Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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                            Celebrating Eucharist facing the People

                         Developments in the Latin Church


The recent developments in the Latin Church must be helpful for the Syro-Malabar Church to bring about greater unity in our Church and uniformity in the celebration of the Holy Qurbana. One of the stumbling blocks in our way forward is the question of the celebration of the Qurbana – the priest facing the people or the priest and the people together facing the East, or the cross on the wall. The cross symbolizes Christ appearing at the Second Coming “as the lightning from the east” (Mt.24:27). The Traditional Latin Mass, called the Tridentine Mass is celebrated turning to the altar. The celebration is in Latin language, usually with Gregorian chant, the priest proclaiming the Anaphora in a low voice. Now the Holy Father has allowed very wide use of this pre-Vatican Mass. There are many things we have to learn from what is happening in the Latin Church.


After the Council of Trent Pope St. Pius V promulgated the revised Missal in 1570 and it was reissued by Pope Bl. John XXIII in 1962. Pope John Paul II had allowed restricted use of the Missal by the Apostolic Letter “Ecclesia Dei” issued on 2 July 1988, for those who aspired to celebrate it instead of the present Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970.


Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum on 7 July 2008, the contents of  which  surprised various sections in the Church.  According to the Apostolic Letter every priest of the Latin Church, diocesan and religious, is permitted to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, while celebrating without the people. Religious communities are also granted the faculty to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass in their oratories. In parishes, anywhere in the world, where a stable community of faithful desired to follow the Traditional Mass the pastor should willingly accede to their request and provide for it and ensure the welfare of these faithful.


The Holy Father explained why and how he decided to grant these unusual faculties: “Following the insistent prayers of these faithful (who continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms), long deliberated by our predecessor John Paul II, and after having listened to the views of the Cardinal Fathers of the Consistory of 22 March 2006, having reflected deeply upon all aspects of the question, invoked the Holy Spirit and trusting in the help of God, with these Apostolic Letters  we establish the  following:  


Art.1. “The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the  ‘Lex orandi’ (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same ‘Lex orandi,’ and must be given due honour for its venerable ancient usage. These two expressions of Church’s Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church’s  ‘Lex orandi’ (Law of belief). They are, in fact, two usages of the one Roman rite.


It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church ( Art. 1  Ap. Letter).


In a letter addressed to the Bishops along with the Apostolic Letter, the Holy Father clarified certain points. He writes: In the first place, there is the fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential decisions – the liturgical reform – is being called in to question. This fear is unfounded. In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy….


“There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”     


As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extarordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted….


“ …The use of the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching…the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality  (sense of the sacred) which attracts people to the former usage.”


The Holy Father says that not only the older generation are attracted to the old form of celebration but youth also feel the celebration of the Mystery of the Eucharist more suitable to them: “It was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction, and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them .”   


It is to be specially noted that there is not a word in the documents of Vatican II which proposes celebration of the Eucharist facing the people; but there is a wide-spread belief that the Second Vatican Council introduced Mass versus populum (facing the people).


Fr. John Zuhisdorf, who was formerly working in the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in an interview with Zenit Org. says:  “To give shape and strength to our Catholic identity in these difficult times, we need an authentic liturgical renewal, a renewal that integrates us with our tradition, brings us into continuity with deep roots of our Catholic Christian experience of two millennia….


“They are reassessing the great advantages of Mass celebrated “ad orientem,” (facing the East) everyone facing the same direction toward the  altar  and the crucifix. Latin is being reappraised. Musicians are dusting the treasury of sacred  liturgical music that  has been hidden  for decades.”     


Cardinal Dario Hoyos celebrates Latin Mass in Westminster Cathedral


L’Osservatore Romano, English weekly edition of 25 June, 2008 reports that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos celebrated the traditional Latin Mass in Westminster Cathedral, London, after lapse of 39 years. It was attended by a large congregation of about 1,500 faithful. The Cardinal is the President of the Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in charge of the Latin Mass. Before the celebration, addressing a Press Conference he said: “The Holy Father wants the ancient use of the Mass to become a normal occurrence in the liturgical life of the Church so that all of Christ’s faithful –young and old – can become familiar with the older rites and draw from their tangible beauty and transcendence. The Holy Father wants this for pastoral reasons and theological ones” (Osservatore, ibd.p.8).


National papers published from London - Times, Telegraph, Free Republic etc. gave wide coverage to the event in their news report, available in Internet services. Times Online writes under the caption “Pope says old-rite Latin Mass should be on offer in every Catholic parish”. Sub-heading “The Vatican is writing to seminaries to request all students priests are trained in how to say the Tridentine Mass, a liturgy abandoned for Mass in the vernacular in the 1960s….   


“This kind of worship is so noble, so beautiful- the deepest way to express our faith. The worship, the music, the architecture, the painting, makes a whole that is a treasure.”    


 The old Mass is said in Latin, and the priest faces the same direction as the people. The Anaphora of the Mass is recited in a low voice, and virtually there is silence. On this the Cardinal said, “This reverent silence is one of the treasures, ‘treasures’ ‘ that Catholics would rediscover, and young worshippers would encounter for the first time”.


Much of the Tridentine Mass dates back to St. Gregory the Great, who was the Pontiff from 590 to 604 A. D. Cardinal Hoyos said that it should be called  “Gregorian Rite”.


Asked whether the Latin Mass would be celebrated in many parishes in England and Wales the Cardinal replied: “Not many parishes – all parishes. The Holy Father is offering this not only for the few groups who demand it, but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist.”  


After the introduction of the post Vatican Mass by Pope Paul VI in 1970, the priest facing the congregation, and in the vernacular, with a lot of changes, many people misunderstood the mind of Vatican II regarding the liturgical worship. There was much talk of creativity and renovation. Many priests thought that in the celebration each one could contribute something of his own, making changes as he liked. Many did not adhere to the text and the prescribed rubrics. Pope John Paul II in the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia issued on 17 April 2003, lamented the abuses that were taking place in the liturgy. He wrote: “It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of misguided sense and adaptation there have been a number of abuses which have been the source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against “formalism” has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the “forms” chosen by the Church’s great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.” (EUn.52).


Asked about the situation after the Second Vatican Council II Cardinal Hoyos said: The revised Mass adopted in 1970 had given rise to many, many, many abuses…The experience of the last 40 years has not always been good. Many people have lost their sense of adoration of God, and these abuses mean that many children do not know how to be in the presence of God” Telegraph. Co. UK 14/6/2008; Times On line, June 17, 2008)


On instruction from Pope John Paul II, the Traditional Mass is presently celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica on regular basis.


In an interview granted to Italian daily edition of L’Osservatore Romano, subsequently published in the English Weekly of the paper on 9 April, 2008, Cardinal Hoyos recalls that this year, on the occasion of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Eucharist in the Sistine Chapel  facing the crucifix, in Italian in accordance with  the usual form, which does not exclude the possibility of celebrating facing altar – and versus populum- and also provides for the celebration in Latin.


He says at the end of the interview: “We must never forget that the supreme reference point of the liturgy, as in life, is always Christ.  We must not be afraid, therefore, to turn towards him in the liturgical rite, to turn towards the Crucifix together with the faithful in order to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice, in unbloody manner, as the Council of Trent described the Mass. 


Worldwide use of the traditional Tridentine Latin Mass


Internet news services show that the use of the Traditional Mass has been steadily on the increase, especially after the publication of the Apostolic Letter of Pope benedict XI Summorum Pontificum  on 7 July, 2007.



By June 2008 there were more than 152 Archdioceses and dioceses, may not be many parishes in each diocese, where the traditional Latin Mass was introduced in USA. Their number is increasing.


Is reported that over 1,000 priests have requested for a training program to learn the Traditional Latin Mass offered by the Fraternity of St. Peter (Zenit org. July, 2008).


There is the Latin Mass Society of USA, International Una Voce Federation and other Organizations promoting the Traditional Latin Mass in USA.



Internet news Services have listed more than 21 Archdioceses and Dioceses where Latin Mass have been introduced in some of the parishes.


England an Wales 

We have already seen that Cardinal Darion Hoyos celebrated the Latin Mass has Westminster Cathedral and that a number of Archdioceses as well as Dioceses have already started the old Latin Mass. The move is presently to extend it to all parishes and religious Houses.



In Ireland there is a growing demand for the Old Latin Mass not only among the elder generation but also among the Youth. Latin Mass Society of Ireland is very active in promoting the program.  The Archdiocese of Dublin and 7 dioceses are listed in an information service. The number may be much higher.


Training Courses are being conducted for priests who wish to celebrate according the traditional Latin Mass. 



In Europe France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Spain and other countries have introduced the Latin Mass especially after Pope Benedict XVI allowed wider use of it in his Apostolic Letter of 2007.



Latin Mass Society of Australia is promoting the use of the pre-Vatican Mass in the Continent.


Archbishop of Melbourne celebrated Solemn Pontifical Mass according to the old rite in the Cathedral in June 2008 giving a push to make this form of celebration in other places.


Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney celebrated Mass Solemn Mass according to the Tridentine form in the Sydney Cathedral last November. Many dioceses in Australia have started using this form of celebration. 


New Zealand

Christ Church Cathedral of Bl. Sacrament in Auckland has daily Latin Mass says a report of May 2008; earlier there was weekly Latin Mass. Other dioceses are also offering the Extraordinary form.


South America

The South American Society of St. Pius X has been actively promoting the Tridentine Mass for several years and a good number of Dioceses are using the old form in some of the parishes.


Among the youth attending the Latin Mass an increase in the number of priestly vocations is reported.


What we have presented above is only an incomplete list of places and dioceses where the old Latin Mass has been introduced. Anyhow it is clear that there is worldwide use of the Tridentine Mass, that is, the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1570, reissued by Pope John XXIII in 1962.


It becomes clear that the practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist facing the altar has become worldwide in the Latin Church, side by side the new Missal of 1970 celebrated usually versus populum. Along with the traditional Mass, the Gregorian chant that was popular in the Roman Church for several centuries, has also been revived. 


In all the Oriental Rites, it is to be noted, the Holy Eucharist is celebrated facing the altar, the priest and the people turning in the same direction.


The Liturgical Life of the Syro-Malabar Church


Turning to the situation in the Syro-Malabar Church, the state of the liturgical life as a whole, is not at all satisfactory. Regretfully, the faithful are scandalized that the Pastors could not achieve unity of purpose, and uniformity in the manner of celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice, even though there was a unanimous decision of the Synod. To the people it appears that the Pastors remain passive spectators, and do take any step to solve the problem that should have been high on their agenda.


After the Second Vatican Council many misunderstood the documents of the Council and thought it was a call to change the present liturgy and to inculturate  and modernize the whole. What the Council taught about returning to the tradition, the sources, and make changes as and where needed, was not heeded. The Pastors too were not clear in their mind.


Many priests imagined that the Council has given them freedom from the “formalism” of rubrics, and wanted to be “creative” in the celebration. What followed was indiscipline and abuses in the celebration of the Most Holy function of the Church. 


As we noted above, Pope John Paul II spoke of the abuses in the celebration of the liturgy in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of misguided sense of creativity and adaptation there has been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against “formalism” has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the “forms” chosen by the Church’s great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often, completely inappropriate” (Ec. de U. n.52).


Unfortunately many priests in the Syro-Malabar Church also tried to be creative and disregard the prescribed rubrics, and considered them as  “trivial,” and abuses were taking place. The truth that in reality Christ himself is the One who offers and the Victim offered, was lost sight of. As Pope Benedict XVI expresses it, the Eucharist is not the action of man, but action of God, “actio Dei.” Many priests looked upon the celebration of Qurbana, as affair between the community that has gathered together, as an encounter between the priest and the people. This was a great misfortune, a tragedy for the life of faith of the Church.


Pope Benedict in the above Letter to the bishops sent along with the Apostolic Letter Summorumm Pontificum writes: “Many people….also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived trough the period with all the hopes and its confusion. And I have see how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”    


The result of all these, the disregard of liturgical norms, the abuses in liturgical celebrations and unauthorized innovations, was that the  “sense of the Sacred” towards the sacred liturgy has been lost. It is manifest in different ways.


Parts of the Quddasa (Anaphora) is omitted and replaced by spontaneous prayers or devotional hymns, in other cases people are asked to sing some hymns instead, and the priest silently recites the prayers. This is happening in hundreds of churches in the Syro-Malabar Church, especially in those regions where the priests are celebrating the Eucharist facing the people. In the con-celebration of the Holy Qurbana very often it is not according to the officially approved instructions given in the Thaksa. The Pastors often remain passive spectators.


The way many priests celebrate the Qurbana privately manifests lack of decorum and reverence due to the august Sacrament. Sometimes they put on just a stole over the shirt. hey may take 15 or 20 minutes to finish the Qurbana.  Others show a little more care, they put on a stole over the cassock, while concelebrating even the presiding priest without paina or cope. These are abuses as Pope John Paul II, and Redemptionis  Sacramentum  have pointed out.


On the direction of Pope John Paul II the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments issued the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum on 25 March, 2004. No. 126 of the Instruction says: “The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes, contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books, even when there is only one minister participating.”  


At the same time it must be observed that in many dioceses people have been properly catechized and the Holy Qurbana is celebrated in accordance with the approved text and the rubrics and the faithful actively participating. 


Pope Benedict XVI, as several commentators say, hopes to bring back a “sense of the Sacred” towards liturgy that has been lost, by wider us of the Traditional Latin Mass, with the Gregorian chant, and silence during certain prescribed times in the celebration.


The Syro-Malabar Church too has to take effective steps and to regain the “sense of the Sacred” towards sacred liturgy.


In this context, it is important to pay attention to teaching Syriac, traditional liturgical language of the Syro-Malabar Church, in the Seminaries. The Synod has already discussed this matter. It is welcome that in some of the Minor Seminaries they have started teaching the language. In a few dioceses, Solemn Raza is being celebrated in Syriac, on special occasions.. The Malayalam Thaksa has given the Words of Institution also in Syriac. Certain other parts of the Qurbana could also be introduced in Syriac, for example, Pukdanahon (Your command) Slama amahon (Peace be with you), and the response, Oammak  oam ruhak  (With you and with your spirit) Barek Mar( Bless, O, Lord) etc. Other Syrian Churches in Kerala are using similar terms while celebrating the Qurbana in Malayalam.  Some knowledge of Syriac language will enable the priests and the people to appreciate better the genius of our liturgical heritage.


Vatican II document on Sacred Liturgy states: “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows” (SC N. 10). Therefore the first priority of the Syro-Malabar Church in its program must doubtless, be the liturgy of our Church, to put a check to all the abuses that are taking place in hundreds of churches, and to recover the “sense of the sacred” towards the Holy Eucharist.


Let us pray and hope that the Church founded by Mar Thoma Sleeha will not fail in its duty, and that a bright future is awaiting us. 


                                                              (Mar Abraham Mattam)