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THE MASS OF THE WESTERN RITE

By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol
Abbot of Farnborough Abbey

Preface

Theologians, historians, and liturgiologists are to-day in agreement in  recognizing that the Mass is the most important function of all Christian  worship; and that the greater part of the other rites are in close relation  with the Eucharist.

This affirmation rests upon the most serious study of Christianity, in  antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages; and the various works regarding  the Mass, which have been multiplied in recent years, have merely confirmed  this truth. More and more have the faithful, in their turn, become  convinced of it; while even those who are without the Faith are beginning  to interest themselves in the Mass, and to endeavor to know more of its  history and to understand its meaning.

These facts explain the number of books which have recently appeared on  this subject. A glance at the Bibliography printed at the end of this  Preface will suffice to give an idea of their extent, and may serve as a  guide to those who wish to study the question more deeply. This  consideration might have dissuaded us from adding to all these works (some  of which are excellent) another book on the Mass. But we may first remark  that the "Bibliotheque catholique des sciences religieuses"[1] had, from  the beginning, comprehended in its plan a volume on the Latin Mass as one of  the elements of its synthesis.

Further, it may be noticed that the larger number of the books whose titles  we quote are chiefly, and sometimes entirely, occupied with the Roman Mass,  while our own plan comprises a study of the Latin, or Mass of the Western  Rites; that is, of the Mass as celebrated in Africa, Gaul, Spain, Great  Britain, and Northern Italy and in the other Latin countries in the Middle  Ages, as well as in Rome.

Now this comparison of the different Latin rites is most suggestive. Better  than all other considerations it reveals first the relationship of these  rites, and the fundamental unity of all the liturgies under their different  forms. Then, as we shall see, it throws light on the rites of the Roman  Mass which, consequently on the suppression of some of their number, can  only be understood by comparison with more complete rites. It must be added  that the Mass is so rich in material that each may study it from his own  point of view, and while receiving much benefit from the latest works on  the same subject, may present his own under a new aspect. Thus, following  Mgr. Duchesne's book, Mgr Batiffol thought it worth while to give us his  "Lecons sur la Messe;" and assuredly no one will consider that these  "Lessons" are a repetition of the work of his illustrious predecessor, or  of any of the other books already published upon this subject.

To those who may recognize in our own study views already exposed by one or  other of the authors quoted, we may remark that many articles in our  "Dictionnaire d'archeologie chretienne et de liturgie" (anamnese, anaphore,  canon, etc.) had taken chronological precedence of the greater part of  these books, so that in drawing inspiration from them we have but made use  of the "jus postliminii."

This, then, is the line we shall follow in this new study of the Mass; and,  while conforming with chronology, it seems to us at the same time to be the  most logical. We shall first examine the Mass in the first three centuries,  during which a certain liturgical unity reigned, and while the different  Christian provinces of the West had not each created its own special  liturgy. We shall then explain (Ch. II) how and why, from the fourth to the  seventh century, those liturgical characteristics which distinguish the  various Latin families became definite. According to these principles we  shall attempt to establish the classification of these liturgical families  and their genealogy.

In the following chapters we shall rapidly sketch the general  characteristics of the Mass in Africa, Gaul, Spain, Milan, and Great  Britain. It goes without saying that the Roman liturgy having become our  own, as well as that of the West (with rare exceptions), and also that of  the East, the Far East, and the New World--in short, of most Christian  countries--it demands detailed study, as well as a close following of its  historical development from the fifth to the twentieth century.

We have, according to the usual method, placed in an Excursus certain  questions which would have delayed the progress of the work, since they can  be studied separately. Such are: the chants of the Mass, the liturgical  gestures, the meaning of the word "Missa," the ancient books now united in  the existing Missal, the different kinds of Masses, etc. We hope that those  who are willing to follow us on these lines will arrive at certain  conclusions, and, if they are not specialists (for whom this book is not  written), that their ideas as to the great Christian Sacrifice will be  clearer and more precise.

The Mass as it is to-day, presents itself under a somewhat complicated form  to the non-Catholic, and even to a large number of the faithful. The  ceremonies, readings, chants, and formulas follow each other without much  apparent method or logic. It is a rather composite mosaic, and it must be  confessed that it does seem rather incoherent. Rites, indeed, have been  added to rites; others have been rather unfortunately suppressed, and where  this is the case, gaps, or what have been styled "gaping holes," appear.

But the historical and comparative method applied in this book explains the  greater part of these anomalies, making it fairly easy to reconstitute the  synthesis of the Mass, to grasp the guide-line, and, once in possession of  the general idea which has presided at all these developments, to  understand the whole better when light is thus thrown on the details.

CabrolDom Cabrol

The Mass thus studied throughout its different epochs reveals a magnificent  theological and historical thesis. We have not been able to insist on this  point as strongly as we could have wished, because in the first place these  volumes are not intended to be books of spiritual edification, nor,  strictly speaking, of apologetics. But it seems to us that here facts speak  for themselves, telling us why the Mass has from its very origin taken its  place as the true center of the liturgy; how it has drawn everything to  itself; how at one moment it was almost the whole liturgy, in the sense  that, primitively, all Christian rites gravitated round it.

At the same time Sacrifice and Sacrament, the One Christian Sacrifice and,  if one may say so, the most Divine of the Sacraments, it sums up and  sanctifies all the elements which have made of sacrifice the center of the  greater part of all religions; first, by the idea that man owes to God  homage for the gifts he has received from Him and that he recognizes His  dominion over all creation; then, by the idea that he must expiate his  faults in order to render God favorable to him; lastly, by a certain desire  to unite himself to God by participation in that sacrifice. Thus the Mass  raises the idea of sacrifice to its highest expression, whilst purifying it  from all the false notions which had obscured it in pagan religions.

For the Christian, too, it is the best means by which to unite himself with  his brethren in communion with Christ. Prayer in common, the Kiss of Peace,  above all the participation in the same Banquet of the Body and Blood of  Our Lord are so many expressive, living symbols of Christian unity, of  Catholicity, of charity.

For the Christian, again, the Mass is an efficacious help along the road of  the spiritual life. One of his essential duties, common to all men, is to  praise God in His works, to offer Him our thanks, to present our requests  to Him: in a word, to pray. Now the Mass is the center of the whole Divine  Office; we even believe it would be possible to show that at one time the  first part of the Mass was the most eloquent and, indeed, the only mode of  expression of this official prayer.

The Mass, then, sums up the greatest mysteries of our Faith. The faithful  Catholic is present at the Last Supper, at the Passion and Death of Our  Lord upon the Cross he realizes what Christ has willed by the institution  of this Divine Sacrament and by the accomplishment of His Sacrifice on  Calvary. He is invited to share in that Banquet which was the Last Supper,  when Our Lord gives Himself in Holy Communion; and, being present at the  bloody Sacrifice of Calvary, he sees what Christ has suffered for the sins  of the whole of humanity as well as those of His own disciples.

Theologians and all mystical writers have dwelt upon these different  aspects of the Mass, and when once the claims of erudition and of history  are satisfied it will be easier and more profitable to go direct to these  authors, for so far from being an obstacle, the exact knowledge of facts  is, on the contrary, of the greatest assistance to true piety.

ENDNOTES

1. "La Messe en Occident," of which the present volume is a translation,  was published (1932) in the above series.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

LE BRUN (Pierre), "Explication litterale, historique et dogmatique des  prieres et des ceremonies de la Messe," remains the most complete and  learned work on the Mass. It has been many times republished, and has not  lost its value. (First edition, 4 vols., Paris, 1726.) The first volume  contains the "Explication de la Messe romaine," the second and third,  "Etude des diverses liturgies orientales et occidentales," the fourth,  dissertations on different subjects, notably on the "Silence des prieres de  la Messe."

The work of Mgr. DUCHESNE, "Origines du culte chretien" which is in reality  an "Etude sur la liturgie latine avant Charlemagne" (fourth edition, 1908),  is an admirable synthesis of the Latin liturgies which has on more than one  point shown the subject in a new light, though several syntheses, even in  the opinion of the writer, are subject to revision.

Mgr. BATIFFOL, in his "Lecons sur la Messe" (Paris, 1919), has laid down on  this subject the latest pronouncements of criticism. In the "Eucharistie  (La Presence reelle et la transubstantiation" (fifth edition, revised,  Paris, 1913) he had already studied the history of Eucharistic dogma from  its origins to the Council of Ephesus.

ADRIAN FORTESCUE in "The Mass, a study of the Roman liturgy"(London 1912),  had approached the same subject a few years earlier; his book treats  specially of the history of the Roman Rite. See also his article "Mass" in  the "Catholic Encyclopaedia."

JOH. BRINKTRINE:, the latest comer, "Die Heilige Messe" (Paderborn, 1931),  has also treated the subject specially as a historian and liturgiologist.

M. GIHR, "Le Saint Sacrifice de la Messe" (2 vols., Paris, 19O1), a  theological, ascetical, and liturgical "summa" upon the Mass, containing a  great quantity of information.

AD. FRANZ, "Die Messe im Deutschen Mittelalter "(I vol., 8vo,  Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1902).

Cardinal SCHUSTER, "Liber Sacramentorum, Notes historiques et liturgiques  sur le Missel romain," translated from the Italian (6 vols., Brussels,  1925-1930).

Dom J. DE PUNIET, "La Liturgie de la Messe" (Avignon, 1928). P. MARANGET,  "La Messe romaine" (Brussels, 1925).

Dom E. VANDEUR, "La Sainte Messe "(Maredsous, 1928, seq.). 

The articles "Eucharistie" and "Messe" in the "Dictionnaire de Theologie  catholique," and in DACL (which, once for all, may be said to stand for  "Dictionnaire d'Archeologie chretienne et de Liturgie"), and the same  articles in U. CHEVALIER, "Topo-bibliographie," for the Bibliography; there  is also a Bibliography in FORTESCUE, op. cit., p. 541 seq. In our own  pamphlet on THE MASS there is a chapter on the literature of this subject.  See also in DACL the articles "anamnese," "anaphore," "Communion," "canon,"  "Eucharistie," "elevation," and others mentioned in the course of our work.

Ch. ROEAULT DE FLEURY has written a fine monumental work in his "La Messe,"  consisting chiefly of archeological studies (4to, Paris, 1883-1889). The  most valuable information is to be found here upon the furnishing of  churches, the ornaments and sacred vessels, and upon all those things  connected with the service of the Mass.

AUTHOR'S NOTE.--The works of Duchesne, Batiffol, Gihr, Schuster, and De  Puniet mentioned above have been translated into English.