From Trent to Vatican II

From Trent to Vatican II
Today I was reading, as one does, the Apostolic Constitution which accompanied the promulgation of the Roman Missal Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that is, the Missal of from Paul VI currently in use. It occurred to me that much of what is said there might shed a little light on some of the current discussions about the Tridentine Mass.
Paul VI explains that since the beginning of the liturgical movement in the early part of the twentieth century it had become clear that the Roman Missal needed to be revised and enriched. ‘No one should think, however’, he says, ‘that this revision of the Roman Missal has come out of nowhere.’
He then describes how progress in liturgical studies over the four centuries since the promulgation of the Missal of Pius V had prepared the way for this new edition. In that time, many ancient sources were discovered and published. ‘Accordingly many have had the desire for these doctrinal and spiritual riches not to be stored away in the dark, but to be put into use for the enlightenment of the mind of Christians and for the nurture of their spirit.’
I have been told that ‘traditional Catholics’ should be able to celebrate according to the ‘traditional Rite’. But what makes something or someone ‘traditional’? As is made clear above, the current Order of Mass incorporates a far richer array of traditional worship texts than the Missal of 1962.
For example, Eucharistic Prayer II, which is included in the current Missal but not in the Tridentine rite, is based on a model prayer for bishops presiding at Mass composed by Hippolytus. It is included in his description of the traditional liturgy of Rome in 215. Apart from some changes made to the early text to adapt it for use in the Roman rite today, the second Eucharistic Prayer in the current Missal is the one used by Hippolytus nearly 1800 years ago. Very many of the Prefaces added to the new Missal were also drawn from the early tradition of the Roman Church. I would call that ‘traditional’!
The Apostolic Constitution goes on to explain that the Order of Mass has been simplified by eliminating ‘elements that, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated or were added but with little advantage’, and that other elements which had been removed ‘through accident of history’, such as the homily, the Prayer of the Faithful and the Penitential Rite, were being restored ‘to the tradition of the Fathers’. That strikes me as being ‘traditional’ too.
Describing other reforms to the Missal, Paul VI says, ‘Particular care has been taken with the prayers, 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’. I think the point about ‘tradition’ has been well made.
Paul VI concludes by expressing the wish that ‘the faithful will receive the new Missal as a help towards witnessing and strengthening their unity with one another; that through the new Missal one and the same prayer in a great diversity of languages will ascend, more fragrant than any incense, to our heavenly Father, through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit’.


Elizabeth Harrington