Novus Ordo Missae

From Academic Kids

 Lt. Cmdr. Allen R. Kuss, the Roman Catholic priest aboard the  (CVN 65) celebrates the Catholic Mass on a Sunday evening in the ship's multi-denominational chapel (Oct. 5, 2003).
Lt. Cmdr. Allen R. Kuss, the Roman Catholic priest aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) celebrates the Catholic Mass on a Sunday evening in the ship's multi-denominational chapel (Oct. 5, 2003).

Novus Ordo Missæ (New Order of the Mass) is the term many use to refer to the Roman-rite liturgy of the Mass as revised by the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. The revision, promulgated in 1969, was published in the 1970 edition of the Roman Missal, one relatively small section of which is called "Ordo Missae" (Order of the Mass), and another yet smaller section "Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, hereinafter referred to by the acronym GIRM).[1] ( Later, in 1975 and 2000, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II made slight further revisions. People who do not take a negative view of the present form of the Mass liturgy prefer to speak of it precisely as such or to use terms such as Mass of Pope Paul VI, Pauline Mass, Vatican II Mass.


Order of the Mass

  • Introductory Rites
  1. Greeting
  2. Penitential Rite (which can be replaced by Sprinkling Rite, especially during the Easter season)
  3. Kyrie
  4. Gloria - only sung at Mass on Sundays, solemnities and feasts; omitted during Advent and Lent
  5. Opening Prayer
  • Liturgy of the Word
  1. First Reading (on Sundays, this is taken from the Old Testament most of the year, from the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season; on weekdays, outside of Eastertide, it can be from either the Old or the New Testament)
  2. Responsorial Psalm
  3. Second Reading - from the New Testament; only read at Masses on Sunday and other solemnities (the most important feasts)
  4. Gospel Acclamation - "Alleluia" most of the year; a less joyful acclamation during Lent
  5. Gospel
  6. Homily
  7. Profession of Faith - said at Sunday and other solemn Masses
  8. General Intercessions
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
  1. Preparation of the Altar and the Gifts
  2. Prayer over the Gifts
  3. Eucharistic Prayer
    1. Preface
    2. Acclamation - "Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus" ("Holy Holy Holy")
    3. Pre-consecration Epiclesis
    4. Consecration - bread and wine transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ
    5. Memorial Acclamation
    6. Anaphora
    7. Post-consecration Epiclesis and Intercessions
    8. Concluding Doxology
  4. Lord's Prayer
  5. Sign of Peace
  6. Breaking of the Bread - "Agnus Dei" ("Lamb of God")
  7. Communion
  8. Prayer after Communion
  • Concluding Rite
  1. Blessing
  2. Dismissal

First steps

The desire to change some or all of the Mass is usually traced to the modern Liturgical movement, most notably started by Dom Guerenger from the Abbey of Solesmes. Originally this movement desired to correct what were perceived to be abuses that had crept into the celebration of the Mass, and to restore older practices which were thought to be better. This included a focus on repopularizing Gregorian Chant, and encouraging the congregation to join vocally in the prayers and chanting of the Mass.

Prior to this, the Missal had been subject to changes ever since it was codified by order of the Council of Trent: Pope Clement VIII made a general revision, [2] ( as did Pope Urban VIII ([3] ( Other Popes added new celebrations or made minor adjustments. But it was the twentieth century that saw work begin on a more radical rewriting. Until then, thousands of words had been added to the Missal, as revised and promulgated by Pope Pius VI, but only 26 to the Ordo Missae part.

In response to desires expressed at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), Pope Pius X (1903-1914) introduced a new arrangement of the Psalter for use in the Breviary, and forbade the use of the former arrangement from 1 January 1913 on. In the bull Divino afflatu,[4] ( by which he ordered this change, he stated that he had thereby "made a first step towards a correction of the Roman Breviary and Missal", an aim for which he would soon set up a commission of experts. This bull was printed in all editions of the Roman Missal from then until 1970.

Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) first made substantial revisions in the Missal for the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil) and the Vigil of Pentecost.

The Mass of the Lord's Supper was moved from the morning to the evening of Holy Thursday, making room for insertion into the Missal of a morning Chrism Mass. He inserted into the evening Mass the rite of the washing of feet, and for the first time made the text mention the giving of communion to the faithful, at which he abolished the recitation of the Confiteor (an anticipation of the 1970 general revision).

The Good Friday service was moved from morning to afternoon. While the choir sang during veneration of the cross, the priest no longer had to read the same texts along with those near to him; communion was no longer reserved for the priest alone; and, among other changes, the 1970 revision of the Missal was anticipated by omitting the priest’s prayer before communion, "Panem caelestem accipiam."

The yet more numerous changes in the Easter Vigil service (which was no longer to be celebrated on Saturday morning) included the following: the triple candlestick on which one candle at a time was lit at the beginning of the service was abolished; newly invented rites were inserted, such as renewing baptismal promises (which could be done in the vernacular) and inscribing on the Easter candle the Arabic numerals of the year; the prayer for the emperor in the Exsultet was replaced by a newly composed prayer; eight Old Testament readings were omitted, another was shortened, and the priest was no longer obliged to read the other passages to himself, while someone else read or chanted them aloud; the “Last Gospel” (John 1:1-14) with which, before 1970, Mass customarily ended was already omitted in the revised Easter Vigil Mass, as also on Holy Thursday.

At the Vigil of Pentecost, the traditional blessing of baptismal water, accompanied by the Litany of the Saints and six Old Testament readings, was omitted completely.

The short-lived next Pontiff, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), apart from adding some feasts, made only two changes in the text of the Missal: he deleted from the Good Friday prayer for the Jews the word “perfidi”, and he added the name of Saint Joseph to the Canon (or Eucharistic Prayer) of the Mass. The second of these changes was particularly significant, since until then many had considered the Canon of the Mass practically untouchable.

One other trend was the desire for the vernacular language to be used in some or all of the Mass with the intention that the congregation might draw spiritual nourishment from it. This was especially desired for the readings from Scripture at Mass. In his encyclical Mediator Dei, 60[5] ( Pope Pius XII stated that “the use of the mother tongue in connection with several of the rites may be of much advantage to the people. But the Apostolic See alone is empowered to grant this permission.” He gave a general permission to use the vernacular at the renewal of baptismal promises in the revised Easter Vigil.

Another major group was those who studied the origin and evolution of the liturgy, most famously Adrian Fortesque. This group desired the possible return of old practices that were dropped from the liturgy over time, such as:

  • Receiving communion by the congregation under the forms of both bread and wine
  • Mass whereby the celebrant faces the people
  • Incorporating a procession of the offerings

These same thinkers also sought the removal of what might be called the "accidents" of the evolution of the rite, such as:

  • The priest blessing the host and chalice after they were consecrated, puzzling for some, as it is Catholic faith that the body and blood of Jesus are really, truly and substantially present at that point, although the sensible appearances are those of bread and wine.
  • The dramatic shaping of the rite by secular music, causing the priest many times during the rite to sit down and wait for long pieces of music to stop playing, also causing much of the prayers of the priest to be said silently, etc.

Another trend controversially alleged to have been a factor in the development of the Mass was that of ecumenism, or the desire to unify schismatic or separated, Christian denominations. Ecumenism was a main theme of the Second Vatican Council and is, without evidence, seen by many to have influenced the development of the changes applied to the Mass.

The 1970 Roman Missal

The Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, [6] ( promulgating the 1970 Roman Missal, singled out for special mention the following changes:

1. Three new canons or eucharistic prayers were added to the single one that the Roman rite previously used. The only obligatory alteration to the traditional Roman Canon was that, at the consecration, the words “Mysterium fidei” were removed from the context of the words of Christ. They are now said by the priest as an introduction to an acclamation by the faithful.

2. The rites indicated in the Ordo Missae were “simplified, with due care to preserve their substance”; “elements which with the passage of time came to be duplicated or were added with but little advantage” were eliminated; and “other elements which suffered injury through accidents of history” were restored “to the earlier norm of the holy Fathers” (a phrase echoing Pope Pius V’s Bull Quo primum[7] ( The phrases here enclosed in quotation marks come from the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.[8] ( [9] (

3. A much larger portion of the holy Scriptures is read to the people: the present three readings (four, if you count the Psalm) over three years of Sundays more than quadruple the previous two readings in a single-year cycle; and, in addition, a two-year cycle of readings from Scripture has been assigned to weekdays, which previously, except for Lent and a few other days, had only a repetition of the previous Sunday’s readings.

In addition to these three changes, the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, [10] ( mentions that the revision considerably modified other sections of the Roman Missal, such as the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, the Common of Saints, Ritual Masses and Votive Masses, adding that "[the] number [of the prayers] has been increased, so that the new forms might better correspond to new needs, and the text of older prayers has been restored on the basis of the ancient sources."

The Mass of the Priest was brought more into line with the Mass of the Bishop. At the part of the Mass known as the "Offertory", where the wine and water are brought to the altar, this was allowed to be done as a procession. The Kiss of Peace ritual, previously limited to High Mass, was allowed at every Mass and was extended to the laity. The form it takes varies according to local custom; in most countries, it takes the form of a handshake.

Other changes

Vernacular language

Permission was granted for national conferences of bishops to authorize the use of vernacular languages in place of Latin. Almost immediately all conferences granted this permission and therefore almost all Masses throughout the world came to be celebrated in the vernacular, or local language, instead of Latin.

Communion under both kinds

The 1970 Roman Missal envisages the giving of Communion to the faithful under the appearance of wine as well as under the appearance of bread. The very few circumstances (GIRM (, 242) in which this was at first permitted were gradually extended. As a result, in many churches it is availed of at every Mass. This is a return to a practice that had largely fallen into disuse in Western Europe even before the Council of Trent, and the revised Roman Missal therefore insisted that “Priests should use the occasion to teach the faithful the Catholic doctrine on the form of Communion, as affirmed by the Council of Trent. They should first be reminded that, according to Catholic faith, they receive the whole Christ and the genuine sacrament when they participate in the sacrament even under one kind and that they are not thus deprived of any grace necessary for salvation”. (GIRM (, 241)

The Priest's orientation

Before the revision, priest and people generally faced in the same direction for the canon of the Mass. Most altars, topped with a tabernacle and often built against a wall or backed by a reredos, were designed with this orientation in view: when Mass was celebrated at the main altar, all would thus face the apse of the church, which was generally to the east. However, this was not universal: at the high altars in the major basilicas in Rome the Popes traditionally celebrated Mass facing the people, and even in small, but ancient, churches, such as that of the Four Crowned Saints in Via dei Santi Quattro, the altar was arranged so that the priest necessarily faced the people throughout the Mass. Indeed, the text of the pre-Vatican-II Missal (Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, V, 3) expressly envisaged this orientation. Without imposing it, the 1970 Roman Missal called for it to be made possible: "The main altar should be freestanding so that the ministers can easily walk around it and Mass can be celebrated facing the people" (GIRM 1975,[11] ( 262). The 2002 edition of GIRM added a phrase declaring a freestanding main altar “desirable wherever possible" (GIRM 2002,[12] ( 299). The facing-the-people orientation, though by no means obligatory [13] (, has in practice become almost universal. Altars with the older orientation were either moved, or another altar (that was freestanding) was placed in front of the old one.

At four points the 1975 GIRM[14] ( (86, 107, 115, 122) prescribed that the priest should face the people, namely, for the opening greeting, for the invitation to pray (“Orate fratres”) before beginning the eucharistic prayer or canon of the Mass, when displaying the consecrated host before receiving and giving communion (“Domine, non sum dignus”), and when inviting to pray (“Oremus”) at the postcommunion prayer). The 2002 edition[15] ( (124, 146, 154, 157, 165) adds the point at which the priest gives the greeting of peace (“Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum”). The pre-Vatican-II Ordo Missae gave the same indications as the 1975 GIRM, except that it ignored the Communion of the people, mention of which was found in the Missal only in its Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae, X, 6, with an outline of the rite, not the full text.

GIRM directs the priest to face the altar at several points, exactly as in the pre-Vatican-II Ordo Missae. Usually, because of his orientation, this means he also faces the people.

Repositioning of the tabernacle

The change in orientation meant that, in general, the tabernacle cannot be on the altar at which Mass is celebrated. For its consequent placing, the 1970 Missal gives the direction: “In accordance with the structure of each church and legitimate local customs, the Most Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is truly noble, prominent, readily visible, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer” (GIRM, ( 314).

Support of the revision

Among Catholics, there has been much support for the changes, both textual and as practiced. Supporters say that it is now easier to understand what is going on, which is more edifying and less boring. Supporters also like the variety of music options that they have. There is more chance for lay participation in the new form of the Mass compared to the old, as the layperson can now proclaim the readings, distribute communion, etc.

Criticisms of the revision

There are two distinct forms of criticisms: criticisms of the text in and of itself, and criticisms of the way that text has been acted upon since 1970.

Criticisms of the text in and of itself

Those who criticize the text itself of the revised Roman Missal are much fewer than those who criticize only what the Holy See itself calls "abuses", departures from the norms laid down in the text.

A very small minority believe that what they call "the New Mass", celebrated in languages in which the phrase "pro multis" (Latin for "for many" or "for the many") is translated as "for all" is invalid as sacrament and sacrifice, and brings about no transubstantiation.

Most of those who do criticize the textual changes do so on the grounds of intentions they claim to discern behind the changes. They say the Mass was changed in a spirit of "false" ecumenism, or desire of unity between Catholics and non-Catholics, especially Orthodox and Protestants. (They define ecumenism as "true" if its aim is to get others to become Catholics, and "false" if its purpose is to establish mutual understanding and collaboration or if it were pursued so as to create a generalized "super religion" encompassing all those groups.) They feel that, while past changes of ritual were done to clearly distinguish the difference between a Catholic belief and a heretical one, the 1970 changes were intended primarily to make the Mass less controversial to those groups. They point to the following alleged examples:

  • Words and phrases that suggest that the bread and wine really and truly become the body and blood of Jesus are, they say, reduced or replaced with phrases that refer to other things. Occurrences of the word "sacrifice", they say, are reduced (actually, by one occurrence, while, because the priest now says aloud parts of the Mass that he previously said quietly to himself, the congregation now hears the word "sacrifice" three times as often as before); they claim that the word "table" has at some unspecified points replaced "altar"; and they consider phrases such as "spiritual drink" to be deliberately ambiguous.
  • Actions which demonstrate belief that the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Jesus are reduced or eliminated, such as kneeling, washing the fingers over the chalice (rather than, as now, cleansing them over the paten) with the intention that no particles of the host fall to the ground, the requirement that the inside of the chalice be made of gold or silver (this is quite false, since GIRM 328 actually requires that chalices of a material less noble than gold, such as silver, should normally be gilded on the inside), the requirement that there be three layers of fabric under the chalice so that, if any wine spilled, it would be fully absorbed and not touch the altar (the present rule, given in GIRM 117, is that the altar be covered by "at least one" white cloth, to which is added the fabric of the corporal), removal of the tabernacle (the place of special presence of Christ, since it contains consecrated hosts) from the main altar to "a part of the church that is truly noble, prominent, readily visible, beautifully decorated and suitable for prayer" (GIRM 314).

Critics claim that these actions were done to tone down belief in transubstantiation, which Protestants reject. They point to a controversial Gallup poll in the United States of America according to which most Catholics polled no longer believed in transubstantiation.

They believe ambiguities were put in the text on purpose, to enable certain people to push for changes that the critics detest, or to make the Mass compatible with Protestant worship or lead to confusion and loss of Catholic faith.

Criticisms of practices introduced into the Mass since 1970

Critics oppose certain practices permitted either by the revised Roman Missal (such as lay people proclaiming readings from Sacred Scripture and helping to distribute Holy Communion, receiving the consecrated Host in the hand, rather than directly into the mouth), or by the revised canon law (such as girls acting as altar servers, or married men of mature age being ordained deacons).

Other alterations have been due to changes of taste (plainer vestments with simpler designs and without lace, churches of non-traditional architecture) or have been of at least doubtful legitimacy (eliminating kneelers, introducing certain forms of music, including the use of percussion instruments).

Critics see these changes as due to or leading to a lack of belief that Jesus becomes really, truly and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine. Some of them would see the revised liturgy as acceptable if these elements were excluded.

Preparing a better English translation

On 28 March 2001, the Holy See issued the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam "on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of the books of the Roman liturgy".[16] ( This included the requirement that, in translations of the liturgical texts (the originals of which are always in Latin), "the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet."

The following year, 2002, saw the appearance of the third typical edition in Latin of the revised Roman Missal, an edition already announced in 2000. (The "typical edition" of a liturgical text is that to which editions by other publishers must conform.)

These two texts made clear the need for a new official English translation of the Roman Missal, particularly because the previous one was at some points an adaptation rather than strictly a translation.

The body responsible for producing English translations of liturgical texts of the Roman rite is the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL). It promptly began work on a completely new translation of the Roman Missal, intending it not to be a rushed job, as the 1973 translation to some extent was. Thus only on 2 February 2004 did ICEL Chairman Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, England issue a first draft, and a definitive version is expected to become available no earlier than 2007.

This new translation may perhaps make more evident to English speakers that the Second Vatican Council revision of the Order of Mass left most of the text unchanged.

Latin Ordo Missae, both before and after the Second Vatican Council

V/. Dominus vobiscum.
R/. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V/. Sursum corda.
R/. Habemus ad Dominum.
V/. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.
R/. Dignum et iustum est.

Literal English translation from the Latin

V/. The Lord be with you.
R/. And with your spirit.
V/. Hearts upwards.
R/. We hold them towards the Lord.
V/. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/. It is fitting and just.

Official English translation prepared by ICEL in 1973

V/. The Lord be with you.
R/. And also with you.
V/. Lift up your hearts.
R/. We lift them up to the Lord.
V/. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

ICEL draft English translation of 2004

V/. The Lord be with you.
R/. And with your spirit.
V/. Let our hearts be lifted high.
R/. We hold them before the Lord.
V/. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/. It is right and just.

External links

A) Revision of the Roman Missal

B) Polemics


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