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Cabrol F. The Mass of the Western Rites. Preface.


By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol


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.

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

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.

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