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Cabrol F. Chapter IX. The Roman Mass, from the eighth to the sixteenth century: Additions to the Mass of St. Gregory


By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol



THE: DOCUMENTS. — THE MASS. — The Preparation for Mass and the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. — The Chants, Collect, and Proses. — The Prayers of the Offertory and of the Censing. — The Secret. — The Preface. — The Canon. — The Communion.


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 recapitulated.

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]


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 liturgical prayer.

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 "Agnus Dei."

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; 
In spiritu;
Veni sanctificator; 
Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas, 
Orate fratres, 

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 piety.

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 dogmatic importance.

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 Dead, etc.

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. Gregory.

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 suppressed.

But certain prayers were added. In the first place the first three Communion prayers:

"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:

"Panem coelestem;" 
"Domine, non sum dignus;" 
"Corpus Domini;" 
"Quid retribuam;" 
"Sanguis Domini;" 
"Quod ore;" 
"Corpus tuum;"

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 Masses.[4]

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.


1. Cf. "Books of the Latin Liturgy" (Sands, 3s. 6d.), p. 31 seq.
2. Upon "Ordines Romani," cf. p. 43.
3. Cf. Dom Wilmart, "Expositio Missae" in DACL, and our "Introduction aux Etudes Liturgiques" (Paris, 1907).
4. Thanks to a statement of this kind relative to the Communions for the Thursdays in Lent, Dom Cagin has ingeniously drawn up a fresh argument in favor of the authenticity of the Gregorian Sacramentary ("Un mot sur l'antiphonate missarum," Solesmes, 1890. Author not named).

(For bibliography, cf. Chapter IV.)

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