The Mystery of Faith: Novus Ordo vs Mass of Ages

“Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

Those familiar with the Novus Ordo prior to 2012 will most certainly recognize the acclamation above as the response that was most often given by the people after the priest intoned, “Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith.” 

This was by far the most widely used of the four optional “memorial acclamations” available at the time, and like so many other dreadful features of the Novus Ordo, it served to weaken belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament given that it was said after the consecration, ignoring, as it were, His presence on the altar at that very moment.   

In the most recent edition of the Novus Ordo missal, the priest doesn’t actually invite, much less instruct, the people to respond at all, he merely says his part, “The Mystery of Faith,” at which point the people then speak aloud their part – as if concelebrating from the pew –  one of three options:  

1. We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.

2. When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.

3. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.

Options number 1 and 2, like the pre-2012 version, also downplay the Real Presence of Christ on the altar. The third option is arguably better in this regard, albeit only marginally so, since it may be understood to address the Savior as though He is actually present. 

Option number 2, although taken from 1 Corinthians 11:26, overlooks the Resurrection without which there would be no Blessed Sacrament, making its placement in the Mass at that moment especially precarious. For his part, St. Paul did not fail to provide the proper context within that very same Epistle as he catechized at length on Our Lord’s Resurrection, stating among other things, “And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (15:14).   

In light of all that has been said, the lex orandi of the Novus Ordo leads one to believe that the “Mystery of Faith” as invoked in the liturgy is essentially a truncated recap of Our Lord’s saving work. 

In addition to obscuring the Real Presence of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist as noted, this treatment also has the effect of communicating to the faithful that the rite itself is nothing more than a human act (e.g., recalling historical events, giving thanks for Our Lord’s saving work, etc.) as opposed to the propitiatory Sacrifice that the Mass of Ages truly is.    

Now, one may argue that each of the various Novus Ordo options noted above constitute a “mystery of faith” in some sense, but even if taken altogether they fall well short of expounding upon the “Mysterium Fidei” that has been invoked in the Roman Canon of the Traditional Latin Mass for well over one-thousand years.

If one were to seek the most concise answer possible as to what the “Mysterium Fidei” refers, the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Mirae Caritatis, seems to provide it as the Holy Father teaches, “The Eucharist [is] the ‘mystery of faith,’ as it has been most appropriately called” (cf. no. 7).  

That said, the “Mysterium Fidei” under consideration is first and foremost a mystery in the theological sense, meaning, it involves truths so profound that mere humans can only begin to apprehend and express it via signs and symbols. As such, a concise answer does not do the topic justice. 

So, with this in mind, we must go deeper; in the process, we will come to appreciate (mourn, actually) just how much was relinquished in the process of creating the Novus Ordo.

During the consecration of the wine in the Traditional Roman Rite, the priest prays:

In like manner, after He had supped, taking also this excellent Chalice into His holy and venerable hands, and giving thanks to Thee, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take, all of you, and drink of this, for this is the Chalice of My Blood of the new and eternal testament, the Mystery of Faith; which shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins.

In this, we are given to understand that the Mystery of Faith is inseparably associated with the Chalice of the Lord’s Precious Blood unto the remission of sins, i.e., our salvation. Importantly, however, consecrated in the Chalice at Holy Mass is not wine alone but water also, the significance of which we will consider momentarily.  

The Chalice is mentioned three additional times during the Mass as follows:

– We offer Thee, O Lord, the Chalice of salvation, pleading Thy clemency, that it may ascend in the sight of the thy divine majesty, with a sweet fragrance, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. 

– Wherefore, Lord, we, Thy servants, but also Thy holy people, mindful of the same Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, of His blessed passion, and of His resurrection from the grave, and of His glorious ascension into heaven, offer unto Thy most excellent majesty of Thine own gifts, bestowed upon us, a pure victim, a holy victim, an unspotted victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.

– What shall I render to the Lord for all the things He has rendered unto me? I will take the Chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the name of the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies. 

NB: In the first a second instance, the Chalice is presented as a propitiatory offering, and on all three occasions it is called “the Chalice of salvation.”

In contemplating this, one might naturally think of the Barque of Peter, the Church, the vessel of salvation for all of mankind, and about which we profess extra ecclesiam nulla salus

This association of the “Mystery of Faith” invoked at Holy Mass with the Holy Catholic Church is underscored all the more by the words of consecration whereby the priest recalls the Chalice of wine that was taken up by Christ after He had eaten the Passover meal. It was this wine of which Our Lord said, “This is My Blood.” 

As noted, however, the Chalice on the altar at Holy Mass also contains water, the matter of Baptism, the Sacrament of initiation. In this, called to mind is the Blood and the water that flowed forth from Our Savior’s human Body on the Cross, thus giving birth to His Mystical Body, the Church.     

Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical, Mystici Corporis, elaborates:  

It was by His blood shed on the Cross that God’s anger was averted and that all the heavenly gifts, especially the spiritual graces of the New and Eternal Testament, could then flow from the fountains of our Savior for the salvation of men, of the faithful above all; it was on the tree of the Cross, finally, that He entered into possession of His Church, that is, of all the members of His Mystical Body; for they would not have been untied to this Mystical Body through the waters of Baptism except by the salutary virtue of the Cross… (ibid., no. 30)  

The Word of God took unto Himself a human nature liable to sufferings, so that He might consecrate in His blood the visible Society founded by Him. (ibid., no. 64)

Our Savior shed His Blood precisely in order that He might reconcile men to God through the Cross, and might constrain them to unite in one body [the Church]. (ibid., no. 96)

In his Encyclical, Mirae Caritatis, wherein Pope Leo XIII calls the Eucharist the “Mystery of Faith,” he too spoke of the Blessed Sacrament’s connection to the Church, as well as to the hierarchical priesthood:   

In a word this Sacrament is, as it were, the very soul of the Church; and to it the grace of the priesthood is ordered and directed in all its fulness and in each of its successive grades. From the same source the Church draws and has all her strength, all her glory, her every supernatural endowment and adornment, every good thing that is here; wherefore she makes it the chiefest of all her cares to prepare the hearts of the faithful for an intimate union with Christ through the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and to draw them thereto. (Ibid., no. 15)

Interestingly, it was the relationship between the “Mysterium Fidei” and the hierarchical priesthood that was given special mention in the so-called Ottaviani Intervention wherein the theologians criticized its mistreatment in the Novus Ordo: 

The Pauline insertion ‘Mysterium Fidei’ was an immediate confession of the priest’s faith in the mystery realized by the Church through the hierarchical priesthood.

Though much more could be said, in our brief examination alone we have considered how the Mysterium Fidei invoked in the Roman Canon encompasses and draws the faithful closer to such truths as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in Most Holy Eucharist, the Chalice of salvation, the Precious Blood of Christ, the propitiatory sacrificial nature of the offering, the Mystical Body of Christ – the Holy Catholic Church – and the hierarchical priesthood. 

This, my friends, is the true lex orandi of the Roman Rite.

The convoluted treatment of the “mystery of faith” in the Novus Ordo, by contrast, not only fails to draw attention to these glorious sacred mysteries of our faith, it does violence to them. Make no mistake, this it does by design in order to “foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ,” aka the heretics, (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 1).

We must admit that Jorge Bergoglio spoke well when he anointed the Novus Ordo “the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite [sic]” (see letter accompanying Traditiones Cojones), provided we understand that the rite in question is no more Catholic than the society that celebrates it, namely, the conciliar church, a poor counterfeit of the one true Church of Christ.