In recent years interest in the so-called Missal of 1965 has surfaced in fits and starts. Most recently, two events spurred renewed, albeit rather minor, interest in re-examining this relatively forgotten piece of contemporary liturgical history. The two events in question are the publication of a new English translation of the Missal of Paul VI and the election of Pope Francis and the accompanying sea change in Roman liturgics. Standing as the final edition of the modernized Tridentine Missal, it seems reasonable to devote some time and consideration to a liturgy whose full importance has perhaps not been well understood in Roman circles.
As mentioned, two events have contributed to some occasional re-examination of this otherwise ignored Missal. The first re-emergence came from more liberal quarters when it became apparent that there was no turning back from the revised English translation of the Missal of Paul VI. This post from the Pray Tell blog is a good example. The logic behind appealing the Missal of 1965 was simple: the Missal of 1965 was in all essentials in continuity with the Missal of 1962. One could not, therefore, claim discontinuity or rupture with much credibility. Therefore, one could compare the English translation of a "more conservative" liturgy from a "more conservative" time with the new translation of the Novus Ordo, the goal being to demonstrate the flawed theory of translation behind the new edition. Stilted English did not need to be a hallmark of more a more accurate and more orthodox vernacular liturgy. In some places, the later modernized Tridentine Missal, which spanned the years from 1965 - 1968, was actually lauded as having a clear translation that fell into line with the rules of acceptable English. In other places, a cautious approval was given, with predictable preference for the banned 1998 draft translation. The discussion, as is often the case with these Missals, died down.
It was revived again, this time in more conservative and occasionally Traditionalist quarters, after the election of Pope Francis. With early indications that the perceived liturgical agenda of Benedict XVI would come to grinding halt, both devotees of Benedict's liturgical theory (as they understood it) and of the restoration of the Tridentine Mass took some time for soul searching with aim of discovering a) how Benedict's liturgical vision failed to catch on and b) how to keep this vision of liturgy relevant in the midst of a papacy that seemed, at best, apathetic towards it. The so-called interim Missal made its return for a brief run as a topic of liturgical discussion. The viewpoints ranged from touting this era of the Roman liturgy as the one most in line with the intention of the Council, to viewing it as an inefficient compromise that would threaten the integrity of the so-called Tridentine Missal.
Liberals and Conservatives have seen the later modernizations of the Tridentine Missal as a theoretical corrective to what they have seen as ideological excesses. Traditionalists, meanwhile, see it as something suspect, or, more accurately, something that could compromise the Traditionalist position. Those who are interested in retrieving liturgies of the West's past haven't seemed too interested in commenting on it.
The occasional meme that the Missal of 1965 is what Vatican II intended stretches credibility; Sacrosanctum Concilium gave rather open principles for reform, not specific directives. The task for proscribing directives and interpreting the principles was delegated to Bugnini's concilium. As such, the Council is nearly irrelevant. What is more important is that the modernized Tridentine Missal underwent additional development after 1962. Inter Oecumenici (1964) further streamlined the modernized Tridentine Missal (by the suppression of prayers), opened up additional avenues for the vernacular and congregational singing/chanting, and established a formal rite of communion for the laity. Tres Abhinc Annos (1967) made additional simplifications and permitted total or near total celebration of the old Missal in the vernacular and the use of the nascent Weekday Lectionary. Finally, in 1968 the use of three additional 'Eucharistic Prayers" would be permitted.
This is where the Tridentine Missal, in its final modernized form, stood at the end of the "Tridentine era" and the dawn of Novus Ordo. Inter Oecumenici and Tres Abhinc Annos both spoke of a general reform of the Order of the Mass to follow. What that meant and how it was interpreted in 1964 and again in 1967 is up for debate. Did the phrase "general reform of the order of the Mass" adequately convey the complete reconstruction of the Roman liturgy's euchological corpus was around the corner? Perhaps it did, but perhaps not. Historically, however, the modernized Roman liturgy that has become the banner of Traditionalists reaches the last stage in its development in 1967 or 1968. This indicates just how artificial the insistence upon the exclusive use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 by Traditionalist groups really is.
By the very introductory matter supplied by John XXIII, the Missale Romanum of 1962 was itself intended to be a transitional edition. The Council would address questions of the general liturgical renewal. Until such time, the changes introduced by John XXIII were a stop -gap measure intended to introduce changes thought to be of an immediate necessity. The Council would tackle the problem of more substantial liturgical reform. The reforms presented in 1965 and 1967 are, then, further revisions on the trajectory of the reforms of 1962.
The reformed Missal of 1962's status has always been predicated on the targeted initiative of Rome to keep the schism brought by the SSPX from growing any larger. This was made plain by Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying explanatory letter. There is a very real sense in which it can and should be argued that any discussion on the "traditional" Roman liturgy ought to be centered on the Roman Missal as it stood in either 1965 or 1967, as these were the last editions of the Missal prior to the Roman Mass being thoroughly revised via a comprehensive liturgical reform.
It is perhaps a tad absurd to talk of the later modernized Tridentine Missal as fulfilling the requirements of the Second Vatican Council on account of the very broad language used in Sacrosanctum Concilum. This said, this final editions of the Tridentine era were produced under the principles of reform enunciated by the document. These missals demonstrate that the old Roman liturgy could indeed be adaptable to the standards of modern liturgics upheld by the Council. Today, when the perspective on the Council is coming into increasingly critical focus, would seem to be an opportune time to revisit the Roman Missal as it was revised in light of the Council's constitution of the liturgy, and subsequent documents.
Additionally, the Roman Missal of 1965 ought to provide some well needed perspective on the Missal of 1962. The Missal of 1962 has been the focus of all the post-Conciliar liturgical debate. It has become, rightly or wrongly, the banner of Traditionalists. Yet, it was a product of the modernization of the Roman Rite. We can, with some perspective, stop tying the Roman liturgy as it stood in 1962 as the embodiment of idealization of Tradition, or, worse still, attach to it expectations and assumptions with which it has little relevance. Rather, the Missal and Breviary in force before the Council could be seen in the light of their own context and merits and celebrated on their own terms.