According to the instruction Inter Oecumenici (1964), certain rites performed during the Mass were to be revised, that the services might “manifest a noble simplicity more attuned to the spirit of the times.” The noble simplicity apparently demanded that the so-called Last Gospel, the soaring prologue to the Gospel of John, was no longer to be said at the end of Mass, thus making it so that the only Catholics who might hear these words all the year round were those who attended the Mass during the day on Christmas. 

Perhaps it is assigned to some other Sunday also; I am not sure. In any case, it was elbowed from its place of honor—from its architectonic centrality. Surely it deserved that honor. No text in Scripture is more comprehensive. None expresses in such a concentrated way what Christians believe about the Godhead and creation, about the Incarnate Word and the salvation of sinful man; about the Cross and the Resurrection; about grace and truth and the light of faith.

I am guessing that the “noble simplicity more attuned to the spirit of the times” was a vague gesture toward the modernist urge to strip away all ornament, to reduce, to lay bare. Otherwise, I can make no sense of it as either a cultural or an intellectual judgment. In what way was life in 1964 simpler than life in 1864? In what way, unless one had embraced an always reductive ideology, was it simpler in 1964 than in 1864 to come to terms with the human story?

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