approved it as it stood, 62 approved it but suggested various modifications, 4 abstained, and 47 voted against. [1]

    In the 1960s, 1970s and beyond, Western countries experienced a drop in Mass attendance. These same countries also saw a decline in seminary enrollments – although on a worldwide scale there was a strong increase in numbers, from 72,991 major seminarians in 1970 (the first year of publication of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which coincidentally was also the first year in which the revised Roman Missal was in force) to 113,199 in 2002 – and in the number of priests – again in contrast to the global trend, which for some years is that of steady recovery of the losses incurred in the decades immediately following the Second Vatican Council. The geography of these declines suggests they are part of the general phenomenon of secularism and libertarianism that Western countries have experienced since the 1960s, even before the liturgy was revised. Opponents of the revision prefer instead to attribute them to confusion and disenchantment caused by changes in the liturgy, and point to opinion polls in which people indicated they thought there was such a link [1].

    Some, while not refusing to accept the revision of the liturgy, criticized aspects such as the reordering of the sanctuary (altar, tabernacle, reredos, altar rails), and the abandonment in practice (though not mandated by the revision) of ceremonies such as Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament and of traditional church music.

    Papal intentions

    According to Mediator Dei, §60, "the use of the mother tongue in connection with several of the rites may be of much advantage to the people," although the Latin is much to be preferred. That encyclical was issued by Pope Pius XII (r:1939-1958). Pope Pius XII instituted a rite of Mass for parts of Germany and elsewhere that unlike the traditional rite, and in keeping with the rite introduced subsequently, indeed provided for popular participation through the use of communal responses; he also stressed that the dialog Mass was not to replace the high Mass (MD §100).

    A speech by the then 85-year-old Cardinal Alfons Stickler, as reported in the Summer 1995 issue of the magazine The Latin Mass, attributed to French philosopher Jean Guitton the statement that "Pope Paul revealed to him that it was his [the Pope’s] intention to assimilate as much as possible of the new Catholic liturgy to Protestant worship". [1] However, the speech gave no source for this claim and questioned whether the alleged remark should be interpreted in its superficially apparent sense, "since all the official statements of Paul VI—especially his excellent eucharistic encyclical Mysterium Fidei of 1965 [www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_03091965_mysterium_en.html], issued before the end of the Council, as well as the Credo of the People of God [1] demonstrate his absolute orthodoxy".

    A priest celebrating a Tridentine Mass

    Traditional Catholics

    The Tridentine Mass is of central important to various groups of Traditional Catholics. Some of these believe that what they call the Novus Ordo Missae is invalid, while others believe it is valid when offered according to its rubrics, yet is nonetheless "Protestantized" and leads to heresy and a loss of the Catholic faith. Many Traditionalists would criticize the celebration of Mass as in the picture given here, because the priest wears what used to be called a Gothic chasuble instead of the once prevalent “Roman” design (i.e. cut off at the shoulders and not covering the arms), and because the altar is not preceded by the traditional three steps.

    Tridentine Mass increasingly celebrated again

    While the Vatican does allow the use of Latin Masses, it requires that in the vast majority it is the latin version of the Novus Ordo Missae that is used rather than the previous Tridentine Rite. While it does on some occasions allow the saying of Tridentine Masses, it insists on only allowing these with special dispense or Indult. Such dispensations have been increasingly granted. In 1999 Cardinal John O'Connor allowed the celebration of a full Pontifical High Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, by a visiting retired cardinal. In 2001 it was revealed that the Vatican now routinely allows the celebration of Tridentine Masses in St. Peter's Basilica (though not on the main altar). It was further revealed that Pope John Paul II himself now regularly celebrates Mass according to the Tridentine Rite in his private papal chapel in the Papal Apartments in the Vatican.

    In some places there are now Parishes dedicated to the exclusive celebration of the Mass said according to the 1962 Missal, itself based on the original Tridentine Missal of 1570. There are also a number of priestly societies that celebrate the Tridentine Mass exclusively; among these, the more commonly known are the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society of St. Pius X, and the Society of Christ the King. A number of priests have rejected the need for permission to say the Tridentine Mass, citing the Papal Bull of Pope St. Pius V Quo Primum Tempore [1] which accompanied the promulgation of the 1570 Roman Missal. However, celebration of the Tridentine Mass without full approval is seen within mainstream Roman Catholicism as a breach of church law and may result in censure of those clergy who do so.

    See Also


    External links and Further Reading