Our Liturgy

There is a Latin maxim that addresses the centrality of worship in the life, identity and mission of the Church; “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”. The phrase in Latin literally means the law of prayer (“the way we worship”), and the law of belief (“what we believe”). It is sometimes written as, “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi”, further deepening the implications of this truth – how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live. The law of prayer or worship is the law of life. Or, even more popularly rendered, as we worship, so will we live…and as we worship, so will we become!

The Church has long understood that part of her role as mother and teacher is to watch over worship, for the sake of the faithful and in obedience to the God whom she serves. How we worship not only reveals and guards what we believe but guides us in how we live our Christian faith and fulfill our Christian mission in the world.

Worship is not an “add on” for an Orthodox Catholic Christian. It is the foundation of Catholic identity; expressing our highest purpose. Worship reveals what we truly believe and how we view ourselves in relationship to God, one another and the world into which we are sent to carry forward the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. How the Church worships is a prophetic witness to the truth of what it professes. Good worship becomes a dynamic means of drawing the entire human community into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. It attracts – through beauty to Beauty. Worship informs and transforms both the person and the faith community which participates in it. There is reciprocity between worship and life.

To express our adherence and praxis to the Catholic Faith received by us from the Apostles, this Parish Mission offers the holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite and according to the Rite of St Pius V sometimes called the “Tridentine”, “Gregorian” or “Extraordinary Form”. Other services are sometimes conducted in Sacral English (traditional language) for pastoral necessity. However, Mass booklets in English/Latin are available and many of our parishioners comment how easy it is to become accustomed to the Latin responses… both young and old!

PRESERVATION of the ancient Latin rite of Mass in the form in which it has been celebrated for centuries throughout the world.

RESPECT for the Church’s sacred traditions as a vital link with the traditional Faith regarding the nature of the Mass, and as a secure anchor and guarantee that we do not drift away from that Faith.

NO COMPROMISE with the spirit of the world or adaptation of the Mass to the lifestyle of our desacralised age.

RESTORATION of a sacred atmosphere where God comes first and in which we give Him the worship that is due to Him.

APPRECIATION of the Church’s treasury of sacred music especially Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony.

The Gregorian Rite is the traditional rite of the “Latin Church” or “Church of the West” and was the form of Mass used in Rome. At one time there were many other rites, similar in essential form and content with the Gregorian Rite but with cultural or regional variances such as the “Ambrosian Rite” used in the Diocese of Milan and the “Sarum Use” in the (medieval) Diocese of Salisbury. Similarly in the Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Churches, this rite of Mass is recognised as the Gregorian Rite in parity with their own historical liturgies such as the Byzantine Rite and the Constantinopolitan Rite.

One of the myths presently circulating about the Rite of St. Gregory the Great is that it is “Tridentine”—i.e., it is no older than the Council of Trent [1545-1563]. This criticism is made by those who know nothing about either this Rite or the Council of Trent or the Missal of Pius V [1570]. In fact, all that was done at Trent, liturgically speaking, was to standardize the worship of the West. This was done principally in two ways:

First, the Council (together with Pope Pius V) suppressed all Western Rites that did not have a continuous history of at least two hundred years. This effectively eliminated all but the Ambrosian Rite of Milan, the Mozarabic Rite of Toledo, Spain, and the Gregorian Rite of the City of Rome itself, sometimes therefore called the Roman Rite. [* Simple variations within the Roman Rite, such as existed among the Benedictines, Dominicans, etc., were permitted to remain, but have lapsed since the liturgical reforms of the 1960s.] In the 16th century the Gregorian or Roman Rite already had a continuous documented history of more than 1000 years. It therefore became the standard Rite of most of post-Schism Western Christendom. Session XXII [17 Sept. 1562] of the Council issued a series of definitions on the sacrificial doctrine of the Mass, but no change in the actual text of the Rite.

Secondly, the Council of Trent standardized the rubrics of the Gregorian Rite. This meant that when and how the celebrant and other ministers bowed, genuflected, turned to the faithful, etc., was no longer left to the whim or personal style of the individual clergyman. For the sake of propriety, detailed instructions about how to actually celebrate the liturgy were drawn up and imposed upon the whole of the Western Church. Most of these rubrics were not new inventions, however. They were mostly adopted from the customary rubrics of the cathedrals and parish churches of the City of Rome and its surrounding countryside towns and villages. This was logical because Rome was the de jure center of Western Christendom. Thus, by the 16th century even the rubrics already had a long and venerable history and were hardly an innovation of the Counter Reformation.

In the words of Fortescue:

“Essentially the Missal of St. Pius V is the Gregorian Sacramentary; that again is formed from the Gelasian book which depends on the Leonine collection. We find the prayers of our Canon in the treatise de Sacramentis and allusions to it in the fourth century. So our Mass goes back, without essential change, to the age when it first developed out of the oldest liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that liturgy, of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the Faith of Christ, when our fathers met together before dawn and sang a hymn to Christ as to a God. The final result of our enquiry is that, in spite of unsolved problems, in spite of later changes, there is not in Christendom another rite so venerable as ours.” The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (London, 1917). p. 213.

The point is: the Rite of St. Gregory was not “created” by the Council of Trent. Furthermore, as used in Orthodox Christianity today, this Rite with the exception of new Propers introduced to commemorate various saints of the post-schism calendar, the Rite remains essentially identical to that which was already ancient by the time of Trent.