"Traditional" Mass

Last week I took a phonecall from a gentleman enquiring where he would find a traditional Mass to attend while he was holidaying in Brisbane. I said that he would find a list of Catholic parishes on the archdiocesan website and in the phonebook. He then explained that he was looking for a Mass said in its original language.
I couldn’t help myself, and pointed out that that might prove difficult since the earliest language of the Mass was Greek, though other vernacular languages such as Aramaic/Syriac were also used. He said that he meant a Mass that was “the way it had always been, not the one that was made up fifty years ago”!
“Made up”?! In the Apostolic Constitution accompanying the Roman Missal promulgated in 1969, Paul VI states unequivocally, “No one should think that this revision of the Roman Missal has come out of nowhere”.
He 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.”

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 in 215. Apart from some changes made 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 Missal after Vatican II were also drawn from the early tradition of the Roman Church. I 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.

This is reiterated in the Introduction to the General Instruction that accompanies the current Roman Missal. Paragraph 9 explains that preserving the “norm of the holy Fathers” requires the preservation “not only of what our immediate forebears have handed on to us, but also an understanding and a more profound pondering of the Church’s entire past ages and of all the ways in which her one faith has been expressed in forms of human and social culture so greatly differing among themselves”.

It goes on to say, “This broader view allows us to see how the Holy Spirit endows the People of God with a marvellous fidelity in preserving the unalterable deposit of faith, even though there is a very great variety of prayers and rites.”

All who celebrate Mass according to the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI and revised by John Paul II are indeed traditionalists!


Elizabeth Harrington