Fr. Manuppella Catechesis on the TLM

St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
Merchantville, NJ

Pastor’s Corner - Rev. Anthony J. Manuppella, KHS

Sacred Liturgy

The Traditional Mass

Last week I reprinted the Motu Proprio of our Holy Father concerning the traditional Latin Mass. I hope you read it and digested it so that we all know exactly why our Pope has re-introduced the traditional Latin Mass.

This week, I’ve written extensively on some principles of the Sacred Liturgy as they pertain to the traditional or classical Mass. Over the next several months, I will continue to instruct about the “old Mass” so that whether you will go to it or not you may understand what’s happening.

People have already asked me to celebrate the Latin Mass here at St. Peter Church and with God’s help we will, but first we all need instruction which I will do through the bulletin and a special course we will offer in the Fall…

If the Jews had been asked to go from their highly detailed structural Liturgy to a casual celebration, you would not have had St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthian Church in 50 A.D. admonishing the early Christian about the liturgy and their liturgical abuses.

Remember that was 50 A.D only 17 years after Christ’s death!

The development of the Liturgy from 33 A.D. to recent times has been a consistent and organic mode of development until the Second Vatican Council. That development was reaffirmed and embellished even more perfectly what it already is – NOT changing it. For example, the introduction of St. Joseph’s name in the Roman Canon by Blessed John XXIII:

Did not delete anything

Based on a long devotion to St. Joseph in the Church

It was only a small embellishment not a distortion or diminution

And, so, the Church’s Liturgy developed slowly and organically like the growth of a flower from a little seed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as was the case from the early Church Liturgy until Vatican II. This is precisely why no one can find out who invented or wrote the traditional Mass.

We need to be very careful here and know that the traditional Mass or classical Mass should not really be called the Tridentine Mass for the Mass was not invented by a single Pope or by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. Rather, all that Pope St. Pius V did was to like the normative Roman Liturgy of the time and he universalized it.

In other words, Pope Pius V said the way Mass is celebrated in Rome for the last 1500 years will be the way Mass will be celebrated all over the world. The traditional Mass was not invented by Pope Gregory the Great or Pope Pius V – no it was the same Mass essentially of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries – whatever existed there exists NOW in the traditional Mass.

For example, some introits and graduals from the “Vetus Latinae” i.e., before St. Jerome translated the Bible into what is known as the Latin Vulgate, were not changed to correspond to the Vulgate, but rather Pope St. Damasus said “Leave the old Latin translation of introits and graduals intact because it’s what the apostles used. This illustrates very well the Church’s constant guardianship of the Sacred Liturgy.

In other words, the attraction to the “Old Mass” is not some fetish or nostalgic trip into the past, but rather it is the true meaning of living tradition that stays the same while the world changes, i.e., God is always constant and our worship we owe to Him.

There are essentially two principles in the Traditional Roman Liturgy:

1st Principle - The Element of Receptivity

When the Israelites were faithful in carrying out the Liturgy as Yaweh had prescribed God was pleased and all went well for them. But when they failed and began to practice syncretism (i.e., mixing into their Liturgy foreign or pagan or secular elements) God punished them!

We must never forget that the history of our Roman Liturgy was received from the apostles who handed it down to us.

Holy Mother Church can introduce little variations, but does not permit to change the Liturgy altogether.

When the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI was issued as the new form of Mass in Advent of 1969, Bishop Annibale Bugnini wanted Pope Paul VI to abrogate the traditional Latin Mass. The Holy Father Pope Paul VI said no I cannot do that since even he as Pope has limits to his authority and so he could not abrogate the Mass which had the right to exist because of it immemorial character. In other words, even the Pope could not stop the Old Mass from being said because he could not ignore the fact that that Mass had been celebrated for over 1,000 years and was instrumental in the spiritual love of millions and millions of people and hundreds and hundreds of saints.

So, we return to the principle of receptivity and that could be summed up in that we have received from God all we need to go to Heaven!


The altar rail is a barrier. It is the “iconostasis” used in the Eastern Rite Liturgy to show the separation of the world and heaven and it represents a bridge no man can overcome. The Catholic receives Holy Communion. He or she does not take it. The traditional position of kneeling for Holy Communion in the Old Mass places the communicant in a HOLY AND RECEPTIVE POSITION. He or she is vulnerable as Christ comes to them in the Holy Eucharist. Christ delivers Himself to them. The communicant does not say a word. He or she just receives - receptivity in everything is most perfect. We look at the example of our Blessed Mother. She did nothing, said nothing at the cross. She just totally was disposed to the sacrifice of her Son. Her participation in the Sacrifice of Calvary was unique and repeatable – that’s PARTICIPATION!

Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic letter on the Holy Eucharist recently issued called “Sacramentum Caritatis” speaks of the disposability of the heart and mind to what is happening at the altar and is manifested in our receptivity in the reception of Holy Communion.

In the traditional Mass, you might hear people say “The Priest has his back to the people”. That shows the ignorance of people regarding the celebration of Mass. No, it is not that the Priest has his back to the people, but rather that he is at one with the people turning together to receive what God wants to give us. We are turned to God and it is the Priest as Pastor and shepherd who leads his people in prayer. The altar is turned toward the east – the place from whence Christ will come at the end of time and we eagerly await Him in longing expectation.

Catholic teaching is incarnational i.e., everything can be a conduit of God’s grace – hands, exterior and interior reverence for God makes use of all the elements to reach Him.

2nd Principle – Humble Conformity

We learn that the Mass is not something the Priest creates, but rather that the Priest’s fundamental work is not to alter or adapt Mass, but to remain faithful to it – to conform our being for it. In the traditional Mass, the person of the Priest is lost in the person of Christ. People rarely notice the Priest an instrument God uses to bring Himself on earth. To use an analogy – the Priest is a spoon, not many people think about a spoon. It’s essential, but not the point of it. We want you to notice Christ, not the Priest.

St. Peter Roman Catholic Church - 43 W. Maple Avenue Merchantville, NJ 08109 (856) 663-1373


Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed his article.

Nice to see a positive response to the MP.

can the reasonings for such actions be proved historically? I often wonder if we do not impose our modern thoelogical thoughts onto past habits in an attempt to justify them. Sure we say this is the reason for this action but was that the reasoning at the time of its first occurence?!

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