Busting the Myth of the Tridentine Mass

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Far too often these days liturgical discussions pertaining to the Roman Rite start with the popular myth that the Traditional Latin Mass only dates back to the sixteenth century and the Council of Trent (1545-1563). While some make this claim simply due to a lack of catechesis, there are unfortunately others who perpetuate the myth to diminish the very antiquity of the ancient rite. Let us remedy this by busting the myth of the “Tridentine” Mass.

First a note on terminology. The Tridentine Mass is simply another name for the Traditional Latin Mass, also called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite since Summorum Pontificum was issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

Now for the history. Following the Council of Trent, Pope St. Pius V issued the papal Bull Quo Primum regarding the Mass. It is important to note that Pius V did not promulgate a new Mass (as Paul VI did in 1970), but rather consolidated and codified the Roman Rite already in existence. He also extended its use throughout the Latin Church, granting exception only to those rites demonstrating continuous usage of more than 200 years, such as the Ambrosian Rite found in Milan.

Since the 1570 Missal of Pius V was issued in the wake of the Council of Trent, the ancient rite has often been referred to as the Tridentine Mass. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this term, it can (and has) been used by some seeking to diminish the ancient rite by implying that it only dates back to 1570.

This, of course, is a myth.

Writing 50 years before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the promulgation of the new Mass of Paul VI (1970),  Father Adrian Fortescue discussed the very antiquity of the Roman Rite in his classic, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (1912):

Essentially the Missal of St. Pius V is the Gregorian Sacramentary; that again is formed from the Gelasian book which depends on the Leonine collection. We find the prayers of our Canon in the treatise de Sacramentis and allusions to it in the IV century. So our Mass goes back, without essential change, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the faith of Christ, when our fathers met together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as to a God. The final result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unsolved problems, in spite of later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours.

And this of course is the point. Not that the Mass didn’t develop organically, because it had. Nor that there were no further revisions to it, since the Missal of 1962 used in the Extraordinary Form today incorporates (as one example) the Holy Week revisions of 1955. But rather, that the Traditional Mass dates back to the oldest liturgy of all “without essential change”, to use Fr. Fortescue’s phrase. When referencing this Mass, we are speaking in terms of millennia, not centuries.

Indeed, some have referred to the traditional liturgy as the Gregorian Rite, or the Gregorian Mass, in deference to the ancient sacramentary bearing the name of that sixth century saint; a pope and liturgy which preceded Trent by one thousand years.

As liturgical discussions move forward within the Church, and both forms of the Roman Rite are studied and considered, let us hope that (at a minimum) we can finally bust the myth that the Traditional Mass is a product of the 16th century. If we are truly to restore all that has been lost for so many, we must first begin with correct information and intellectual honesty.

Above Image: Mass of Saint Gregory the Great by Master of Portillo (1520-1525).

Posted on July 23, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Franklin P. Uroda

    Back in the days before Vatican II, and the Latin Mass was the only Mass, a friend of mine in an additional preparation for Holy Orders studied “The Mass Of The Roman Rite,” by Fr. Joseph Jungmann, SJ in conjunction with the French commentary of Fr. Ceslaus Spicq, OP on the Epistle to the Hebrews. He said that those two works were pivotal in his understanding of, and devotion to, the celebration of Jesus’ Sacrifice. Both have worlds of citations that are very illuminating and helpful. Fr. Jungmann’s book is now online.

  2. John D. Horton

    The Tridentine Missal of 1570 has been described as a “pruning” back to the Missal of Pope Gregory the Great (590 – 604 A.D.). One of the major changes was the reduction in the number of “sequences” which were intially introduced in the Mass of the 10th Century which were long and elaborate vocal music introductions to the Gospel which was about to be chanted. By the time of the Tridentine Missal, every Sunday Mass and principal feast had a sequence which had to be sung before the Gospel at High Mass which probably could take 10 – 15 minutes all of itself.

    From wikipedia “Sequence (musical form)”:

    In the Missal of Pius V (1570) the number of sequences for the entire Roman Rite was reduced to four: Victimae paschali laudes (11th century) for Easter, Veni Sancte Spiritus for Pentecost (12th century), Lauda Sion Salvatorem (c.1264) for Corpus Christi, and Dies Irae (13th century) for All Souls and in Masses for the Dead. In 1727, the 13th century Stabat Mater for Our Lady of Sorrows was added to this list.[5] In 1970 the Dies Irae was removed from the Requiem Mass of the revised, new Roman Missal and was transferred to the Liturgy of the Hours to be sung ad libitum in the week before the beginning of Advent.[6] The Christmas sequence “Laetabundus,” not present in the Roman Missal, is found in the Dominican Missal. This sequence is permitted for the Third Mass of Christmas, the Epiphany, and Candlemas. The Third Edition of the Roman Missal, which was implemented in the United States in 2010, states that the Sequence is optional except on Easter Sunday and Pentecost Day, and it sung before the Alleluia.

    • My parish (Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia) uses the Liturgy of Gregory the Great, which is nearly identical to the Latin Mass (but in English).

  3. Thank you for the article. It jogged my memory re the following 1980 “Firing Line” clip, where a Michael Davies affirms you commentary ~ 39 -44 min mark, where Martin Malachi as a subject expert further interviews the two panel guests – entire video is worthwhile.

  4. Fr. Shaun O'Rourke

    I think we have to remember that the mad or rite originated with the following of the command by Jesus to do this in remembrance of me, Jesus was celebrating the Passover and in structure the mass we have today found it’s formation within the Jewish tradition, in fact if you walked into any synagogue today you would identify with the structure although missing the breaking of bread and taking of the wine, for me following the words and commands of Jesus must be the overall authority we can not re interpret or change the reason Jesus the Ultimate authority has asked us to do, when we celibrate the Mass that sacred sacrament we are fulfilling one of his last commands as he approaches his final. Screfice, we are with him and he is in us, it is a eating that fact that makes it Holy and complete .

  5. The recent discussion and speculation started by Cardinal Sarah about some sort of amalgamation of rites is, to me, a convert, utterly horrifying.

    If the Novus Ordo was what came of the creative minds of Churchmen a half century ago, when Communism and Freemasonry were agreed to be the enemies of the faith, homosexuality was universally accepted as grave evil and marriage annulments rare indeed, just imagine the wicked psychedelic nightmare that would come puking out of the pens and keyboards of sodomy- and Marixism-supporting Churchmen revisionists today.

    May God Save the Catholic Church and May Cardinal Sarah SHUT UP.

    • FWIW, some parts of the Tridentine Mass may be given in the vernacular, such as the readings and the homily.

      • John D. Horton

        I think that is called the 1965 transitional or bi-lingual Roman Missal. By 1965 only the Roman Canon had to be recited in Latin.

        See wikipedia under “Mass of Paul VI”:

        “In 1964, Pope Paul VI, who had succeeded John XXIII the previous year, established the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, the Council for Implementing the Constitution on the Liturgy. The instruction Inter oecumenici of 26 September 1964, issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites while the Council was still in session, and coming into effect on 7 March 1965 made significant changes to the existing liturgy, though the form of the rite was substantially preserved. Some sources speak of a “1965 Missal,” but this generally refers to orders of the Mass that were published with the approval of bishops’ conferences, for example, in the United States and Canada, rather than an editio typica of the Roman Missal itself. The changes included: use of the vernacular was permitted; free-standing altars were encouraged; there were some textual changes, such as omission of the Psalm Judica at the beginning and of the Last Gospel and Leonine Prayers at the end. The 1967 document Tres abhinc annos, the second instruction on the implementation of the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, made only minimal changes to the text, but simplified the rubrics and the vestments. Concelebration, and Communion under both kinds had meanwhile been permitted and, in 1968, three additional Eucharistic Prayers were authorized for use alongside the traditional Roman Canon.”

  6. PS: Great reminder, by the way.

    Good article.

  7. Just for some balance from the East, in the Byzantine Rite, the Divine Liturgy is according to St. John Chrysostom, who revised the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which itself traces back to the Liturgy of St. James. Similar to the Tridentine Mass, this Liturgy has undergone other developments through the years, but it is still essentially back to the 4th century. Also, in the Byz. Rite, since Daily Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, we celebrate with the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, developed, in part, by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century.

  8. It would be nice to bring back the old tradition, of the ancient Mass/Liturgy, bring back communion, giving everyone communion with bread and wine as it use to be.

    • John D. Horton

      Were there felt banners, liturgical dancers, eucharistic ministers, female lectors and guitar Masses in your ancient rite of the catacombs?

      • Does the presence of felt make the Mass invalid or just illicit?

      • John D. Horton

        Part of the Marxist Cultural Revolution within the Catholic Church (i.e. Vatican II) is to cheapen, trivialize and mock God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the ulterior motive being to try to get people to not take their faith seriously and ultimately to abandon the faith.

        Bringing in cheap felt banners and deranged and crazy lesbians from gay bars to do everything at Mass can only cause fright, shock and dismay to psychologically “normal” people with the ultimate goal of the Cultural Marxists (i.e. main-stream Novus Ordo Catholic clery) being the disparagement and elimination of the Catholic Church. Visual art in the Church is designed, in part, to provide catechesis to the faithful, especially in the early Church (33 – 1950 A.D.) when most Catholics were illiterate and art provided a window for an explanation and understanding of the faith. Considering that most Americans today read and write at the 7th grade level, the Catholic Church may wish to reconsider its Vatican II policy of adopting the Protestant theology of “Sola scriptura” (i.e. the Word of God is all you need and veneration of images is idol worship) and return to visual art realism worthy of the House of God and his people rather than worthy of the talents of artistically challenged two year olds.

        Considering the billions of dollars spent:

        — to wreckovate the Catholic sanctuary under the Cultural Marxism of Vatican IIs liturgy document (destruction of altars, altar rails, stain glass windows, statues, whitewashing of frescoes and murals etc), and,
        — to pay the hush money, legal settlements or court judgments to deal with the American Catholic clergy’s obsessive desire for homosexual sex with teenage males (hebephilia: homosexual desire for males age 11 – 14 and ephebophilia: homosexual desire for males age 15 – 19) where 95% of all Catholic clergy sex cases involve only teenage males,

        you would think that our nutty and deranged Catholic clergy could give something in return to the faithful who put money in the collection plate (80% of all the money to operate the Catholic Church comes from widows and other single women such as those living on Social Security who are paradigms of St. Mary Magdalene) other than a stupid, sacrilegious, insulting and cheap felt banner that a 2 year old idiot could have made.

      • No there were not. Nor were there cassocks, fiddle back chasubles, lacy albs, patens, birettas, altar boys, Mass cards, monsignors, or lectionaries. Hmmm… ritualism, clericalism came later.

  9. “First a note on terminology. The Tridentine Mass is simply another name for the Traditional Latin Mass, also called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite since Summorum Pontificum was issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.”

    Actually none of these are the correct name for the Mass of the Roman Rite which is gloriously called: the ROMAN MASS. Pure and simple. All of the other names were invented in the wake of the liturgical crisis of the Novus Ordo Missae.

  10. The extraordinary form issued by “Pope Benedict” in 2007 is not the same Mass as was made by Pius V in 1570. There were several major modernist changes including inexcusably changing the Canon. The Mass of Pius V can only be heard in actual Catholic Masses not approved by anti-Popes Bergogli or Benedict 16th etc….

    • Um, do you even know what was in the 1570 missal as opposed to the one you are accustomed to seeing? I think you might be shocked to discover what developed even after 1570 that many considered to have always been practiced in the universal Roman Church.

      That being said, many of the reforms made to the Roman Missal up to 1962 were actually envisioned by the Council of Trent and such saints as St. Charles Borromeo and St. Joseph Tommasi, let alone others.

      Also, these revisions were brought upon by such anti-modernists as Popes Leo XIII, St. Pius X and Pius XII.

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