Apostolic Constitution Promulgation of the Roman Missal

Author: Pope Paul VI


Pope Paul VI

Promulgation Of The Roman Missal Revised By Decree Of The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council

The "Missale Romanum" was promulgated in 1570 by our predecessor St. Pius V, in execution of the decree of the Council of Trent.[1] It has been recognized by all as one of the many admirable results that the Council achieved for the benefit of the entire Church of Christ. For four centuries it provided Latin-rite priests with norms for the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice; moreover messengers of the Gospel brought this Missal to almost the entire world. Innumerable holy men and women nurtured their spiritual life on its readings from Scripture and on its prayer texts. In large part these prayer texts owed their arrangement to St. Gregory the Great.

A deep interest in fostering the liturgy has become widespread and strong among the Christian people and our predecessor Pius XII has viewed this both as a sign of God's caring will regarding today's people and as a saving movement of the Holy Spirit through his Church.[2] Since the beginning of this liturgical renewal, it has also become clear that the formularies of the Roman Missal had to be revised and enriched. A beginning was made by Pius XII in the restoration of the Easter Vigil and Holy Week services;[3] he thus took the first step toward adapting the Roman Missal to the contemporary mentality.

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium," laid down the basis for the general revision of the Roman Missal: "Both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things they signify";[4] therefore, "the Order of Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly brought out, and devout, active participation by the faithful more easily achieved."[5] The Council also decreed that "the treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God's word may be provided for the faithful";[6] and finally that "a new rite for concelebration is to be drawn up and incorporated into the Roman Pontifical and Roman Missal."[7]

No one should think, however, that this revision of the Roman Missal has come out of nowhere. The progress in liturgical studies during the last four centuries has certainly prepared the way. Just after the Council of Trent, the study "of ancient manuscripts in the Vatican library and elsewhere," as St. Pius V attests in the Apostolic Constitution "Quo primum," helped greatly in the correction of the Roman Missal. Since then, however, other ancient sources have been discovered and published and liturgical formularies of the Eastern Church have been studied. Accordingly many have had the desire for these doctrinal and spiritual riches not to be stored away in the dark, but to be put into use for the enlightenment of the mind of Christians and for the nurture of their spirit.

Now, however, our purpose is to set out at least in broad terms, the new plan of the Roman Missal. We therefore point out, first, that a General Instruction, for use as a preface to the book, gives the new regulations for the celebration of eucharistic sacrifice. These regulations cover the rites to be carried out and the functions of each minister or participant as well as the furnishings and the places needed for divine worship.

It must be acknowledged that the chief innovation in the reform concerns the eucharistic prayer. Although the Roman Rite over the centuries allowed for a multiplicity of different texts in the first part of the prayer (the preface), the second part, called the "Canon actionis," took on a fixed form during the period of the fourth and fifth centuries. The Eastern liturgies, on the other hand, allowed a degree of variety into the anaphoras themselves. On this point, first of all, the eucharistic prayer has been enriched with a great number of prefaces—drawn from the early tradition of the Roman Church or recently composed—in order that the different facets of the mystery of salvation will stand out more clearly and that there will be more and richer themes of thanksgiving. But besides this, we have decided to add three new canons to the eucharistic prayer. Both for pastoral reasons, however, and for the facilitation of concelebration, we have ordered that the words of the Lord be identical in each form of the canon. Thus in each eucharistic prayer we wish those words to be as follows: over the bread: "Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes: Hoc est enim Corpus meum, quod pro vobis tradetur"; over the chalice: "Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem." The words "Mysterium fidei" have been removed from the context of Christ's own words and are spoken by the priest as an introduction to the faithful's acclamation.

In the Order of Mass the rites have been "simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance."[8] "Elements that, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated or were added with but little advantage"[9] have been eliminated, especially in the rites for the presentation of the bread and wine, the breaking of the bread, and communion.

Also, "other elements that have suffered injury through accident of history" are restored "to the tradition of the Fathers,"[10] for example, the homily,[11] the general intercessions or prayer of the faithful,[12] and the penitential rite or act of reconciliation with God and the community at the beginning of the Mass, which thus, as is right, regains its proper importance.

According to the decree of the Second Vatican Council, that "a more representative portion of the holy Scriptures be read to the people over the course of a prescribed number of years,"[13] the Sunday readings are arranged in a cycle of three years. In addition, on Sundays and all the major feasts the epistle and gospel are preceded by an Old Testament reading or, at Easter, by readings from Acts. This is meant to provide a fuller exposition of the continuing process of the mystery of salvation, as shown in the words of divine revelation. These broadly selected biblical readings, which set before the faithful on Sundays and holy-days the most important part of sacred Scripture, are complemented by other parts of the Bible read on other days.

All this has been planned to arouse among the faithful a greater hunger for the word of God.[14] Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this hunger will seem, so to speak, to impel the people of the New Covenant toward the perfect unity of the Church. We are fully confident that under this arrangement both priest and faithful will prepare their minds and hearts more devoutly for the Lord's Supper and that, meditating on the Scriptures, they will be nourished more each day by the words of the Lord. In accord with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, all will thus regard sacred Scripture as the abiding source of spiritual life, the foundation for Christian instruction, and the core of all theological study.

This reform of the Roman Missal, in addition to the three changes already mentioned (the eucharistic prayer, the Order of Mass, and the readings), has also corrected and considerably modified other of its components: the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, the Common of Saints, ritual Masses, and votive Masses. In all of these changes, particular care has been taken with the prayers. Their number has been increased, so that the new forms might better correspond to new needs, and the text of older prayers has been restored on the basis of the ancient sources. As a result, each weekday of the principal liturgical seasons, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, now has its own, distinct prayer.

The text of the "Graduale Romanum" has not been changed as far as the music is concerned. In the interest of their being more readily understood, however, the responsorial psalm (which St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great often mention) as well as the entrance and communion antiphons have been revised for use in Masses that are not sung.

After what we have presented concerning the new Roman Missal, we wish in conclusion to insist on one point in particular and to make it have its effect. When he promulgated the "editio princeps" of the Roman Missal, our predecessor St. Pius V offered it to the people of Christ as the instrument of liturgical unity and the expression of a pure and reverent worship in the Church. Even though, in virtue of the decree of the Second Vatican Council, we have accepted into the new Roman Missal lawful variations and adaptations,[15] our own expectation in no way differs from that of our predecessor. It is that the faithful will receive the new Missal as a help toward witnessing and strengthening their unity with one another; that through the new Missal one and the same prayer in a great diversity of languages will ascend, more fragrant than any incense, to our heavenly Father, through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

The effective date for what we have prescribed in this Constitution shall be the First Sunday of Advent of this year, 30 November. We decree that these laws and prescriptions be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and amendment.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on Holy Thursday, 3 April 1969, the sixth year of our pontificate.


1. See Ap. const. "Quo primum," 14 July 1570.

2. See Pius XII, Addr. to the participants of the First International Congress on Pastoral Liturgy at Assisi, 22 May 1956: AAS 48 (1956) 712.

3. See SCR, Decr. "Dominicae Resurrectionis," 9 Feb. 1951: AAS 43 (1951) 128ff.; Decr. "Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria," 16 Nov. 1955: AAS 47 (1955) 838ff.

4. SC art. 21.

5. SC art. 50

6. SC art. 51.

7. SC art. 58

8. SC art. 50.

9. SC art. 50.

10. SC art. 50.

11. See SC art. 52.

12. See SC art. 53.

13. SC art. 51.

14. See Amos 8:11.

15. See SC art. 38-40.