The Problem of the Liturgical Reform: A theological and liturgical study

Part I

A Summary by Fr. GnanaPragash Suresh.

 Some claim that the New Mass came in slowly, some say it was not intentional…
others say it was planned. By either reading the book or by reading this summary,
it becomes very clear that the innovators, particularly Father (later Archbishop) Bugnini knew full well what was their plan. They drafted it and put it into action.
It took off and is destroying the faith of millions. (Ed.)

In March 2001 the Society of St. Pius X published a theological and liturgical study of the New Mass or the Mass of Pope Paul VI. This study is preceded by an “Address to Pope John Paul II” by Bishop Fellay, the Superior General of  the Society of St. Pius X. After setting forth some of the serious issues confronting the Catholic conscience as a result of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, he asks the Pope to supply the necessary clarifications.

This study is divided into three parts, each containing three chapters. It is a dense work, strongly argued and well constructed. It tackles the question of the liturgical reform from a new perspective. It gets inside the minds of the reformers and, on the basis of their own studies and declarations, to analyze and expose the “New Theology”, which influenced the reform.

No Catholic would ever have suspected that behind this reform there lies a New Theology: theology of the “Pascal Mystery.” The analysis of the new Missal in this book is based on a joint study of the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order of the Mass) and of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (abbreviated into GI) which prefaces the new Missal of 1969.

The analysis of the New Mass and the General Instruction compels us to recognize that the structure of this new rite is no longer based on sacrifice but on a  memorial meal. The inevitable conclusion of these observations is that the modernists have made a liturgical rupture from the Traditional Roman Liturgy under the guise of making a liturgical reform.

Chapter 1


          A comparison of the Traditional Missal and the New Missal of Pope Paul VI at first shows a certain likeness between them. But a closer analysis reveals that the New Missal has kept only the material appearances of the Traditional Missal while changing the structure of  the rite at its very foundations.

I. The Structure of the Traditional Missal: A Sacrifice.

The Tradition of the Church has always shown that the Mass is a sacrifice by means of an explicitly sacrificial rite. The Traditional Missal assumed the essential form of sacrifice seen in the sacrifices of the Old Testament: Oblation of the Victim (offertory), immolation (double consecration) and consummation (communion).

II. The Structure of the New Missal: A Memorial Meal.

The promoters of the new theology have assumed that when Christ instituted the Eucharist during the paschal meal, He was adopting the memorial aspect of the Jewish Passover and leaving aside its sacrificial dimension.

The Liturgical Reform has adopted this vision advocated by the modernizers. The General Institution, #2, associates the Mass with the “celebration of the Supper of the Lord” where Christ “instituted the Eucharist as the sacrifice of His Body and Blood and  entrusted it to His beloved Spouse, the Church, as a memorial of His death and resurrection.” Since Christ performed the ritual acts of a Jewish meal on Maundy Thursday, those acts will, henceforth, define the structure of the Mass: berakah or blessing of the food (presentation of the gifts), thanksgiving for gifts received (Eucharistic prayers), breaking and partaking of the bread (Communion), (GI #48).

Thus, in place of the Offertory the “The Presentation of Gift,” taken from the ritual berakoth of the Jewish meal, has been introduced. The tenor of sacrifice which characterized the Traditional Missal has disappeared from the “The Presentation of the Gifts.” By becoming the “Eucharistic Prayer,” the Canon has been greatly affected. Since at the Last Supper Christ took bread and gave thanks, the General Institution presents this part of the Mass as a “prayer of thanksgiving and consecration” (GI #54) akin to the thanksgiving prayers which accompany ritual Jewish meals (CCC #1328).

An examination of the texts obliges us to draw some crucial conclusions. The Traditional Missal considers sacrifice as the offering of  the victim (Our Lord) to God for our sins. The New Missal considers sacrifice as “the calling to mind of the sacrifice of Christ through the Eucharistic memorial which makes present again the historical acts of Redemption.” (GI ##48). “It is through this very memorial meal that the Church offers the immaculate Victim to God the Father, in the Holy Spirit.” (GI #55 e,f.). The Traditional Missal considers Communion as a partaking of the Victim, an act sufficiently symbolized by communicating under one species. The New Missal considers Communion as a “paschal meal” and it is given under both kinds since only in this form the “meal-aspect”of the Eucharist is more fully manifested. (GI ##56, 240).

III. Conclusion.

One crucial change in the New Missal characterizes clearly this new direction: the removal of the expression “Mysterium Fidei” (the mystery of faith). In the New Missal the “Mystery of  Faith” is no longer the sacrificial consecration, but all the mysteries of Christ’s life “proclaimed and remembered together.”

These changes clearly show the fundamental difference between the Traditional Missal and the New Missal: in the former, the Mass is a sacrificial offering of the transubstantiated Christ, while in the latter the Mass is portrayed as a memorial of Christ’s Passover.

Chapter 2


The Traditional Missal develops the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, and, therefore, emphasizes the presence of Christ the Priest and the Victim. Since the New Missal is cast in the form of a memorial meal, it emphasizes the spiritual presence of Christ which is given to the faithful through His Word and His Body.

I. The Substantial Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species.

The Traditional Missal underlines clearly the Eucharistic presence with its numerous genuflections, the double consecration and Communion. Such importance is not given to the presence of Christ the Victim in the New Missal.

A. In the New Missal the objective descriptions of the  real presence of Christ have been replaced by simplistic expressions which no longer consider the Eucharistic presence in itself but “only in relation to the congregation.”

– The word “nobis” (for us) is systematically used whenever the Eucharistic presence is mentioned. This is completely new to the rite.

– The Eucharistic species are only designated with regard to Communion. The chalice is only described as “spiritual drink.”

– The vocabulary of the General Institution is significant. Neither the expression “transubstantiation” nor “Real Presence” can be found. To refer to the sacred species, the document sometimes uses the word “host” but mostly “bread.” It only speaks of the “body of Christ” when directly referring to Communion. (GI ##48, 56, 60).

B. The gestures showing the devotion due to the sacred species have also been reduced in number or totally suppressed.

– Of the 14 genuflections in the Traditional Missal, 3 alone have been kept, and these are only related to the congregation. (GI #116).

– The rubric which required the celebrant to keep the index finger and thumb joined after the consecration has been suppressed.

– The distribution of Communion can now easily be done by lay people.

– The reception of Communion is marked by profane manners, such as receiving Communion in the hand and standing.

C. In the traditional Missal the celebrant clearly identifies the oblations with Christ the Victim by making numerous signs of the cross over them.

– The three signs of the cross over and with the oblations during the Offertory have disappeared in the New Missal.

– Of the 26 signs of the cross over the oblations in the Canon of the Traditional Missal, one alone remains in each of the Eucharistic prayers of the New Missal.

– All the signs of the cross in the part that follows the Canon have disappeared.

II. The Presence of Christ in His Word.

The New Missal has increased the importance of the Bible as much as it has diminished the importance of the Real Presence: “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the church, God himself is speaking to his people, and Christ, present in his word, is proclaiming his Gospel.” (GI #9).  Scripture and the Eucharist are described in the same way, for they are ultimately two forms of that unique spiritual sustenance given to us in the Paschal banquet: both are the table of the Lord. Christ gives Himself as spiritual food which the assembly makes its own through a rite of Communion (GI #8, 33, 34, 56).

The “Liturgy of the Word,” considered as a meeting point between God and the congregation, calls for a new way of looking upon the Sacred Scripture and thus compromises certain solidly established theological principles. In the New Missal the Sacred Scripture is celebrated in itself and no longer insofar as it is proclaimed by the hierarchy of the Church. The Presence of Christ is, consequently, displaced and denatured. Scripture is henceforth celebrated as sufficient in itself.

III. The Presence of Christ in the Priest and the People.

The New Missal undermines the distinctions between the celebrant and the faithful found in the Traditional Missal, and henceforth seems only to recognize one agent in the liturgy, namely “The People of God.” The first sentence of the General Institution describes the celebration of the Mass “as an action of Christ and the people of God hierarchically ordered” (GI #1). The fact that the General Institution mentions this notion 164 times sheds a clear light on the importance which the New Missal gives to the “assembly.”

A. At the Beginning of the Mass.

In focusing on the sacramental nature of the “assembly” the New Missal underlines the importance of the spiritual presence of God in the midst of His people. The symbolism of the assembly is often referred to: “This (community) represents the universal Church at a given time and place” (GI #75). Henceforth the gathering of the community becomes a “sacrament” with certain power, and not merely a symbol. “Their (the rites’) purpose is to help the faithful who have come together in one place to make themselves into a worshipping community….. (GI #24). Having devalued the presence of Christ the Victim, the New Missal glorifies the spiritual presence of the Lord wrought through the ministry of the priest and people. The celebrant is there just to “serve God and the people with dignity and humility” in order to “make the faithful realize the presence of the living Christ” (GI #60).

B. In the Liturgy of the Word.

Once this sacramental sign of the assembly is actualized, the Liturgy of the Word takes the shape of a direct dialogue between God and His People without need for any specific action on the part of a sacred minister. “God speaks to his people, reveals to them the mysteries of redemption and salvation, and provides them with spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself, in the form of his word, is present in the midst of the faithful” (GI #33). Paragraph 45 adds that the people exercise a priestly function in the Prayer of the Faithful.

C. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The “Eucharistic Liturgy” of the New Missal patently shows how the ministerial priesthood has been pushed aside in favour of the communal action of the assembly. The sacrificial offering is only seen through the prism of the “common priesthood” of the faithful,novelty which threatens equally the character of the ministerial priesthood and the sacramental power of the sacrifice.

The church has always distinguished the unbloody immolation brought about by the consecration, from the sacrificial offering made by the participants through which they unite themselves to the sacramental oblation accomplished by Christ the Priest in the Person of  His minister. Only the unbloody immolation at the consecration, “performed by the priest and  by him alone, as the representative of Christ and not as the representative of the faithful,” belongs to the category of sacrament. The participation of the faithful consists in their uniting themselves “by virtue of their intention.” The New Missal omits this distinction and ignores systematically the sacramental action of the minister who alone acts by virtue of Christ the Priest.

Thus each time the General Institution considers the offering of the sacrifice, it describes it as an act both of the celebrant and of the faithful (e.g. GI #54). The ministerial priesthood of the celebrant is never once mentioned as the unique cause of the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine. Only his role as “president of the assembly,” is explained at length (GI # 10, 13, 60).

IV. Conclusion.

According to the New Missal, the Mass is  a memorial meal at which the Lord is made present by the coming together of His people. Such is the result of this analysis, and the first version of the General Institution declared as much in #7: “In the Mass or Lord’s Supper the People of God are called together into one place where the Priest presides over them. They assemble to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. Hence the promise of Christ: “Wherever two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Although the General Institution returned to certain traditional expressions in 1970 version after reactions from bishops and priests, the novelty of the “spiritual presence of Christ in the midst of His people” remains central and undisturbed.

Chapter  3


          This change in perspective that grants the participants in the liturgy a dignity and importance hitherto unknown corresponds in fact to a “new way of considering sin.”

I. The Offering and Sorrow for Sin.

In the Traditional Missal, prayers of compunction for sin return again and again, even at the solemn moment of the Preface. The New Missal has kept some penitential elements, but they are unusually brief and deficient. Only in the shortened penitential rite at the start of Mass do the faithful express their sorrow for sin. The dispositions of the celebrant are renewed by a few short prayers said in a low voice “in his personal capacity” (GI #13).

From the beginning of the Mass, the Traditional Missal emphasizes the unworthiness of the participants by the position of the sacred minister in the sanctuary. He stands at the foot of the altar. The Church addresses God in this spirit of unworthiness more than 10 times during the course of the Offertory and Canon. Now these requests for approval of God are no longer form a constituent part of the New Missal. They are found neither in the preparation of the gifts, nor in the Eucharistic Prayer II. Only Eucharistic Prayers III and IV use once the term respice (look) and then only after the consecration.

In view of the deficiency of the minister, the Traditional Missal places between the celebrant and God a principal mediator, Jesus Christ, and subordinate mediators, the Saints. The New Missal has almost suppressed all mention of the mediation of Christ in the offering of the sacrifice. The conclusion “Through Jesus Christ Our Lord” of the prayers is now optional in Eucharistic Prayer I and it is used in the other three Eucharistic Prayers only in relation to the favours received through Jesus Christ and not in relation to His mediation.” The New Missal also has abandoned the invocation of the Saints. Eucharistic Prayer III alone once” mentions the intercession of the Saints, but in none of the prayers their merits are called upon.

II. The Satisfaction Due for Sin.

In diminishing the importance of the intercession of Christ and if the Saints, and moreover, by no longer mentioning the unworthiness of the liturgy’s human agents, the New Missal gives the impression that the consequences of sin are no obstacle to the approval of sacrifice.

The changes made to the Collects of the Mass throughout the liturgical year are revealing. Henceforth the request that “we be purified from the stains of sin” appears only in a few ferial Masses of Lent. Whereas, it appears 10 times in the Traditional Missal in the Proper of the Saints for the month of August alone.

The Liturgy for the deceased equally fails to mention the punishment due for sin and its remission (GI #335,339). Likewise the New Missal completely draws veil over the sufferings of the souls in Purgatory. The new prayers simply say: “Bring them and all departed into the light of your presence” (Eucharistic Prayer II) or “Receive them into your Kingdom” (Eucharistic Prayer III). Eucharistic Prayer IV goes even further by asking nothing for the souls of the departed, but just recommending them to God  merely by the word “Remember.” The New Missal mainly emphasizes the happiness of heaven and the resurrection. The tract, the Dies Irae, and the Offertory antiphon, which all focused on propitiation, have been suppressed in the New Missal.

III. Conclusion.

Everything even remotely associated with the punishment due for sin has been diminished or even suppressed by the liturgical reform. Thus the propitiatory end of the Mass has disappeared from the New Missal. A new doctrine of the Mass appears: it is less an application of the merits of Redemption and more a liturgy of the saved– the liturgy of a “people your Son has gained for you” (Eucharistic Prayer III).