The Latin Mass

If you look at the events entry on this blog, or the Parish bulletin, you will see mention of Masses in Latin. “What’s up with that”, you may ask, “didn’t Vatican 2 do away with Latin?”. Well actually no. As a matter of fact the liturgical texts used for Mass are initially published in Latin then translated into other languages such as English.

However when we refer to “the Latin Mass” we usually mean the Mass celebrated as it was before the reform of 1970, when the New Mass (or Novus Ordo) was introduced by Pope Paul VI. Note that just to confuse the issue, the Mass of Paul VI can also be celebrated in Latin!

To go back in history a bit, the Mass has been around right from the start of Christianity (St. Paul mentions the apostles gathgering for “the breaking of bread and the prayers”). The Mass has changed over the years but generally these have been very incremental changes. For example the Canon of the Mass (the part from after the Sanctus or Holy, Holy to the great Amen before the Lord’s prayer) was esserntually unchanged since at least the 8th century until the present.

In the 20th Century there was a movement to reform the Mass and to increase lay participation. Vatican 2 in its document “Sacrosanctum Concilium” advocated some reforms such as the use of the vernacular for some parts of the Mas such as the readings, and more responses by the people. It specified that Latin should still be used as well as Gregorian Chant.

However what actually emerged in the 1960’s was a completely new Mass that was somewhat of a break with what had been in use for centuries, even millenia. Although the original Canon was available as an option, new shorter Canons or Eucharistic prayers were added. Initially many found the magnitude of the change unsettling but adapted to it as this change had been made by the Church and they trusted the Church.

There was initially a suppression of the older form of the Mass and its complete replacement by the new. However as time went on, people began to realize what had been sacred for so many years and had nourished saints from Francis of Asissi to Padre Pio and Doris Day could not be now said to be invalid. Starting with Pope John Paul II, permission started to be given for the older form to be used. This permission was greatly expanded by Pop Benedict XVI in his Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” issued Sept. 14Th, 2007.

So there are currently two different forms of the Mass, either of which may be said in Latin, although one always is, and the other can be but is usually said in the vernacular. Summorum Pontificum gave us new terminology to better describe what it refers to as “two forms of the same Roman Rite”

  • Ordinary Form – This is the Mass of Pope Paul VI introduced in 1970 and the one you will find at most parishes. Also referred to as the Novus Ordo or new Mass.
  • Extraordinary Form – This is the earlier Mass that was in general use up to 1970. Currently it follows the Missal issued in 1962 under Pope John XXIII. Also referred to as the Vetus Ordo or Mass of the Ages, or the Tridentine Mass (after the Council of Trent which standardized it in the 16th Century). Or often just as “the Latin Mass”.

After Summorum Pontificum was issued, the Diocese of Portland established The St. Gregory Latin Mass Chaplaincy to provide for the Extraordinary Form for those that desire it. Currently the Chaplaincy offers the Extraordinary Form every Sunday and Holy Days at the Portland Cathedral and here at Prince of Peace Parish at the Basilica.

My family and I personally favor the Extraordinary Form, but often attend the Ordinary Form such as for weekday Masses. I especially appreciate the reverent way the Ordinary Form is offered here at Prince of Peace Parish.

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About lewistoncatholic

A new resident of the City of Lewiston Maine. My family moved here from Massachusetts. A lifelong Catholic that fell away from the Church in my teens and came back in 1999 after a journey through various Protestant faith traditions.
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