1.Mediator between God and men and High Priest
who has gone before us into heaven, Jesus the Son of God
quite clearly had one aim in view when He undertook the mission of mercy which was to
endow mankind with the rich blessings of supernatural grace. Sin had disturbed the right
relationship between man and his Creator; the Son of God would restore it. The children of
Adam were wretched heirs to the infection of original sin; He would bring them back to
their heavenly Father, the primal source and final destiny of all things. For this reason
He was not content, while He dwelt with us on earth, merely to give notice that redemption
had begun, and to proclaim the long-awaited Kingdom of God, but gave Himself besides in
prayer and sacrifice to the task of saving souls, even to the point of offering Himself,
as He hung from the cross, a Victim unspotted unto God, to purify our conscience of dead
works, to serve the living God. Thus happily were
all men summoned back from the byways leading them down to ruin and disaster, to be set
squarely once again upon the path that leads to God. Thanks to the shedding of the blood
of the Immaculate Lamb, now each might set about the personal task of achieving his own
sanctification, so rendering to God the glory due to Him.
2. But what is more, the divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life begun
with the supplication and sacrifice of His mortal body should continue without
intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body which is the Church. That is why He
established a visible priesthood to offer everywhere the clean oblation which would enable men from East to West, freed from
the shackles of sin, to offer God that unconstrained and voluntary homage which their
3. In obedience, therefore, to her Founder's behest, the Church prolongs the priestly
mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first
place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the cross is represented and with a single difference in the manner of its
offering, renewed. She does it next by means of
the sacraments, those special channels through which men are made partakers in the
supernatural life. She does it, finally, by offering to God, all Good and Great, the daily
tribute of her prayer of praise. "What a spectacle for heaven and earth,"
observes Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, "is not the Church at prayer! For
centuries without interruption, from midnight to midnight, the divine psalmody of the
inspired canticles is repeated on earth; there is no hour of the day that is not hallowed
by its special liturgy; there is no state of human life that has not its part in the
thanksgiving, praise, supplication and reparation of this common prayer of the Mystical
Body of Christ which is His Church!"
4. You are of course familiar with the fact, Venerable Brethren, that a remarkably
widespread revival of scholarly interest in the sacred liturgy took place towards the end
of the last century and has continued through the early years of this one. The movement
owed its rise to commendable private initiative and more particularly to the zealous and
persistent labor of several monasteries within the distinguished Order of Saint Benedict.
Thus there developed in this field among many European nations, and in lands beyond the
seas as well, a rivalry as welcome as it was productive of results. Indeed, the salutary
fruits of this rivalry among the scholars were plain for all to see, both in the sphere of
the sacred sciences, where the liturgical rites of the Western and Eastern Church were
made the object of extensive research and profound study, and in the spiritual life of
considerable numbers of individual Christians.
5. The majestic ceremonies of the sacrifice of the altar became better known, understood
and appreciated. With more widespread and more frequent reception of the sacraments, with
the beauty of the liturgical prayers more fully savored, the worship of the Eucharist came
to be regarded for what it really is: the fountain-head of genuine Christian devotion.
Bolder relief was given likewise to the fact that all the faithful make up a single and
very compact body with Christ for its Head, and that the Christian community is in duty
bound to participate in the liturgical rites according to their station.
6. You are surely well aware that this Apostolic See has always made careful provision for
the schooling of the people committed to its charge in the correct spirit and practice of
the liturgy; and that it has been no less careful to insist that the sacred rites should
be performed with due external dignity. In this connection We ourselves, in the course of
our traditional address to the Lenten preachers of this gracious city of Rome in 1943,
urged them warmly to exhort their respective hearers to more faithful participation in the
eucharistic sacrifice. Only a short while previously, with the design of rendering the
prayers of the liturgy more correctly understood and their truth and unction more easy to
perceive, We arranged to have the Book of Psalms, which forms such an important part of
these prayers in the Catholic Church, translated again into Latin from their original
7. But while We derive no little satisfaction from the wholesome results of the movement
just described, duty obliges Us to give serious attention to this "revival" as
it is advocated in some quarters, and to take proper steps to preserve it at the outset
from excess or outright perversion.
8. Indeed, though we are sorely grieved to note, on the one hand, that there are places
where the spirit, understanding or practice of the sacred liturgy is defective, or all but
nonexistent, We observe with considerable anxiety and some misgiving, that elsewhere
certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty, are straying beyond the path
of sound doctrine and prudence. Not seldom, in fact, they interlard their plans and hopes
for a revival of the sacred liturgy with principles which compromise this holiest of
causes in theory or practice, and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic
faith and ascetical doctrine.
9. Yet the integrity of faith and morals ought to be the special criterion of this sacred
science, which must conform exactly to what the Church out of the abundance of her wisdom
teaches and prescribes. It is, consequently, Our prerogative to commend and approve
whatever is done properly, and to check or censure any aberration from the path of truth
10. Let not the apathetic or half-hearted imagine, however, that We agree with them when
We reprove the erring and restrain the overbold. No more must the imprudent think that we
are commending them when We correct the faults of those who are negligent and sluggish.
11. If in this encyclical letter We treat chiefly of the Latin liturgy, it is not because
We esteem less highly the venerable liturgies of the Eastern Church, whose ancient and
honorable ritual traditions are just as dear to Us. The reason lies rather in a special
situation prevailing in the Western Church, of sufficient importance, it would seem, to
require this exercise of Our authority.
12. With docile hearts, then, let all Christians hearken to the voice of their Common
Father, who would have them, each and every one, intimately united with him as they
approach the altar of God, professing the same faith, obedient to the same law, sharing in
the same Sacrifice with a single intention and one sole desire. This is a duty imposed, of
course, by the honor due to God. But the needs of our day and age demand it as well. After
a long and cruel war which has rent whole peoples asunder with it rivalry and slaughter,
men of good will are spending themselves in the effort to find the best possible way to
restore peace to the world. It is, notwithstanding, Our belief that no plan or initiative
can offer better prospect of success than that fervent religious spirit and zeal by which
Christians must be formed and guided; in this way their common and whole-hearted
acceptance of the same truth, along with their united obedience and loyalty to their
appointed pastors, while rendering to God the worship due to Him, makes of them one
brotherhood: "for we, being many, are one body: all that partake of one bread."