UPDATE: Some people were surprised and unhappy that I should "fisk" a document like the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum. My intention was not to mock Paul VI. If nothing else, Paul VI’s Humanae vitae merits an epitaph of gold. I don’t think we have to say the same for his reformation of the Missale. What I did here was underscore the naivetÃ© of the time, fully acknowledging our vantage of hindsight. Not everything done by a Council or a Pope has been either successful or worthy of praise. If we are going to move forward intelligently we need a clear perspective of where we have been. Also, I had to reconstruct this post from a cached page after I discovered part of the entry had been inadvertently deleted.
Today is the 38th Anniverary of the Promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution (the highest form of Church document) entitled Missale Romanum. This was the instrument by which Paul VI established the Novus Ordo Missae.
Let’s review this important document which has so affected our lives. My emphasis and comments.
PROMULGATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL REVISED BY DECREE OF THE SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI issued on April 3, 1969.
PAUL, BISHOP Servant of the Servants of God For an Everlasting Memorial
The Missale Romanum was promulgated in 1570 by our predecessor St. Pius V, in execution of the decree of the Council of Trent. It has been recognized by all as one of the many admirable results that the Council achieved for the benefit of the entire Church of Christ. For four centuries it provided Latin-rite priests with norms for the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice; moreover messengers of the Gospel brought this Missal to almost the entire world. Innumerable holy men and women nurtured their spiritual life on its readings from Scripture and on its prayer texts. In large part these prayer texts owed their arrangement to St. Gregory the Great.
A deep interest in fostering the liturgy has become widespread and strong among the Christian people [The "Liturgical Movement" of the 20th century] and our predecessor Pius XII has viewed this both as a sign of God’s caring will regarding today’s people and as a saving movement of the Holy Spirit through his Church. Since the beginning of this liturgical renewal, it has also become clear that the formularies of the Roman Missal had to be revised and enriched. A beginning was made by Pius XII in the restoration of the Easter Vigil and Holy Week services;[The reform of 1955, which many of the traditional stripe don't like.] he thus took the first step toward adapting the Roman Missal to the contemporary mentality. [qui proinde primum quasi gradum posuit ad Missale Romanum novis huius temporis animi sensitius accommodandum.]
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, laid down the basis for the general revision of the Roman Missal:  "Both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things they signify"; therefore,  "the Order of Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly brought out, and devout, active participation [pia et actuosa fidelium participatio] by the faithful more easily achieved." The Council also decreed that [
4] "the treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God’s word may be provided for the faithful"; and finally that  "a new rite for concelebration is to be drawn up and incorporated into the Roman Pontifical and Roman Missal." [Hmmm… what about the part of Sacrosanctum Concilium that said that no changes be made except for the true benefit of the faithful?]
No one should think, however, that this revision of the Roman Missal has come out of nowhere. [Heck no… we can show you the desks where it was pasted together!] The progress in liturgical studies during the last four centuries has certainly prepared the way. Just after the Council of Trent, the study "of ancient manuscripts in the Vatican library and elsewhere," as St. Pius V attests in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, helped greatly in the correction of the Roman Missal. Since then, however, other ancient sources have been discovered and published and liturgical formularies of the Eastern Church have been studied. Accordingly many have had the desire for these doctrinal and spiritual riches not to be stored away in the dark, but to be put into use for the enlightenment of the mind of Christians and for the nurture of their spirit.
Now, however, our purpose is to set out at least in broad terms, the new plan of the Roman Missal. We therefore point out, first, that a General Instruction, for use as a preface to the book, gives the new regulations for the celebration of eucharistic sacrifice. These regulations cover the rites to be carried out and the functions of each minister or participant as well as the furnishings and the places needed for divine worship [... in such a way as we will not really be sure how it is to be done… exactly.].
It must be acknowledged that the chief innovation in the reform concerns the eucharistic prayer. Although the Roman Rite over the centuries allowed for a multiplicity of different texts in the first part of the prayer (the preface), the second part, called the Canon actionis, took on a fixed form during the period of the fourth and fifth centuries. The Eastern liturgies, on the other hand, allowed a degree of variety into the anaphoras themselves. On this point, first of all, the eucharistic prayer has been enriched with a great number of prefaces – drawn from the early tradition of the Roman Church or recently composed – in order that the different facets of the mystery of salvation will stand out more clearly and that there will be more and richer themes of thanksgiving. But besides this, we have decided to add three new canons to the eucharistic prayer. Both for pastoral reasons, however, and for the facilitation of concelebration, we have ordered that the words of the Lord be identical in each form of the canon. Thus in each eucharistic prayer we wish those words to be as follows: over the bread: Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes: Hoc est enim Corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur; over the chalice: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis [Yah… they sure got that right in translations, didn’t they? It only took over 30 years to correct the error there.] effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem. The words Mysterium fidei have been removed from the context of Christ’s own words and are spoken by the priest as an introduction to the faithful’s acclamation.
In the Order of Mass the rites have been "simplified, [and made more ambiguous so as to leave them open to illicit improvisation] due care being taken to preserve their substance." [Hmmm… ] "Elements that, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated or were added with but little advantage" [Like the Last Gospel? The Offertory Prayers? Stuff like that?] have been eliminated, especially in the rites for the presentation of the bread and wine, the breaking of the bread, and communion.
Also, "other elements that have suffered injury through accident of history" are restored "to the tradition of the Fathers," for example, the homily,[That’s right. Because no one ever preached between 1570 and 1969 after all.] the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful,[And what a gift they have been for improvisation artists!] and the penitential rite or act of reconciliation with God and the community at the beginning of the Mass, which thus, as is right, regains its proper importance [but eliminated the names of Michael the Archangel – who drove Satan before his face, John the Baptist – the greatest man ever born of woman, Sts. Peter and Paul… well tooooo Roman…].
According to the decree of the Second Vatican Council, that "a more representative portion of the holy Scriptures be read to the people over the course of a prescribed number of years," [thus running the risk of turning the Mass into a didactic moment and making sure that the faithful remember perhaps less of it than they knew before] the Sunday readings are arranged in a cycle of three years [thus for the most part detaching the readings from the antiphons of the Mass]. In addition, on Sundays and all the major feasts the epistle and gospel are preceded by an Old Testament reading [Normally beyond the ability of the priest to preach about] or, at Easter, by readings from Acts. This is meant to provide a fuller exposition of the continuing process of the mystery of salvation, as shown in the words of divine revelation [because from 1570 to 1969 we haven’t had any of that]. These broadly selected biblical readings, which set before the faithful on Sundays and holydays the most important part of sacred Scripture, are complemented by other parts of the Bible read on other days.
All this has been planned to arouse among the faithful a greater hunger for the word of God. [Just ask, Your Holiness, the faithful leaving Church on a Sunday what the second reading was.] Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this hunger will seem, so to speak, to impel the people of the New Covenant toward the perfect unity of the Church. [let’s see… would that be a change to our Rite to promote ecumenism perhaps?] We are fully confident that under this arrangement both priest and faithful will prepare their minds and hearts more devoutly for the Lord’s Supper and that, meditating on the Scriptures, they will be nourished more each day by the words of the Lord [as our packed churches demonstrate even today…]. In accord with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, all will thus regard sacred Scripture as the abiding source of spiritual life, the foundation for Christian instruction, and the core of all theological study [just after the New York Times].
This reform of the Roman Missal, in addition to the three changes already mentioned (the eucharistic prayer, the Order of Mass, and the readings), has also corrected and considerably modified other of its components: the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, the Common of Saints, ritual Masses, and votive Masses. In all of these changes, particular care has been taken with the prayers. [THAT's for sure!] Their number has been increased, so that the new forms might better correspond to new needs, and the text of older prayers has been restored on the basis of the ancient sources. As a result, each weekday of the principal liturgical seasons, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, now has its own, distinct prayer.
The text of the Graduale Romanum has not been changed as far as the music is concerned. [But give us time.] In the interest of their being more readily understood, however, the responsorial psalm (which St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great often mention) as well as the entrance and communion antiphons have been revised for use in Masses that are not sung. [And without question everyone will still be singing Masses in Latin with Gregorian chant!!]
After what we have presented concerning the new Roman Missal, we wish in conclusion to insist on one point in particular and to make it have its effect. [Ad extremum, ex iis quae hactenus de novo Missali Romano exposuimus quiddam nunc cogere et efficere placet.] When he promulgated the editio princeps of the Roman Missal, our predecessor St. Pius V offered it to the people of Christ as the instrument of liturgical unity and the expression of a pure and reverent worship in the Church. Even though, in virtue of the decree of the Second Vatican Council, we have accepted into the new Roman Missal lawful variations and adaptations, our own expectation in no way differs from that of our predecessor. [EXCEPT….EXCEPT... That whereas Pius V said that rites older than 200 years would be preserved in places where they were used though no priest, even in those places, could ever be prevented from using the new Missale Romanum, from 1969 onward priests would be effectively forbidden to use the form far older than 200 years used precisely through the whole world in the same way.] It is that the faithful will receive the new Missal as a help toward witnessing and strengthening their unity with one another; that through the new Missal one and the same prayer in a great diversity of languages will ascend, more fragrant than any incense, to our heavenly Father, through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. [And that you will barely be able tor recognize, in some places, from parish to parish, that they even belong to the same Church, much less are using the same book.]
The effective date for what we have prescribed in this Constitution shall be the First Sunday of Advent of this year, 30 November.a We decree that these laws and prescriptions be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and amendment.
Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on Holy Thursday, 3 April 1969, the sixth year of our pontificate.
PAUL PP VI
What was Paul VI trying to do? The press conference (in L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 8 May 1969, p. 8) at the release of the Constitution put greater light on his project. My emphasis and comments.
PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION MISSALE ROMANUM
By the Apostolic Constitution "Missale Romanum", dated Holy Thursday, April 3, 1969, the Holy Father has approved and commanded to be promulgated the new Missal revised on the basis of the directives of the Second Vatican Council.
Now, by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, dated April 6, 1969, there appears the volume which contains the Ordo Missae and the general norms, brought together into one document entitled "Institution Generalis Missalis Romani". The Ordo Missae and the general norms come into force on the first Sunday of next Advent, November 30, 1969.
The Ordo Missae in its new form marks the goal of the reform of the Mass, after the intermediary stages reached with the Instructions of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of September 26, 1964, and of May 4, 1967.
The points, that have been altered are the following:
1. Introductory rites. The prayers at the foot of the altar are suppressed in their present form, and the celebration opens with the singing of the Introit, while the celebrant goes to the altar and then goes to the seat. Then, at the seat, the celebrant makes the sign of the cross together with the people, and greets the assembly. Certain formulae of greeting derived from St. Paul’s Letters can be used (for instance, "The love of God the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you"), or the traditional "The Lord be with you". In every case the people reply: "And with your spirit" (or "And. also with you"). Then comes the penitential act, which can take different forms, and before which the priest may speak some words to the faithful as an introduction to the celebration beginning. The rite then continues with the Kyrie and the Gloria.
2. Offertory rites. This part of the celebration, left completely untouched in the preceding reforms, is now rearranged to correspond better to its true meaning. [Oh Yah? Let’s chat about those offertory prayers used now and see if they "correspond better to the true meaning" of the offertory.] The formulae accompanying the placing of the bread and wine on the altar have been changed, so as not to anticipate the true offering of the sacrifice, which will be done in the Canon. Use has been made of expressions of blessing traditional in the Bible, stressing the creative action of God and man’s participation in the offering of the elements that will serve for the sacrifice: "Your are blessed, Lord, God of the universe. From your generosity we have received the bread which we present to you. It is the fruit of the earth and of man’s labour. And from it will come to us the bread of life". A similar formula, with the necessary changes, accompanies the placing of the chalice on the altar. The formula for pouring water in the wine has been shortened, and that of the washing of hands changed. [Changes which were really helpful to the Christian people!]
3. The rite of the "Fractio" and of the "Pax". The elements that constitute this part have been arranged in a clearer fashion. [Because, as we all know, people are pretty dumb and can’t possibly sort those out.] The Our Father, which begins the communion rites, is followed by the embolism ("Deliver us…") in a shortened form [Hmmm… is there another phrase for that… let me think…. ] and without the names of the saints. This concludes with the memorial of the return of the Lord and the acclamation of the people: "…we may be ever free from sin and safe from all disquiet, [HEY!! What happened to "anxiety"?!] awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ. Yours is the kingdom, yours the power for ever". [Just like the Protestants do!]
The rite of the kiss of peace has been arranged thus: first the priest asks of God the gift of peace for the Church and the world with the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you …." Then he addresses this wish to the faithful "May the peace of the Lord be always with you" and the invitation "Give one another the kiss of peace". The faithful may exchange a greeting of peace by a suitable gesture [often involving undignified chaos to distract us from the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and our own impending Communion (without recent confession of sins)] to be determined by the Bishops Conferences.
Then comes the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread for the Communion, accompanied by the singing of the acclamation "Lamb of God". The Communion rites remain unchanged. [Except for that whole confession part… oh yah… and the eventual Communion in the hand thing… and … um…. we’ll talk about distribution of Communion by those whose hands are not consecrated later.]
4. There are other minor changes throughout the Ordo. [OMG LOOK OUT FOR THE LIGHTNING BOLT!] Of these we note two touching the Roman Canon. In it too the words of the Lord in the narration of the Last Supper have been made uniform with the reading adopted in the new eucharistic prayers: "This is my body which will be given up for you" for the consecration of the bread, and ‘This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting convenant. It will be shed for you and for all men [ROLF This is precious. Whoever translated this into English… well… whaddya gonna say?] so that sins may be forgiven". The first formula has received the addition of the phrase "which will be given up for you", and the second has had removed the words "the mystery of faith", [Keep repeating … "MINOR CHANGES… MINOR CHANGES… you are getting sleeeeeepyyyyy… MINOR CHANGES… ] which are said by the celebrant as an introduction to the acclamation of the people: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".
Besides, the conclusions "Through Christ our Lord" recurring in the Canon are put between brackets and may be omitted. The same procedure is used for the names of the saints: in the Communicantes only the names of the Blessed Virgin, of St. Joseph and of the Apostles Peter, Paul and Andrew remain obligatory; [Keep repeating … "MINOR CHANGES… MINOR CHANGES… ] in the Nobis quoque the names of the saints mentioned in the Bible are obligatory, namely John the Baptist, Stephen Matthew and Barnabas. In this way the venerable Roman Canon acquires greater unity and ease of recitation, on the lines of the new eucharistic prayers. [Which was reeeeally for the benefit of the people of God…we know. But.. wait just a minute here! What is this "greater unity and ease of recitation, on the lines of the new eucharistic prayers business? Let’s dumb down … yah, that was the phrase I was looking for… the Roman Canon because the other prayers are simpler. Now I get it.]
The Institutio Generalis of the Missal, summarizes the Missal’s present introductory documents: The General Rubrics, the "Ritus Servandus in Celebratione Missae", the "De Defectibus in Celebratione Missae Occurrentibus" [Try not to laugh here.]. Its style is of course pastoral rather than juridical and rubrical, [PASTORAL GOOOOOOD, JURIDICAL BAAAAAAD] so as to guide the celebrant not only in the exact performance of the rite, [You have got to be joking. He’s kidding, right?] but also in understanding its spirit and significance. [People understand Mass so much better now.]
The document contains eight chapters. The first is an introduction of doctrinal character. The second reviews the various elements of the celebration, giving the doctrinal and rubrical presentation of each. The third illustrates the roles of each of those participating in the celebration: priest, people and ministers. The fourth sets forth the various forms of celebration: Mass with the people, private Mass, concelebrated Mass; and contains also the norms for communion under both species. The fifth offers an ample set of directives on the arrangement of the church as the place of the celebration. The sixth reviews what is needed for the sacred action: the sacred furniture, vessels and vestments [pottery, polyester, etc.]. The seventh gives guidance in choosing the formulary of the Mass and of its various parts: readings, prayers and chants, offering also a whole series of possible adaptations and a number of different forms [just to keep the faithful guessing… because that is reaallly for their benefit]. The eighth summarizes in two pages the [Keep repeating … "MINOR CHANGES… MINOR CHANGES… you are getting sleeeeeepyyyyy… MINOR CHANGES… ] on votive Masses and Masses for the dead.
As we have been assured time and time again, the post-Conciliar liturgical reforms have brought great fruits.
It also produced great nuts, I think.
I am sure it is true in some places there there have been abundant fruits from the post-Conciliar liturgical reform. I can attest personally to the fact that where everything was obeyed and then implemented in the most Roman fashion possible, with a mind to the will not just of the GIRM but also of the Council Fathers (who in no way intended to provoke what we actually got), there have been some remarkable fruits.
Still, I must challenge any unreserved claim that, across the board, the post-Conciliar reform has born great fruits in the Church.
So great is my trust in the power of the Church’s rites, however, that I am confident a stronger liturgical hermeneutic of continuity will in fact begin to multiply those anticipated fruits in a way more abundant that we have hitherto experienced.