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The Controversy over the publication of the New Mass
Open Letter to Confused Catholics
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Was the Traditional Latin Mass ever legally suppressed?
Traditional Catholic Prayers
The Rosary in English and Latin
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A Guided Tour of the Traditional Latin Mass
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Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Stations of the Cross
Reclaim your heritage
The Catechism of the Council of Trent
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Catechism of St Pius X
A Tribute to Archbishop Lefebvre
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Latin and English
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
How to contact a priest of the Society
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The definitive biography of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
Church Conservation News
The Catholic Worker Movement: A Critical Analysis
Why Christian women should not wear trousers
Is Distributism Catholic?
Vaticangate: Justice denied to Archbishop Lefebvre
The New Laity and the Anti-clerical Factor
Excommunications withdrawn by the Vatican
Garcia Moreno Catholic Statesman and Martyr
Bishop Fellay on the Beatification of Pope John Paul II
A Fake War against Materialism
Traditional Catholic Hymns in Latin with English Translation
St Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on St Matthew's Gospel
Analysis of the Open Letter to Bishop Fellay
When you go to your parish Mass, have you noticed how the centre of gravity has shifted away from God towards the people, and how the prayers of the Mass have been emptied of their Catholic content?
Do you get concerned about the irreverence, the lack of a sacred atmosphere, the noisy chatter, the casual informality of it all?
Have you ever considered the impact this is likely to make on our souls : how a weakening of the Faith results in irreverence which in turn leads ultimately to indifference to God?
As a result of the Reforms in the Church which no longer support the Divine and Catholic Faith, many Catholics have found it morally impossible to participate in the new rite of Mass or to approach a diocesan priest for Confession, because they believe that to do so would compromise their Faith and dishonour Our Lord Who founded the one, true Church for our salvation. It is a point of Catholic doctrine that no one has the right to put his or her faith in danger.
That is why those who wish to remain faithful to Tradition turn to the Society of St Pius X who exercise their ministry in complete fidelity to what has always been taught and believed in the Church.
25 Reasons for not accepting the New Mass
1. The mere fact that the new liturgy was created through a committee of "experts", drawn up by them in a specific time and place, reflecting a new theology, is a totally un-Catholic phenomenon, unprecedented in the history of liturgical development. Liturgy has always been the product of centuries of development, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and always in line with Tradition. A liturgy that is "created" is inevitably fixed to a specific point in time, and also fixed to the personalities that devised it, and thus can be soon outdated and even irrelevant to people with a different world-view. The traditional liturgy transcends the mind of any man or group of men, becoming both timeless and universal in its application.
2. Much of the Sacrificial language has been removed from the liturgy. This action parallels that of the 16th-century reformers, Luther and Cranmer who had removed any specific reference to sacrifice in their Eucharistic services in order to signify their denial of the Mass as a Sacrifice. In the New Mass there is no mention of the Divine Victim in what purports to correspond to the Offertory. In fact, in the General Instruction of the New Mass, there is no mention of an Offertory, as this has been replaced by the Preparation of the Gifts i.e. of bread and wine. So the emphasis has been shifted from the Divine Victim to the produce of the earth and work of human hands. The traditional Offertory prayers - which emphasised the true nature of the Holy Sacrifice in an unmistakable manner - have been suppressed and what remains has been modified to such an extent that their Catholic expression has compromised.
3. The celebration of the new Mass depends heavily on the personality and preferences of the priest celebrating it. The priest can choose the Greeting, the Penitential Rite, the bidding prayers (or they could be composed by a member of the congregation) and even the Canon of the Mass itself. Priests often ad lib during Mass, even expanding the Entrance Rite into a mini-homily further concentrating on the people present, rather than God. Moreover, the priest often alters the wording of the liturgy in places, adding his own "personal touch" to the proceedings, especially in respect to the "Ecce Agnus Dei". In this respect, the rubrics for the new Mass are very loose, lacking the precision of the traditional liturgy.
4. Explicit teaching of the Trinity is reduced, thrown out with much of the rest of the Offertory prayers with nothing replacing it. The sign of the Cross, in particular, has been radically suppressed. Often there is no crucifix on the altar or even in the sanctuary.
In the traditional rite, a crucifix on the altar is de rigueur, and in the traditional Mass the priest makes many signs of the Cross over the consecrated elements, not to bless them but to signal the Church's belief in the Mass as the Sacrifice of the Cross renewed on the altar.
5. The invocation of the Saints has also been reduced, especially by name, in the Confiteor, the Offertory and the Canon of the Mass. This lends weight to the objection that the new Mass is presented as an action of our earthly existence, rather than an eternal action of God Himself in the presence of all the saints and angels. It also reduces belief in the Communion of Saints and even purgatory, that we are part of a greater Church - not only the Church Militant, but also the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering.
6. The lack of preparatory prayers for the priest and servers before they approach the altar of God. The start of the new Mass appears extremely casual, with the priest looking and talking to the people present and paying attention to them, rather than preparing himself for the most awesome and incredible action that any human can do: the sacrifice of God Himself.
The roles of priest and laity have been confused by :
7. the use of a single Confiteor. The priest is no longer set apart from the servers and the people in confessing his sins to God and the court of heaven as the chosen priest to offer the Divine Victim to God, acting in persona Christi. The faithful do join him in offering Christ and themselves to God the Father, but it is through the ministry of the priest that it is accomplished. The priest has seemingly become a "representative of the people" or a presider, rather than a person set apart to offer the Holy Sacrifice and to bring the Sacraments - channels of grace - to the faithful.
8. the priest no longer separately receives Holy Communion. In the traditional liturgy, the priest has his own "Domine non sum dignus..." ("Lord I am not worthy..."), and only after he had received Communion does he present the sacred Host to the faithful with the "Ecce Agnus Dei" and with a "Domine non sum dignus" for the laity. They then made their way forwards to the altar rail for their turn, fed by Christ with His own Body and Blood through the ministry of the priest.
In the new liturgy, the priest usually receives Communion first, though it is not uncommon for him to allow the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to help themselves to the host first. All present, without distinction being made between the celebrant and the faithful, utter a common "Domine non sum dignus".
9. the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (later referred to as Eucharistic Ministers or Special Ministers and now Lay Ministers) to distribute Communion to the faithful. Having the laity touch the sacred Host at all diminishes the uniqueness of the priesthood, and inevitably reduces belief in the Real Presence.
It follows therefore that:
10. Emphasis has been conspicuously diverted away from the Eucharistic sacrifice towards the reading of passages from Scripture. Readings from Scripture are of great value, but the notion of having three Scripture readings, a psalm with responses by the laity, and a homily together with the wholesale destruction of the sacrificial language has contributed to a change in belief about the true nature of the Mass.
This greater weighting in favour of Scripture readings gives the impression that the Mass is , to a large extent, a gathering of the people to hear the Word of God. Moreover, with the use of Eucharistic Prayer II, the time taken to prepare and offer the sacrifice is reduced to a bare minimum.
The words of the liturgy are misleading in respect to :
11. the response to the Mystery of Faith. The expression "Mystery of Faith" was traditionally reserved as a reference to transubstantiation, the change in the substance of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Himself. This expression had been enshrined for centuries in the very words of Consecration , but were discarded in the Novus Ordo.
Responses such as "When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death Lord Jesus until You come in glory" hardly states the Catholic belief that transubstantiation (that the substance of the bread and wine have literally been replaced by the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself) has just taken place! Take another one: "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again" when Christ is fully present on the altar before us! These are examples of the many distractions away from traditional Catholic doctrine which are found throughout the New Mass.
It so happens that, as a result of this particular reform, anyone who denies the doctrine of transubstantiation or finds it difficult to accept can have their disbelief accommodated and can go forward to receive Communion without a qualm, believing that they are receiving nothing more than bread and wine.
12. to Whom the offering is being directed during the Canon. The sacrifice is Christ offered by Christ to God the Father through the ministry of the priest in union with the faithful present. However, immediately afterwards in the mystery of faith, we then direct our words towards Christ Himself, not to God the Father.
13. the response of the Mystery of Faith turns away from the miracle of the Consecration towards the belief in the second coming of our Lord. The effect is to divert attention away from the true meaning of the "Mystery of Faith", an expression which was consecrated by Tradition as referring to the act of transubstantiation.
14. the wrong translation of "pro multis" into "for all" when the literal translation has always been "for many" as scripture states most clearly (see St. Matthew's and St. Mark's account of the institution of the Eucharist). The full translation is that Christ saves "all who believe in His name" (cf. John 3:16), not simply "all" on its own.
The Council of Trent had taught that the expression "for all" must not be used in the words of Consecration, because it gives the impression of universal salvation, which is not a doctrine of the Catholic Church. Instead, it was decreed that "for many" should be used firstly because these were the words of Our Lord Himself as recorded in Scripture, and secondly because the merits of our Lord's death on the Cross, which is presented anew at each celebration, are applied to the souls of all those who assist at it with faith and devotion.
15. the use of the vernacular. Contrary to the teachings of Vatican II, the whole Canon of Mass is now said in the vernacular, suppressing the immense feeling of unity that existed before. With the overrunning of Latin as the language of the Church, much of the musical culture and heritage that existed has now vanished. The beauty and the unchanging nature of Latin (used as a liturgical language) has been discarded in favour of the ordinariness and ambiguities of the vernacular.
The New Mass contains ambiguities subtly favouring heresy, which is more dangerous than if it were clearly heretical since a half-heresy half resembles the truth! Anyone familiar with the Catholic Faith handed down from the Apostles would realise that the New Mass, despite appearances, conveys a new faith, not the Catholic Faith. It conveys Modernism and follows exactly the tactics of Modernism, using vague terminology in order to insinuate and advance Error.
16. The audible Canon. The power of the words of the Consecration are simply too awesome to be heard, only silence can convey the power and instil a reverent atmosphere to reflect the events taking place. It is more important to know what is happening than what is simply being said: we are dipping our toes into the pool of eternality, not hearing some political speech. The words are a means to an end, that is to bring us into contact with the Divine and, as Cardinal Newman said, to help us to "see" the eternal; hearing them somewhat diminishes this concept.
17. physical participation seemingly placed over spiritual participation. The constant need to respond or listen drowns out the spiritual participation that only comes through silencing one's senses, enabling us to offer ourselves with Christ to God the Father.
The practice of :
18. receiving Communion whilst standing. This reduces the sense of humility before one's Creator, and the atmosphere of submission and obedience to the Lord of all. Receiving Communion whilst standing turns the whole affair into an everyday event, walking up and picking up just a "symbol". In the traditional liturgy, the priest comes to us, helpless children, who lack the ability to speak, to feed ourselves, without the infinite mercy of God Himself.
19. receiving Communion in the hand. Before Vatican II, the Host was placed on the tongue of a kneeling communicant by the consecrated hand of a priest. Now it can be placed into the hands of standing communicants by laymen and women. This evident decline in reverence compromises belief in the Real Presence by making reception of Holy Communion appear to be an ordinary, casual affair. It also blurs the line between priest and laity (see above), and introduces the problem of particles left on the hand, all of which are our Lord Jesus Christ whole and entire.
20. having the Blood of Christ practically always presented to the people further increases the confusion between the Mass and a commemorative meal. The language used makes the problem worse; "The Body of Christ" and "The Blood of Christ" when both are the Body and the Blood of Christ.
21. the priest facing the people. This reduces the sacrificial tone of the Mass, gives the impression that the Mass is a meeting or a supper, and centres the Mass on the people present rather than towards the Person to whom it is being offered.
This perversion in the purpose of the Mass is evident in the assumption common among Mass-going Catholics today that the words of the Mass are addressed to them. That is precisely why they cannot see the point of the priest facing the altar with his back to them: it never occurs to them that the words of the Mass are addressed to God.
Also, the priest, our shepherd, is seemingly no longer leading us towards the next life, but is faced inwards on the congregation concentrating on this life.
In addition :
22. Banal music with foot-tapping and hip-swinging rhythms or doleful dirges. With the dropping of Latin from the liturgy, modern secular music was given pride of place. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy issued by Vatican II decreed that Gregorian chant should be given pride of place in sung Masses. But this instruction was ignored. The result was that beautiful, familiar Catholic hymns which have inspired people for centuries, have been thrown out and replaced with new hymns strongly Protestant in sentiment. This further deepens the already distinct impression that one is no longer attending a Catholic function.
23. The suppression of symbolic gestures. The abolition of gestures, such as genuflecting within the Credo, reduces the sense of what we really believe in and what is important within our faith (i.e. the Incarnation). Without these visual symbols, the expression of our faith becomes "flat", lacking a dynamic flavour and open to a variety of interpretations.
Moreover, the important practice of the priest keeping his index finger and thumb together after the Consecration has been made optional, allowing those priests who do not believe in the miracle of transubstantiation to celebrate the New Mass without any misgivings, in accordance with their defective intentions.
As with all post-conciliar rubrics which offer a choice between the traditional expression of reverence and a looser, more casual style of celebration, experience shows that it is the latter option that becomes the norm.
The inevitable result is that this generalised decrease in reverence has a knock-on effect among the Catholic faithful by further diminishing their belief in the miracle of the Blessed Sacrament, that each and every particle being substantially and supernaturally our Lord and our God.
24. Most "Novus Ordo churches" have been re-ordered to reflect Protestant beliefs, destroying altar-rails, replacing the high altar with a simple table, moving the tabernacle into a corner, building a large chair or "thronelet"for the "presider", making it increasingly impossible to celebrate a Catholic Mass in a Catholic atmosphere. Moreover, vestments, chalices and other important features of the Mass have been cheapened.
25. The practice of altar girls and women readers confuses Catholic theology. Proximity to the altar was a tried and tested means of recruiting many young men to the priesthood: to offer the same experience to girls is a veiled implication that they may one day aspire to the priesthood, a falsification of Catholic doctrine, and a deception to women who may be induced into believing that they, too, may aspire to the priesthood.
Moreover, having the laity enter the sanctuary during Mass inevitably reduces the sacredness of the sanctuary, the nature of the priesthood and questions the presence of the Almighty God Himself in the tabernacle. Again, our worship has become "flat", in that one part of the church is as holy as another. The loss of a sense of awe and the complete lack of holy fear has the effect of obscuring the supernatural nature of the Mass and making the Catholic Church appear irrelevant in today's world.
The reasons for avoiding the New Mass should by now be obvious : the changes introduced by the Reformers are bound to have a corrupting effect on the ordinary Catholic who participates in it. With the suppression of much Catholic doctrine and its substitution by forms and expressions which are to be found in non-Catholic religions, his faith will be weakened and with the passage of time will slip gradually from his consciousness.
We can be certain, with regard to the New Mass, that such a defective rite which undermines Catholic teaching cannot be pleasing to God or helpful to our souls. Let us remain faithful to Tradition by assisting at the truly Catholic Mass of the Roman Rite.
What justification is there for abandoning liturgical Latin?
It is commonly alleged that in order to make the Mass more accessible Vatican II had the priest face the people and say the liturgy in their own language. There is not one word in the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican II which remotely suggests that Mass should be offered facing the people and the Constitution does not require that one word of the Mass should be said in the vernacular but commands that Latin must remain the language of the Roman rite. It authorises, but does not command, parts of the Mass to be said in the vernacular where pastorally desirable. Pope Paul VI himself said that it was inconceivable that the Canon should ever be in any language but Latin.
Mgr. Klaus Gamber was described by Cardinal Ratzinger as "the one scholar who, among the army of pseudo-liturgists, truly represents the liturgical thinking of the centre of the Church." In his book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy he states that "One statement we can make with certainty is that the new Ordo of the Mass that has now emerged would not have been endorsed by the majority of the Council Fathers" and that:
"The liturgical reform, welcomed with so much idealism and hope by many priests and lay people alike has turned out to be a liturgical destruction of startling proportions - a débâcle worsening with each passing year. Instead of the hoped-for renewal of the Church and of Catholic life, we are now witnessing a dismantling of the traditional values and piety on which our faith rests. Instead of the fruitful renewal of the liturgy, what we see is a destruction of the forms of the Mass which had developed organically during the course of many centuries."
The fact that Mass attendance in this country plunges by about 30,000 a year would seem to endorse this judgement.
Is the New Mass really Protestant in its origin?
Chapter XI of CRANMER’S GODLY ORDER
(1st Edition) by ANGELUS PRESS, 2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64109, USA
by Michael Davies
Mgr. Hughes has provided an excellent picture of the religious life of the British people on the eve of the Reformation and what he writes, with regard to the Mass, is applicable until the accession of the young King Edward VI in 1547. Henry VII had shown himself very conservative as regards changing the established forms of worship.
Each Sunday, Mgr. Hughes explains, all went to their parish church for Mass, “a Sacrifice really offered by the Priest, offered in the name of the Church and also offered by him as the human agent of the great real offerer, the Divine Priest, Jesus Christ Himself; a Sacrifice in which the Victim was Jesus Christ. The Mass was Christ once again offering Himself to the Father as a propitiation for the sins of the world, not in order to merit forgiveness for them, as at Calvary, on the Cross but in order to provide particular men with a means of making that forgiveness their own, in order that the merit won by the Cross should be applied. Sunday, from the earliest times, had been with Catholics what the Sabbath was - is - to the Jews; the day of the Lord, consecrated by the testimony of the whole community present at a ritual worship and by their abstinence from ordinarily toil. The neglect to assist at Mass on Sundays and on these special feast days was held a serious sin, as also was the neglect to observe the law forbidding ordinary work on these days.
“Around the church, there were placed statues of the Saints and painted on the walls, pictures that told the story of the great events narrated in the Scriptures or in the lives of the Saints. One very favourite subject was the Last Judgment, Christ at the last day of all, judging mankind. Very notable among the Saints were the special patron of the particular church or village, the Saints traditionally associated with that countryside, above all others, a Saint in a class apart, Mary, the Mother of the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
“These churches generally, were the great pride of the village for their statues and pictures and silken hangings, for some specialty in a vestment or in the chalice and other sacred vessels.”1
A number of means were employed to prepare the people for the replacement of this traditional Latin Mass by a vernacular Protestant Communion service.
In order to overthrow the Mass and with it all that remained of the Catholic Faith, the Reformers adopted a cautious approach. They realized that an open frontal attack could rebound on themselves. The way was first prepared with the help of the press. In 1547, a campaign against the Mass was initiated alleging, among other things, that “such as honour the bread there for God do no less idolatry than they that made the sun their god or stars.”
Gardiner complained that “certain printers, players and preachers make a wonderment, as though we knew not yet how to be justified, nor what sacraments we should have.”2 The authorities expressed disapproval in public but their failure to take any active steps to suppress these books made it obvious where their sympathies lay. By the end of the year, the floodgates were opened and books began to appear filled with abuse of everything Catholic - and even dedicated to the King himself and the Lord Protector. The Blessed Sacrament is described as “a vile cake to be made God and Man” and the Mass as “the worshipping of God made of fine flour.” Many of these books were written by continental reformers, among them Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melancthon, Bullinger, Urbanus Regius, Osiander, Hegendorp and Bodius.3 While these books shocked and outraged most of the ordinary faithful and parish clergy, they made a great impression on those who liked to consider themselves an educated and enlightened élite - almost invariably men of influence in some sphere or other.
Those wishing to defend the Mass found it very difficult to do so as the Reformers had total control of the means of communication. “Here and there, possibly a book might be published bearing the name of an author and printer which was distasteful to Cranmer and the Council but there can be no doubt that this would be done at the peril of those concerned. And as a fact, on examining the bibliography of these years, it is remarkable that hardly a single book or pamphlet written in support of the ancient doctrines appears to have been issued from the English press. Such treatises as those of Gardiner and Tunstall on the Sacrament had to be printed abroad and in secret.
“On the other hand, the country was flooded with works, either translations of the labours of foreign reformers, or original compositions, inveighing against Catholic observances and specially against the Mass. These bore the name of author or printer and were mostly of the booklet class, which could be sold for a few pence and were evidently designed for wide circulation among the people. In the circumstances, there can be no doubt whatever that this style of literature, which is so abundant, could not have had currency without the connivance or good will of the government and that it really represented beyond question their wishes and intentions. Nor merely was the circulation of such literature, which is chiefly of a profane and scurrilous character, not prohibited or even moderated by any of the numerous proclamations of the time but express license was given to printers of such works.”4
Another effective means of propagating the revolutionary ideas was through sermons - preachers with a license from Cranmer could go from town to town, attacking beliefs which, in theory, he still held himself and was upholding. Under Henry, for example, while “men and women were dying for beliefs which the Archbishop privately shared, he subscribed to the ruling orthodoxy and imposed it upon others.”5 While the Reformer-dominated King’s Council issued proclamations forbidding irreverent attacks upon the Sacrament and listing punishments for those who did so, in practice it could be called a “round robin” or “Jack in the box” with impunity. One preacher with Cranmer’s license - Thomas Hancock - was arrested after saying, among other things, “that which the Priest holdeth over his head you do see and kneel before it, you honour it and make an idol of it and you yourselves are most horrible idolators.” He was completely discharged at the instigation of the Protector Somerset himself. Cranmer alone had the power of granting a license to preach and his attitude can best be seen by quoting from an instruction issued by the Privy Council to licensed preachers in June, 1548, forbidding them to bring “that into contempt and hatred which the prince doth either allow or is content to suffer,” but at the same time permitting “the lively teaching of the word of God by sermons made after such sort as for the time the Holy Ghost shall put into the preacher’s mind.”6
In his famous sermon “of the plough” preached at St. Paul’s on 18th January, 1548, Latimer openly attacked Catholic practices before the whole court, declaring them and the Mass itself to be the work of the devil whose “office is to hinder religion, to maintain superstition, to set up idolatry, to teach all kinds of popery . . . where the devil is resident and hath his plough going, there away with books, and up with candles; away with bibles, and up with beads, away with the light of the Gospel, and with the light of candles yea at noon-day . . . Where the devil is resident, that he may prevail, up with all superstition and idolatry; censing, painting of images, candles, palms, ashes, holy water and new services of men’s inventing . . . Let all things be done in Latin; there must be nothing but Latin . . .”7
This policy of upholding the traditional faith in theory while allowing it to be undermined in practice extended to liturgical innovations. “. . . On the one hand the Council was issuing orders to restrain innovations in the liturgy and on the other was allowing it to be understood that such innovations were not displeasing to them . . .”8 Cranmer’s programme for overthrowing the established liturgy described at the beginning of this chapter was divided into four stages. It has already been explained in Chapter VIII why he deemed it imprudent to do too much too soon. Stage one was to have certain portions of the unchanged traditional Mass in the vernacular. Stage two was to introduce new material into the old Mass, none of which would be specifically heretical. Stage three was to replace the old Mass with an English Communion service which, once more, was not specifically heretical. Stage four was to replace this service with a specifically Protestant one. As will be explained in Chapter XVI, the psychology of this process was very sound. Very few men have the courage to be martyrs and even those with strong convictions are liable to seek a compromise where one is possible. Such a compromise was possible with each of Cranmer’s first three stages - and once the process of compromising has been entered into, it tends to be self-perpetuating. A man who has been making continual concessions is liable to lack the will to make a stand and to feel that, “in any case it is too late now.” Prominent among the liturgical innovations which prepared the way for or accompanied the 1549 Prayer Book were the principles that the liturgy must be in the vernacular and audible throughout; Communion under both kinds; a new order of Communion to be used with the old Mass; the replacement of altars with tables.
THE VERNACULAR AND AUDIBILITY
Although a number of the Reformers began by using a modified traditional or newly composed Latin liturgy, it soon became a sine qua non of Protestantism (but for some Lutherans) that worship must be exclusively in the vernacular.9 Statements such as the following, taken from the writings of the Reformers and condemned by Trent, provide an accurate summary of the Protestant standpoint: “The rite of the Church of Rome by which the words of consecration are said secretly and in a low voice is to be condemned and the Mass ought to be celebrated only in the vernacular language which all understand.”10 The use of the vernacular even before the introduction of the new services was, in itself, “indeed a revolution.”11 It was also an effective instrument for revolutionary change as it accustomed the people to the idea of drastic change in their manner of worship. Where the ordinary Catholic was concerned, Cranmer’s revision of the Latin Mass in his new rite of 1549 did not appear as startling as the transition from Latin to English while still using the old rite. Even an Anglican author can see clearly that by introducing English into the traditional services “Cranmer clearly was preparing for the day when liturgical revision would become possible.”12
As early as 11th April, 1547, Compline was being sung in English in the royal chapel.13 The opening of the first Parliament of Edward’s reign was made the occasion for a far more significant novelty as it touched the ritual of the Mass itself. The King rode from his palace of Westminster to the Church of St. Peter with all the lords spiritual and temporal for a Mass during which the Gloria, Credo, and Agnus Dei were all sung in English.14 Even the more conservative Bishops were now prepared to concede that while Latin should still be the general rule during Mass, especially “in the mysteries thereof, nevertheless certain prayers might be in the mother tongue for the instruction and stirring of the devotion of the people as shall be thought convenient.”15 By the 12th May, 1548, it was possible to have a totally English Mass at Westminster, including the consecration.16
“It is difficult,” writes A. L. Rowse, “for anyone without a knowledge of anthropology to appreciate fully the astonishing audacity, the profound disturbance to the unconscious levels upon which society lives its life, of such an action as the substitution of an English liturgy for the age-long Latin rite of Western Christendom in which Englishmen had been swaddled time out of mind . . . nothing can detract from the revolutionary audacity of such an interference with the customary, the subconscious, the ritual element in life.”17
As well as insisting upon the vernacular, the Reformers demanded that the whole service should be audible to the congregation. A rubric in the 1549 Prayer Book requires that the Priest “shall saye, or syng, plainly and distinctly, this prayer following,” namely the Canon.18
The Council of Trent pronounced anathemas upon anyone holding the propositions either that “the rite of the Roman Church whereby a part of the Canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone is to be condemned; or that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only.”19 These anathemas do not, of course, preclude the possibility of these practices being permitted within the Roman rite.
COMMUNION UNDER BOTH KINDS
One of Cranmer’s first important innovations was to impose the practice of communion under both kinds for the laity at the end of 1547. Many Catholics both in England and abroad, made the mistake of conceding this change without opposition for the sake of peace. “It was, after all, only a matter of ecclesiastical discipline, although some innovators, in urging the incompleteness of the Sacrament when administered under one kind only, gave a doctrinal turn to the question which issued in heresy. The great advantage secured to the innovators by the adoption of communion under both kinds in England was the opportunity it afforded them of effecting a break with the ancient missal.”20 Every such break with tradition lessened the impact of those to follow so that when changes that were not simply matters of discipline were introduced, the possibility of effective resistance was considerably lessened.
THE NEW ORDER OF COMMUNION
The printing of “The Order of Communion” - a booklet of only three or four leaves - was finished on 8th March, 1548. This was to be used in conjunction with the traditional Mass and must not be confused with the wholly new Communion service contained in the 1549 Prayer Book. The 1548 rite contained exhortations addressed to those about to receive the Sacrament which, according to Mgr. Hughes, contained “ambiguities designed to make the rite one which could be conscientiously used by those who did not believe that he (Christ) was there present except to the communicant in the moment of receiving Holy Communion and who believed that the presence, even at that moment, was not in what was received but only in ‘the heart’ of the receiver.”21 The book also included a ritual for the administration of Communion under both kinds and these prayers, with a few modifications, were incorporated into the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Mgr. Hughes’ assessment of the ambiguous nature of the new rite is shared by the Protestant historian S. T. Bindoff. “The new service contained little or nothing clearly inconsistent with Catholic doctrine. At the crucial points its phraseology was ambiguous and the statute embodying it explicitly renounced any intention of condemning rites used elsewhere.”22
Just how pleasing this new rite was to discerning Protestants was made clear by no less a person than Miles Coverdale who translated it into Latin and sent a copy to Calvin declaring it to be “the first fruits of godliness (according as the Lord now wills his religion to revive in England)...”23
n his proclamation giving effect to the new service, the King admonishes such radical Protestants as Coverdale “to stay and quiet themselves with this our direction - and not enterprise to run afore and so by their rashness to become the greatest hinderers” of change. But at the same time he speaks of a “most earnest intent further to travail for the reformation and setting forth of such godly orders.”24 The radicals did not need to “quiet themselves” long and the further “godly orders” were to be imposed in the following year.
ALTARS REPLACED BY TABLES
This was another step directly in line with the liturgical policies of the continental Reformers, the final product of which is well summarized by a description of the Communion service at Strasbourg after 1530 when Bucer’s influence became dominant. “So, Mass, Priest and altar are replaced by Lord’s Supper, minister and Holy Table and the westward replaces the eastward position of the celebrant.”25 (It is worth repeating that Bucer influenced Cranmer and hence his new liturgy, more than any other continental reformer.) On the same theme, Calvin explains that God “has given us a table at which to feast, not an altar on which to offer sacrifice, He has not consecrated Priests but ministers to distribute the sacred banquet.”26
The wholesale destruction of altars in England did not take place until after the imposition of the 1549 Prayer Book but a start had been made in 1548 with the altars of the chantry chapels which Cranmer has suppressed. After 1549, the stone altars upon which the Sacrifice of the Mass had been offered were replaced with wooden tables placed in the chancel. On 27th November, 1548, John ab Ulmis wrote to Bullinger as follows: “At this time those privileged altars are entirely overthrown in a great part of England and by the common consent of the higher classes, altogether abolished. Why should I say more? Those idolatrous altars are now become hog-ties (Arae factae sunt harae), that is the habitation of swine and beasts.”27
During vacancy in the See of Norwich when it came under Cranmer’s jurisdiction (1549-1550), “The most part of all altars” in this diocese were taken down.28 In a series of Lenten sermons preached before the King and Council, Hooper urged the complete abolition of altars and the substitution of tables because there were only three forms of sacrifice which Christian men could offer and these did not require an altar. They were sacrifices of thanksgiving; benevolence and liberality to the poor; and mortifying of our own bodies and to die unto sin . . . “If we study not daily to offer these sacrifices to God, we be no Christian men. Seeing Christian men have none other sacrifice than these, which may and ought to be done without altars, there should among Christians be no altars.” While altars remained, he insisted, “both the ignorant people and the ignorant and evil-persuaded Priest, will dream always of sacrifice.”29
On 27th March, 1550, after the appointment of Ridley to the See of London, Hooper wrote to Bullinger: “He will, I hope, destroy the altars of Baal, as he did heretofore in his church when he was Bishop of Rochester. I can scarcely express to you, my very dear friend, under what difficulties and dangers we are labouring and struggling, that the idol of the Mass may be thrown out.” He was able to add, “Many altars have been destroyed in this city (London) since I arrived here.”30 Hooper’s expectations of Ridley proved to be well founded. Within three months he had issued injunctions calling for the removal of the altars from the Churches in his diocese.31 Altars were “too enduring monuments” to the age old belief in the sacrifice of the Mass. Altar-smashing was already a well recognized mark of the Reformation on the Continent, where the practice had been the normal accompaniment of the abolition of the Mass.”32 On 24th November, 1550, the King’s Council ordered the universal implementation of this policy in England, “that all the altars throughout the kingdom should be destroyed. For the future, whenever the rite of the Holy Eucharist was celebrated, a wooden table was to be used, covered, during the rite, with a cloth of linen.33 This was intended “to avoid all matters of further contention and strife” and in a set of reasons accompanying the instruction (signed by Cranmer among others), it was explained that: “First, the form of a table shall move the simple from the superstitious opinions of the Popish Mass unto the right use of the Lord’s Supper. For the use of an altar is to make sacrifice upon it: the use of a table is to serve for men to eat upon. Now when we come again unto the Lord’s board, what do we come for? To sacrifice Christ again and to crucify Him again; or to feed upon Him that was once only crucified and offered up for us? If we come to feed upon Him, spiritually to eat His Body and spiritually to dcan His Blood, which is the true use of the Lord’s supper; then no man can deny but the form of a table is more meet for the Lord’s board than the form of an altar.”34
“Then throughout the land the consecrated altars of the Christian sacrifice were cast out and in the account books of country parishes such items as this appeared: ‘Payd to tylers for breckynge downe forten awters in the cherche’ . . .”35
A descendant of Bishop Ridley writes in a biography of his reforming ancestor that the destruction of the altars which the ordinary people considered sacrilege shocked them into a full realization of the extent of the revolution which had taken place: “. . . The removal of altars brought home to every subject in the kingdom that the central object which had stood in the churches for over a thousand years and which they had watched with awe every Sunday since their early childhood, was condemned as idolatrous and thrown contemptuously away by the adherents of the new religion which had been forced upon them.”36
The fact that the word altar is used in certain of the rubrics of the 1549 Prayer Book might appear to involve some inconsistency with the teaching of the Reformers. This point is dealt with in the explanation which accompanied the order of the King’s Council demanding the destruction of altars. It explains that “it calleth the table where the holy Communion is distributed, with lauds and thanksgiving unto the Lord, an altar; for that there is offered the same sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”37 Nevertheless, the word ‘altar’ was struck out of the 1552 Prayer Book and was not subsequently replaced. Archbishop Laud ordered the communion tables to be placed altar-wise, against the east wall, in about 1636.38
There were a good number of other innovations, some of which might appear of minor importance but nonetheless played their part in contributing to the general atmosphere of change, disturbance and unrest. The most important of these was the widespread destruction of statues. The Reformer abolished such well loved ceremonies as the carrying of candles on Candlemas day, the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday and of palms on Palm Sunday.39 “In these years 1547 and 1548 consequently, the popular mind was being stirred up by changes in old established ceremonial, by novel introductions into the services, by intemperate preaching and by profane tracts scattered broadcast over the country, attacking with scurrilous abuse what the people had hitherto been taught to regard as the Most Holy.”40
The seeds of revolution had been sown. All that remained was for the revolutionaries to reap their harvest.
The books referred to in the notes on Chapter XI of CRANMER’S GODLY ORDER have been abbreviated as follows:
CT THE CHURCH TEACHES (Documents of the Church in English Translation), translated by J. F. Clarkson and others (Rockford, Illinois, 1973). This is an English version of the Denzinger ENCHIRIDION SYMBOLORUM and references to Denzinger in the notes, indicated by “D”, can be located in this book.
CW THE WORKS OF THOMAS CRANMER (two volumes), Parker Society.
D See: CT above.
EBCP EDWARD VI AND THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, Gasquet & Bishop (London, 1890). In the interests of brevity, only the first of the authors is mentioned when reference is made to this book.
ESR EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE AND THE REFORMATION, F. Clark (Oxford, 1967).
FSPB THE FIRST AND SECOND PRAYER BOOKS OF KING EDWARD VI, D. Harrison (Dean of Bristol) (London, 1968).
PHR THE REFORMATION - A POPULAR HISTORY, P. Hughes (London, 1960).
PS Parker Society.
RIE THE REFORMATION IN ENGLAND, P. Hughes (three vols.) (London, 1950).
RMP THE REFORMATION, THE MASS AND THE PRIESTHOOD, E. C. Messenger, (two volumes) (London, 1936).
TE TUDOR ENGLAND, S. T. Bindoff (London, 1952).
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