Commission on Liturgy of the Diocese of Baguio City, Philippines: Introduction to the Traditional Latin Mass

by Fr. Andres M. Cosalan, Jr. (March 04, 2009)

Filipinos today are not familiar with the TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS. Those who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s would have faint memories of how the Holy Mass then was celebrated: “The priest had his back on the people, mumbling Latin prayers, and the people remained silent most of the time during the liturgy.

A.  A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY…

The traditional Latin Mass originated in Rome.  When St Paul wrote his letter to the Romans around 58 A.D., there was already an existing Christian community there for some time.  The Holy Masss, which is the celebration of the Eucharist, was simpler then and said in Greek, the popular language throughout the Roman Empire.  through the centrureis, however, rites and customs were introduced into the Holy Mass, and Latin eventually became the language of the liturgy.  The popes, who were the bishops of Rome, now and then, set regulations that gradually shaped the Latin Mass.

By the sixteenth century, Pope St. Pius V issued the Roman Missal that would be used for the Latin Mass.  This was a revision of earlier missals, and since this was in line with the reforms of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the traditional Latin Mass was also called the TRIDENTINE MASS.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) called for a reform of the liturgy of the Church.  This would include a revision of the traditional Latin Mass.  Pope Paul VI came up with a new rite of the Holy Mass with the issuance of the 1969 Roman Missal (Novus Ordo).  The traditional Latins Mass was then restricted.  The new rite became more popular, since the Holy Mass could also be celebrated in the vernacular.

There are Catholics in many parts of the world who have continued valuing the traditional Latin Mass.  It is for this reason that the recent popes have called for a wider use of the traditional Latins Mass.  Pope John Paul II in 1984 granted permisson to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass and in 1988 exhorted bishopes to be accomodating on this matter.

Finally, on July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI came up with his apostolic letter concerning the traditional Latin Mass – SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM.  The Holy Father wrote that the traditional Latin Mass was “never abrogated” and that it would be the “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite of the Mass while the Novus Ordo would be the “ordinary form” of the same Rite.  Any priest then may celebrate the Holy Mass in any of these forms without special permission from authorieties.  Likewise, lay people may request priests to celberate the traditional Latin Mass for them.

B.  COMPARING THE TWO FORMS

What are the differences between the traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and the Novus Ordo (NvOr)?  There are big and small differences.  Here are some:

  1. Liturgical Calendar. The TLM uses the liturgical calendar of the Church before the reforms of Vatican II.  The NvOr uses the liturgical calendar reformed after Vatican II, with the removal of introduction of some feasts and seasons.
  2. Prayers of the Mass. The TLM has more references to the sacrificial character of the Holy Mass in its prayers.  It also uses only one Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon.  The NvOr has four possible Eucharistic Prayers, with four others for particular occasions.
  3. Readings of the Mass.  The TLM generally has two Readins and follws a one-year cycle.  It also has a Last Gospel: the reading of the Prologue of the Gospel of John at the end of the Mass.  The NvOr has three Readings for the Sunday Masses and follows a three-year cycle.
  4. Language.  In the TLM, only Latin can be used for the Holy Mass.  In the NvOr, Latin or the vernacular (English, Spanish, Ilocano, Tagalog, Cebuano, etc.) may be used.
  5. Direction of the Celebration.  In the TLM, the priest and the congreagation face the East (ad orientem) from which direction Christ will return, according to biblical tradition.  The altar then is attached to the wall, usually at the eastside of the church.  In the NvOr, the priest ais allowed to face the people (versus populum) for pastoral reasons.  The altar then is set for such purpose.
  6. Active Participation of the Laity.  In the TLM, the idea of active participation of the laity is responding to the prayers when called upon, singing and following with one’s missal.  Silence in most parts of the Holy Mass is considered an interior participation.  In the NvOr, the laity not only respond to prayers and sing during the Holy Mass but even do the REadings (except the Gospel) and lead some prayers.
  7. Reception of Holy Communion.  In the TLM, Holy Communion can be received only on the tongue.  Only the priest can give the Holy Eucharist.  In the NvOr, Holy Communion may be received on the tongue and, depending on the permission of a Bishops’ Conference, also on the hand.  For pastoral reasons, lay Eucharistic ministers may even assist a priest in giving Holy Communion.
  8. Altar Rail.  In chrches and chapels where the TLM is celebrated, an altar rail spearates the sanctuary symbolizing heaven, from the nave, symbolizing the earth.  The Holy Mass is offered on the altar in the sanctuary, and people receive Holy Communion at the altar rail, the “gates” of heaven.  For the NvOr, altar rails have been removed, and people line up to receive Holy Communion from the priest, although forms of respect, like bowing or genuflecting, are expected.

C.  STRUCTURE OF THE MASS

The traditional Latin Mass has two main parts:

  1. Mass of the Catechumens
  2. Mass of the Faithful

The catechumens refer to those who were being prepared for baptism.  In the early church, they were only allowed to participate in the first part of the Mass, after which they were asked to leave before the second part of the Mass started.The faithful refers to the baptized members of the Church.  They participated in both the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful.  As baptized Christians, they could partake the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

  • Mass of the Catechuments.  Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, Prayers at the Altar, Readings and Homily.
  • Mass of the Faithful. Offertory, Consecration, Communion, Blessing and Last Gospel

D.  QUESTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

When Pope Benedict XVI issued his apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, he accompanied it with an explanatory letter addressed to all bishops of the Church.  Here, he addressed two questions raised concerning the traditional Latin Mass:

First: Does not the traditional Latin Mass detract from the liturgical reforms of Vaticna II?

The Pope answered that the traditional Latin Mass was “never abrogated and consequently, in principle, was always permitted… In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

Second: Does not the liberal use of the Traditional Latin Mass creat disarray and even division in parish communities?

To this question, the Pope answered: “This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded.  The use of the old Missal (traditional Latin Mass) presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.  Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal (Novus Ordo) will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.

In any case, Pope Benedict XVI also reaffirmed the value and holiness of the Novus Ordo: “Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage (traditional Latin Mass) cannot , as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books (Novus Ordo).  The total exclusion of the new rite (Novus Ordo) would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.

E.  REGULATIONS

Here is the summary of the regulations set by Summorum Pontificum on the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass (TLM):

  1. Any Catholic priest of good standing may celbrate the TLM privately on any day except during the EAster Triduum (Holy Thursday-Easter Sunday).  there is no need for permission from the Apostolic See or the local Bishop.
  2. Religious communities may celbrate the TLM in their oratories.
  3. In parishes where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the TLM, the parish priest should be willing to accept their request for such Mass.
  4. Upon request by the faithful, marriages, funerals and occasional Masses may be celbrated according to the TLM.
  5. The Readings during the TLM may be in the vernacular.
  6. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy the desire of the faithful for a TLM.  He may even erect a personal parish for such purpose.

F.  SOME REMINDERS

  1. Upon entering a Catholic church or chapel, make the Sign of the Cross with the holy water.  This is a simple prayer of faith in the Most Blessed Trinity.  It is also an expression of our belief that Christ redeemed us by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.  The holy water reminds us of the Sacrament of Baptism by which we became children of god and members of His family, the Church.
  2. Make a genuflexion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  It is a sign of adoration and respect to the Risen Christ truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist.
  3. Observe modesty even in external attire.  We should not be a cause of distraction, scandal or sin against chastity to others.  Men may not wear shorts.  It is advisable that women wear dresses and use veils.
  4. Observe silence inside the church, since it is primarily a place of prayer.  It is an act of charity not to distrub others who are in prayer.  Cell phones must be deactivated, never used inside churches.
  5. To be able to follow the Tridentine Mass, which is all said in Latin, it would be helpful to use a missal booklet that contains an English translation.

G.  TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS IN BAGUIO CITY

Schedule: Every Sunday, 7:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M.

Venue: Chapel of Our Lady of Atonement (Back of the Baguio Cathedral).

Source: Rorate Caeli

Advertisements