THE MASS OF THE WESTERN RITE
By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol
Abbot of Farnborough Abbey
THE MASS, FROM THE SIXTEENTH TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: WHAT IT IS TODAY--
There is no lack of witnesses for this period. Here, as elsewhere, the
invention of printing brought about a revolution. Not that the second state
of things destroyed the first, but it must be remembered that up till then
the Missal and all other liturgical books had been copied by hand. Each
copy was private property; and thus very often underwent some modification
in the course of time. However, these liturgical MSS. were the models
copied by the first printers, who drew inspiration from the calligraphy of
the copyists and religiously respected their text, especially during that
first period from the middle of the fifteenth up to the sixteenth century.
The original printed books are imitations of these MSS.; their very
characters singularly resemble that Gothic writing then generally in use.
The earliest printed copies, up to 1600, are "incunabula;" and the most
precious amongst these precious books are the liturgical volumes, Psalters,
Missals, Breviaries, etc.
But these first printed books usually reproduced the text of the MS.
exactly as it was written; no attempt being made to correct it. The
multiplication of copies of the Missal, for example, brought out very
clearly the differences and variations of its text according to the
province in which it was used. This point was noted at the Council of
Trent, and it was resolved to reduce all these texts to one. The Fathers
began with the Breviary and the Missal; and to Pius IV was confided the
task of correction and unification. But this great work was not finished
until the days of St. Pius V, who in the Bull "Quo primum" of 29th July
1570 announced a Missal with an invariable text. Clement VIII and Urban
VIII caused new editions to be made; but the only changes were the addition
of some new Feasts and the modification of a few rubrics.
This Missal of 1570 itself reproduced without much alteration one more
ancient, the first precious original Missal of 1474. This in its turn
conforms to a great extent with an MS. text of about 1200, which was
perhaps written or inspired by Innocent III himself. The text, "Incipit
ordo Missalis secundum consuetudinem Romane Curie," is itself a revelation.
The title of the existing Missal is, simply, "Missale Romanum." That of the
"Curia Romana" was the book used by the Court of Rome from the twelfth-
fourteenth centuries; it differed on several points from the Roman Missal
used in the Roman churches, notably at St. Peter's and the Lateran. The
same may be said of the Breviary used by the Curia, also slightly different
from that of the Roman churches. The Missal and Breviary of the Roman Curia
were adopted by certain Religious Orders, especially the Franciscans, as
was stated in a previous chapter; and these Friars were the chief factor in
their diffusion throughout Christendom.
We may therefore consider the text of the Roman Missal, especially as
regards the Ordinary of the Mass, as fixed from the end of the sixteenth
century: if a precise date and official example be asked, by the Missal of
St. Pius V in 1570. Thus it seems opportune at this point to give a
chronological table of the Mass in which can be seen, at least in some
degree, the different states in which it existed from the fifth-twentieth
centuries, distinguishing the different epochs as far as possible.
The foregoing table presents a synchronism of the Roman Mass as it was
about the fifth-ninth centuries, with the additions received until the
twentieth century. We shall now show the existing Mass with its divisions;
a table which will make it easy to understand the whole, as well as the
dependence of the different parts.
PRE-MASS, OR MASS OF THE CATECHUMENS
A. Introduction, or Prelude.
Preparation in the sacristy.
Prayers at the foot of the altar, sign of the Cross, Psalm xlii.
"Confiteor," versicles, and prayers at the altar. (Censing of altar at
B. Chants, Prayers, Lessons.
Introit, "Kyrie," "Gloria in excelsis."
Reading of the Epistle.
Gradual. "Alleluia" (Tract or Prose).
MASS OF THE FAITHFUL OR EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE
C. Offertory and Offertory Prayers.
Offertory chant. Secret. Preface.
Prayers of the Canon, Consecration, Prayers of Canon continued, and final
"Pater," Fraction, Immixtion.
Communion Prayers, "Agnus Dei," singing of Communion, Post-communion.
F. Close of Mass.
Prayers after the Mass.
Thanksgiving in sacristy.
Lastly, as the fitting conclusion of this exposition, we shall give a few
explanations as to some of the more recent portions of the Mass from the
sixteenth-twentieth centuries, the other necessary explanations being found
in the various chapters of this book.
PREPARATION FOR MASS
Except in the case of Pontifical Masses, when the Prelate recites these
prayers on his throne, reading them from a special liturgical book, the
Canon of Bishops and Prelates, the "Preparatio ad Missam" takes place to-
day in the sacristy. St. Pius V gave a place to these prayers in his
Missal, and the words which follow the title, "Pro opportunitate sacerdotis
facienda," indicate that they are not of obligation, but are left to
private devotion. This preparation is fairly ancient; it is found, with
variations, in MS. Missals from the eleventh century onwards. The devotions
chosen by St. Pius V consist of Psalms lxxxiii., lxxxiv., lxxxv., cxv., and
cxxix., followed by the "Kyrie," "Pater," some versicles, and seven
prayers. This form of prayer conforms to the use of the ancient Roman or
monastic psalmody. It is almost the same as that primitively adopted for
the Little Hours. A long prayer follows, divided according to the days of
the week; and then two others, one of which is attributed to St. Thomas.
The prayer "Summe sacerdos" held an important place in the history of
private devotion in the Middle Ages; it was called the "Prayer of St.
Ambrose," but has been claimed as the work of Jean de Fecamp (twelfth
PREPARATION OF THE CHALICE.--For Low Masses it is usually the Priest
himself who prepares in the sacristy the chalice, Corporal, paten, Host,
and the veil of the chalice; and who carries them to the altar at the
beginning of Mass. At Solemn and Pontifical High Mass it is the Deacon who
spreads the Corporal on the altar, and places the chalice and Host upon it,
as we have seen was the custom in the seventh century (cf. p. 60).
In the Eastern and Gallican rites this preparation is made at the altar or
credence at the beginning of Mass. It is also the custom of the Dominicans
and other Orders.
ORDINARY OF THE MASS
The "Ordo Missae" is to-day united to the Prefaces and Canon: the whole,
for the convenience of the Priest, being placed towards the middle of the
Missal between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday instead of at the beginning.
This "Ordinary of the Mass" is, taken as a whole, the same as that of the
seventh century, as it has been described in Chapter IV, with the
exceptions of the additions which have been pointed out as made between the
PRAYERS AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR.--Psalm xlii., "Confiteor," versicles,
"Aufer a nobis," "Oramus te," and censing(cf. p. 172).
CHANTS, PRAYERS, AND LESSONS:
Introit (cf. Chap. IV).
"Kyrie" (Chap. IV).
"Gloria in excelsis" (Chap. IV).
Collect (Chap. IV).
Lessons (Epistle and other Lessons) (Chap. IV).
Gradual (Chap. IV).
"Alleluia" (Chap. IV).
Tract (Chap. IV)
Proses (Chap. IX).
Gospel (Chap. IV).
Credo (Chap. VI).
OFFERTORY (Chap. IV)
PREFACE (Chap. IV). All the Prefaces and special "Communicantes" are given
at this place in the Ordinary of the Mass.
CANON OF THE MASS:
"Te igitur" (Chap. IV).
Memento (Chap. IV)
"Communicantes" and other prayers (Chap. IV).
Consecration (Chap. IV).
"Anamnesis" and other prayers (Chap. IV).
Memento of the Dead (Chap. IV).
"Nobis quoque" up to doxology (Chap. IV).
"Pater" (Chap. IV).
Fraction, Commixtion (Chap. IV).
"Agnus Dei" and Kiss of Peace (Chap. IV).
Communion of the Priest and the faithful (Chap. IV).
CLOSE OF MASS.--Dismissal. "Placeat tibi." Blessing. Last Gospel. Prayers
When withdrawing, the Priest repeats the canticle "Benedicite."
THANKSGIVING IN THE SACRISTY
The Thanksgiving which in the Missal follows the Preparation is also said
in the sacristy. Like the latter it is contained in the "Canon of the
Prelate," and at Pontifical Masses is said at the throne. It is composed of
the canticle "Benedicite," of Psalm cl., and of three prayers. There
follow, at choice, a prayer of St. Thomas, another of St. Bonaventure, and
the "Adoro Te." (As to this last, cf. Dumoutet, "Revue Apolog.," 1931, p.
NOTE ON THE NEO-GALLICAN LITURGIES
The Gallican liturgy spoken of in Chapter II, which was as orthodox as the
Mozarabic liturgy, must not be confused with the neo-Gallican rites, which
are on the contrary a "liturgical deviation." It has been said how the
Roman had taken the place of the Gallican liturgy in the times of Pepin and
Charlemagne. Ancient Gallican customs, however, remained, and the Roman
books, Missal, Breviary, Pontifical, and Ritual underwent a certain number
of modifications in Gaul from the ninth-fifteenth centuries. But in
substance the Roman liturgy was preserved, and Rome, far from protesting
against these new uses, accepted a great many of them, as we have also
In the sixteenth century the Council of Trent, greatly concerned to note
the liturgical differences, and even errors, which had slipped into certain
Missals and Breviaries, entrusted to the Popes the care of a general
revision of these books. The names of St. Pius V Gregory XIII, Clement
VIII, Paul V, and Urban VIII are attached to this reform. The Bull "Quod a
nobis" (1568) imposed the corrected Breviary on all churches which could
not claim a use of at least two hundred years; the Bull "Quo primum" (1570)
imposed the Missal on the whole Church under the same conditions. The other
liturgical books, Ritual, Pontifical, Ceremonial, Martyrology, were also
corrected during the following years. France gladly accepted these
directions, and took part in the reawakening of liturgical studies. It was
only later, in the last third of the seventeenth century that the movement,
justly called "the liturgical deviation," began to take shape.
Certain Bishops, inspired by their Jansenist or Gallican sentiments,
desired to reform the Missal, Breviary, and other liturgical books contrary
to the law obtaining at that time. The Ritual of Alet, the Breviary of
Vienne the Missal and Breviary of Paris and of other dioceses were remade,
and, unfortunately, in more than one case, Jansenist or Gallican errors
slipped into these books. Another disadvantage was the introduction of
notable differences in the liturgy in different dioceses, and at the time
of the French Revolution the confusion was at its worst. It was Dom
Gueranger, Abbot of Solesmes, who in 1830 began the war against these
liturgies, and who showed that, without speaking of the errors they
contained, they were all illegitimate from birth. This struggle was crowned
with success, and little by little the different dioceses came back to the
Roman liturgy The Bull "Inter multiplices," published in 1853 by Pius IX,
may be considered as the last act in this history.