The study of the liturgy as an ecclesial service  for a renewed spirituality

Editor’s note: This inaugural address at the beginning of the academic year was delivered by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on October 4, 2021 at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, an influential center of liturgical scholarship and renewal. It is reprinted in English at Pray Tell with the prefect’s permission.

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“In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 8)

 I stand before you today, not simply as the Prefect of Divine Worship & Discipline of the Sacraments, but also as a bishop of 20 years, half of which as the bishop with responsibility for a diocese, as a priest of 46 years and as a Catholic who, as a young man, straddled the pre and post Vatican II eras. I am above all a disciple of Christ just like all of you, who serves the Lord. It is solely based on these credentials that I dare to address you.

Most importantly, I would like to be a source of encouragement to you at the beginning of this new academic year. First of all, because the studies that you undertake are vitally important for the life and health of the Church. I mention the health of the Church because we have need for people who are well prepared and balanced, who love the Church as she is!

Secondly, I want you to be true men and women of the Church who sentire cum Ecclesia and not to be waylaid by ecclesiastical ideologies or by your own preferences, or novel ideas or a desire to mould the Church in your image, but by what the Church is calling you to be today – her missionaries in a new age with a clear task in hand. As a prerequisite, I recommend to you to be attentive to the long and fascinating history of the 150 years of the liturgical movement prior to the Second Vatican Council, and to the choices made there by the Council Fathers and the reasons for those choices, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Pope Francis, “Pope saint Paul VI himself, a year before his death, said to the Cardinals gathered in Consistory: “The time has now come to definitively leave aside divisive elements, which are equally pernicious in both senses, and to apply fully, in accordance with the correct criteria that inspired it, the reform approved by Us in the application of the wishes of the Council”.1 Pope Francis continues,

“There is still work to be done in this direction, in particular by rediscovering the reasons for the decisions taken with regard to the liturgical reform, by overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, a partial reception, and practices that disfigure it […] After this magisterium, after this long journey, We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”2 Be men and women, scholars and masters of your various scientific endeavours, yes, but above all faithful disciples who build up the Church and are not the cause of its fragmentation. Saint John Henry Newman offers us a wise caution when he wrote: “We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.”3

Thirdly, I want to encourage you to profit personally at a deep spiritual level through all that you learn here in this great Institution. It is that personal experience coram Christo that will give life to all you study, reflect upon and do and will prepare you for the future. Pope Saint Paul VI recalled this imperative when he outlined the first steps of the liturgical reform: “It is good that it be perceived as the very authority of the Church to wish, to promote, to ignite this new manner of prayer, thus greatly increasing her spiritual mission […]; and we must not hesitate to first become disciples then supporters of the school of prayer, which is about to begin.”4

An important influence for me personally has been through my involvement, during the past 20 years, in the various translations of the Missale Romanum editio typica tertia. It has become for me a journey of immense discovery and personal renewal, which continues to this day. It unlocked for me the vast treasures contained in the prayers and texts of the Roman Rite which are deeply saturated with the theological traditions of our faith and which have been handed on to us with such great care by the Church in the Latin language and which are now available in the vernacular.

What this exercise brought to light, in a way that I had not fully appreciated previously, was that these prayers, these texts, were not simply the creation of a fine mind or a single pen, but came from God’s own hand through the rich biblical and patristic patrimony that we find there, together with the profound teaching of the Church’s understanding of herself as found in the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium. This patrimony connects us with the Church’s faith as expressed throughout the ages and which is pertinent for our time and mission. As we know, the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Paul VI is the richest Missal that the Church has ever produced together with its Missale Romanum Lectionarium. It is always important to note that the Roman Missal comes in four volumes.5

Almost sixty years on from the Second Vatican Council, it can rightly be said that the vision contained not only in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, but also in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, has now become more evident in the Church’s prayer and in her consciousness, through a new awakening of the Sacred Scriptures in the Roman Rite. What an enrichment this is for the Church! It was rightly said of Saint Bernard of Clairveaux that he knew the scriptures so well that he spoke biblically. To know the prayers of the Missal is to begin to learn how to pray scripturally, which is such a precious gift to God’s faithful people, which brings with it the seeds of renewal.

The translation of these texts, therefore, is of immense importance. Of course, when it comes to translation there are many theories and controversies. If waylaid by that, it can be a battlefield of contrasting and opposing opinions. Even the most inexpert of protagonists have their opinions and can be highly vocal and self-opinionated. The old adage of being able to negotiate with terrorists but not with liturgists can take on an all too real an aspect, but we should be consoled by Saint Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy where he writes:

Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.6

 The Roman Missal is not the creation of a single person nor is it born of one particular source or preferential option. It is the faith of the Church, which constantly needs to be underlined; it encapsulates this in the rightful ‘handling [of] the word of truth’, as noted by Saint Paul.

Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar put it this way:

“No liturgy designed by men could be “worthy of the subject of their homage of God at whose throne the heavenly choirs prostrate themselves with covered faces, having cast off their crowns and ornaments before offering adoration. The attempt to return to him who “created all according to his will” the honour that all creatures received must, a priori, compel to its knees an earthly community of sinners. ‘Domine, non sum dignus!’ If such a community, meeting for praise and worship, should have anything else in mind than adoration and self- oblation – for example, self-development or any other project in which they place themselves thematically in context next to the Lord who is to be worshipped – then they naïvely deceive themselves. This topic can be touched only with fear and trembling.”7

 Cardinal Basil Hume OSB., Archbishop of Westminster, wrote at the publication of a joint statement by the Episcopal Conferences of the British Isles on the Eucharist, entitled “One Bread, One Body”:

“What do Catholics believe about the Eucharist? When, in distributing Holy Communion, the priest says to me ‘The Body of Christ’, I answer ‘Amen’ My ‘Amen’ expresses not only my faith in the Body of Christ which is the Eucharist but also my faith in the Body of Christ which is the Church. The Eucharist and the Church are inseparably bound together.”8

In other words, it is in the Eucharist that we find the genetic code of the Church.

Amongst the many facets that constitute Catholic liturgy there are two dimensions of which we should never lose sight as they describe the very nature of the Church. The first of course is that, as Catholics, we are, here and now, united to every other Catholic throughout the world, and through our local bishop, we are united to the Pope, the Successor of Saint Peter. This connection marks and guarantees our belonging, without which we are alone, outside the community founded by Christ and built on the Apostle Peter. So, it is never a matter of this or that community or group alone; when we celebrate the liturgy we are bound together in the Body of Christ and bring all our brothers and sisters to the Altar through the prayer which is essentially Christ’s.

But, there is also another important dimension to our liturgy. In the Church we are also united to all the people of faith who ever lived and believed, and all the Catholics who will ever live and believe in the future. We might speak of the synchronic  dimension of liturgy as uniting the whole Church around the world, and of the diachronic dimension as running through time into eternity. Following the first vernacular publications of the Missale Romanum after 1970, many thought that insufficient attention had been paid to this diachronic dimension. The new translations, I believe, correct this and improve the translated texts. The work of translating is challenging; remaining faithful to the original text and expressing it in the receiving language needs great care and biblical, patristic and theological insight and delicacy. We have to keep always in mind what St Paul said to the Church in Corinth, “I received from the Lord what I in turn passed on to you.”9 He was speaking to a Church that was troubled by liturgical discord.

Whenever we assemble for the celebration of the Eucharist, we are not simply gathering as this community from this particular place, but we stand at the crossroads of all life and on the very threshold where time intersects with eternity – our gathering is greater than what the eye can see. We are entering into the mystery of Christ who, because of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery, makes possible the flow or the ‘passage of time’ to enter into the ‘always of eternity’ and to be lifted up and transformed. Saint Irenaeus says: “He took up humanity into himself, the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible.”10

The Graduale Romanum of 1973 gives the Introit for the Common of the Dedication of a Church as Terribilis est locus iste.11 It indicates that this particular chant is most appropriate when the celebration of the Mass takes place in the church itself.12 This highly evocative text is from Genesis 28 (17,22):

“Terribilis est locus iste: hic domus Dei est, et porta coeli: et vocabitur aula Dei.”13

This is not simply an allusion to a building or a place as the gate of heaven, it is also the living stones, the Church. At the same time, the liturgy which is celebrated within a building or place by a particular community, is described as a “foretaste of that heavenly liturgy.” The liturgy is the privileged place where two worlds meet. This theological notion about the nature of our liturgical celebration – an intuition of the Council Fathers expressed in Sacrosanctum Concilium – is so evident that it was also included in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” as a description of the liturgy itself. There, we read:

“In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory.”14

At a later stage, the idea is taken up again with no less force, where we read:

“To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ.”15

There is no lack of clarity in the expression of this important idea, which is an unambiguous challenge to any ‘mono-dimensional’ view of liturgy, which amounts to a considerable misunderstanding of what is taking place when we gather to worship as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council.

Many liturgical misunderstandings of the past and present can be traced to a failure to acknowledge this characteristic, which clearly should be evident in all Catholic liturgy.

The reform of the liturgy as captured in the Missale Romanum is and remains our guide for understanding and implementing a correct appreciation of the liturgy. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” can help us. Paragraphs 1179-1186 take up the theme of “Where is the Liturgy Celebrated?” and draws our attention to parallel truths indicating that liturgy is celebrated both on earth and in heaven. Furthermore, it emphasizes that when we celebrate the Liturgy, we are made present to the mystery and the mystery is made present to us. In this way, the liturgy draws together the two distinct levels of reality: heaven and earth become heaven on earth. As the words of the Preface for the Dedication of a Church has it:

“Hic veri Templi adumbratur mysterium, et caelestis Ierusalem praenotatur imago.”16

Again, it is the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy that helps us to synthesise these dimensions:

“[Liturgy is] both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek [Cfr. Hebr. 13, 14].”17

  • The earthly liturgy that takes place in the spatio-temporal coordinates makes visible, here and now, the supernatural and eternal reality of the mystery of God
  • By signa sensibilia,18 and per ritus et preces,19 the earthly liturgy already contains and communicates the ontological reality of the heavenly liturgy which is a person: Christ himself.
  • What distinguishes the earthly liturgy from the heavenly one is not the content, but the way in which it is experienced: on earth through the veil of the symbolic language of the sacraments, in heaven in the fullness of truth ( the ἀ-λήθεια = unveiling) of glory.

In the celebration of the Mass, the temporal and the eternal realities are united: our own offering is taken up into Christ’s self-offering and is eternally identified with it. In this, the Eucharist is a natural fulfilment of our Baptism, by which we are incorporated forever into the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.20 In a very real sense, we can say that in the celebration of the Liturgy heaven and earth are united and no longer separated. What the introit Terribilis est says for the building that is dedicated, we can repeat for the Liturgy: terribilis est locus iste, this place inspires respect, sacred fear because what happens in our midst is truly awesome, fascinans et tremendum, which attracts and frightens, for God is present among us. Against the background of our earthly existence, we encounter the transcendence of God who is the supreme object of our worship. I wish to underline that this aspect is of vital importance.

Your studies, your scrutiny and knowledge of the liturgical books and sources, your discipleship in faithfulness to Christ and his Church and her teaching, are of immense importance. How often I hear people expressing personal and erroneous opinions, interpretations that have long failed to express the reality! They conjure up and expound theories and facts that have no foundation. It must be said repeatedly that the liturgy is life and not simply an idea to be understood. All of us, who have a great responsibility for the liturgy and train those who will inherit this responsibility in the future, are called simply to perform a service, aware of our smallness.2 We are not creating or reforming the liturgy; that has already been done by the Church’s highest authority, an Ecumenical Council. Our responsibility is to implement that reform in faithfulness to what we have received and not to be promoting things which are not of the mind of the Church even if loudly expressed.

Fifty years has passed since the publication of the Missale Romanum. It is an opportune moment to recapture the wisdom and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and allow its Constitution on the Liturgy to inform our studies and lead us to a greater and deeper understanding. In particular, I would suggest by becoming more fully conversant with an understanding of the content of meaning of the euchological texts, without forgetting the symbolic value of the anthropological dimension of ritual gestures. This requires a careful and accurate study of the texts in their original form in Latin. It is a matter of practising a research method that is scientifically rigorous, that starts from a serious philological analysis, based on a historico-critical reconstruction of euchology that allows us to arrive at a correct liturgical theology. The Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm is an expert in this method, thus offering its own contribution to the care and promotion of the liturgy according to the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.

In conclusion, I wish all of you, professors and students, a good academic year, the love of the Lord you serve, a humble perseverance, and above all a good sense of humour.

Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments


1 “The Pope’s attention is drawn today once more to a particular point of the Church’s life: the indisputably beneficial fruits of the liturgical reform. Since the promulgation of the Conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium great progress has taken place, progress that responds to the premises laid down by the liturgical movement of the last part of the nineteenth century. It has fulfilled that movement’s deep aspirations for which so many churchmen and scholars have worked and prayed. The new Rite of the Mass, promulgated by Us after long and painstaking preparation by the competent bodies, and into which other Eucharistic Praises have been introduced alongside the Roman Canon, which remains substantially unchanged, has borne blessed fruits. These include a greater participation in the liturgical action, a more lively awareness of the sacred action, a greater and wider knowledge of the inexhaustible treasures of Sacred Scripture and an increasing sense of community in the Church. The results of these recent years show that we are on the right path. But unfortunately, in spite of the vast preponderance of the healthy and positive action of the clergy and the faithful, abuses have been committed and liberties have been taken in applying the liturgical reform. The time has now come to definitively leave aside divisive elements, which are equally pernicious in both senses, and to apply fully, in accordance with the correct criteria that inspired it, the reform approved by Us in the application of the wishes of the Council” (Allocution Gratias Ex Animo, 27 June 1977: Teachings of Paul vi, xv [1977], 655-656, in Italian 662-663).

2 Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the 68th National Liturgical Week in Italy, 24 August 2017

3 Letter to Mrs William Froude, 27 June 1848

4 General Audience 13 January 1965

5 Missale Romanum and the Missale Romanum Lectionarium vol I, II, III LEV 1970)

6 2 Timothy 2:14-16

7 H.U. von Balthasar, “The Grandeur of the Liturgy”, Communio 5, no.4 (1978), 344 (cf. footnote 15)

8 Comment of Cardinal Basil Hume at the launch of One Bread One Body, a joint statement of the Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales, Ireland and Scotland, 30 September 1998.

9 1 Cor 11:23

10 Against Heresies 3:16.6

11 Graduale Romanum, Introit Common of the Dedication of a Church (in the Church itself) p. 397

12 Surprisingly this does not find a place in the Mass for the Dedication of a Church as it is given in the current edition of the Missale Romanum, despite the fact that this Scriptural text has long been associated with this particular celebration.

13 “This place is awesome (breath taking, if you like): it is the house of God, the gate of heaven and shall be called God’s church.”

14 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman (London, 1994) article 1090, p.250

15 Catechism of the Catholic Church Geoffrey Chapman (London, 1994) article 1370, p.308

16Missale Romanum, In Dedicationis Ecclesiae et Altaris, p1063 (Here is foreshadowed the mystery of the true Temple, here is prefigured the heavenly Jerusalem).

17 Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 2

18 Ibidem, n.7

19 Ibidem, n48

20 Cf. Rm 6:4

21 Lk 17:10


  1. The of late increasingly popular assertion of some that the Pauline Missal is “irreversible” is amusing given the passion with which it’s been asserted by the same people that the Missals of other popes are most certainly reversible. Consistency please.

    1. An ecumenical Council is the deciding factor here. It is Vatican II that in effect did away with previous Missals and set the foundational terms for future missals.

      So, if another ecumenical Council decides otherwise, then you’re in business! 🙂


      1. Benedict disagrees with you. Paul and Francis agree. A future pope may agree with Benedict. Who knows.

      2. Here’s the real question: Did Benedict disagree with Vatican II? The key question will be a proper interpretation of Vatican II. As you know, I think the evidence is that Benedict is the outlier and his views will not prevail. But as you say, a future pope could do who knows what.

        Enough said on this one. I think your position and mine are abundantly clear to anyone who cares. And I think that most of our readers don’t care – not if it’s repeating old material.


      3. I think I remember (old age!) a spoof interview written by Michael Frayn at the time of Humanae Vitae, where a Vatican Official is asked about the Church’s position regarding the Pill. Asserting that the Church was aginst it, he said ‘The Church holds a position of absolute certainty on this.’

        The Reporter then asked ‘So what if the Pope changes the teaching?’ The Official answered ‘Then the Church will have moved from one position of absolute certainty to another position of absolute certainty.’

        Hey Ho.


      4. For the sake of clarity, it must be pointed out that the Missal of Paul VI is not the product of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium is. The Missal is just one interpretation of the recommendations of the Council, albeit with papal approval. Nor did the Council call for the old Missal to be replaced, just modified. Other than the call for an expanded Lectionary, the revised Missal of 1965 fulfilled the recommendations of the Council. A future pope could return to the Missal of 1965 (with an expanded Lectionary) without rejecting anything of Vatican II.

        I would be satisfied if we could just accept the new Missal as is, without the de facto suppression of the options for a traditional form of the new Mass. Those who oppose this are rejecting the reformed Mass and Vatican II just as much as those who reject the new Missal as a whole.

      5. Thanks for your comments, but I disagree.
        Modified and replaced.
        1965 was seen as interim by those who issued it, and there were things in SC not yet fulfilled in it. Joseph Shaw, who is a critic of the reform, has pointed this out.

    2. I don’t see ‘irreversible’ as meaning irreformable. The 1962 Missal, before the Council, was a significant modification of the previous editio typica of 1920. Foillowing the Council, and in accord with it, the 1962 Missal was modified with a new rite of Concelebration, a new editio typica of the rubrics (1965), and a further revision of the rubrics in 1967 by an ‘Instruction’. It is this 1967 edition which is “the Missal antecedent to the reform of 1970”, as Paul VI made explicit when granting its continued use to aged priests, and in the “Heenan indult”. 1962 was as thoroughly superseded as 1573.

  2. This is a wise and well-grounded exhortation. Archbishop Roche’s comments are the fruit of many years of study and experience, and he is also speaking out of a deep love for the church. We cannot afford to neglect the role of liturgy as an ecclesial ministry. His comments about the Missal of Paul VI were right on target.

    1. I hope to respond to Matthew Hazell – if I find the time and I make no promises! 🙂 I think there is something profoundly mistaken about Matthew Hazell’s starting points, and hence there is a certain tragic quality to his very careful and industrious work.

      1. I’ll do what I can, Matthew, but it’ll be a challenge. I’m doing a teaching overload to offer Gregorian Chant online this term, and laboring mightily to bring to complete a hardbound hymnal of nearly 1,000 hymns, only for our use (for copyright reasons).

  3. What seems tragic to me is the dismal state of the liturgy in most parishes and the overwhelming obsession of some , to obliterate the old rite for those Catholics who are nourished by it.

    1. It’s because the Second Vatican Council decided to reform it out of existence.
      It’s tiresome repeatedly having to defend the basic and fundamental teachings of an ecumenical Council. There was a reason why they reformed the church, and reformed the liturgy to be, as they put it, an expression of the true Church. They gave a long, detailed list in Sacrosanctum Concilium of things to change in the liturgy which is, in effect, a list of reasons why the old liturgy would not remain in use in their minds
      All this is church teaching. But to state it is highly controversial. That is where we’re at.

      1. It’s the “true Church” comment (you’ve made it before) that makes me run, and fast, from your argument.

        The implications are staggering.

        Benedict clearly endorsed a liturgical expression, then, that wasn’t reflective of the “true Church.”

        The 1962 Masses in communion with Rome are apparently not reflective of the “true Church.”

        This strikes me as a quite perilous theological and ecclesial path to trod…

      2. So the church that existed the nineteen centuries before Vatican II, the church that defined itself and its practices at the Council of Trent was not the “true church”? Those who adhere to what the church defined at the Council of Trent are not the “true church”?

      3. No, that doesn’t follow. I think if one accepts Vatican II and the reformed liturgy (I’m not saying you don’t), such questions become, from a spiritual standpoint, unproblematic. One gives it all to God and doesn’t spend time trying to figure out what went wrong where, or blame anyone. It almost solves itself. It’s similar to giving spiritual counsel to people who have undergone conversion and repentance – a lot of post mortem it not helpful.
        From the standpoint of Vatican II, there are important affirmations in Trent that we hold to, and believe that the Protestant reformers missed. But there are fundamental problems in Trent too, and missed opportunities, and weaknesses, and mistakes on both sides (as V2) said. We wish a lot of V2 statements had been made in the 16th century. But they weren’t, and it is what it is. There is tragedy there, but also a lot of grace and it’s all in God’s hands.

      4. This is good to hear. One can therefore rightly hold on to the understanding that the Church had of itself before the Vatican II, augmented but not changed by that council. But let us take a closer look at what was the intention of the Council in regard to the liturgy.

        You say that “the Second Vatican Council decided to reform it out of existence.” But Sacrosanctum Concilium does not support this. Indeed, it states:

        4. Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.

        Notice what the Council states: the rites are to be preserved, and when necessary, they are to be revised carefully in the light of soundtradition. This is hardly the notion of being reformed “out of existence.”

        As for the “gave a long, detailed list in Sacrosanctum Concilium of things to change in the liturgy,” what the Council for in the reform of the Mass is actually quite modest. Nowhere is there the call for new Eucharistic prayers, a complete rework of the propers, Mass versus populum, Communion in the hand, extensive use of ordinary laity for the roles of proper liturgical ministers, radical reordering in church sanctuaries, etc. Indeed, as has been pointed out many times before, the Council stated the use of Latin was to be preserved; a Latin based liturgy was to be augmented by the vernacular, nor replaced by it. Additionally, Gregorian chant was to to hold the pride of place. Is this how most people experience the Mass today?

      5. We’ve covered all this a zillion times at Pray Tell, you’ve expressed all these thoughts many times, and I’m not going to go over this ground again.

        SC 4 does not apply to the preconciliar rite. That is not what they meant by it.


      6. Every measure of Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) was arguably justified by the 1964-1965 interim Missal with partial vernacular for the propers that in no way contradicts Trent’s anathema from Session XXII, Canon IX on any who require the entire Mass to be in the vulgar tongue. Even then, SC 54 also clearly says: “Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass” (the unchanging parts the same every day). – “which pertain to them.” which indicates the Council Fathers envisioned at least a portion of Latin to remain for the Ordinary.

        This is also consistent with Pius VI’s instructions to Bp. John Carroll allowing vernacular though stressing that the essential form of all Sacraments was to be in Latin (later rolled back by the US bishops by the Council of Baltimore). It seems a stretch, to say the least, that any Council Father ever saw the evisceration of the ancient rite along the lines that the Concilium made nor did any envision the creation of a new separate rite wholesale (and ironically enough as the Missa Normativa that was rejected by the first Synod of Bishops).

        Similarly, there is no Conciliar or even Papal document ever endorsing the destruction of high altars, altar rails, facing the people or using banal music.

        SC 116 clearly envisions that Gregorian Chant would remain in the parish. If anything, it was an attempt to rebuke Low Mass culture common with Irish, Jesuits, etc in favor of more sung liturgy, not intruding contemporary music or anything like we see at Life Teen.

      7. No, you’re operating from a misunderstanding of the foundational teachings in Sacrosanctum Concilium. And you’re confusing the general principles of SC with the multitude of particular decisions that were appropriately made by the Consilium at the implementation stage. An ecumenical council does not get into the weeds of every particular decision. It states fundamental principles about active participation, importance of community, inculturation, adaptation, simplicity, comprehensibility, and so on.

        The Catholic Church believes that the 1970 Missal *is* in conformation with SC. Every pope since Paul VI has believed this. Your disagreement with the Catholic Church on this point is rooted in a misunderstanding, or possibly non-acceptance, of SC.


    2. I would say that this is the real issue, rather than (with great respect to those who like such exercises) the nit-picking over what texts come from where and how much alteration constitutes what, etc. We quarrel about how to arrange the deckchairs while all the while the ‘Titanic’ is sinking.

      I celebrated Mass last Sunday in a suburban church where I live. I don’t want to blame anyone, but it was a dispiriting experience. Mass was spoken, with just three songs, all now rather elderly and trite, products of the 1970’s. No sung Ordinary, no sung Psalm or Alleluia. It was as if ‘Musicam Sacram’ had never been.

      It is in such matters that reform, real reform, needs to happen. And, guess what? It’s all laid out in the Missal. Bishop Roche is right in what he says, and absolutely spot on in his judgement that this liturgical book is a priceless fount of spiritual and ecclesial renewal.

      Speaking as one who both values the Missal as it is and is very well informed about the origins and trajectories of its contents, I found his words encouraging, if a little remote from the reality (I am sure he is well aware of that), because the process of deep culturation into such parishes as the one in which I served last Sunday has clearly still to take place.


      1. Fr. Griffiths,
        An issue that is becoming clear is that the current missal was redacted in another era when the reality on the ground was much different. One area is the lack of musical formation found in many places both inside and outside of the Church. I wish this were not so, but it is. And is not like most parishes and dioceses are teeming with funds to support a music ministry. I suspect in many places, the missal will have to bear fruit with less and less chant and song. Appropriately gone are the days of a low mass whispered in Latin, but another type of low mass will most likely emerge.

        Some of the issue is with the current translation. IMHO it does have problems but not as many as are often espoused here on this blog (and I have serious reservations about 1998 as well). While another translation would be welcomed, I do not think it would be enough by itself to address the changing circumstances on the ground where it will increasingly celebrated.

      2. I see the sung ordinary as a counsel of perfection that may or may not be appropriate depending on resources. If there are no competent musicians singing a couple of hymns might be all that is possible. And are sung propers a hang over from the monastic/cathedral origins of much of our liturgy that doesn’t translate very well into a parish setting?
        I sometimes attend Mass in Wales. The congregation is tiny though bolstered by tourists in the Summer. There are no competent musicians, but they manage a couple of hymn which, being Welsh they sing mightily. Good for them. God is praised. The bigger problem is that the community is 80% Welsh speaking, but is served by a priest who isn’t, so they are unable to worship in their vernacular. And in a land of thousands of saints too many church dedications seem foreign. But that’s another issue..

      3. The Church (at least the Consilium) prioritized that problem of music. The Graduale Simplex was published in 1967, and it provides for an entire set of chants of the Mass, in Latin. Following that example there are various resources in English – such as Paul F. Ford’s By Flowing Waters. More recently Fr Samuel Weber has published settings of the processional propers for every Sunday at four different levels of complexity. And he has a wealth of material on the web.
        If you remember Rex Harrison ‘singing’ in My Fair Lady, I think that sung speech like that would be adequate at Mass, though not ideal, and much better than no attempt being made. About 25 years ago I pointed out to the rector of a Metropolitan Cathedral that the Lectionary says the Alleluia must be sung or omitted. Next time he saw me he said “you’re right”, and he told the lectors to sing, the Alleluia using the triplet purloined from Easter Lauds, not the verse. Since then at every Mass I have attended there, the lector has done just that, none appears to have any difficulty doing so, and the congregation repeats it with full voice.

      4. To be strictly accurate, there is no provision to omit the Alleluia at all. GILM 23 says “The Alleluia or the verse before the gospel must be sung and during it all stand.”. The strong implication is that if it must be sung, it may not be omitted at all.

      5. Belatedly : Just happened to be looking at GIRM and noticed #63. (c)
        – the Alleluia or the Verse before the Gospel, if not sung, may be omitted.

      6. Anthony,

        A late reply in my turn. Just to note that para 63c is not a universal rule but only refers to occasions when there is only one reading before the Gospel.

        And that itself is actually a mistake on the part of CDW. It’s very instructive to compare para 63 with paras 38 and 39 of the original GIRM (before renumbering), as well as GILM 23, and see what a complete mess the revisers made of the revision! There’s a whole history to this which one day I will find the time to make into a separate post.

  4. “…combining of parts of two or more orations to create what is effectively a newly-composed prayer”
    “edited in some manner”
    “found their way unchanged into the reformed Missal”
    These quotations from Hazell’s article suggest that the criteria used for “measuring” the amount of change is a bit slippery. “combined”…how? why? how much? are we talking about a few words, a sentence or two, or whole pages? Have historically obscure references been modified for clarity? Have other aspects of the text been modified for clarity? What’s meant by “found their way unchanged”? Does a single change ( a comma, a period) “count” in the “measurement” ( a quasi scientific sounding term–with charts!–promising dead certainty that in fact isn’t applicable when it comes to textual criticism). And has Mr. Hazell enquired or reported anywhere as to the rationale behind the changes mentioned? Etc.

    I would suggest a comparison with Shakespeare’s texts. We have a few first folios, but ambiguities abound. After all, printing errors, variances between portfolios, etc. require interpretative evaluation. Attempting to solve the issue of what constitutes the most “authentic” version of Hamlet…through “measurements”….(!!!!) misses the point. Hamlet…measured out to find the best text?
    We can’t measure our way to understanding prayer. The missal isn’t information that can be measured. It’s a living text abounding in meaning that opens out over time.

    1. You are more than welcome to download the PDF file linked to in my article, which contains all the relevant texts (except the centonised texts, as that’s a much more complex issue that requires further analysis), side by side for edited orations, in which some of your questions will no doubt be answered.

      Or, just click here:

      In that file, I have also provided references to the Corpus orationum, for those who wish to do their own text-critical study of the prayers. The CO gives all the necessary information – how many manuscripts a given oration is extant in, its usages, textual differences (if any) in each manuscript, biblical allusions, etc.

      (For what it’s worth, even a cursory glance at the CO will demonstrate that the majority of edits Coetus XIII and XVIII bis made to extant prayers cannot justified with reference to the textual tradition. E.g. «in tot adversis» was removed from the collect for Holy Monday – an edit not attested in any of the 44 manuscripts dating from at least the 8th century that this prayer appears in.)

      1. Hi Matthew . First of all, I own all your books, admire them , and I will be downloading your PDF. But I too raise the issue of the presuppositions in measuring continuity with tradition at “13%”. I take it you only “count” prayers in the 13% if they were retained in their entire integrity. For example, if the consilium took a collect from the Missale Gothicum but fiddled with it to remove or add phrases (something I myself would have strongly opposed), I take it you throw it out completely and it is not in the 13% The cumulative effect of such an approach could be fairly said, from one point of view, to understate rather misleadingly how many prayers were “retained”. Of course, the 90% view is just as arbitrary in terms of some kind of supposedly scientific accuracy. We first have to agree how to keep score.

        It also reminds me of what has been called Wittgenstein’s Net. The illustration uses an image of a group of researchers, who are studying the size of fish in a certain pond. They use a net with a 2 inch mesh to drag the lake, and then pile the fish on the bank. Whereupon, they proceed to measure each fish VERY, VERY carefully with a ruler, and come to the startling conclusion that there are no fish under 2 inches long in the pond.

      2. Todd,

        First, it should be noted that the research only looks at those prayers in the 1970/2008 Missal that have the 1951/1962 Missal as their source. This is just a starting point, and I hope in the future to expand this work to those prayers that have other sources.

        I have taken the 1951/1962 Missal as a starting point mainly because of the repeated assurances we have had since the promulgation of the reformed Missal that most, if not nearly all of the prayers in the older Missal were kept in some way. So, in the first instance we are not working so much with my own definition of “continuity with tradition”, but the claims made by popes, bishops and scholars about the reformed Missal’s continuity with its direct antecedent.

        Given that 52.6% of the 1951/1962 Missal’s prayers are not used in any way in the 1970/2008 Missal, we are a long way from these particular claims being accurate. These claims are, in fact, myths; I don’t see any other way of interpreting the data.

        For the record: The 13% figure is made up of those prayers from the usus antiquior that have been kept unchanged in the novus ordo (differences in spelling, word order, doxology, and punctuation are not counted here). A further 24.1% have been edited in some way before their inclusion in the reformed Missal. These edits may be minor, or much more substantial. The texts are provided in the PDF for those who wish to see for themselves. To my mind, it seemed easier for the purposes of categorisation to say that edits are edits, even if they might only be minor. References to the Corpus orationum have also been given where possible, so one can easily look up (e.g.) the text-critical history of a given prayer.

        I’m perfectly happy for these figures to be discussed and debated, or for people to suggest alternative ways to quantify similarities and differences. If it means that more people are aware of the Consilium’s work in this area, all the better!

      3. I find it incredibly sad that Matthew has spent all this time and effort trying to prove that the current Roman Missal is not an organic development of what went before. Time and time again the Church has updated and revised its texts; such is the nature of a body that is truly alive, rather than stultified, stuck in a time-warp. In answer to the nit-picking over percentages, I would say “Does it really matter?” A re-read of, to give just one example, Keith Pecklers’ The Genius of the Roman Rite, would amply demonstrate that the answer is “No, it doesn’t matter a bit.”

        My issue with the current Roman Missal, and the current English translation of it, is different. We can now see what many of these ancient prayers actually say. I would disagree with Archbishop Roche and say that, far from being a richness, in many places it has been found instead that these prayers, dating as they do from well over a millennium before our present age, are very remote from our spirituality today. Our mindsets are totally different. The way we relate to each other, and so to God, and the language we use to do so, are a million miles away from the 7th-century Verona Sacramentary and its successors.

        Many have said that if they had known what these prayers actually said, they would not have wanted to pray them. The majority of these prayers would not have touched their souls. The translators of the previous version realized that this would be the case, and therefore attempted to give the many ordinary working-class folk in their congregations something that they could relate to, by reproducing the general thrust of thought rather than every jot and tittle of the language. Furthermore, the ICEL Alternative Opening Prayers went a long way towards providing something meatier that would give spiritual nourishment where the prayers from a much older tradition simply do not. It is a tragedy that these Alternative Opening Prayers have been lost to the Church.

        This, then, is an additional reason why it is sad that Matthew has wasted so much of his time and considerable talent on an exercise which aims at trying to increase the “traditionality” of the prayer texts, when what is actually needed is to “de-traditionalize” them and feed the starving assemblies of our age.

      4. I find myself in strong agreement with Paul Inwood. In fact, I would go further and say that continuity–uniformity, really–with the particulars of tradition are neither desired nor necessary. Rupture can be a spiritual value in a time of crisis or opportunity: Peter when retrieving his miraculous catch and after confessing sinfulness, is urged to follow Jesus and leave a former life behind, Paul on the road to Damascus setting aside his robes of persecution to become an apostle to the Gentile world. Peter and Paul point the way.

        With Paul Inwood, I would say the Roman Missal itself is deficient and a missed opportunity. I don’t think a slavish imitation of the Lectionary is needed, but certainly a better eye to resource the images of Scripture would help. In a way, the MR doesn’t go back to the oldest tradition. The 1998 Missal certainly moved in that direction. The year A alternate opening prayer for Gaudete Sunday includes a lovely reference to Isaiah 35:
        God of glory and compassion,
        at your touch the wilderness blossoms,
        broken lives are made whole,
        and fearful hearts grow strong in faith.
        The Christian faithful, including priests, need a stronger Biblical literacy, and exposure at every possible opportunity to the riches of the Word of God.

        It is simply not enough for a Catholic to sift through and cite Sacrosanctum Concilium for guidance on liturgy. Or make comparisons with the past. Chapter VI of Dei Verbum is vital:

        (A)ll the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her (daughters and) sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. (#21)

        This preaching must be seen in at least every word uttered at the celebration of Mass. The various orations are not exempt from this effort.

        (T)he Church taught by the Holy Spirit, is concerned to move ahead toward a deeper understanding of the Sacred Scriptures so that she may increasingly feed her (daughters and) sons with the divine words. … Catholic exegetes then and other students of sacred theology … should devote their energies … to an exploration and exposition of the divine writings. This should be so done that as many ministers of the divine word as possible will be able effectively to provide the nourishment of the Scriptures for the people of God, to enlighten their minds, strengthen their wills, and set (believers’) hearts on fire with the love of God. (#23)

      5. I can’t express enough how much I fundamentally disagree with Mr Inwood’s view (and also Mr Flowerday’s). I think, for what it’s worth, that Paul VI and the members of the Consilium would also have disagreed with it.

        In any case, how can it be “sad” that I have, apparently, “spent all this time and effort trying to prove that the current Roman Missal is not an organic development of what went before” (in fact, my main aim is to provide easy access to the texts and data so that this debate can take place in a meaningful way), when Mr Inwood openly says that the current Roman Missal should not even claim to be an organic development? If it is true that “what is actually needed is to “de-traditionalize” [the Missal’s orations] and feed the starving assemblies of our age”, then surely he should be happy with my statistics – or, indeed, unhappy that the figure of identical orations is as high as 13%!

        I have to say, I find it exceptionally odd that, with respect to his argumentation about the liturgy, Mr Inwood has stuck his oar in with the Lefebvrists.

      6. my main aim is to provide easy access to the texts and data so that this debate can take place in a meaningful way

        Matthew, you have totally missed my point, which is that the debate that you say you want to encourage is a sterile one, serving no useful purpose. I say again, “Does it really matter?” From what you have said at NLM, it seems clear that your underlying aim is actually to attempt to prove that Archbishop Roche and others like him, who have stated that the present Roman Missal is an organic development of the previous Missal, are not telling the truth. Even if that were the case, what would it achieve?

        Your interpretation of my remarks, claiming that I do not think the Roman Missal should be an organic development, is completely misfounded. I was merely indicating that the latest incarnation of the book does not go nearly far enough in adapting itself to the present age. That is, alas, always the case with the Church, which habitually moves slowly. Practice supersedes edict, and it often takes edict a while to catch up with practice. (It does seem, however, as if Pope Francis is trying to get the Church to move forward more quickly than in the past.) It seems clear that you have confused a desire for increased adaptation with repudiation. The kind of adaptation that ICEL and the compilers of the Italian Messale Romano provided is exactly in line with the kind of organic development that I envisage as an ideal.

        In this sense, I am in agreement with Todd Flowerday, when he says that the Roman Missal is deficient. It is well established, for example, that the Collects for the Sundays in Ordinary Time, along with the antiphons, often do not relate to any of the three years of the Lectionary cycle. It could scarcely be otherwise, given that they were conceived in a far-off period with a totally different lectionary in use. What we are seeking now is increased liturgical coherence.

        How you can characterize my remarks as Lefebvrist is impossible to understand. I am about as far from the views of Marcel Lefebvre and his followers as it is possible to be. He wanted to put the clock back. I am encouraging us to push it forward.

      7. Hi Paul,
        I think Matthew is using “Lefebvrist” in a different sense. The Lefebvrists accuse the Church of an illegitimate rupture between the old and the reformed liturgy, but Paul VI tried to claim it was done in continuity. I’ve seen the claim at various places online that, ironically, progressive liturgists embrace and affirm rupture and thus agree with the Lefebrvists. I.e., they agree that there was a rupture and lack of continuity, though of course they disagree entirely about whether that is a good or a bad thing.

      8. Paul Inwood: [T]he debate that you say you want to encourage is a sterile one, serving no useful purpose. I say again, “Does it really matter?”

        Yes, it really does matter. The debates around the liturgical issues of continuity and rupture, the Council and the Consilium, ressourcement and aggiornamento – none of this disappears just because you personally don’t see the point.

        It is well established, for example, that the Collects for the Sundays in Ordinary Time, along with the antiphons, often do not relate to any of the three years of the Lectionary cycle.

        Why should they have to? I see precious little evidence that the propers and readings of Sundays after Epiphany and after Pentecost have ever had the sort of thematic connections you seem to think are necessary (and they are not at all necessary). Indeed, in their post-conciliar reform of the Mass lectionary, Coetus XI went to great lengths to avoid the sort of (over-)thematisation you “envisage as an ideal”!

        How you can characterize my remarks as Lefebvrist is impossible to understand.

        On the contrary, you both have the same view of the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms as a drastic rupture with what came before. You just disagree on whether or not this is a good thing.

      9. I really think we are talking at cross-purposes. I certainly don’t believe that the post-conciliar reforms were a drastic rupture with what went before. Quite the contrary: I think they were cautiously too close to what went before. Or at least that, while they reopened the doors to further organic development, such necessary further development was effectively stifled, even reversed, under the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict.

        I have already mentioned a completely different spirituality, necessitating a different emphasis in praying, even a different language of prayer, for the benefit of the people. It’s also possible to say that today’s participatory liturgy demands such a difference, in contrast with the essentially spectatory nature of the pre-conciliar rite. Our people deserve nothing less.

        I quite honestly don’t care two jots about whether collects from the Verona, Gelasian or any other Sacramentary you care to name have been tinkered with or not. It’s really not important at all. As you will have already seen, I actually think that further tweaking would have been a good thing.

        And I am not looking for liturgical over-thematization at all, merely liturgical coherence. The defects of previous liturgical eras do not need to be carried over into ours. We are in the business of helping the people to pray better, not just the priest.

      10. I quite honestly don’t care two jots about whether collects from the Verona, Gelasian or any other Sacramentary you care to name have been tinkered with or not. It’s really not important at all.

        Well, if you don’t think that the issue of how prayers the Church has used for centuries (in some cases, at least 1,200 years) were edited and changed by the Consilium, often in completely novel ways, is at all important, I’m not too sure we have much else to discuss here.

      11. I think that for many Catholics the discussion on rupture and continuity is irrelevant. Some people are pragmatists. They want something that works better than before, whether that is more beauty, more clergy, fuller churches, better music, improved preaching, a more literate body of believers, clergy and laity alike.

        I think there are times in the spiritual life when rupture is a value. And there are certainly circumstances where rupture in one’s personal life–new job, death in the family, change in marital status–are opportunities for spiritual growth.

        In your study you made a choice to devote time and energy. I can applaud your diligence, but I’m unsure it is a service to the wider Church. We live in an age of rupture and we have for at least the last 107 years if not since the mid-19th century. The Church has been painfully slow to adapt to movements for human rights, global warfare hot and cold, the information age, and the loss of trust in institutions. Maybe some people believe that in such times, it is important to maintain continuity in at least the area of liturgy as an anchor of hope in a civilization bedeviled by so much that seems antagonistic to the values of Christianity. If that is the case, I want to hear a better assertion for it.

        What many traditional-leaning folks, and many hide-bound Vatican II supporters share is too much focus on the particulars and not enough of a wider view of the needs of ordinary Catholics where they are. What I see in your statements here is a desire to recover and maintain the tradition of the 9th century. I want to go back farther, all the way to the 9th century BC. The orations in the Roman Missal need a total overhaul. It is time. We need prayers composed in the vernacular tongues of the Church. They must be tested for oral proclamation, and judged there. Not for the way they are read in a sacristy or rectory study.

        In sum, ask the question: why are we doing what we do in liturgy? What serves the need of faithful people today?

      12. Composing new prayers is not equivalent to a new rite. The attachment to continuity, a relatively minor emphasis of the council, has led to a kind of fetishism in some quarters with individual elements, including the orations, the offertory prayers, the texts of the propers. Preservation of form: this is good. Using older prayers as resources and models for new compositions: also good. Best of all: the folding of that wider selection of Scripture urged by SC and DV into the texts of the Mass. Catholics want more Scripture. Why not give it to them? Why get stuck on medieval bon bons when a full meal is possible?

        The notion that the 1970 Missal is a new rite is, frankly, fake news. It is a lie that must be combatted, denied, and corrected.

  5. There are two factors emerging in this discussion that need to be flagged.

    One is the retreat from a holistic approach to liturgy to a fundamentalist approach centered on liturgical texts. A form of liturgical literalism, which has been emerging now for some time, is eerily reminiscent of the errors that biblical fundamentalism introduced into biblical study, i.e., a reluctance or unwillingness to consider context in any meaningful way, and an accompanying defensive posture that makes dialogue difficult or impossible.

    The other is a foreshortening or even a denial of context when it comes to music. One gets the idea when reading some of the remarks about what can or cannot be done concerning liturgical music that the success or failure of singing the liturgy is solely a matter of what magisterial statements have asserted or how strongly or weakly such statements have been applied. The Church does not exist in a bubble. If the people do not sing in any other context — which is increasingly the case in our first-world North American society — you can insist all you want, and it won’t be sufficient. Parents don’t sing lullabies to their children, they don’t gather around the piano to sing in their homes, they don’t organize caroling parties, and increasingly they don’t even sing the birthday song (the wait staff comes out clapping instead)! This is our context. The culture has commodified music, aggrandized it, and people buy it: they don’t by and large invest in doing it simply and for themselves, I am sorry to say. You can work on cultivating a better attitude in your parish, to be sure, but it’s short-sighted to blame insufficient liturgical song on Vatican II or some such thing, as though the Church has only to say something more insistently and all will comply. The pre-condition of acceptance is contextual.

    1. Exactly right. This commodification has infected Christianity for the past few centuries on many levels. Parents outsource religious formation to parishes. At worst, it becomes cheap babysitting so dad and moms can gather for drinks at the local watering hole or coffeeshop for an hour on a weeknight. How many would attend an adult Bible study at the concurrent time? How many would willingly prepare their children for sacraments in the home? The Tridentine Era also treated discipleship and holiness as a commodity: designate clergy and sisters. Let the ordinary laity just “go by giving” as the mission support model used to encourage. Music is just part of it. Hi-fidelity recordings of the early to mid-20th century and the emerging medium of radio brought music into living rooms performed by orchestras, dance bands, choirs, and later popular music of varying quality. Television meant we could watch music, and video channels solidified the trend. ipods, phones, and the internet mean it’s totally portable. This is what faces us not only in today’s liturgy, but in many of the Church’s ministries. Why go to church when your favorite guru has a YouTube channel and you can hear anybody who agrees with you preach, perform your music, and reinforce your own subjective opinions about stuff?

  6. Ms. Ferrone, perhaps your point concerning Church statements on liturgy and acceptance by a congregation being contextual can be applied to having a more pastoral kind application of Traditiones Custodes?

  7. Reflecting on this thread a bit more, perhaps there is a way forward. First, the basic difference is whether or not change is a good thing in small pieces (the adaptation of particular Roman Rite orations) or on big things (the reform of a Rite). Matthew article is irrelevant to mainstream liturgists because we disagree with the importance of his premise. He is unlikely to convert anyone. If his mission here is to persuade, it may well be fruitless. His confreres need no study to convince them a Bad Thing has happened. The same would be true for an assertion at NLM, say, that rupture is a spiritual good. Or has the potential to be so. I’d be preaching to the choir here. And since they banned me there long ago, they are certainly closed to anything I or anyone of a similar mind would have to say.

    Pope Francis’ discussion on disagreements in his September synod address is helpful: Pieces like this in his reflection on the Acts of the Apostles: “There was also the clash of differing visions and expectations. We need not be afraid when the same thing happens today. Would that we could argue like that! Arguments are a sign of docility and openness to the Spirit. Serious conflicts can also take place, as was the case with the issue of circumcision for pagan converts, which was settled with the deliberation of the so-called Council of Jerusalem, the first Council.”

    The conversation that would interest me might be: the world is clearly in a state of rupture. The past age from the present and into the future. Various beliefs and ideologies in the post-Christian West. We all agree on that, right? Clearly within the Church, we have leadership that cares much less for uniformity than in 1978-2013. Is this a time for continuity in the spiritual life of worshipping Catholics? Or do we need to make adjustments to keep and keep with most of the flock?

    We live in an era with more literate humans than ever before. Likewise more Catholics with a biblical familiarity. Why wouldn’t we tap into that? Why wouldn’t we reform Missal orations to address this good news? Even the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd, and the moral therapeutic deists are more familiar with the Bible than people of the Middle Ages. Start the discussion there. If the liturgy can’t or shouldn’t expand and reform, what will get the message across and deepen it?

    1. We should indeed have a discussion of whether change/rupture is good or not, but let us do it on an honest ground. For the last sixty years the so-called “mainstream liturgists” (a self-applied term that I would dispute) have promoted the idea that Vatican II called for such a rupture. As evidence they would have us look outside the Council to those liturgists and theologian who advocated such at the time. They maintain that this is the proper context in which to view the Council, rejecting a mere “literalist” reading of the Council. While there were indeed such advocates, this approach fails to recognize that the documents of Vatican II were the products of compromise, not reflecting any single line of thought of those outside, or indeed inside, the council chamber. The resulting documents were all that the more radical advocates could obtain. To go beyond this compromise and insist on a more radical interpretation of these documents, appealing to the so-called Spirit of Vatican II, is to reject the comprise of the Council, and is thus to reject Vatican II itself as much as those who reject the Council outright. If one wants to argue for the value of change/rupture, do so on its own merits (merits that might exist) but without claiming that it is mandated by Vatican II.

      1. Fr. John O’Malley convinced me that the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ is found in the documents themselves and is not an extra-conciliar creation:

        While there is compromise in Sacrosanctum Concilium, especially in Chapter VI on Sacred Music which stands out for advocacy of Latin and Gregorian Chant and traditional choral music (alongside strong statement of reform and active participation et.), the story of drafting and approving SC is that the reformers pretty much won in a blow-out. All the reformist principles are states, strongly and repeatedly, without much waffling or equivocating. This is true of SC more, I think, than most of the other documents of V2. The gap between Trent and SC on the understanding of the liturgical action is pretty wide – and I’m very sorry if this is a rupture, but let’s be honest about what Trent said about the ritual celebration, and what Vatican II said about it.


      2. SC addressed priorities. I believe that Vatican II was a gathering inspired by God the Holy Spirit. Human orientations among its bishops were present, but as in all such inspired meetings, the individual/personal dynamic was subsumed into a greater whole. Compromise, as described, was not a political process, but a judgment applied for a sense of consensus. Not as wins and losses. Post-council, people outside of the discernment process within it, may well have applied political and subjective interpretations. But that would not be the mainstream of church teaching.

        It is important to study SC and honestly assess what its priorities were. You don’t have to go very deep into the document to realize the principles, and that continuity was hardly a major value. The main stream coming from SC was a significant reform so as to employ liturgy as a school for holiness. That is the mind of the Church, the will of “the Holy Spirit and of us,” to quote a far earlier apostolic document.

        I think I’ve been honest with how I assess the liturgical movement of the council. I assess it as a rupture. I make no prevarication about that. I believe it was needed and still is needed. To what degree is a rupture needed in Catholic liturgy to correct for four or more centuries of stasis, to catch up with a literate and educated laity, and to employ worship as a means to a greater end: the sanctification of the faithful? This is the honest beginning. Not to suggest other people are somehow dishonest.

        If you and others want to employ a stance in favor of continuity, the please make a case for the situation in the Church today, keeping in mind less your own opinion or mine, and more the need of the larger Church–not just your parish or somebody’s situation in social media.

      3. Fr. O’Malley mistates the significance of the shift in language. Pope John XXII himself, in his opening address to the Council, gives us the reason:

        Nor are we here primarily to discuss certain fundamentals of Catholic doctrine, or to restate in greater detail the traditional teaching of the Fathers and of early and more recent theologians. We presume that these things are sufficiently well known and familiar to you all.

        There was no need to call a council merely to hold discussions of that nature. What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men’s moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else.

        Thus while the manner of presentation may change, the content of the faith remains the same. The teachings of Trent and Vatican I are presumed in the teachings of Vatican II. The reason for this shift in language is evident: the former councils were called to correct error. This was not the case for Vatican II. Nor was the language of Vatican II even new, as Fr. O’Malley himself admits:

        The value that these words express are anything but new to the Christian tradition… Vatican II did not invent the words or imply that they were not already operative in the church.

      4. The question is whether the words of Vatican II *in themselves* represent a shift. O’Malley’s careful study shows that they do, and massively, compared to earlier ecumenical councils. That’s the point. As the magisterium made this clear shift in language, it is perhaps to be expected that various popes, then and ever since, would also make reassuring claims about there not being a shift. This is the case with the text of John XXIII you cite. But what good Pope John said (before any texts had been approved by the Council) hardly changes the reality of what is in those texts.

        I think you may have missed Fr. O’Malley’s point in your last citation. He is pointing out that these new sentiments in Vatican II were to be found here and there in earlier parts of the church’s tradition. But not in the ecumenical councils, at least not very much.

        Read the texts. Be honest about what they say.


      5. It is not that I missed Fr. O’Malley’s point, I just disagree with his conclusion. And I have read the texts and I honestly do not see the revolution that you claim is there. As for the quote from Pope John XXIII, this can hardly be classified as an attempt to obfuscate the intention of the Council; it is the Council’s marching orders: that “certain and immutable doctrine [of the Council of Trent and Vatican I], to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms.” This the Council did, yet you and Fr. O’Malley claim that this marks a rupture with the past, ignoring John XXIII’s admonition: “For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else.” The content of the faith remains unchanged, only its presentation is given in a new light. This is what John XXIII called Second Vatican Council do to, and this is what it did do.

        Additionally, as Fr. O’Malley points out, the uniqueness of Vatican II is not just juxtaposed against Trent and Vatican I, it also uses language that differs for all the other councils going back to Nicaea. Are we to think that Vatican II is calling us to reject the entire content of Church Tradition? If this were the intention, it would have done so clearly and unequivocally; not leaving us to discover it by a change in linguistic style.

      6. OK, you’ve made your point. I think we all hear what you’re saying. I don’t find your viewpoint persuasive. Maybe others do. But you need not keep repeating it over and over.

  8. I will not address the degree of continuity or discontinuity of the current missal with the previous one, but I will address an issue that appeared in several comments, why use collects and prayers of Latin origin that are over a 1000 years old, whether found in Missal used after Trent or other sources?

    Tradition in the Church is at least in part the collective memory of the cultural context of the Scriptures. Basically what we would call in our time the “cultural assumptions” of Ancient Israel and her neighbors that is not found explicitly in Scripture, but without this context, the Scriptures cannot be truly understood. I use quotes around “cultural assumptions” because part of Tradition is to view these “cultural assumptions” as accurate ways of perceiving reality and to help the Scripture bear fruit in the lives of believers.

    So the early Church viewed things differently. Our spirituality doesn’t not mesh with theirs. That is a call for an examination of conscience on our part.

    This is not directly related to “formal equivalence” vs “dynamic equivalence” in translation, but does have some bearing. How one perceives what the underlying Latin communicates has a strong implication for how a dynamic equivalent translation will turn out. If the translator has a view that much of the worldview and spirituality of the underlying Latin is not relevant to modern man, a dynamic translation will preserve much less of the underlying meaning when compared to a formal translation. But if a translator has a more esteemed view of the underlying Latin text, a dynamic translation could potentially preserve a much richer context than even a translation based on formal equivalence principles.

    I suspect the initial Vatican disdain for 1998 was less to do about dynamic equivalence vs formal equivalence than a debate about the value of the underlying Latin. But instead of having that discussion, the powers that be in Rome decided to insist on a formal equivalent translation to bypass the doctrinal debate.

    1. Thanks Devin; this touches on what I was clumsily trying to get at in an earlier post. Using statistical analysis to critique the differences in these texts leaves out the meaning, context and whole reason for being of these same texts. That methodology begins by reducing the texts to objects that can be counted and measured and then proceeds from there to make its point.

    2. This is extremely helpful. I’ll offer some observations here:
      – 1998 wasn’t about replacing the entirety of the past with something “modern.” It was about enhancing the tradition in the way Rome used to add new expressions and make them part of the catholic effort. Clearly, the lessons of the medieval period were lost on the late 20th century curia.
      – The rejection of 1998 may well have sprung from such considerations as mentioned here. Why not elucidate them, make them more clear? Lacking an adult, responsible argument, Rome looked spiteful, bitter, and envious. The worst of imperial Rome rather than the best of its expression of art, spirituality, and faith.
      – There is a reason Rome was well-regarded in the past: its orthodoxy and faithfulness in the face of the worst of the persecutions. Looking several centuries hence, who is to say the expressions of Christians in the churches that have suffered under 2nd millennium colonialism and racism won’t have something to prick the consciences of future worshippers?

    3. So the early Church viewed things differently. Our spirituality doesn’t not mesh with theirs. That is a call for an examination of conscience on our part.

      Not sure exactly what this means, especially the double negative. But what seems quite certain is that whether Devin thinks that our spirituality does in fact mesh with theirs or whether it’s that it doesn’t, neither warrants accusing today’s Christians of bad faith and needing to examine their consciences.

      The fact is that our present-day mindsets are different from those of, say, the 7th century, whether some of us like it or not. To acknowledge this difference is essentially no different from acknowledging the differences between the mindsets and competences of today’s archaeologists and historians in comparison with the less informed understandings of those of previous generations. People change and develop, they grow and move on. I don’t think telling people that their failure to espouse the same spirituality as their forebears over a millennium previously is a fault is at all helpful. It risks, in turn, an accusation of fundamentalism.

      1. I apologize about the double negative, I missed it when I reread the comment. Subtract one “not.

        I am not accusing anyone of bad faith. Things happen and change for various reasons. Some are good, bad, or neutral.

        I am not disagreeing that today’s mindsets are different. I agree on that front. What I would probably disagree about is whether in that is necessarily a good thing. And if not a good thing, what role the Church has in forming people’s mindsets.

        Another way of looking at this, is liturgy primary an expression of a congregation’s mindset as it is, or does it not form and change the spiritual mindset of a people by the act of prayer.

        I guess it would also be helpful to cite specifics about mindsets? Is there a particular text you have in mind from the current missal that either in literal translation or functional translation would clash with the modern mindset?

    4. The rejection of 1998 may well have sprung from such considerations as mentioned here. Why not elucidate them, make them more clear? Lacking an adult, responsible argument, Rome looked spiteful, bitter, and envious. The worst of imperial Rome rather than the best of its expression of art, spirituality, and faith.

      Yes indeed, and it’s also worth remembering that this sprang from the 1972 pact between Medina and Ratzinger to strive to overturn the outcomes of Vatican II.

  9. Devin, I can think of a few examples of mindsets that have appropriately expanded over the past 500-800 years. First, the discovery of human beings on previously unknown continents. What does that mean for universal salvation elucidated in the later prophets, and of course by Jesus in his mandatum at his Ascension? How has the colonialism of Christian Europe hampered the effort to evangelize the Americas, Africa, and east Asia” Clearly Rome views these territories as “mission” after a period of time the ancient Roman world became thoroughly “Christianized.” Certainly the shift from being a species at the mercy of the planet to having an entire planet mostly at our mercy. The last fifty years have reinforced our view of humankind in an unimaginably vast universe. God’s creation is limitless, not bound to a single planet. Also the more recent recognition of the value of women and people of color–it’s not a rich white man’s world anymore.

    The modern indulgences often cited: materialism, relativism, secularism, politics outside the mainstream–none of these are really new. At root they are about sins. We’ve always had greed, lust, envy, and other things. Sinful people have new tools. But many good new perspectives will lift modern people–men, women, and children–to a close connection with God. It baffles me why adding new perspectives is so bothersome to some people, and why the accusation is always levelled along the lines of “You’re cancelling my pet prayers!”

    1. Well, some of the mindset shifts you mention may not be as big as you imply. Justin Martyr held that virtuous pagans participated in the Logos (Christ). Aquinas in several places noted that implicit faith in the Creator and his Providence might suffice for salvation. And Dante also dealt with non-believers who never heard of Christ, or at least adequately. All of this well before the age of Discovery/Colonialism.

      As for adding new perspectives, I am not (necessarily) against that. As always, depends on those perspectives. Keeping the conversation focused on the missal, is there a particular text of the missal that you find the spirituality as being inadequate for the modern era?

      1. Nothing comes to mind at the moment. But I do think that the experience of an expanded cosmos is missing. Some of the illuminations in the St John’s Bible for example: depictions of the Earth from space, and I think I recall something from the middle of the Acts of the Apostles.

        I’ve heard a few things over the past few days, for example, in my archdiocese’s synod process, something of a “blame” laid at the feet of science for placing an overreliance on reason and logic for an exodus of teens and young adults from the Church. I’m not sure about that. But I do think that science these days does more for opening young minds to wonder than religion. I’m unwilling to cede that to astronomy or paleontology. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the hymn “earth and All Stars” for example, nor the inclusion of words like “galaxy” or “nebula” or “chromosome” or “mitochondrium” in Roman Rite prayers.

        Bottom line: the problem isn’t what’s in the Missal, but what’s not.

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