Cranmer's Godly Order
by Michael Davies
The Reform and the
Missal of St. Pius V
"The most beautiful thing this side of Heaven."
"UNIFORMITY IN Liturgy throughout the Church has never been a Catholic ideal. No one wants to replace the Eastern Liturgies, or even those of Milan and Toledo, by that of Rome. But it is a reasonable ideal that those who use the Roman rite should use it uniformly in a pure form." 1 At the time of the Council of Trent there was a great deal of variety in local usage. A proliferation of local rites had evolved during the Middle Ages, such as the Sarum rite in England. These were merely variations of the Roman rite and must not be confused with such important traditions as the Mozarabic or Ambrosian liturgies which can justly be regarded as separate rites. Father Fortescue explains that:
"In everything of any importance at all, Sarum (and all the other medieval rites) was simply Roman, the rite which we still use. Not only was the whole order and arrangement the same, all the important elements were the same too. The essential element, the Canon, was word for word the same as ours. No medieval bishop dared to touch the sacred Eucharistic prayer." 2 The Protestant Reformation provided a stimulus to the need for some degree of liturgical reform which, in any case, would have been necessary.
"The Protestant Reformers naturally played havoc with the old Liturgy. It was throughout the expression of the very ideas (the Real Presence, Eucharistic Sacrifice and so on) they rejected. So they substituted for it new communion services that expressed their principle but, of course, broke away utterly from all historic liturgical evolution. The Council of Trent (1545-1563), in opposition to the anarchy of these new services, wished the Roman Mass to be celebrated uniformly everywhere. The medieval local uses had lasted long enough. They had become very florid and exuberant; and their variety caused confusion." 3
In its eighteenth session the Council appointed a commission to examine the Missal, to revise it and to restore it "according to the custom and rite of the Holy Fathers", using for that purpose the best manuscripts and other documents. "They accomplished their task very well," comments Father Fortescue. "On 14th July, 1570, the Pope published the reformed Missal by the Bull Quo Primum, still printed at the beginning. Its title was: Missale Romanum ex decreto ss. Concilii Tridentini restitutum." 4 St. Pius is honoured by the Church as an instrument chosen by God ad conterendos Ecclesiae hostes et ad divinum cullum reparandum.
This reform was carried out wholly in accordance with the principles enunciated in Chapter IX. Nothing could have been a greater contrast to the revolution described in Chapter VIII. Up to the time of St. Pius V the history of the Roman rite had been one of natural and gradual development. Father David Knowles, Britain's most distinguished Catholic scholar until his death in 1974, explained 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 essentials the usage of the mainstream of medieval European Liturgy which included England and its rites." 5
Fr. Fortescue considers that the reign of St. Gregory the Great marks an epoch in the history of the Mass, having left the liturgy in its essentials just as we have it today. There is, moreover, a constant tradition that St. Gregory was the last to touch the essential part of the Mass, namely the Canon. Benedict XIV (1740- 1758) says: "No Pope had added to or changed the Canon since St. Gregory." 6 Whether this is totally accurate is not a matter of great importance; even if some very minor additions did creep in afterwards, perhaps a few Amens, the important point is that a tradition of more than a millennium certainly existed in the Roman Church that the Canon should not be changed. "This fact, that it has so remained unaltered during thirteen centuries, is the most speaking witness of the veneration with which it has always been regarded and of the scruple which has ever been felt at touching so sacred a heritage, coming to us from unknown antiquity." 7
Although the rite continued to develop after the time of St. Gregory: "All later modifications were fitted into the old arrangement, and the most important parts were not touched. From, roughly, the time of St. Gregory we have the text of the Mass, its order and arrangement, as a sacred tradition that no one has ventured to touch except in unimportant details." 8
Among these additions: "The prayers said at the foot of the altar are in their present form the latest part of all. They developed out of medieval private preparations and were not formally appointed in their present state before the Missal of Pius V (1570)." 9 They were, however, widely used well before the Reformation as is proved by the fact that both Luther and Cranmer considered it necessary to abolish the Judica me, with its reference to the priest going to the altar of God, and the Confiteor-----as will be shown in Chapter XII where Cranmer's 1549 Communion service is studied in detail.
"The Gloria was introduced gradually, at first only to be sung on feasts and at bishop's Masses. It is probably Gallican. The Creed came to Rome in the XIth century. The Offertory prayers and the Lavabo were introduced from beyond the Alps hardly before the XIVth century. The Placeat, Blessing and the Last Gospel were introduced gradually in the Middle Ages." 10 It should be pointed out that these prayers almost invariably have a liturgical use stretching back centuries before their official incorporation into the Roman rite. The Suscipe Sancte Pater can be traced back to the prayer book of Charles the Bald (875-877). 11 It would be a serious mistake to conclude with regard to the Roman or any other liturgy that an older form must be better. It is not surprising that as the Roman rite spread throughout the West in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, gradually supplanting the existing rites, it was also influenced by them. The fusion of the original Roman rite with various Gallican elements explains the emergence of the various medieval derived rites, not really rites at all but simply variations of the Roman rite. The Canon, of course, remained unchanged. Had the Roman rite been totally satisfactory, satisfying both to priests and people, it is unlikely that elements incorporated from the Gallican rites would have eventually found their way into the liturgy at Rome itself. This is a form of liturgical development totally in accord with the principles enunciated in Chapter IX. It will also be noticed when reading Chapter XII that the prayers which came into the Roman Mass after the time of Gregory the Great were among the first to be discarded by the Reformers-----this is hardly surprising as one of the reasons which must have prompted the Church to accept them, guided by the Holy Ghost, is the exceptional clarity of their doctrinal content. This tendency for a rite to express ever more clearly what it contains is in perfect accord with the principle lex orandi, lex credendi.
In the authoritative exposition of Catholic doctrine edited by Canon George Smith it is stated that: " . . throughout the history of the development of the sacramental liturgy, the tendency has always been towards growth-----additions and accretions, the effort to obtain a fuller, more perfect, more clearly significant symbolism." 12 This is fully in accord with Cardinal Newman's third characteristic of a true development-----the power of assimilation . . . In the physical world, whatever has life is characterised by growth, so that in no respect to grow is to cease to live. It grows by taking into its own substance external materials; and this absorption or assimilation is completed when the materials appropriated come to belong to it or enter into its unity . . . An eclectic, conservative, assimilating, healing, moulding process, a unitive power, is of the essence, and a third test, of a faithful development." 13
These additions did not only enrich the Mass doctrinally. "If one may venture a criticism of these additions from an aesthetic point of view," writes Fr. Fortescue, "it is that they are exceedingly happy. The Old Roman Rite, in spite of its dignity and archaic simplicity, had the disadvantage of being dull. The Eastern and Gallican liturgies are too florid for our taste and too long. The few non-Roman elements in our Mass take nothing from its dignity and yet give it enough variety and reticent (motion to make it beautiful." 14
It should already be quite clear what a radical difference there was between the type of reform enacted by St. Pius V and the "unprecedented" action of the Protestant Reformers in devising "their own rites", so vigorously and so justly condemned by the Catholic Hierarchy of England and Wales in the passage cited at the conclusion of Chapters VIII and IX. The nature of the reform of St. Pius V can best be expressed by citing Fr. Fortescue in regard to a part of the Mass that has already been mentioned-----the prayers at the foot of the altar.
"A confession of sins is also a preparation common to most rites. It was the Missal of Pius V that finally fixed the celebrant's prayers in the form we know. They had long existed in this or similar combinations, together with alternative sets of prayers. The revisers of the Tridentine commission only adopted uniformity in the use of one of the most widespread forms." 15 Contrast this with the methods adopted by Cranmer which are discussed in Chapter XI.
Commenting on the Bull Quo Primum, Fr. Raymond Dulac remarks that: "It is characteristic of a truly great leader that the more firm he is in imposing obligations the more scrupulous will he be in respecting rights; not simply the general and absolute rights of the abstract 'person', but the historic rights of individuals and particular communities, even when acquired solely by custom." 16 Pope St. Pius V permitted the retention of any rite that could show a prescription of two centuries as well as those of such religious orders as the Dominicans, Carmelites, and Carthusians. "After confirming the right of religious orders, chapters, etc. to the peaceful possession of their missals," writes Fr. Dulac, "Pius V permits such communities to renounce them in favour of his own, si iisdem magis placeret: if his own missal pleases them more. But on one condition, that this preference is approved by their Bishop or Superior as well as by 'the whole chapter '." Here again, the Pope, while favouring his own Missal, in certain cases does not wish to infringe established rights, and indeed, allows them priority. In this respect we must bear in mind that these particular Missals are fundamentally identical with the Roman one presenting purely minor variations. It is worth noting that the Mass brought to England and Wales by the martyr priests in the reign of Elizabeth I was, in fact, that of St. Pius V. It was adopted by the English College at Douay and George Godsalf, ordained on 20th December, 1576, must have been the first English priest to offer Mass according to the reformed Missal. 17
There have been revisions since the reform of St. Pius V but, as Fr. Fortescue explains, up to his time (1917) these had been intended to keep the Missal in line with the reform of 1570. "By the time of Clement VIII (1592-1605) printers had corrupted the text in several ways." The work of the commission appointed by Clement VIII "was only to correct these corruptions. They did not in any way modify the Mass . . . Benedict XIV (1740-1758), who did so much for the reform of the liturgy did not revise the Missal." 18 Fr. Fortescue deals with all the subsequent revisions up to his time in detail and concludes that: "Since the Council of Trent the history of the Mass is hardly anything but the composition and approval of new Masses. The scheme and all the fundamental parts remain the same. No one has thought of touching the venerable liturgy of the Roman Mass, except by adding to it new Propers." 19
The Reforms of Pius XII did go farther than this, notably in regard to the Holy Week services. But any objective assessment of his reforms will find them totally in accord with the principles laid down in Chapter IX and, needless to say, the Mass itself was not changed in any way.
"Essentially the Missal of St. Pius V is the Gregorian Sacramentary," writes Fr. Fortescue, "that again is formed from the Gelasian book which depends on the Leonine collection. We find the prayers of our Canon in the treatise de Sacramentis and allusions to it in the IVth century. So our Mass goes back without essential change, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the Faith of Christ, when our fathers met together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as God. The final result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unsolved problems, in spite of later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours." 20
"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 the Mass continually, but kept what are undoubtedly the five best; they reduced processions and elaborate ceremonials, yet kept the really pregnant ceremonies, candles, ashes, palms, and the beautiful Holy Week rites. Certainly we in the West must be very glad that we have the Roman rite in the form of Pius V's missal . . . There are many days on which we say the Mass that has been said for centuries, back to the days of the Gelasian and Leonine book. And when they do come, the new Masses only affect the Proper. Our Canon is untouched, and all the scheme of the Mass. Our Missal is still that of Pius V. We may be very thankful that his Commission was so scrupulous to keep or restore the old Roman tradition." 21
The antiquity of the Roman Mass is a point which needs to be stressed. There is what Fr. Fortescue describes as a "prejudice that imagines that everything Eastern must be old." This is a mistake and there is no existing Eastern liturgy with a history of continual use stretching back as far as that of the Roman Mass. 22 This is particularly true with regard to the Roman Canon. Dom Cabrol, O.S.B., "father" of the modern liturgical movement, stresses that "The Canon of our Roman Rite, which in its main lines was drawn up in the fourth century, is the oldest and most venerable example of all the Eucharistic prayers in use today." 23 In a similar vein, Fr. Louis Bouyer, one of the leaders of the modern liturgical movement up to the time of Vatican II, stresses that: "The Roman Canon, as it is today, goes back to Gregory the Great. There is not, in the East or West, a Eucharistic prayer, remaining in use to this day, that can boast such antiquity. In the eyes not only of the Orthodox but of Anglicans and even those Protestants who have still, to some extent, a feeling for tradition, to jettison it would amount to a rejection of any claim on the part of the Roman Church, to represent the true Catholic Church." 24
It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of the Roman Missal from any standpoint. At a time when everything in contemporary society seemed to be changing, the fact that, up to 1964 a Sacrifice in a form and language stretching back over fifteen centuries was still offered daily in this nuclear age in churches and cathedrals from Bosnia to Boston, from the Hebrides to Tokyo, provided-----religious considerations apart-----a unique if not miraculous cultural survival. Even an unbeliever with the least vestige of imagination could not have failed to be moved when travelling across Europe by train if he realized that an awesome Sacrifice was offered daily with identical gestures, using the same sacral language, in the innumerable churches, abbeys, and cathedrals whose spires, domes, and turrets dominated every hamlet, village, town and city through which his train passed, no matter what the country or what the language. The essential unity of Catholics in these different countries derived from their membership of the same Church and their possession of the same Sacraments and Sacrifice-----but in the Latin rite this unity was deepened and made manifest by their common use of the Missal of St. Pius V, the Pope chosen by God ad conterendos Ecclesiae hostes ad divinum cultum reparandum. The impression these facts made upon a believer is incalculably greater. A Catholic knows that the most vital moment in human history took place outside Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago when a Mother stood weeping by a Cross upon which her torn and broken Son offered His life to unite mankind with God once more. This is the event which the Catholic Mass makes present, whatever the rite, throughout the world and throughout the centuries. A. Baumstark, perhaps the greatest liturgical. scholar of this century, expressed this well when he wrote that every worshipper taking part in this liturgy: "feels himself to be at the point which links those who before him, since the very earliest days of Christianity, have offered prayer and sacrifice with those who in time to come will be offering the same prayer and the same Sacrifice, long after the last fragments of his mortal remains have crumbled into dust." 25
Those who reflect upon the nature of the mystery of the Mass will wonder how men dare to celebrate it, how a priest dares to utter the words of Consecration which makes the sacrifice of Calvary present, how even the most saintly layman dares to set foot in the building where it is being offered-----Terribilis est locus iste: hic domus Dei est, et porta coeli: et vocabitur aula Dei. ("Awesome is this place: it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven; and it shall be called the court of God.") 26 It is natural that the Church, the steward of these holy mysteries, should clothe them with the most solemn and beautiful rites and ceremonies possible. It is equally natural that the book containing these rites should appropriate to itself some of the wonder and veneration evoked by the mysteries themselves. There can be no doubt that the leaders of the authentic liturgical movement in this century regarded the Missal of St. Pius V with much veneration. This veneration for the Missal is well expressed by Dom Cabrol:
" . . . the Missal being concerned directly with the Mass and the Holy Eucharist, which is the chief of the Sacraments, has the most right to our veneration, and with it the Pontifical and the Ritual, because those three in the early Church formed one volume as we have seen when speaking of the Sacramentary.
"The Church herself seems to teach us by her actions the reverence in which the Missal should be held. At High Mass it is carried by the deacon in solemn procession to read from it the Gospel of the day. He incenses it as a sign of respect, and it is kissed by a priest as containing the very word of God Himself.
"In the Middle Ages every kind of art was lavished upon it. It was adorned with delicate miniatures, with the most beautifully executed writing and lettering, and bound between sheets of ivory, or even silver and gold, and was studded with jewels like a precious reliquary.
"The Missal has come into being gradually through the course of centuries always carefully guarded by the Church lest any error should slip into it. It is a summary of the authentic teaching of the Church, it reveals the true significance of the mystery which is accomplished in the Mass, and of the prayers which the Church uses."
Dom Cabrol also pays tribute to the incomparable beauty of the Missal from the literary and aesthetic point of view. He stresses that this is not a question of art for art's sake but "we know that truth cannot exist without beauty . . . The beauty of prayer consists in the true and sincere expression of deep sentiment. The Church has never disdained this beauty of form which follows as a consequence of truth; the great Cathedrals on which in past ages she lavished all the marvels of art stand witness to this . . . "
The historical value of the Missal as a living link with the earliest and formative roots of Christian civilization in Europe is another point to which Dom Cabrol draws attention.
"If these evidences of antiquity were merely a question of archaeology we could not enlarge upon them here, but they have another immense importance. They prove the perpetuity of the Church and the continuity of her teaching. We have life by our tradition, but the Western Church has never confused fidelity to tradition with antiquarianism; she lives and grows with the times, ever advancing towards her goal; the liturgy of the Missal with its changes and developments throughout the centuries is a proof of this, but it proves also that the Church does not deny her past; she possesses a treasure from which she can draw the new and the old and this is the secret of her adaptability which is recognized even by her enemies.
"Though she adopts certain reforms she never forgets her past history and guards preciously her relics of antiquity.
"Here we have the explanation of the growing respect for the liturgy and of the great liturgical revival which we see in these days. What we may call the 'archaisms' of the Missal are the expression of the faith of our fathers which it is our duty to watch over and hand on to posterity."
This was the authentic spirit of the Catholic liturgical movement, wholly in accord with the principles described in Chapter IX and in total contrast to the spirit manifested by the Protestant Reformers. It was above all the theological content of the Missal which won the praise of Dom Cabrol-----for precisely the opposite reasons which made it unacceptable to the Reformers.
"A Pope in the fifth century, in the course of a famous controversy, pronounced the following words which have been regarded, ever since, as an axiom of theology: Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi (let the law of prayer fix the law of faith)-----in other words, the liturgy of the Church is a sure guide to her teaching. Above all else the Church prizes the integrity of the faith of which she is the guardian: she could not therefore allow her official prayer and worship to be in contradiction with her doctrine. Thus, she has ever watched over the formulae of her liturgy with the utmost care, correcting or rejecting anything that seemed to be in any way tainted with error. The liturgical books are, therefore, an authentic expression of the Catholic faith, and are, in fact, a source from which theologians may in all security, draw their arguments in defence of the faith. The liturgy holds an important place among the loci theologici, and in this respect its principal representative is the Missal. The latter is not, of course, a manual of Dogmatic Theology, and it is concerned with the worship of God and not with the controversial questions. It is nonetheless true that in the Missal we have a magnificent synthesis of Christian doctrine-----the Holy Eucharist, Sacrifice, prayer, Christian worship, the Incarnation, and Redemption, in fact, in it all dogmas of the Faith find expression."
It should not be a matter of surprise that when St. Pius V finally codified the rites of the Roman Mass he enshrined the jewel of our faith in a setting of more than human perfection, a mystic veil worthy of the Divine mystery it enveloped. It would have been surprising had this not been the case with the liturgy surrounding the sacred act that lies at the heart of the religion founded by God the Son to the glory of God the Father and guided and inspired by God the Holy Ghost. "That overruling influence of the Spirit of God, that directs even in secondary matters the affairs of the Church, nowhere else appears so marked and evident as in the arrangement of the rite of the Holy Mass, which . . . in its present state forms such a beautiful, perfect whole, yes, a splendid work that excites the admiration of every reflecting mind. Even the bitterest adversaries of the Church do not deny it; unprejudiced aesthetic judges of good taste admit that even from their own standpoint the Mass is to be classed as one of the greatest masterpieces ever composed." 27
In his book, This is the Mass, H. Daniel-Rops explains that it was "declared in the Catechism of the Council of Trent that no part of the Missal ought to be considered vain or superfluous; that not even the least of its phrases is to be thought wanting or insignificant. The shortest of its formularies, phrases which take no more than a few seconds to pronounce, form integral parts of a whole wherein are drawn together and set forth God's gift, Christ's sacrifice, and the grace which is showered upon us. This whole conception has in view a sort of spiritual symphony in which themes are taken as being expressed, developed, and unified under the guidance of one purpose." 28
The beauty, the worth, the perfection of the Roman liturgy of the Mass, so universally acknowledged and admired, was described by Fr. Faber as "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. It came forth out of the grand mind of the Church, and lifted us out of self, and wrapped us round in a cloud of mystical sweetness and the sublimities of a more than angelic liturgy, and purified us almost without ourselves, and charmed us with celestial charming, so that our very senses seem to find vision, hearing, fragrance, taste and touch beyond what earth can give." 29
This Divinely inspired masterpiece was, with a few unimportant variations, the liturgy that formed the object of the hatred and fury of the revolution described in Chapter VIII. The details of its destruction are set out in Chapters XI to XIII. When Laszlo Toth attacked the Pieta of Michelangelo in 1972, the world was horrified. Believer and unbeliever alike were united in their sense of outrage. "How could anyone raise a hand against anything so beautiful?" was the question everyone asked. How men who were priests and even bishops could raise their hands to destroy "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven" is a question that cannot be answered in human terms. Although it was the Sarum and not the Roman rite Mass which Cranmer destroyed, sufficient has already been written in this chapter to demonstrate that not only were they identical in essence but in innumerable particulars.
The Introit for the Feast of the English and Welsh Martyrs begins with a verse from Psalm 28:
"O God, the heathens are come into Thy inheritance: they have defiled Thy holy temple; they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit."
There is really little to add to this except to note that, by what may not be a coincidence, this feast on 4th May is followed on 5th May by that of Pope St. Pius V in which the Collect thanks God "Who for the overthrowing of the enemies of Thy Church and for the restoring of the beauty of Thy worship, didst choose blessed Pius as supreme Pontiff."
1. TM, p. 208.
2. Ibid., p. 204 and p. 202. See also Note 28 to Chapter VIII.
3. TM, p. 205.
4. Ibid., p. 206.
5. The Tablet, 24 July, 1971, p. 724.
6. TM, p. 172.
7. EBCP, p. 197.
8. TM, p. 173.
9. Ibid., p. 183.
10. Ibid., p. 184.
11. Ibid., p. 305.
12. TCC, p. 1056.
13. DCD, Ch. V, Sect. III, I.
14. TM, p. 184. The spread of the Roman rite and the incorporation of Gallican elements is discussed in detail on pp. 172-184 and 199-208.
15. Ibid., p. 225.
16. Itineraires, No. 162, p. 40. English translation by Edward Burrows from The Remnant, 1 February, 1973.
17. TM, p. 202.
18. Ibid., p. 208.
19. Ibid., p. 211.
20. Ibid., p. 213.
21. Ibid., p. 208 and p. 213.
22. Ibid., p. 213.
23. Introduction to the Cabrol edition of The Roman Missal (17th edition). Sub- sequent quotations from Dom Cabrol come from the same source. As regards the question of the relative antiquity of the different liturgies, the so-called "Anaphora of St. Hippolytus" would date back to the third century if authentic, but its authenticity is still a matter of discussion among scholars.
24. Cited in A Sharp Critique (Ogilvie Foundation, 1970), p. 3.
25. Cited in A Shorter History of the Western Liturgy, T. Klauser, p. 18.
26. Common of the Dedication of a Church.
27. Dr. J. H. Oswald, cited in The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, N. Gihr (St. Louis, 1908). p. 337.
28. This is the Mass (London, 1959), p. 34.
29. Op. cit., Note 27.