24403371911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 18 — MissalJohn Sutherland Black

MISSAL, the book containing the liturgy, or office of the mass (missa), of the Roman Catholic Church. This name (e.g. Missale gothicum, francorum, gallicanum vetus) began to supersede the older word Sacramentary (sacramentarium, liber sacramentorum) from about the middle of the 8th century.[1] At that period the book so designated contained merely the fixed canon of the mass or consecration prayer (actionem, precem canonicam, canonem actionis), and the variable collects, secretae or orationes super oblata, prefaces, and post-communions for each fast, vigil, festival or feria of the ecclesiastical year; for a due celebration of the Eucharist they required accordingly to be supplemented by other books, such as the Antiphonarium, afterwards called the Graduale, containing the proper antiphons (introits), responsories (graduals), tracts, sequences, offertories, communions and other portions of the communion service designed to be sung by the schola or choir, and the Lectionarium (or epistolarium and evangelistarium) with the proper lessons.[2] Afterwards missals contained more or less fully the antiphons and lessons as well as the prayers proper to the various days, and these were called missalia plenaria. All modern missals are of this last description. The Missale romanum ex decreto ss. concilii tridentini restitutum, now in almost exclusive use throughout the Latin obedience, owes its present form to the council of Trent, which undertook the preparation of a correct and uniform liturgy, and entrusted the work to a committee of its members. This committee had not completed its labours when the council rose, but the pope was instructed to receive its report when ready and to act upon it. The “reformed missal” was promulgated by Pius V. on the 14th of July 1570, and its universal use enjoined, the only exceptions being churches having local liturgies which had been in unbroken use for at least two centuries.[3] It has subsequently undergone slight revisions under Clement VIII. (1604), Urban VIII. (1634) and Leo XIII. (1884), and various new masses, both obligatory and permissive, universal and local, have been added. Although the Roman is very much larger than any other liturgy, the communion office is not in itself inordinately long. The greater part of it is contained in the “ordinary” and “canon” of the mass, usually placed about the middle of the missal, and occupies, though in large type, only a few pages. The work owes its bulk and complexity to two circumstances. On the one hand, in the celebration of the sacrifice of the mass practically nothing is left to the discretion of the officiating priest; everything—what he is to say, the tone and gestures with which he is to say it, the cut and colour of the robe he is to wear—is carefully prescribed in the rubrics.[4] On the other hand, the Roman, like all the Western liturgies, is distinguished from those of the Eastern Church by its flexibility. A distinctive character has been given to the office for each ecclesiastical season, for each fast or festival of the year, almost for each day of the week; and provision has also been made of a suitable communion service for many of the special occasions both of public and of private life.

The different parts of the Roman communion office are not all of the same antiquity. Its essential features are most easily caught, and best understood, by reference to the earliest Sacramentaries (particularly the Gregorian, which was avowedly the basis of the labours of the Tridentine committee), to the Gregorian Antiphonary, and to the oldest redaction of the Ordo romanus.[5] The account of the mass (qualiter Missa Romana celebratur) as given by the sacramentarium gregorianum is to the effect that there is in the first place “the Introit according to the time, whether for a festival or for a common day; thereafter Kyrie eleison. (In addition to this Gloria in excelsis Deo is said if a bishop be [the celebrant], though only on Sundays and festivals; but a priest is by no means to say it, except only at Eastertide. When there is a litany (quando letania agitur) neither Gloria in excelsis nor Alleluia is sung.) Afterwards the Oratio is said, whereupon follows the Apostolus, also the Gradual and Alleluia. Afterwards the Gospel is read. Then comes the Offertorium,[6] and the Oratio super oblata is said.” Then follow the Sursum corda, the Preface, Canon, Lord’s Prayer and “embolism” (ἐμβόλισμα or insertion, Libera nos, Domine), given at full length precisely as they still occur in the Roman missal.

In every liturgy of all the five groups a passage similar to this occurs, beginning with Sursum corda, followed by a Preface and the recitation of the Sanctus or Angelic Hymn. The “canon” or consecration prayer, which in all of them comes immediately after, invariably contains our Lord’s words of institution, and (except in the Nestorian liturgy) concludes with the Lord’s Prayer and “embolism.” But there are certain differences of arrangement, by which the groups of liturgies can be classified. Thus it is distinctive of the liturgy of Jerusalem that the “great intercession” for the quick and the dead follows the words of institution and an Epiklesis (ἐπίκλησις τοῦ πνεύματος ἁγίου) or petition for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts; in the Alexandrian the “great intercession” has its place in the Preface; in the East Syrian it comes between the words of restitution and the Epiklesis; in the Ephesine it comes before the Preface; while in the Roman it is divided into two, the commemoration of the living being before, and that of the dead after, the words of institution. Other distinctive features of the Roman liturgy are (1) the position of the “Pax” after the consecration, and not as in all the other liturgies at a very early stage of the service, before the Preface even; and (2) the absence of the Epiklesis common to all the others.[7] The words of its “canonical prayer” are of unknown antiquity; they are found in the extant manuscripts of the Sacramentarium gelasianum, and were already old and of forgotten authorship in the time of Gregory the Great, who, in a letter to John, bishop of Syracuse (Registr. Epist. vii. 64), speaks of it as “the prayer composed by a ‘scholastic’ ” (precem quam scholasticus composuerat). The same letter is interesting as containing Gregory’s defence, on the ground of ancient use, of certain parts of the Roman ritual to which the bishop of Syracuse had taken exception as merely borrowed from Constantinople. Thus we learn that, while at Constantinople the Kyrie eleison was said by all simultaneously, it was the Roman custom for the clergy to repeat the words first and for the people to respond, Christe eleison being also repeated an equal number of times. Again, the Lord’s Prayer was said immediately after the consecration aloud by all the people among the Greeks, but at Rome by the priest alone.

The meagre liturgical details furnished by the Sacramentarium gregorianum are supplemented by the texts of the Ordo romanus, the first of which dates from about the year 730. The ritual they enjoin is that for a pontifical high mass in Rome itself; but the differences to be observed by a priest “quando in statione facit missas” are comparatively slight. Subjoined is a précis of Ordo Romanus I.

It is first of all explained that Rome has seven ecclesiastical regions, each with its proper deacons, subdeacons and acolytes. Each region has its own day of the week for high ecclesiastical functions, which are celebrated by each in rotation. [This accounts for the Statio ad S. Mariam Majorem, ad S. Crucem in Jerusalem, ad S. Petrum, &c., prefixed to most of the masses in the Gregorian Sacramentary, and still retained in the “Proprium de Tempore” of the Roman missal.] The regulations for the assembling and marshalling of the procession by which the pontiff is met and then escorted to the appointed station are minutely given, as well as for the adjustment of his vestments “ut bene sedeant,” when the sacristy has been reached. He does not leave the sacristy until the Introit has been begun by the choir in the church. Before the Gloria he takes his stand at the altar, and after the Kyrie Eleison has been sung (the number of times is left to his discretion) he begins the Gloria in excelsis, which is taken up by the choir. During the singing he faces eastward; at its close he turns round for a moment to say “Pax vobis,” and forthwith proceeds to the Oratio.[8] This finished, all seat themselves in order while the subdeacon ascends the ambo and reads [the epistle]. After he has done, the cantor with his book (cantatorio) ascends and gives out the response (Responsum) with the Alleluia and Tractus in addition if the season calls for either. The deacon then silently kisses the feet of the pontiff and receives his blessing in the words “Dominus sit in corde tuo et in labiis tuis.” Preceded by acolytes with lighted candles and subdeacons burning incense, he ascends the ambo, where he reads the Gospel. At the close, with the words “Pax tibi” and “Dominus vobiscum,” the pontiff,[9] after another Oratio, descends to the “sanatorium” accompanied by certain of the inferior clergy, and receives in order the oblations of the rulers (oblationes principum), the archdeacon who follows taking their “amulas” of wine and pouring them into a larger vessel; similar offerings are received from the other ranks and classes present, including the women. This concluded, the pontiff and archdeacon wash their hands, the offerings being meanwhile arranged by the subdeacons on the altar, and water, supplied by the leader of the choir (archiparaphonista), being mingled with the wine. During this ceremony the schola have been engaged in singing the Offertorium; when all is ready the pontiff signs to them to stop, and enters upon the Preface, the subdeacons giving the responses. At the Angelic Hymn (Sanctus) all kneel and continue kneeling, except the pontiff, who rises alone and begins the Canon. At the words “per quem haec omnia” the archdeacon lifts the cup with the oblates, and at “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum” he gives the peace to the clergy in their order, and to the laity. The pontiff then breaks off a particle from the consecrated bread and lays it upon the altar; the rest he places on the paten held by the deacon. It is then distributed while Agnus Dei is sung. The pontiff in communicating puts the particle into the cup, saying, “Fiat commixtio et consecration corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi accipientibus nobis in vitam aeternam.” Those present communicate in their order under this species also. As the pontiff descends into the senatorium to give the communion, the schola begins the communion Antiphon, and continues singing the Psalm until, all the people having communicated, they receive the sign to begin the Gloria, after which, the verse having been again repeated, they stop. The celebrant, then, facing eastward, offers the Oratio ad complendum, which being finished the archdeacon says to the people, “Ite, missa est,” they responding with “Deo gratias.”

To complete our idea of the Roman communion office as it was prior to the end of the 8th century we must now turn to the Gregorian Antiphonarius sive gradualis liber ordinatus per circulum anni, which as its name implies contains those variable portions of the mass which were intended to be sung by the schola or choir. It gives for each day for which a proper mass is provided: (1) the Antiphona (Antiphona ad Introitum) and Psalmus; (2) the Responsorium and Versus, with its Alleluia and Versus; (3) the Offertorium and Versus; (4) the Communio and Psalmus. Some explanation of each of these terms is necessary. (1) The word Antiphon (ἀντίφωνον, O.Eng. Antefn, Eng. Anthem) in its ecclesiastical use has reference to the very ancient practice of relieving the voices of the singers by dividing the work between alternate choirs. In one of its most usual meanings it has the special signification of a sentence (usually scriptural) constantly sung by one choir between the verses of a psalm or hymn sung by another. According to the Roman liturgiologists it was Pope Celestine who enjoined that the Psalms of David should be sung (in rotation, one presumes) antiphonally before mass; in process of time the antiphon came to be sung at the beginning and end only, and the psalm itself was reduced to a single verse. In the days of Gregory the Great the introit appears to have been sung precisely as at present—that is to say, after the antiphon proper, the Psalmus with its Gloria, then the antiphon again. (2) The Responsorium, introduced between the epistle and gospel, was probably at first an entire psalm or canticle, originally given out by the cantor from the steps from which the epistle had been read (hence the later name Graduale), the response being taken up by the whole choir. (3) The Offertorium and Communio correspond to the “hymn from the book of Psalms” mentioned by early authorities (see, for example, Augustine, Retr. ii. 11; Ap. Const. viii. 13) as sung before the oblation, and also while that which had been offered was being distributed to the people. A very intimate connexion between these four parts of the choral service can generally be observed; thus, taking the first Sunday in the ecclesiastical year, we find both in the Antiphonary and in the modern Missal that the antiphon is Ps. xxv. 1-3, the psalmus Ps. xxv. 4, the responsorium (graduale) and versus Ps. xxv. 3 and xxv. 4, the offertorium and versus Ps. xxv. 1-3 and xxv. 5. The communio is Ps. lxxxv. 12, one of the verses of the responsorium being Ps. lxxxv. 7. In the selection of the introits there are also traces of a certain rotation of the psalms in the Psalter having been observed.

The first pages of the modern Roman missal are occupied with the Calendar and a variety of explanations relating to the year and its parts, and the manner of determining the movable feasts. The general rubrics (Rubricae generales missalis) follow, explaining what are the various kinds of mass which may be celebrated, prescribing the hours of celebration, the kind and colour of vestments to be used, and the ritual to be followed (ritus celebrandi missam), and giving directions as to what is to be done in case of various defects or imperfections which may arise. The Praeparatio ad missam, which comes next, is a short manual of devotion containing psalms, hymns and prayers to be used as opportunity may occur before and after celebration. Next comes the proper of the season (Proprium missarum de tempore), occupying more than half of the entire Volume. It contains the proper introit, collect (one or more), epistle, gradual (tract or sequence), gospel, offertory, secreta (one or more), communion and post-communion for every Sunday of the year, and also for the festivals and ferias connected with the ecclesiastical seasons, as well as the offices peculiar to the ember days, Holy Week, Easter and Whitsuntide. Between the office for Holy Saturday and that for Easter Sunday the ordinary of the mass (Ordo missae), with the solemn and proper prefaces for the year, and the canon of the mass are inserted. The proper of the season is followed by the proper of the saints (Proprium sanctorum), containing what is special to each saint’s day in the order of the calendar, and by the Commune sanctorum, containing such offices as the common of one martyr and bishop, the common of one martyr not a bishop, the common of many martyrs in paschal time, the common of many martyrs out of paschal time, and the like. A variety of masses to be used at the feast of the dedication of a church, of masses for the dead, and of votive masses (as for the sick, for persons journeying, for bridegroom and bride) follow, and also certain benedictions. Most missals have an appendix also containing certain local masses of saints to be celebrated “ex indulto apostolico.”

Masses fall into two great subdivisions: (1) ordinary or regular (secundum ordinem officii), celebrated according to the regular rotation of fast and feast, vigil and feria, in the calendar; (2) extraordinary or occasional (extra ordinem officii), being either “votive” of “for the dead,” and from the nature of the case having no definite time prescribed for them. Festival masses are either double, half-double or simple, an ordinary Sunday mass being a half-double. The difference depends on the number of collects and secretae; on a double only one of each is offered, on a half-double there are two or three, and on a simple there may be as many as five, or even seven, of each. Any mass may be either high (missa solennis) or low (missa privata). The distinction depends upon the number of officiating clergy, certain differences of practice as to what is pronounced aloud and what inaudibly, the use or absence of incense, certain gestures and the like. Solitary masses are forbidden; there must be at least an acolyte to give the responses. The vestments prescribed for the priest are the amice, alb, cingulum or girdle, maniple, stole and chasuble (planeta). There are certain distinctions of course for a bishop or abbot. The colour of the vestments and of the drapery of the altar varies according to the day, being either white, red, green, violet or black. This last custom does not go much further back than Innocent III., who explains the symbolism intended (see Vestments).

Subjoined is an account of the manner of celebrating high mass according to the rite at present in force.

1. The priest who is to celebrate, having previously confessed (if necessary) and having finished matins and lauds, is to seek leisure for private prayer (fasting) and to use as he has opportunity the “prayers before mass” already referred to. How the robing in the sacristy is next to be gone about is minutely prescribed, and prayers are given to be used as each article is put on. The sacramental elements having previously been placed on the altar or on a credence table, the celebrant enters the church and takes his stand before the lowest step of the altar, having the deacon on his right and the subdeacon on his left. After invoking the Trinity (In nomine Patris, &c.) he repeats alternately with those who are with him the psalm “Judica me, Deus,” which is preceded in the usual way by an antiphon (Introibo ad altare Dei), and followed also by the Gloria and Antiphon.[10] The versicle “Adjutorium nostrum,” with its response “Qui fecit,” is followed by the “Confiteor,”[11] said alternately by the priest and by the attendants, who in turn respond with the prayer for divine forgiveness, “Misereatur.” The priest then gives the absolution (“Indulgentiam”), and after the versicles and responses beginning “Deus, tu conversus” he audibly says, “Oremus,” and ascending to the altar silently offers two short prayers, one asking for forgiveness and liberty of access through Christ, and another indulgence for himself, “through the merits of the saints whose relics are here." Receiving the thurible from the deacon he censes the altar, and is thereafter himself censed by the deacon. He then reads the Introit, which is also sung by the choir; the Kyrie eleison is then said, after which the words Gloria in excelsis[12] are sung by the celebrant and the rest of the hymn completed by the choir.

2. Kissing the altar, and turning to the people with the formula “Dominus vobiscum,” the celebrant proceeds with the collect or collects proper to the season or day, which are read secretly. The epistle for the day is then read by the subdeacon, and is followed by the gradual, tract, alleluia or sequence, according to the time.[13] This finished, the deacon places the book of the gospels on the altar, and the celebrant blesses the incense. The deacon kneels before the altar and offers the prayer “Munda cor meum,” afterwards takes the book from the altar, and kneeling before the celebrant asks his blessing, which he receives with the words “Dominus sit in corde tuo.” Having kissed the hand of the priest, he goes accompanied by acolytes with incense and lighted candles to the pulpit, and with a “Dominus vobiscum” and minutely prescribed crossings and censings gives out and reads the gospel for the day, at the close of which “Laus tibi, Christe” is said, and the book is brought to the celebrant and kissed with the words “Per evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta.” The celebrant then standing at the middle of the altar sings the words “Credo in unum Deum,” and the rest of the Nicene creed is sung by the choir.[14]

3. With “Dominus vobiscum” and “Oremus” the celebrant proceeds to read the offertory, which is also sung by the choir. This finished he receives the paten with the host from the deacon, and after offering the host with the prayer beginning “Suscipe, Sancte Pater” places it upon the corporal. The deacon then ministers wine and the subdeacon water, and before the celebrant mixes the water with the wine he blesses it in the prayer “Deus qui humanae." He then takes the chalice, and having offered it (“Offerimus tibi, Domine”) places it upon the corporal and covers it with the pall. Slightly bowing over the altar, he then offers the prayer “In spiritu humilitatis,” and, lifting up his eyes and stretching out his hands, proceeds with “Veni sanctificator.” After blessing the incense (“Per intercessionem beati Michaelis archangeli”) he takes the thurible from the deacon and censes the bread and wine and altar, and is afterwards himself censed as well as the others in their order. Next going to the epistle side of the altar he washes his fingers as he recites the verses of the 26th Psalm beginning “Lavabo.” Returning and bowing before the middle of the altar, with joined hands he says, “Suscipe, sancta Trinitas,” then turning himself towards the people he raises his voice a little and says, “Orate, fratres” (“that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty”), the response to which is “Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis,” &c. He then recites the secret prayer or prayers, and at the end says, with an audible voice, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum” (R. “Amen”).

4. Again saluting with a “Dominus vobiscum,” he lifts up his hands and goes on to the Sursum corda, and the rest of the Preface. A different intonation is given for each of the prefaces.[15] At the Sanctus the handbell is rung. If there is a choir the Sanctus is sung while the celebrant goes on with the canon.[16] After the words of consecration of the wafer, which are said “secretly, distinctly and attentively,” the celebrant kneels and adores the host, rising elevates it, and replacing it on the corporal again adores it (the bell meanwhile being rung).[17] The same rite is observed when the chalice is consecrated. Immediately before the Lord’s Prayer, at the words “per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso,” the sign of the cross is made three times over the chalice with the host, and towards the close of the “embolism” the fraction of the host takes place, After the words “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum” the emission of the particle into the cup takes place with the words “Haec commixtio et consecratio,” &c. The celebrant then says the Agnus Dei three times.

5. While the choir sings the Agnus Dei and the Communion, the celebrant proceeds, still “secrete,” with the remainder of the office, which though printed as part of the canon is more conveniently called the communion and post-communion. After the prayer for the peace and unity of the Church (“Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti”) he salutes the deacon with the kiss of peace, saying, “Pax tecum”; the subdeacon is saluted in like manner, and then conveys the “pax” to the rest of the clergy who may be assisting. The celebrant then communicates under both species with suitable prayers and actions, and afterwards administers the sacrament to the other communicants if there be any. Then while the wine is poured into the cup for the first ablution he says, “Quod ore sumpsimus”; having taken it he says, “Corpus tuum, Domine.” After the second ablution he goes to the book and reads the Communion. Then turning to the people with “Dominus Vobiscum” he reads the post-communion (one or more); turning once more to the congregation he uses the old dismissal formula “Dominus vobiscum” (R. “Et cum spiritu tuo”), and “Ite, missa est” or “Benedicamus Domino,” in those masses from which Gloria in excelsis has been omitted (R. “Deo Gratias”). Bowing down before the altar he offers the prayer “Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitas,” then turning round he makes the sign of the cross over the congregation with the words of the benediction (“Benedicat”).[18] He then reads the passage from the gospel of John beginning with “In principio erat Verbum,” or else the proper gospel of the day.[19]  (J. S. Bl.) 

  1. It first occurs in Ecgbert of York’s De remediis peccatorum, where it refers to the sacramentary of Gregory the Great.
  2. One of the most celebrated of early missals is the Stowe missal of the 6th century in the British Museum. It contains the litany of the saints, the gloria with the collects, the part of the Epistle to the Corinthians relating to the Eucharist, the credo and the consecratio and memento corresponding exactly to the Roman canon. After the daily mass follow the missa apostolorum, missa sanctorum, missa pro poenitentibus vivis and the missa pro mortuis. To the 7th century belong the Missale francorum and the Missale gothicum, originally in the abbey of Fleury. In the 8th century we find in Ecgbert of York’s De remediis peccatorum, i., that those who devote their lives to sacred orders are supposed to furnish themselves with a psalter, lectionary, antiphonary, missal, baptismal office and martyrology. The adoption of the Roman liturgy by Charlemagne explains the great quantity of missals within this period; e.g. the missal of Worms in the library of the Arsenal at Paris. From the 10th century we have the missal of St Vougay, although badly mutilated, and several others. From the 12th century missals became common, and more so with the invention of printing.
  3. The English missal consequently continued to be used by English Roman Catholics until towards the end of the 17th century, when it was superseded by the Roman through Jesuit influence. The Gallican liturgy held its ground until much more recently, but has succumbed under the Ultramontanism of the bishops.
  4. In all the older liturgies the comparative absence of rubrics is conspicuous and sometimes perplexing. It is very noticeable in the Roman Sacramentaries, but the want is to some extent supplied by the very detailed directions for a high pontifical mass in the various texts of the Ordo Romanus mentioned below. That there was no absolutely fixed set of rubrics in use in France during the 8th century is shown by the fact that each priest was required to write out an account of his own practice (“libellum ordinis”) and present it for approbation to the bishop in Lent (see Baluze, Cap. Reg. Franc. i. 824, quoted in Smith’s Dict. of Chr. Antiq. ii. 1521).
  5. For the genealogical relationships of the Roman with other liturgies, see Liturgy. For the doctrines involved in the “sacrifice of the mass,” see Eucharist.
  6. Some editions do not mention the Offertory here.
  7. This was one of the points discussed at the council of Florence, and Cardinal Bessarion for a time succeeded in persuading the Greeks to give up the Epiklesis.
  8. Quam collect am dicunt, Ord. Rom. II.
  9. After singing “Credo in unum Deum,” Ord. Rom. II.
  10. This antiphon is not to be confounded with the Antiphona ad Introitum further on. This use of the 43rd Psalm goes as far back at least as the end of the 11th century, being mentioned by Micrologus (1080). It is omitted in masses for the dead and during Holy Week.
  11. A form very similar to the present is given by Micrologus, and it is foreshadowed even in liturgical literature of the 8th century.
  12. During Lent and Advent, and in masses for the dead, this is omitted. In low masses it is of course said, not sung (if it is to be said). It may be added that this early position of the Gloria in excelsis is one of the features distinguishing Roman from Ephesine use.
  13. The tract is peculiar to certain occasions, especially of a mournful nature, and is sung by a single voice. By a sequence is understood a more or less metrical composition, not in the words of Scripture, having a special bearing on the festival of the day. See, for example, the sequence, “Lauda Sion Salvatorem,” on Corpus Christi day.
  14. On certain days the Credo is omitted.
  15. Now eleven; they were at one time much more numerous.
  16. The approved usage appears to be in that case that it is sung as far as “Hosanna in excelsis” before the elevation, and “Benedictus qui venit” is reserved till afterwards. In France it was a very common custom, made general for a time at the request of Louis XII., to sing “O salutaris hostia” at the elevation.
  17. The history of the practice of elevating the host seems to have arisen out of the custom of holding up the oblations, as mentioned in the Ordo Romanus (see above). The elevation of the host, as at present practised, was first enjoined by Pope Honorius III. The use of the handbell at the elevation is still later, and was first made general by Gregory XI.
  18. The benediction is omitted in masses for the dead.
  19. The reading of the passage from John on days which had not a proper gospel was first enjoined by Pius V.