THE MASS OF THE WESTERN RITE
By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol
Abbot of Farnborough Abbey
THE ROMAN MASS, FROM THE EIGHTH TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY: ADDITIONS TO THE
MASS OF ST. GREGORY
In our fourth chapter we described the Roman Mass in the seventh century.
From the seventh-sixteenth centuries it was to undergo rather important
modifications. Not that there were any essential changes along its
principal lines: the Canon remained invariable. But there were a certain
number of additions in other parts of the Mass.
These are all of Gallican origin, a term which must be understood in its
widest sense, for some of these additions came from Switzerland and Germany
as well as from France. We shall only mention them here, as we shall return
to this subject in Chapter XI, in which the whole Roman Mass is
We have very sufficient material for the study of this period. In the first
place the Sacramentaries and Missals. We have elsewhere described the
transformation of Sacramentaries written for the celebrant alone,
containing only those parts of the Mass which he had to recite, into full
Missals, in which are united all the Epistles, Gospels, and chants of the
Mass; a transformation brought about through many causes, but chiefly
through the multiplication of Low Masses.
There are other documents not less useful: the "Ordines Romani," which
describe the Roman Mass with its various ceremonies. As has been said,
these documents succeed each other from the seventh-sixteenth centuries,
and just as we have had "Ordo I" to guide us in our description of that
Mass in the seventh century, so we have those of a later epoch for the
following period: the "Ordo Romanus III" (ninth-tenth centuries), the "Ordo
Romanas VI" (tenth-eleventh centuries), and the "Ordo XIV," which was that
of the Roman Curia in the fourteenth century exactly at the time when
certain important changes were being made.
Finally we have, especially since the ninth century, treatises on the Mass.
At the Carlovingian Renaissance a strong impulse was given to liturgical
studies. Alcuin Amalarius, Agobard, Florus of Lyon, Rhaban Maur, and
Walafrid Strabo all wrote on various subjects, but especially on the Mass,
unfortunately their works are all rather symbolic than historic, and only
give very little really important information as to their chief subjects.
Rupert, in the twelfth century, is a mere compiler without any originality,
while Honorius of Autun in the same century wrote more especially for
edification. Bernold, in his "Micrologue" (eleventh century), is of greater
value, and Beleth, Jean d'Avranches, above all Durand de Mende in his
"Rationale," deserve serious study. But the most important of all is
Cardinal Lothaire, who became Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), and who wrote
the treatise "De sacro altaris mysterio," which describes the Roman Mass at
this period. These different works on the Mass have been collected since
the sixteenth century by authors like Cochlaeus, Hittorp, and others; but
all such volumes need re-editing, and the different treatises on the Mass
in the Middle Ages ought to be classed methodically.
THE PREPARATION FOR MASS AND THE PRAYERS AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR.--Before
the Introit the Psalm "Judica me," the "Confiteor," the versicles "Aufer a
nobis," the "Oramus te, Domine," were added; and, in Solemn Masses, the
censing of the altar.
Psalm xlii. is indicated in the ancient Missals as a preparation for Mass
since the eleventh century. It is well chosen for such an office; and the
anthem "Introibo ad altare Dei," taken from the text of the Psalm,
emphasizes, as is intended, the principal verse which usually determines
the use of a Psalm.
The Confession of Sins before Mass is mentioned in the "Didache," and other
ancient liturgical books. It is an apostolic practice. The formula here
employed was the "Confiteor," in the form which prevailed from the tenth-
eleventh centuries, and which had been used ever since, though with
numerous variations. It was followed by several versicles and responsories
taken from the Psalms; and these too are one of the most ancient forms of
Then came the "Dominus vobiscum," and the Priest mounted to the altar where
he said the beautiful prayer "Aufer a nobis," from the Leonine
Sacramentary. The "Oramus te" which followed it is less ancient, as the use
of the singular is enough to show (eleventh century); this prayer recalled
the fact that relics of the Saints were beneath the altar (to-day they are
enclosed within the stone of the altar). The kissing of the altar was a
very ancient practice (Chap. XII).
The censing of the altar which now took place is of Gallican origin, and
was only later adopted at Rome.
CHANTS, COLLECTS, AND PROSES.--The Introit and other chants or anthems for
Offertory and Communion underwent no change; nor did the Gradual and
Alleluia or the Tract. But to the "Alleluia" was added the Prose while
Tropes were sometimes added to the "Kyrie," "Gloria in Excelsis," and
Proses were originated, it is thought, in the ninth-tenth centuries, and
the name of their inventor is Notker, a monk of St. Gall. In any case, they
had a great success in Switzerland, Germany, France, and in most of the
Latin countries; it is sufficient to open certain MS. Missals of the
eleventh-fifteenth centuries to see how these Proses had increased and
multiplied. A Trope was a given liturgical text with additional notes and
words added to it. Naturally, the only parts sung suited this kind of
ornament very well. The "Kyrie," the "Benedicamus Domino," the Introits,
and other chants all received Tropes, or, to use the current expression,
were "stuffed" (farcis). As, for example, "Kyrie fons bonitatis, Pater
ingenite, a quo bona cuncta procedunt, eleison." Leon Gautier, who has made
a special study of these Tropes, is very severe in his judgment, and
compares them to mushrooms which threaten to stifle the liturgic text. It
is almost unnecessary to say that Rome never favored this kind of
composition; and that without condemning the Tropes or the Proses or the
Mysteries, she allowed France, Germany, and the other Western countries to
revel in this style of pastime, which gave great joy to the simple,
religious population, but nevertheless threatened to compromise the dignity
of the liturgy.
The Collect, too, underwent no change; and the greater number of those
recited to-day existed in the same form in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory,
or even in those of Gelasius and Leo (fifth-sixth centuries). For the
Credo, cf. Chap. VI.
THE OFFERTORY PRAYERS AND THE CENSING.--The prayers introduced since the
tenth-eleventh centuries were the following:
"Suscipe, Sancte Pater;
Offerimus Tibi, Domine;
Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas,
The use of the singular, the style of these prayers, and the intention of
explaining all the gestures which previously were made in silence, suffices
to class all these in the second zone of Eucharistic devotions. But this
does not mean that they are not often inspired with the breath of true
The Priest, when offering the Host upon the paten, addressed the Father,
begging that the Sacrifice might produce all its effects. The "Suscipe
Sancte Pater" is, however, an ancient prayer of the ninth century. The
prayer when mixing the wine and water, "Deus qui humanae substantiae," is
one of the most beautiful of the Leonine Sacramentary, and of very great
The chalice, like the Host, was offered with a special prayer, "Offerimus
Tibi," and again "In spiritu humilitatis." The terms of the "Veni
sanctificator" and its accompanying blessing have caused some to believe
that there was an "Epiclesis" here. But this is a mistake, and the prayer,
moreover, is of a period when little interest was taken in that question.
At Solemn Masses the censing of the oblations, the altar, the clergy, and
the faithful was accompanied by different prayers: "Per intercessionem,"
"Incensum istud," Dirigatur," "Domine," "Accendat in nobis." Censing under
this form is also of Gallican, or even Carlovingian, origin. As we have
seen, Rome in the seventh century was acquainted with the use of incense
burned in a "thymia-materium," but there was no censing, neither at the
Gospel, nor of the oblations or clergy. Mgr. Batiffol has outlined very
clearly the different stages in these customs (loc. cit., p. 153 seq.). The
invocation of St. Michael at this moment has given rise to a good deal of
discussion, and St. Gabriel, on whom this function more especially
devolved, was sometimes substituted for him. But St. Michael's name can be
justified here, for he was the Angel of the Sacrifice. The censing of the
Gospel is of the same period.
In all these prayers at the censing may be noted the care taken to
emphasize each act of the celebrant with prayer. The presence of the
Ablution, with Psalm xxv., "Lavabo," in this place can easily be explained
by the ancient ceremonies of the Offertory, as well as those of the
censing. It still remains, even in Low Masses, as if in memory of the past.
The "Suscipe Sancta Trinitas," which again is not in the Roman style, where
each prayer is always addressed to the Father by the Son in the Holy Ghost,
is yet ancient, and dates from the ninth century, though it had so many
variants that it sometimes appears like a prayer over the "Diptychs." Its
place, like its text, has varied. We may make the same remark about the age
and use of "Orate fratres" and of "Suscipiat." The "Dominus vobiscum,"
which should naturally precede the "Secret," as it does all prayers of this
kind, was suppressed on account of the use of "Orate fratres."
But if all these prayers have been added to the Offertory, it was, on the
other hand, simplified. The faithful no longer offered the bread and wine,
but the collection, which was made at this moment, and the custom (which
does not prevail in England) of giving blessed bread are memories of it. At
Solemn High Masses the Corporal, chalice, paten, and Host were prepared by
the Deacon. At Pontifical Masses the Prelate left his throne at this moment
and proceeded to the altar, which he kissed, then censed, and lastly
performed the different rites of the Offertory. At Low Masses the Priest
was charged with all this, and he said in a low voice the prayers just
enumerated. At Solemn Masses the custom of singing the verse of a Psalm
remained; this represents the ancient Offertory chant. The collection of
Offertories is an interesting one; for the Psalm has sometimes been
substituted a text taken from another part of Holy Scripture, as, for
example, the beautiful Offertories "Sanctificavit Moyses," "Vir erat in
terra Hus," "Recordare mei" (eighteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-second
Sundays after Pentecost), and "Domine Jesu Christe," from the Mass for the
THE SECRET.--This still remained the culminating point of the Offertory;
before this time it was the only prayer at the offering (cf. Chap. IV). But
it has followed the same law as that of the Collects, the number of which
corresponds to that of the Secrets. The greater part of the most ancient
Secrets were preserved, many being anterior to the ninth century. Happily
the same can be said of the other formulas of this kind, both Collect and
Post-communion; for the genius of composition was lost after the Golden Age
of the Roman liturgy, and Mgr. Batiffol gives an amusing example of the
errors into which modern composers sometimes fall (loc. cit p. 117). Many
similar examples could be found in other prayers of the same period.
THE PREFACE.--These, which were reduced to the number of ten in the
Gregorian Sacramentary (there are 267 in the Leonine, and even then the
Sacramentary was not complete!), suffered no change. It is said that the
Preface of the Blessed Virgin was added by Pope Urban II in 1095, to beg
the help of Our Lady for the First Crusade
THE CANON.--This again remained unchanged, as it had from the time of St.
THE COMMUNION.--This too was simplified, since the faithful no longer
brought with them the bread and wine; unleavened bread was used, often
under the form of a small Host; and Communion under the species of wine was
But certain prayers were added. In the first place the first three
"Domine, Jesu Christe, qui dixisti;
Domine . . . qui ex voluntate
Perceptio corporis tui."
These three were all prayers of private devotion, as the singular number
proves; they have slipped into the Missals since the eleventh century. The
first is a prayer for the Peace of the Church, inspired by the "Te igitur"
the third is a commentary on a thought which was very frequent in ancient
devotions: "Perceptio corporis tui non mihi proveniat in judicium." All
three are directly addressed to God the Son, as is often the case in the
Gallican and Mozarabic liturgies, while those of Roman origin are always
addressed to the Father by the Son. Other prayers of this kind can be found
in the Missals of the Middle Ages, but these were the most popular, and for
the sake of their ring of true devotion they deserved to pass into the
Roman Missal. The prayers which follow:
"Domine, non sum dignus;"
form a little collection of prayers from various sources, the greater
number of which are intended to emphasize and explain each phase of the
Communion of the Priest; the first and third for that under the species of
bread, the fourth and fifth for that under the species of wine, while the
seventh is for the Ablutions. Among these prayers the "Domine, non sum
dignus" is a well-known passage from the Gospel (St. Matt. viii. 8), the
"Quod ore" is a Roman Post-communion of the Leonine Sacramentary, and the
"Corpus tuum" a Gallican Post-communion.
The little ceremonial for the Communion of the faithful is also later than
St. Gregory's day, when Communion was given with no other words but "Corpus
Christi" and "Sanguis Christi," to which the communicant responded "Amen."
The ceremonial is doubtless that used when Communion was given outside
Mass, more especially to the sick. It is made up of duplicates, that is, of
prayers already used in Mass: the "Confiteor," "Ecce Agnus Dei," "Domine,
non sum dignus," "Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam
in vitam aeternam, Amen."
The end of Mass was also enriched (if we may use the term) by the following
prayers: "Placeat Tibi;" "Benedicat vos," Last Gospel.
The "Placeat" recalls the "Suscipe," "Sancta Trinitas" of the Offertory,
but is of much less ancient date, and as was said when we spoke of the
latter prayer, its style betrays an origin which is not Roman. In the
ancient Roman formulary the singular number was never used, but the prayer
is found in the Missal of the Roman Curia ever since the eleventh century.
The "Ite, Missa est" is, on the contrary, a very ancient formula of
dismissal; we have found it in all the Latin liturgies, and, in one form or
another, in those of the East "Benedicamus Domino" took its place in
certain Masses which were followed by another Office; the faithful then
were not dismissed, but, rather, invited to remain in church. We have also
spoken of the last Blessing, and of the Gospel of St. John, which at first
was a private devotion but which was adopted by the Roman Missal.
In the period which followed, sixteenth-twentieth centuries, there are very
few additions to be noted: three Prefaces, and the prayers added by Leo
XIII at the end of Mass.
Among the most notable additions during the time with which this chapter is
occupied are the Masses on the Thursdays in Lent, under Gregory II (715-
731) In the time of St. Gregory I there was neither a Station nor a Mass
for these days. One of his successors (Gregory II) desired to fill in this
gap, and provided a Mass for all Lenten Thursdays. But the most superficial
study of them will show that the composition of these Masses does not at
all harmonize with the rest of the Lenten liturgy; and that the greater
part of the items of which they are made up were borrowed from other
If we wish to keep count of all the other additions brought to the Roman
deposit since the time of St. Gregory, the ceremonies introduced into the
Roman Missal of the ninth-sixteenth centuries must not be overlooked: the
blessing of candles on 2nd February; the blessing of palms; part of the
ceremonies of Holy Week, beginning with the "Exultet;" and the celebration
of Feasts like All Saints, "Corpus Christi," Trinity Sunday, the Immaculate
Conception. But all this is part of the general history of the Roman
liturgy, or Missal, and it is only attached very indirectly to our subject.
Before closing this chapter we must note the character of the changes
produced in the Mass during this period. These changes affect particularly
the beginning of Mass, the Offertory, Communion, and conclusion; the Canon
was respected. The additions mentioned are for the greater part prayers of
private devotion, formerly said by the Priest in the sacristy--in any case,
outside Mass. These, little by little, slipped into Low Masses, and thence
into the Missal. The Mass which up till the ninth century was a public
ceremony of which all the prayers are in the plural, became, through the
multiplication of Low Masses, very often a private devotion. This does not
mean that the Low Mass dates from the ninth century, we have, on the
contrary, examples of it in the fourth and even earlier centuries (cf.
Chap. XII). But the Roman Mass, as described from the seventh-ninth
centuries was the Mass celebrated by the Pope; the Bishops and clergy who
surrounded him "concelebrated" with him, and all the people united with
him. It was a solemn and public ceremony of the whole Christian community,
and, as if to insist on this unity, the "fermentum," or part of the Sacred
Species, was sent to those Priests of the "tituli," or Roman parishes, who,
for some reason or another, were unable to be present at that Mass. Yet
they participated in it by uniting their Consecration to that of the Pope.
Another characteristic to note in these additions is the tendency to
emphasize and explain a gesture by a formula. If it be true, as De Vert
says, that the formula calls forth the gesture, just as the sign of the
Cross is added to the word "Benedicere" to bring out its meaning, the
opposite was also true in the course of the late Middle Ages. In the place
where the gesture had been sufficient, as for the Fraction, the Communion,
the Kissing of the Altar, etc., formulas were added; here an "Aufer a
nobis," there the "Oramus Te," elsewhere the "Quod ore sumpsimus," etc.
If we did not know by other evidence that these additions were not of Roman
origin, we could guess it from the style of the prayers (singular instead
of plural); and from some other features, such as prayers addressed
directly to God the Son, to the Trinity, etc.