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Cabrol F. Chapter XII-4. The Books of the Mass

THE MASS OF THE WESTERN RITES

By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol


CHAPTER XII

EXCURSUS

IV. THE BOOKS OF THE MASS


This subject having already been treated in another book ("Books of the Latin Liturgy," see p. 28 et seq.), we may be allowed to sum it Up shortly here. It may be believed that in the beginning no book was used for Mass. The Consecration of the bread and wine was made after the Formula used by Christ Himself, handed down by St. Paul and the synoptic Gospels. The prayers of preparation or thanksgiving were left to the improvisation of the celebrant, who did this on a fixed theme, from which it was not allowed to depart; for the most ancient formulas studied reproduce always the same thought.

In the aliturgical synaxis which became the Pre-Mass (cf. Chapter I) the Old and New Testament were read, and psalms were sung. Thus the Bible proved sufficient. But very soon the formulas mentioned were put into writing, and we have an example of this in the "Didache," which dates, perhaps, from the year 100, while the "Anaphora" of Hippolytus dates from the first quarter of the third century. In the fourth and fifth centuries liturgical literature was in full flower, especially in the East. St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Paulinus of Nola, Voconius, Musaeus, and many others are quoted amongst the authors who composed hymns, prayers, and Prefaces, or who chose Lessons drawn from the Old and New Testaments to be read at Mass or during the Offices.[1] In other books the parts that were to be sung were collected. From this time, especially during the period immediately following — from the sixth-ninth centuries — as the taste for these compositions developed, we have books specially devoted to the various liturgical functions: one for the readings from the Testaments generally called the Lectionary, or book of lectures, this, when intended for the Mass alone, was called "Epistolarium" (book of Epistles, or sometimes of Prophecy, or the Apostolic book) . There was also the "Evangeliarium," containing nothing but readings from the Gospels.

The chants of the Introit, Gradual, Tract, "Alleluia," Offertory, and Communion were collected in a book called the "Cantatorium," or book of chants. This was also sometimes styled "Liber Gradualis," since the Gradual was the most important and most ancient of these chants.

The Priest used tablets ("plaquettes," "Libelli") in which he found the prayers and Prefaces with the Canon of the Mass; he also had "Diptychs:" all these, collected together, were called "Sacramentaries." This is the most ancient type of Missal, in use from the sixth-ninth centuries; it contained only those parts recited at Mass by the celebrant. When the custom of Low Masses was introduced and multiplied, and the Priest was obliged to accomplish by himself all those functions which, in High Masses, fell to the lot of the Deacon, sub-Deacon, lectors, and cantors, it was necessary to add the Epistle, Gospel, Gradual, and other chants to the Sacramentary, which thus changed its name and its nature, and was henceforth called "Plenary Missal," or simply "Missal." The most ancient of these go back to the tenth century, or perhaps a little earlier. They went on multiplying through the eleventh century, and very soon after they eliminated and replaced the Sacramentary almost completely.

These liturgical books, some of which were illuminated and bound in the most luxurious manner, have always attracted the attention of artists, liturgiologists, and archaeologists; but at the present time it may be said that they are sought after and studied more than ever, so that erudite men have set themselves to describe them carefully (see Bibliography). The price of some of them represents a fortune. It is necessary to add that this subject is very far from being exhausted, and that in many ancient libraries precious manuscripts and early printed books still exist which deserve to be studied with care.

Prayer Books ("Paroissiens").[2] — The history and bibliography of these books is yet to be written. That of the Books of Hours, which has tempted certain scholars, may serve as an introduction to it (cf. "Books of the Latin Liturgy," pp. 128 seq. and 151 seq.). In that the history of the different Catholic devotions may be studied, according to period and country. Still more recently, in his "Sentiment religieux en France," the Abbe Bremond has shown how much may be drawn from these little books. In them the Mass naturally has its place, whether the Latin text is given, with a translation, or whether we find merely explanations and commentaries, as was the usual practice at a certain period, when translation into the vulgar tongue was looked on with very little favor if not actually condemned.

To-day the liturgical movement has driven the faithful more and more towards requiring the complete text of the Latin Mass, with its translation. Thus certain prayerbooks are indeed real Missals for their use.

ENDNOTES

1. "Books of the Latin Liturgy" (Sands, 3s. 6d.), p. 24 seq.
2. The word cannot be translated literally. A "Paroissien" is a kind of abridged Missal which includes the office of Benediction, several Litanies, morning and night prayers, etc. Vespers of Sunday (and sometimes Compline) are also included. (Note by translator.)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

LEOPOLD DELISLE, "Memoire sur d'anciens sacramentaires" (Paris, 1886). He has also written dissertations on the Psalters and other liturgical books (see catalogue in DACL, "Delisle").

A. EBNER, "Quellen u. Forschungen zur Gesch. des Missale Romanum in Mittelalter" (Freibourg-im-Breisgau, 1896).

V. LEROQUAIS, "Les Sacramentaires et les missels manuscrits des bibliotheques publiques de la France," 3 vols. (Paris, I 924). Cf. also other works on the same subject "Books of the Latin Liturgy," pp. 151, 156, and our article "Missel" in DACL.

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