The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) called for liturgical reform. Though the Novus Ordo Mass didn’t directly emerge from the council, it was an attempt to implement many of Vatican II’s directives.
However, many Novus Ordo Masses in parishes worldwide began incorporating things “in the spirit of Vatican II,” which seemed to contradict what the council actually taught. They also didn’t follow what Pope St. Paul VI laid out when he officially implemented the Novus Ordo.
Let’s review some things Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy said about liturgical reform and see how the Novus Ordo matches up.
Vatican II said that Gregorian chant should be given pride of place in the liturgy.
Let’s be honest. We hardly ever hear Gregorian chant in the typical Novus Ordo parish. Most music is composed of hymns from the past 60 or so years.
Vatican II wasn’t opposed to reverent contemporary music in the liturgy, but it still considered Gregorian chant to be the music most suitable to divine worship in the Latin Rite.
The council also taught that the organ was the most fitting instrument for Mass. While many parishes still use organs, others have opted for pianos and guitars.
Vatican II envisioned some Latin in the liturgy.
Some Catholics claim that Vatican II did away with Latin. That’s not true. It gave bishops the authority to implement the vernacular into some parts of the Mass, but said that priests should teach their congregation to say certain prayers in Latin.
A Novus Ordo Mass most in line with Vatican II would have a mix of Latin and the vernacular, although the council didn’t specify what language should be used for which parts.
Priests and laypeople can’t change the liturgy.
The introduction of the Novus Ordo was followed by years of wild liturgical experimentation, even to the point of cringe-worthy clown Masses. Some of these were justified on the basis of a vague “spirit of Vatican II.”
Vatican II (and the official text of the Novus Ordo) never called for these outlandish liturgical experiments. The council explicitly stated that — other than the pope and, to a limited extent, the bishops — “no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
Thankfully, experimentation has decreased. But if we look at the liturgical landscape, it seems that many Novus Ordo parishes still have some work to do to realize the liturgical vision of Vatican II.
We encourage all Catholics to click here to read more of what the council truly said.