1. As Christ the Lord was about to celebrate with the disciples the paschal supper in which he instituted the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, he commanded that a large, furnished upper room be prepared (Lk 22:12). Indeed, the Church has always judged that this command also applied to herself whenever she decided about things related to the disposition of people's minds, and of places, rites, and texts for the Celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist. The present norms, too, prescribed in keeping with the will of the Second Vatican Council, together with the new Missal with which the Church of the Roman Rite will henceforth celebrate the Mass, are again a demonstration of this same solicitude of the Church, of her faith and her unaltered love for the supreme mystery of the Eucharist, and also attest to her continuous and consistent tradition, even though certain new elements have been introduced.

Testimony of an Unaltered Faith

2. The sacrificial nature of the Mass, solemnly defended by the Council of Trent, because it accords with the universal tradition of the Church,[1] was once more stated by the Second Vatican Council, which pronounced these clear words about the Mass: "At the Last Supper, Our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, by which the Sacrifice of his Cross is perpetuated until he comes again; and till then he entrusts the memorial of his Death and Resurrection to his beloved spouse, the Church."[2]

What is taught in this way by the Council is consistently expressed in the formulas of the Mass. Moreover, the doctrine which stands out in the following sentence, already notable and concisely expressed in the ancient Sacramentary commonly called the Leonine—"for whenever the memorial of this sacrifice is celebrated the work of our redemption is accomplished"[3]—is aptly and exactly expounded in the Eucharistic Prayers; for as in these the Priest enacts the anamnesis, while turned towards God likewise in the name of all the people, he renders thanks and offers the living and holy sacrifice, that is, the Church's oblation and the sacrificial Victim by whose death God himself willed to reconcile us to himself;[4] and the Priest also prays that the Body and Blood of Christ may be a sacrifice which is acceptable to the Father and which brings salvation to the whole world.[5]

So, in the new Missal the rule of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church corresponds to her perennial rule of faith (lex credendi), by which we are truly taught that the sacrifice of his Cross and its sacramental renewal in the Mass, which Christ the Lord instituted at the Last Supper and commanded his Apostles to do in his memory, are one and the same, differing only in the manner of their offering; and as a result, that the Mass is at one and the same time a sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving, propitiation, and satisfaction.

3. Moreover, the wondrous mystery of the real presence of the Lord under the Eucharistic species, confirmed by the Second Vatican Council[6] and other teachings of the Church's Magisterium[7] in the same sense and with the same doctrine as the Council of Trent proposed that it must be believed,[8] is proclaimed in the celebration of the Mass, not only by the very words of consecration by which Christ is rendered present through transubstantiation, but also with a sense and a demonstration of the greatest reverence and adoration which strives for realization in the Eucharistic liturgy. For the same reason, the Christian people are led to worship this wondrous Sacrament through adoration in a special way on Thursday of the Lord's Supper in Holy Week and on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

4. In truth, the nature of the ministerial Priesthood proper to the Bishop and the Priest, who offer the Sacrifice in the person of Christ and who preside over the gathering of the holy people, shines forth in the form of the rite itself, on account of the more prominent place and function given to the Priest. The essential elements of this function are set out and explained clearly and extensively in the Preface for the Chrism Mass on Thursday of Holy Week, the day, namely, when the institution of the Priesthood is commemorated. For in the Preface is made clear how the conferral of Priestly power is accomplished through the laying on of hands; and, by the listing one by one of its duties, that power is described which is the continuation of the power of Christ, the High Priest of the New Testament.

5. Moreover, by this nature of the ministerial Priesthood, something else is put in its proper light, something certainly to be held in great esteem, namely, the royal Priesthood of the faithful, whose spiritual sacrifice is brought to completion through the ministry of the Bishop and the Priests, in union with the Sacrifice of Christ, the sole Mediator.[9] For the celebration of the Eucharist is the action of the whole Church, and in it each one should carry out solely but totally that which pertains to him, in virtue of the place of each within the People of God. The result of this is that greater consideration is also given to some aspects of the celebration that have sometimes been accorded less attention in the course of the centuries. For this people is the People of God, purchased by Christ's Blood, gathered together by the Lord, nourished by his word, the people called to present to God the prayers of the entire human family, a people that gives thanks in Christ for the mystery of salvation by offering his Sacrifice, a people, finally, that is brought together in unity by Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ. This people, though holy in its origin, nevertheless grows constantly in holiness by conscious, active, and fruitful participation in the mystery of the Eucharist.[10]

Uninterrupted Tradition

6. When it set out its instructions for the renewal of the Order of Mass, the Second Vatican Council, using, namely, the same words as did St. Pius V in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, by which the Missal of Trent was promulgated in 1570, also ordered, among other things, that a number of rites be restored "to the original norm of the holy Fathers."[11] From the fact that the same words are used, it can be noted how the two Roman Missals, although four centuries have intervened, embrace one and the same tradition. Furthermore, if the inner elements of this tradition are reflected upon, it is also understood how outstandingly and felicitously the older Roman Missal is brought to fulfillment in the later one.

7. In truly difficult times, when the Catholic faith in the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the ministerial Priesthood, and the real and perpetual presence of Christ under the Eucharistic species were called into question, St. Pius V was first of all concerned with preserving the more recent tradition, then unjustly assailed, introducing only very slight changes into the sacred rite. In fact, the Missal of 1570 differs very little from the very first printed edition of 1474, which in turn faithfully takes up again the Missal used in the time of Pope Innocent III. Moreover, manuscript books in the Vatican Library, even though they provided material for several textual emendations, by no means made it possible to pursue inquiry into "ancient and approved authors" further back than the liturgical commentaries of the Middle Ages.

8. Today, however, innumerable writings of scholars have shed light on the "norm of the holy Fathers," which the revisers of the Missal of St. Pius V assiduously followed. For following the first publication in 1571 of the Sacramentary called the Gregorian, critical editions of other ancient Roman and Ambrosian Sacramentaries were disseminated, often in printed form, as were ancient Hispanic and Gallican liturgical books; these editions brought to light numerous prayers of no slight spiritual value but previously unknown.

In the same way, traditions of the first centuries, before the rites of East and West were formed, are now better known because of the discovery of so many liturgical documents.

Furthermore, continuing progress in the study of the holy Fathers has also shed upon the theology of the mystery of the Eucharist the light brought by the doctrine of such illustrious Fathers of Christian antiquity as St. Irenaeus, St. Ambrose, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and St. John Chrysostom.

9. Hence, the "norm of the holy Fathers" requires not only the preservation of what our immediate forebears have handed on to us, but also an understanding and a more profound pondering of the Church's entire past ages and of all the ways in which her one faith has been expressed in forms of human and social culture so greatly differing among themselves, indeed, as those prevailing in the Semitic, Greek, and Latin regions. Moreover, this broader view allows us to see how the Holy Spirit endows the People of God with a marvelous fidelity in preserving the unalterable deposit of faith, even though there is a very great variety of prayers and rites.

Accommodation to New Conditions

10. Hence, the new Missal, while bearing witness to the Roman Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi), also safeguards the deposit of faith handed down by the more recent Councils and marks in its turn a step of great importance in liturgical tradition.

For, when the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the dogmatic pronouncements of the Council of Trent, they spoke at a far different time in world history, and, for that reason, were able to bring forward proposals and measures regarding pastoral life that could not have even been foreseen four centuries earlier.

11. The Council of Trent had already recognized the great catechetical usefulness contained in the celebration of Mass but was unable to bring out all its consequences in regard to actual practice. In fact, many at that time requested that permission be given to use the vernacular in celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice. To such a request, the Council, by reason of the circumstances of that age, judged it a matter of duty to answer by insisting once more on the teaching of the Church as had been handed on, according to which the Eucharistic Sacrifice is in the first place the action of Christ himself, whose inherent efficacy is therefore unaffected by the manner in which the faithful participate in it. The Council for this reason stated in these firm and likewise measured words: "Although the Mass contains much instruction for the faithful people, it did not seem to the Fathers expedient, however, that it be celebrated indiscriminately in the vernacular."[12] And the Council declared worthy of censure anyone maintaining that "the rite of the Roman Church, in which part of the Canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low voice, is to be condemned, or that the Mass must be celebrated only in the vernacular."[13] Nevertheless, at the same time as it prohibited the use of the vernacular in the Mass, it ordered, on the other hand, pastors of souls to put appropriate catechesis in its place: "Lest Christ's flock go hungry . . . the Holy Synod commands pastors and each and all of those others having the care of souls that frequently during the celebration of Mass, either personally or through others, they should explain what is read at Mass; and expound, among other things, something of the mystery of this most holy Sacrifice, especially on Sundays and feast days."[14]

12. Hence, the Second Vatican Council, having come together in order to accommodate the Church to the requirements of her proper apostolic office precisely in these times, considered thoroughly, as had the Council of Trent, the catechetical and pastoral character of the Sacred Liturgy.[15] And since no Catholic would now deny a sacred rite celebrated in Latin to be legitimate and efficacious, the Council was also able to concede that "not rarely adopting the vernacular language may be of great usefulness for the people" and gave permission for it to be used.[16] The eagerness with which this measure was everywhere received has certainly been so great that it has led, under the guidance of the Bishops and the Apostolic See itself, to permission for all liturgical celebrations in which the people participate to be in the vernacular, so that the people may more fully understand the mystery which is celebrated.

13. In this regard, although the use of the vernacular in the Sacred Liturgy is a means, admittedly of great importance, for expressing more clearly cate-chesis on the mystery, a catechesis inherent in the celebration itself, the Second Vatican Council ordered additionally that certain prescriptions of the Council of Trent that had not been followed everywhere be brought to fruition, such as the Homily to be given on Sundays and feast days[17] and the faculty to interject certain explanations during the sacred rites themselves.[18]

Above all, the Second Vatican Council, which recommended "that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the Priest's Communion, receive the Lord's Body from the same Sacrifice,"[19] called for another desire of the Fathers of Trent to be put into effect, namely, that for the sake of a fuller participation in the Holy Eucharist "at each Mass the faithful present should communicate not only by spiritual desire but also by sacramental reception of the Eucharist."[20]

14. Prompted by the same intention and pastoral zeal, the Second Vatican Council was able to give renewed consideration to what was established by Trent on Communion under both kinds. And indeed, since nowadays the doctrinal principles on the complete efficacy of Eucharistic Communion received under the species of bread alone are not in any way called into question, the Council gave permission for the reception on occasion of Communion under both kinds, because this clearer form of the sacramental sign offers a particular opportunity for understanding more deeply the mystery in which the faithful participate.[21]

15. In this manner the Church, while remaining faithful to her office as teacher of truth, safeguarding "things old," that is, the deposit of tradition, fulfills at the same time the duty of examining and prudently adopting "things new" (cf. Mt 13:52).

For part of the new Missal orders the prayers of the Church in a way more open to the needs of our times. Of this kind are above all the Ritual Masses and Masses for Various Needs, in which tradition and new elements are appropriately brought together. Thus, while a great number of expressions, drawn from the Church's most ancient tradition and familiar through the many editions of the Roman Missal, have remained unchanged,
numerous others have been accommodated to the needs and conditions proper to our own age, and still others, such as the prayers for the Church, for the laity, for the sanctification of human labor, for the community of all nations, and certain needs proper to our era, have been newly composed, drawing on the thoughts and often the very phrasing of the recent documents of
the Council.

On account, moreover, of the same attitude toward the new state of the world as it now is, it seemed to cause no harm at all to so revered a treasure if some phrases were changed so that the language would be in accord with that of modern theology and would truly reflect the current state of the Church's discipline. Hence, several expressions regarding the evaluation and use of earthly goods have been changed, as have several which alluded to a certain form of outward penance which was proper to other periods of the Church's past.

In this way, finally, the liturgical norms of the Council of Trent have certainly been completed and perfected in many particulars by those of the Second Vatican Council, which has carried into effect the efforts to bring the faithful closer to the Sacred Liturgy that have been taken up these last four centuries and especially those of recent times, and above all the attention to the Liturgy promoted by St. Pius X and his Successors.



[1] Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, September 17, 1562: Enchiridion Symbolorum, H. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, editors (editio XXXIII, Freiburg: Herder, 1965; hereafter, Denz-Schön), nos. 1738-1759.

[2] Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 47; cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, nos. 3, 28; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, nos. 2, 4, 5.

[3] Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Prayer over the Offerings. Cf. Sacramentarium Veronense, L.C. Mohlberg editor, no. 93.

[4] Cf. Eucharistic Prayer III.

[5] Cf. Eucharistic Prayer IV.

[6] Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 7, 47; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, nos. 5, 18.

[7] Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter, Humani generis, August 12, 1950: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 42 (1950), pp. 570571; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Mysterium fidei, September 3, 1965: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 57 (1965), pp. 762769; Paul VI, Solemn Profession of Faith, June 30, 1968, nos. 24-26: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 60 (1968), pp. 442-443; Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction, Eucharisticum mysterium, May 25, 1967, nos. 3f, 9: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 59 (1967), pp. 543, 547.

[8] Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIII, October 11, 1551: Denz-Schön, nos.

[9] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, no. 2.

[10] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 11.

[11] Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 50

[12] Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, September 17, 1562, chapter 8: Denz-Schön, no. 1749.

[13] Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, September 17, 1562, chapter 9: Denz-Schön, no. 1759.

[14] Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, September 17, 1562, chapter 8: Denz-Schön, no. 1749.

[15] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 33.

[16] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 36.

[17] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 52.

[18] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 35, 3.

[19] Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 55.

[20] Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, September 17, 1562, chapter 6: Denz-Schön, no. 1747.

[21] Cf. Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 55.