Liturgical history

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I have been trying to help my volunteers understand the history of the Church.  I am amazed at how much misinformation there is online.  Here are the two questions that I have been trying to figure out.

1.  Was the introduction of the Novus Ordo mass an attempt to make the mass more like the mass of the early Church?  I read something by Pope Benedict that infered this was true, but he also said they weren’t trying to recreate the early-early mass (pre Justin Martyr).

2.  Did the Tridentine mass start at the council of Trent?  Was this a major change or just a standardization?


A: The purposes of the liturgical reform were succinctly and eloquently presented in the very first paragraph of the very first document of the Second Vatican Council.

“This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.”

Paragraph 21 explained further, “In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.

In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.”

So, the reforms took advantage of insights into liturgical history, but did not try to reconstitute a 2nd-century Eucharist.

The earliest Roman Missal dates to 1475. After the Council of Trent (1545-1563), a revised missal debuted in 1570. Even that took a while to catch on. It was further revised several times, most recently in 1962 just before the Second Vatican Council.

BTW, today’s missal never uses the term “novus ordo.” It considers itself the latest edition of the same Roman Missal.