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General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Author(s): N/A

ISBN13: 9780954981808

ISBN10: 0954981804

Publisher: Irish Liturgical Publications

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  • Foreword to this Edition

    This edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal is the English translation of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani of the Missale Rornanurn, editio typica tertia, the Latin edition of the Missal issued in 2002. The Latin Missal is being translated into English by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and into Irish by An Coiste Comhairleach um an Liotuirge i nGaeilge. The General Instruction is published in advance in order to make available the most important teaching document on the Missal.

    This edition of the General Instruction replaces the edition included in the Roman Missal (in use since the First Sunday of Lent 1975) and the revised edition published in January 1975. This new edition incorporates revisions necessitated by other liturgical documents published since 1975 and the emendations following the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law (1983).

    The translation of texts from the Order of Mass in this edition remains as in the current Roman Missal.

    This edition of the General Instruction is now the authorised edition for the dioceses of Ireland.

    Cardinal Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in his letter giving the Congregations recognitio to this edition of the General Instruction, as approved by the Irish Bishops Conference, expressed the hope `that the present text will fulfil the desires of the faithful for a deeper understanding of the Churchs liturgical norms for the celebration of Mass, as well as the needs of their sacred Pastors for a text that is suitable for instruction and for easy use in meeting the needs and desires of the faithful for the worthy, valid and licit celebration of the Lords Sacrifice which is the Lords gift to them.

    Patrick Jones
    National Secretariat for Liturgy

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  • Preamble

    1. When he was about to celebrate with his disciples the Passover meal in which he instituted the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, Christ the Lord gave instructions that a large, furnished upper room should be prepared (Lk 22:12). The Church has always regarded this command as applying also to herself when she gives directions about the preparation of peoples hearts and minds and of the places, rites, and texts for the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist. The current norms, prescribed in keeping with the will of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, and the new Missal that the Church of the Roman Rite is to use from now on in the celebration of Mass are also evidence of the great concern of the Church, of her faith, and of her unchanged love for the great mystery of the Eucharist. They likewise bear witness to the Churchs continuous and unbroken tradition, irrespective of the introduction of certain new features.

    A Witness to Unchanged Faith

    2. The sacrificial nature of the Mass, solemnly asserted by the Council of Trent in accordance with the Churchs universal tradition, was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which offered these significant words about the Mass: At the Last Supper our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, by which he would perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, thus entrusting to the Church, his beloved Bride, the memorial of his death and Resurrection.
    What the Council thus teaches is expressed constantly in the formulas of the Mass. This teaching, which is concisely expressed in the statement already contained in the ancient Sacramentary commonly known as the Leonine -`As often as the commemoration of this Sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our redemption is carried out" - is aptly and accurately developed in the Eucharistic Prayers. For in these prayers the priest, while he performs the commemoration, turns towards God, even in the name of the whole people, renders him thanks and offers the living and holy Sacrifice, namely, the Churchs offering and the Victim by whose immolation God willed to be appeased; and he prays that the Body and Blood of Christ may be a sacrifice acceptable to the Father and salvific for the whole world.
    In this new Missal, then, the Churchs rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her perennial rule of belief (lex credendi), by which namely we are taught that the Sacrifice of the Cross and its sacramental renewal in the Mass, which Christ the Lord instituted at the Last Supper and commanded the Apostles to do in his memory, are one and the same, differing only in the manner of offering, and that consequently the Mass is at once a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, of propitiation and satisfaction.

    3. Moreover, the wondrous mystery of the Lords real presence under the Eucharistic species, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and other documents of the Churchs Magisterium in the same sense and with the same words that the Council of Trent had proposed as a matter of faith, is proclaimed in the celebration of Mass not only by means of the very words of consecration, by which Christ becomes present through transubstantiation, but also by that interior disposition and outward expression of supreme reverence and adoration in which the Eucharistic Liturgy is carried out. For the same reason the Christian people is drawn on Holy Thursday of the Lords Supper, and on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, to venerate this wonderful Sacrament by a special form of adoration.

    4. Further, the nature of the ministerial priesthood proper to a Bishop and a priest, who offer the Sacrifice in the person of Christ and who preside over the gathering of the holy people, is evident in the form of the rite itself, by reason of the more prominent place and office of the priest. The meaning of this office is enunciated and explained clearly and at greater length in the Preface for the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the day commemorating the institution of the priesthood. The Preface brings to light the conferral of the priestly power accomplished through the laying on of hands; and, by listing the various duties, it describes that power, which is the continuation of the power of Christ the High Priest of the New Testament.

    5. In addition, the nature of the ministerial priesthood also puts into its proper light another reality, which must indeed be highly regarded, namely, the royal priesthood of the faithful, whose spiritual sacrifice is brought to completeness through the ministry of the Bishop and the priests in union with the Sacrifice of Christ, the one and only Mediator. For the celebration of the Eucharist is an action of the whole Church, and in it each one should carry out solely but completely that which pertains to him or her, in virtue of the rank of each within the People of God. In this way greater consideration will also be given to some aspects of the celebration that have sometimes been accorded less attention in the course of time. For this people is the People of God, purchased by Christs Blood, gathered together by the Lord, nourished by his word. It is a people called to bring to God the prayers of the entire human family, a people giving thanks in Christ for the mystery of salvation by offering his Sacrifice. Finally, it is a people made one by sharing in the Communion of Christs Body and Blood. Though holy in its origin, this people nevertheless grows continually in holiness by its conscious, active, and fruitful participation in the mystery of the Eucharist.

    A Witness to Unbroken Tradition

    6. In setting forth its instructions for the revision of the Order of Mass, the Second Vatican Council, using the same words as did St Plus V in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, by which the Missal of Trent was promulgated in 1570, also ordered, among other things, that some rites be restored to the original norm of the holy Fathers. From the fact that the same words are used it can be seen how both Roman Missals, although separated by four centuries, embrace one and the same tradition. Furthermore, if the inner elements of this tradition are reflected upon, it also becomes clear how outstandingly and felicitously the older Roman Missal is brought to fulfilment in the new.

    7. In a difficult period when the Catholic faith on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the ministerial priesthood, and the real and permanent presence of Christ under the Eucharistic species were placed at risk, St Plus V was especially concerned with preserving the more recent tradition, then unjustly being assailed, introducing only very slight changes into the sacred rite. In fact, the Missal of 1570 differs very little from the very first printed edition of 1474, which in turn faithfully follows the Missal used at the time of Pope Innocent IIL Moreover, even though manuscripts in the Vatican Library provided material for the emendation of some expressions, they by no means made it possible to inquire into `ancient and approved authors farther back than the liturgical commentaries of the Middle Ages.

    8. Today, on the other hand, countless learned studies have shed light on the `norm of the holy Fathers which the revisers of the Missal of St Plus V followed. For following the publication first of the Sacramentary known as the Gregorian in 1571, critical editions of other ancient Roman and Ambrosian Sacramentaries were published, often in book form, as were ancient Hispanic and Gallican liturgical books which brought to light numerous prayers of no slight spiritual excellence that had previously been unknown.
    In a similar fashion, traditions dating back to the first centuries, before the formation of the rites of East and West, are better known today because of the discovery of so many liturgical documents.
    Moreover, continuing progress in the study of the holy Fathers has also shed light upon the theology of the mystery of the Eucharist through the teachings of such illustrious Fathers of Christian antiquity as St Irenaeus, St Ambrose, St Cyril of Jerusalem, and St John Chrysostom.

    9. For this reason, the `norm of the holy Fathers requires not only the preservation of what our immediate forebears have passed on to us, but also an understanding and a more profound study of the Churchs entire past and of all the ways in which her one and only faith has been set forth in the quite diverse human and social forms prevailing in the Semitic, Greek, and Latin areas. Moreover, this broader view allows us to see how the Holy Spirit endows the People of God with a marvellous fidelity in preserving the unalterable deposit of faith, even amid a very great variety of prayers and rites.

    Accommodation to New Conditions

    10. The new Missal, therefore, while bearing witness to the Roman Churchs rule of prayer (lex orandi), also safeguards the deposit of faith handed down by the more recent Councils and marks in its own right a step of great importance in liturgical tradition.
    Indeed, when the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the dogmatic pronouncements of the Council of Trent, they spoke at a far different time in world history, so that they were able to bring forward proposals and measures of a pastoral nature that could not have even been foreseen four centuries earlier.

    11. The Council of Trent already recognised the great catechetical value contained in the celebration of Mass but was unable to bring out all its consequences in regard to actual practice. In fact, many were pressing for permission to use the vernacular in celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice; but the Council, weighing the conditions of that age, considered it a duty to answer this request with a reaffirmation of the Churchs traditional teaching, according to which the Eucharistic Sacrifice is, first and foremost, the action of Christ himself, and therefore its proper efficacy is unaffected by the manner in which the faithful take part in it. The Council for this reason stated in firm but measured words, `Although the Mass contains much instruction for people of faith, nevertheless it did not seem expedient to the Fathers that it be celebrated everywhere in the vernacular. The Council accordingly anathematised anyone maintaining that `the rite of the Roman Church, in which part of the Canon and the words of consecration are spoken in a low voice, is to be condemned, or that the Mass must be celebrated only in the vernacular. Although on the one hand it prohibited the use of the vernacular in the Mass, nevertheless, on the other hand, the Council did direct pastors of souls to put appropriate catechesis in its place: `Lest Christs flock go hungry... the Holy Synod commands pastors and all others having the care of souls to give frequent instructions during the celebration of Mass, either personally or through others, concerning what is read at Mass; among other things, they should include some explanation of the mystery of this most holy Sacrifice, especially on Sundays and holy days.

    12. Therefore, when the Second Vatican Council convened in order to accommodate the Church to the requirements of her proper apostolic office precisely in these times, it examined thoroughly, as had Trent, the instructive and pastoral character of the sacred Liturgy. Since no Catholic would now deny the lawfulness and efficacy of a sacred rite celebrated in Latin, the Council was also able to grant that the use of the vernacular language may frequently be of great advantage to the people and gave the faculty for its use. The enthusiasm in response to this measure has been so great everywhere that it has led, under the leadership of the Bishops and the Apostolic See itself, to permission for all liturgical celebrations in which the people participate to be in the vernacular, for the sake of a better comprehension of the mystery being celebrated.

    13. Indeed, since the use of the vernacular in the sacred Liturgy may certainly be considered an important means for presenting more clearly the catechesis regarding the mystery that is inherent in the celebration itself, the Second Vatican Council also ordered that certain prescriptions of the Council of Trent that had not been followed everywhere be brought to fruition, such as the homily to be given on Sundays and holy days and the faculty to interject certain explanations during the sacred rites themselves.
    Above all, the Second Vatican Council, which urged that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the priests Communion, receive the Lords Body from the same Sacrifice, called for another desire of the Fathers of Trent to be realised, namely that for the sake of a fuller participation in the holy Eucharist the faithful present at each Mass should communicate not only by spiritual desire but also by sacramental reception of the Eucharist.

    14. Moved by the same desire and pastoral concern, the Second Vatican Council was able to give renewed consideration to what was established by Trent on Communion under both kinds. And indeed, since no one today calls into doubt in any way the doctrinal principles on the complete efficacy of Eucharistic Communion under the species of bread alone, the Council thus gave permission for the reception of Communion under both kinds on some occasions, because this clearer form of the sacramental sign offers a particular opportunity of deepening the understanding of the mystery in which the faithful take part.

    15. In this manner the Church, while remaining faithful to her office as teacher of truth safeguarding things old, that is, the deposit of tradition, fulfils at the same time another duty, that of examining and prudently bringing forth `things new (cf. Mt 13:52).
    Accordingly, a part of the new Missal directs the prayers of the Church in a more open way to the needs of our times, which is above all true of the Ritual Masses and the Masses for Various Needs, in which tradition and new elements are appropriately harmonised. Thus, while many expressions, drawn from the Churchs most ancient tradition and familiar through the many editions of the Roman Missal, have remained unchanged, many other expressions have been accommodated to todays needs and circumstances. Still others, such as the prayers for the Church, the laity, the sanctification of human work, the community of all peoples, and certain needs proper to our era, have been newly composed, drawing on the thoughts and often the very phrasing of the recent documents of the Council.
    Moreover, on account of the same attitude toward the new state of the present world, it seemed that in the use of texts from the most ancient tradition, so revered a treasure would in no way be harmed if some phrases were changed so that the style of language would be more in accord with the language of modern theology and would truly reflect the current discipline of the Church. Thus, not a few expressions bearing on the evaluation and use of the goods of the earth have been changed, as have also not a few allusions to a certain form of outward penance belonging to past ages of the Church.
    Finally, in this manner the liturgical norms of the Council of Trent have certainly been completed and perfected in many respects by those of the Second Vatican Council, which has brought to realisation the efforts of the last four hundred years to bring the faithful closer to the sacred Liturgy especially in recent times, and above all the zeal for the Liturgy promoted by St Plus X and his successors.


    The Importance and Dignity of the Eucharistic Celebration

    16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the centre of the whole Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually. In it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit. In it, moreover, during the course of the year, the mysteries of redemption are recalled so as in some way to be made present. Furthermore, the other sacred actions and all the activities of the Christian life are bound up with it, flow from it, and are ordered
    to it.

    17. It is therefore of the greatest importance that the celebration of the Mass - that is, the Lords Supper - be so arranged that the sacred ministers and the faithful taking part in it, according to the proper state of each, may derive from it more abundantly those fruits for the sake of which Christ the Lord instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood and entrusted it to the Church, his beloved Bride, as the memorial of his Passion and Resurrection.

    18. This will best be accomplished if, with due regard for the nature and the particular circumstances of each liturgical assembly, the entire celebration is planned in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active, and full participation of the faithful both in body and in mind, a participation burning with faith, hope, and charity, of the sort which is desired by the Church and demanded by the very nature of the celebration, and to which the Christian people have a right and duty by reason of their Baptism.

    19. Even if it is sometimes not possible to have the presence and active participation of the faithful, which bring out more plainly the ecclesial nature of the celebration, the Eucharistic Celebration always retains its efficacy and dignity because it is the action of Christ and the Church, in which the priest fulfils his own principal office and always acts for the peoples salvation. It is therefore recommended that the priest celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice even daily, if possible.

    20. Because, however, the celebration of the Eucharist, like the entire Liturgy, is carried out through perceptible signs that nourish, strengthen, and express faith, the utmost care must be taken to choose and to arrange those forms and elements set forth by the Church that, in view of the circumstances of the people and the place, will more effectively foster active and full participation and more properly respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful.

    21. This Instruction aims both to offer general guidelines for properly arranging the Celebration of the Eucharist and to set forth rules for ordering the various forms of celebration .

    22. The celebration of the Eucharist in a particular Church is of utmost importance.
    For the diocesan Bishop, the chief steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to his care, is the moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole of its liturgical life." In celebrations at which the Bishop presides, and especially in the celebration of the Eucharist led by the Bishop himself with the presbyterate, the deacons, and the people taking part, the mystery of the Church is revealed. For this reason, the solemn celebration of Masses of this sort must be an example for the entire diocese.
    The Bishop should therefore be determined that the priests, the deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more deeply the genuine meaning of the rites and liturgical texts, and thereby be led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist. To the same end, he should also be vigilant that the dignity of these celebrations be enhanced. In promoting this dignity, the beauty of the sacred place, of music, and of art should contribute as greatly as possible.

    23. Moreover, in order that such a celebration may correspond more fully to the prescriptions and spirit of the sacred Liturgy, and also in order to increase its pastoral effectiveness, certain accommodations and adaptations are specified in this General Instruction and in the Order of Mass.

    24. These adaptations consist for the most part in the choice of certain rites or texts, that is, of the chants, readings, prayers, explanations, and gestures which may respond better to the needs, preparation, and culture of the participants and which are entrusted to the priest celebrant, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass.

    25. In addition, certain adaptations are indicated in the proper place in the Missal and pertain respectively to the diocesan Bishop or to the Conference of Bishops, in accord with the
    Constitution on the Sacred Liturgys (cf. nos. 387, 388-393).

    26. As for variations and the more substantial adaptations in view of the traditions and culture of peoples and regions, to be introduced in accordance with article 40 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy because of benefit or need, the norms set forth in the Instruction on the Roman Liturgy and Inculturation and in nos. 395-399 are to be observed.
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General Instruction of the Roman Missal