QUAERITUR: Readings in English during Extraordinary Form Mass

From a reader:

Hey Father Zed.  I’ve got a question about using the vernacular in the TLM…  Last night my fiancee and I went to a TLM and the priest, who had a wonderful voice, sang the mass very well…. Except when it came to the Epistle and Gospel, he sang them in English…..  What’s the deal with that? Is that allowed?  Does it invalidate/illicit-ate the Mass? Or is it all cool?  I know that S.M. says that the readings can be read in the vernacular, but I always took that to be an affirmation of reading them before the Homily.


Yes, that is allowed under Summorum Pontificum.  No it does not invalidate the Mass.

Whether it is a good idea… or cool… or not is another matter.

I think most people will agree that the Council Fathers at Vatican II intended that the use of the vernacular was intended for the liturgy of the word part of the older, traditional form of Holy Mass.   What we actually got went way beyond the intention of the document on liturgy.  From that point of view, it could be taken as a good idea. 

Also, that would eliminate the need to repeat the readings.

However, I am not sure how many congregations of TLM goers would take to this.  From that point of view, such a practice could simply wind up producing more heat that light.

From that point of view, I think it is probably not the best practice… yet.  Perhaps someday it will be, depending on the community.

TLM purists will absolutely HATE that suggestion, I know.  So, spare us, please.

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  1. TJerome says:

    I think you provided the young person with some helpful background. Although I love the TLM and like to hear the Epistle and Gospel chanted in Latin, I would
    have no problem with them being sung in English, if that were the price to be paid for getting the TLM in greater circulation in the Catholic World.

  2. Ioannes Andreades says:

    The last couple years I’ve thought about suggesting to the local TLM society that they hold a special Epiphany mass especially for Latino families who celebrate Three King’s Day, since such a mass cannot be held on Jan. 6 unless it falls on Sunday. It would be a low mass but with the readings read in Spanish. Traditional Spanish songs for the feast could be sung at the appropriate places. It could be a way of offering a pastoral solution to the problem that the current U.S. calendar proposes to Latinos (hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the U.S. observe the feast but can’t attend Epiphany mass that day) while at the same time exposing a young generation to the traditional Latin mass on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, I have had to be out of state the last couple Jan. 6’s, so I never felt honest about suggesting it.

  3. Mark M says:

    My favourite method is where the Epistle and Gospel are chanted in Latin, BUT then before the Homily, the Priest proclaims then in English… it works well!

  4. THREEHEARTS says:

    There is a little known booklet printed by the Vatican written by Paul 6th. Written about the time he said, no more changes the people are confused. It was blue 5.5×8.5 where he laid out that the priest should offer the Mass in the venacular whilst the people responded in Latin. The Missa del’Anglis was the music to be used. I had a copy given to me by a priest who was so in love with the chanted/sung mass. he followed the instructions of the Church on the liturgy precisely. He formed a choir and every liturgy was exactly followed. I heard often comments from other priest of Fr Newman’s silly music. I appreciated all that he taught me and all he did for me.

  5. Aaron says:

    At daily Mass, our FSSP pastor says the readings in English only, but he comes down to the lectern to do it. So there’s still the separation of Latin up at the altar and English at the lectern, which seems to satisfy us “purists.” I think the main reason is time constraints, to make it possible for people to attend Mass on their lunch hour, though I’ve been told this was common in France even before Vatican II.

  6. chironomo says:

    At the EF I attend on Sundays, the priests first proclaim the readings in Latin, and then in English at the podium prior to the homily. All of our priests are FSSP priests.

  7. Personally, I would have no problem with the reading being chanted only in the vernacular. It is the one part of the Mass where God speaks to us, rather than the other way around, which seems to me to reduce the significance of a “sacred” language. That said, I should think it would be a difficult provision to implement. There is the matter of what style of chant to use. Some people consider languages like English as being too guttural for Gregorian chant. (I am not among them.) And the use of, say, Anglican chant to proclaim them in English would be out of place.

    Yes, repeating them at the pulpit “works” inasmuch as you get to hear the readings. But how critical is it that they be repeated outside the Mass itself, when it may be lawful to chant them in the vernacular?

    I’m just speaking hypothetically here. I’m not in a position to act on this myself.

  8. Henry Edwards says:

    The chanting of the Epistle and Gospel at (sung) high Mass is an important part of our Latin tradition, and I cannot believe that any significant number of TLM participants — young or old, old or new, whatever — would ever be happy with the replacement of venerable Latin chants with vernacular chant or reading. In this case, of course, the Epistle and Gospel should be read in the vernacular at the pulpit before the sermon (as is universal now, and always has been in my experience dating to before Vatican II).

    In the case of a large TLM parish that of necessity has several low Masses on Sunday in addition to the principal parish high Mass, I know of no reason why the readings at the low Masses should not be in the vernacular. And therefore should be — in preference to redundant Latin recited at the altar and English recited at the pulpit — since there are probably people at these masses without missals.

    At a daily EF low Mass with typically no sermon, it probably makes no difference since those attending a daily low Mass typically use Latin-English missals and can therefore follow Latin readings in English if they want to.

  9. Rachel says:

    I’ve been to TLMs where the readings were chanted in English. The only problem I have with it is that it’s not so easy to understand English when it’s chanted (poor acoustics in the church didn’t help). I like it better when the priest simply reads the English from the pulpit.

  10. thereseb says:

    Until 1962 Missals are much more widely available – this would seem a sensible measure. I have experienced this recently.

  11. thereseb says:

    Sorry – I misread the original post. I experiencd the liturgy of the word – read, at a Low Mass. I agree – if sung it would sound quite odd to me – but I am just very grateful for the number and quality of the EF Masses near me. I will never quibble!

  12. The Egyptian says:

    Is this not what is meant by the Mass changing organically rather than the rupture of the VAT 2, small changes slowly, some for the better,

  13. MichaelJ says:

    I suppose that I am one of those TLM purists Father warned you about. That being said, I have a question before I would venture an opinion.

    One of the things that strikes me about a Traditional Mass is the precice choreography and attention to detail. I do not say this to denigrate the ordinary form, but it seems that every word, gesture and posture, down to the minutest detail conveys a message and is put in place for a very specific reason.

    Soo… why are the Gospel and Epistle read at Mass at all? Given that a Sermon or Homily is for our (the laity) benefit and edification, it makes perfect sense that it, including the readings, be done in the vernacular. And given also that there is a distinction between the “parts” of the Mass intended for the benefit of the laity (although technically, since the Maniple is removed prior to the Sermon or Homily, the readings in vernacular are not “part” of the Mass) and for another purpose it seems to me that the Gospel and Epistle are read at Mass for a reason above and beyond the education of the laity.

    If so, what is that reason and why should a change be made to accommodate an audience that is not the primary intended recipient?

  14. Timbot2000 says:

    As one who has to attend at the Byzantine rite (no Latin Rite in the area that doe snot cause me to do violence to myself in anger and shame), where all readings are chanted in English, I must hang my head in shame listening to how difficult it is for Latins to do even poorly what everybody else does well, namely vernacular plainchant (and no, English plainchant is not protestant, the history of English plainchant extends well back into the middle ages, before the Henrician schism. )
    Also after you have experienced sung readings (which was our tradition too once upon a time), read readings sound simply philistine, anti-ecumenical (all Orthodox “enchant” their readings), and a further example of historical rupture.
    Is there any reason for a westerner not to hang his head in shame?

  15. venerable says:

    We just had a grandaughter married at an Extraordinary Form High Mass with 8 of her cousins (20yrs-30yrs old)singing Missa Angelus and Palestrina in Bakersfield,CA.,the celebrant, a Norbertine, Father John Henry, so beautiful, full church, many protestants because the groom’s father’s family are ardent funamentalist protestants. total, quiet attention throughout. My daugther provided the guests with a special white, wedding, Eclesia Dei Mass booklets. The groom who’s maternal uncle is a missionary priest in South America was nervous about this mass since it is all new to this wonderful Catholic family.(sigh) But for the bride and her family this was not negotiable. “Put it in the hands of the Blessed Mother and don’t worry”

  16. Oneros says:

    Why do these people writing in always worry that some little thing “invalidates” the Mass? Is this a type of scruples? You’d think the basic very minimum conditions of validity would be pretty basic Catholic knowledge. It always fascinates me when people are committed to the Faith (and have very strong opinions on things, too)…yet seem to not even know all that much about that Faith. As someone who could only bring myself to commit after understanding everything, or at least seeing that it didnt contradict reason, I’m just always surprised by these naive lacunas in people’s knowledge.

    Also, people always try to interpret the “vernacular readings” in Summorum Pontificum as just meaning the re-readings before the Homily. But that’s untenable because that was always allowed (how could they stop a priest from quoting the readings, in full, at the beginning of his sermon?) and so mentioning it would have been redundant. It only can mean that vernacular readings are allowed to REPLACE the Latin.

  17. venerable says:

    The response from everyone seemed to me to be an answer their prayer and of the Blessed Mother’s interest in a successful celebration of this sacrament.- Remember, “Do whatever He tells you”? Especially gratifying were the questions and comments from the protestants; “I noticed the priest was concerned with the altar more than with the congregation, why is that?” What an opprotunity!! One N.O. Catholic did say that it would be even better in his opinion if the readings were in English which came to mind when I read the above post. Makes perfect sense. ……The traditional community made the reception happen with everyone chipping in. Deo Gratias! P.S. The bride has 3 married syblings. Their parents believe in courtship rules. WOW!

  18. MichaelJ says:


    As I was the only person who even came close to questioning vernacular readings on grounds other than purely personal preferences, I presume that I am one of “those people” you refer to. So where did I say – or even imply – anything about validity?

    My question (and it was truly a question) can be simply summed up as “If the Gospel and Epistile were read in Latin for a specific purpose, what was that purpose and why on earth would anyone consider changing it with out first ensuring that the proposed change meets that original intent?”

  19. smcollinsus says:

    Our Pastor often reminds the congregation that, in the beginning, they all agreed that they would prefer to read along in English using either their Missals or the worship leaflets, and that, therefore, he would not repeat the Readings in English at the beginning of the Sermon. The preamble to every week’s leaflet reinterates this, directing the congregation to follow along primarily in the leaflet, which then refers them to the appropriate pages in the red Missalette for the Ordinary.

    Some new-comers take a few weeks to realize what’s happening, but they eventually get it. I sometimes feel sorry for those whom I notice are just reading along, cover to cover, out of the Missalette. They are missing much of the beauty of that particular Mass. But maybe ther are getting more out of the EF Mass while reading the wrong Readings than they would get out of the OF Mass hearing ICEL translations of the correct Readings.

    I have chosen not to judge in these circumstances. But rather to do my best to provide what I do provied, and help the Priest in every way I am called upon to.

  20. Carolina Geo says:

    At the parish I attend, the priest reads the Epistle in English and then the Gospel in Latin (at the altar). He then reads the Gospel in English at the start of the homily. (He started doing this about two years ago. Before then he read both readings in Latin at the altar and then again in English at the homily.) I think there are three things wrong with his current practice.

    First, the orientation of the priest (ad orientam) suggests that the language used when directing the words of the Mass towards God should be the language of the Church (i.e. Latin). Then, when the priest is addressing the congregation during the homily, the language should be the vernacular.

    Second (and this piggy-backs on the first), if the priest is saying the reading in English so that the congregation can follow along, it actually becomes more difficult to do so because he is speaking away from the congregation. Microphones are only a limited help. It is easier to hear what somebody is saying when he is directing his speech toward you.

    Third, from an auditory point of view, it is disconcerting to be listening to the Mass in Latin, and then suddenly hear it switch to English, and then back to Latin again. There was a time during which the priest would do both readings in Latin. Then we would go from Latin to English to Latin to English and then back to Latin. I call it an auditory speed bump. It is jarring to the ear, and distracting.

    Anyway, those are my gripes with this practice. I think this is one of those cases where the Novus Ordo is having a gravitational effect on the traditional Mass, and not for the better.

    Those are my thoughts, worth exactly what you paid for them.

  21. Henry Edwards says:

    MichaelJ @ 5:24 pm : In one traditional view — which I don’t necessarily want to argue, but merely to cite as an answer to your question — the words of scripture in the liturgy are directed to God in worship, rather than to the people for edification or instruction. For instance, in a well-known liturgical manual by Nicholas Gihr, I read:

    “The Church prefers to employ in her liturgy the words of Scripture, because they are especially holy and venerable, efficacious and full of grace; they are, indeed, the words of God, words that have the Holy Ghost for their author. Therefore are they so well adapted to manifest to the Lord our sentiments, desires, and petitions. To commune with God in prayer, to praise Him, to thank Him, to supplicate Him, to pour out to Him in chant our heart’s joys and plaints, we can find no words more fitting than those which God Himself has put into our mouth and inspired through His Holy Spirit ….. “

    It appears that in this view the purpose of the readings is liturgical rather than didactic or instructional, and this might support the chanting of the Epistle and Gospel in Latin at the altar, like the other parts of the Mass.

    However, when the Mass is interrupted and the celebrant removes his maniple (and perhaps also his chasuble) to go to the people for the sermon, what he says is directed to the people rather than to God, so his words (including reading the Epistle and Gospel) are naturally read in the vernacular facing the people.

    If one agrees with this particular traditional view, it might seem incongruous for the priest to replace the Latin readings at the altar with vernacular ones, or to turn to the people for them.

  22. Mitchell NY says:

    I could see the vernacular in this part of Mass. It goes with the Letter on the Liturgy and the “Spirit of the Council”. Truth be told, we must make the Tridentine Mass more available to those who seek it. For it to grow organically it must also include the Council wishes, not defy them. That said, I think the Ordinary should be untouchable in Latin in the 1962 Missal and some legal document to enforce that would seem necessary at some point. It will accomplish both wishes of the Council Fathers. Latin would remain key to the Ordinary and Priests would have to help teach those of us who do not yet know it, and at the same time allow for the vernacular to help foster a better understanding of the Mass for those who know zero Latin coming in. It also gives life back to the 1962 Missal along with additional updates for the Saints and calender. It has always been the 1 year calender and should stay that way. I think the all or nothing approach in regards to Latin prohibits its’ growth and flourishing. We can not forget that this Missal has been suppressed for 40 years. Something has to give in order for it to remain within the wishes of the Council and yet the bulwark of tradition and a connection to Trent. In fact this small allowance might actually solidify its’ structure, protect its’ integrity, and give it new life to those who wish to participate but simply can not absorb 100% Latin that keeps changing week to week with the changing parts of Mass. If not this growth, what else is suggested for a change to the 1962 Missal that keeps in line with the Council wishes? And since so much negative feelings were expressed with the dropping of the Second Confiteor, maybe it should be put back as part of the Mass that makes so many of the faithful comfortable. If it hurt no one by being there and caused so much confusion and doubt when removed, what is sincerely for the good of the people which the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy also stipulates? Now that we have been given the opportunity to use this Missal again in public worship it does seem selfish to try to freeze it for the rest of our individual lifetimes, not caring about what happens when the next generation grows into it, and the wishes of the Council Fathers on said issue. That is why I do advocate certain legislation to protect the integrity of the Missal in Latin alongside any allowance. For the 2nd Confiteor, even when a tree is pruned or cut back, when it grows in, if often does so by growing back into its’ original form, perhaps a little fuller.

  23. ray from mn says:

    “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”, etc.

    I get very tired of the personal opinions of fans of liturgical practices, whether EF or NO.

    If you don’t like it, leave the Church for another of your preference, and hope like hell that God will understand.

  24. polski says:

    I don’t see a problem with it. But I’m from the Byzantine tradition, everything is sung including Epistle and Gospel. The only thing that is not is the homily. I agree with ray from mn if you don’t like it leave. I find that when you sing, there is a greater joy. Why not proclaim the gospel with joy! Try singing I love you to your husband/wife or kids and you’ll find that you can’t help but be joyful. Singing elevates your heart and soul to God.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Have we all become a nation of non-readers or what??

  26. catholicmidwest says:

    Ray, who made you pope? Behave yourself. No one has to leave just because you’re in a self-made snit. Play nice.

  27. nemo says:

    Before Vat II the Epistle and Gospel were ALWAYS done in Latin, and optionally read in English. NEVER, NEVER would they be ONLY read in the vernacular. The English translation of Summorum Pontificum Art. 6 leaves out the “etiam” in the original, leading some to think that it is permissible to read only in the vernacular.

    Summorum Pontificum (English):
    Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.

    Summorum Pontificum (original):
    Art. 6. In Missis iuxta Missale B. Ioannis XXIII celebratis cum populo, Lectiones proclamari possunt etiam lingua vernacula, utendo editionibus ab Apostolica Sede recognitis.

    Note the missing “also” in the English version of Art. 6. “…Readings may also be proclaimed in the vernacular tongue, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.”

  28. Mike Morrow says:

    I believe it should simply be done the way it was done prior to the perversions of the mid-1960s and later.

    Use Latin, and only Latin, during the Mass. Since the homily/sermon is not technically part of Mass, vernacular readings of the Epistle and Gospel are entirely appropriate there. That’s just as it had been done for centuries before the darkness of the novus ordo descended upon the Church.

    In this case, the priest was clearly being innovative, and we know what good (??) that has done from the results of other liturgical innovators during the last 45 years.

  29. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Etiam can mean “even” in addition to “also”. It is not clear from the instruction that the readings need to be read in Latin if read in the vernacular. At one point, the readings at Rome were only read in Greek. Latin was not “ALWAYS” the language of the readings, even at Rome.

    At one point, the readings read in Latin WERE the vernacular. Papal liturgies continued the practice of having both Greek and Latin deacons of the Gospel, as Latin was the vernacular and Greek the original (this seems not to be true elsewhere in Rome, where Latin alone was used). We can’t be averse to legitimate organic develoments, and it the transition to the vernacular was legitimate once, why not again, especially if called for by an ecumenical council? We also need to be conscious of the fact that Vatican II specifically said that the homily “is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself.” I’m not proposing that the maniple should be left on during the homily, but we can’t ignore Vatican II completely either.

  30. Ceile De says:

    In our church, the priest sings the reading and Gospel in Latin and then ascends the pulpit where he reads them again in English and then gives a concise sermon touching exactly on the lessons contained therein – one could not ask for more.

  31. “Comment by Timbot2000 — 1 February 2010 @ 4:30 pm”

    If you attend a Ruthenian church in the United States, you would notice a slight revision in the vernacular chant in recent years, to coincide with a revised translation. This was ostensibly to match more closely the original Ruthenian chant, as used with Old Slavonic. It is rarely a topic of conversation among congregants (at least in my experience), but the matter of difference between traditional and vernacular languages when using an ancient form of chant, has been one of discussion among liturgists.

    Other than that, I tend to agree that a “one way or the highway” approach among congregants in the Roman Rite can be a bit tiresome, at least for me personally.

  32. MichaelJ says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but please show me specifically where the Vatican II Council called for a “transition to the vernacular”. As I recall, it allowed expanded use of vernacular but fell far short of actually calling for a transition to vernacular.

  33. wolfeken says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “I think most people will agree that the Council Fathers at Vatican II intended that the use of the vernacular was intended for the liturgy of the word part of the older, traditional form of Holy Mass.”

    Then why not have the priest face east during his sermon? Why not have the postcommunion in the vernacular too? Why is the Dominus vobiscum in Latin?

    There is a reason the Mass is said in Latin ad orientem and the homily is delivered facing the people using the vernacular.

  34. lacrossecath says:

    I am ok with the English also, except on major feasts. I think we can figure out what the Christmas Gospel is about without hearing the English.

    Too bad there are no mulligans on interpretation of Church Councils. I wonder what the NO would have looked like if it would have been interpreted properly…

  35. cl00bie says:

    TLM purists will absolutely HATE that suggestion, I know. So, spare us, please.

    Fr. Z, Isn’t the “gravitational pull” supposed to go both ways?

  36. Ioannes Andreades says:

    First, let me say that I was only talking about the readings not about the entire liturgy, and second, I don’t think that the readings need to be read at the vernacular at every mass. Perhaps having said this, we are on the same page. Maybe “transition” was poor word choice on my part. I’m certainly not for having vernacular readings at every mass, but having the vernacular readings sometimes in the TLM, to the extent that it’s licit to do so, strikes me as unobjectionable. I’d actually prefer the readings in the vernacular and I teach Latin.

  37. Clinton says:

    In my parish, the celebrant proceeds just as Ceile De @ 6:51am describes: readings are first given in Latin at the altar, then again in the
    pulpit in English before the sermon. Seems to me it can only be a good thing to hear scripture as often as possible–perhaps then it will
    have a better chance of sinking in with a meathead like myself!

    Sadly, my parish does not yet have a daily Mass in the EF. As it is an urban parish, with many of the attendees on their way in to work
    or on lunch break, daily Masses can only be celebrated within a restricted amount of time. So, I can only speculate on how the readings
    would be handled. I hope that they would be given in Latin, with the expectation that if we in the pews wished to have a translation,
    we could bring our missals. Naturally, the priest could refer to the readings in his (brief) sermon, if one were given.

    One of the advantages of Latin that has not yet been mentioned in this thread is that it ‘belongs’ to all Catholics. It is an extraordinarily
    powerful sign of our unity in the Faith. While it is practical to repeat the readings in the vernacular prior to the sermon, it may not be an
    aid to everyone. In my own parish, we have quite a few for whom English is less accessible than Latin itself. These folks may bring a
    Latin/Spanish or Latin/Vietnamese missal and be perfectly at home–another reason to recite the readings in Latin.

    One final note: Henry Edwards, in his post @ 7:50pm, describes one idea of the purpose of the readings during Mass as liturgical
    rather than didactic. In that view, Latin would be the more sensible language to use for them in the Mass itself. This idea has much to
    recommend it, IMHO, and I thank Mr. Edwards for bringing it forward.

  38. “In my parish, the celebrant proceeds just as Ceile De @ 6:51am describes: readings are first given in Latin at the altar, then again in the pulpit in English before the sermon.”

    I don’t think it’s been mentioned, and you wouldn’t know by reading these comments, but does everyone reading this know, that this was actually how it was normally done in North America, and at least some of Europe?

    Just checking.

  39. Clinton says:

    I’m not old enough to remember how it was done before the changes wrought in the name of Vatican II. If repeating the readings
    in the vernacular just prior to the sermon was the standard then, well, I’m guessing that it was because time had shown that it
    was the most sensible option.

    I understand that it is perfectly licit now to recite the readings in the vernacular only, as Fr. Z. said in his original post above. I just don’t
    see that it is desirable in most circumstances to do so. That’s not because I have a knee-jerk opposition to any liturgical changes made
    by the competent authority, but rather for the reasons I touched upon in my 4:09pm comment.

  40. What would also be nice would be to see the Gospel sung during the Ordinary Form…but perhaps that’s asking too much :)

  41. Henry Edwards says:

    BlackHat: I don’t think it’s been mentioned, and you wouldn’t know by reading these comments, but does everyone reading this know, that this was actually how it was normally done in North America, and at least some of Europe?

    It was certainly done this way–in Latin for God at the altar as part of the Mass, then repeated in English for the people from the pulpit before the sermon–at every Sunday Mass I attended before Vatican II in many parishes in four states and three different regions of the U.S. (At daily Mass then, there generally was no sermon and hence no vernacular repetition of the readings.)

  42. Nathan says:

    Henry Edwards: “It appears that in this view the purpose of the readings is liturgical rather than didactic or instructional, and this might support the chanting of the Epistle and Gospel in Latin at the altar, like the other parts of the Mass.”

    What a great insight, Henry! It opens up a whole set of interesting questions regarding the purposes and focus of the public worship of the Church. Is Matins/Office of Readings didactic or liturgical? Are all proclamations of Holy Scripture in the Mass and in the Divine Office didactic, liturgical, or both? To whom are they primarily aimed? God or us?

    I grew up (backwoods) Methodist, where the whole concept of worship, at least as public services were organized, was clearly didactic. You don’t see too many variable Protestant church signs with the topic of the preacher’s prayer instead of the topic of the sermon–the sermon was the high point of the service, and worship was seen as the elect learning from the Word of God, not the adoration of God through a liturgical Sacrifice. Is that the model for the Mass of the Catachumens?

    One can argue that the answer to whom the Epistle and Gospel are aimed would be yes–they are aimed at both God and at us in the pews. How, then, does the proclamation of the Epistle and Gospel fit into the idea of the entirety of Holy Mass being the worship of God and also serve the spiritual benefit of the Faithful?

    Does the Church’s experience with the Novus Ordo lead to any useful insights into whether a didactic approach to the readings at Mass is more spiritually beneficial than the liturgical approach that at least some ascribe to the TLM? Practically, is the proclamation of the Epistle and Gospel at the altar in Latin first, then followed at the pulpit in the vernacular, a problem?

    In Christ,

  43. “If repeating the readings in the vernacular just prior to the sermon was the standard then, well, I’m guessing that it was because time had shown that it was the most sensible option.”

    If the Mass was required to be rendered in Latin, and the readings had to be proclaimed in the vernacular at a point outside the Mass itself then, well, I’m guessing it was because the rubrics had shown that it was the ONLY option.

  44. Henry Edwards says:


    In regard to the Divine Office also being liturgical rather than instructional, the following excerpts from Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy indicate that it (like the Mass) is directed to the God and not to us.

    83. Christ Jesus, High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant ….. joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of Divine Praise.

    For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord ….. not only by celebrating the Eucharist, but also ….. especially by praying the Divine Office.

    84. By tradition going back to early Christian times, the Divine Office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God. ….. It is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His Body, addresses to the Father.

    85. Hence all who render this service are not only fulfilling a duty of the Church, but also are sharing in the greatest honor of Christ’s Spouse, for by offering these praises to God they are standing before the throne of God in the name of the Church, their Mother.

    90. The Divine Office, because it is the public prayer of the Church, is a source of piety, and nourishment for personal prayer. …..

    99. … the Divine Office is the voice of the Church, that is of the whole Mystical Body publicly praising God …..

  45. Clinton says:

    manwithblackhat, I think you may have misinterpreted my meaning in my 5:41pm comment. By “time had shown that it was the most sensible option” I did not mean that I believed there to be the multitude of rubrical options as there are in the OF. (Although Aaron
    @ 1 Feb./3:01pm points to the presence of more than one uniform practice worldwide prior to Vatican II).

    Rather, I was referring to the rubrics themselves, and how they got to where they were. Over time, the rubrics were modified so as to
    more closely reflect the Church’s understanding of the purpose of the readings in the Mass. In theory, there were an infinity of directions
    in which the rubrics could have gone. The direction they took, the option among all those possibilities, would be that one that time had
    shown the Church to be the most sensible way to express Her understanding. At least that is my poor take on how rubrics evolve — I’m
    sure there are readers here who have a far better grasp on the matter than I do.

    Which leads us back to the question posed in the original post–in light of the fact that the rubrics surrounding the readings in the
    EF have been modified to make a licit option of proclamation in the vernacular alone–which of the options is best? On the one hand,
    we have the Council Fathers stating that Latin should have pride of place in the liturgy and on the other hand the same Fathers tell
    us of the importance of the vernacular for the readings… On the one hand the readings are addressed to God, they are liturgical, and
    on the other hand they are addressed to us, and are instructional… On the one hand the readings in Latin evoke the reality of the
    Church as she exists across the centuries and regardless of nationality. On the other hand, in the vernacular the readings come to us
    in a specific place and time…

    What’s wrong with both/and? Shall I be ashamed for wanting it all?

  46. Nathan says:

    Henry, thank you again! I’m probably the only person on the planet interested in the idea of comparing the Divine Office with Holy Mass in order to drill into whom the Gospel and Epistle are primarily aimed. But, assuming we’re not making a bad comparison–the logic being that both the Divine Office and the Holy Mass together comprise the official, public prayer of the Church–ceteribus paribus, both the Epistle/Gospel and the readings at Matins would be similiarly didactic or liturgical, and to be said similiarly in Latin or the vernacular.

    Could vernacular reading of the Epistle/Gospel be a reasonable compromise between the OF and EF? Of course. Would most of us who love the TLM obey in charity if that compromise were reached? Probably. Is it a good idea and does it truly benefit souls to not proclaim the readings in Latin, then in the vernacular at the pulpit? That’s the $10,000 question.

    In Christ,

  47. “Comment by Clinton — 4 February 2010 @ 5:12 am”

    Forgive me, but I could barely follow that.

    I’m not sure to what degree the use of the vernacular for the readings at the pulpit is covered in the rubrics. Not everything that’s part of the Mass proper is covered in the rubrics (the posture of the congregation, for example), and the vernacular readings and homily are, strictly speaking, not a part of the Mass.

    As to whether God speaks to us, or we speak to God, I should think it would be obvious. But if you’re speaking in another sense (that is, the liturgical), I suppose you could make the case. Personally, I could not.

  48. Henry Edwards says:

    Nathan, while I’m thinking about something sensible (and defensible) to say about your $10K question, let me mention a couple of references—where I can just cut and paste a paragraph–regarding the Mass and Divine Office as parts of the liturgical whole.

    “THE LITURGY, or official public worship of the Church, comprises the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments and Sacramentals, and the canonical hours, or official daily prayer of the Church. It is the latter which is contained in the Roman Breviary, par excellence, the prayer-book of the Church. There are prayers outside the Breviary, approved by the Church, enriched by her with indulgences, beloved as private devotions, but the Divine Office, contained in the Breviary, is the great official prayer recited daily by the Church as the mystical body of Christ, divine Head and human members together, to pay worship to God only second in importance to that supreme act of religious cult, the sacrifice of the Mass.”

    “The breviary is above all the prayer of the Church, the prayer said in the name of the Church. It is helpful to understand the difference between private prayer and liturgical prayer. In private prayer I pray, mostly, for myself and my own affairs. It is the isolated person who stands in the centre of the action, and the prayer is more or less individualized. But in liturgical prayer, and therefore in the breviary, it is not primarily I who am praying, but the Church, the bride of Christ.”

  49. C. says:

    My experience is that the faithful don’t want this. The priests do, because they get out of having to practice and (they feel) the duty of understanding the etymology of every single Latin word in the Epistle and Gospel.

    I worry for the robustness of the Latin Renaissance if these readings in Latin are omitted.

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