Of His Holiness
By Divine Providence
To His Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops
and other Ordinaries at peace and in communion with the Apostolic See
THE SACRED LITURGY
...But the priestly life which the divine Redeemer had begun in His mortal body by His prayers and sacrifice was not finished. He willed it to continue unceasingly through the ages in His Mystical Body, which is the Church; and therefore He instituted a visible priesthood to offer everywhere a clean oblation,(4) so that all men all over the world, being delivered from sin, might serve God conscientiously, and of their own free will.
Accordingly the Church at the bidding of her Founder continues the priestly office of Jesus Christ, especially in the liturgy. This she does first and chiefly at the altar, where the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetually represented (5) and, with a difference only in the manner of offering, for ever renewed.(6)
...and the worship of the Eucharist has come to be seen for what in fact it is: the source and centre of true Christian devotion.
...This Apostolic See, as you know, has at all times endeavoured to inspire the faithful under its charge with a sound and active liturgical sense, and has likewise sought always to ensure proper decorum in the conduct of the sacred rites.
...But although We are greatly consoled by the beneficial results of these studies, yet, in view of certain tendencies already apparent, Our duty requires Us to give careful attention to this 'revival' and keep the movement free from exaggeration and error.
For while We regret that in some quarters there is little or no interest in the liturgy or understanding of it, at the same time We observe elsewhere, with anxiety and some apprehension, an undue fondness for innovation and a tendency to stray from the path of truth and prudence.
Certain plans and suggestions for the liturgical revival are mingled with principles which, either in fact or by implication, jeopardize the sacred cause they are intended to promote and sometimes introduce errors touching Catholic faith and ascetical doctrine.
Now this sacred science must be regulated according to the integrity of faith and morals, and must be in complete harmony with the wise pronouncements of the Church. It is therefore Our duty, in all that has been done, to praise and approve what is right and to check and condemn what is wrong.
But the lazy and indifferent must not think We are commending them when We restrain the over-venturesome and correct those who go astray; nor must the imprudent see praise for themselves in the reproof We administer to the negligent.
If in this Encyclical We deal chiefly with the Latin Liturgy... It is because the special conditions of the Western Church in this matter seem to call for Our authoritative intervention.
Let all Christians, therefore, hearken obediently to their Father, who desires to see them all, in the closest union with himself, professing the same faith, obeying the same law, and taking their part with one mind and will in the same sacrifice.
The honour due to God requires it, and the needs of our times require it too.
THE NATURE, ORIGIN, AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE LITURGY
...And so, if we turn to the Old Testament we find God issuing special decrees concerning sacred rites and laying down precise rules to be observed by the people in their official worship of Him. Thus He instituted various sacrifices and indicated various ceremonies for the offering of the victim to Him; He gave detailed instructions regarding the ark of the covenant, the temple, and festivals; He instituted a priestly tribe and a high-priest; He appointed and described the vestments to be used by the sacred ministers, and indeed regulated everything else touching divine worship.(11)
...At the Last Supper with solemn rite and splendour He celebrates the new Pasch and provides for its continuance by the divine institution of the Eucharist...
...Therefore in the whole conduct of the liturgy the Church has her divine Founder present with her...
...The practice of the liturgy began as soon as the Church had been divinely instituted.
...and the priesthood of Jesus Christ is constantly active through the ages, since the sacred liturgy is nothing else but the exercise of that priestly office.
And just as the divine Head is ever present with His members, so is the Church ever present with her children, helping and stimulating them to sanctify so that, adorned with this supernatural splendour, they may one day return to their heavenly Father.
No sooner are they endowed with this earthly life than she begets them anew to the supernatural life of grace; for their conflict with the implacable foe she strengthens them with the vigour of the Holy Spirit;
she bids the faithful to her altars and with repeated invitation urges them to take their part in the celebration of the Sacrifice, nourishing them with the bread of angels so that they may become stronger still;
when they are wounded and stained by their sins she purifies and consoles them; those whom God calls to the priesthood she hallows with the established rite; for those who are called to set up and educate a
Christian family she has a chaste wedlock strengthened with heavenly grace and gifts; she refreshes and comforts the last hours of this mortal life with the Viaticum of the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick, and then, like the loving Mother that she is, she accompanies her children's remains to the grave and reverently buries them under the protection of the Cross to await their triumph over death in the resurrection. To those who dedicate their lives to God in quest of religious perfection she imparts a special solemn blessing.
WORSHIP EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL
...Finally, the external element in divine worship is an important manifestation of the unity of the Mystical Body; it also fosters its holy endeavours, invigorates its powers and intensifies its activity. 'For although,' writes Cardinal Bona, 'ceremonies themselves possess no intrinsic perfection or holiness, yet they are external acts of religion which by their very significance move the soul to reverence for what is holy, raise the mind to the things of heaven, nourish piety, foster charity, increase faith, strengthen devotion, instruct the unlearned, add lustre to divine worship, maintain the sense of religion, AND DISTINGUISH THE FAITHFUL FROM FALSE CHRISTIANS AND HERETICS.' (27)
...IT IS CONSEQUENTLY A TOTAL MISUNDERSTANDING of the true meaning of the liturgy to regard it as the merely external and visible element in divine worship, or as the outward splendour of ceremonial; IT IS EQUALLY WRONG to see in it a mere catalogue of rules and regulations issued by the hierarchy of the Church for the conduct of the sacred rites.
It must be well understood, then, that God cannot be worthily honoured unless the mind and will are intent upon spiritual perfection; and that for the achievement of holiness the worship which the Church, united with her divine Head, offers to God is the most efficacious possible means.
...It is certainly true that the Sacraments and the Mass possess an intrinsic efficacy, because they are actions of Christ Himself transmitting and distributing the grace of the divine head to the members of the Mystical Body.
...It is true that liturgical prayer, being the public prayer of the august Bride of Christ, is superior to private prayers; but this superiority does not mean that there is any conflict or incompatibility between them. The two are harmoniously blended because they are both animated by the same spirit: 'There is nothing but Christ in any of us.' (38) There purpose is the same: to form Christ in us.(39
THE LITURGY AND HIERARCHICAL AUTHORITY
Another, and equally important, characteristic of the liturgy is to be noted if we are to form a proper conception of it.
The Church is a society, and therefore must have its own authority and hierarchy. Although it is true that all the members of the Mystical Body share the same goods and tend to the same end, this does not mean that they all enjoy the same powers or are competent to perform the same actions. The divine Redeemer has established His Kingdom upon the stable foundation of a sacred order; and that order is a kind of reflection of the heavenly hierarchy.
Only the Apostles and those who since have duly received from them and their successors the imposition of hands possess that priestly power in virtue of which they stand before their people as Christ's representative and before God as vice-regent of the people. This priesthood is not transmitted by heredity or blood relationship; nor does it originate in the Christian community, nor is it derived by delegation from the people.
....the priest is the ambassador of the divine Redeemer...
...THE POWER COMMITTED TO HIM, therefore, HAS NOTHING HUMAN ABOUT IT; it is supernatural and comes from God. 'As the Father sent me I also send you.(40) ...He who listens to you listens to me.(41) ...Go out over the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation; he who believes and is baptised will be saved.' (42)
Therefore the visible and external priesthood of Jesus Christ is not given in the Church universally, generally, or indeterminately; it is imparted to selected individuals by a sort of spriritual birth in one of the seven Sacraments, Holy Order.
...the sacred liturgy has a very close connection with the chief doctrines that the Church teaches as most certainly true; it must therefore remain in perfect conformity with the pronouncements on the Catholic faith issued by the Church's supreme teaching authority to safeguard the integrity of revealed truth.
In this connection, Venerable Brethren, We may mention a matter which must be known to you: We refer to the error that would see in the liturgy a sort of touchstone by which to judge which truths are to be held by faith: in the sense that those truths which, by means of the liturgy, have yielded fruits of piety or holiness should be approved by the Church, while others should be rejected. And in this sense appeal is made to the principle, 'The law of our prayer is the law of our belief' (Lex orandi, lex credendi)
But this is not what the Church teaches, this is not what the Church requires. The worship she pays to God is, as St Augustine tersely puts it, a continual profession of Catholic faith and an exercise of hope and charity. 'God,' he says, 'is to be worshipped by faith, hope and charity.' (44) In the liturgy we make explicit profession of the Catholic faith; not only by celebrating the various mysteries, not only by offering the Sacrifice and administering the Sacraments, but also by reciting or singing the Creed (the Christian watchword), by reading other documents and also the divinely inspired Scriptures. Thus the whole liturgy contains the Catholic faith, in as much as it is a public profession of the faith of the Church. This is why, whenever some divinely revealed truth has to be defined, Popes and Councils have frequently used the liturgy as a theological source of arguments.
...Similarly whenever some doubtful question was under discussion the Church and the Fathers have been accustomed to seek light also in the venerable and traditional sacred rites.
...Thus the sacred liturgy does not absolutely or of itself designate or constitute the Catholic faith. The fact is that the liturgy, besides being divine worship, is also a profession of heavenly truth subject to the Church's supreme teaching authority, and therefore it can provide important indications to decide some particular point of Catholic doctrine.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE LITURGY
The hierarchy of the Church has at all times used this right in the matter of the liturgy, regulating divine worship and constantly enriching it for the glory of God and benefit of the faithful. Indeed she has even introduced changes - always respecting the substance of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Sacraments - in anything she considered not entirely suitable, and made additions, where the greater honour of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Trinity, or the better instruction and more fervent devotion of the faithful, seemed to require them.(47)
For in the liturgy there are human elements as well as divine. The latter, obviously, having been established by the divine Redeemer cannot under any circumstances be changed by men..
...It is easy to understand that the progress of the fine arts, especially architecture, painting and music, have also had great influence in shaping and variously determining the external features of the liturgy.
The same rights in the sphere of the liturgy has been used by the Church in order to protect the sacredness of divine worship against abuses introduced by individuals and by particular churches. The sixteenth century saw a great increase in the number of such abuses, and privately invented devotions were proving a danger to the integrity of faith and devotion, to the great advantage of heretics and the further spread of their errors. It was for this reason that our Predecessor Pope Sixtus V in the year 1588 INSTITUTED the SACRED CONGREGATION OF RITES,(49) to protect the lawful rites of the Church and to eliminate any corrupt elements that might have been introduced...
PRIVATE INITIATIVE AND THE SACRED
...It is true that the Church is a living organism and therefore grows and develops also in her liturgical worship; it is also true that, always saving the integrity of her doctrine, she accommodates herself to the needs and conditions of the times. But deliberately TO INTRODUCE NEW LITURGICAL CUSTOMS, or to revive obsolete rites inconsistent with existing laws and rubrics, IS AN IRRESPONSIBLE ACT WHICH WE MUST CONDEMN. And that this is in fact done, Venerable Brethren, and not only in trifling matters but in matters of the greatest importance, We have learned with very deep regret. There are some who use the vernacular in offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice...
...THE USE OF THE LATIN LANGUAGE prevailing in a great part of the Church AFFORDS AT ONCE AN IMPOSING SIGN OF UNITY and an effective safeguard against the corruption of true doctrine.
...to restore everything indiscriminately to its ancient condition is neither wise nor praiseworthy. IT WOULD BE WRONG, for example, to want the altar restored to its ancient form of table...
...No sincere Catholic could go so far, in his desire to revert to the ancient formularies used by the earlier Councils of the Church, as to repudiate the definitions of Christian doctrine which the Church, under the assistance and guidance of the Holy Ghost and with the most beneficial results, has drawn up and imposed upon the faithful in more recent times. NO SINCERE CATHOLIC, again, could disregard existing laws in order to revert to the decrees that are found in the most ancient sources of CANON LAW.
...This attitude is an attempt to revive the 'archaeologism' to which the pseudo-synod of Pistoia gave rise; it seeks also to re-introduce the many pernicious errors which led to that synod and resulted from it and which the Church, in her capacity of watchful guardian of 'the deposit of faith' entrusted to her by her divine Founder, has rightly condemned.(53) IT IS A WICKED MOVEMENT, that tends to paralyse the sanctifying and salutary action by which the liturgy leads the children of adoption on the path to their heavenly Father.
NATURE OF THE EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE
Christ our Lord, 'priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech,' (56) 'loved his own that were in the world' (57); and accordingly 'at the Last Supper, on the night on which He was being betrayed,'
He willed to leave to His beloved Bride the Church a visible sacrifice such as the nature of man requires; one by which the bloody sacrifice that was to be enacted once upon the Cross should be represented and its memory remain until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied for the remission of the sins that are daily committed by us...He therefore offered His body and blood to God the Father under the appearances of bread and wine...
...THE AUGUST SACRIFICE OF THE ALTAR IS THEREFORE NO MERE SIMPLE COMMEMORATION of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ; IT IS TRULY AND PROPERLY THE OFFERING OF A SACRIFICE, wherein by an unbloody immolation the High Priest does what He had already done on the Cross, offering Himself to the eternal Father as a most acceptable victim.
'...the difference is only in the manner of offering.' (5
...The victim, too, is the same: the divine Redeemer according to His humanity and in His true body and blood. But the manner in which Christ is offered is different. On the Cross He offered to God the whole of Himself and His sufferings, and the victim was immolated by a bloody death voluntarily accepted.
But on the altar, by reason of the glorious condition of His humanity 'death will no longer have dominion over him,' (62) and therefore the shedding of His blood is not possible. Nevertheless the divine wisdom has devised a way in which our Redeemer's sacrifice is marvellously shown forth by external signs symbolic of death.
By the 'transubstantiation' of bread unto the body of Christ and of wine into His blood both His body and blood are rendered really present; but the eucharistic species under which He is present symbolize the violent separation of His body and blood, and so a commemorative showing forth of the death which took place in reality on Calvary is repeated in each Mass, because by distinct representations Christ Jesus is signified and shown forth in the state of victim.
THE PART TAKEN BY THE
FAITHFUL IN THE EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE
...But the fact that the faithful take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice does not mean that they also possess the power of the priesthood. The members of your flocks, Venerable Brethren, must be made to understand this quite clearly.
There are some who, holding a view not far removed from errors that have been already condemned, (82) teach...
...that the command which Jesus Christ gave to His Apostles at the Last Supper, to do what He Himself had done, was addressed directly to the whole community of the faithful; and that thence and only later the hierarchical priesthood took its rise. They therefore maintain that the people possess the true priestly power, and that the priest acts only in virtue of a function delegated to him by the community. Consequently they regard the Eucharistic Sacrifice as a true 'concelebration,' and think that it is much better for priests to assist and 'concelebrate' with the people, than to offer the Sacrifice privately when the people are not present.
IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO SHOW HOW PLAINLY THESE CAPTIOUS ERRORS CONTRADICT THE TRUTHS WE ASSERTED ABOVE, in speaking of the special position that the priest holds in the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.
...But at the same time We have to deplore certain exaggerations and travesties of the truth which do not conform to the genuine teaching of the Church.
There are some who entirely disapprove of Masses that are offered privately and without a congregation, as though these were a departure from the original form of sacrifice...
...AND THERE ARE OTHERS WHO GO SO FAR AS TO CLAIM that it is necessary for the people to confirm and ratify the Sacrifice in order that it may have its power and efficacy.
...Every time the priest re-enacts what the divine Redeemer did at the Last Supper, the Sacrifice is really accomplished; and this Sacrifice, always and everywhere, necessarily and of its very nature, has a public and social character.
...And this happens whether the faithful are present - and We would indeed have them assisting in great numbers and with great devotion - or whether they are absent, BECAUSE IT IS IN NO WAY NECESSARY that the people should ratify what has been done by the sacred minister.
...In this way every element in the liturgy conspires to make our souls reflect the image of the divine Redeemer through the mystery of the Cross, so that each one of us may verify the words of St Paul: 'With Christ I hang upon the Cross; and yet I am alive; or rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me.' (95)
...Let the faithful, then, learn to appreciate the dignity to which they have been raised by the Sacrament of Baptism. They must not be content to take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice by the general intention which all the members of Christ and children of the Church ought to have; they ought also, in the spirit of the liturgy, to unite themselves closely and of set purpose with the High Priest and His minister on earth, especially in the moment of the consecration of the divine Victim, and join with him in offering it as the solemn words are pronounced: 'Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, is given to Thee, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory for ever and ever.
'And as the people answer 'Amen,' let them not forget to offer themselves and their anxieties, their sorrows, their troubles, their miseries and their needs, in union with their divine Head crucified.
We therefore highly commend the zeal which, to enable the faithful to take part more easily and more profitably in the Mass, seeks to adapt the Roman Missal to their use, so that they may join in prayer with the priest, using his very words and uttering the sentiments of the Church herself.
...We therefore EXHORT you, Venerable Brethren, in your dioceses or within the sphere of your jurisdiction, to see that the way in which the faithful take part in the liturgy CONFORMS TO THE RULES laid down in the MISSAL and the instructions issued by the CONGREGATION OF RITES and in the CODE OF CANON LAW...
...Therefore it is a FALSE DOCTRINE that would lead a priest to refuse to celebrate unless the faithful come to Communion; and it is STILL WORSE TO GROUND THIS VIEW - that the faithful must necessarily communicate together with the priest - on the sophistical contention that the Mass besides being a sacrifice is also the banquet of a community of brethren: and that the general communion of the faithful is to be regarded as the culminating point of the whole celebration.
IT MUST BE EMPHASIZED AGAIN AND AGAIN that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is essentially the unbloody immolation of the Divine Victim...