Spe salvi 10: “classical” Roman Rite cited

There is something very important in Spe salvi Let’s look at a paragraph of Spe salvi 10!  Let’s take a look with my emphases:

10. We have spoken thus far of faith and hope in the New Testament and in early Christianity; yet it has always been clear that we are referring not only to the past: the entire reflection concerns living and dying in general, and therefore it also concerns us here and now. So now we must ask explicitly: is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope?

Is it “performative” for us—is it a message which shapes our life in a new way, or is it just “information” which, in the meantime, we have set aside and which now seems to us to have been superseded by more recent information? In the search for an answer, I would like to begin with the classical form of the dialogue with which the rite of Baptism expressed the reception of an infant into the community of believers and the infant’s rebirth in Christ. First of all the priest asked what name the parents had chosen for the child, and then he continued with the question: “What do you ask of the Church?” Answer: “Faith”. “And what does faith give you?” “Eternal life”. According to this dialogue, the parents were seeking access to the faith for their child, communion with believers, because they saw in faith the key to “eternal life”. Today as in the past, this is what being baptized, becoming Christians, is all about: it is not just an act of socialization within the community, not simply a welcome into the Church. The parents expect more for the one to be baptized: they expect that faith, which includes the corporeal nature of the Church and her sacraments, will give life to their child—eternal life. Faith is the substance of hope. But then the question arises: …

The paragraph continues to cite St. Ambrose, whom as a patristiblogger we love… but he is not the point I want to get at.

Pay attention.  This is not the first time the Holy Father has used the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite when explaining something.  Do any of you remember other times?  (Hint: think dedication of a church).

In this paragraph, the Holy Father explains what baptism really does, what it is about.  He chooses to explain it through citing the traditional form.  If the newer form said the same thing – in that dialogue in the rite – as the traditional form, he would have probably used that.  Right?

So, we find another reason why the Holy Father issued Summorum Pontificum: we have to refer these days to the older rites in order to understand what the newer rites mean.

This prompts a few questions.

First, if the older form says things the newer form doesn’t say, why not just use the older form?  Well… we can.  Obviously it was thought that the older form needed to be revised, but here we are … using it again

Second, if the Holy Father is citing this source in an encyclical (not just an allocution or a sermon), what does that mean practically for the future?  Could it be that we should take a revision of the present, newer rites into consideration?  After all, when you need to use the older form to make the newer form clearer… well… couldn’t the newer form bear some revision?

I think this paragraph has far wider implications than a rapid reading might suggest.

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  1. Fr Ray Blake says:

    “This is not the first time the Holy Father has used the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite when explaining something. Do any of you remember other times? ”
    Palm Sunday he spoke about the entrance into the Church and the priest striking the the door with the Processional Cross.

    Are we now able to refer to it as the “classical form”?

  2. Jörgen Vijgen says:

    Here are two examples (are there more?):
    September 1, 2006:
    “Non conosco sufficientemente bene il Rituale italiano. Nel Rituale classico, ereditato dalla Chiesa antica, il Battesimo inizia con la domanda: «Che cosa chiedete alla Chiesa di Dio?». Oggi, almeno nel Rituale tedesco, si risponde semplicemente: «Il Battesimo». Questo non esplicita sufficientemente che cosa è da desiderare. Nell’antico Rituale si diceva: «La fede». Cioè, una relazione con Dio. Conoscere Dio. «E perché – si continua – chiedete la fede?». «Perché vogliamo la vita eterna». Vogliamo, cioè, una vita sicura anche nelle crisi future, una vita che ha senso, che giustifica l’essere uomo.”
    April 1, 2007:
    “Il salmo 24 [23] che parla della salita termina con una liturgia d’ingresso davanti al portale del tempio: “Sollevate, porte i vostri frontali, alzatevi, porte antiche, ed entri il re della gloria”. Nella vecchia liturgia della Domenica delle Palme il sacerdote, giunto davanti alla chiesa, bussava fortemente con l’asta della croce della processione al portone ancora chiuso, che in seguito a questo bussare si apriva. Era una bella immagine per il mistero dello stesso Gesù Cristo che, con il legno della sua croce, con la forza del suo amore che si dona, ha bussato dal lato del mondo alla porta di Dio

  3. Vincent says:

    From the 1987 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, in Exceptional Circumstances (though it may be elsewhere – that’s the only book I have in front of me:

    Celebrant: What do you ask of God’s Church?
    Candidate: Faith.
    Celebrant: What does faith offer you?
    Candidate: Eternal life.

    What’s the difference between this and the previous version (apart from the language)?

  4. Bogdan in Rome says:

    The Pope was specifically referring to the Rite of Baptism of Infants not Adults.

  5. Arieh says:

    In the new rite of baptism for infants the response to the question “what do you ask of the Church?” is “baptism” (or the celebrant may choose other words for this dialogue).

    My parish priest is going to baptize our soon-to-be-born baby according to the traditional rite. He will be the first of our 5 children to be baptized according to the classical rite, I am excited.

  6. Berolinensis says:

    What is intersting about the Holy Father’s reference to the Palm Sunday rite is that it is, if I’m not mistaken, to the pre-Pian Holy Week liturgy: this specific rite of striking the the door with the Processional Cross was, I believe, abolished in 1955.

    As to the rite of baptism: The Holy Father has been very critical of its reform for a long time. In his 1982 book “Theologische Prinzipienlehre” (sorry, I only have the book in German, it ought to be “Theological Pinciples” or so in English) he writes in a passage which was first published in “Communio” in 1976, he says that in the new rite, the Baptism of infants has lost its legitimation; the price for the new intelligibility has been too high.

  7. LCB says:

    Berolinensis, source it? I haven’t read that from Ratzinger before.

  8. Berolinensis says:

    LCB: I already gave the source: It was first published in Communio 1976, 218, and then in “Theologische Prinzipienlehre” in 1982, pages 28 et seq. (the part about the new rite of Baptism is from page 44). The title is “Taufe, Glaube und Zugehörigkeit zur Kirche” (“Baptism, Faith, and Belonging to the Church”). Parts were published in English in “Theology Digest 25 (1977), 237 et seq., although I don’t know whether this part, which is in annex on the Baptism of infants, was included.

  9. Raymundus says:

    Use of the word “Faith” in response to the question, “What do you ask of the Church?” is allowed and a suggested alternative for the “Rite of Baptism for Children”. “Baptism” is the first answer given, but one is also free to use “Faith”. This is where it is helpful to make up an order of worship specific to the parish, where all of these options are banged out. ;)

  10. LCB says:


    Thank you, I appreciate the more detailed sourcing. Was just looking for more specifics, to make my digging more easy ;-)

    Thanks, LCB.

  11. techno_aesthete says:

    This is not the first time the Holy Father has used the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite when explaining something. Do any of you remember other times?

    Early in his pontificate, maybe the first Lent, he spoke appreciatively of the traditional Divine Office.

  12. Fr. W says:

    Well that is very interesting. I was wondering why that answer elicited from the parents is not ‘we desire baptism’ as in the new rite. I did see that other answers are fine, such as ‘faith’ or ‘eternal life’ – I was wondering if it was in the latin, since I do not have the revised rite in latin. But its being in the Classical Rite makes sense!

    Oh, that Ecclessia Dei would permit translations of the other sacraments to be used, then we would really be going places. I can hardly do the entire rite of baptism in latin – the people would freak out!

  13. Ben says:

    Two points:

    1. This is not the first time the Holy Father has used the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite when explaining something. Do any of you remember other times?

    Early in his pontificate (Lent 2006?), the Holy Father in an address to
    priests said, ‘today’s readings are X and X. However, in the old Roman Missal,
    they were Y and Y, and that’s because the station was held at such and such
    a church. What a shame we lost the stational liturgies in the New Missal.’

    Or words to that effect. I’m sure some readers could give a reference and
    a more accurate quotation than I have given. You should make a catena of
    all these allusions in a separate post, Fr Z!

    2. In the new rite of baptism for infants the response to the question “what do you ask of the Church?” is “baptism”.

    True; but that is also the response in the medieval English uses, so it’s not
    an innovation. Personally, I prefer the answer ‘faith’ – and that’s what was
    said when my daughter was baptized in the traditional rite.

  14. Patronus says:

    “Are we now able to refer to it as the “classical form”?”

    While it’s definitely a nod on the part of the Holy Father to classical prayers in the sense of more ancient and privileged, I wouldn’t necessarily extend it to a blanket approval for labeling the entire old use and all its rites as “the classical form” – especially given the ambiguity and implications (some, unfortunately, polemical) of that terms, including the fact that some extinct or non-Roman Catholic rites could also be called historically “classical.”

  15. EDG says:


    I noticed his use of the word “classical,”too, partly because of Fr. Z’s helpful “name that Mass” survey (where TLM won, I believe). I didn’t vote for “classical” at the time, but the more I see it, the more I like it. For one thing, it doesn’t have some of the negative connections of anything using the words “traditional” or even “Latin” – I know there’s no reason for the negativity, but you must admit that the enemies of the rite use these words to scare the gullible in the pews. “Classical,” on the other hand, has no baggage, sounds dignified, says nothing about language (because the rite has been celebrated in the vernacular at times), and implies something different from “traditional” in the popular mind. A traditional thing is something that is old and customary but is, in a sense, an option or a sentimental choice when something new comes along; something classical is, on the other hand, a source that never loses its validity. I don’t think it would be confused with the earlier rites in the Western church because they are no longer in effect for the entire Church and most people don’t even know they exist (Visigothic rite, for example).

    I don’t mean to digress, but I actually did think that the Pope’s use of the term “classical” in this Encyclical was significant.

  16. Anthony English says:

    There\’s another part of the encyclical which draws a catechetical material from the eastern orientation of churches:

    41. In the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings, which were intended to make visible the historic and cosmic breadth of faith in Christ, it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king—the symbol of hope—at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgement as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives—a scene which followed and accompanied the faithful as they went out to resume their daily routine.

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