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Cabrol F. Chapter X. The rites derived from the Roman Mass from ninth-sixteenth centuries


By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol



The rite of Lyon. — The Carthusians. — Benedictine liturgy. — Cistercians, — Carmelites. — Dominicans. — Franciscans. — Praemonstratensians. — The Roman liturgy in England.

If a special place has been given in these chapters to the Roman Mass, it is not only because this liturgy is that of the whole Latin church with the few exceptions mentioned; it is also because it is the most ancient of all, or at least that about which exist the most ancient and numerous documents. Again, it appears incontestable that the Roman liturgy excels all others in its dogmatic authority, and even in its literary beauty.

If the Mozarabic, Gallican, and Eastern liturgies show a trace of lyrical inspiration; if they are more dramatic in character, more fervent in piety than that of Rome; if this latter has perhaps less originality and brilliance, it makes up for it by the possession of qualities which are those of the Roman genius; those which strike us in the architectural monuments of Rome: solidity, grandeur, strength, and a simplicity which excludes neither nobility nor elegance.

This remark is especially deserved by the ancient Roman liturgy of the fifth-seventh centuries, for this was its Golden Age. Two hundred years after the time of St. Gregory, in the ninth century, the scepter had passed to other lands: to France, England, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain. It was in those countries that liturgical initiative was found, that new Feasts and fresh rites were created, new formulas composed, a more rational system instituted for the distribution of liturgical books, as well as fresh technical methods of decorating and illuminating them. In consequence of political circumstances Rome was about to lose all she had gained as to the liturgy; and it was not for two or three hundred years that she would recover her scepter.

But by a rather curious stroke of fortune all the new customs originated in the countries just mentioned came back to Rome. They returned there under the covers of the Missal, the Pontifical, Ritual, Breviary, and those other books called Roman, but which are really and more justly Gallicano or Germano-Roman. And, from the eleventh century onwards, Rome got back all her advantages. The reawakening of her liturgical activity was manifested by the efforts of Pope Alexander II (1061-1073), and later by those of St. Gregory VII (1073-1085) to establish the Roman liturgy in Spain instead of the Mozarabic. This episode is instructive; the latter Pope in his letters on this subject to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre reminds them energetically of the Papal right to the charge of Divine worship, and also to that of establishing the Roman liturgy in all Catholic countries, especially in Spain.

Another indication of the supremacy of the Roman liturgy is that it was adopted by the new Orders, Carthusians, Praemonstratensians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and even by the Carmelites, who had an ancient liturgy of their own; and very soon all these Orders were to become active agents for its spread through all the countries of the West; not, however, without having occasionally modified it. In this great work the Franciscans played the most important part.

The Roman Curia, which until then had celebrated the same Offices as those of the Roman Basilicas, notably of that of the Lateran, which was the cathedral church of Rome, and considered the mother and mistress of all churches, separated itself from these at the beginning of the twelfth century, and fixed its own Office for the Breviary. The substance of this Breviary was actually that of the Lateran, but it differed on several points, and, above all, it was very much abridged. The same thing happened in the case of the Missal. The subsequent history of these books is rather curious. Innocent III (1198-1206) revised them. In 1223 St. Francis of Assisi ordained that the Franciscans should henceforth adopt the Roman Office; for hitherto they had simply followed the Office of whatever province they had chanced to find themselves in. This was a means of establishing amongst the Friars Minor that liturgical unity which had previously suffered a great deal. But the liturgy they adopted both for Mass and Office was neither that of the Lateran nor of the Roman Basilicas, but actually that of the Roman Curia, established at the beginning of the twelfth century. This fact was big with consequences for the future. The activity of the Franciscans at that time was prodigious; and in all the countries through which they passed as missionaries they established this use of the Missal and Breviary which they themselves followed; though they slightly modified it, especially in the case of the Franciscan Feasts. In 1277 Nicolas III ordered it to be used by the Roman Basilicas; Gregory IX, from the year 1240, had thought of imposing it on the Universal Church; but that important duty devolved on St. Pius V (1566-1572). In the sixteenth century the Council of Trent, having declared that the liturgical books required revision, confided the task to the Pope, who undertook a work at once difficult and complicated. In 1568 the correction of the Breviary was completed; in 1570, that of the Missal. Every church which could not prove a local use of at least two hundred years was obliged to adopt the Breviary and the Roman Missal.

But long before this date, since the thirteenth, and even the eleventh century, the Religious Orders, both new and old, had adopted a liturgy directly derived from the Roman, especially for Mass.

This point deserves an explanation. We speak sometimes of the Dominican or Franciscan liturgy, or again, that of Lyon, or of the Carmelites, as well as of the English "Uses" of Sarum, Hereford, York, etc. But these terms are rather misleading, for such liturgies are not autonomous, with clearly defined characteristics, like those described in Chapters III-VIII. Not only are they all derived from the Roman liturgy, but some of them are purely and simply that liturgy just as it existed from the eleventh- thirteenth centuries before it underwent certain reforms or suffered the changes imposed upon it subsequently. The Orders and churches in question did not accept these changes, so that the student to-day finds himself in presence of a liturgy which is that of Rome between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, with a few insignificant exceptions. And as we are about to see this is specially the case with regard to the Mass.

THE RITE OF LYON. — It is unnecessary to say that we reject the hypothesis according to which this rite was brought from Asia by St. Pothinus and St. Irenaeus. In studying the origins of the Gallican liturgy we have stated that this "Johannic" thesis has no solid foundation. Nor can it be said that this is the old Gallican liturgy, better preserved in this church than in others. Like all the other Gallican churches, Lyon was obliged to accept the reforms of Pepin and Charlemagne, and to adopt the Roman liturgy, with the addition of certain ancient local uses. But to-day it is generally agreed that the part played by Gallican influence in the rite of Lyon may be increasingly reduced, as indeed is the case with all the other Franco- Gallican rites from the tenth century onwards.

History tells us that towards 789 Charlemagne caused Leidrade, one of his "Missi Dominici," to be elected Archbishop of Lyon; and that he charged him to reorganize public worship on the lines of the customs of the Palatine chapel at Aix-la-Chapelle. The cause of the difference which still exists, on a few points, between the rite of Lyon and those of some other churches, is that the ecclesiastics of Lyon jealously preserved the liturgy given them by Leidrade, without accepting the changes and reforms adopted in the course of the centuries by the Roman Curia. It was not till the eighteenth century that De Montazet, Archbishop of Lyon (1758-1788), unfortunately replaced the venerable liturgy of his church by a neo-Gallican one. Therefore in the nineteenth century Lyon, like all the other churches which had adopted these liturgies, had to come back to that of Rome, though she succeeded in saving some of her ancient usages. Thus she has more numerous Proses: to the fifteen Prefaces of the Roman Mass Lyon adds eight. The prayers at the beginning of Mass, the "Suscipe Sancta Trinitas" and some others, present a slightly different text; the "Libera nos" after the "Pater" is sung at High Mass, as on Good Friday, while after this prayer a blessing is given, as in the old Gallican rite; the beautiful chant of the Fraction "Venite, populi" has been preserved; Pontifical Mass is celebrated with especial solemnity, etc.

THE CARTHUSIANS. — It is a rather curious fact in liturgical history that the Carthusians have preserved the ancient rite more faithfully than the Lyonnais themselves. The liturgical revolution mentioned as having taken place in the eighteenth century was not felt by the Carthusians. This Order, founded in 1084 by St. Bruno, in the mountains of the Chartreuse, had taken the liturgical uses of Grenoble, Vienne, but specially those of Lyon. Its founder, who at first had followed the Rule of St. Benedict, kept some of its practices. These different usages were codified at various periods in the Constitutions which have been preserved, and of which the most complete are the "Statuta Antiqua." The prayer "Pone, Domine, custodiam ori meo," and another, "De latere Domini," recited at Mass, are derived from the rite of Lyon. On certain Feasts three Lessons at the Pre- Mass have been retained. The wine is poured into the chalice at the beginning of Mass, as in the Dominican rite. The oblations of bread and wine (after they have been offered) are covered with the Corporal, as was the custom before the use of the "Palla" had been introduced. "Domine, Jesu Christe" is the only one of the three prayers said before the Communion; those present in choir remain standing during both Consecration and Communion; the Mass terminates with "Ite, Missa est." Before the fourteenth century the Mass of the Dead had a different text from the "Requiem." Some Benedictine uses have been preserved in the Breviary; while others seem to have been derived from the rite of Lyon. For a long time the Carthusian calendar remained the same as the old Roman one; it was only after a very long period that Feasts instituted after the thirteenth century were admitted, and then not without difficulty. In the sixteenth century some reforms were brought about, either as to the correction of the ancient books, or as to bringing them into line with the new rules.

BENEDICTINE LITURGY — On the whole it may be said that the Benedictines have always followed the Roman practice for the Mass. Instituted in the first part of the sixth century, it appears probable that they first followed the Gelasian Sacramentary, adopting the Gregorian in the next generation; this latter being the work of St. Gregory, who was himself a disciple of St. Benedict.

But for the daily Office it is quite a different matter. St. Benedict, while doubtless borrowing a certain number of customs from the Roman Office then in use, organized the Psalter and the Day and Night Hours according to a particular plan which has been followed by the Benedictine Order throughout the centuries, till the present day. Liturgiologists are still discussing what has been the respective influence of one use upon another; but this question cannot be entered into here.

CISTERCIANS. — As is well known, the Cistercians are a reform of the Benedictine Order. Their founder, St. Robert of Molesmes, wished to return to the primitive observance of the Rule in 1098. To this end he rejected all constitutions or additions made since the sixth century. His principle was the same for the liturgy: to bring back the Office as St. Benedict had instituted it. This principle was a good one, but difficult in application, for it was not exactly known in what the "cursus" of St. Benedict's time consisted. Therefore from the beginning there was a good deal of uncertainty. Then scandal was caused by certain suppressions, and in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries they came back to their first attempts as far as the Office was concerned.

As to the Mass, it has been said that the Benedictine Order followed the use of Rome from the beginning. But the Cluniac monks had accepted modifications made since the ninth century, and had introduced a very great solemnity into both Mass and Office. The Cistercian reform consisted in the suppression of all which seemed superfluous, and as concerned the sacred vases and ornaments, in the return to the greatest simplicity. Thus it was not till quite late, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, that the different liturgical colors were admitted. A certain number of Feasts was also suppressed in the calendar. In the seventeenth century the General Chapters ordered a general revision of the liturgical books, and more ancient rites were abandoned.

CARMELITES. — This rite presents a special case. It is that of the church of the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem, which was imposed on the Carmelites about 1210 by St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and which they kept for a long time. It is nothing but a Gallicano-Roman use, brought to Jerusalem by the Crusaders. The Office gave a particular place to all which could recall the Holy Land, such as the Mystery of the Resurrection, or devotion to Our Lady, and had besides several other special customs. In the course of ages the Carmelite liturgy underwent various modifications. The Ordinal of Master Sibert de Beka (d. 1332), which has been most carefully published, preserves all the ancient uses conformably to the rite of the Holy Sepulcher. It is in this document that the Carmelite liturgy should be studied.

DOMINICANS. — This Order had no special liturgy at its beginning, but adopted that of the provinces through which the Friars first spread. To prevent the inconvenience of this variety the Order sought, from the year 1245, to establish liturgical unity. To this end efforts were made in 1244, 1246, and 1251. Finally Humbert de Romans, the Master-General (1254-1263), was charged with this revision. He accomplished an enormous work; and in fourteen volumes published the Lectionary, Antiphonary, Psalter, book of Collects, Martyrology, Processional, Gradual, a Missal for the high altar and one for the other altars in the church, a Breviary for the Choir and a portable Breviary, a book of the Epistles and another of the Gospels. When in 1568 and 1570 St. Pius V imposed the corrected Missal and Breviary on the whole Church, the Dominicans were allowed to retain their own use, which dated back more than 200 years.

This liturgy is not, as has been thought, a Gallican, and more specifically, a Parisian liturgy. It is simply Roman, dating from the thirteenth century, and has not evolved as the actual Roman liturgy has done; thus retaining all the ancient customs elsewhere fallen into disuse. Thus a thesis which at first sight appears paradoxical has been advanced, to the effect that the Dominican liturgy is more Roman than that of Rome herself. This, however, is the case with the greater number of these rites, which did not accept the transformations of the Roman liturgy.

FRANCISCANS. — It has been already explained how the Franciscans adopted the liturgy which was that of the Roman Curia at the opening of the thirteenth century. To this they added certain special uses, beginning with the Feasts of the Saints of their Order: St. Francis first; then St. Clare; St. Anthony of Padua; St. Louis, King of France; the Stigmata of St. Francis; St. Elizabeth of Hungary; St. Paschal Baylon; St. Bonaventure. Some of the Feasts of Our Lord and of Our Lady owe, if not their actual institution, at least their speedy popularity to the Franciscans. Such are the Holy Name of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception, the Visitation, and the Presentation. Each Religious Order, each diocese has its own Feasts, its own Patrons, which they celebrate with great solemnity; they are the "Proper," as it is called, of the diocese or Order.

What should be particularly noted about the Franciscans is that, having adopted the liturgy of the Roman Curia, they made a "second edition of it," as Mgr. Batiffol remarks; and this was almost the same as that imposed upon the whole Church for Breviary and Missal by St. Pius V.

PRAEMONSTRATENSIANS. — The Order of St. Norbert, being an Order of Canons, was bound to give special attention to the liturgy. Its Founder adopted that of Rome, just as it was practiced in France at the beginning of the twelfth century, at Premontre, in the diocese of Laon. Until the eighteenth century they kept it piously; and their books are mentioned as being one of the purest sources of the Roman liturgy of the twelfth century. Thanks to this antiquity they too benefited by the exception made by St. Pius V in 1570 in favor of ancient customs. Unfortunately, in the eighteenth century the French Praemonstratensians succumbed to the general temptation, and modified their books in the neo-Gallican sense. In other countries, however, the ancient books were preserved.

THE ROMAN LITURGY IN ENGLAND. — Celtic rites had dominated in England until the arrival of St. Augustine of Canterbury (596). But with the Roman monks the Roman liturgy was established without difficulty wherever Christianity was firmly settled in the land; and the Anglo-Saxons followed it faithfully. Their Bishops and Abbots made frequent journeys to Rome, either to procure the necessary singing-books and those of liturgical interest, or to study the rites more closely. The Norman Conquest of 1066 changed nothing in this regard, for, like all the other French provinces, Normandy had long been conquered by the Roman liturgy. Thus the various rites called the Use of Sarum (Salisbury), York, Bangor, Hereford, and other places, are, like those of the different Orders we have just been studying, only the Roman liturgy previous to the fourteenth century, with a few rare local customs added to it.


"Liturgia, Encyclopedie populaire des connaissances liturgiques" (paris, 1930),contains a chapter on the different Western liturgies and on those of the Carthusians, Carmelites, and other Religious Orders.

DACL, cf. the articles "Carmes," "Chartreux," "Cisterciens," and also "Bretagne (Grande)," "La liturgie de la."

ARCH, A.King, "Notes on the Catholic liturgy" (London, 1930), on the Roman and various Eastern and Western rites.

Our articles "Missel" and "Missel romain" in DACL.

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