The period comprising the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries can be regarded as a period of liturgical uniformity. One liturgical historian goes as far as stating that “there is no history of the Mass liturgy between the Councils of Trent and of Vatican II; there is history only of the way in which the Tridentine liturgy was performed.”(24) It is to that period that we turn as we continue our survey of liturgical reforms up to the present.
The protestant reformers had attacked (among other things) private masses, communion under only one species, indulgences and the sacrificial nature of the mass.(25) The Council of Trent was called to deal with the reformer’s challenges, and it finally convened in 1545 after a series of delays. Liturgical issues were only briefly addressed toward the very end of the council, and addressed the most glaring of abuses, such as avarice, irreverence and superstition.(26) In fact, the reforms that resulted from the council were only called for by the council; while being entrusted to the pope to enact them.(27) Because of the doctrinal turmoil of the times, along with the liturgical mindset that had developed up until that time,(28) the reforms eventually enacted by Pope Pius V in 1570 had the result of giving the liturgy the static nature it retained up until modern times. Even though some Council fathers favored the use of the vernacular, allowing such a change would mean an acceptance of one of the reformer’s challenges, something that a defensive-minded council would never approve. Another result of the reform by Pius V was the further clericalization of the liturgy. Again, this was a sad result of the times, since the reformers had challenged the need for an ordained priesthood. In order to favor a more prominent role for the faithful in the liturgy of the mass, one would have to emphasize the common priesthood. That would mean siding with the reformers, and a more active participation by the faithful was not even taken into account. The liturgy by the time of Trent had come to be regarded as “something done by clerics and watched by the people.”(29)
24. Clifford Howell in Cheslyn Jones et al, The Study of Liturgy, p. 241
25. Martin Julian López, La Liturgia De La Iglesia, p. 51.
26. Reinold Theisen “The reform of mass liturgy and the Council of Trent.” Worship 40, no. 9: p. 19.
27. John O’Malley,”Trent and Vernacular Liturgy.” America 29 Jan. 2007, p.16.
28. Cheslyn Jones et al, The Study of Liturgy, p. 242.
29. Ibid,. p. 243.