The liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council have enjoyed great success in bringing many Catholics closer to the perfect sacrifice of praise that Christ the Lord offered from the wood of the Cross. Perhaps most of all, the reforms of the Missale Romanum, which regulates the celebration of the Eucharist as the "source and summit of the Christian life" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 47), have been the cause and witness of this great work.
The first stages of the postconciliar reform of the Mass were marked by Pope Paul VI's apostolic constitution Missale Romanum (1969), which was quickly followed by the revised Ordo Missae (l970), including the first edition of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (1970). This last document, which described the form for the new Order of Mass, was further revised in 1972 and yet more definitively as a part of the editio typica altera of the Missale Romanum in March 27, 1975.
After many years of preparation, the publication of an editio typica tertia of the Missale Romanum was authorized by Pope John Paul II in the course of the Jubilee Year of our Redemption and was published in spring 2001. This long-awaited revision includes a new edition of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani. On November 12, 2002, the Latin Church members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a translation of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. The translation was confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 17, 2003 (Prot. N. 2235/02/L).
The translation is published in this volume as a revision of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy's Liturgy Documentary Series 2, which first appeared in 1970 and was intended to aid a common understanding of the first edition of the Missale Romanum. With the publication of the third edition of the Missale Romanum, the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy hopes that this edition will assist in that same goal in our present day.
This revised Institutio Generalis possesses a unique role among all the documents on the liturgy. Like its preceding editions, it has been published in order to give life to a dream. It was the dream of reformers such as St. Hippolytus, St. Gregory, and St. Leo. It was the dream of Pope Paul VI and clearly remains the vision of Pope John Paul II, who calls us to "an ever deeper grasp of the liturgy of the Church, celebrated according to the current books and lived above all as a reality in the spiritual order" (Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 1988, no. 14). Likewise, this dream is shared by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that it serves. Finally, it is the vision of the Church itself: the dream of God's people joined to Christ in Baptism and made "ever more holy by conscious, active, and fruitful participation in the mystery of the Eucharist" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 5).
Msgr. James P. Moroney
USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy