Ordinary Form of the Mass (Novus Ordo, New) compared to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Traditional, Tridentine)

We received an email that said:

My question is on going to Mass and which one to choose? I mean I have been studying both and find that for the richness and history of the Extraordinary Mass (Traditional Mass) is what one would go to.  I ... find that the Ordinary Mass (new mass) ...not rendering Glory to God like the Extraordinary Mass does. (talking, playing, hugging etc.) ...seems like a social event instead of giving Glory to God ... God really is in the bread. ... I would be on my knees crawling up there to worship him instead of shaking peoples hands. ... why do they take the bread in their hands when their hands are dirty.

Terminology of this article: Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass

There are many sensitivities over what to call the Mass promulgated in 1570 and the Mass promulgated in 1969. Sometimes they are called the New Mass and the Traditional Mass, or the Novus Ordo and Tridentine. For the purposes of this article we will follow the language of Pope Benedict XVI, calling the Mass of 1570 the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and the Mass of 1969 the Ordinary Form of the Mass. In some cases we will call it the Novus Ordo, in order to recognise it being new.

We hope that traditionally minded Catholics will not break off in schism over Traditionis Custodes, which reverses the relaxation of restrictions on the Extraordinary forms granted by Popes Benedict and JPII. We think Pope Frances made a huge pastoral error in coming down so hard on traditionally minded Catholics while giving personal audiences to notorious advocates of WOKE politics and morals. We have a separate article on this turbulent papacy.

Archbishop Lefebvre, the founder of the SSPX, did not reject Vatican II. He also voted for the Sacrosanctum Concilium, which was the Vatican document on the reform of the Liturgy. What he rejected was the current rites, promulgated in 1969, four years after the council, though he did not argue they were invalid.

Archbishop Lefebvre was also in favour of reforms that Pius XII made prior to the Vatican II Council, such as the shortening of the fasting period before Mass from 12 midnight to 3 hours before Mass implemented in 1953, and the introduction of evening Mass in 1957. Father Bob Bedard, a well known priest who passed away in 2011 at 84 years old, recalled what it was like as a priest during the old fasting rules before the reforms. At the 11am Mass, he would send an altar boy to the communion rail to see if anyone was there to present themselves for Communion. Many weekends, no one would present themselves because they had had breakfast.

There is a video on YouTube comparing the Extraordinary form to the Ordinary form of the Mass, where an old overweight long haired balding ex hippy priest does the Ordinary form, with hillbilly banjo music added to the video background. This is interspersed with video of a young sharp priest doing the Extraordinary form of the Mass (complete with dramatic classical music - as if that is part of the Mass). It makes the Ordinary form look very casual and colloquial. However, what many young people don't know is that in the years leading up to Vatican II, the Extraordinary form was performed very casually, and had lost much of the intentionality you see in the video. Before Vatican II, there were just as many out of tune singers, distracted families, noisy kids, as today. Many people did their Rosaries during Mass, because they couldn't understand the Latin, and because they couldn't see or hear the priest who was facing the altar without a microphone.

Many of the things complained about in the email above are abuses of the Ordinary Form of the Mass rather than the Mass itself. We totally agree that any Mass can be irreverent, if abused. Pope Benedict put out a long pastoral document to bishops regarding abuses of the Mass and the Eucharist as well as a new translation which restores much of the Majestic language proper to the Mass. Another consideration is that there were two distinct stages in the implementation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

  1. There is the Vatican II document on the Liturgy called Sacrosanctum Concilium. It laid out broad strokes for reform of the Mass.
  2. Then there was the actual creation of the Novus Ordo.

Some important points to consider are:

  • There is no mention in the Sacrosanctum Concilium about Eucharist in the hand
  • No mention in Sacrosanctum Concilium about receiving the Eucharist standing up
  • No mention of the priest facing the congregation vs ad orientem
  • No mention of pausing to shake hands with your neighbours after the Consecration
  • No mention of altar girls
  • No mention of of the type of music to be used
  • etc...

People get very passionate on every side of this discussion, and that makes sense, since there is nothing in this world more important than the Mass. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is beautiful, biblical and reverent. Pope Benedict asked Bishops around the world to make it available wherever there is significant interest from congregations. Unfortunately Pope Francis has rescinded that. It is impossible to know how this situation will turn out at this point. We are concerned about schism. If there is a schism, we will be found close to the seat of Peter, even if a particular Holy Father is dysfunctional.

Many traditionally minded Catholics blame most of our recent problems in the Church on the Novus Ordo (New Mass) and there can be a general disdain or suspicion for anything that came out of Vatican II. This, we think, is a mistake.

Is the Novus Ordo valid?

The Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form of the Mass confects the Eucharist; it dispenses grace; it is efficacious for salvation. It is protected by the indefectible charism of the Church.

On the Quo Primum

The Quo Primum regarding the Extraordinary Form of the Mass of Pius V in 1570 is not binding on future Popes whose authority as Popes were equal to his own. He himself altered his Missal when, after the victory of Lepanto in the following year, he added to it the feast of Our Lady of Victory. In 1585, Pope Sixtus V restored the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius V had removed from the Missal. Only 34 years after the publication of Quo primum, Pope Clement VIII made a general revision of the Roman Missal, as did Pope Urban VIII 30 years later. Quo Primum concerned a disciplinary matter in the Church, not an infallible teaching on faith or morals. Evidence of this is that an infallible teaching on faith or morals could not allow for such exceptions as "unless approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given" or "unless there has prevailed a custom of a similar kind". In fact, the document states, "We in no wise rescind their above-mentioned prerogative or custom." Such matters of Church discipline always remain subject to future change by equal or greater authority. In light of this, wording such as "in perpetuity" must be understood as "from now on, until this or another equal or greater authority determines otherwise." Pope Paul VI held equal authority to that of Pope St. Pius V. Therefore, changes to the Mass under his authority were licit and valid.

The text of Quo Primum shows that Pope Pius V recognized that his Extraordinary Form of the Mass was a NEW RITE, not the same thing that had been celebrated for 15 centuries.

Is Vatican II valid and binding?

Although most traditionally minded Catholics would not go so far as Sedevacantists who say that the seat of Peter has been vacant or in apostasy since Vatican II, many think that the documents are flawed to the extent that we should not pay attention to them. We have a separate article on the "Ambiguities of Vatican II". The problem with that thinking is that each of the documents of the Council were voted on by the bishops. It's like saying, "4000 bishops came together to decide the direction of the Church in the modern world and the Holy Spirit stayed home." Naturally, the next question for any thinking person would be: "What if the Holy Spirit didn't show up for the other councils? What else should we call into question?" There is not much difference between that position and Protestantism. We have a positive obligation to submit to teachings and public statements voted upon by our bishops during an Ecumenical Council. We cannot reject the authority of a Council without calling into question other councils. Here's Pope Benedict XVI in his letter to open the Year of Faith:

... It seemed that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”[10]

[9] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 57: AAS 93 (2001), 308.
[10] Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 52.

What does the Vatican II document on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium say?

The Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Vatican II document on Liturgy. Below is analysis of its recommendations for the Mass.

What does Vatican II Recommend? Things to think about

Expanded use of Vernacular: "Since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36.2)

Vatican II did not outlaw Latin. The Sacrosanctum says: "... steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36)

"it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority ... to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; ... confirmed, by the Apostolic See ...consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36.3)

Adaptations to consider cultural customs: Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she [the Church] studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 37)

This doesn't mean bring a death metal rock band into Mass. However, reverent music, that raises the Spirit, which is in a style that is part of a "people's way of life" can certainly be considered. For instance, in some Churches modern praise and worship could be considered if there are many young families.

In Africa, people have a natural sense of rhythm. Dampening that by forcing 16th century white European classical music on them is not the way to win their hearts for Jesus. Forcing them to stand up straight and never move to the music because white Europeans do it that way, is not what Jesus is about. The Church is growing fast in Africa.

Note: Trying to force European culture on indigenous people was an absolute disaster in the early 1900s when the pre-Vatican Church set up residential schools for indigenous children in North America.

In North America having too much movement (such as liturgical dance) during Mass would not be appropriate because it is not core to our culture. The Vatican is recommending Gregorian Chant be restored, and that music be Catholic.

Study and Experimentation before making adaptations: Under the ...ecclesiastical authority ... promote studies and necessary experiments whenever there is question of adaptations to be proposed to the Apostolic See. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 48)

The document promotes studies and experimentation before proposing regional adaptations to the Vatican. Keep the essence allow for renewal of the form. Anything that distracts from the celebration of the Eucharist should be discarded.

"the [Bishop's] commission is to regulate pastoral-liturgical action throughout the territory" under approval from Rome.

Participation of the Laity: The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 48)

...this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 55)

The Rosary is great. Our family does it almost every day. But there was a tradition during the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to do it while the Priest was presiding, because the faithful didn't understand Latin, and they were not included as participants in the celebration.

Having a lay person read the first or second Bible reading or leading prayers after the homily, demonstrates that reading the Bible and praying is not just for Catholic Priests and Protestants. Bible reading among faithful Catholics has increased since Vatican II.

Having the priest face the audience is more controversial among traditionally minded Catholics. However, Vatican II never mentioned it. Personally we are more engaged an present when we can see everything. However, there is certainly a trade off.

Remove repetition, restore important sections: For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 50) Prayers for the faithful was restored, the blood of Christ now available to the laity. The priest used to make dozens of signs of the cross over the elements. These have been reduced.
More Bible: The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly ...a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people .... (Sacrosanctum Concilium 51) More Bible is good! We used to have only 5% of Old Testament Scripture and only on special occasions... now the Old Testament is a regular part of our readings.
Don't skip the homily: the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 52) This is where the priest can share his depth and knowledge and teaching
More Prayers: Especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation there is to be restored, after the Gospel and the homily, "the common prayer" or "the prayer of the faithful." By this prayer, in which the people are to take part, intercession will be made for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the entire world. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 53) Intercession prayer after the Homily had fallen out of practice before Vatican II. Prayer is a good thing!

Re-introduce the Blood of Christ to the faithful:... the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice, is strongly commended. ...communion under both kinds... also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See ... (Sacrosanctum Concilium 55)

Vatican II says receiving Christ under both auspices to be a "more perfect for of participation'" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 55)

There were other types of Mass before the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

It's important to remember that the Latin Traditional Mass does not date back to the apostles but rather to about 5th - 7th century. At that time it was the "new" Mass, and there were people who wanted to continue what they were doing. Here is a section of the Catholic Encyclopedia. It discusses the "radical" changes to the original Mass (described by St. Justin Martyr in the 2nd century) that occurred between the 5th - 7th Century. This article was written around 1910 before the new Mass of Vat II:

This brings us back to the most difficult question: Why and when was the Roman Liturgy changed from what we see in Justin Martyr to that of Gregory I? The change is radical, especially as regards the most important element of the Mass , the Canon. The modifications in the earlier part, the smaller number of lessons, the omission of the prayers for and expulsion of the catechumens, of the prayers of the faithful before the Offertory and so on, ... That the order of the prayers that make up the Canon is a cardinal difficulty is admitted by everyone. The old attempts to justify their present order by symbolic or mystic reasons have now been given up. The Roman Canon as it stands is recognized as a problem of great difficulty. It differs fundamentally from the Anaphora of any Eastern rite and from the Gallican Canon ... Cagin's idea is that all that must be reversed, the Gallican Rite has no connection at all with Antioch or any Eastern Liturgy ; it is in its origin the same rite as the Roman. Rome changed this earlier form about the sixth or seventh century ...Then came the Lord's Prayer with its embolism , of which the "Nobis quoque" was a part. The two Mementos were originally before the Preface ... at Rome the Eucharistic prayer was fundamentally changed and recast at some uncertain period between the fourth and the sixth and seventh centuries. During the same time the prayers of the faithful before the Offertory disappeared, the kiss of peace was transferred to after the Consecration , and the Epiklesis was omitted or mutilated into our "Supplices" prayer ... We must then admit that between the years 400 and 500 a great transformation was made in the Roman Canon" (Euch. u. Bussakr., 86). (source)

The Magisterium had the authority to change the Mass then, and it had the authority at Vatican II.

Outside Rome before 1570, many other liturgical rites were in use, not only in the East, but also in the West. Some Western rites, such as the Mozarabic Rite, were unrelated to the Roman Rite which Pope Pius V revised and ordered to be adopted generally, and even areas that had accepted the Roman rite had introduced changes and additions. As a result, every ecclesiastical province and almost every diocese had its local use, such as the Use of Sarum, the Use of York and the Use of Hereford in England. In France there were strong traces of the Gallican Rite. With the exception of the relatively few places where no form of the Roman Rite had ever been adopted, the Canon of the Mass remained generally uniform, but the prayers in the "Ordo Missae", and still more the "Proprium Sanctorum" and the "Proprium de Tempore", varied widely.[3] (source)

What about the Vernacular? Why did they change from Latin to many languages?

When the Traditional Latin form of the Mass took shape in the 5-7th centuries, Latin was a well known language but people don't speak Latin anymore. That in itself is not a reason to go to the vernacular, but it certainly carried weighed in the decision.

It is biblical for the Mass to be in the vernacular (in the language of the local people). On the day the Holy Spirit landed on the apostles in the upper room on the first day of Pentecost, which is the birth of the Church, they went outside to preach and were understood in different languages, the languages of the people (Acts 2:4).

Before Vatican II, many people would sit through the entire Mass doing the Rosary and not paying attention to what was going on at the altar, because they didn't understand Latin. We love the Rosary, but not during Mass.

The Ordinary Form of the Mass has more participation from lay people who now do the 1st and 2nd readings and prayers for the faithful.

The Priest facing the Congregation

This was not prescribed in Vatican II and there is much debate about it. However, it is certainly within the Church's right make this the norm, and the Sacrosanctum Concilium's call to engage the laity justifies it. Whether it is better or not is a question that will be debated for a long time. Many people "get it" when the Priest holds up the Eucharist while facing the congregation. They enter into the reverence. On the other hand, with the priest facing the altar it places the focus on the Eucharist.


Fr. Mark Goring, Companions of the Cross, Ottawa, Canada.

The Vatican is encouraging Gregorian music.

What about communion in the hand?

Regarding Communion on the hand, that was never the intention of the Novus Ordo, nor is it mentioned in Vatican II. That is an artifact of North American and European society, not the Novus Ordo. It is permitted to take communion on the hand but the Vatican II never recommended it. We take it on the tongue. However, it is much more important that we have a clean heart than clean hands when taking the Eucharist. Jesus said that in his parable about ritual cleaning. (Mark 7:5)

What about the hand shaking during the period around the consecration?

The greeting and hand shaking during communion was never meant to turn into a big party. Recently, the Vatican has given explicit instructions to priests not to leave the sanctuary during the handshakes and not let it be too long or energetic. But it is fitting to meet people, because the Eucharist is not only the transubstantiated Christ, but it is also the people of God, the body of Christ.

Pope Benedict articulates the Hermeneutics of Rupture vs. the Hermeneutics of Reform

In his Christmas address, 2005 at the Vatican, Pope Benedict articulated his position on the New Mass, and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Here are some excerpts:

The problems in its [Vatican II] implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit... On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" ... On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform"

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the per-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech inaugurating the Council ... he says that the Council wishes "to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion". And he continues: "Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us...". It is necessary that "adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness..." be presented in "faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another...", retaining the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity. The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she continues "her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God", proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 8).

Those who expected that with this fundamental "yes" to the modern era all tensions would be dispelled and ... transform everything into pure harmony, had underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent in the modern epoch.

...There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican Council the time came when broad new thinking was required. Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts, but this determined its essential direction ... Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council: if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church)

Were there Protestants on the committee to reform the Liturgy?

Pope Paul VI with protestants

There are photos floating around the internet with Paul VI and six Protestant clergy with a caption like Pope Paul VI with Protestants on the committee for liturgical reform. There were no Protestants on the committee to reform the Liturgy. There were some Protestant observers at the council. They had no voting rights. The primary concern of the reform was active participation of Laity, rather than Protestant sensitivities. However, the Church was looking to foster unity in Vatican II. After all Jesus prayed "that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I am in you." (Jn 17:21). Saint Paul said "Let us not give up meeting together... let us encourage one another." (Heb 10:25), "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." (Mat 18:20). This Bible verse may be pertinent:

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. "Whoever is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:38-40)

Bishop Fulton Sheen said:

"Catholics have the Truth, Protestants have the fire."

There are many ways that Protestants have been better at evangelization than Catholics. These include a greater attention to Scripture and better music. The Council said:

This sacred council [Vatican II] has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy. (Sacrosanctum Concilium)

We have to remember that the largest Protestant denomination at the time of the council was the Anglican Church. In their Mass, the priest faces the Altar similar to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. An Anglican minister said "The New Mass is more foreign to us than the Extraordinary Form of the Mass." Many Protestant denominations receive their version of communion sitting down. For instance, Pentecostal communion generally consists of going up to the front and picking up a small plastic cup of grape juice and a small piece of bread. They return to their seat and simultaneously drink and eat. It is nothing like the Ordinary Form of the Mass. We do not see the changes to the Mass as caving into Protestant demands, such as many traditionally minded Catholics suggest.

Changes to the Ordinary form have been made

The Ordinary for of the Mass is still adjusting. The language has been revised to reflect the majesty proper to the Mass, the norms tightened up. There may be more changes, and who knows, there may be a reintroduction of some of the Extraordinary Form aspects of the mass, if the laity call for it and the bishops support it.

Click here for the full text of the Mass
Biblical references for the Mass are here

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