The New Mass -- According To Vatican II

Novus Ordo Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph
(St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Macon, GA)

In the above video you will see an entire mass, in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, celebrated exactly the way the conciliar fathers at Vatican II envisioned it. Yes, this is what a regular mass is supposed to look like. Seriously! Now, when was the last time you saw a mass like this celebrated at your local parish?

I've written at length on this blog about the liturgy, and that's because I believe it's very important.  There is an old Latin saying that goes like this: Lex orandi, lex credendi.  Roughly translated it means: "The law of prayer is the law of belief."  Basically, what that means is you can tell a lot about the beliefs of Christians by the way they worship.  Case in point; let's look at the Pentecostal Protestants.  Their worship services are marked by loud and fast music, dancing in the pews, hands waving in the air, people falling over in the aisles, frequent interruptions of the pastor's sermon with loud remarks, and sometimes even people "speaking in tongues" with no translation.  If this is how people worship, what does it say of their belief system?  What is their doctrine like?  How do they practice their faith?  The way of public worship is a lot like a mirror into our personal walk with Jesus Christ.  It says a lot about who we are, what we believe and how we practice it.

Thankfully, Catholic worship is much more organised and dignified.  Virtually any Catholic liturgy (with the exception of only rare abuses) looks nothing like a Pentecostal worship service.  However, that doesn't mean that every modern Catholic mass is celebrated the way it was envisioned or intended. In fact, I dare say that most Catholic masses celebrated today have very little in common with what the conciliar fathers at Vatican II intended fifty years ago.

Why is this important?  I mean "who cares" right?  Well, it's actually very important because of that whole Lex orandi, lex credendi thing.  Look, I'm a believer in Vatican II.  I think Vatican II was a good thing, and I'm really glad it happened.  In fact, the Vatican II documents were instrumental to my conversion to the Catholic Church.  It's because I'm such a believer in Vatican II that I'm such a stickler about it.  I believe the council should be followed -- religiously (pun intended).  What I mean is, I think Vatican II is such a good thing, that we must stick to what it actually says, and interpret it in the context it was meant to be interpreted.  Failure to do this is an ABUSE of Vatican II, and I love Vatican II so much, it just breaks my heart to see that happen.  I believe in being faithful to the council!  That means interpreting Vatican II properly and doing exactly what it says.  This is because I believe the Holy Spirit inspired Vatican II, and that means the "Spirit of Vatican II" literally is the Letter of Vatican II, no more and no less.

Here is where things start to get a little fuzzy, because you see, there are a lot of people, who for a very long time, have done things in the name of the "Spirit of Vatican II" that cannot be found anywhere in the Letter of Vatican II.  In the name of the council, very many things have been done, which the conciliar fathers never intended, and many would shutter to witness.  Let me just give you a small list of things that have been done in the name of the "Spirit of Vatican II" but in fact Vatican II never called for nor even suggested...
  1. Dropping all Latin from the liturgy.
  2. Dropping all Gregorian chant from the liturgy.
  3. Introducing contemporary and/or pop music.
  4. Eliminating bells and incense from the liturgy.
  5. The priest facing the people during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
  6. Eliminating altar rails and traditional altars.
  7. Eliminating or discouraging communion on the tongue while kneeling.
  8. Introducing communion in the hand while standing.
  9. Changing the vestments of the mass.
  10. Eliminating Biblical veils for women and girls.
  11. Introducing altar girls.
  12. Introducing extraordinary ministers of holy communion.
  13. Holding hands during the "Our Father."
  14. Changing the layout and structure of church buildings.
  15. Eliminating icons and statues.
  16. Eliminating kneelers.
The list could go on and on.  This does not include the extreme examples of "liturgical abuse" that are seen in some parishes, such as: liturgical dance, changing the words of the liturgy, interrupting the liturgy for various reasons, ministers dressing as clowns or in costumes, and strange performances using puppets or props.  All of these are part of the extreme fringe of liturgical abuse, but sadly, it does exist.  Count yourself lucky if you've never seen them.

The point I'm trying to make is that Vatican II never called for any of this, and it is clearly an abuse of Vatican II to claim these things are part of its "Spirit."  As I said above, the "Spirit of Vatican II" is the Letter of Vatican II.  Everything else is just innovation or abuse.

A wise bishop once told me not to get too uptight about these matters, as the vast majority of such innovations are the result of ignorance and nothing more.  The reason why people do these things, most of the time anyway, is because they just don't know any better.  Those who do know better, are actually a very tiny few.  This speaks more of an educational problem in the Church.  By that I mean a lack of education as to what Vatican II is, and what was intended to be accomplished by Vatican II.

As we enter the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I would like to call upon every Catholic out there to get back to what Vatican II was really all about, and this would especially include the liturgy.  When it comes to Vatican II, we have to remember the following to interpret it properly...
  1. It was a "pastoral" council, not a "doctrinal" one, because as Pope Paul VI pointed out, the "note of infallibility" was intentionally not attached to any of the documents.  Therefore it is a council on a "lower order" than Vatican I and Trent.  It should be faithfully adhered to of course, but we should also remember its nature in comparison to previous councils.  The Council of Trent was the big one, which outlines the last 500 years of Church teaching and practice.  Vatican I dogmatically defined a few details, and Vatican II simply presented these things in a modern pastoral way.
  2. Everything written within Vatican II must be interpreted in the setting and teaching of everything before Vatican II.  This is the council's proper context.  Thus as Pope Benedict XVI taught us, we must interpret Vatican II in a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the past, and not a "hermeneutic of rupture" from the past.
  3. Finally, we must remember that the liturgy the conciliar fathers used at Vatican II was the old Latin mass.  It was in this context, and this context alone, that they envisioned the changes they mentioned.  Anything not mentioned in Vatican II has nothing to do with Vatican II -- period.
By following these three principles, I think we can avoid many of the errors and pitfalls surrounding our interpretation of Vatican II.  As a former Evangelical Protestant turned Roman Catholic, I appreciate the necessity of interpreting things properly.  For many of the errors Evangelical Protestants commonly make in interpreting the Bible, I have witnessed many Roman Catholics make while interpreting the documents of Vatican II.  Stick to the above three principles and that won't happen.

The mass in the video above is a perfect example of what a modern Catholic mass is supposed to look like in English, based on how the conciliar fathers envisioned it.  As we look back on Vatican II fifty years later, I do hope many priests and parishes will find their way back to what the Second Vatican Council actually said, and the original vision of the conciliar fathers.  For the sake of the council, and its preservation, I pray this happens soon.


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Matthew M said…
Comments withheld until later. I have mull a bit. However, over all better but still a way to go.
Pair O' Dimes said…
God bless you for pointing this out!

I'm still not entirely sure I understand why Vatican II needed to exist, especially as it did (it still seems to me that it might have been better had the council either been infallible or not existed at all), but it's important that this message get across lest we fall victim to the opposite extreme of sedevacantism.

I will confess that earlier this year I mistakenly thought (based on an anathema teaching of Trent combined with my interpretation of prophecies from accepted Marian apparitions like Fatima) that the Novus Ordo itself, while a valid Mass, was innately illicit and would not count towards Mass obligations at all. Only later did I realize that, in order for that to be true, His Holiness Pope Paul VI would have had to have been an anti-pope, not a true Vicar of Jesus Christ at all--which is sedevacantism. And I knew I couldn't take that seriously.
Unknown said…
I am born and raised Catholic, born in the second year of the Council in progress, ie; 1963. The Video just blew me away, it is as I myself had envisioned what the New Mass was supposed to be according to Vatican II, as I have studied and prayed the documents themselves. I cried through much of the video. Thank you for such a beautiful presentation.
Paulr said…
Beautiful piece and site. I generally agree with much of what you say. I like how you genuinely want things in our Catholic liturgy to remain sacred and true. Mass is my sanctuary from the craziness I experience in this world, that's why I want it preserved and respected. Yes, I want all Catholics to share and be able to express their faith as much if not more than me, but I believe it's Catholic unity that's kept our Church together for so long. It's love for the blessed Trinity first and foremost, but then also respect for the entire Church, and the mass left to us by Christ, God bless you, your site and all my fellow Catholics.
Peter said…
while this particular church is singularly beautiful, it still retains the novus ordo table, which was not envisioned at all by the council. Nor did it call for "lay readers" "extraordinary ministers of holy communion" or the banal, trite and often blatantly political "prayer of the faithful" And finally, there was zero call to introduce the offensive "sign of peace" The other points made about what Vatican II did or didnt encompass are correct.
Ann R said…
I'm a convert from Orthodox Judaism; I joined the Church through my local novus ordo parish (thank God a very trad priest just happened to answer the rectory door that day, beginning my weekly, one-on-one Baltimore Catechism lessons!)...I then left there to join the traditionalist movement in existence in the late 1970s. Consequently I have little experience with the conciliar church and its actions.

I found this article very fascinating and informative. I did not know that V2 did NOT require the priest to face the people (one of my biggest irritations with the novus ordo because it flies in the face of the ancient Jewish worship the Mass derives from, where the Kohen Gadol AND the people BOTH faced the altar, because, after all, it was a *sacrifice*, right?)