In "What is wrong with the Novus Ordo Missae?" on the official SSPX website, the following statement is made (emphasis mine):

Let us first examine the elements of the Novus Ordo Missae. Some are Catholic:

  • a priest,
  • bread and wine,
  • genuflections,
  • signs of the Cross, etc.,

but some are Protestant:

  • a table,
  • common-place utensils,
  • communion under both kinds and in the hand, etc.

[…] Indeed, the Novus Ordo Missae presents itself as:

  • a meal (vs. principle 11). This is shown by its use of a table around which the people of God gather to offer bread and wine (vs. principle 18) and to communicate from rather common-place utensils, often under both kinds (vs. principle 15), and usually in the hand (vs. principle 16). (Note too the almost complete deletion of references to sacrifice).

Having been to many Novus Ordo masses, I have no idea what the alleged common-place utensils might be. I don't see a fork and knife on the altar, nor anything else I would identify as a utensil.

What is the SSPX interpreting as being "common-place utensils"?

  • 2
    Our lord himself said the first Mass at the Last Supper on a table!
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 12 '19 at 0:52
  • 1
    This question may inspire debate in some. As some will be pro Extraordinary Rite and others will be pro Ordinary Rite. Let the squabbling begin. Interpretation in this subject is huge.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 12 '19 at 1:21
  • 1
    There may be different personal opinions, but the authors of that article clearly had some things in mind and not others.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 12 '19 at 1:45
  • @KenGraham The SSPX thinks that something counts as "common-place utensils". I am wanting to know what, in their mind, that would be. I've rephrased a question a bit. Is there something I can do to further clarify that I'm not looking for an objective truth, but rather an explanation of the SSPX's views? Aug 12 '19 at 1:51
  • @KenGraham He did? cf. How Christ Said the First Mass by Fr. James L. Meagher.
    – Geremia
    Aug 12 '19 at 2:59

It's probably referring to the use of non-gilded ciboria and chalices instead of gilded ones like these:

gilded ciborium and chalice

Fr. Hardon, S.J., says that before Vatican II they were all gold or gold-plated:


The cup-shaped vessel or goblet used at Mass to contain the Precious Blood of Christ. For centuries it was made of precious material; if it was not of gold, the interior of the cup was gold-plated. Since the Second Vatican Council, chalices may be of other materials. A chalice is consecrated with holy chrism by a bishop. Regilding the inside does not destroy the consecration. sometimes the word chalice designates its contents. (Etym. Latin calix, cup, goblet, drinking vessel, chalice.)

The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, like much of post-Vatican II documents, lays down a norm:

  1. Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside.

And then gives many exceptions:

  1. In the dioceses of the United States of America, sacred vessels may also be made from other solid materials that, according to the common estimation in each region, are precious, for example, ebony or other hard woods, provided that such materials are suited to sacred use and do not easily break or deteriorate. This applies to all vessels which hold the hosts, such as the paten, the ciborium, the pyx, the monstrance, and other things of this kind.
  • But many protestants do use gold/gold plated chalices.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 12 '19 at 6:14
  • The commonplace utensils seem to be more those things that may be seem as Protestant in nature than either /or both Protestant and Catholic in useage.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 12 '19 at 10:12
  • Can you add a picture of a non-gilded chalice to show the difference? Aside from the bits of metal at the bottom, that looks like the sort I’ve seen at a Novus Ordo mass, so either I’m not seeing the difference, or it’s not universal to have the sort they describe. Aug 12 '19 at 13:11

What are the “common-place utensils” that SSPX says occur in a Novus Ordo mass?

How do we interpret their interpretation of the phrase of commonplace utensils in the first place?

They seem to refer to those elements of the Ordinary Form of the Mass that make it resemble more an (agape feast/meal) rather than the sacrifice of the Mass (of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross).

First of all, Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night before he died celebrated the Last Supper on a table.

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table ... - John 13-17

Their first commonplace item is essentially the table in lieu of an altar in stone. But actually the altars used by the Apostles themselves were made of wood.

The earliest Christian altars were of wood, and identical in form with the ordinary house tables. The tables represented in the Eucharistic frescoes of the catacombs enable us to obtain an idea of their appearance. The most ancient, as well as the most remarkable, of these frescoes, that of the Fractio Panis found in the Capella Greca, which dates from the first decades of the second century, shows seven persons seated on a semi-circular divan before a table of the same form. Tabular-shaped altars of wood continued in use till well on in the Middle Ages. St. Athanasius speaks of a wooden altar which was burned by the Count Heraclius (Athan. ad Mon., lvi), and St. Augustine relates that the Donatists tore apart a wooden altar under which the orthodox Bishop Maximianus had taken refuge (Ep. clxxxv, ch. vii, P.L., XXXIII, 805). The first legislation against such altars dates from the year 517, when the Council of Epaon, in Gaul, forbade the consecration of any but stone Altars (Mansi, Coll. Conc., VIII, 562). But this prohibition concerned only a small part of the Christian world, and for several centuries afterwards altars of wood were used, until the growing preference for altars of more durable material finally supplanted them. The two table altars preserved in the churches of St. John Lateran and St. Pudentiana are the only ancient altars of wood that have been preserved. According to a local tradition, St. Peter offered the Holy Sacrifice on each, but the evidence for this is not convincing. The earliest stone altars were the tombs of the martyrs interred in the Roman Catacombs. The practice of celebrating Mass on the tombs of martyrs can be traced with a large degree of probability to the first quarter of the second century. The Fractio Panis fresco of the Capella Greca, which belongs to this period is located in the apse directly above a small cavity which Wilpert supposes (Fractio Panis, 18) to have contained the relics of a martyr, and it is highly probable that the stone covering this tomb served as an altar. But the celebration of the Eucharist on the tombs of martyrs in the Catacombs was, even in the first age, the exception rather than the rule. (See ARCOSOLIUM) The regular Sunday services were held in the private houses which were the churches of the period. Nevertheless. the idea of the stone altar, the use of which afterwards became universal in the West, is evidently derived from the custom of celebrating the anniversaries and other feasts in honour of those who died for the Faith. Probably, the custom itself was suggested by the message in the Apocalypse (vi, 9) "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God." With the age of peace, and especially under the pontificate of Pope Damasus (366-384), basilicas and chapels were erected in Rome and elsewhere in honour of the most famous martyrs, and the altars, when at all possible, were located directly above their tombs. - History of the Christian Altar (Catholic Encyclopedia)

The interpretation of the the phrase of commonplace utensils are those things in the eyes of those who wrote this article that make the Ordinary Rite of the Mass resemble more a meal than a sacrifice. But it is all interpretation and it should be noted that Michael Davies was not a theologian, but a British school teacher and prolific traditionalist apologist.

As for communion in the hands, the Second Vatican Council was against the whole idea and was actually seen as a liturgical abuse.

The key document relative to the distribution of Holy Communion in the hand is the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship Memoriale Domini (29 May 1969) (henceforth M.D.), issued at the direction of Paul VI. Essentially, can you tell us how this document originated and what directives it contained?

The document originated because, in the years immediately following Vatican II, the practice of receiving Communion in the hand became widespread in many countries. This was obviously a liturgical abuse, which put its roots down in those countries where there were already doctrinal problems regarding the Holy Eucharist: Belgium, Holland, France, and Germany. The Holy See, not succeeding in stopping this abuse, decided to consult all the bishops on this question. This decision of Paul VI already allows us to understand the importance of the argument. I say this, because some would maintain that this whole question is only of marginal importance and unimportant.

And what resulted from this consultation?

The majority of bishops expressed their opposition to the introduction of this practice. M.D. acknowledged the outcome of the consultation and confirmed that the universal norm for receiving Communion is precisely that of receiving it directly on the tongue, giving profound reasons for it. At the same time, it consented that the bishops’ conferences of those places in which the abuse was already occurring would be able to request an indult for Communion in the hand, if the bishops were able to achieve a vote of a two-thirds majority in favor of requesting it. - The True Story of Communion in the Hand Revealed

What about the Mass facing the people? We are gathered round the table of the Lord as if it were a meal.

While the 1964 Vatican II document Inter Oecumenici directs that churches should be built to accommodate the option of a priest celebrating Mass from behind the altar opposite or facing the people, it does not directly require any change to the normative orientation. Practice of the now widespread versus populum orientation had been documented more than a decade prior to the Council and had gained popularity such that the required architectural changes yielded practical changes to the way the Mass was preferred to be celebrated by many priests. Some make the claim that even the previous Missal provided the option, which according to their claim, justified versus populum practice prior to the Council.

Even still, many Catholics are unaware that priest are not required to celebrate Mass facing the assembly. Ad orientem is still perfectly valid as an option for the celebration of the Novus Ordo (Ordinary Form of the Mass), provided the physical configuration of any new facilities allow the option of versus populum as well. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) on which these guidelines are based has historically allowed for a priest celebrant's physical and liturgical orientation to be chosen according to the configuration of the church, altar, tabernacle, and so on, including considerations for popular devotion as well as the celebration of special feasts and solemnities. However, GIRM 299 (as well as the USSCB Guidelines for church buildings Built of Living Stones which references this article) does state clearly that "[t]he altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible." Having the option is desirable, but a particular orientation is not mandated. When options are given, the liturgical documents almost always defer to the authority of the local Ordinary (bishop), who may have specific preferences in spite of leeway offered in the documents. In other words, pastors don't always necessarily have every listed option available to them if the bishop has voiced a preference.

The article makes reference to communion under both species as a commonplace utensil part of a meal. But historically this is incorrect.

From the first to the twelfth century

It may be stated as a general fact, that down to the twelfth century, in the West as well as in the East, public Communion in the churches was ordinarily administered and received under both kinds. That such was the practice in Apostolic times is implied in 1 Corinthians 11:28 (see above), nor does the abbreviated reference to the "breaking of bread" in the Acts of the Apostles (ii, 46) prove anything to the contrary. The witness to the same effect for the sub-Apostolic and subsequent ages are too numerous, and the fact itself too clearly beyond dispute, to require that the evidence should be cited here. But side by side with the regular liturgical usage of Communion sub utraque, there existed from the earlist times the custom of communicating in certain cases under one kind alone.

It was the practice in the Early Church to give the Holy Eucharist to children even before they attained the use of reason. It is implied by St. Cyprian (De Lapsis 25) that the chalice alone was offered to them; and St. Augustine, in his incidental references to child Communion, speaks of it as administered under either species (Ep. ccxvii, 5, P.L. XXXIII, 984 sq.), or under the species of wine alone (Opus Imp., II, 30, P.L., XLV, 1154). St. Paulinus of Nola, speaking of newly-baptized children, states that the priest "cruda salutiteris imbuit ora cibis" (Ep. xxxii, 5, P.L., LXI, 333), which is applicable only to the species of wine. In the East also, in some churches at least, children, especially suckling infants, communicated under the species of wine alone (see Dom Martene, De Antiq. Eccl. Ritibus, I, xiv, Gasparri, Tract. canon. SS. Eucharista, II, n. 1121). There are examples, on the other hand, both in the Western and Eastern Churches, of Communion administered to children under the species of bread alone. Thus the Council of Mâcon (586) decreed that the fragments of consecrated bread remaining over after the Sunday communion were to be consumed by children (innocentes) brought to the church for that purpose on the following Wednesday or Friday (Labbe-Cossart VI, 675); and Evagrius (d. 594) tells us that a similar custom existed at Constantinople from ancient times (Hist. Eccl., IV, 36, P.G., LXXXVI. 2769).

The final suppression of intinctio was followed in the thirteenth century by the gradual abolition for the laity of Communion under the species of wine. The desuetude of the chalice was not yet universal in St. Thomas' time (d. 1274): "provide in quibusdam ecclesiis observatur", he says "ut populo sanguis sumendus non detur, sed solum a sacerdote sumatur" (Summa, III, Q. lxxx, a. 12). The Council of Lambeth (1281) directs that wine is to be received by the priest alone, and non-consecrated wine is to be received by the faithful (Mansi, XXIV, 405). It is impossible to say exactly when the new custom became universal or when, by the Church's approval, it acquired the force of law. But such was already the case long the outbreak of the Hussite disturbances, as is clear from the decree of the Council of Constance (see I above). The Council of Basle granted (1433) the use of the chalice to the Calixtines of Bohemia under certain conditions, the chief of which was acknowledgment of Christ's integral presence under either kind. This concession, which had never been approved by any pope, was positively revoked in 1462 by the Nuncio Fantini on the order of Pius II. The Council of Trent while defining the points already mentioned, referred to the pope the decision of the question whether the urgent petition of the German emperor to have the use of the chalice allowed in his dominions be granted; and in 1564 Pius IV authorized some German bishops to permit it in their dioceses, provided certain conditions were fulfilled. But, owing to the inconveniences that were found to result, this concession was withdrawn in the following year. Benedict XIV states (De Missae Sacrif. II, xxii. n. 32) that in his time the kings of France had the privilege of communicating sub utraque at their coronation and on their death-bed. In the eighteenth century the deacon and subdeacon officiating at High Mass in the Church of Saint-Denis, Paris, on Sundays and solemn feasts, and at Cluny on all feasts of obligation, were allowed to receive sub utraque (Benedict XIV, loc. cit.) The only surviving example of this privilege is in the case of the deacon and subdeacon officiating in the solemn Mass of the pope. - Communion under Both Kinds

What other commonplace utensils make the Novus Ordo Mass resemble a meal rather than a sacrifice may be interpreted as being elements of the following:

  • Communion one the hand
  • The sign of peace
  • A wooden table in lieu of a stone altars
  • Communion under both forms
  • Priests face the faithful and not facing East (orientated
  • Use of the vernacular at Mass in lieu of Latin
  • Non-gilded chalices and ciboria in lieu of the traditional gilded ones of precious metals of gold or silver.

The cup portion of the Chalice of Valencia is made of red agate and is considered by many Catholics as the cup Our Lord used at the Last Supper.

The Holy Chalice of Valencia: Is it the Holy Grail?

The Holy Chalice of Valencia: Is it the Holy Grail?

  • 1
    How are the things you mention "commonplace utensils"? I would accept "a table" as an utensil, but it is mentioned extra in the text in question. All the other things a immaterial, so no "utensils".
    – K-HB
    Aug 12 '19 at 7:56
  • "As for communion in the hands" Are you saying that the hands count as commonplace utensils? Or is that a separate matter? I see that's an additional thing that the SSPX doesn't like, but if that's it's own thing, then it's not relevant to the specific question I'm asking. Aug 13 '19 at 2:51
  • @Thunderforge The main problem with their “commonplace utensil” definition and example is that the SSPX do not define it or give examples, thus anyone can give an interpretation to one’s liking. In fact neither answer gives examples of utensils in the strict sense of the word. For me anything that makes the Mass to look more like a meal than a sacrifice is considered as such to them.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 13 '19 at 10:20

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