You may have landed here because you Googled “usus antiquior” to find out what it means. Usus antiquior means “the ancient usage,” or more literally, the usage that is “older than old.”
The first Mass, the archetype of Masses, was consummated at Calvary in a combination of Hebrew (or Aramaic), Greek and Latin—but mostly Latin—as the Roman soldiers, its ministers, went about their grueling business, oblivious (cf. Luke 23:34) to the significance of their work on what must have seemed to them like an ordinary Friday afternoon. By the time it was over, some of the Romans believed (cf. Mark 15:39), while others did not. The Jews watched it all unfold. Some of them understood the Romans’ language well, others only dimly or not at all. Some of them believed (cf. Luke 23:42), while others did not. We, the new Israel, now watch, some comprehending the Latin and others not, some believing and some not (cf. John 6:66-69).
In spiritual terms, however, it is not accurate to speak of the “first” Mass, of Masses in the plural, or of any Mass in the past tense. That is because, as Heaven views things (and Hell too), there is only one Mass, which began on Good Friday at Jerusalem and continues everywhere until the last day, on which will occur the second coming—this time in glory—of Jesus Christ, Who is your God and mine. On that day, we still might not fully comprehend the Latin, but there will no longer be any unbelievers, anywhere.
For upcoming Masses, refer to The Liturgical Calendar for this month.
For an account of what has been going on, and the role of the laity in all of this, refer to the provacative article by Martin Mösebach.
Go to: Propers in Various Languages
Go to: Propers for Sundays
Go to: Propers for Votive Masses
Go to: Liturgical Calendar (ordo)
Why This Site Is Here
If you are looking for ways to increase attendance at the Traditional Latin Masses offered in your parish, you might consider, as part of your strategy, furnishing Propers at the door each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.
The Propers on this site began to be produced in November 2009 as part of a larger effort to increase attendance at the Traditional Latin Masses being offered at a particular parish church.
A Latin Mass community grows one person at a time. Each week, at least one person unfamiliar with the Latin Mass may attend because of curiosity, or at the invitation of a friend, or by accident. After that experience, the newcomer may or may not come back again. If she does, the community may grow by one, and if she doesn’t, an opportunity for growth may have been missed. The Propers are intended to remove some potential obstacles to the newcomer’s willingness to return the following week.
A newcomer who does not return may have any number of reasons for not returning. The Propers are intended to address two of them. The first reason is that the Latin Mass is bewildering. Much of the liturgical action takes place in silence. To the extent it does not, it is carried out in a foreign language. There are often two liturgical actions taking place at the same time, particularly at High Masses. Liturgical time itself is reckoned differently, so the Mass is probably observing a different Sunday, perhaps even a different season, than the Masses elsewhere. (“Septuawhatima?”) Newcomers generally do not have hand Missals. For all these reasons, every newcomer can feel hopelessly lost. However, having Propers in hand, prepared in a language which the newcomer knows, can give her a sense of location within the Order of Mass, the beginnings of a mental framework. She will still feel lost, but not hopelessly so, and will realize that it is possible to follow the vetus ordo with a little effort.*
The second reason is that the other people at Mass are more or less intensely focused on what is going on in the Sanctuary. Their demeanor would indicate that they understand what is going on and what is expected of them, but it could also be misinterpreted as a sign that they do not care that the newcomer in their midst is drowning in confusion. This can give rise to feelings of resentment. “I am feeling uncomfortable,” the newcomer may think, “and nobody here seems to notice or care. This is not what I am used to at Mass.” Finding Propers at the door, however, sends a signal to this person that, yes, someone here did think of me, someone here does care enough about me to throw me this lifeline, and maybe all these people are not as indifferent as they seem. Maybe they are focused on something bigger than us; maybe I should figure out what it is and focus on it too.
It is primarily to help this individual that the Propers and this site were created.
In addition to being bewildering, the Latin Mass can also seem somewhat intimidating, especially in comparison with the various ways in which the vernacular Mass is offered in most places. This is because the Latin Mass was patiently crafted under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over many centuries for the primary purpose of placing us for a brief time at both Calvary and in Heaven simultaneously. No doubt, we would have felt bewildered and intimidated at Calvary, and we will feel bewildered and intimidated as we approach Heaven’s gate and (please God) for at least a while after we are admitted. Considering Who crafted the Latin Mass and why, these feelings are to be expected. As long as one doesn’t let them take over, there is nothing inappropriate about acknowledging them. For those who keep attending the Latin Mass anyway, these feelings soon become manageable. Before long, they give way to affection, because in addition to being bewildering and intimidating, the Latin Mass is also objectively beautiful. Its beauty is latent, discoverable through humble patience.
We praise the divine genius for a liturgy that enlists such an appropriate combination of natural feelings in drawing Calvary forward to our day, and us forward toward the day of our judgment and beyond. If the Latin Mass does end up leading us to feel good, as any liturgy should, then it will be for the only reason for which a pleasant feeling is ultimately worth having, i.e., because even though we deserved Hell, Jesus gave us the hope of Heaven. Would that every Mass reminded us of this.
* At this point it is worth reminding ourselves that the Mass is not primarily a mental exercise. Certainly no one at Calvary was consulting a book, perhaps realizing subconsciously that the Sacrifice taking place before their eyes did not depend for its effectiveness on their own real-time intellectual comprehension of it. To be sure, it is necessary to read and reflect on Sacred Scripture, but none other than Padre Pio himself is said to have counseled that, at Holy Mass at least, the laity do not need a Missal, but would best unite themselves with the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary around the foot of the Cross. That, dear reader, is what “active participation” of the laity at Mass always meant, and still means, and it is best done from our knees, and in spiritual terms it is the only active participation that counts for anything.
There may be a thousand lay people at a Mass, but still, the Priest is the only one there in persona Christi. That is why there is no Mass where there is no Priest. At each Holy Mass, the Priest has his job to do, and the laity have their job to do, and — here is the key — they are not the same job. To believe otherwise would be to commit the error of concluding that the Sacrifice on Calvary does not propitiate God the Father because Mary, the other holy women, and St. John the Beloved were not also physically hanging from crosses. Since we know that this is not the case, we also know that there never was anything wrong with those little old ladies whom some ungrateful people still sometimes make sport of because they prayed the Rosary in their pews during Mass. Those ladies knew why we were there, if we didn’t. They were praying for the Priest, and that God would be pleased with the Offering that he is physically placing, and the offerings that we spiritually ought to be placing, on the Altar.
A previous version of this page began here:
Sursum corda! Lift up your hearts!
This site contains a library of printable missal inserts that will be useful for parishes, oratories and schools where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is offered according to the 1962 typical edition of the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint John XXIII. Each insert contains the proper prayers of the Mass (including Scripture readings) for a given Sunday, Feast or Commemoration.
The proper prayers of the Mass are those prayers and readings within the Order of Mass which change each day, i.e., that are “proper” to the day. Generally they include the Introit antiphon, the opening Collect, the Lesson or Epistle (drawn from the Old Testament, or from Acts or the Apostolic letters in the New Testament), the Gradual, the Alleluia (or, during the seasons of Septuagesima and Lent, the Tract), the Gospel, the Offertory antiphon, the Secret, the Preface to the Roman Canon, the Communion antiphon, and the Postcommunion collect. Within the Roman Canon, special forms of the brief “Communicantes” and “Hanc igitur” prayers are used during certain liturgical seasons. Those are not included in these inserts, but can be found in a printed hand missal such as the one published by Baronius Press.
The inserts, referred to here as “Propers,” are all in Adobe Acrobat’s portable document format (.pdf). Generally, the Propers for each Mass are designed to be printed double-sided on a regular 8½” by 11″ sheet of paper, and folded in half to create a four-page booklet. Propers for some Masses contain more than four pages, requiring more than one sheet of paper and perhaps some cutting or stapling. Each .pdf file can be customized to include the name of your parish or other institution at the top of the first page. (To do this, you would click within the existing parish name, replace the existing text with yours, and save the modified file.)
The library includes Propers for all of the Sundays of the liturgical year according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, and for each Feast from that Missal which is still observed as a Holy Day of Obligation in either the United States of America, Canada, England, Wales, or Australia, and for many other Feasts and commemorations as well.
Questions or comments about these Propers may be directed to: SaintStephenPropers@gmail.com. Corrections are especially appreciated.
These Propers are especially helpful when used in conjunction with “The Parish Book of Chant” published by The Church Music Association of America, or with the “Latin-English Booklet Missal” published by the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei (Glenview, Illinois, USA), the latter being commonly known as the “red Missal” because of its red paperback binding. Both publications include the unchanging parts of the Order of Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, and can be found in a growing number of English-speaking parishes. With these Propers and one of those publications in hand, you have everything you need to follow the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Grateful recognition is due to the Orange County, California, chapter of the international Una Voce organization, who several years ago created a library of Propers based on pre-1960 editions of the Missale Romanum and posted them free of charge on their web site. Some graphic design elements and many items of devotional artwork were borrowed from the UVOC Propers during the creation of this library.
The term usus antiquior is Latin for “the ancient usage.” Technically, it refers to the whole of the Church’s public prayer, including the Mass, the Divine Office (a/k/a the Liturgy of the Hours), and the administration of all seven of the Sacraments which Jesus instituted. This site focuses on the Mass, which is the core and summit of her public prayer. In that regard, usus antiquior, Tridentine Mass (a term which refers to the Council of Trent, 1545-63), and traditional Latin Mass are all names which refer to the same thing, i.e. the form of the Mass in the Roman rite as it was offered in most places (especially Rome) since the 6th century or earlier, and in all places (because of Pope St. Pius V) since the year 1570, with minor revisions along the way, until Sunday morning, November 29, 1964, the day the Mass changed. Since Friday, September 14, 2007, this form of the Mass has been properly known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, because of the decree of Pope Benedict XVI in his motu proprio (a form of Papal legislation) entitled “Summorum Pontificum” and his accompanying heartfelt letter to his brother bishops throughout the world, both of which he issued from Rome on July 7, 2007.
Even when heard in one’s native tongue, each Mass is an impenetrable mystery. But because of its form, the traditional Latin Mass can be uniquely bewildering for newcomers. This library was born of a desire to encourage parishes and their pastors to make the traditional Latin Mass more widely available and, at the same time, more intelligible for newcomers, so that they may overcome self-consciousness, that great obstacle to worship; so that they might not be discouraged from returning by the uncomfortable feeling they will naturally have of being the only persons in the room who do not know what is going on; so that the first one they attend might not be the last. In general, newcomers do not yet have their own hand Missals, may not be aware that they might benefit from having one, and in any event are accustomed to the Mass in the Ordinary Form (a/k/a the Novus Ordo) where pew Missals or “missalettes” are usually provided for them to use.
Sites like this are multiplying, and this is all to the good. It was through the usus antiquior that God imparted the grace which produced practically all of the canonized Saints in the West. Knowing this, Pope Benedict XVI, and before him Pope St. John Paul II, generously re-opened the Church’s liturgical treasury, thus inviting all the living to pray it with the Saints anew, and in no uncertain terms they exhorted their brother bishops to do the same. When a generous volunteer has emerged in every parish who will make Propers available free of charge at the door each week (and please God, dear reader, may that be you), then it will no longer be plausible to claim—if it ever really was—that there is no way to understand the words being said and sung, and the thing which, for the sincere of heart, stands as the last barrier against actuosa participatio will have been removed. Every truly open-minded person has the means to participate; everyone who genuinely desires to know what is being prayed, knows. And then? Then stand back and watch attendance grow.
Why the effort? Besides what has already been said, it is because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which includes the Latin-rite liturgy in the West and the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern-rite Catholic churches) is no mere social occasion, nor primarily even a meal. Yes, it is a banquet—a prefigurement, in fact, of the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). But before that, and above all else, it is the mysterious re-presentation in an unbloody manner of the voluntary sacrifice on Calvary of and by the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, who is true God and true man, in reparation to God the Father for the sins of all mankind in every time and place, in obedience to his command given to the Apostles at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19). Hosts of angels are attending, bowing down before the throne of God and calling out to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” (Is. 6:3), while we, the unwashed, do well to remember our unworthiness (cf. Is. 6:5; Mt. 8:8). Central to the Mass is the Holy Eucharist, the most exalted of the seven Sacraments instituted by Christ. It is the fulfillment of his promise (Mt. 28:20) to remain with us until his return in glory at the end of time (Mk. 14:62), and because of it, he remains truly present among us in his actual flesh and blood (Jn. 6:56-59), veiled under the appearances of bread and wine. Wherever it is being offered, whether East or West, whether in the Ordinary Form or in the Extraordinary Form, whether in some great basilica, or in a humble parish church, or (as sometimes happens) on the hood of a jeep in the midst of a war zone, the Mass is the highest form of prayer and the most important thing taking place in the entire world at that moment. It is where time meets eternity for a brief privileged hour. And for those who realize what, spiritually speaking, is going on around them in that hour, the Mass in the Extraordinary Form remains the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven.
This site is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God and of Priests, and to St. Cajetan (+1547), founder of the Theatines.
Gratis accepistis; gratis date. (Mt. 10:8)