Old Rite, New Rite

A look at liturgical changes in the Mass after Vatican II -- Part 4



Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in the Foreword to U.M. Lang’s Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer that the Vatican Council did not require the “disappearance of Latin.” In support of this statement, the cardinal quoted Section 1 of Paragraph 36 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” At the same time, he did not refer to Sections 2 and 3 of the same Paragraph, number 36, of the Vatican II Constitution (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html) whereby the exception allowed in Sections 2 and 3 swallowed the rule in Section 1 since they allowed the Vatican to approve the expansion of the use of vernacular upon request by bishops:

  • But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended…
  • These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority…to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used…

As mentioned in Part 3, Pope St. Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution of 1969 permitted the use of the vernacular in all liturgical celebrations. The bishops made such requests and the Vatican approved them.

Now I’ll address the terminology of rite and language, first describing the time between 1964 and 1969, and then after 1969.

When the Mass was celebrated in English between 1964 and 1969, it was celebrated in its pre-Vatican II form/rite. When Paul VI celebrated the first Mass in the vernacular (in fact actually alternating between Latin and Italian), at a Roman parish on March 7, 1965, he celebrated in the pre-Vatican II form/rite. (See https://www.papalartifacts.com/march-7-1965-remembering-pope-paul-vi-on-the-51st-anniversary-of-the-1st-mass-in-the-vernacular-in-italy/ ) As an aside, I have not determined what language(s) he used in the first papal Mass in the United States, in New York’s Yankee Stadium, six months later on October 4, 1965. Since he was fluent in English, and many other languages, it may have been celebrated, at least in part, in English.

After Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution of 1969, Mass was celebrated in the Vatican II form, the Novus Ordo (“New Rite”). It was rarely celebrated in Latin, but rather in numerous vernacular languages.

Before we continue: a word about the difference between the language of a rite and the rite itself, and a word about nomenclature.

  • Paul VI’s Novus Ordo is, literally, “the new rite,” also called the “Vatican II Mass” or the “Ordinary Form” or the “new Missal.” It can be celebrated in any language, Latin or in any vernacular language. The Latin text of this rite is normative; that is, all translations into the vernacular languages are derived from it. It employs a revised Liturgical Calendar.
  • The pre-Vatican II rite has various names: the “John XXIII 1962 Missal,” the “Extraordinary Form,” the “Traditional Latin Mass (TLM),” or the “Tridentine Mass” (loosely understood, since the actual Tridentine Mass does not incorporate the 1962 revisions). The Mass in this rite can be celebrated in only one language, Latin. (See Fr. Edward McNamara, “English and the Tridentine Mass,” May 5, 2020, Zenit.) Readings and rites such as baptisms can be in the vernacular. It employs the pre-Vatican II Liturgical Calendar.
  • Thus, the colloquial term “Latin Mass” is ambiguous. It could refer to a Mass celebrated in Latin in the new rite or in the old rite.

The Virginia parish to which I belonged for 25 years is one of two in my diocese that have permission to celebrate the TLM and it does so twice weekly, on Sundays and on one weekday.


***For Part 3 in this series, click here


James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

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