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  What is Traditional Latin Mass ?


"…respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical
   tradition,   by a wide and generous application of the directives…(for the use of the Traditional Latin Mass.)"

-- Pope John Paul II's letter titled Ecclesia Dei  

What today we call the “Traditional Latin Mass” was called prior to the Second Vatican Council the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” or simply “The Holy Mass”.  

In the years following Vatican II and the introduction of the Novus Ordo or New Order (the New Liturgy), the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass began to be described in terms such as….the “old” Mass, or the “Latin” Mass or the “Tridentine” Mass to distinguish it from the New Liturgy of the post Vatican II years.

This sublime and sacred liturgy has always been known for its beauty, reverence, silence and mystery.  Perhaps this explains why so many people are attracted to this form of worship and in increasing number have requested this venerable Mass.

In response, Pope John Paul II in October 1984, granted permission for this same “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” to be offered with approval by the local bishop.  On July 2, 1988 Pope John Paul II expanded his earlier directives for this Mass by release of an Apostolic Letter called “Ecclesia Dei”.  In this letter he proclaimed…

“To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask support of the Bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.”

"By virtue of my Apostolic Authority I Decree ... respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See, for the use of the Roman Missal…of 1962.”

The Roman Catholic faithful may now ask their bishop that the traditional Latin Mass be offered every Sunday in their parish.

Why is it called the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass"?  

Michael Davies in his book, “The Tridentine Mass” wrote, “The Christian religion has only one sacrifice, the sacrifice that was once offered when Our Lord Jesus Christ, acting both as Priest and Victim, shed His Blood for us upon the Cross.  On Holy Thursday, at the Last Supper, our Savior offered this sacrifice in anticipation.  (The Last Supper was offered in anticipation of the Cross.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered in memory of the Cross.)  He also consecrated His Apostles as bishops, and commanded them to offer this selfsame sacrifice as His commemoration in order that, as the Council of Trent teaches us, ‘He might leave to his own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice such as the nature of man requires.’ Whenever this visible sacrifice is celebrated the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present.

When we assist at Mass we are present at Calvary .”

“The Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the Sacrifice of Calvary made present among us, a sacrifice at which we should dare to be present only in a spirit of the utmost reverence and the most abject humility, conscious of our unworthiness in the presence of the all-holy God.”

“In his Brief, Si quid est,  September 2, 1634, Pope Uban VIII evoked the spirit of wonder and reverence which must characterize every true Catholic when present at the Holy Sacrifice;  ‘If there is anything divine among man’s possessions which might excite the envy of the citizens of heaven (could they ever by swayed by such a passion), this is undoubtedly the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by means of which men, having before their eyes, and taking into their hands the very Creator of heaven and earth, experience, while still on earth, a certain anticipation of heaven.’”

Indeed, Rev. Fr. Frederick William Faber said in regards to the Mass, ‘It is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.’

 Why is this Mass sometimes called the 
"Tridentine" Mass?

“A distinction must be made between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself and the rite of the Mass in which it is offered.  There are many different rites of Mass, but the sacrifice itself, the making present of Calvary , is identical in every case.  A rite of Mass consists of the words and ceremonies surrounding the essential elements instituted by Our Lord.  The different rites of Mass evolved in a gradual and natural manner over the centuries.  Rev. Father Adrian Fortescue, England ’s greatest liturgical historians, has remarked that the Mass of the Roman Rite (as we knew it up to 1969) is the most venerable rite in Christendom.

It is unfortunate in one way that the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite is now generally referred to as the “Tridentine Mass”.  This practice has led to the widespread impression that it was composed following the Council of Trent.  The word “Tridentine” means pertaining to this Council –the Concilium Tridentinum—which took place at various periods between the years 1545 and 1563.  On the other hand, the term “Tridentine” provides a useful reminder that the traditional Mass embodies within its prayers and ceremonies the Eucharistic teaching of the Council of Trent, which, the Council commanded, must be held until the end of the world.”

Indeed it was St. Pius V who referred to the Mass as the Eternal Mass the Mass of All Ages.

A new Missal was not promulgated at the Council of Trent rather for the first time in the history of the Church the Council and Pope consolidated and codified it.

Fr. Fortescue explains…”The Protestant Reformers naturally played havoc with the old liturgy.  It was throughout the expression of the very ideas (the Real Presence, Eucharistic Sacrifice, and so on) they rejected.  SO they substituted for it new communion services that expressed their principles but, of course, broke away utterly from all historic liturgical evolution.  The Council of Trent (1545-1563), in opposition to the anarchy of these new services, wished the Roman Mass to be celebrated uniformly everywhere.  The medieval local uses had lasted long enough.  They had become very florid and exuberant; and their variety caused confusion.”

“The first priority of the Council of Trent was to codify Catholic Eucharistic teaching.  It did this in very great detail and in clear and inspiring terms.  Anathema was pronounced upon anyone who rejected this teaching, and the Fathers insisted that what they taught concerning the Eucharist must remain unmodified until the end of time.”

The ‘Tridentine’ Mass is indeed the most venerable rite in Christendom and in all essentials predates the Council of Trent by almost a millennium.

Why Latin?  

Latin remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and has been used as a liturgical language in the West since the third century. The unchanging nature of the Latin language has preserved the orthodox doctrine of the Mass handed down from the Early Church Fathers. The use of Latin in the Mass and in official Church documents has been fundamental in supporting the universality and unity of the Church.

Although the Mass is said or sung by the priest in Latin,  those members of the congregation who have their own prayer books will find English text printed along side the corresponding Latin text.  Therefore, anyone who is able to read, adult to the youngest child, is able to practice interior or quiet prayer, while following the priest and the prayers of the Mass.

Visitors to St. Alphonsus Church will find small, red-covered, missalettes available in the back of the church which they may borrow.  The missalettes contain all the common prayers, those prayers which are the same for nearly every Mass.   The ‘proper prayers’ which include the Introit, Gradual, Epistle, Gospel and others…which vary with the days of the Liturgical Year are provided in the form of an ‘insert’ for each Mass. 



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