Pastor McCain on the Tridentine Mass and the Motu Proprio

Amid all the comments on Continuity and Discontinuity blog, Pastor Paul T. McCain asked:

Dave, have you done a post on your thoughts/reactions to the soon to be issued papal pronouncement on the Tridentine Mass?

Seem to me that the Old Order Mass will be a step backwards for Rome and will make it even easier for Roman parishes to fall back into precisely the very thing that Lutherans in the 16th century found *so* objectionable: the Mass as practiced by Rome.

Your thoughts? I will look forward to your thoughts on this. Thanks. Blessings, Paul.

A couple of quick thoughts:

1) It is worth pointing out that giving a universal indult for the celebration of the 1962 Mass will probably not have a great affect on the bulk of the Catholic population

2) There isn’t much in the Novus Ordo (Eucharistic Prayer I) which differs theologically from the 1962 Mass–although the English translations have perhaps obscured the similarity. We expect this latter situation to change anyway with the new translations in preparation (I think Lutherans would welcome the new translations personally). All the sacrificial language is still there. It isn’t as if that has been dropped in any way at all–except by those ignorant of the liturgy and doctrine of the Church. (I should point out that the sacrificial theology is present in all the Eucharist prayers, not just no. 1.)

3) It is true that post-Vatican II addressed the Reformation call for the liturgy in the vernacular. But the Novus Ordo Mass is still the Latin Mass and can be said in Latin at any time, so I don’t think that is an issue.

Is there an issue I haven’t addressed here? Perhaps if Pastor McCain were specific about what parts of the pre-Vatican II Mass were/are particularly objectionable to Lutherans, I could be more specific about whether these “objectionable parts” are still in the Novus Ordo.

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21 Responses to Pastor McCain on the Tridentine Mass and the Motu Proprio

  1. Athanasius says:

    David, I completely agree that the Motu will have little direct effect. I don’t anticipate a stampede to any kind of Latin mass, either Novus Ordo or Tridentine.

    I think the Motu is intended to achieve two things.

    The first is to restore continuity. The Motu will facilitate access to the patrimony of liturgical practice. Hopefully, we will learn something from it.

    Also, the decision to forbid the use of the Tridentine rite was (according to people who know their history) a breach of Catholic precedent that will now be set right.

    Second, it will take the decision about which rite to use away from bishops and liturgist elites, and move it closer to the people. Which may explain the girly-shrieks emerging from people like Bishop Trautmann in the US.

  2. Schütz says:

    I agree with all of this, Athanasias. Re-reading Pastor Paul’s original question, my mind boggles a little at his suggestion that “the Mass as practiced by Rome” should be anything else than “the Mass as practiced by Rome”! Perhaps that is the problem: the Mass as it has been practiced in many places for the last three or four decades has NOT been “the Mass as practiced by Rome”!

    (Although I should note that a marked exception to this is the Mass as celebrated by Archbishop Hart in the Cathedral of St Patrick here in Melbourne–which is and always has been “the Mass as practiced by Rome”. Last Friday’s episcopal ordination is a very good case in point.)

  3. P12 says:

    With respect, whilst the Masses celebrated at the Cathedral by the Archbishop are very close to the Mass “as practiced by Rome”, until such time as they are done facing “liturgical east” (which the Pope does when celebrating at the Papal Altar already, due to the particular orientation of St Peter’s) and in Latin (as Papal Masses generally are) then even in Melbourne – good though they are for vernacular Masses in the post V2 rite – the Masses are quite “not as practiced by Rome”.

  4. Athanasius says:

    Ah, but p12, we have forty years of church architecture to demolish before that happens!

    I’m gunna get me a jackhamnmer. I’ll let you ride the bulldozer.

  5. Christine says:

    It is interesting, though, that the call for celebrating the Tridentine Mass is coming from so many young people.

    It is often the case that the younger generation discovers and hungers for the treasures of previous generations.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi David – good point that the diffences between the Novus Ordo and T-Mass are often due to translation, not substance. However, on the Mass as sacrifice…I think it would be interesting to compare the *explanations* given in various centuries of what constitutes the specifically sacrificial nature of the mass. As I understand Rome today, to “offer the sacrifice” of the mass means none other than to get inside Christ’s self-offering of himself to the Father. As we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, as we are wrapped in his holiness, so the Church is incorporated into Christ’s self-giving to the Father for the life of the world. But if the RCC does explain the sacrificial dimension of the mass vaguely along these lines, did she always do so? ie at the time of Trent?

  7. Anonymous says:

    First off please excuse any gramtical errors or spelling. To say that we would by having the Tridentine mass freed up and not held under lock and key as before is a return to the past where we will loose any grounds that we made with our Protestan brethern or isolate them again would be a denial of our Catholic identity. To bring this understanding, let me remind, that Martin Luther, who was once an Augustine Catholic Priest, was correct on the abuses on indulgences in some places. Where He went a ground was he refused to believe that the Church could grant indulgences. Our Divine Master did give the keys to Saint Peter. If a Bishop lined his pockets with money from someone giving to the church he would have to answer for that.But if it goes to build a church for God’s Honor, then their is nothing wrong there. The persons who gave all be it deceived or not deceived both if done in the spirit of love where will derive in part or all removal of temporal punishment due to sin. For Our Master Said that you shall not get out to you pay the last price. And St. Paul said that when a just man fails he will be saved but through Fire. Luther to sum up denied the sacrifice of the Mass and real presence of Our Beloved God under the apperance of Bread and Wine; luther could not believe that the taste, touch and site of Bread and wine was kept there but the matter of Bread and the mater of Wine gone for it is Jesus now. Yes the Tridentine Mass is even more focused on the Sacrifice which St. Paul said that we have a Sacrifice that the priest of the temple are not worthy to participate in.Do we want to walk a way of Our Catholic identity handed down to us that St. Paul said cling to, So that when our Dvine Lord was explaning his real Presence to come, And He was testing the Apostles Faith, He said will you leave also. Will we leave also by watering down Our Sacred Mass as to be pleasing to Luther ideals and thus no longer holding true to that handed down to us. Thus becoming Protestan which was coined to me to protest against the Mass and Faith of Our
    Fathers. St Augustine who the Protestans like to Quote. Believed That the Mass is a Sacrifice for the Person Being Offered is the same; i.e., same victim same Priest and Same acceptance by the Same Eternal Father.

  8. Christine says:

    The understanding of anamnesis is of course very important to comprehending the Mass as sacrifice, which the extreme wing of the Reformation jettisoned.

    “Calling to mind the death of the Lord” is effected through anamnesis, not a mere mental recollection but the eucharistic action of the Church proclaiming the Lord’s death by making the Lord present to the worshipping community.

    Too many Protestants unfortunately still believe that in the Mass (or the Orthodox liturgy for that matter) Christ is crucified again and again. Because of the shift in theology from the Reformation it is hard for them to grasp the one and perfect Sacrifice made present in time and space at each Eucharistic celebration. We, too, become part of that perfect self-offering as Christ offers Himself to the Father.

  9. Paul T. McCain says:

    Dave, thanks for your comments. I apologize for my inept way of asking the questions, but it is because I do not know the proper terminology, etc.

    Here’s what I’m asking.

    Is the “Old Order/Tridentine” mass that appears to be very much desired by a goodly number of Roman Catholics what the motu proprio all about?

    Or is it just about doing the New Order Mass in Latin?

    My comments were predicated on my, perhaps false, assumption that the it was the restoration of the Tridentine Mass, which is only in Latin (correct?).

    And my further assumption, again perhaps wrong, is that the Tridentine Mass was in face reformed/changed/modified by Vatican II into what I understand is referred to as the New Order Mass?

    Thanks for whatever clarifications you can help.

    I am asking, not challenging, debating or otherwise. Just trying to get a handle on these things.

    My comment about the Tridentine Mass being perhaps the most objectionable to Lutherans and others is that it is this form of the Mass that the Lutheran Confessions most pointedly is referring to, or that form of the Mass closest to what the Mass was like in Luther’s day.


  10. Paul T. McCain says:

    Christine, if I could comment, on your comment. I would say it this way. Confessional Lutherans are concerned that the Mass is a resacrifice of Christ in a sacrificial way that goes beyond the sacrifice of thanksgiving, which we too believe in, to a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead.

    Martin Luther explains these concerns, in typically vivid detail, in the Smalcald Articles, specifically in this section:

    Hope this helps.

  11. Christine says:

    Pastor McCain,

    For Catholic Christians (and I believe the Orthodox) the Mass, or Divine Liturgy, is a true and propitiary sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead.

    One must be very cautious here to emphasize that the power of this atoning sacrifice is infinite because the power of the Cross is infinite.

    At Mass each generation is present at the cross, the tomb and the resurrection because the Sacrifice of the Mass is united to the one redeeming Sacrifice of the Cross. It unites back and forth, in space and time from that first celebration on Holy Thursday, joining Christians of every age.

    Christ is not “re-sacrificed” at every Mass, but His one, eternal Sacrifice is made present for all and in Holy Communion we receive a pledge of the glory to come, as Christ carries out His eternal priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as described in the Book of Hebrews. Heaven and earth unite each time the Paschal Mystery is renewed and we encounter the Divine in our midst.

    That was the case with the Latin Tridentine Mass which will be renewed by the Motu Proprio and the postconciliar Mass, whether celebrated in Latin or the vernacular.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share views.

  12. Andrew says:

    Mr. Schutz, how exactly does the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Novus Ordo differ theologically from the 1962 mass?

    Pastor McCain and Christine, here’s a passage from “Handbook of Prayers” (Scepter publishers 2001 p. 87) explaining what happens during mass: “The Church continues to offer the sacrifice of the cross, but in a bloodless manner. The Mass is neither a repition of nor a substitute for the cross, but the merit we gain from the Mass is the same merit that we would have gained had we actually been present at the foot of the cross on Cavalry.
    The historical event of Calvary does not, however, repeat itself, nor is it continued in each Mass. The sacrifice of Christ is perfect and, therefore, does not need to be repeated. Glorious in heaven, Christ does not die again. His sacrifice is not repeated; rather the presence of the singular sacrifice of the cross is multiplied, overcoming time and space”.

    Hope this is helpful.

  13. Christopher says:

    I believe the Tridentine Mass is performed in English near me in PA by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, so I don’t think Tridentine Mass necessarily equals ‘served in Latin’ just as Novus Ordo need not necessarily equal ‘served in the vernacular’. Latin and the traditional Latin Rite Mass are not the same, though they seem often to be confused in the minds of people since the Novus Ordo introduced both a new Rite and the use of a new language at the same time – the old Rite was not simply translated.

    An Orthodox explanation of the Sacrifice of the Mass by Fr. John Matusiak (OCA) is:

    “The Divine, or Eucharistic, Liturgy of the Orthodox Church recalls, as one prayer from the Liturgy states, “all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the Third Day, the Ascension into Heaven, and the Second and Glorious Coming. …” The Liturgy is not so much a reenactment of the Mystical Supper or these events as it is a continuation of these events, which are beyond time and space.”

    A longer explanation is:

    “Orthodox Theology sees the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice and this is affirmed in the words of the Priest, when he says, during the Eucharistic Canon, “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all.” The sacrifice offered at the Eucharist is Christ Himself, but He Who brings the sacrifice is also Christ. Christ is, at one and the same time, High Priest and Sacrifice. In the prayer before the Great Entrance, the Priest prays: “For Thou art the Offerer and the Offered, the Receiver and the Received, 0 Christ our God….” This Eucharist is offered to God – the Holy Trinity, and so if we ask the threefold question, What is offered? By Whom is it offered? To Whom is it offered? we say in answer, Christ. In addition, the sacrifice is offered “on behalf of all and for all,” for it is a sacrifice of redemption which is brought for the living and the dead.

    According to St. Nicholas Cabasilas, a medieval Orthodox teacher, the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist is, as follows: “In the first place, the sacrifice is not only an enactment or a symbol, but a real sacrifice. In the second, that which is sacrificed is not bread, but the very Body of Christ. In the third place, the Lamb of God was immolated only once and for all times. The Eucharist sacrifice consists not of the real or blood sacrifice of the Lamb, but in the transformation of bread into the sacrificed Lamb” [Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 32].

    According to the Orthodox Church, then, the Eucharist is not just a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice or of its enactment, but it is a real sacrifice. On the other hand, however, it is not a new sacrifice, nor a repetition of the Sacrifice of the Cross upon Golgotha. The events of Christ’s Sacrifice – the Incarnation, the Institution of the Eucharist, the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, are not repeated during the Eucharist, yet they become a present reality. As one Orthodox theologian has said, “During the Liturgy we are projected in time to that place where eternity and time intersect, and then we become the contemporaries of these events that we are calling to mind” [P. N. Evdokimov, L’Orthodoxie, p. 241]. Thus the Eucharist and all the Holy Liturgy is, in structure, a sacrificial service.

    How all this takes place is a mystery.” (

  14. Christopher says:

    I should also add that in Orthodoxy the Divine Liturgy is not considered to be one of the services of the day (the Hours, Matins, Vespers, etc.) as it is outside of time – it is a participation in eternity and the one sacrifice that is continually being offered once by Christ for us.

  15. Christine says:

    His sacrifice is not repeated; rather the presence of the singular sacrifice of the cross is multiplied, overcoming time and space”.

    Exactly. Recalling (anamnesis) into the present the salvific events of Calvary. The one unrepeatable sacrifice made present, or mystically “re-presented”.

    I believe we are saying the same thing.

  16. Christine says:

    Christopher, you are correct about the ministry of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, I was really more addressing the fact that the Holy Sacrifice is present in both the Tridentine and postconciliar liturgies. I know of several local parishes that offer the Novus Ordo in Latin.

  17. Past Elder says:

    I believe Rome and the East are saying the same thing too — not that there is a multiplication of Christ’s one sacrifice, but that the one sacrifice is present outside the normal confines of space and time.

    It’s interesting that our present level of scientific understanding would lend itself to this view. If matter and energy are related across the speed of time, then a massive disruption of the normal flow of matter such as a bodily resurrection and ascension would also entail a massive disruption in the normal flow of time, such as a presence of a single event in many Eucharists.

    What would be amazing, then, is not the transtemporalisation of matter, but the resurrection and ascension of the body as the Church has proclaimed all along (except for its liberals who taught me that is a myth whose truth is stating the relevance Jesus has for us), since we are now more able to understand that the former is actually a consequence of that latter according to the way God created Creation.

    Bring Luther back and put him through a little modern physics and I don’t think he’d have a problem with any of that. Nor as I read him did he have a problem with that in his own time. His objection seems to me to be not in that JESUS’ action of sacrifice is present in the mass, but that the Mass in Roman usage presents it as also an action WE are taking before God.

    As it was taught to me in ordinary non technical language before the council, in the Mass we become present at Jesus’ sacrifice, so that we offer it to God back to God with him. While this is de-emphasised in the post conciliar rites, it is still present, as one of the new Eucharistic Prayers says “may your angel take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven ..”. The whole tenor is set in the Orate Fratres: pray, brothers, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God …” That’s where the problem is — may, that, as if Jesus’ sacrifice were not already acceptable to God, as if his sacrifice were not already taken to his altar in heaven, as if he were not in the mass offering us “every grace and blessing”, not we offering him something in hope that he will do so for us. Which was subsumed in the way Mass was taught to me post council, that this is the community’s meal in which we find our self-understanding, a slightly different thing than before and off the mark with it and with the idea that mass is Jesus’ action not ours.

    Points of order: the motu does indeed refer to the Trent rite and not the novus ordo in its Latin original; the Tridentine rite is celebrated only in Latin; the novus ordo is not a translation of the Tridentine Rite into the vernaculars but a new rite, in Latin, then translated into the vernaculars. This is the whole basis of the ruckus. There are two “Latin Masses” — what is now called the Tridentine Rite only in Latin, and the novus ordo in its original Latin though hardly ever celebrated in Latin. To the traditionalist (read, Catholic) the novus ordo is at fault not because it is in the vernacular but because of its deviation even and most especially in its Latin original from what went before, and simply saying it in Latin or in better vernacular translations changes nothing. Which is also why the post conciliar church has been slow to allow it except under very defined circumstances.

    Oddly enough, it echoes the treatment of the vernacular in the catechism from Trent, which said there is no objective reason not to use the vernacular, but its association with worship as celebrated by doctrinal heretics makes it not advisable at this time since it might be taken as a move lending credence to their errors. In our time, even the post conciliar Church has not said there is anything “wrong” with the “Old” Mass, but that to allow it freely would seem to lend credence to those who insist on it holding that the “New” Mass is “wrong”.

    As to which is closed to Mass in Luther’s time — hard to say IMHO. Trent established a uniformity that was not there before, so among the many variations of Mass Luther may have encountered, I don’t think we can really say whether the Tridentine Rite or one of the four versions of the novus ordo is closer to what he experienced. But it doesn’t matter. I think the real question is, again, who is doing what here, are we offering or receiving, are we acting or is Christ, is it both, or what.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Without a doubt, the Traditional Mass is far more close to what Luther experienced in his life than the modern Novus Ordo Mass. Although there was some diversity within the Latin rite prior to Trent, it was not the intent of Trent to compose a new rite, but rather, to solidify the rite as it existed at that time, so that it might be practiced in the same manner universally. The Novus Ordo Missae of 1970, however, took the basic structure of the Mass and recast almost every prayer, deleted many of the signs, symbols (signs of the cross, genuflections, kissing of the altar, keeping fingers closed after the consecration, etc.), and removed some elements such as the prayers at the foot of the altar prior to mass, the last gospel for low mass, etc. Other parts of the NO were newly composed, such as the offertory prayers which were based upon Jewish models of blessing. (The traditional prayers were rejected because they were thought to speak of the offerings as if they were already consecrated.) In addition, other parts of the rite were moved around. For example, the asperges (the sprinkling rite) which was always outside of Mass (just prior to it) was now included in the Mass and now substitutes for the penitential rite when it is used. Almost all of the prayers for the Proper of Mass were either switched from other days, newly composed, or compiled from other various ancient sources.
    The Roman Canon was not touched for the most part, due to Paul VI’s insistence that it not be so. Yet, many of the ritual actions were removed. Furthermore, the words of consecration were altered and the mysterium fidei, once said by the priest alone, was removed from the institution narrative and placed at the beginning of the anamnesis (recalling of past events making them present here and now). Also, the lengthy list of saints was made optional in the prayer.
    Personally, I believe that there is a world of difference between the TM and NO (in Latin) and I would imagine any Catholic would say the same. The Old Rite is very much an organic rite which has developed from the earliest days of the Church, whereas the new Rite has rebuilt a new prayer structure on top of the general framework of the Mass. Finally, the goal of the new Mass was to increase the participation of the faithful (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23), whereas the goal of the Traditional Mass never had that as a primary aim, as it simply grew from the desire on the part of every Catholic to worship God.

  19. Past Elder says:

    Well said, Anonymous. I would add that, whereas I was taught post council that the rigid uniformity imposed by Trent choked the free expression of the Spirit, I was taught pre council that the uniformity Trent established corrected one of the abuses to which Luther validly objected, replacing free wheeling pastors and bishops whose peruliar practices may or may not express the intent of the church with a uniform rite that does express the intent of the church; therefore, by following the “rules” one insures that no matter the priest or the parish, the three elements necessary for a valid sacrament will always be present — matter, form and intent.

  20. Anonymous says:

    For Orthodox Christians, the Liturgy is a Sacrifice united with Christ’s Sacrifice and this is for the living and the dead. This is consistant teaching of both the Western Latin Church and the Orthodox Eastern Church

  21. Christine says:

    The whole tenor is set in the Orate Fratres: pray, brothers, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God …” That’s where the problem is — may, that, as if Jesus’ sacrifice were not already acceptable to God, as if his sacrifice were not already taken to his altar in heaven, as if he were not in the mass offering us “every grace and blessing”, not we offering him something in hope that he will do so for us.

    It seems to me that what is being addressed here is our interior disposition — at this point in the liturgy we are to offer ourselves in union with Jesus to the Father — the sacrifice of the Son is eternally acceptable to the Father and it is that sacrifice alone that enables us to become living sacrifices in union with Him.

    And then there’s that passage about “leaving one’s gift at the altar” if one needs to be reconciled with one’s brothers or sisters before making an offering to God — we are required to be living in harmony with one another as well as the Lord.

    Very Biblical.

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