In the next two articles, I will describe the Novus Ordo Mass as it is given in the 2002 Roman Missal using the 2011 English translations. The rubrics of the Novus Ordo Mass are found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). However, unlike the rubrics of the traditional Latin Mass, the rubrics of the Novus Ordo are extremely vague and give little firm direction. They provide a great variety of options. The traditional distinction between Solemn Mass, Sung Mass, and Low Mass is not found, but the rubrics do take into account different scenarios such as the presence or absence of a deacon, a congregation, a choir, and incense. The ideal form, which I will describe, is a Mass with all four of these elements.
The Novus Ordo Mass is usually said in the vernacular. However, Latin is still the universal sacred language of the Church, and the authoritative text of the Roman Missal is in Latin. In many parishes, at least a small part of the Mass is in Latin. Some even offer the Mass entirely in Latin. In addition, the priest usually faces versus populum, or toward the people across the altar. However, at no point in the liturgical reform was this prescribed or even suggested. The rubrics of the Mass suppose that the priest is following the more traditional practice of facing ad orientem, or toward the east, as is done in the traditional Latin Mass. Although less common, some priests do offer the Novus Ordo ad orientem.
The altar is covered with at least one white cloth. Two, four, or six candlesticks are lit on or next to the altar. For Sundays and holy days of obligation, four or six are recommended. A crucifix is on or near the altar. Alternatively, these may be carried into the sanctuary at the beginning of Mass. The priest wears the amice, alb, cincture, stole, and chasuble. The deacon wears the amice, alb, cincture, stole, and dalmatic, though the dalmatic is optional. Maniples are not used.
At the beginning of Mass, the priest enters in procession, preceded by the servers and deacon. The deacon carries the Book of Gospels in the procession. As they enter the church, the choir sings the Entrance Chant, which is proper to the day and usually taken from a psalm. It may be replaced with another psalm or another liturgical chant. After bowing to the altar, or genuflecting if the Blessed Sacrament is reserved there, the priest and deacon both immediately ascend to the altar and kiss it, honoring the relics of saints enclosed in the altar. The deacon places the Book of Gospels on the altar, and the priest incenses the altar. They then go to the chair to begin the Mass. (In the rubrics, the priest's chair is simply referred to as “the chair” with no further description. It is usually placed on the Epistle side of the sanctuary facing either toward the people or laterally across the sanctuary.)
Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross, followed by a greeting to the people. There are three different options for the greeting. The people's response is the same in all three cases.
|In the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.Or Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Or The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
The priest or deacon may then give brief commentary on the Mass of the day. As in the traditional form of the Mass, we must open the sacred liturgy by seeing ourselves as the sinners we are and praying for God's mercy. We do so here in the Penitential Act. First, the priest exhorts the faithful to penitence. (Anytime the word “brethren” appears in the Novus Ordo, there is an option to replace it with “brothers and sisters.”)
|Brethren, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.|
On Sundays, especially during Paschaltide, the Penitential Act may be omitted altogether and replaced with the Asperges. There are three different options for the Penitential Act. In the first option, the priest and faithful together say a revised form of the Confiteor. We strike our breasts thrice at the words “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
|I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.|
The second option, which is not commonly used, consists of just two versicles with their responses.
|Have mercy on us, O
For we have sinned against you.
Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
And grant us your salvation.
Finally, the third option consists of petitions interspersed with lines of the Kyrie, which imitates an ancient practice.
|You were sent to heal
the contrite of heart: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
You came to call sinners: Christ, have mercy.Christ, have mercy.
You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us: Lord, have mercy.Lord, have mercy.
In all three cases, the priest closes the Penitential Act with one prayer of absolution, at which we make the Sign of the Cross.
|May almighty God have
mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting
We continue to acknowledge our sinfulness and ask for God's mercy in the Kyrie, which follows, unless it has already been sung as part of the third option for the Penitential Act. The Kyrie in the Novus Ordo has only six lines instead of nine. It is commonly sung in its original Greek.
Christe eleison.Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.Kyrie eleison.
|Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.Lord, have mercy.
After we see ourselves as the sinners we are, we see God as the infinite, all-powerful being he is. Thus, on days of a joyful nature, we sing praise to God in the Gloria.
|Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you,
we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for
your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son
of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on
us; you take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
After the Gloria (or after the Kyrie if there is no Gloria), the priest invites the faithful to prayer, singing, “Let us pray.” This invitation is followed by a short period of silent prayer, so that the faithful can form their intentions and silently offer their prayers to God before the priest collects their prayers in the Collect, which is proper to the day. Only one Collect is ever sung at the Novus Ordo Mass. There are no commemorations.
Instead of the traditional division between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful, the Novus Ordo Mass is divided into four parts. Everything up until now constituted the Introductory Rites. They are followed by the Liturgy of the Word, which consists primarily of readings from Sacred Scripture. There are three readings from scripture at Mass on Sundays and major feasts, and two readings on ferias and minor feasts. The last reading is the Gospel. The readings are proper to the day and are usually read by lay people, called lectors, from a lectern called an ambo. After each reading, the lector says:
|The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
After the first reading, the Responsorial Psalm is sung, which is proper to the day. This is either an entire psalm or a substantial portion of a psalm, with a response sung between verses. In place of the Responsorial Psalm prescribed for the day, another psalm may be used.
Immediately before the Gospel (after the Responsorial Psalm if there are two readings, or after the second reading if there are three readings), the Alleluia verse is sung. If there is a Sequence, it is sung before the Alleluia verse, not after. During Lent, a verse is sung without the word “alleluia.” The Alleluia verse leads up to the Gospel, which is sung by the deacon. During the singing of the Alleluia verse, the deacon receives the priest's blessing.
|May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.|
The deacon takes the Book of Gospels from the altar and goes to the ambo to sing the Gospel. Servers may hold candles next to him, representing the light of Christ revealed in the Gospel.
|The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to __.Glory to you, O Lord.
The deacon incenses the Book of Gospels and then sings the Gospel. After the Gospel, he sings:
|The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
The deacon then kisses the book and silently prays, “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.” Next is the sermon, known in the Novus Ordo as the Homily. Unlike in the traditional Mass, the Homily in the Novus Ordo is actually part of the liturgy itself, and is prescribed as such in the Missal. It is required on Sundays and holy days of obligation, and it is recommended on all other days. The Homily is followed by a period of silent reflection.
On Sundays and major feasts, there follows the profession of faith in the Credo. Thus, after hearing the Word of God in the readings, we proclaim the Word of God in the words of the Church. Curiously, although the Nicene Creed has been used in the Mass since at least the fifth century, the Novus Ordo Mass gives the option of replacing it with the Apostles' Creed, especially during Lent and Paschaltide.
|I believe in one God,
the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things
visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Liturgy of the Word is concluded with the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, which is a series of petitions praying for the Church and the world, particularly the needs of the local community. The GIRM explains, “In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all” (69). The text of the Prayer of the Faithful is not prescribed in the Roman Missal. Rather, it is left to the priest or to the parish to compose their own prayers. The priest usually begins and ends the prayers, with the petitions being read by the deacon or a lay person. It is unclear whether or not the Prayer of the Faithful is optional.
After the Prayer of the Faithful, our spiritual preparation for the Holy Sacrifice is concluded, and we transition to the action of the sacrifice itself. Thus, the priest leaves the chair and goes to the altar to offer the sacrifice. In centuries past, those not yet received into the Church would be dismissed here, so that only faithful Catholics could participate in the sacrifice itself.
The third major part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we offer the bread and wine to God, who transforms them into the Body and Blood of Christ. It begins with the Preparation of the Gifts, in which the bread and wine are prepared on the altar. The choir sings the Offertory Chant, which, like the Entrance Chant, is from a psalm, is proper to the day, and may be replaced with another liturgical chant. It is curious that the chant is still described as an “Offertory Chant,” because what is happening at the altar is not an Offertory, but rather a simple Preparation of the Gifts. There is no allusion to offering the bread and wine to God until later.
The deacon unfolds the corporal on the altar, unveils the chalice, and places it on the corporal. The bread and wine are usually brought to the sanctuary by lay people. The priest or deacon receives them at “an appropriate place” (GIRM 73) and places them on the altar. The priest then takes the paten with the host on it and asks God's blessing.
|Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.|
This prayer and the following prayer blessing the chalice come from a Jewish table prayer. If there is no choir, the priest may say this prayer aloud, and the people respond, “Blessed be God forever.” Otherwise, the priest says the prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts silently.
The deacon pours wine and water into the chalice, representing the dual nature of Christ as God and man. If Communion will be distributed to the faithful under both species, there may be multiple chalices, each of which is filled with wine. The GIRM makes no mention of pouring water into the additional chalices, only into the primary chalice. Meanwhile, the priest says a silent prayer.
|By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.|
The priest takes the chalice and blesses it with a prayer similar to the one used for the host.
|Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.|
Like the prayer for the host, this prayer may be said aloud, with the people responding, “Blessed be God forever.” The priest then bows and says a prayer for God to accept our sacrifice. It is one of the few mentions of offering a sacrifice during the Preparation of the Gifts.
|With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.|
The priest then incenses the offerings and the altar, saying nothing. The deacon incenses the people. After the incensations, the priest washes his hands. Washing the hands has the practical purpose of washing off any soot that may have gotten on the fingers during the incensations, as well as the symbolic purpose of representing the purity needed to offer the Holy Sacrifice. While washing his hands, the priest says Psalm 50:4.
|Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.|
Finally, he turns to the people and invites them to participate in the Holy Sacrifice. Although only the priest can offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as part of the ordained, sacrificial priesthood, all of the faithful are baptized into the royal priesthood of Christ, so we all offer up the Mass along with the priest.
|Pray, brethren, that my
sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.
The priest then says aloud the Prayer over the Offerings, which is proper to the day. This prayer corresponds to the Secret of the traditional Latin Mass. Like the Collect, only one Prayer over the Offerings is said. With the invitation to the people to join in the sacrifice and the Prayer over the Offerings, the Preparation of the Gifts is concluded. All is now ready for the sacrifice.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) – The set of rubrics for the Novus Ordo Mass, which are disconcertingly vague.
versus populum – Facing the people across the altar during Mass.
ad orientem – Facing the same direction as the people during Mass, traditionally toward the east.
Entrace Chant – A liturgical chant proper to the day, usually from a psalm, sung as the servers, deacon, and priest enter the sanctuary.
Penitential Act – The rite of acknowledging our sins and asking for God's mercy at the beginning of Mass.
Introductory Rites – The first part of the Mass, consisting of the opening greeting, Penitential Act, Kyrie, Gloria, and Collect.
Liturgy of the Word – The second part of the Mass, consisting of the readings from scripture, Homily, Credo, and Prayer of the Faithful.
lector – A lay person who reads the readings at Mass.
ambo – The lectern from which the readings are read.
Responsorial Psalm – A psalm or portion of a psalm with a response sung between the verses, proper to the day and sung after the first reading.
Homily – The sermon, which in the Novus Ordo is part of the liturgy.
Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful – Petitions offered for the Church and the world at the end of the Liturgy of the World, composed by the priest or the parish.
Liturgy of the Eucharist – The third major part of the Novus Ordo Mass, in which we offer the Holy Sacrifice and receive the Blessed Sacrament.
Preparation of the Gifts – The part of the Mass in which the bread and wine are placed on the altar, blessed, and made ready for the sacrifice.
Offertory Chant – A chant proper to the day sung during the Preparation of the Gifts, usually taken from a psalm. It may be replaced with another liturgical chant.
Prayer over the Offerings – A prayer proper to the day said aloud at the end of the Preparation of the Gifts, corresponding to the Secret of the traditional Latin Mass.