Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
Holy Mass
Roman Missal:
(Mass of Pope Paul VI)
Roman Missal: (Tridentine)
Mass celebrated before Vatican Council II
Roman Missal:

Mass celebrated before the Council of Trent
The Real Presence of Jesus
(in the Eucharist)
Eucharistic Adoration
by frequency
by location
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration page.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Novus Ordo Liturgy

Throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been celebrated in various manners within different Traditions and Rites of the Church. A categorization of the major liturgies throughout Church history can be divided into three types:

  • Mass of Pope Paul VI commonly known as the Novus Ordo or Ordo Mass
  • Mass of the Council of Trent commonly known as the Tridentine Mass
  • Masses or liturgies that were celebrated before the Council of Trent or
    Pre-Tridentine Liturgies.

This page strives is to give as an objective view of the history of the Liturgy of the Mass in miniature form from the mind of the Church. Its goal is not to represent the mind of anyone person or group of people from this web site. I have tried to condense about 1,975 years of liturgical history on to this one web page. Emotional e-mails on the content of the page will be ignored. Constructive criticism with objective suggestions for modifications will be considered.

For an in depth reading of the development of Liturgy of the Mass, from Our Lord's time to Present day, check out the New Advent article on this issue.

For non-Catholic Christians: This is one of those areas where we, in the Church, occasionally have a few mini family fights; not on doctrine or teachings but on spiritual preferences.

Whether one has a preference for attending the [Novus Ordo or Ordinary Form of the Mass]
or the [Tridentine or Extraordinary Form of the Mass] both the previous and current Pope have asked the clergy and faithful not to politicize one form over another.

Both Forms of the Mass provide the same sacramental grace to the faithful.


  • New Advent for detail
  • Wikipedia for outline information only and myself.

The Origin of the Mass

The Western Mass, like all Liturgies, begins, of course, with the Last Supper. What Christ then did, repeated as he commanded in memory of Him, is the nucleus of the Mass. Many scholars believe that when Christ instituted the Last Supper, he did so in Aramaic. As soon as the Faith was brought to the West the Holy Eucharist was celebrated here, as in the East. At first the language used was Greek. Out of that earliest Liturgy, the language being changed to Latin, developed the two great parent rites of the West, the Roman and the Gallican. It should be noted the question of the change of language from Greek to Latin is less important than if might seem. It came about naturally when Greek ceased to be the usual language of the Roman Christians.

Of these two the Gallican Mass may be traced without difficulty. It is so plainly Antiochene in its structure, in the very text of many of its prayers, that we are safe in accounting for it as a translated form of the Liturgy of Jerusalem-Antioch, brought to the West at about the time when the more or less fluid universal Liturgy of the first three centuries gave place to different fixed rites.

The origin of the Roman Mass, on the other hand, is a most difficult question, We have here two fixed and certain data: the Liturgy in Greek described by St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165), which is that of the Church of Rome in the second century, and, at the other end of the development, the Liturgy of the first Roman Sacramentaries in Latin, in about the sixth century. The two are very different. Justin's account represents a rite of what we should now call an Eastern type, corresponding with remarkable exactness to that of the Apostolic Constitutions. The Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries show us what is practically our present Roman Mass. How did the service change from the one to the other? It is one of the chief difficulties in the history of liturgy.

Over time medieval variants and developments of the Roman Rite gradually drove out the Gallican Use of the liturgy.

A uniform Roman Missal

With the Council of Trent (December 1545 - December 1563), came uniformity in the old Roman Rite and the abolition of nearly all the medieval variants. The Council of Trent considered the question and formed a commission to prepare a uniform Missal. Eventually the Missal was published by Pius V by the Bull "Quo primum" (still printed in it) of 14 July 1570. It is Pius V's Missal that is used throughout the Latin Church, except in a few cases where he allowed a modified use that had a prescription of at least two centuries. This exception saved the variants used by some religious orders and a few local rites as well as the Milanese and Mozarabic liturgies. Clement VIII (1604), Urban VIII (1634), and Leo XIII (1884) revised the book slightly in the rubrics and the texts of Scripture. Pius X has revised the chant (1908.) But these revisions leave it still the Missal of Pius V. There has been since the early Middle Ages unceasing change in the sense of additions of masses for new feasts, the Missal now has a number of supplements that still grow, but liturgically these additions represent no real change.

This liturgical standardization was one of the most important and widespread one for its time and is still in use to this day.

Vatican II and the Revision and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy

Vatican Council II was opened under Pope John XXIII in 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI in 1965.

One of the first issues considered by the council, and the matter that had the most immediate effect on the lives of individual Catholics, was the revision of the liturgy. The central idea was from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4–5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14)

Vatican II went much further in encouraging "active participation" than previous Popes had allowed or recommended. The council fathers established guidelines to govern the revision of the liturgy, which included allowing the very limited use of the vernacular (native language) instead of Latin. As bishops determined, local or national customs could be carefully incorporated into the liturgy.

Implementation of the Council's directives on the liturgy was carried out under the authority of Pope Paul VI by a special papal commission, later incorporated in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and, in the areas entrusted to them, by national conferences of bishops, which, if they had a shared language, were expected to collaborate in producing a common translation.

Some in the Church felt at home with the vernacular but resented the inaccurate translations that occurred in 1974. The original translations of 1969 were faithful to the Latin original. It was when ICEL got involved in the 1974 translation that scholars seriously complained. Since then, there have been better translations and relations between ICEL and the Holy See have improved. Some say the situation was made worse when bishops failed to insist upon their diocesan priests follow Vatican directives on celebrating the sacraments. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Holy Office) frequently criticized priests and bishops who failed to observe the norms as appended in GIRM (General Instructions on the Roman Missal).

Others have said that certain aspects of Vatican II "Sacrosanctum Concilium" were never or poorly implemented. e.g. SC 36, 47 - 50, and 101.

Others at the same time did not feel comfortable with the revised liturgy and preferred the Tridentine liturgy.

It must be noted that the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missal by Paul VI did not replace the Tridentine Mass also known as the Mass of the Council of Trent. The Tridentine Mass to this day is celebrated around the world. They are just two different but both valid liturgical rites for proper celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The current official text of the Mass of Paul VI is the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 2000 and issued in Latin in 2002. Two earlier typical editions of the revised Missal were issued in 1970 (promulgated in 1969) and 1975.

Displeasure by some of the faithful with the Mass of Paul VI.

The Society of St. Pius X (which is sometimes referred to simply as "SSPX") was born out of conservative opposition to the liturgical changes that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Members in the SSPX had rightful aspirations for the Tridentine liturgy more than the Ordo Mass of Paul VI.

The Society was founded in 1970 by the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. By 1987, Archbishop Lefebvre was 81. In Catholic doctrine, only a bishop can ordain men to the priesthood and he has to do it with the approval of the Holy See.

At that point, if Lefebvre died, the SSPX would have become dependent upon non-SSPX bishops to ordain future priests - and Lefebvre did not regard them as properly reliable and orthodox. Lefebvre argued that his consecrations were necessary because the traditional "Tridentine" form of the Catholic Liturgy and sacraments would become extinct without bishops and priests who were properly trained. The passing down of the Tridentine Missal through history to the next generation would be in jeopardy. Some who followed him as well as some SSPX members today implicitly believe that without the Tridentine Mass in the Church, the Church wouldn't have the "really" Mass. This, of course, is erroneous.

Pope John Paul II, through Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), had been working to reconcile their differences on this issue. Lefebvre announced his intention to consecrate a successor to the episcopacy with or without the approval of the Holy See. After being warned not to do this by Pope John Paul II, he was excommunicated along with the consecrated bishops. The notification to the faithful on this issue follows:

Taken from the Vatican web site:


1. With great affliction the Church has learned of the unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on 30 June last by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which has frustrated all the efforts made during the previous years to ensure the full communion with the Church of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X founded by the same Mons. Lefebvre. These efforts, especially intense during recent months, in which the Apostolic See has shown comprehension to the limits of the possible, were all to no avail.(1)

2. This affliction was particularly felt by the Successor Peter to whom in the first place pertains the guardianship of the unity of the Church,(2) even though the number of persons directly involved in these events might be few. For every person is loved by God on his own account and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross for the salvation of all.

The particular circumstances, both objective and subjective in which Archbishop Lefebvre acted, provide everyone with an occasion for profound reflection and for a renewed pledge of fidelity to Christ and to his Church.

3. In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience - which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy - constitutes a schismatic act.(3) In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.(4)

4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".(5)

But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church.(6)

5. Faced with the situation that has arisen I deem it my duty to inform all the Catholic faithful of some aspects which this sad event has highlighted.

a) The outcome of the movement promoted by Mons. Lefebvre can and must be, for all the Catholic faithful, a motive for sincere reflection concerning their own fidelity to the Church's Tradition, authentically interpreted by the ecclesiastical Magisterium, ordinary and extraordinary, especially in the Ecumenical Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. From this reflection all should draw a renewed and efficacious conviction of the necessity of strengthening still more their fidelity by rejecting erroneous interpretations and arbitrary and unauthorized applications in matters of doctrine, liturgy and discipline.

To the bishops especially it pertains, by reason of their pastoral mission, to exercise the important duty of a clear-sighted vigilance full of charity and firmness, so that this fidelity may be everywhere safeguarded.(7)

However, it is necessary that all the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended "harmony" which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.

b) Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel themselves called upon to answer in the present circumstances. Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council's continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.

c) In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfil the grave duty of remaining united to the Vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church, and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offense against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church's law.(8)

To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.

6. Taking account of the importance and complexity of the problems referred to in this document, by virtue of my Apostolic Authority I decree the following:

a) a Commission is instituted whose task it will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Mons. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre;

b) this Commission is composed of a Cardinal President and other members of the Roman Curia, in a number that will be deemed opportune according to circumstances;

c) moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.(9)

7. As this year specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now drawing to a close, I wish to exhort all to join in unceasing prayer that the Vicar of Christ, through the intercession of the Mother of the church, addresses to the Father in the very words of the Son: "That they all may be one!".

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's. 2 July 1988, the tenth year of the pontificate.

Joannes Paulus PP. II

Taken from the Vatican web site:


The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" was instituted by John Paul II with the Motu Proprio promulgated July 2nd, 1988, following the schismatic gesture of the illegal episcopal ordinations carried out by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at Econe in Switzerland.

The Apostolic Letter indicates the goals of the commission. They are to collaborate with bishops, with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and with other interested circles in order to facilitate the full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, communities or individual men and women religious linked, to date, in various ways, to the Fraternity founded by Msgr. Lefebvre who desire to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, conserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions in the light of the Protocol signed May 5th, 1988 by Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Lefebvre.

The commission has played a twofold role using the special faculties which the pope has granted it:

1. to regularize the canonical situation of a certain number of religious communities of a traditionalist nature which already exist but without recognition on the part of the Church by giving them a canonical form corresponding to their charism. Moreover, an ecclesial integration has been found for a number of traditionalist priests who had not been incardinated.

2. To collaborate with local bishops with a view to satisfying the numerous groups of faithful linked to the Latin liturgical tradition which request a regular celebration of the Holy Mass in keeping with the 1962 rite in their dioceses; these groups exist in Europe (France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, England, Italy), America (the United States, Canada, Argentina, Chile) and Australia.

In this case, the commission can indicate to the local bishop a way to meet these faithful or advise them of the need to "respect the just aspirations of these faithful."

The commission has a president, Cardinal Angelo Felici, a secretary, Msgr. Camille Perl, and several assistants. A group of "permanent experts" composed of representatives of the dicasteries concerned offer their advice and expertise.

The outcome and current view of the Church.

While in no way commenting on the Mass of Pope Paul VI and its validity if said correctly by the priests of the Church, the above Vatican documents make it clear that the faithful in the Church who have been attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, have rightful aspirations.

[ * ] [ I Pope John Paul II ] wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations.

A commission goal was to:

To collaborate with local bishops with a view to satisfying the numerous groups of faithful linked to the Latin liturgical tradition which request a regular celebration of the Holy Mass in keeping with the 1962 [ Tridentine ] rite in their dioceses;

That said, the Church is aware that every member in the Church has a different spiritual journey and to some various extent a different religious and catechetical upbringing. She also cherishes all Her Traditions and does not pit one Latin tradition against another. For both these reasons the Church views BOTH Latin liturgies, Novus Ordo and Tridentine, as equally valid while meeting the various spiritual needs of the faithful.

To this day, Pope Benedict has had a strong interest in fulfilling the goals of the commission and is ready to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass. One that would not require the permission of a bishop.

Although a majority of people in America attend an Ordo Mass said in the vernacular, I believe it would be beneficial for the faithful to attend a Tridentine Latin Mass as well as the Ordo Mass said in Latin.

It is also my prayer that if Pope Benedict allows for a wider use of the Tridentine Mass, especially in America, that he also look into providing for the priestly training for current seminarians and current priests in the Tridentine liturgy so that they would be able to celebrate either Latin Traditions.

To my knowledge, there is no training in the Tridentine Latin liturgy at most Catholic seminaries in America, acknowledged by the Holy See, with the except of seminaries of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

It's my hope this will change.


July 7, 2007 - More liberal use of the Tridentine Mass while retaining the Ordo Mass (the ordinary liturgical norm for the Church): From EWTN Click here.

The Roman Missal
(Mass of Pope Paul VI)
Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.