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Mass (liturgy)

This article discusses the Mass as part of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. For the Mass as a genre of classical music composition, see Mass (music). For mass as a concept in physics, see Mass.

The Sacramentary is the liturgical book containing the prayers and rubrics of the Roman Mass, used by the priest at the altar. The Mass, as the principal worship service of the Roman Catholic Church, has acquired through its long history several names, like Eucharist, Agape, the Lord's Supper, and Holy Communion. Although the texts and prayers vary in somewhat complicated patterns (see Breviary), the structure is fixed, and consists of the following sections:

Introductory Rites

The celebration of a
pre-Vatican II Tridentine High Mass

Liturgy of the Word

Liturgy of the Eucharist



Table of contents
1 The "New" Mass and the "Old" Mass
2 Criticism and Praise for the new Mass
3 Tridentine Masses being said once again in the Vatican

The "New" Mass and the "Old" Mass

An example of a remodelled altar for the "New" Mass
The altar, which once stood against the reredos in the background, has been moved away, with the celebrant saying Mass facing the congregation over the newly located altar. Unlike many churches, this church kept its carved reredos and inset tabernacle.

In the late 1960s a revised Roman Missal was introduced to replace the previous Tridentine Missal published in 1570, following the Council of Trent. For four centuries, what is loosely called a Tridentine Mass, that is the Mass celebrated in accordance with the Tridentine Missal, only underwent minor changes. Among the principal reforms of the new Missal were:

Criticism and Praise for the new Mass

A small minority of catholics continue to campaign for the reinstatement of the Tridentine Mass. While the rules laid down in the new Missal allow and recommend the celebration of Mass in Latin, the use of the earlier Missal was prohibited for some years following its successor's introduction. (Today it is allowed, given as special dispense.)

Many of the resigned altars have proved controversial, with public opposition to the removal of altar rails and the reredos. Cardinal Ratzinger has been a public critic of the nature of the re-orderings of sanctuaries that had taken place.

Other critics have alleged that the celebration of Mass according to the new Missal (Novus Ordo Missae) is unattractive and unappealing, and lacks the degree of ceremony and ritual that marked its predecessor. Some conservative critics have claimed that the rapid decline in religious attendance is due to the allegedly boring nature of the modern ceremony. Its defenders argue that without the reform, religious attendance would have declined even further.

Tridentine Masses being said once again in the Vatican

In the 1990s, a rapid increase in the use of, and tolerance of, the Tridentine Mass appeared within Roman Catholicism. Permission for its celebration, once rarely given became more easily given. And whereas in the past Tridentine Masses if allowed at all were restricted to Low Masses and small congregations, a full Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by a visiting cardinal, in front of distinguished invited guests and Cardinal John O'Connor at the main altar in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York in 1999. In 2001 it was revealed that the Vatican had once again allowed Tridentine Masses to be celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica (though not on the main altar). In 2002 it was reported that Pope John Paul II had celebrated Tridentine Masses in his private chapel in the Apostolic Palace.



1 Though Ministers of the Eucharist were intended for use in extraordinary and limited cases, they have been used widely in the vast majority of churches.