A Short History of the 
Roman Mass

 by Michael Davies

Chapter 13
Not a New Mass


It would be impossible to lay too much stress upon the fact that St. Pius V did not promulgate a new Order of Mass [Novus Ordo Missae]! The very idea of composing a new order of Mass was and is totally alien to the whole Catholic ethos, both in the East and in the West. The Catholic tradition has been to hold fast to what has been handed down and look upon any novelty with the utmost suspicion. Cardinal Gasquet observed that every Catholic must feel a personal love for those sacred rites when they come to him with all the authority of the centuries:

Any rude handling of such forms must cause deep pain to those who know and use them. For they come to them from God through Christ and through the Church. But they would not have such an attraction were they not also sanctified by the piety of so many generations who have prayed in the same words and found in them steadiness in joy and consolation in sorrow. 25
The essence of the reform of St. Pius V was, like that of St. Gregory the Great, respect for tradition; there was no question of any "rude handling" of what had been handed down. In a letter to The Tablet, published on 24 July 1971, Father David Knowles, who was Britain's most distinguished Catholic scholar until his death in 1974, pointed out that
The Missal of 1570 was indeed the result of instructions given at Trent, but it was, in fact, as regards the Ordinary, Canon, Proper of the time and much else a replica of the Roman Missal of 1474, which in its turn repeated in all essentials the practice of the Roman Church of the epoch of Innocent III, which itself derived from the usage of Gregory the Great and his successors in the seventh century. In short, the Missal of 1570 was, in all essentials, the usage of the mainstream of medieval European liturgy which included England and all its rites.
Writing in 1912 Father Fortescue was able to comment with satisfaction:
The Missal of Pius V is the one we still use. Later revisions are of slight importance. No doubt in every reform one may find something that one would have preferred not to change. Still, a just and reasonable criticism will admit that Pius V's restoration was on the whole eminently satisfactory. The standard of the commission was antiquity. They abolished later ornate features and made for simplicity, yet without destroying all those picturesque elements that add poetic beauty to the severe Roman Mass. They expelled the host of long sequences that crowded Mass continually, but kept what are undoubtedly the five best; they reduced processions and elaborate, ceremonial, yet kept the really pregnant ceremonies, candles, ashes, palms and the beautiful Holy Week rites. Certainly we in the West may be very glad that we have the Roman rite in the form of Pius V's Missal. 26