THE MASS OF THE WESTERN RITES By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol
V. DIFFERENT KINDS OF MASSES
The Papal Mass and the Stational Mass. — These have been described in
Chapter IV. The latter was called Stational because there was a Station on
that day. Except a few points already mentioned, they were the same as the
Pontifical Mass. — It has been already stated that if we wish to understand
the sequence of the ceremonies at Mass, and really enter into the spirit of
them, we should be present at a Pontifical Mass, which, more than any
other, has faithfully preserved that ceremonial described in Chapter IV. It
is, in fact, the Papal Mass, and, with but few differences, that which is
celebrated by Bishops and certain Prelates. It is described at length in
the Ceremonial of Bishops.
Solemn, or High Mass. — All the ceremonies which are the privilege of
Bishops, such as crosier and mitre, throne, the number of the ministers
(assistant Priest, Deacons of honor, bearers of the insignia, etc.), are
omitted; but the Introit, Gradual, "Kyrie," Lessons, etc., are sung as in
Pontifical Masses, and by the same ministers. These comprehend, after the
Deacon and sub-Deacon, a "Ceremoniarius," acolytes, and a thurifer.
Sung Mass, or Missa Cantata. — Here there are neither Deacon nor sub-Deacon,
the ministers being reduced to one or two servers; but the same parts are
sung as at High Mass. This Mass is sometimes called in French, "messe
Conventual Mass is said in Chapters of Canons, in Collegiate churches, and
monasteries. It may be either sung or said, with or without ministers.
Missa lecta, a Mass which is not sung, is often wrongly styled Low, or
private, Mass, for the rubrics prescribe certain parts to be said aloud. At
this Mass the Priest, with one, or sometimes two, servers, accomplishes the
various ceremonies of Mass, but nothing is sung.
The history of Low Mass has given rise to certain errors; its evolution is
less well known than that of Pontifical Mass. But there can be no doubt
that in very ancient days — let us say about the third century, but most
probably before that epoch — there were (beyond the Eucharistic synaxis
celebrated by the Bishop, surrounded by his clergy and the faithful), both
in cemeteries and in private houses, private Masses said, from which all
the ceremonies had been shorn. The story of Hesperus, cured after a Mass
had been said in his house, is well known; Mgr. Batiffol relates it
according to St. Augustine. There are other examples of private Masses
said in domestic oratories, the existence of which is proved from the fifth
About this time, too (sixth century), churches began to be built with
several altars or chapels, a fact which evidently indicates private Masses.
The Sacramentaries or Missals drawn up from the seventh-tenth centuries
might have served either for a Pontifical or a private Mass. There must
have been also, about this time, and even before it, "Libelli," or leaflets
composed of several Masses for the use of the Priest. Of these we have
spoken in the "Books of the Latin Liturgy," mentioning as one of the types
of this "Libellus" that of the "Masses of Mone."
Missa solitaria. — In certain dioceses and missions the Priest has obtained
permission to say Mass without a server, making the responses himself, in
view of the practical impossibility of finding anyone to serve Mass.
Votive Masses. — As its name indicates, this Mass is said in virtue of a Vow
("votum"), or, in a wide sense, for a special intention. It is thus
distinguished from the Mass of the day, the character of which is fixed by
the calendar. There are certain days in the year, simple Ferials, or those
on which the Mass is assigned to a Saint with a simple rite or a semi-
double; and on these the Priest can usually celebrate a Votive Mass In the
Missal a whole division, following the Common of Saints, is devoted to
Votive Masses. Some are in honor of Our Lady, or other Saints; others again
for different circumstances, or devotions, as in time of war, or of peace;
of famine or epidemic, etc. They are thus devotional Masses which, unlike
the Mass for the day, are not attached to the calendar, nor to the Office
said on that day, which itself is in relation to the Mass.
Some of these Votive Masses are very ancient, and their texts deserve
study. Some may already be found in the Leonine and Gelasian
Sacramentaries. The Mozarabic "Liber Ordinum" contains a considerable
number. A Missal attributed to Alcuin has Votive Masses for every day in
the week, in honor of the Holy Angels, of the Eucharist, of Our Lady, etc.
Franz, in the book we mention, has made a most learned study of them.
Here is the list of Votive Masses in our Missal:
De Sancta Trinitate,
De SS. Petro et Paulo,
De Spiritu Sancto,
De S.S. Eucharistiae Sacramento,
De Sancta Maria,
Pro eligendo Pontifice,
In anniversario electionis Episcopi,
Ad tollendum schisma,
Pro quacumque necessitate,
Pro remissione peccatorum,
Ad postulandam gratiam bene moriendi,
In tempore belli,
Pro vitenda mortalitate,
Pro sponso et sponsa.
"Missa sicca," or Dry Mass. — This is rarely in use to-day. Whether an
abuse, or simply from singularity, it was fairly widespread in the Middle
Ages. It was a Mass without Offertory, Consecration, or Communion; and thus
in reality not a Mass at all. Since there was neither Sacrifice nor
Sacrament, it was merely a rite (sacramental, if we wish to call it so)
which reproduced the ceremonies of the Mass, with the exception of the
parts mentioned. It was regarded as a substitute for Mass. Thus, for
marriages or deaths celebrated in the afternoon, a Dry Mass was said. As
many Dry Masses as it was wished to say from private devotion could be
celebrated on the same day; they were also said for those who wished to
have as many Masses on the same day as possible. Bona very justly protests
against this custom, which seems to him an abuse. As a private devotion,
the "Missa Sicca" is still in use among the Carthusians.
Mass of the Presanctified. — A very different thing is the dignity of this
Mass, of which we have already spoken. In the Greek rite it is much used
during Lent. Properly speaking, it is not a Mass, since the Sacrifice is
absent. But Holy Communion is given at it, and it was really instituted to
satisfy the piety of those who wished to communicate.
Some other kinds of Mass. — The "Missa Nautica" and "Missa Venatoria" are
also Dry Masses; since by reason of the fear of tempests, or for other
causes, the essential parts are suppressed.
1. op. cit., p. 44. Cf. also Fortescue, Votive Mass, in Catholic
2. See also our article "Missel" in DACL.
The Stational and Pontifical Mass is described in Chapter IV; see the
authors mentioned in the Bibliography of that chapter.
On the ceremonies of the Pontifical Mass, see also:
ADRIAN FORTESCUE "The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite" London, 1918) Cf. also
HAEGY, "Ceremonial" (edn. 1902), and L. HEBERT, "Lecons de Liturgie"
On Votive Masses the most scholarly work is that of AD. FRANZ, "Die Messe
in Deutschen Mittelalter" (Freibourg-im-Breisgau, 1902), PP. 115-292 For
the rules concerning these Masses, see HEBERT, loc. cit., Vol. II, P. 118.
FORTESCUE, in his work "The Mass," and in his articles to be found in the
"Catholic Encyclopaedia," gives some information as to these Masses.