Meeting Christ in the Liturgy Library
Promulgation of the Roman Missal Revised by Decree of the
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
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. (1) 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 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. (2) Since the beginning of
this liturgical renewal, it has 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; (3) he thus took
the first step toward adapting the Roman Missal to the contemporary
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"; (4) 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 by the faithful more easily achieved." (5) The
Council also decreed that "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" ;(6) and finally that "a new rite for concelebration is to be drawn up
and incorporated into the Roman Pontifical and Roman Missal." (7)
No one should think, however, that this revision of the Roman Missal has
come out of nowhere. 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 nurturing
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 the 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.
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 multis 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, due care being taken to
preserve their substance." (8) "Elements that, with the passage of time, came
to be duplicated or were added with but little advantage" (9) 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 been suffered injury through accident of
history" are restored "to the tradition of the Fathers,"(10) for example, the
homily,(11) the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful,(12) 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.
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,"(13) the Sunday readings are
arranged in a cycle of three years. In addition, on Sundays and all the major
feasts the epistle and gospel are preceded by an Old Testament reading 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. 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. (14) 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. 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. 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 inspiration, and the core of all
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. Their number has been increased, so that the new forms might
better correspond to new needs, and the text of older prayers, 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. In the interest of their being more readily understood, however,
the responsorial psalm (which Saint Augustine and St. Leo the Great often
mention) as well as the entrance and communion antiphons has been revised
for use in Masses that are not sung.
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.
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, (15) our own expectation in no way differs from that of our
predecessor. 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.
The effective date for what we have prescribed in the Constitution shall be the
First Sunday of Advent of this year, 30 November. 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
1. See apostolic const. Quo primum, July 14, 1570.
2. See Pius XII, Discourse to the participants in the First International
Congress of Pastoral Liturgy at Assisi, September 22, 1956: AAS 48 (1956)
3. See Sacred Congregation of Rites: general decree Dominicae
Resurrectionis, February 9, 1951: AAS 43 (1951) 128ff.; general decree
Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria, November 16, 1955: AAS 47 (1955)
4. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum
Concilium (=S.C.) art. 21: AAS 56 (1964) 106.
5. Ibid., art. 50.
6. Ibid., art. 51.
7. Ibid., art. 58.
8. Ibid., art. 50.
11. SC, art. 52.
12. Ibid., art. 53.
13. Ibid., art. 51.
14. Amos 8:11.
15. SC, art. 38-40.