Литература на иностранных языках - Bibliotheca

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Cabrol F. Chapter XII-1. Excursus. The different names of the Mass and the Word


By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol



I. THE DIFFERENT NAMES OF THE MASS AND THE WORD "Missa" IN PARTICULAR. — II. THE CHANTS OF THE MASS: Parts sung by the Cantors, schola, or people; parts sung or recited aloud by the Priest, and those recited in a low voice. The Gregorian chant. — III. ATTITUDE OF THE FAITHFUL AND LITURGICAL GESTURES DURING MASS. — IV. THE BOOKS OF THE MASS. — V DIFFERENT SORTS OF MASSES.


THE word "Missa" has given rise to numerous dissertations mentioned in the Bibliography, and to long philological discussions. The reason for this is that the term was evolved before it was used to design the Mass. It would seem that the following are the chief stages through which it has passed. One of the clearest texts is that of St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienne (d. 518). Gondebaud asks him the meaning of the word "Missa," he replies that "Missam facere" means "dimittere," or dismiss, and that the expression was used by Romans in audiences at the palace and in sessions of the tribunal to denote that the sitting was over.[1] The phrase was even used by them to denote the end of their sacrifices and religious offices.

The custom of giving a signal to show that an Office is ended is natural enough, and indeed necessary in a numerous assembly. The Christians no doubt accepted it, and Tertullian already speaks of a "Dismissio plebis."[2] St. Ambrose also uses the term "Missa" in this sense (Eph. xx. 4); and I know not why it should be contested, for it appears quite clear (cf. Lejay, article mentioned in Bibliography). St. Augustine uses the word "Missa" in the sense of "Missio," "Dismissio" (dismissal), at the close of the Office. From this Mgr. Batiffol justly concludes that the "Ite, Missa est," which has the same meaning, dates from the same period. The same sense is given to the expression in the "Peregrinatio Etheriae," in the Rule of Aurelian, in Cassian, in St. Benedict. It is the end, not only of the Mass but of every Office. For already in the latter writers, especially in Cassian, the word has taken on this extended meaning and designs every Office, "Missa Canonica," a canonical Office, and "Secunda Missa," the evening Office.

In the sixth century we have texts in which "Missa" means Mass. Thus in Antoninus of Placentia, about 575 — "Missas faciebant" — they said Mass. The same meaning is given in contemporary authors of that age, Gregory of Tours, St. Gregory the Great, and Caesarius of Arles.[3]

But why "Missa" instead of "Missio"? It is not a past participle of "mittere," for it cannot be explained in that sense. "Missa" has been made out of "Missio," just as "Collecta" has been made out of "Collectio;" there are many examples of this practice, especially in the liturgy. "Missa" is thus simply a popular expression which, taking the part for the whole, has ended by designating the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Some authors, finding this etymology rather below the dignity of this function, have sought a higher origin and meaning in a Hebrew word which signifies Mission or Message. It is the message of earth to Heaven; of man to God. This is the meaning which Amalarius gives it in the ninth century. But we are not in the realm of philology here.

In the terminology of the Gallican and Mozarabic liturgies in the seventh century, "Missa" also means a prayer. The "Praefatio Missae" is the prelude of a prayer. The second Council of Milevia had already said: "Missae, vel orationes Missae."[4] "Missa secreta"=words of Consecration.

For those whom this meaning of "Missa" does not satisfy there is no lack of synonyms with a much loftier signification.

"Eucharistia" or "Eulogia." — These two terms, the first of which means thanksgiving, the second, blessing, were once of equal value, and were used indifferently to design the Eucharist. Thus, in the synoptic Gospels, Jesus "blessed the bread" and gave thanks." This, of all blessings the most efficacious, was doubtless made by the laying on of hands, or, if we like to follow certain other interpreters, by a sign of the Cross, which prophetically signified the Bloody Sacrifice of the following day. This is one of the essential elements of the Consecration: the Priest at Mass blesses and consecrates the bread and wine by a sign of the Cross.

But the term "Eulogy," blessing, early fell into disuse, and merely meant the bread or other objects blessed at Mass at the same time as the bread and wine. The other term, "Eucharist," has lived longer. In the Gospel the "Gratias agens," giving thanks, is heavy with meaning. Every time He blessed bread (as in the multiplication of the loaves) Our Lord gave thanks. The prayer over the bread before taking a meal is a traditional Jewish custom. This people had felt the necessity of thanking God for His benefits more strongly than any other ancient race. In the books of the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, this duty of gratitude to God is expressed. The first duty of the creature is to thank God who has given to the earth wheat and the vine, fruits, and all things which contribute to the nourishment of mankind. But the blessing of blessings henceforth is the very bread and wine which Jesus Christ has transformed by His blessing into His Body and Blood. The most ancient "anaphora," especially that of the "Apostolic Constitutions," reminds us that the Eucharist is the great Sacrifice, and the most efficacious means in man's possession to "render thanks to God."[5]

The "Supper" ("Coena," repast, supper), and more especially the Last Supper, is a term which we need hardly explain. It was at this Last Supper, taken with His Apostles on the evening of Holy Thursday, that Our Lord instituted the Eucharist (cf. Chap. I). But since the sixteenth century, as Protestants have used the words "Last Supper" in a narrow sense, excluding all relation with the Sacrifice of the Cross, they have almost dropped out of Catholic language. However, the Church has retained a lively remembrance of the Last Supper, and during Holy Week, Holy Thursday, the anniversary of this great event, is marked in the liturgical year by exceptional solemnity. The prayers of the Canon, "Communicantes," "Hanc igitur," recall the "Diem sacratissimum quo Dominus noster Jesus Christus pro nobis est traditus," the "Diem in qua Dominus noster Jesus Christus tradidit discipulis suis Corporis et Sanguinis sui mysteria celebranda." The "Qui pridie" itself contains this curious variant: "Qui pridie quam pro nostra omniumque salute pateretur, hoc est hodie, accepit panem," etc. The Priest consecrates two Hosts, one of which is reserved for the next day's Mass; this is carried processionally into a chapel, where It is exposed for the adoration of the faithful during the day and all that night, and on Good Friday, the day following, is brought back to the high altar with the same ceremonies, and is consumed at the Mass of the Presanctified. This is the only day in the whole year on which this Mass is celebrated in the Latin Church.[6]

The term "Sacrifice," "Holy Sacrifice," is also used; the Mass being for Christians the only Sacrifice, as we have explained (Chap. IV). It is that which has replaced all others; where Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, renews the Sacrifice of the Cross, and offers Himself to God the Father for the salvation of all.

The Mass is also often called "The Sacrament," or "Sacraments," especially by the Fathers and in the liturgy, because it is at the same time Sacrifice and Sacrament, the chief of all, since it is the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, source of all Sacraments. We often find in prayers the words: "Sacramenta quae sumpsimus," or analogous expressions.

The Oblation, Offering ("Offerre"), is also a very ancient term used at Rome, in Africa, and elsewhere, the Mass being the greatest of all Offerings, the Sacrifice of sacrifices. The Church offers it by her Pontiff; and we have seen with what insistence she urges the faithful to unite their offering with that of the Priest.

The words "Fractio Panis" have been explained in another place (cf. Chap. IV).

"Liturgy." — In the East this word is used specially to design the service of the Mass. Primitively it had a much more extended sense; it was a general public function, more especially a religious service. In Christian language it designates all religious services, though in the East it is confined to the Mass.

Other terms are less popular, yet they express some aspect of the Eucharist. Mgr. Batiffol explains very well the meaning of the word "Dominicum" ("convivium"), used in Africa, and even at Rome, in the time of St. Cyprian.[7] St. Paul had already spoken of the "dominica coena," or "mensa Domini" (I Cor. xi. 20; X. 21). ("Kuriakon deipnon trapeze kuriou") It is a table, reminding us of the Last Supper wherein Christ instituted the Eucharist; it is a banquet in which all those present are called upon to take part. This characteristic of the Eucharist has perhaps become slightly effaced in the course of time but in ancient days it was a living memory; and the frescoes in the catacombs recall it.


1. "Ep.i.;" "Ad Gond.," c. I.
2. "De anima," c. 9. The text of Pope Pius I (142-57) does not seem to be  authentic.
3. These texts will be found in Kellner and in the other authors cited.
4. Mansi, IV, 330. A good collection and explanation of these terms will be  found in Thibaut, "Liturgie Gallicane," PP. 49-51; "Liturgie Romaine," PP.  50, 51, 88, 99, 122 seq.
5. Cf. "Eucharistie, Eulogie," in DACL.   
6. Fr. Thurston, S.J., justly remarks that the altar and tabernacle in  which this Host reposes is wrongly called sepulcher. There is a confusion  here, the sepulcher being really a tomb in which a third consecrated Host  was also laid on Holy Thursday. This was brought back in procession on  Easter Day to figure the Resurrection. This Mystery was represented in many  churches in the Middle Ages.--Lent and Holy Week, p. 299 (London, 1904). 
7. op cit., p. 171 seq.


0. ROTTMANNER, "Ueber neuere und altere Deutungen des Wortes Missa," in "Theol. quartalsch." (Tubingen, 1889, PP. 531-557).

H. KELLNER, "L'Annee ecclesiastique" (tr. J. Bund), Paris 1910, PP. 111- 121, "Digression sur le nom de Messe."

H. KELLNER, "Wo und wann wurde 'Missa' stehende Bezeichnung fur das Messopfer," in "Theol. quartalsch.," 1901, LXXXIII, pp- 427-443.

P. LEJAY, "Revue d'histoire et de litterature relig.," Vol. II (1897) P. 287, and VIII (1903), P. 512; and "Ambrosien" in DACL, col. 1400 seq.

FORTESCUE, "The Mass." An appendix on the names of the Mass.

Mgr. BATIFFOL, "Lecons sur la Messe," pp. 166 seq., 175, 183. DACL, "Actio," "Eucharistie," "Eulogie."

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