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History of the eucharistic celebration XII: The Council of Trent

English Spanish Rogelio Zelada Profile

"I was your pest while I lived, but when I die, I will be your death, Pope." Historians say that, when Martin Luther's body was lifted, this inscription appeared on the wall, which the former Augustinian monk had scribbled with his nails and with his last strength. What at first Pope Leo X had deemed a theological dispute — "a dispute among friars" — had become another church, with its own worship, dogmas, clergy, faithful and the possibility that great lords could take possession of the goods, monasteries and properties of the Church.

Emperor Charles V, a staunch Catholic, called a meeting of the leaders of the newly reformed churches because he had no choice but to accept the heresy. He urgently needed Germany to give him its support against the Turks and to come to his aid in the war he was waging against Francis I, King of France. It was a meeting where Protestants came to explain their reasons and where Martin Luther, who inspired the split, did not attend. Melanchton, his best disciple, arrived in his place and assured the papal representative that "in doctrine, we are in agreement with the Roman Church." Those 28 articles, however, "the Augsburg Confession," established the principles of the Protestant Reformation, which threw out the sacraments, priesthood, consecrated life, religious vows, the value and importance of good works, intercession, and devotion to saints, among others.

In barely 13 years, the Protestant movement had developed its own doctrinal body and become an important political force that would set Sweden on fire and soon Denmark. After Luther's death, Alexander Farnesse — Pope Paul III — rose to the Petrine See with the strength and desire to heal the Church of Christ. The Dutchman Adrian VI, tutor of Charles V, had already tried, but his short pontificate did not allow it. Paul III gradually gathers all the men he finds fit to promote a movement for the necessary renewal of the Church. In the midst of enormous difficulties, oppositions and obstacles, Paul III convokes the great council that will carry out the reform of the Catholic Church: the Council of Trent. This council had a long way to go until it promulgated its decrees on Dec. 4, 1563, and several pontiffs left their mark: Paul III (1544-1549), Julius III (1551-1552) and Pius IV (1561-1563).

The conciliar decrees were the fruit of a profound and mature theological reflection, in which what the Reformation had questioned was made clear, such as the interpretation and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, the value of justification and tradition, the ecclesial hierarchy, good works, and the sacraments.

On that December 4, the 226 Council fathers sang a splendid "Te Deum" and sent to Pope Pius IV the decrees they had just agreed upon in order to obtain the definitive approval of the Roman Pontiff, who subjected all the decrees to a meticulous scrutiny by his theologians.

The Tridentine liturgical renewal served to solemnly define the sacrificial value of the celebration of the Eucharist: the Mass is both a banquet and a sacrifice. It revalued the "two tables," that of the Word and that of the Eucharist. It asked the clergy to offer a clear catechesis of the liturgical rites, so that the faithful would be enlightened in their understanding of the language and symbols (although, unfortunately, this catechesis remained a dead letter.)

The council made a serious revision of the Roman Missal (which was published by St. Pius V) with the novelty that the typical Mass took the format of the private Mass. It was celebrated silently by the priest, helped by an altar boy with the assistance of the faithful, who had to follow the rites in silence, without listening, without seeing, and finally, without understanding.

The conciliar renewal chose the path of spirituality of the priest, so necessary for healing the clerical state, which consequently should serve to strengthen the spirituality and the ecclesial participation of the laity. The meas solemne format of the liturgical celebration was left for the great and exceptional pontifical moments, when the Eucharist was celebrated or presided over by the bishop (or the priest) assisted by ministers (deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes, schola cantorum and the people).

The pope allowed the use of the chalice for the Communion of the faithful, but like the recommendation to receive Communion at each Mass, it was not implemented and later this faculty was revoked.

Pope Leo XIII recommended, as an act of devotion by the faithful, that they pray the rosary during the celebration of the Eucharist, and the worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass developed in a very important way. It acquired greater splendor and acceptance by the faithful: the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament appeared more brilliant and solemn than the Mass of the day. Perpetual adoration, the 40 hours and the Eucharistic congresses were much more appreciated and valued by the people than the celebration of Holy Mass.

Rogelio Zelada
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Comments from readers

Rogelio Zelada - 10/04/2020 08:14 PM
Osvaldo: El nombre correcto de este tipo de oración litánica es Oraciones Universales. El llamarlas “oración de los fieles" se debe a una tradición, ahora en desuso, que sólo permitía en la asamblea litúrgica a aquellos que se iban a acercar a comulgar. Después de la homilía del obispo, este iba despidiendo a todos los que no podían comulgar, de momento. Es decir a los paganos presentes, a los pecadores públicos que asistían a la Palabra arrodillados en el atrio. a los elegidos (catecúmenos candidatos al bautismo en la próxima Pascua, a los catecúmenos y finalmente a los energúmenos. A cada despedida el obispo hacía una oración y el diácono les decía ”ite missa est” (pueden ir en paz). De ahí el nombre de Misa que se hizo popular para asignar a toda celebración litúrgica. Las opciones universales tienen un “por” que es siempre el mismo: “Por la Iglesia universal”…por el papa, los obispos, el clero...por el mundo que sufre necesidad...por los enfermos...por los difuntos, por los fiele presentes... Si los “Por” tienen una cierta fijeza en el orden y la intención, los “para” tiene que reflejar en contenido del evangelio del día. Por ejemplo, si el texto evangélico nos habla de la misericordia, la oración perfecta debe decir: “Por la Iglesia Universal, por el papa Francisco, nuestro obispo Thomás y todos aquellos que sirven al pueblo de Dios, para que sean agentes de la misericordia de Cristo, roguemos al Señor. (Antes de decir “Roguemos al Señor”, el diácono (que es el ministro ordinario de las Oraciones Universales, o en su defecto, el lector, debería hacer una corta pausa.)
OsvaldoRiveron - 10/02/2020 10:14 AM
Rogelio, excelente como siempre. Podrias informarme la forma correcta de Preparar La Oracion de los Fieles. Gracias
Jose Ignacio Ignacio Jimenez - 09/28/2020 03:24 PM
The Tridentine or Traditional Latin Mass (the "Extraordinary Form") serves to preserve the reverence and devotion which too often is lost in the Novus Ordo (" Ordinary Form") of the Mass. Unfortunatley some priests will take certain liberties with the Ordibary Form where they add or take out of the rite, and this can lead to confusion and worse, even sacrilege. There is very little "wiggle room" for these changes in the Latin Mass. It is important that the rite be respected and symbols and rituals be preserved as they serve to deepen our faith and strengthen our pace on the path to sanctity. As the ancient motto says: "Lex orandi, lex credendi" (as we worship so shall we believe). I believe we are called to a greater awareness of what is happening on the altar, and sometimes the noise and distractions of some Masses makes it difficult to distinguish a Catholic Mass from a Protestant service. There is much to learn from our rich traditions and history that filtered the heresies and highlight the dogma of our one true faith.
Joaquin Rodriguez - 09/28/2020 10:55 AM
Gracias de nuevo por tan bien documentadas enseñas que nos entregas con tan buena pedagogía y sentido espiritual. No has pensado en publicarlas en un volumen que acopie tantas buenas enseñanzas? Te lo propongo. Quisiera ser el primero en la lista de compradores. Bendiciones.

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