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Latin Rite Holy Mass

iconastasis, Eastern rite, transubstantiation, consecration, unleavened bread

Rev. Rama Coomaraswamy


Those who have attended Eastern Rite Masses know they are quite different than those we are used to. The rite is carried out behind a curtain and the iconostasis - thus signifying its mysterious nature. In the west the altar rail serves the same function of enclosing the sacred space and distinguishing it from the remainder of the church. The Eucharist is given in a spoon and dipped in the consecrated wine. Similarly, in the Eastern Church, a confessional is not used. Instead the priest and the penitent go up to Christ painted on the Iconastasis. The priest puts his stole over the shoulder of the penitent and the penitent confesses along with the priest to Christ. But the essence of the rite is the same. True Contrition must be expressed and Penance is given by the priest followed byabsolution.

What however is remarkable is not how different the various rites of the Church are, but how similar. Latin rite Catholics use unleavened bread as did Christ at the Last Supper. Eastern rite Catholics use leavened bread, said by some to symbolize the risen Christ. But in point of fact, the canons or rules of both rites allow for the use of both forms of bread. The form of the bread used is a matter of Church discipline. The Eastern rite Catholics hold that the consecration is the result of the Epiclesis or prayer said just after the words of Consecration. When the Eastern rite priest, acting in the place of Christ, says this prayer, he covers the Chalice with the Veil and waves it to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Roman Church holds that transubstantiation occurs when the priest - acting in the place of Christ - says the words of Consecration. Now theologians can argue as to just when transubstantiation occurs - but what is clear is that Rome has never denied the validity of the Eastern rites. What is also clear is that both rites - and indeed, all the valid rites - use the same words of consecration. There are in fact some 17 different Eastern rites ranging from the Rheuthanian to the Malabar rite used in India. But the words of consecration used vary only with respect to one phrase: Mysterium Fidei. Christ did not use these words - but some of the Apostles - tradition says Peter was the first to do this - inserted them in the rite, while others did not. The Church has never held that they were essential. Incidentally, the Novus Ordo Missae not only changed the Words of Consecration, they also dropped the prayer in the traditional Mass which is the equivalent of the Epiclesis.

It is interesting to note that the word “Mass”, usually said to derive from the dismissal prayer Ita Missa est (Go, the Mass is over), more likely is derived from the Hebrew word misssach, meaning a voluntary oblation (Deuteronomy 16:10), for such is our Sacrifice of the Altar. And so the Mass came to be said in various languages - Arabic - Coptic - Greek -Aramaic - Kannanese, etc. But despite this its core or essential parts remained the same. Now, the Church has always held that the ceremonies surrounding a sacrament can be changed if there is adequate reason - but that the core or principle parts must remain unchanged. The core of our Mass is what is called the Canon and above all the Words of Consecration which are part of the Canon. As far as we can tell, the Canon of our Mass goes back to the time of Christ and the Apostles.

We believe this on two grounds:
1) the Church teaches that the Canon 'was established many centuries ago and is so entirely free of error that it contains nothing that does not eminently inspire reverence and devotion, and raise to God the hearts of those who offer the Sacrifice. For it is composed of the very words of the Lord, the traditions of the Apostles, and the pious institutions of the holy pontiffs.' Such is the declaration of the XII session of the Council of Trent, and as such it is something we must believe - for the Church in its magisterial teaching cannot lie to us. We know what the last phrase - the pious institutions of the holy pontiffs refers to. Pope St. Gregory added 19 words to the prayer Hanc Igitur - diesque nostros in tua pace disponas - at a time when Rome was being besieged by the Lombards and the city was in utmost peril, and the Church has judged it expedient to retain these words ever since. And Pope St. Leo added another four.
2) The second reason we believe this is based on historical evidence. To quote but one source: the Anglican Liturgical Historian Sir William Palmer said, the Canon of the Mass 'may have existed from a period of the most remote antiquity, and perhaps there are nearly as good reasons for referring its original composition to the Apostolic Age.'

Obviously additions to the central rite were made over time. We have already mentioned those of Sts. Leo and Gregory. Outside of the Canon innumerable changes have been made throughout the ages - mostly in the way of additions. Now additions are a very different thing than deletions and when we come to the Novus Ordo Missae, somewhere between 60 and 80% of the traditional rite has been deleted. Additions are also different from changes in the wording of the rite. What were some of the additions? Well some of the prayers said before and after the Canon were added. For example, the Last Gospel was instituted in the 13th Century. In the 12th century when heretics denied the Real Presence, the Church instituted kneeling when it was said in the creed that 'the Word was made flesh.' We know that the Gloria was originally said only at the Christmas Mass, but was later extended to all those Masses apart from penitential seasons and funerals. Incidentally, the current official English translation of the Gloria used in the Novus Ordo is false for it grants peace to all men - but peace on earth is only accessible to men of good will. We know that at the Last Supper there were readings taken from Scripture. We know that Sacred writings were read in the earliest liturgies. However, the New Testament Canon of Scriptures was only established in the fourth century, and hence the present cycle of Scripture readings had to be established after that time.

This is an important point to keep in mind. While the Scriptures were written between 6 to 100 years after the death of Christ - scholars argue about the precise dates - the New Testament as such was only established around the year 370. The reason for this was that there were so many spurious Scriptures being promulgated that the Church found it necessary to convene a Council in order to sort out what was really Catholic and what was not. It was at this Council that the Scriptures or New Testament as we know it, were established. Thus it is that those who believe that the Scriptures and only the Scriptures are the basis of Christianity, have to recognize that it is the Church that gave them the Scriptures, and not the other way around. St. Augustine bluntly said that if it wasn't for the Church establishing the Scriptures as such, he would not give them his unconditioned assent. The Protestants should remember this. So should those seemingly Catholic priests who we see on television holding a Bible in their hands and imitating 'for all the world' their Protestant brethren. It follows that it was impossible for the Apostles to have brought the Bible with them when they first started to Evangelize the world. It was shortly after the fourth century, during the reign of Pope St. Damasus, that the Church selected the most important Scripture passages which were to be read throughout the year so as to become fixed in the minds of the faithful. In the new mass these Scripture selections were changed and, following the Lutheran pattern, read on a triennial basis. And this is to say nothing of the newer translations which frequently distort the meaning of the text. Consider the word Hell. In the Douay version it is mentioned some 350 times; in the King James Version, over 150 times, but in the New American Bible used in the Novus Ordo it is mentioned but once, and that not in a prescribed reading. How about the translation of a 'mess of pottage' as 'gimmie some of that red stuff'? Or the Hail Mary as 'Greetings most favored daughter...'

Returning to the Mass, the point has already been made that additions are quite a different thing than deletions or changes in the words. Over the course of the centuries, many additional prayers were added to the Mass until, by the time of Pope Saint Pius V, the Mass had become overburdened with accretions to the point of almost obscuring its essential core. Thus it was that Pius V gathered together the best scholars of the time and removed all those accretions that had been added from the fifth century onwards. He allowed all the rites that had been in use for over 200 years to be kept - such changes for example as we see in the Dominican rite - but otherwise ordered that the Church return to the Mass as it had always been since the earliest of recorded history. Since then there have been four very minor changes made in the official Mass he promulgated based either on better scholarship or the revision of typographical errors. Paul VI would have us believe that his reforms were in no way different from those of Pope Saint Pius the Fifth's. That such is a gross distortion of the facts is obvious. And so it is that the core of the Mass as we know it today goes back to the earliest recorded time. As Father Louis Bouyer, a Lutheran convert who was part of the Concilium that created the Novus Ordo Missae and who later regretted his involvement said 'The Roman Canon, as it is today, goes back to Gregory the Great. There is not, in the East or in the West, a Eucharistic prayer remaining in use to this day, that can boast of such antiquity. To jettison it would be a rejection of any claim on the part of the Roman Church to represent the True Catholic Church.' He felt that the new mass was very much responsible for what he called 'The Decompensation of Catholicism.'

The Church has been likened to the Ark of Noah which functions to enable us to travel safely over the stormy seas of this world. It is also a title given to Our Lady who bore within her bosom Jesus Christ. Now the Ark was not built according to the whims of Noah's contemporaries - even less according to the whims of Noah himself. It was built according to the instructions of God who Himself sealed its door. And we can say the same for our traditional Mass. Its essential core and nature was established by Christ Himself and embellished by the Apostles. Our Mass is part of Revelation for God Himself instructed the Apostles, ordained them, and instructed them to 'to do these things in memory of me.' Those of you who are familiar with my book on the Mass know that this phrase means a great deal more than a 'memorial' in the sense of remembering something that happened 2000 years ago.2

As opposed to this, the Novus Ordo Missae was created by men - or more exactly, by a Concilium of some 200 individuals with the help of Protestants.3 Lutherans and the creators of the Novus Ordo Missae would have us believe that the Mass was developed by men over a period of time - and that, for some strange reason, it was necessary to bring the Mass into agreement with the Scriptures. Almost certainly, this 'strange reason' was to expedite the ecumenical process by accommodating the Protestants who reject Tradition and only accept the [truncated] Scriptures. Now there is no more reason for a Catholic to bring the Mass into line with Scripture, then there is reason to change the Scriptures to bring it into line with our Mass. Let us be clear about this. As I have already pointed out, The first Scriptures were written some 6 years after Christ's Crucifixion and those of St. John some 90 years later. The first Apostles did not go around like the Protestants, bringing the Good News in the form of any written word.4

The Mass was not something drawn from the Scriptures but existed years before the Scriptures were written. In fact, the Mass was so sacred that no one who was unbaptized was allowed to be present - there is good historical reason to believe that the Canon had to be memorized by heart and was not written down before the third century. It was referred to as the arcana - the secret which could not be disclosed to the profane. The words of Consecration were so sacred that they were likened to the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple - when they were first written down in the fourth century, they were written in letters of gold. So sacred and holy were the rites of the Mass considered that it is almost certain that the words of Scripture were somewhat altered so as to give the sense but not the exact form used in the Consecration. And so we see that one of the principal excuses used by the new Church to explain changing the words of Consecration is based on a false premise. What is even more extraordinary is that the General Instruction which provides the rubrics for the new mass no longer uses the phrase 'Words of Consecration' - in line with the new and false historical perspective, they are now referred to as the 'Words of our Lord.' And what is even more shocking is that Paul VI in changing the Words of Consecration, in bringing them into line with those used by Lutherans and Protestants, used the phrase 'We wish the Words of our Lord to be...' It is a measure of our incredulity that we can even conceive of, much less accept, the Mass established by Christ and the Apostles being altered by men.

The true Mass - all of the true Masses throughout the world, regardless of which rite - are based, not on Scripture, but on the words specified - in specie - in precise detail as the traditional texts state - by Christ Himself. When it came to the other Sacraments, He told the Apostles in general what the form or words used had to be, but with the Mass no variation was allowed, and throughout the long course of history, no changes in these precious words were made. Of course there is another reason why the words we consider to be related to the Words of Consecration are now referred to as 'the words of our Lord.' The reason is that not only these words, but the entire Eucharistic Prayer(s) of the new mass are part of what is called the 'narration of the institution' or the retelling of the story of what occurred at the Last Supper. In other words, in the Novus Ordo Missae, the 'president' (for that is what the 'priest' is called) is telling us the story of what happened 2000 years ago at the Last Supper. In reading the Scripture story, they are indeed the 'words of Our Lord,' and not the 'Words of Consecration.' Under these circumstances, to speak of consecration would be inappropriate. The Church has always taught that when a priest says or relates the traditional Mass as a historical event, no consecration occurs.

The second fact to be recognized is that in all 83 rites of the Mass which the Church recognizes and has always recognized as valid, the Words of Consecration are essentially the same. I have already explained to you that it was the Apostles who legitimately added the phrase Mysterium Fidei. Now all 83 rites use the word many. None of them use the word all. This is, as St. Thomas Aquinas and innumerable saints have explained, because, while Christ died for all men, not all are saved, but only those that accept Him. This explanation is incorporated into the Catechism of the Council of Trent which clearly places it within the realm of what is called the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. The reason why many was changed to all is because the new Church believes all men will go to heaven. This is why the funeral Mass in the new Church is the Mass of the Angels. What is the Mass of the Angels? It is the Mass said for infants that die after baptism before they have a chance to sin. This is why in the new funeral Mass there are no prayers for the repose of the soul - why pray for a soul that is going to heaven? In the Latin version, the word anima or soul occurs twice in two prayers which are offered as 'alternatives.' But how often are 'alternative prayers' used? Of course, a priest may add whatever he wants to the service and occasionally one does hear a request for prayers for the repose of the soul - but not often. But returning to the issue of mistranslating multis by all. The new Church would have us believe that there is no word for all in Aramaic. This is a lie. It is a lie first propounded by the Protestant theologian Jeremias in the present century. I call it a lie because the falsity of this claim has been repeatedly demonstrated by scholars of every persuasion. To see the absurdity of such a claim, one only has to change many into all throughout the Scriptures.5

A third falsehood is the repeated claim by Paul VI that 'nothing has changed in the new mass.' How can you delete between 60 and 80% of a rite, change the very Words of Consecration given to us by Christ, and then claim that nothing has changed? One can list a host of other misrepresentations - the new mass - if one can call it a mass at all, is unfortunately based on a host of similar distortions. I have only superficially dealt with the Novus Ordo Missae, because, strictly speaking, it is not the Mass but something entirely different - something created by a Concilium of some 200 people under the supervision of the (...) Annibal Bugnini, a man who Michael Davies has virtually proven to be a Freemason, and who has referred to this service as a 'new song.' Throughout this paper an attempt will be made to compare various aspects of Our Traditional Mass - created by Christ and embellished by the Apostles - and the new 'mass,' a quasi-Protestant service created by a Concilium of two hundred modernists assisted by six Protestant theologians.6

It will be argued by some that a pope can change what a previous pope established. Now this is true when one is considering such practices as the pope eating dinner alone, or when one is dealing with disciplinary matters such as eating meat on Friday or the length of the Fast before Mass. It is not however true that what is magisterially established in the realm of 'faith and morals' by one pope can be changed by another. The reason for this is that whatever is magisterially established, is established by the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost, incapable of 'speaking' other than the truth, cannot contradict Himself. Now the form and matter of the Sacraments has been magisterially established since the time of Christ and the Apostles.7

The Bull Quo Primum is part of the Church's Magisterium as are the various documents - 'briefs, encyclical letters, consistorial allocutions, and other Apostolic letters' - whose function is to protect the traditional liturgy of the Church. The traditional Mass, part of the Universal and Ordinary Magisterium of the Church is and has always been protected from substantial change. It goes without saying that the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church is protected from all error by its very nature. Let us flee in horror from those who so loudly proclaim that this Magisterium is capable of any error. We can argue about what is covered by the Ordinary Magisterium, but not about its infallible character which was always believed and clearly defined at Vatican I.

One further point. Many traditional Catholics will point to the Quo Primum as guaranteeing their right to the traditional Mass. They are of course correct. But we must be clear about what this document says. It does not say that the Church cannot offer other forms of the Mass, such as the Eastern Rite, but only that no one can forbid the traditional Latin rite. The new Church does not violate this Bull by allowing for the usage of other. It violates this Bull and incurs the 'wrath of Almighty God' by forbidding the traditional rite, by altering it, or by making some other rite 'normative.' There has been some debate about whether or not the new Church has in fact abrogated this Bull - Michael Davies says it hasn't and further denies that the new Church has forbidden the traditional rite. He is wrong - and I might add, he often is. I have a letter - or a copy of a letter - from the Papal Commission Ecclesia Dei to the All India Catholic Laity Congress which clearly states that Quo Primum has been abrogated. To quote it directly, 'the law of the Bull Quo Primum was removed in 1970, at the time established by Pope Paul VI for the obligatory use of his Missal.' It is perhaps difficult for some to comprehend what this statement means. Let me reiterate: the traditional rite which sufficed within the Church for almost 2000 years has been forbidden by the new Church. This is an extraordinary act. Imagine Hindus forbidding the reading of the Vedas; or Muslims forbidding the reading of the Koran! Everything is acceptable but the traditional Mass.


2 Rama Coomaraswamy, The Problems with the New Mass, TAN, Rockford, Ill., 1992

3 'The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men. They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not' Psalm 113.

4 Cardinal Manning: 'We neither derive our religion from the Scriptures, nor does it depend on them. Our faith was in the world before the New Testament was written.' The Temporal Mission of the Church.

5 The importance of retaining the precise words of Christ relates to their meaning. For example, Christ said 'This is my body which is given for you' Christ said that His body is given. He did not say: 'It is given to you, ' but 'given for you and many others' -not to you, but for you, an offering to God.

6 Among those responsible is the Jesuit Joseph Jungman. I mention this because many traditional Catholics mistakenly consider him to be orthodox. It is also pertinent that, according to Father Summers, in the black or satanic masses, the priest faces the audience (The History of Witchcraft).

7 in speciae for the Mass, in genera for the other sacraments.

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