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Thursday, July 21, 2016

On the “Rite of Saint Peter”--The Glorious Roman Rite (most beautiful thing this side of heaven) Featured

Written by  Robert Higdon
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There were 54 Rites of Mass composed by the apostles according to the language and custom of the countries they evangelized. In this essay all comments are centered on the Roman Rite.

Why select the Roman Rite to comment on, if it is just one among many? Is it because it is said in Latin? No, in fact, the original language that it was written in was Syro-Chaldaic, composed by St. Peter in Antioch. It was the language used by the people of Judea at the time of Christ. It is divine providence that chose Latin, soon to be ‘non-vernacular’, as the language of the Church. This ‘dead language’ for the Church was to be a sign of Her unity in ‘Her Liturgy’ and to protect the meaning of ‘Her dogmas’ (for the meanings of words in any vernacular language tend to change over time – in a dead language the meanings of words never change).

The importance of the Latin Roman Rite is that it is the Rite of some 95 percent of all Catholics
. It is the Latin Roman Rite that St. Paul spread throughout his missionary expeditions.



It is the Latin Roman Rite St. Francis Xavier spread Throughout Asia. It is the Latin Roman Rite the Conquistadors spread throughout South America with Our Lady of Guadalupe’s help. It is the Latin Roman Rite that was first said on the shores of America at that location, which is now called St. Augustine in Florida, long before the Pilgrims landed. Obviously, Our Blessed Lord got in the Liturgical boat of St. Peter; it is the Latin Roman Rite God chose to evangelize world-wide!

Before proceeding, permit me to define the words Tradition and Custom which are used frequently in this document:

Webster defines Tradition: “The handing down of beliefs or customs; an instituted pattern of action (as a religious practice).”

Webster defines Custom: “Long established practice considered as unwritten law. Usage or practice common to many.”

Also Cannon Law 27 (new version) explains that custom is the best interpreter of laws.

So when we look at liturgical law according to canonical tradition, in order to understand the law correctly, it must be understood according to the tradition that has established the liturgical custom. As the ancient Father, St. John Chrysostom says: “Is it tradition? Ask no more.”


The comments in this section are based on the book: “How Christ Said the First Mass” by Father James L Meagher, D.D. Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of Divinity. He was President of the Christian Press Association Publishing Company in New York which published the book in 1906. The book (440 pages – complete with references and a detailed index) is currently available from Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.

The author goes into great detail to show how the Roman Rite of Mass, in particular, is patterned after the Liturgy of the traditional Jewish Passover Feast. Nearly every detail of the Mass has its counterpart in the Passover Liturgy. From the procession, prayers at the foot of the altar (the same psalms quoted), the Confiteor, and even the Canon are strikingly similar. He points out that God himself gave detailed instructions to Moses and Aaron how the Passover feast was to be conducted.

God also detailed the Liturgical garments in a “striking minuteness, he laid down material, color, shape and ornament of vestments worn in public worship, and forbade them at any other time”. The Church today uses the same type liturgical vestments made of linen, and the same liturgical colors, red, white, green and violet. The Church only added the color black to express sorrow. To illustrate the Divine concern about vestments he points out that they are mentioned 167 times in the Old Testament, and 59 times in the New Testament.

Now let us review some pertinent quotes to illustrate the similarity of the Passover and the Roman Rite Liturgy as sung by Christ at the first Mass:

·         “The synagogue services were not only sung by the Rabbi and his ministers, but the people also took part in the congregational singing. There was a night foretold by Israel’s great prophet, Isaiah, when the Lord Messiah would come and sing the Passover service. Numberless proofs force us to believe that the Last Supper was a pontifical High Mass sung by the Lord, his apostles and the people taking part in the congregational singing.”

·         “Christ was therefore a priest according to the order of Melchisedech when he offered bread and wine at the Last Supper, and a priest according to the order of Aaron when he brought the lamb of Passover to the Temple to be sacrificed.”

·         “The liturgy of the Passover, formed of Prayers, Psalms, chants, anthems, directions, rubrics, etc.. were the foundations on which the apostles, apostolic men and great saints formed the fifty-four different Liturgies of the Mass. The most famous, the Roman Rite, established by Peter in the Eternal City, and with little change comes down to us under the name of the Latin or Roman Mass.”(emphasis mine)

One of the interesting things the author pointed out is that according to Jewish tradition the Cenacle, where Christ chose to say the first Mass, was built over the tombs of Melchisedech (Priest and King); and David (Prophet and King). The Cenacle was to become the Cathedral for St. James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem. The place where St. James said his first Mass: “word for word as Jesus said it.”

In conclusion to this section it should be obvious that Christ did not fabricate a new liturgy at the Last Supper. Rather, He perfected the Passover Liturgy, which was also of divine origin, with the true ‘Sacrificial Lamb’. Thus fulfilling what John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus, had pre-announced: “Behold the Lamb of God!”


·         St. Paul says, “I have handed over that which I received.” He then explains what it is that he has received. What he describes is the Holy Mass. That the Lord, before he suffered, took bread saying “This is My Body which is given up for you. This is the chalice of My Blood,” etc. So when St. Paul says “hold fast to the traditions” and “I have handed over that which I have received,” he refers specifically to the liturgy of Holy Mass.

·         Pope Innocent I (402 – 417) in a letter to Bishop of Gubbio, concerning liturgical matters, said: “Who would not know or acknowledge that what has been handed down to the Roman Church by Peter, the Prince of the apostles, and is kept even now, ought to be preserved, and nothing that lacks authority or seems to take its example from another source ought to be added or introduced?”

·         Pope Vigilius (538 – 555) in a letter to the Metropolitan of Braga has this to say: “Wherefore also we have arranged the aforementioned text of the canonical prayer, which, through the kindness of God, we have received from the Apostolic Tradition.”

·         For some 600 years the popes took a ‘Coronation Oath’ vowing “To change nothing of the received tradition, and nothing thereof, I have found before me guarded by my God pleasing predecessors, to encroach to alter(change), or permit any innovation therein” (1st Par. of 7); The oath even invoked Divine punishment “If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou will not be merciful to me on the dreadful day of Divine Justice”(5th Par.). The ‘Coronation Oath’ began with Pope St. Agatho (678-681) ending with Pope St. Celestine V (1292- 1294). Pope Boniface VIII, the successor to St. Celestine V, did not sign the oath and distribute it to the reigning monarchs of his day due to political pressures, not because he disagreed with the Oath.

·         At the Council of Florence (ending 1445) Pope Eugenius IV (1431-1447) named Cardinal Torquemada to be the official theologian of the Council, which upheld the principal that custom governs the liturgy. Cardinal Torquemada explains, in quoting Pope Innocent III’s treatise on custom, that “if the Pope were to attempt to change the Church’s Liturgical ceremonies, he would commit an act of schism.”

·         Two of the Church’s most eminent theologians are Cajetan (who died in 1534) and Suarez (who died in 1617). They both took the position that a pope would be schismatic “if he, as is his duty, would not be in full communion with the body of the Church as, for example, if he were to excommunicate the entire Church, or if he were to change all the liturgical rites of the Church that have been upheld by apostolic tradition.”

·         The Council of Trent (1545-63): Session 7, Canon 13 declared the proposition, “If anyone says that the received and approved Rites of the Catholic Church customarily used in the solemn administration of the sacraments can be changed into other new Rites by any Church pastor whosoever, let him be anathema.”

·         The Synod of Pistoia in 1786, proposed the simplification of the liturgy, the use of the vernacular throughout, and the reciting of the Canon of the Mass in a loud voice. Pope Pius VI condemned these propositions and declared the Synod illicit.


·         Cardinal Ratzinger in his book ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ points out that the new liturgy, the Novus Ordo, is a break with tradition. He says, “in place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.” The Cardinal also states: “After the Second Vatican Council, the impression rose that the Pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council.” And “Eventually, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the consciousness of the West.” In this regard the Cardinal says “In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the Pope as an absolute Monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed word. The Pope’s authority is bound to the tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not ‘manufactured’ by the authorities. Even the Pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity.”

·         Cardinal Stickler, an expert on Vatican II’s Liturgy Commission, made the following comments. “… there are certain things so essential to the life of the Church that even the Pope has no right of disposal over them and suggests that the liturgy should be considered among these essential things.” And “today we stand before the ruins of a 2000 year tradition, and …it is to be feared that, as a result of countless reforms, the tradition is in such a vandalized mess that it may be difficult to revive it.”(Latin Mass Magazine, Winter 1999 issue)

The following comments, under this section, are based on the book “The Reform of the Liturgy: Its Problems and Background” by Msgr. Klaus Gamber. Cardinal Ratzinger describes Gamber as “the one scholar who, among the army of pseudo-liturgists, truly represents the liturgical thinking of the center of the Church.” Cardinal Ratzinger also wrote the Preface to the French version of this book and noted that, Msgr. Gamber, who died in 1989, “would be baffled at the anti-intellectual position of the neo-Catholic today…. Whereby radical novelty conforms to tradition as long as ecclesiastical authority says it does, despite all evidence to the contrary and in spite of the very demands of logic itself”. In his book Msgr. Klaus Gamber made the following points:

·         “It most certainly is not the function of the Holy See to introduce Church reforms. The duty of the Pope is … to watch over the traditions of the Church – Her dogmatic, moral, and liturgical traditions.” This is a critical point: “the Pope’s first duty is to preserve what has been handed down, not to introduce novelty or to discard what is ancient and venerable.”

·         “There is no question that the new Mass constituted a clear and tragic break with tradition. He observed that while the liturgy had evolved gradually and imperceptibly over time, there has never actually been an actual break with Church tradition, as has happened now, and in such a frightening way, where almost everything the Church represents is being questioned. We can only pray and hope that the Roman Church will return to tradition and allow once more the celebration of the Traditional Roman Mass.”

·         “Since there is no document that specifically assigns to the Apostolic See the authority to change, let alone to abolish the traditional liturgical rite; and since, furthermore, it can be shown that not a single predecessor of Pope Paul VI has ever introduced major changes to the Roman Liturgy, the assertion that the Holy See has the authority to change the liturgical rite would appear to be debatable to say the least.”


What has not been touched on is the ‘apparent fact’ that the Liturgy of Mass provides the Church with the two most central Pillars of our Holy Faith: 1) the way we worship God and 2) the Real Presence. That is why Holy Mass has traditionally been treated with the respect given to revealed dogma…. Ever more beautiful, ever more the same!  

The sacred liturgy of the Mass is both Sacrifice and Sacrament. Holy Mass is ‘the Prayer’ of the Holy Church! Hence the venerable maxim “let the rule for prayer determine the rule of belief.” In other words: “what we pray at Mass determines what we believe!” The protestant reformers understood this concept well as Luther stated: “destroy the Mass and you destroy the Church.”  

Could this be why Pius XII warned the Church of the suicide of altering the Faith in her liturgy! Could this be why St. Pius V when he canonized the Roman Rite, in Quo Primum, bound the Roman Church to the ‘Traditional Latin Roman Rite’ under the threat of the wrath of Almighty God, including the wrath of Peter and Paul ….Surely St. Pius V knew that to bind the Roman Rite under such a threat would not be possible if Holy Mass was only a discipline subject to radical change!

Considering the liturgical chaos of today and the wholesale loss of faith everywhere, do you think we might be under the ‘wrath of almighty God’ that St. Pius V warned us about?

I would submit that if St. Paul were to appear on the liturgical scene today, knowing only what he knew at his death; that he would immediately recognize the Apostolic Tradition of the Latin Roman Rite; and therefore the legitimate successor to the Rite of St. Peter. I wonder if St. Paul would regard the Novus Ordo as illegitimate since it has neither Tradition for its father or Custom for its mother.

This article was submitted for publication in The Remnant back in 2012. 


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Last modified on Thursday, July 21, 2016