Traditional Latin Mass

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You can find a Traditional Latin Mass in a church of the Society of Saint Pius X.

The Tridentine Mass, also known as Traditional Latin Mass, consists of the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Catholic Church according to the rite promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1570 by means of the Bull Quo Primum Tempore which unifícated the Mass rite that already existed. The Mass of St. Pius V has its origins in the most remote apostolic traditions and nourished the souls of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. This rite comes visibly from the heart of our Holy Mother the Church and is the fruit of a long tradition. It saintly expresses the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and was canonized by St. Pius V definitively. He established it as the official way of saying the Holy Mass, valid for all priests of the Roman rite at all times.

Elements of the Tridentine Mass

The Traditional Catholic Mass is composed of two parts, namely, its essential part, which are the elements instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the prayers, words and ceremonies that accompany them. The essential elements of the Holy Mass, instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, are:

  • The matter: bread and wine;
  • The form, that is, the words of consecration: "This is my Body" and "This is the cup of my Blood...";
  • A validly ordained priest who,
  • has the intention of doing what the Church does in the confession of this sacrament.

The words and ceremonies accompanying these essential elements developed over the centuries until they reached the form that has come down to us today. All the prayers and ceremonies surrounding the words of consecration have been introduced by the Holy Church to enhance the majesty of so great a mystery, to instruct us, increase our faith and inflame our devotion. "There is in all Christendom no rite so venerable as that of the Roman Missal" says one of the wisest liturgists (Fortescue).

I would give the last drop of my blood for the least practice of the Church." St. Teresa of Jesus

History of the Ceremonies of the Holy Mass

During the first and second centuries, the words of Christ were surrounded by an initial liturgy that, little by little, germinated in the eastern and western parts of the Roman Empire. All the main divisions of the Mass appeared as early as the third century and, in the fourth century, the Roman rite was fully conformed, during the pontificate of Pope St. Damasus (366-384). But until St. Gregory the Great (590-604) there was no single book with all the texts of the Masses of the year. This holy pope had the liber Sacramentorum written at the beginning of his pontificate, for use in the Roman stationes, that is, for the pontifical liturgy of the city of Rome. That missal contains practically the Traditional Mass as it reached our days, since the modifications made by St. Pius V (1566-1572) were very small.

Therefore, we can be sure that the Mass which is now called the Mass of St. Pius V and which came down to our days after having nourished the piety of all the saints of the Church is nothing but the Roman rite as we find it, in its most important parts, in the pontificate of St. Damasus (4th century), and which was later copilated in the form of a missal by St. Gregory the Great.

Canon of the Mass

The Canon of the Mass, apart from a few changes made by St. Gregory the Great, reached with St. Gelasius I (492-496) the form it retains to this day. The Roman Pontiffs did not cease to insist from the fifth century on the importance of adopting the Canon Missae Romanae, since it goes back to none other than the Apostle St. Peter himself. In fact, because of the law of the arcanum (law by which, at the time of the persecutions, special secrecy was maintained about the principal truths of faith), the oldest texts of the Canon of the Mass date from the fourth century, but the Council of Trent teaches us that it goes back to the apostles.

Codification by St. Pius V

St. Pius V codified the Old Roman Mass in its purest form according to the indications of the Council of Trent (1545-1563):

'Let the sacrifice be celebrated according to the same rite for all and by all, so that the Church of God may have but one and the same language...let the Missals be restored according to the ancient usage and customs of the Roman Mass.'

The Missal thus restored was promulgated in a particularly solemn manner on July 19, 1570 by the Bull Quo Primum Tempore. The Bull states quite clearly that it does not establish a new rite, but "a revised and corrected Missal".

Why Latin?

The use of Latin "is a beautiful and manifest sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote against any corruption in doctrinal truth" (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei). The aim of St. Pius V in ordering the codification of the Mass (in the 16th century) was none other than the unity of the Church, ensured by unity in Catholic worship. To avoid disparity of rite, uniformity in language contributed much, preserving the Church not only against schism but also against the possible introduction of doctrinal errors.

Sign of unity and universality

The Latin Mass is not a selective or novel way of celebrating it, nor is it elitist or exclusivist, on the contrary, it is the Catholic (universal, in Greek) way of celebrating it, accommodated so that it can be heard by every baptized person in the world regardless of nationality. For centuries, a Catholic could attend Mass anywhere in the world and always find the same Catholic way of following it and fulfilling the Sunday precept. If we could travel through time, we would find the same truth: a Mass offered by a Catholic priest living in Rome in the year 570 would be the same as one offered by a priest living in Nagasaki in 1940, or by a priest of the FSSPX in the year 2015. This fact clearly reflects two of the four notes of the Catholic Church; its unity and its catholicity (universality) in relation to time and space.

Antidote to error

History shows us that the words of languages change meaning over time and that idioms are also introduced by popular speech. But Latin, being a dead language, does not change through time and place, so that its use contributes to the perpetuity and universality of the Catholic rites, despite their diffusion among such a great diversity of languages, nations, customs and times. This characteristic also helps to protect the faith against error. Indeed, Pope Pius XII expressly declared that the Sacred Liturgy is intimately linked to the truths of the Catholic Faith and therefore must conform to it and reflect those truths. Thus, just as we cannot compromise a single truth of faith under the pretext of accommodating the liturgy to the demands of peoples and modern times, it is equally necessary to preserve the liturgy unalterable so that it may continue to safeguard the integrity of the faith (Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei). Even Protestants recognized the connection between the teachings of the Church and the Mass, so much so that Luther believed that by eliminating the Mass, he could overthrow the Papacy.

The first languages used in the Mass

The Mass was originally said in Aramaic, since this was the language spoken by Christ and the Apostles. The expressions: "Amen, Alleluia, Hosanna and Sabbaoth" are Aramaic words that still remain in the Holy Mass. When the Church spread throughout the pagan world in the first century, it adopted Greek in its liturgy, because this was the international language in the Roman Empire, similar to English today. The use of Greek continued until the 2nd century and part of the 3rd century. The Kyrie eléison and the liturgical symbol "IHS" (derived from the word Jesus in Greek) are evidence of the use of this language in the liturgy. By the year 250, however, the Mass was generally said in Latin in the western part of the Roman Empire, including the cities of North Africa. With the fragmentation of the Empire and the barbarian invasions, Latin ceased to be a spoken language around the seventh and ninth centuries; however, the Mass continued to be recited in Latin because much of its liturgy had been created in that language. The Holy Fathers of the Church, at that time, saw no reason to adopt the new vernacular languages that were developing around the known world. This was a providential means; for Latin, though a dead language, served as a means of international communication and a sign of unity in the Church throughout the centuries.[1]

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