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The Most Reverend JOHN J. GLENNON, D.D. 






f IV 

^3 71* 

Printed in U. S. A. 


Sti. Ludovici, die 13. Junii, 1936, 

F. J. Holweck, 
Censor Librorum 


Sti. Ludovici, die 15. Junii, 1936, 

*J« Joannes J. Glennon, 


Copyright 1936 

Fifth Impression 

Vail-Ballou Press, Inc., Binghamton and New York 




Archbishop's House 
4510 Lindell Boulevard 
St. Louis, Mo. 
9 July 1936 

Dear Father Eckhoff: 

It affords us pleasure to send these few words in 
commendation of your able translation of the excellent 
work of Father Parsch — "The Liturgy of the Mass." 

In recent years the study of the Liturgy has attracted 
renewed interest both among the clergy and the lay peo- 
ple. This is as it should be, and because the liturgical life 
of the Church as a world-wide society, and of her children 
as individuals or in groups like the parishes, centers about 
the Mass, the present treatise is particularly opportune. 

If there is to be a more universal relish for the Liturgy, 
it is essential that there be a more general knowledge of 
the three important liturgical books — the Missal, the Rit- 
ual (including the Ceremonial of Bishops and the Pontifi- 
cal) and the Breviary (including the Marty rology). 
Every spiritual state of the faithful, every need of theirs, 
is nourished in these three volumes — from the great initial 
rite of the infant's Baptism to the final funeral rite of the 
aged at the grave in the Acre of God. 

And we mention the Missal first because the Holy Sac- 
rifice of the Mass pervades all our religious rites. It is be- 


fore the Mass on Holy Saturday and again on Pentecost 
Saturday that the Font is solemnly prepared for the Bap- 
tism of the white-robed catechumens. It is during the 
Mass on Holy Thursday in the Mother-Church of the 
diocese that the Oils used in the administration of the Sac- 
raments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Ex- 
treme Unction are blessed amid impressive ceremonies by 
the Chief Shepherd of the diocese. These Holy Oils are 
employed also to consecrate the Chalice used at Mass, and 
the Bells rung at the church to summon the faithful to 
Mass. It is at Mass that the Bishops are consecrated and 
the Priests and other Ministers of the Mass are ordained. 
Before the Nuptial Mass the faithful receive the Sacra- 
ment of Matrimony. It is at Mass, too, that the Greatest 
of all the Sacraments has its origin in the words of the 
consecrating Priest ; and at Mass the faithful receive this 
Sacrament called "Most Blessed." It is by the Absolution 
of the Priest ordained at Mass that the faithful receive 
the Sacrament of Penance, through which, if they are 
stained with serious sin, they are restored to God's favor, 
and made worthy once more to partake with their breth- 
ren of the "Bread of Angels" at Mass. 

Yes, surely: "It is the Mass that matters." In the Mass 
we find the heart of the Liturgy and the Heart of Christ. 
So, Father, you have wrought a good work by your trans- 
lation in making the Mass better known. 

If the people get to know the Mass they will with more 
frequency, as well as with more appreciation, attend Mass 
and partake of its Complement, the Holy Eucharist, and 
with the great body of the faithful attending Mass and 
receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament frequently, even 


daily, that cause so dear to the Holy Father will also 
prosper — "Catholic Action." 

That your zealous efforts may be followed by the larg- 
est measure of success, we exhort the clergy and the lay 
people with the words addressed long ago to Saint 
Augustine at his conversion : "Take up and read !" 

Faithfully yours, 

*i* John J. Glennon 
Archbishop of Saint Louis 



I Nature of the Mass Rite . . . . . 1 
II Historical Development 16 

III Ground Plan and Superstructure of the 

Mass 39 

IV The Mass of the Catechumens in Its His- 

torical Development 46 

V Prayers at the Foot of the Altar ... 62 

VI The Introit 74 

VII The Kyrie and the Gloria 94 

VIII The Collect 107 

IX The Lessons 120 

X Interposed Chants 137 

XI Conclusion of the Mass of the Catechu- 
mens 150 

XII The Offertory 153 

XIH The Offertory Today 165 

XIV The Canon 185 

XV The Preface 212 

XVI Prayers of the Canon Before the Conse- 
cration 220 

XVII The Consecration and the Prayers Fol- 
lowing It 233 

XVIII The Sacrificial Banquet 257 




XIX The Pater Noster 270 

XX Preparation for the Banquet .... 280 

XXI The Holy Banquet 300 

XXII After the Sacrificial Meal .... 319 

XXIII Conclusion 326 

XXIV The Prologue of St. John 331 

XXV Preparation for Mass 339 

Index . 355 


The Nature of the Mass Rite 

In one of His parables, our Lord tells us that a certain 
man, after discovering a great treasure buried in a field, 
immediately goes and sells all he has, and buys the field, 
that he may possess the treasure. (Matt. IS: 44.) In the 
mind of our Savior, this hidden treasure is the privilege 
of Christian faith, the grace of adoption as sons of God. 
For many, indeed, this treasure remains buried; but once 
a man has come to know it by the guidance of divine grace, 
he, too, will sacrifice all else, and dedicate his life to the 
service of the kingdom of God. However, there is another 
treasure of great value which also lies buried and hidden 
from many Christians. Like the treasure in the parable, 
the holy sacrifice of the Mass lies unappreciated and un- 
known in the treasury of the Church. Those who have 
discovered it, will strive to make it their own and will 
spend their lives, living with the Church in the presence 
of this divine sacrifice. Here, at the very outset, let us try 
to discover, from the teaching of Christ and His Church, 
what the Mass is. 


Let us consider our Lord's teaching during His public 
life. He appears in public, gathers His disciples and the 

people about Him, and speaks to them of the kingdom of 



God. He performs many miracles in proof of His divine 
mission. After laboring thus for about a year, He decides 
that the time has come to lead His followers farther into 
the sanctuary of His kingdom. We see Him in a desert 
place, surrounded by the multitude, whom He teaches 
and whose sick He heals. When evening is at hand and 
the multitude has nothing to eat, He takes a few loaves 
of bread and, looking up to heaven, He blesses the loaves 
and breaks them and gives them to His disciples (Matt. 
14: 19), and they distribute them to the multitude; and 
the loaves multiply in the hands of the Lord and His 
disciples, so that all are filled. The next day we see Him 
in the synagogue at Capharnaum, preaching a sermon of 
the greatest significance to the Jews and to His disciples. 
He refers to the miraculous multiplication of the loaves 
and now promises bread from heaven, a living bread, 
which He will give to His followers. Then, to the utter 
amazement of His hearers, He says: "The bread that I 
will give, is my flesh for the life of the world" (John 6: 
52). That they should eat His flesh and drink His blood 
— this was inconceivable to the Jews. But Christ retracts 
not a word. On the contrary, He repeats the promise in 
these words, so pregnant with meaning: "Amen, amen I 
say unto you : Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, 
and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He 
that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath ever- 
lasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For 
my flesh is meat indeed; and my blood is drink indeed. 
. . . He that eateth this bread, shall live forever" (John 
6:54-59). We can feel at once that these are words of 
profound significance. 


What is this vita aeterna, this everlasting life? It is 
the life of grace, the adoption of the sons of God, the 
participation in the divine life of Christ. He who does not 
eat this food, this bread from heaven, has no part in Him, 
and is excluded from this eternal life. But whoever par- 
takes of it, possesses this eternal life and becomes endowed 
with the right to a glorious resurrection on the last day. 
Our Lord speaks plainly, He will not be misunderstood: 
we have entered into the sanctuary of His kingdom. Im- 
mediately there is a division of minds ; the Jews leave the 
synagogue, for to them this is altogether incomprehensible. 
Many disciples, too, walk no more with Him : "this saying 
is hard" (John 6:61). Yet our Lord does not retract an 
iota. Turning to His twelve Apostles, He asks : "Will you 
also go away?" As if He said: "If you cannot believe this, 
you also may go, for in that case you can be of no service 
to Me." But Peter, answering in the name of his brethren, 
says : "Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of 
eternal life. And we have believed . . ." (John 6 : 68- 


Months passed by, a year ; our Lord has come to the eve 
of His death. Knowing that He was about to leave this 
world, He gathered His Apostles once more, this time for 
the Last Supper. Everything indicated that an important 
hour had come : the soul of Christ was deeply moved. "With 
desire have I desired to eat this pasch with you, before I 
suffer" (Luke 22:15). First He partakes with them of 
the liturgical meal of the pasch, which the Jews were obliged 
to sacrifice and eat annually as a reminder of their deliv- 


erance from the bondage of Egypt. The paschal lamb, we 
know, is a type of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. St. 
Paul exclaims joyously: "Christ our pasch is sacrificed" 
(I Cor. 5:7). 

After this ritualistic meal, which was a sort of introduc- 
tion to what would follow, the Lord washed the feet of 
His Apostles. Then He took bread, gave thanks, broke and 
gave it to His Apostles, saying : "Take ye, and eat. This 
is nry body, which is given for you." And taking the chal- 
ice, He gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: "Drink 
ye all of this. For tins is my blood of the new testament, 
which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins" (Matt. 
26:26, 28; Luke 22:19). And He added: "Do this for 
a commemoration of me" (Luke 22:19). He gives His 
body and blood to the Eleven, that they may partake 
of it. He goes then to His passion; and on the following 
day He visibly gives His body in death, and sheds His 
blood. He goes to give "his life a redemption for many" 
(Matt. 20:28). 

We have thus recalled five scenes. The first is the type, 
enacted annually for more than a thousand years, the 
paschal lamb which once had given pause to the angel of 
death. The second scene recalls the figure of the Eucharist : 
Christ, like another Moses, feeds the people with bread 
in the desert. The third scene interprets the significance 
of the multiplication of the loaves, and announces the prom- 
ise of the heavenly bread, the bread of life. The fourth 
picture is the Last Supper, the fulfilment of the promise. 
And the fifth is the sacrifice of the cross itself. Keeping 
these five scenes in mind, and comparing them with one 
another, we shall learn the meaning of the Mass. 


Principally, then, the Mass is a banquet, a banquet in- 
deed from which flow life eternal, union with Christ, and 
resurrection. Furthermore, the paschal lamb, the type of 
the Mass, was a memorial banquet; so too the Mass is a 
memorial banquet : "Do this for a commemoration of me." 
And the Mass is a sacrificial banquet, for in it we partake 
of the flesh of Christ, which He offered in sacrifice, and of 
His blood, which He shed for us. From Christ, therefore, 
we learn that the Mass is a banquet of remembrance and of 


The Church, which for almost two thousand years has 
preserved this precious heritage of Christ for us, is cer- 
tainly able to tell us the meaning of the Mass. Let us turn 
to that book which the Church has used at the Mass for 
thirteen centuries : it is the Missal (originally the Sacra- 
mentary). After the words of consecration, we find an an- 
cient prayer, going back to the first centuries of the Church. 
It is called the Anamnesis, i. e., prayer of remembrance : 
"Wherefore, Lord, we Thy servants 

And likewise Thy holy people, 

Calling to mind the blessed passion, 

Of the same Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, 

Together with His resurrection from the grave, 

And also His glorious ascension into heaven. 

Offer unto Thy excellent Majesty, 

Of Thy gifts and presents, 

A pure Victim, a holy Victim, an immaculate Victim, 

The holy bread of eternal life. 

And the chalice of everlasting salvation." 


This prayer, which the sacrificing priest has recited at 
the Mass for many centuries, unfolds the meaning and sig- 
nificance of the Mass for us. Let us consider it in detail. 


"Wherefore calling to mind . . ." That the Mass is a 
rite of remembrance is foremost in the mind of the Church. 
When we assist at Mass we recall the memory of the Lord. 
It is the Lord's command that His memory shall not dis- 
appear from among men, not indeed for His own sake, 
but for ours, because He is our Redeemer, our Savior, 
and our Judge ; He is the Light, without which all is dark- 
ness and night; He is the way, the truth, and the life. 
Can we conceive the darkness, error, despair, and utter 
chaos that would come into the world, were His memory 
to fail among us ? He has therefore erected a monument to 
Himself, more lasting than bronze. As a memorial to them- 
selves, the pharaohs of Egypt built the pyramids, which 
have defied the shifting sands of time; poets and artists 
have also by their works erected imperishable monuments 
to themselves. But, humanly speaking, we can say that 
Christ has succeeded better than all these, for no place 
can be found in all the world where His memory is not 
celebrated. If a mother on her deathbed were to say to her 
child : "My child, do this thing in memory of me, that you 
may never forget me," the child would assuredly make every 
effort to carry out a dying mother's last request. Our Lord, 
about to go to His death, comes to us and says : "Do this 
for a commemoration of me." Filled with holy reverence, 
then, we should assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass and 


say to ourselves : "I am celebrating the memorial of my 
Lord and Savior." 


First we recall his death on the cross, we are mindful 
of His saving passion. The Mass is indeed the memorial of 
our Lord's death. Were someone to lose his life in saving 
ours, certainly his memory would never depart from us. 
But the death of Christ means infinitely more to us, be- 
cause by His death He has made us children of God and 
heirs of heaven ; it is the death of God in sacrifice for His 
sinful creatures. We should be filled with reverence and 
holy appreciation when at the Consecration the priest takes 
the bread in his hands and says: "On the day before He 
suffered, He took bread . . ." Therefore St. Paul says: 
"As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, 
you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come" 
(I Cor. 11:26). 


But we are mindful not only of the death of Christ. 
We read further in this ancient prayer, "of His saving 
passion, His resurrection from the grave, and His glorious 
ascension." During the Mass, therefore, we are mindful 
of other events in the Savior's life. Comparing the Anam- 
nesis prayers of other liturgies, we find that other events 
are indeed mentioned, e. g., in the Chrysostom liturgy : 
"Mindful therefore of this saving precept and of all that 
was wrought for us, the cross, the sepulcher, the resur- 
rection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, where 


He sits at the right hand of the Father, His glorious com- 
ing at the end of the world." x From this it is clear that the 
Church wishes us to be mindful of His entire life. As often, 
then, as we celebrate Mass, Christ's entire life should be- 
come present before us. 


This memorial of Christ is not a mere remembrance such 
as we may have of one of our dead. A portrait of a deceased 
friend hangs before me on the wall; I look at it often, 
but it cannot speak to me, it remains silent, it is a lifeless 
remembrance. The Mass is no such lifeless memorial; it is 
a living rite of remembrance. We love to visit the graves 
of the dead, for there at least rests some part of those 
we loved in life; we feel that we are somehow in their 
presence. In the Mass it is otherwise ; here the Christ who 
died is close to us, He is actually in our midst. He Him- 
self said: "This is my blood which is given for you, my 
blood which shall be shed for you." And again : "He that 
eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and 
I in him" (John 6:57). In this venerable memorial rite 
we have more than the sepulcher of the Lord. Here before 
us is the body and the blood of Christ as it was once of- 
fered on the cross. Thus the memorial rite is also the re- 
enactment of what is commemorated. 


A sacrifice is the offering to God of some earthly good 
that belongs to us, inasmuch as we destroy its usefulness. 

i Hornykiewitsch, Die goettliche Liturgie unseres hi. Vaters Johannes 
Chrysostomus, 1928. 


The Old Testament can best teach us the meaning of sac- 
rifice. The first pages of the Bible speak of sacrifice. Cain 
and Abel offered sacrifice in thanksgiving for earthly bless- 
ings: Cain offered the first fruits of his harvest; Abel, 
a lamb of his flock (Gen. 4 : 1—7) . They gave these things 
to God in that they burnt them. By removing these things 
from among their possessions, they wished to acknowl- 
edge God's dominion over them. 

This is indeed the first, but not the only meaning of 
sacrifice. Every sacrifice expresses man's desire to unite 
himself with God. By the renunciation and the annihila- 
tion of his sacrifice, man gives himself to God ; and in re- 
turn, by the gracious acceptance of the sacrifice and par- 
ticularly in the sacrificial meal, God gives Himself to man. 
Hence sacrifice has been regarded by all peoples as the 
most sublime of all acts of worship. In sacrifice God and 
man are intimately united. 

There is one more consideration: sacrifice arises from 
the consciousness of sin, from the striving of mankind to 
make atonement for sin. Thus man slaughtered living 
animals in sacrifice to God. He knew that because of his 
sin against God he had deserved the supreme penalty, 
death. He should therefore have offered himself in death 
for his sins, but this he is unwilling and unable to do. He 
proceeds logically, then, to the idea of vicarious atone- 
ment. He takes a living animal, offers its life to God, plac- 
ing upon it the guilt of his sins, slays it, and prays 
God to accept it as propitiation for his offenses. Such 
was the intent of most of the sacrifices of the Old Law. I 
adduce here the instance of the scapegoat. On the Day 
of Atonement, besides other sacrifices, the Jews brought 


forward a goat, upon which the high priest laid his hands 
while he confessed the sins of the people. Thus laden with 
the sins of the people, the goat was led into the desert and 
there cast down from a precipice (Lev., chap. 16). Funda- 
mentally sacrifice arises from the consciousness of sin, and 
from man's desire to make satisfaction and atonement 
to God for his sins. 

How, we ask, can an irrational animal take the place 
of man? Can the life of an animal or even of several ani- 
mals make atonement for the sins of mankind? The dis- 
crepancy is especially notable if we consider the enormity of 
original sin and of all the personal sins of the human race. Of 
course no irrational animal can represent man, who is 
endowed with intelligence and free will. Among the Jews 
and among the pagans the sacrifice of animals was merely 
an expression of man's quest for an adequate sacrifice 
of atonement and reconciliation. In the fulness of time, 
such a sacrifice came, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the 
Lamb of God, "who takes away the sins of the world" 
(John 1:29). No animal can atone for man, but God 
Himself can make superabundant atonement. A human 
being can be put to death, but God cannot die; there- 
fore the Son of God assumed human nature. Thus was 
possible a sacrifice of reconciliation which could blot out 
in the most perfect manner all the sins of mankind. As 
man, Christ could die ; as God, He could make full repara- 
tion. The death of Christ on the cross is the only adequate 
sacrifice of reparation for all the sins of mankind. 

Are we, then, already redeemed by the death of Christ 
on the cross; do all men, after Christ's death upon the 
cross, gain heaven without any further personal effort? 


No. We must cling to the cross of sacrifice, we must make 
the sacrifice of the cross our own. The divine Lamb of 
sacrifice must be laid in our hands, and we must offer Him 
to the heavenly Father for our redemption. How can 
this be done? Has the Savior given us some means whereby 
we may offer such a sublime sacrifice to God for ourselves ? 
Christ has indeed entrusted such a means to His Church, 
in the holy sacrifice of the Mass; that selfsame sacrifice 
which Christ as high priest offered for mankind on Gol- 
gotha. This sacrifice was anticipated at the Last Supper, 
and it is perpetually re-enacted in the Mass. This me- 
morial rite is both a true sacrifice and a re-enactment of 
the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Now, in the presence 
of this sacrifice we should say to ourselves : "Take off 
the shoes from thy feet for the ground whereon thou stand- 
est is holy ground" (Ex. 3:5). Here is His very body and 
His very blood, here is Golgotha. Here Christ renews the 
oblation of Himself to His Father; He renews that sac- 
rifice by which He redeemed the world, and He wishes to 
bestow on us the fruits of His sacrifice. Now the words 
of the Anamnesis become clearer. "Calling to mind the 
blessed passion of Christ Thy Son, we offer unto Thy 
excellent Majesty a holy Victim, an immaculate Victim." 
Truly the sacrifice of the death of Christ is the purest, 
holiest sacrifice; it is the true and only sacrifice of 


We have not as yet wholly comprehended this prayer. 
We know that we have here more than a lifeless memorial. 
We know that it is at the same time a reality and a re- 


enacting of the death of Christ. Instead of the words 
"Calling to mind," we might say: "We re-enact." From 
this it is also clear not only that our Lord's resurrection 
and ascension and the other events of the redemption are 
commemorated in the Mass, but that they are, even as 
His death, mystically re-enacted. Of the greatest impor- 
tance is the realization that in the Mass Christ re-enacts 
not only His death, but the whole work of the redemption 
on earth, in every generation, in every place, in every 

We read in the Secret of the Mass for the ninth Sunday 
after Pentecost: "As often as this memorial-sacrifice is 
celebrated, the work of our redemption is wrought" {opus 
nostrae redemptionis eocercetur) . As once in His mortal 
life, so now in the Eucharist our Lord goes through the 
ages renewing the work of the redemption and continuing 
its fruits for His faithful. Now indeed the Mass becomes 
even more precious to us. The whole life of Christ, His 
birth, His miracles, His death, His resurrection and His 
ascension, are made present to us. It is in this sense we say 
that the Mass is a mystery, in the ancient Christian sense 
in which a mystery is the re-enactment of the work of our 
salvation under the symbolic and mystic veil of a sac- 

In the Mass the Lord "appears" as He will come on 
the last day, hidden now indeed under the sacred appear- 
ances. Thus the Mass is an anticipation of Christ's sec- 
ond coming, with this great difference: then His coming 
will mean for us the eternal enjoyment of His divinity; 2 

2 Postcommunion, Mass for Corpus Christi (divinitatis tuae sem- 
piterna fruitione repleri). 


now it is a transitus Domini, a pascha, a passing of the 
Lord (Ex.12: 11). 

A text of the liturgy (the unabridged offertory for 
the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost) describes this 
"passing of the Lord' 5 in the following scene from the life 
of Moses : 

"Moses besought the Lord and said : 
If I have found grace before Thine eyes, 
Show me Thyself openly that I may see Thee. 
And the Lord spoke to him and said : 
Man shall not see Me and live. 
But place thyself upon that high rock, 
And My right hand shall protect thee, 
The while I pass. 
But when I shall have passed, 
I will take away My hand 
And thou shalt see My glory. 
But My face thou shalt not see, 

For I am God, who doth wonderful things upon the earth. 
Then Moses made an evening sacrifice . . ." 3 

The evening sacrifice which Moses offered to the Lord 
is a figure of the sacrifice of propitiation which Christ 
offered on the cross and offers in the Mass. Then Moses 
desired to see the Lord's face, and God refused, reminding 
him that no man could see His face and live. Since Moses 
continued to beseech the Lord, He granted him a vision 
with covered eyes and from behind. In these words the 
liturgy indicates that the Mass is a veiled appearance of 
Christ. In the Mass the Lord places His hand mystically 
upon us while He is passing. 

s P. T. Michels, Heilige Gabe. 


Although Christ appears to us in the Mass transfigured 
and glorified, yet He wishes also to be nigh to us in that 
appearance in which He sojourned here on earth. The 
entire work of the redemption is re-enacted in the Mass. 
But man in his weakness cannot comprehend it all at 
once, and therefore the Church divides the events of our 
Lord's life through the course of the ecclesiastical year, 
and the phases of that life are re-enacted one after an- 
other in the sacrifice of the Mass. A ray of sunlight con- 
tains all the colors of the spectrum; but, when it passes 
through a prism, the colors are separated. So, too, the sun- 
light of the Eucharistic mystery is separated into its va- 
rious colors in the prism of the ecclesiastical year. Thus 
in the course of the ecclesiastical year we can live with 
Christ in the Mass. 


Christ appears to us in the Mass in the work of His 
redemption not only to be present among us, to comfort us, 
and to teach us, but also to unfold the divine life and pre- 
serve it in us. Therefore this memorial rite is at the same 
time a banquet: it is the bread of heaven, the bread of 
life, the meal of sacrifice. It is the bread that unites us 
intimately and inseparably with the source of all life, with 
Christ, who nourishes the life of grace within us. 

The Anamnesis, then, tells us briefly: that the Mass 
is a memorial rite, that it is a sacrifice, and that it is the 
food of life. Comparing these expressions with the words 
of Christ, we see that Christ and the Church teach the 
same doctrine. From Christ we learned that the Mass is 
a meal, a memorial meal and a meal of sacrifice ; from the 


Church we learn that it is a memorial rite, a sacrifice, and 
the food of life. Bride and bridegroom, the Church and 
Christ, speak the same language. 

From these few words we are apprised of the sublimity 
of the Mass: it is the most valuable possession of Chris- 
tians here on earth, it is indeed that "precious treasure." 
Hence the Mass must become the high altar in the cathe- 
dral of our souls; all other devotions and rites of the 
Church, however beautiful and sacred they may be, are 
but side chapels and must not be allowed to obscure the 
view of this high altar. Therefore every lover of the 
liturgy should be zealous to learn more of the holy mystery 
of the Mass and to make it the center of his spiritual life. 
Lastly, the liturgy is an expression of the reverence and 
devotion in which the Church enshrines the Eucharist. In- 
deed in the Eastern Church the Mass is called simply the 


Historical Development 

Christ entrusted this precious treasure to the Church 
that she might preserve it "until he come" (I Cor. 11 : 26) . 
He might have precisely determined this memorial rite of 
the Mass with all its actions and prayers; or again, He 
might have given the Mass to the Church, permitting her 
to surround it as a jewel with a worthy setting. There was 
a precedent for the first alternative in the ceremonial 
Mosaic law, in which God gave Moses prescriptions about 
sacrifices and the ark of the covenant, even to the minutest 
details. Christ might have done so, too ; He might have 
determined the structure of the Mass, even to the smallest 
detail, and have it remain so for all time. But He gave to 
the Church only the essence of the Mass, allowing her to 
surround it in the course of time with sacred ceremony 
and prayer. All peoples were to offer the choicest blossoms 
of heart and mind, and wreathe them around this, the 
most treasured memorial of the Lord and Master. The 
Church, in truth, became the resourceful artist, giving 
this precious gem a magnificent setting. This labor of 
love is not yet completed, but will continue until the end 
of time. 

It becomes clear that we cannot understand the prayers 
and the action of the Mass except in their historical de- 
velopment. In the following pages we shall consider some- 
what cursorily the larger phases of the development of 



the Mass, from its institution down to the Roman Mass. 
I will avoid burdening the reader with much historical 
matter or with a comprehensive and scientific treatise. 
The purpose of this historical review is solely to permit 
an understanding of the structure and the parts of the 
Roman Mass of today. 


Christ Himself celebrated the first Mass at the Last 
Supper. There we observe two essential parts: the Con- 
secration and the Communion: "And whilst they were 
at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke; and 
gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat: This is 
my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and 
gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my 
blood of the new testament . . ." (Matt. 26 : 26-28) . Here 
are the two principal parts of the Mass : Consecration and 
Communion. But besides these, we find some non-essential 
actions which can be recognized as the basis for later 
ceremonies in the Mass. 

(a) We see that our Lord washed the feet of His disci- 
ples, and we have His explanatory words : "He that is 
washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean 
wholly" (John 13: 10). Here is a rite of purification pre- 
ceding the sacred action. Such a rite is found at the be- 
ginning of all Mass liturgies. In our Mass it is the pre- 
paratory prayer at the foot of the altar, (b) We learn 
further that Christ gave thanks; in the Greek text, 
eulogein, eucharistein. 4 However this word eucharistein 

*Matt. 26:26, 27; Mark 14:22, 23; Luke 22:19; I Cor. 11:24; the 
four narratives of the institution in Holy Scripture. 


may be interpreted by the exegetes (pronouncing the 
blessing at table, paying homage), it has given the Holy 
Eucharist its name and forms the nucleus of the great 
Eucharistic prayer (the Canon), and in particular of the 
Preface, (c) We learn also that our Lord broke bread, 
an action considered so important that during the first 
two centuries the Mass was known as the "breaking of 
bread." 5 (d) We see, moveover, that Christ preached a 
sermon at the Last Supper (the farewell address in John, 
chaps. 14—17). (e) Two of the Evangelists record that at 
the conclusion of the Last Supper the Apostles sang a 
hymn of praise (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:17); and we 
know that this hymn of praise, usually sung at the end 
of the paschal rite, consisted of the so-called psalms of 
Hallel (Ps. 112-117) and psalm 135. 6 In this first Mass 
we distinguish, then, besides the essential parts, several 
non-essential actions, which gradually developed into cere- 


It is not recorded, when for the first time the Apostles 
carried out the Lord's precept: "Do this for a commem- 
oration of me" (Luke %% : 10) . Most probably it was soon 
after the Feast of Pentecost. We must visualize it as some- 
thing very simple. Very likely the Christian community 
of Jerusalem was assembled in the evening; Peter or one 
of the other Apostles rose up and may have spoken thus : 

5 Acts 2:42, 46; 20:6, 11; Didache, 14, 1. 

6 Some suppose that the institution of the Eucharist took place im- 
mediately after v. 25 of this psalm: "Who giveth food to all flesh: for 
his mercy endureth forever." However, the Gospels give us no basis for 
this assumption. 


"Brethren, the same night in which the Lord Jesus was 
betrayed, He took bread and, giving thanks, broke and 
said: Take ye and eat, this is My body, which shall be 
delivered for you. To which He added the precept : Do this 
for a commemoration of Me (I Cor. 11 :£3). Now we are 
about to commemorate His passion, His resurrection, and 
His ascension." Perhaps such an address was the germ 
of the Anamnesis. 

In some such manner the Apostle may have addressed 
the congregation of Christians. Then they brought for- 
ward bread and wine, which, after the Consecration, was 
distributed to those present. What prayers and actions 
accompanied this first Mass cannot of course be deter- 
mined. Two things, however, are certain: that the first 
Christians celebrated Mass with the greatest reverence; 
and that they were inclined to follow the action of the 
Last Supper and the religious customs of the Jews. They 
knew that the Lord had "broken bread" at the ritualistic 
meal of the paschal lamb, and so they concluded that the 
"breaking of bread" should take place during a meal — 
out of this there came the banquet of love, the Agape. The 
early Christians assembled in the house of one of the 
faithful, bringing with them food, which they offered to 
one another in manifestation of their mutual charity. Dur- 
ing this meal they celebrated Mass, or, as they called it, 
the Lord's Supper (I Cor. 11 : 20). 

There are many indications in Holy Scripture that the 
Eucharistic rite was celebrated with the Agape. Thus, in 
the Acts of the Apostles, it is said of the Christians of 
Jerusalem : "They were persevering in the doctrine of the 
apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of 


bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). "Continuing daily 
with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from 
house to house, they took their meat with gladness and 
simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:46). From this it is clear 
that the ancient community of Jerusalem frequently as- 
sembled for this banquet of love, with which the Eucharis- 
tic celebration was joined (we should not unduly stress the 
word "daily," since we cannot be certain that it does not 
refer principally to prayer) . 

St. Paul, returning to Jerusalem from his third mis- 
sionary journey, passed through Troas in Asia Minor. 
With reference to this place, we find the following re- 
corded in the Acts : "On the first day of the week [Sunday] 
when we were assembled to break bread, Paul discoursed 
with them, being to depart on the morrow; and he con- 
tinued his speech until midnight. And there were a great 
number of lamps in the upper chamber where we were 
assembled" — already a liturgical light. Then occurred the 
fall of the young man from the third loft. "Then [Paul] 
going up, and breaking bread and tasting, and having 
talked a long time to them, until daylight, so he de- 
parted" (Acts 20:7-11). 

From this passage we learn that Sunday was observed 
by the first Christians, and that the Eucharist was cele- 
brated on Sunday, and that a sermon was a part of this 
observance. The time of the celebration was evening or 
night, and the Agape was still joined with the Eucharist. 

The best description of such an Agape-Mass is given 
us by St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians 


Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come to- 
gether not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all 
I hear that when you come together in the church, there are 
schisms among you ; and in part I believe it. For there must 
be also heresies : that they also, who are approved, may be 
made manifest among you. When you come therefore to- 
gether into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's supper. 
For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one 
indeed is hungry and another is drunk. What, have you not 
houses to eat and drink in ? Or despise ye the church of God ; 
and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to 
you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. For I have 
received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, 
that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, 
took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye 
and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: 
this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the 
chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new 
testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall 
drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall 
eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death 
of the Lord, until he come. 

Already the shadowy side of the Agape began to show 
itself. It happened that many, especially the wealthier 
Christians, ate the food which they had brought with them, 
alone ; and indeed even became drunk. The abuses that St. 
Paul decries may have occurred elsewhere. For this rea- 
son, as early as the first century the Eucharist was sep- 
arated from the Agape. It came to be recognized that a 
man, while at table, is not always in those dispositions so 
eminently desirable for the sacred commemoration of 
Christ. For some time the Agape continued to be held in 


the evening, until it completely disappeared in the 
third and fourth centuries, and the Eucharist was cel- 
ebrated during the morning hours. Such was the case as 
early as the time of St. Justin Martyr (cir. 150), when, 
too, the Eucharistic fast was prescribed, which has re- 
mained until our own day in all its rigor, a reaction to 
the abuses of the Agape observance. 

There is one thought which we may well retain from the 
Agape observances. The first Christians surrounded the 
celebration of the Eucharist, as it were, with the practice 
of mutual charity, whereas we surround it with prayer. 
From this we might learn that the practice of mutual char- 
ity is a most fitting preparation and thanksgiving for the 


To understand the further growth of the Mass, let 
us recall again the words of the Acts of the Apostles quoted 
above. We read of that first congregation of Christians 
at Jerusalem: "Continuing daily with one accord in the 
temple, and breaking bread from house to house" (Acts 
8:46). We are told here of a twofold service, the service 
of the word of God, and the celebration of the Eucharist. 
The latter was observed separately from the Jews, in the 
houses of the Christians ; but the former was still observed 
together with the Jews in the Temple or in the synagogues. 

We are sufficiently well informed as to the details and 
the order of this service of the word of God. It was the 
same synagogue worship observed every Sabbath in the 
numerous synagogues up and down Judea and in the 
Diaspora at the time of our Lord. It was a service in which 


laymen were allowed to act as readers and preachers. Christ 
and St. Paul were often present at it, preaching and la- 
boring for the kingdom of God. The order of the service 
was usually as follows: After some prayers, to which the 
people responded with "Amen," there were two lessons 
determined beforehand, taken from the Torah, the Law 
of Moses (parashah), and from the prophets (haphtarah) ; 
before and after the lessons certain interludes were sung 
and afterwards an explanation of the Scripture text was 
given (midrash). In conclusion a sermon was delivered, 
the Shemoneh Esreh and the Schema, as is still customary 
among the Jews. 

We are reminded of this service by St. Luke's descrip- 
tion of our Lord's visit to the synagogue of Nazareth. 
The Evangelist says : 

And he came to Nazareth where he was brought up : and 
he went into the synagogue, according to his custom, on the 
sabbath day ; and he rose up to read. And the book of Isaias 
the prophet was delivered unto him. And as he unfolded the 
book, he found the place [Is. 61 : 1] where it was written: 

The spirit of the Lord is upon me. 

Wherefore he hath anointed me 

To preach the gospel to the poor, 

He hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart, 

To preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the 

To set at liberty them that are bruised, 

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, 

And the day of reward. 
And when he had folded the book, he restored it to the minis- 
ter, and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were 
fixed on him. And he began to say to them : This day is ful- 
filled this scripture in your ears (Luke 4 : 16—21). 


We can easily follow the service of the word of God in 
this passage. 

In the Acts of the Apostles we learn that this same 
service was observed by the Jews in Asia Minor (the 
Diaspora) : 

But they [Paul and Barnabas] passing through Perge, came 
to Antioch in Pisidia : and entering into the synagogue on 
the sabbath day, they sat down. And after the reading of the 
law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to 
them, saying: Ye men, brethren, if you have any word of 
exhortation to make to the people, speak. Then Paul rising 
up, and with his hand bespeaking silence, said: . . . (Acts 

Let us keep in mind the order of this service: (1) Read- 
ing (of the Law), interlude; (2) Reading (of the 
Prophets), sermon. 

At first the Christians observed this service together 
with the Jews in the synagogues, since they were in no 
way desirous of separating from their Jewish brethren. 
Only when they were cast out of the synagogues, did they 
hold this service of the word of God separately, though 
retaining the forms to which they had become accustomed 
from their youth. Because of this separation from the 
synagogues, this service could be Christianized, i. e., in 
addition to the lessons from the Old Testament, others 
from the New Testament were introduced. About the mid- 
dle of the second century this development reached its 
completion, as can be seen clearly from St. Justin's de- 
scription. Later, when the Agape was separated from the 
Eucharist, this service of the word of God was joined 
to the celebration of the Mass, and has remained until the 


present day. Our Mass of the Catechumens arose from 
this Jewish service of the word of God and still gives evi- 
dence of this ancient structure in its principal parts : 
Epistle, interlude, Gospel, sermon. We have thus come 
quite close to the present structure of the Mass. 


As early as the first century, after the death of the 
Apostles, we have two testimonies regarding the Mass: 
one is to be found in the Letter of Clement of Rome to 
the Corinthians (96) ; the second is the Didache, the Doc- 
trine of the Twelve Apostles. 

In the former a sacrificial rite is described, which is per- 
formed by bishops or priests, the "offering of the sacrificial 
gifts" (44), to which were probably added fragments of 
the ancient liturgy of Rome, formulas of general thanks- 
giving for the works of the Creator, and the triple 
"holy" (34). 

Of much greater importance is the Didache, written 
about the close of the first century. It describes the prac- 
tices of a certain Christian community, and also contains 
liturgical prescriptions for baptism, fasting, prayer, and 
the Eucharist. We quote here some passages from it, the 
first being perhaps the oldest Mass prayers in our pos- 
session (ix, 1— x, 6) : 

For the Eucharistic celebration recite this prayer of 
thanksgiving : first, for the chalice : Our Father, we thank 
Thee for the holy vine of Thy servant David, of which Thou 
didst give us knowledge through Thy Son Jesus ; to Thee be 
glory forever. For the bread : Our Father, we thank Thee for 
that life and understanding which Thou hast given us through 


Thy Son Jesus ; to Thee be glory forever. As this bread was 
scattered upon the mountains, and being gathered together 
became one, so shall Thy Church be gathered together from 
the boundaries of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is 
the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever. No one 
shall eat or drink of the Eucharist, unless he be baptized in 
the name of the Lord, for in this regard the Lord hath said : 
"Give not that which is holy to dogs" (Matt. 7:6). 

After you have eaten, give thanks in the following manner : 
We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name, for which 
Thou hast prepared a dwelling in our hearts, and for the 
understanding, the faith, and the immortality of which Thou 
hast given us knowledge through Thy Son Jesus ; to Thee be 
glory forever. Thou, almighty Lord, hast created all things 
for Thy holy name, Thou hast given men food and drink, 
that they may thank Thee; but to us Thou hast graciously 
given spiritual food and spiritual drink and eternal life 
through Thy Son. Above all we thank Thee because Thou 
art almighty ; to Thee be glory forever. Be mindful, O Lord, 
of Thy congregation, deliver them from all evil and make 
them perfect in Thy love. Gather Holy Church together from 
the four winds into Thy kingdom, which Thou hast prepared 
for her; for Thine is the power and the glory forever. Thy 
grace come [to us], and may this world vanish. "Hosanna 
to the son of David" (Matt. 21 : 9). He that is holy, let him 
approach ; he that is not, let him change his disposition [re- 
pent]. Maranatha (O Lord come). Amen. Allow the prophets 
to give thanks, as much as they will. 

There is divergence in the interpretation of these pray- 
ers. The opinion that they are only Communion prayers 
(Bickell, Probst, Wilpert) or only table-prayers, has been 
rejected. They may be considered the oldest Canon. Evi- 
dently these prayers were not yet permanent in form nor 


were they obligatory, since the concluding exhortation 
("Allow the prophets," i. e., the pneumatists, who occu- 
pied a very prominent position in the congregation) in- 
dicates that the prophets were not to be prohibited from 
continuing the prayer of thanksgiving in their own words 
(xiii, S). 

We read the following (xiv, 1—3) about the celebration 
of Mass on Sundays : 

On the day of the Lord [Sunday] you shall assemble, break 
bread and celebrate the Eucharist ; but first confess your 
sins, that your sacrifice may be holy. Let no one be found 
among you who has a quarrel with his companion, until he 
shall be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled. For 
this is the word of the Lord : "In every place there is sacrifice, 
and there is offered to my name a clean oblation ; for I am a 
great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful 
among the Gentiles" (Mai. 1 : 11, 14). 

The confession of sins before the Eucharistic celebra- 
tion resembles the Confiteor of our Mass. 


The foregoing sources do not enable us to obtain a com- 
plete picture of the order of the Mass. But a record of the 
celebration of the Mass, dating from the middle of the 
second century, gives a rather exact description of the 
rite. From it we can ascertain that in its larger outlines 
the Mass was very like our own, so that we are able to 
recognize the principal parts and follow the action. This 
important witness is the First Apology of St. Justin 
Martyr (written clr. 155) ; in it he describes the rite of 


the Mass at Rome for Easter Sunday and ordinary Sun- 
days. (Chaps. 65—67.) The following extracts are taken 
from these chapters : 

When a person through conviction has joined us in our 
belief, we baptize him and introduce him into the assemblage 
of those who call themselves brothers, and there we recite 
prayers in common for ourselves, for the neophyte, and for 
all the absent, with the express intention that, having come 
to the knowledge of the truth, we may be worthy to live 
piously a life of good works, and keep the commandments, so 
that we may obtain eternal salvation. Having recited these 
prayers we salute one another with a kiss [of peace]. 

Then bread and a chalice with water and wine are brought 
to the president of the brethren. He receives these [sacrificial 
gifts] and offers praise to the Father of all in the name of 
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and continues at some length 
with a prayer of thanksgiving [eucharistia, Eucharistic 
prayer] because we have been made worthy by Him to partake 
of these gifts. When he has finished the prayers and the 
thanksgiving, all the people present answer: Amen. "Amen" 
is a Hebrew word and means : So be it. After the thanksgiving 
of the president and the answer of the people, the deacons, as 
they are called among us, distribute the bread and the wine 
over which the thanksgiving has been pronounced [i. e., the 
bread which has been changed, the Eucharistic bread] to each 
of those present, and carry it also to the absent. 

And this food is called by us the Eucharist [ewcharistia] ; 
and no one may partake of it unless he shall have been con- 
vinced of the truth of our teaching, and be cleansed in the 
water of baptism unto the remission of sins and the regenera- 
tion of the soul, and shall live according to the precept of 
Christ. For we do not receive it as common food and common 
drink, since we are taught that even as, by a word of God, 
Jesus Christ our Savior became flesh and assumed real flesh 
and blood for our salvation, so, too, this food over which has 


been spoken His word of prayer and thanksgiving [eucharis- 
tia\, is the true flesh and blood of that Jesus who became 
man, and enters our flesh and blood when we receive it. For 
in those memorable writings which the Apostles have be- 
queathed to us, which are called the Gospels, they have de- 
livered unto us, as it had been commanded to them, that Jesus 
took bread, gave thanks and said : Do this for a commemora- 
tion of me ; this is my body. In like manner He took the chalice, 
gave thanks and said : This is my blood. 

Afterwards we recall all these things to mind. All those who 
are able come to the assistance of those who are destitute, 
meanwhile we all remain in communion with one another. For 
all that we eat, we give thanks to the Creator of all things, 
through Jesus Christ His Son, and through the Holy Spirit. 

On that day, which is named after the sun, all those who 
live in the city and in the country come together, and then 
the memoirs [i. e., the Gospels] of the Apostles or the writings 
of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the 
reader has finished, the president makes an address, in which 
he earnestly admonishes us to practice the beautiful lessons 
which we have just heard. Then we all rise and pray. 

After this prayer, as we have said before, bread and wine 
with water are brought forward; and the president offers 
petitions and thanksgiving, as much as he can. The people 
give their consent by saying: Amen. Then, these things over 
which the thanksgiving has been pronounced [i. e., the things 
that have been consecrated or eucharisticized] are distributed 
to those present and are brought by the deacons to those who 
are absent. 

Moreover, those who are well-to-do make an offering if 
they are so inclined. The collection is brought to the presi- 
dent, who uses it to assist the widows and orphans and all 
such as are destitute because of sickness or for any other 
cause, as also those who languish in prison and the strangers 
in our midst ; in short, he helps all who are in need. 

We appoint Sunday for the assemblage of the faithful be- 


cause it is the day on which God dispersed the darkness and 
divided the elements, and created the world, and because, on 
the same day, Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead. 
For on the day before Saturday (dies Saturni) He was cruci- 
fied, and on the day following, He appeared to His Apostles 
and disciples and instructed them in all those things which 
we have just now placed before you for your consideration. 

There are, therefore, two descriptions from which we 
may obtain the following composite picture of the ancient 
Christian Mass (cir. 150) at Rome. The Eucharistic rite 
has been separated from the Agape and is joined to the 
service of the word of God, and may therefore be said to 
have two principal parts, the Ante-Mass and the Mass of 
Sacrifice, even as the Mass of today. These parts are usu- 
ally called the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of 
the Faithful. 

In the former, which consisted principally of the read- 
ing of the word of God, we find the same order as obtained 
in the synagogue service: two lessons (readings) and the 
address of the bishop. One of the lessons is taken from the 
Gospels. The evidence is too general to permit any more 
definite conclusions as to the structural details of the most 
ancient Mass of the Catechumens at Rome. Two things 
alone are certain: (1) there were lessons (sometimes called 
lections) from the Old and New Testaments ; (£) the lesson 
was a lectio continua, that is, a continuous reading of Holy 
Scripture. The congregation remained seated during the 
lessons, but the long prayer at the conclusion of the les- 
sons was recited standing. St. Justin gives certain indica- 
tions as to the contents of this prayer, so that we may 
designate it as the prayer of the congregation, the oldest 


integral part of the liturgy known to us. St. Paul speaks 
of it in his First Epistle to Timothy (2: 1-2) : "I desire 
therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, interces- 
sions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: for kings, 
and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a 
quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity." In 
the First Letter of Pope St. Clement to the Corinthians we 
find a long prayer which is probably the oldest formula of 
this prayer of the congregation, indeed the oldest monu- 
ment of the Roman liturgy. This prayer remained in the 
Roman Mass until the time of St. Gregory the Great, and 
has been preserved as a precious fragment in the solemn 
petitions of Good Friday. In the Oriental liturgies it has 
been retained until the present time. 7 

In the Mass of Sacrifice (i. e., the Mass of the Faith- 
ful), which follows these petitions, we can easily distin- 
guish three parts : the preparation for the sacrifice, or the 
sacrificial procession; the Eucharistic canticle with the 
consecration ; and the distribution of the Eucharist. 

The sacrificial procession begins with the kiss of peace, 
probably in obedience to the command of the Master 
(Matt. 5:23) : "If therefore thou offer thy gift at the 
altar ... go first to be reconciled to thy brother." It is 
expressly stated that bread and wine and water are 
brought forward to the bishop and that he receives them — 
a sacrificial procession. 

With regard to the Eucharistic canticle, we learn that 
the bishop recited it aloud (perhaps chanted) ; the people 
consented with the Amen — in our Mass this "Amen" is 

7 Cf . the great Litany of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, in 
Hornykewitsch, Die gottliche Liturgie des hi. Joh. Chrys. 


found immediately before the Pater Noster. This prayer 
was an offering of praise, honor, and thanksgiving to the 
"Father of all in the name of His Son and of the Holy 
Spirit." It did not, however, until now have a determined 
text; the principal theme was of course prescribed, but 
the wording was left to the choice of the bishop, as may be 
inferred from the words : "he continues at some length with 
a prayer of thanksgiving" and "he offers thanksgiving as 
much as he can." 

The distribution of the consecrated species was quite 
simple. There was as yet no communion procession of the 
people ; the deacons distributed the consecrated bread and 
wine to those present, while the latter reclined at table (as 
may be seen in the old pictures in the catacombs) . Thus we 
see that the Mass of a. d. 150 has a very striking resem- 
blance to our own Mass. 


Although from St. Justin we have long been acquainted 
with the ancient order of the Mass, we did not know the 
text of the old Roman Canon until very recent times. Not 
many years ago a discovery was made that proved to be 
of great importance to the history of the liturgy: the 
Egyptian Church Ordinal, known for some time in differ- 
ent versions, was found to be a translation of the Apostolic 
Tradition written by the Roman priest and antipope 
Hippolytus (d. 235). This was a discovery of one of the 
oldest sources for the study of the history of the Roman 
liturgy. The Apostolic Tradition, written about the year 
218, contains ordinances for liturgical and disciplinary 
matters of the Roman Church. While treating of the con- 


secration of a bishop, which is the oldest formula of a con- 
secration, it also describes the Mass of the bishop (chap. 1) : 

After he has become bishop, all shall greet him with the 
kiss of peace. The deacon shall bring the sacrificial gifts to 
him, and while he, and the priests, too, place their hands on 
the sacrificial gifts, he shall say in thanksgiving : "The Lord 
be with all of you." The people shall say : "With thy spirit." 
Then further: "Lift up your hearts." And the people say: 
"We have lifted them up to the Lord." And again: "Let us 
thank the Lord." And all the people say: "It is meet and 
right." Once again he prays in this manner and then recites 
what follows, as is customary during the holy sacrifice. Then 
they recite the Eucharistic prayer, repeating after the bishop : 
"We thank Thee, O Lord, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus 
Christ, whom Thou hast sent in these latter days, as Savior 
and Redeemer and as the messenger announcing Thy decree. 
He is the Word, who came out of Thee, through whom Thou 
hast made all things, according to Thy will. Thou didst send 
Him from heaven to the womb of the Virgin. He became flesh 
and rested beneath her heart. The Holy Spirit revealed Him 
as Thy Son, that He might accomplish Thy will and gain 
the people for Thee, while He extended His arms upon the 
cross. He suffered that He might liberate those who suffer 
and believe in Thee. He was delivered up to suffering accord- 
ing to Thy will, that He might destroy death and break the 
bonds of Satan, that He might crush hell and lift up the 
saints, and that He might establish law and open the portals 
of the resurrection." 

"He took bread, gave thanks, and said : Take ye and eat ; 
this is my body, which shall be broken for you. In like manner, 
He took the chalice and said : This is my blood, which shall be 
shed for you. Whenever you do this, you shall do it in re- 
membrance of Me." 

"In remembrance of His death and of His resurrection, we 
offer to Thee this bread and this chalice, and we thank Thee 


that Thou hast made us worthy to stand before Thee and 
exercise the priesthood before Thee." 

"We beseech Thee to send down Thy Holy Spirit upon 
these gifts of this Church, and to bestow Thy Spirit upon 
all who partake of these gifts, that they may be to them unto 
sanctification ; that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, 
unto truth and the confirmation of faith, and that they may 
praise and glorify Thee in Thy Son Jesus Christ, through 
whom there shall be praise and glory in the Church, now and 
forever and for all eternity. Amen." 

Before the offering of the oil. If anyone offer oil at the 
time of the Eucharistic celebration, let him offer it in the 
same manner as the bread and wine were offered, giving thanks 
in the same way. Even if he has not used the same words, he 
may give thanks in other words according to his ability, say- 
ing : "Sanctify this oil, and give health to such as are anointed 
with it and who partake of it ; as once Thou didst anoint 
priests and prophets, so strengthen those who taste of it, and 
sanctify those who partake of it." The people answer : "As it 
was, is now, and shall be, from generation to generation, unto 
all eternity. Amen." 

The bishop says: "Again we pray almighty God, the Fa- 
ther of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to grant us that 
we may receive this holy sacrament in His honor, and to per- 
mit none of us to be unworthy, but to make us all worthy to 
receive the body and blood of Christ, our almighty Lord and 
God." The deacon says : "Pray. Almighty God, permit none 
of us to be unworthy in the reception of this holy sacrament, 
but bless us all in Christ, in whom, to Thee with Him and 
the Holy Spirit there is praise and power, now and forever, 
and for all eternity. Amen." The deacon says [further] : "Ye 
who stand about, bow your heads. Eternal God, Thou who 
knowest all that is hidden, Thy people have bowed their heads 
before Thee, and have submitted the hardness of their hearts 
and the stubbornness of their flesh to Thee. Look down upon 
them from the dwelling-place which Thou hast made for Thy- 


self, and bless them, both men and women. Incline Thine ear 
to them and hear their prayers. Strengthen them by the might 
of Thy hand and protect them against every evil passion. 
Preserve their bodies and their souls. Let faith and the fear 
of God increase in them and in us, through Thine only Son, 
in whom there is praise and power to Thee with Him and the 
holy Spirit forever and for all eternity. Amen." 

The deacon says [further] : "Let us behold, etc.," and then 
the bishop : "The holy of holies." The people answer : "[There 
is] one Holy Father, one Holy Son, one Holy Spirit." The 
bishop says : "The Lord be with you all." The people answer : 
"And with thy spirit." They now intone the canticle of praise, 
and the people approach to receive this saving remedy of their 
souls, by which their sins are forgiven. 

Prayer after the distribution [of the holy sacrament] : "Al- 
mighty God, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we 
thank Thee because Thou hast permitted us to partake of 
Thy holy mystery; may it not be to us unto judgment and 
condemnation, but for the renewal of our souls, our bodies, 
and our spirits, through Thine only Son, through whom there 
is to Thee with Him and the Holy Spirit praise and power for 
all time, as it is now and ever shall be for all eternity. Amen." 
The people say : "Amen." The priest says : "May the Father 
be with you all." 

The imposition of hands after the reception of Holy Com- 
munion : "Almighty and eternal Lord, Father of our Lord and 
Savior Jesus Christ, bless Thy servants and handmaids ; pro- 
tect them, assist them and save them through the power of 
Thy angels; by Thy Majesty guard them and strengthen 
them in the fear of Thee ; endow them, that they may meditate 
on those things that are of Thee ; and grant them that they 
may believe in Thee and obey Thy commandments ; graciously 
grant them oneness of mind, without sin or anger, through 
Thine only Son, through whom there is to Thee with Him and 
the Holy Spirit, etc." The people answer: "Amen." The 
bishop says : "The Lord be with you all." The people : "And 


with thy spirit." The deacon says : "Go in peace." And thus 
the Eucharistic celebration is ended. 

We read the following, concerning the Mass, in the 
Presentation for Baptism (chap. 16) : 

Now the bishop makes the sign of the cross on the fore- 
head of the neophyte and kisses him and says : "The Lord be 
with you." All the others do the same. All the people pray 
together with the neophyte ; and pronounce the kiss of peace. 
The deacons shall bring the sacrifice to the bishop ; he gives 
thanks over the bread, because it represents the body of 
Christ (ftgura carnis Christi est), and also over the chalice 
with the blood, because it is the blood of Christ, which shall be 
shed for all those that believe in Him ; and over milk and 
honey, which have been mixed in fulfilment of the promises 
made to the Fathers, when He said : "I will give you the land 
which flows with milk and honey." For this is the flesh of 
Christ, which He has given us, that we who believe in Him 
may be nourished as children. The bitterness of the heart will 
be taken away by the sweetness of His word. The bishop ex- 
plains all these things to him who receives the sacrament of 
baptism. When the bishop has broken bread, he shall give to 
each one a particle, saying : "This is the bread of heaven, 
the body of Jesus Christ." He who receives says : "Amen." 
If there be no more priests present, the deacons, observing 
good order, shall take the chalice and offer the blood of our 
Lord Jesus Christ to the neophytes, and then in the same 
manner milk and honey. He who offers the chalice says : 
"This is the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ." He who receives 
answers : "Amen." When this has been done, let everyone try 
to do good, to please God, and to lead a good life, frequently 
visiting the church, and doing those things which he has 
learnt, and thus make progress in the service of God. 

In order to allow further insight into the Eucharistic 
discipline of the time, we give here a few excerpts : 


Concerning the Eucharistic fast : All the faithful shall 
strive to receive the Eucharist before they have eaten any- 
thing else, since even a deadly poison, should it be offered to 
them, will not harm them, if they have received the Eucharist. 
(Chap. 28.) 

Concerning the reservation of the Eucharist in the homes 
of the faithful: All shall use the greatest care lest any un- 
believer eat of the Eucharist, or a mouse or anything whatso- 
ever fall into the vessel, or any of it be allowed to be corrupted. 
For it is the body of Christ, of which all the faithful partake, 
and it should not be allowed to become repulsive. (Chap. 29.) 
For when you have blessed the chalice in the name of the 
Lord, you receive it as the blood of Christ. Therefore take 
great care that you spill none of it, lest some alien spirit lick 
it up, so that you arouse not the anger of God and become 
guilty of the blood of Christ, despising the price which was 
paid for your salvation. (Chap. 30.) 

From this work of Hippolytus we are able to ascertain 
the following : although nothing is said of the Mass of the 
Catechumens, still we learn of certain formulas for the 
Mass of the Faithful. At the Offertory we read of the kiss 
of peace, and following it that the deacon (in the other 
passage, the deacons) brings forward the sacrificial gifts. 
Although there is no mention made of an offertory proces- 
sion of the people, still there are indications and instruc- 
tions, in chapters 23 and 24, about the liturgical presenta- 
tion of the firstfruits and their blessing, and also about 
the choice of the fruits and blossoms, which certainly had 
some connection with the sacrificial procession of the Mass. 

There are, however, detailed instructions about the 
Eucharistic canticle or Canon. We have here the text of 
the oldest Roman Canon, dating from a. d. 200 which may 
be of still earlier date, since Hippolytus accused his op- 


ponent of making innovations, whereas he was maintaining 
the ancient traditions. It is to be noted that at this time 
the language of the Church was Greek, and therefore the 
original of this Canon was Greek, not Latin. 

Comparing this formula of Hippolytus with our Roman 
Canon, we see that there is unmistakably a connection 
between them. The triple dialogue that serves as an intro- 
duction, is almost identical. In the narrative of the institu- 
tion there is some kinship in the wording, while the Anam- 
nesis prayer is certainly related to ours. We also find here 
an Epiklesis (i. e., the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon 
the sacrificial gifts) which, it is true, we no longer possess 
in our Mass, but which is still found in all the Eastern 
liturgies. Here, too, there is at the end of the rite a dox- 
ology and the "Amen" of the people. 

The instruction for the distribution of Holy Commun- 
ion is quite detailed : we find a Communion procession of the 
people, during which a hymn of praise is chanted (prob- 
ably psalm 33, of which we shall hear more) . We find, too, 
a formula for the administration of Holy Communion, as 
well as a thanksgiving, the bishop's blessing at the end of 
the Mass, and the dismissal. 

We may conclude, therefore, that the Roman Mass at 
the beginning of the third century was determined and de- 
veloped to such a point as to be very like our Mass in its 
main outlines and the course of the action. 

We can now pause in our study of the historical develop- 
ment of the Mass, since it was our intention to follow it 
only until the contour of our Mass became visible. We have 
come thus far, and we have now at hand the material neces- 
sary to understand the organic structure of the Mass. 


The Ground Plan and the Superstructure 
of the Mass 

The historical development of the Mass, as we have out- 
lined it in the foregoing chapter, from the Last Supper 
into the third century, indicates that at a very early date 
the Church adopted that form with which the Mass has 
been impressed for succeeding ages. All the liturgies of the 
East and of the West, however much they may differ in 
detail, have preserved this ground plan of the second and 
perhaps even of the first century. The genius of Rome, 
with its precision and lapidary classicism, sculptured this 
masterpiece, from the fourth to the sixth century, and 
fashioned the Roman Mass as we know it today. It is not 
our task to point out the several parts with which Rome 
and the West enriched the Mass ; we will return to these 
historical considerations when we come to speak separately 
of the various parts of the Mass. At present we wish to 
point out merely that during this period an inversion took 
place in the Mass of the Catechumens. Until now, in the 
ancient Christian Mass of the Catechumens, the lessons 
preceded the prayer (the Oratio fidelium, prayer of the 
faithful) ; in the Roman Mass this prayer gradually 
dropped out, and during the following centuries there ap- 
peared in its stead, before the lessons however, a service 
consisting of a collection of prayers, which we might desig- 
nate the Service of Prayer. 



In order to allow the Mass of our own day to stand forth 
more clearly, we sketch here its ground plan, leaving the 
details for later discussions. We may make it clearer if 
we compare the Mass with one of those churches of ancient 
Christendom, which were divided into two parts: the 
atrium, or vestibule, and the church proper, or holy place. 
So the Mass is also divided into two parts: the Mass of 
the Catechumens and the Mass of Sacrifice (Mass of the 

In the Mass of the Catechumens we prepare our souls 
for the sacrifice. Even as the vestibule makes the transition 
from the public street into the house of God, so the Mass 
of the Catechumens leads us from the life of this world 
over into the holy place of sacrifice. The dominant theme 
of the Mass of the Catechumens is the "Word" (Logos) ; 
its end is faith, its chief purpose instruction. 

The Mass of Sacrifice is the holy place ; here the "Word" 
is made flesh. Its end is the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, which the Church through the hands of the priest 
offers to the heavenly Father, and in which the faithful 
take an active part, in the sacrificial procession and in the 
sacrificial banquet. 

Let us look more closely into the atrium : it again is di- 
vided into two parts. In the first part man approaches 
God ; in the second, God descends to man : in the first, man 
speaks to God in prayer ; in the second, God speaks to man 
in the lessons and in the instruction : in the one, man offers 
his word ; in the other, he receives the word of God. Thus the 
Mass of the Catechumens is divided into a service of prayer 
and a service of reading and instruction. Entering in 


through the vestibule, we do two things : we pray, and we 

The service of prayer represents a kind of ascent into 
heaven. In it there are several steps : from the depth of our 
sinfulness we rise gradually to the throne of God. The first 
step is contrition (the preparatory prayers at the foot of 
the altar) ; the second, is longing and desire (the Kyrie) ; 
the third is the praise of God (the Gloria) ; the fourth step 
is petition (in the Collect). By these steps we ascend from 
our own unworthiness to the throne of God. 

In the lessons, God the Father comes halfway to meet 
His children ; He takes us by the hand, He speaks to us ; 
first through one of His messengers (in the Epistle or in 
the Lesson) ; in the second place through His only-begotten 
Son (in the Gospel) ; thirdly, through the Church, by the 
mouth of the priest (in the sermon). Thus we have prayed 
and we have been instructed ; now we are prepared to enter 
the holy of holies. The doorkeeper is Faith (Credo), open- 
ing the portals to us ; and now we stand in the radiant 
glory of the house of God. 

Let us pass through the holy place of the Mass of Sacri- 
fice. It has three parts, as we noted above. In the center is 
the heart, the holiest part of the temple of the Mass : the 
sacrifice of Christ, known to the people as the Consecration 
— in the language of the liturgy, the Canon. Those present 
participate in this sacrifice in the sacrificial procession and 
in the sacrificial banquet. These two are, as it were, the 
bands uniting us to the sacrifice of Christ. First comes the 
preparation for the sacrifice, the sacrificial procession of 
the congregation, called the Offertory ; then the sacrificial 


meal, or Communion. Hence there are three parts in the 
Mass of Sacrifice: Offertory, Sacrifice, and Communion. 
We manifest our participation in the sacrifice in the Of- 
fertory, by the offering of our gifts ; in the Consecration, 
the body and the blood of our Lord is laid, as it were, in 
our hands, and we are permitted to offer the divine Lamb 
of sacrifice to the heavenly Father ; in the sacrificial ban- 
quet, the gift we offered, having now become divine, is 
returned to us. In the Offertory I give my bread; in the 
Communion I receive in return the bread of God. There are 
therefore three actions which we perform in the Mass of 
Sacrifice ; we may say briefly : I give, I offer, I receive. 

Thus the ground plan or the outline of the holy sacrifice 
of the Mass becomes clear. There are two main divisions : 
the vestibule and the sanctuary, the Mass of the Catechu- 
mens and the Mass of Sacrifice. There are five great ac- 
tions : I pray, I learn, I give, I offer, I receive. These are 
of the utmost importance both for a proper understand- 
ing and for a worthy celebration of the sacrifice of the 
Mass. (See the schematic diagram on the opposite page.) 

There is also a beautiful correspondence between these 
^.ye actions : the sacrifice of Christ is enclosed within a two- 
fold giving and receiving ; in the Mass of the Catechumens 
I offer my word in prayer, and in return I receive the word 
of God in the lessons and in the sermon ; in the Mass of 
Sacrifice I offer my bread (in the Offertory), and I receive 
the bread of God (in Communion). 

In the midst of this holy giving and receiving, the Lamb 
of God lies on the altar of sacrifice and immolation. In 
every Mass the vision which Jacob (Gen. 28: 12) saw in 
his dream is realized: angels ascend, carrying aloft our 



The Sacrifice 

The Preparation 
of the Sacrifice 




(I receive) 



Consecration (Canon) 
(I offer) 

-o— o— o— o— 











(I give) 

/ Credo \ 

3. Sermon 

2. Gospel 

1. Epistle or Lesson 

4. CoUect (Petition) 

3. Gloria (Praise) 

2. Kyrie (Desire) 

1. Prayers at Foot of 
Altar (Contrition) 



The Bread of 

The Lamb of 

The Bread of 

The Word of 

The Word of 

Ground plan of the Mass 


words and our bread ; and angels descend, bringing down 
to us the word of God and the bread of heaven. In the Mass 
are fulfilled the words of Christ : "You shall see the heavens 
opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending 
upon the Son of man" (John 1 : 51). 

Perhaps the following reflection will give us a clearer 
view of the two principal parts of the Mass. Our Christian 
faith bestows on us two gifts, faith and grace. We can 
possess Christ in our souls in a twofold manner : by faith, 
and in the life of grace. In the Mass these two gifts are 
bestowed upon us and increased within us again and again. 
In the Mass of the Catechumens faith is given to us ; there- 
fore the Gospel is the climax, and the Credo is the finale. 
In the Mass of Sacrifice, that sacrifice of Christ is re- 
enacted which purchased for us eternal life, and we receive 
the Eucharist which preserves and nurtures this divine life 
within us. There is outward expression of these gifts in the 
pontifical Mass: the central point of the Mass of the 
Catechumens is the cathedra, the symbol of the Church's 
office of teaching ; around it the entire action of the Mass 
of the Catechumens takes place. In the Mass of Sacrifice 
the altar becomes the central point, the symbol of the death 
of Christ on the cross. 

Concerning these two focal points of the Mass, we find 
the following beautiful lines in the Imitation of Christ : 

These also may be called the two tables, set on the one side 
and on the other, in the treasury and the jewel-house of holy 
Church. One table is that of the sacred altar, having the holy 
bread, which is the precious body of Christ ; the other is that 
of the divine law, containing holy doctrine, teaching men the 
right faith, and steadily conducting them forward even to 


that within the veil, where is the holy of holies. . . . Whilst I 
am detained in the prison of this body, I acknowledge myself 
to stand in need of two things, namely, food and light. Unto 
me then, thus weak and helpless, Thou hast given Thy sacred 
body, for the refreshment both of my soul and body ; and Thy 
word Thou hast set as a lamp to my feet (Ps. 118:105). 
Without these two I should not be able to live ; for the word 
of God is the light of my soul, and Thy sacrament the bread 
of life (Imitation, Bk. IV, chap. 11). 


The Mass of the Catechumens in its Historical 


Having sketched the ground plan of the Roman Mass, we 
shall now study its various parts in detail. We will adhere 
to the method adopted above, of studying the historical 
development of these various parts, since it is thus that we 
can best arrive at an understanding of the rite of the Mass 
of our own day. In this chapter we turn our attention to 
the Mass of the Catechumens and its development, and in 
the chart on page 48 we show the Mass of the Catechumens 
in the stages of its development, from the synagogue serv- 
ice to the present day. 


As we have already pointed out, the Mass of the Cate- 
chumens had its origin in the service of the synagogue, 
which at the time of our Lord was observed in all the syna- 
gogues both in Judea and in the Diaspora. It was a lay 
service, with a determined rite and a planned order of 
lessons. Essentially it consisted of two lessons, the first of 
them taken from the Tor ah (the Law of Moses) ; and the 
other from the Books of the Prophets. After the conclusion 
of the lessons, came an exhortation in the form of an ad- 
dress. Between the lessons we find a chant consisting of 

certain psalms ; and the service ended with a long solemn 



prayer by the congregation. Let us keep in mind these 
principal parts of this synagogue service : the two lessons 
with the interluded psalm-chant, the address, and the 
prayer by the people. It is these elements which the Church 
has adopted and retained as a permanent part of her lit- 
urgy, and they remain today the core of the Mass of the 


We are fortunate in possessing information sufficiently 
definite regarding the form of the Mass of the Catechu- 
mens during the first three centuries. Our two most im- 
portant witnesses are St. Justin Martyr (see page 27) 
and the so-called Apostolic Constitutions. This latter work 
dates from about the year 400, and is a collection of writ- 
ings of an earlier date, composed in the East. It offers 
us the oldest and most detailed text of the Mass, and con- 
tains ordinances concerning divine worship and the Chris- 
tian life, and may be considered a kind of ritual. 

An exhaustive description of the Ante-Mass is to be 
found in it (Bk. II, chap. 57), from which we quote as 
follows : 

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now reads the writings of Moses and Josue, the books of 
Judges and Kings, the books of Paralipomenon, and whatso- 
ever has been written concerning the return of the people from 
exile, also the books of Job and of Solomon, and the sixteen 
prophets. Now there follows a psalm-chant, and then the Acts 
of the Apostles and the Letters of our co-worker Paul, who 
wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, are read. Then 
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and John have given you, and which the co-workers of Paul 
(Luke and Mark) have delivered to you. During the reading 
of the Gospels the deacons and the priests and all the people 
shall stand and listen in profound silence. . . . Then each 
priest shall address an exhortation to the people, and finally 
comes the address of the bishop, who is the captain of the 
ship. The porters stand at the entrance of the men and watch 
over them, while the deaconesses are with the women. If there 
be anyone who is not seated in his place, he shall be corrected 
and directed to his proper place by the deacon, who fulfils 
the office of the second mate, for the Church not only resembles 
a ship, but also a fold. For, as the shepherd gathers his herd, 
so I gather together my goats and sheep, according to age and 
sex, placing like with like ; so also in the church. Those who 
are younger shall sit separately, if there be room ; if not they 
shall stand ; the older people shall sit according to order ; the 
children, who stand, shall go to their fathers and mothers ; 
younger women, too, shall stand in a separate place, if there 
be one, if not they shall stand in the rear of the women ; a 
separate place shall be provided for married women with chil- 
dren ; virgins, widows, and matrons shall stand or sit in front. 
The deacons shall see to it that everyone goes quickly to his 
place, and that no one sits near the entrance. So, too, the 
deacon shall be watchful that no one talk or laugh or sleep 
or make any disturbance. For in the church we must observe 
decency, sobriety, and reverence, and give ear to nothing but 
the word of the Lord. Now all rise and look toward the East, 
and after the catechumens and the penitents have left the as- 
sembly, they recite a prayer to God, who rules over the heaven 
of the heavens, and recall the ancient fields of Paradise, which 
lie to the East, from which man was driven out, because he 
despised the commandment of God, and hearkened to the coun- 
sel of the serpent. 

In Book VIII (chaps. 5 f.), in connection with the Mass 
of ordination, the Mass of the Catechumens is described 


and the prayer of the congregation is quoted extensively : 

After the reading of the Law, the Prophets, our letters, the 
Acts, and the Gospels, he who has been ordained greets the 
Church and says : "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and 
the charity of God the Father and the communion of the Holy 
Spirit be with you all." They all answer: "And with thy 
spirit." After this greeting he shall speak to the people unto 
edification. At the conclusion of the instruction, when all have 
stood up, I, Andrew the brother of Peter, say, that the deacon 
shall ascend a raised place (trie ambo) and warn those pres- 
ent that no hearer or unbeliever may be present any longer. 
When silence has been restored, he says : . . . [Now follows 
the great prayer which, because of its length, we cannot re- 
produce here.] 

If, from these witnesses, we reconstruct the ancient 
Mass of the Catechumens, we see readily that there is a 
complete dependence on the worship of the synagogue. St. 
Justin's words are indeed too general to permit our making 
any definite inference as to the details of the oldest read- 
ing service observed at Rome. He speaks of a reading from 
the Memoirs of the Apostles (Gospels), or from the writ- 
ings of the Prophets. Evidently he does not indicate any 
order to be observed, and does not wish to show any prefer- 
ence for either. In the Eastern Apostolic Constitutions, 
however, we find a threefold system of lessons : one lesson 
from the Old Testament, one from the Apostolic writings, 
and one from the Gospel writings. This system has been 
retained by the Armenians and in the Ambrosian and Moz- 
arabic rites. In Rome, too, it enjoyed some permanence. 
We find remnants of it in the Roman Missal : in the liturgy 
of Good Friday, Ember days, and certain Wednesdays in 


Lent. At a later time, the two principal liturgies, the 
Roman and the Byzantine, returned to the system of two 

The sermon was an integral part of the Mass of the Cate- 
chumens, and on occasion it was prolonged to great length, 
since first the priests gave a kind of instruction in Christian 
doctrine to the various groups, and then the bishop ad- 
dressed all the faithful. 

Among the chanted parts, the psalms sung between the 
lessons are a very old part of the liturgy. At Rome a chant 
came after the first lesson (later called the Gradual) , and 
another after the second lesson (later called the Alleluia- 
chant or the Tract) . The conclusion to the service of the 
word of God was marked by the prayer of the congrega- 
tion, for which, through all the early centuries from the 
days of the Apostles, there are witnesses more abundant 
than for any other part — St. Paul, St. Clement, St. Justin, 
Hippolytus, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Good Friday 
liturgy. The irrelevant Oremus before the Offertory in our 
Roman Missal of today is very much like the solitary pi- 
laster remaining from a ruined bridge, the last fragment 
of an ancient liturgical bridge. We saw, in the Apostolic 
Constitutions, that the dismissal of the catechumens took 
place during this prayer of the congregation, and for this 
reason this prayer is often considered part of the Mass of 
the Faithful, or Mass of Sacrifice. I am inclined, however, 
to accept the view that it is the conclusion of the Mass of 
the Catechumens, and belongs to the service of the word of 
God ; because only after this do we have the beginning of 
the service of sacrifice, which contains the Eucharist. Hence 
I would have preferred to use "Ante-Mass" and to avoid 


the expression "Mass of the Catechumens," particularly 
since in our time it has no practical significance ; 8 but the 
latter expression has become established in liturgical usage. 
From the sources noted above, we learn also of certain 
non-essential customs, which have remained until the pres- 
ent. The reading of the Gospel was accorded certain dis- 
tinctions : it was chanted by a priest or deacon, while both 
priest and people stood out of reverence. 


Although we are thus well informed about the form of 
the Mass of the Catechumens in the first three centuries 
of the Christian era, its further development to the Roman 
Mass is shrouded in darkness ; in fact, from the fourth to 
the seventh century there is a gap in the succession of 
historical witnesses, and we have at our disposal only 
meager records of the Mass. It is not until the seventh 
century that we find the oldest Roman Mass Ordo, which 
marks the end of the development period of the Roman 
form of the Eucharistic rite. This ancient Roman Mass 
Ordo differs in many respects from the ancient Christian 
Mass of the Apostolic Constitutions. But our present lit- 
urgy for Good Friday proves conclusively that this ancient 
Christian Ante-Mass was observed in the Roman Church, 
since its first part represents an Ante-Mass identical with 
that of the Apostolic Constitutions. The liturgy for Good 
Friday spans this gap from the ancient liturgy to the 
Roman Mass. Let us open our Missal for the liturgy of 
Good Friday. The service begins without chant. After the 

s Consequently, in the Mass of today, the Credo may be considered a 
part of the Ante-Mass, but not of the Mass of the Catechumens. 


silent prostration, a lector reads the first lesson (from the 
prophet Osee) ; then follows the Tract, a group of verses 
from the canticle of Habacuc; next, a Collect. Now the 
subdeacon chants the second lesson (from the Law of 
Moses, Exodus), then another Tract, consisting of psalm 
139, followed by the Passion (from the Gospel according 
to St. John). Finally come the petitions, the ancient Ora- 
tiones solemnes, the prayers for all classes in the Church — 
a venerable liturgical text which, except for certain later 
additions, originated in the middle of the third century. 

This service of the word of God in the Good Friday 
liturgy is therefore as follows : 

1. Reading (from the Prophets) — lector, 
Tract (interposed chant) ; 

2. Reading (from Moses) — subdeacon, 
Tract (interposed chant) ; 

3. Reading (Passion) — deacon, 
Orationes solemnes. 

Such, too, is the Mass of the Catechumens in the Apos- 
tolic Constitutions. The Good Friday liturgy is therefore 
an ancient Christian Ante-Mass, a venerable liturgical 
piece dating from the primitive Christian era. 


The ancient Roman Mass of the third century was cele- 
brated in the Greek language ; indeed, even as late as the 
time of Pope Damasus I (366—384) the Eucharistic prayer 
was recited in Greek. Thus we see that the language of 
the liturgy is changeable. The Mass of the Catechumens 
of this period was very like that of the Apostolic Constitu- 


tions and the Good Friday liturgy. From the fourth cen- 
tury on, however, important changes were made in the rite 
of the Mass, sometimes in the form of abridgements and 
sometimes as additions. The striving of the Roman genius, 
in contrast with the Oriental, for combination and brevity 
showed itself in the Mass of the Catechumens in two ways : 
in the shortening of the lessons and in the omission of the 
Prayer of the Faithful. In place of the three lessons custo- 
mary until now, there were only two (with few unimpor- 
tant exceptions) : the Epistle (Lesson) and the Gospel. 
The first lessons, therefore, were combined into one lesson ; 
but the interposed chants remained, later becoming the 
Gradual and the Alleluia-chant. Much more surprising is 
the omission of the Prayer of the Faithful. This omission, 
which apparently began about the close of the fourth cen- 
tury, probably has some relation to the changes made in 
the Canon, in which similar petitions were now introduced. 

In place of the Prayer of the Faithful a series of prayers 
and chants were placed before the lessons ; before the close 
of the period of development of the Roman Mass rite 
(about 600), these additions numbered four: Introit, 
Kyrie, Gloria, and Collect. Their introduction was condi- 
tioned by the so-called station observances. 

At the close of the persecutions, a custom developed for 
the pope and the congregation in Rome to assemble in a 
certain church (the ecclesia collecta), and then proceed in 
solemn procession to another church (the station), there 
to celebrate the holy sacrifice. The station celebrations 
customary at the holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem 
served as models. Thus certain Roman churches came to 
be named after the holy places, e. g., Sanctae Crucis in 


Jerusalem, Sanctae Mariae Maior ad praesepe. These pro- 
cessions with their solemnities were responsible for the ad- 
ditions in the beginning of the Mass. Thus we find: 

a) The Collect. In the church of assembly, the ecclesia 
collect a, the bishop recited a prayer, the oratio ad col- 
lectam, or prayer of the assembled congregation. Later, 
when these meetings in the church of assembly were aban- 
doned, this prayer was recited in the station church before 
the lessons. 

b) The Kyrie eleison. The bishop, clergy, and people 
went from the church of the assembly to the station church 
in procession. During this procession they chanted prayers 
in the form of litanies with the frequent repetition of the 
Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy on us). When the station 
processions were discontinued in later times, these litanies 
were sung in the station church itself. 

c) The Introit, or Entrance. As the bishop or the pope 
proceeded through the church to the altar, the choir, the 
schola cantorum (in the beginning the congregation) , sang 
a psalm with an interposed antiphon, as an entrance chant, 
which was an important contribution to the beauty and 
magnificence of the service. Tradition (Liber Pontificalis, 
I, 230) ascribes the introduction of this entrance chant 
to Pope Celestine I (d. 432). We shall have more to say 
about the form of the Introit and its subsequent decline. 

d) The Gloria. After the Introit, a morning hymn was 
introduced, the Gloria in excelsis, which originated in the 
East, where it was sung only in the Canonical Hours. In 
the Apostolic Constitutions (Bk. VII, chap. 47) we find 
it in use as a morning prayer. In the Roman Church it 
was chanted at first during the Mass on Christmas, and 


later on Sundays and on the feasts of martyrs. But the 
bishop alone was permitted to intone it, a simple priest 
being allowed to do so only on the day of his ordination 
and on Easter, until sometime in the eleventh century. 

TIME OF GREGORY I (dr. 600) 

The development of the action and of the form of the 
Mass rite became definitely fixed during the time of Greg- 
ory I (590—604), who labored zealously to complete the 
structure of the Roman Mass. The earliest full description 
of the Roman Mass is found in the Ordo Romanus I, 9 which 
is a kind of ritual for the papal Mass of the eighth century. 
Most of the essential parts of this Mass, however, date back 
to the days of Gregory I. Instead of merely reproducing 
the bare prescriptions of this Ordo, we quote Father 
Kramp's description of the papal Mass, based upon the 
data of this Ordo : 10 

It is Easter Sunday, and the holy sacrifice of the Mass is 
to be celebrated in the basilica of St. Mary Major. 

The faithful in great numbers have gathered from all 
quarters of the city and from the suburbs and have assembled 
in this spacious church, the men on one side and the women 
on the other. Many pilgrims and strangers are present on this 
great feast day and at the solemn service. In the apse, the 
place of the clergy, are assembled the seven suburban bishops 
and other bishops who happen to be in the city, and the 
twenty-five pastors of the parish churches of the city, all 
grouped about the throne or "cathedra" of the Pope in such 

9 In 1689 Mabillon published 15 Ordines Romani. His numeration has 
been retained. 
io Kramp, S.J., Eucharistia (English trans.), pp. 23-29. 


way that the bishops will be on his right and the priests on 
his left. 

At an early hour the clergy of that particular region of 
the city which has its turn to minister at the service have come 
together at the Lateran, acolytes, subdeacons, and deacons ; 
they are joined by others of the clergy, exclusive of the 
bishops and priests. 

Accompanied by this body of the clergy and by his own 
court, the Pope sets out from the Lateran on the way to St. 
Mary Major. First walk the acolytes, and after them a group 
of the clergy and a series of officials ; then come, mounted, the 
seven regional deacons and the seven regional subdeacons ; im- 
mediately before the Pope walks one acolyte who carries the 
holy chrism. Then comes the Pope himself, mounted and hav- 
ing to his right and left a personal servant on either side. Be- 
hind the Pope come the great officials of his court, and then a 
group of servants carrying the sacred vestments and vessels 
which belong to the papal treasury and which are to be used 
in the service. 

Arrived at St. Mary Major, the Pope dismounts and is re- 
ceived by the parish priest and his assistants and conducted to 
the secretarium, an anteroom near the portal of the basilica, 
where he is seated. Here he is robed ceremonially in the liturgi- 
cal vestments, which resemble in general form those of the 
present day. Meanwhile in an adjoining room the deacons put 
on their special vestments. The deacon who is to chant the 
Gospel receives the Gospel book from an acolyte, finds and 
marks the passage for the day, gives the book back to the 
acolyte and directs him to go with a subdeacon and carry it 
to the altar. 

All is ready for the service. The regional subdeacon on duty 
goes into the basilica and gives notice to the choir to be ready. 
After inquiry of the choir he returns to the secretarium and 
kneels before the Pope and announces to him who will read 
the Epistle and who will chant the Gradual. He then rises and 
awaits the signal of the Pope. At this signal he turns and 


directs that the processional candles be lighted and he himself 
prepares the censer which is carried before the Pope. 

The choir is in its place before the altar and the leader 
now intones the antiphon for the Introit. When the deacons 
hear the antiphon they go and stand beside the Pope. He now 
rises, giving his right hand to the archdeacon and his left to 
the deacon next in rank, and walking between them he moves 
toward the door. The procession is now in motion and passes 
into the basilica and up the center of the nave toward the 

Arrived before the altar, the deacons take off their planetae 
or chasubles and give them to subdeacons who hand them on 
to acolytes. Meanwhile two acolytes advance toward the Pope, 
carrying a coffer which contains the "sancta," or the Eucha- 
ristic Species consecrated in the preceding Mass, and to be 
joined with the oblation in the present Mass, thus signifying 
the union of one Mass with another and the continuity of the 
unending sacrifice. The subdeacon presents the coffer to the 
Pope, who bows his head in reverence and observes if the quan- 
tity is sufficient for the commixtion ceremony in the Mass 
about to be celebrated and pronounces accordingly. 

The seven candle-bearers divide so that the Pope may pass 
between them. In like manner he passes amidst the choir and 
on toward the altar. He pauses to bow in reverence to the altar 
and to utter a brief prayer, makes the sign of the cross upon 
his forehead, greets the assembled bishops and priests and 
deacons with the kiss of peace, and gives a signal to the di- 
rector of the choir to end the Introit psalm with the Gloria 
Patri. At the Sicut erat, the deacons advance two by two and 
bow to the altar and then return to the side of the Pope. He, 
in the meantime, kneels in prayer at a bench before the altar. 
When the antiphon of the Introit is repeated he rises, kisses 
the book of the Gospels, and passes beyond the altar into the 
apse or sanctuary and to his cathedra or throne at the ex- 
treme end of the semicircle of the apse. Here he stands, turned 
away from all the assembly. 


The choir begins the Kyrie eleison and continues until a 
signal is given by the Pope. He then turns and faces the as- 
sembly and intones the Gloria in excelsis, again turning away 
while the chant continues. At the end of the Gloria he turns 
with the salutation: "Pax vobis"; then, facing away once 
more, he chants the Oremus and the Collect for the day. This 
finished, he turns and seats himself upon his throne and signs 
to all the bishops and priests to be seated. 

The subdeacon, whose duty it is to read the Epistle, mounts 
the ambo, a pulpit at the choir rail, and reads the Epistle pas- 
sage of the day. When he has finished, the appointed chanter 
from the steps of the ambo chants the Gradual as a kind of 
reply to the Epistle. 

Then the deacon who is to read the Gospel goes and kneels 
before the Pope and kisses the papal slipper without any 
word. The Pope says to him : "May the Lord be in your heart 
and on your lips." The deacon rises, goes to the altar, kisses 
the book of the Gospels (which represents Christ Himself), 
and takes it in his hands. He moves toward the ambo, preceded 
by two subdeacons, one of them carrying a censer, and two 
acolytes who carry candles. He gives the book for a moment 
to the subdeacon whose hands are free while he himself locates 
the passage to be read, and then mounts the ambo. He chants 
the Gospel of the day and at its end is greeted by the Pope 
with the words : "Peace be to you." He then descends and gives 
the book to the subdeacon ; it is carried to the Pope and those 
about him to be kissed in reverence and then given to the aco- 
lyte who has care of it and who replaces it in its case to be 
brought back in due time to the Lateran. 

The introductory part of the service is finished. The Pope 
again salutes the whole assembly : "Dominus vobiscum" and 
is answered : "Et cum spiritu tuo." Then he chants : "Oremus,' 3 
and the Offertory begins. 

It is evident from this description that the present-day 
form of the Mass was already in use at the time of Greg- 


ory I and that the development of the ancient Mass into 
the Roman Mass was concluded at this time. 



In the time of Gregory the Great liturgical life and li- 
turgical observance were in full flower. At that time, too, 
the people were accorded an active participation in the 
celebration of the Mass, partly because the language 
of the liturgy was also the language of the people. 
Soon, however, this participation by the people be- 
came more and more restricted because of two circum- 
stances : the choir, becoming more highly trained, gave the 
chant in more artistic form, and assumed the rendition of 
the chant almost exclusively to itself ; and the newly Chris- 
tianized nations were no longer familiar with the Latin 
language. Thus the faithful, instead of being allowed an 
active participation in the celebration of the Mass, became 
"dumb listeners" (Pius XI in his Constitution on the Lit- 
urgy, December 20, 1928) . The Mass ceased to be a living, 
dramatic, communal action. In the actions and in the 
chants a deterioration and an inclination to abridgement 
was manifest, which gave to the whole the character of 
something cold and stiff and ceremonious. This abridge- 
ment is particularly evident in the variable chants of the 
Mass (Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion). The 
complete chants were reduced to single verses, and the 
significance and understanding of the Mass rite suffered 
in consequence. Besides this, two additions were made to 
the Mass: the prayers at the foot of the altar and the 
Credo. The former were originally a private prayer of 


preparation and contrition by the celebrant, recited in the 
sacristy (secretarium) , on the way to the altar, and before 
the altar. It was only in the later Middle Ages that this 
private prayer was incorporated as an integral part of the 
Mass, to be recited at the altar steps. But it retained the 
character of a private prayer, as is still quite evident in 
our high Mass. The Credo was introduced into the Roman 
Mass in 1014 at the request of the German Emperor 
Henry II. 

The Mass of the Catechumens is now definitely concluded. 
In the course of time the five prayers and chants (prayers 
at the foot of the altar, Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, and Col- 
lect) were advanced before the reading service. Although 
at first these parts had no thematic connection between 
them, they have been so fitted together that we may con- 
sider them as a whole, forming a service of prayer. Indeed 
we are able to discover a kind of psychological gradation 
in them, a kind of ladder of prayer with four rungs : contri- 
tion, desire, praise, petition. 

In this sketch of the historical development of the Mass 
of the Catechumens, we have seen the interconnection of 
the parts and their structural significance in the whole. 
We may now consider each prayer and chant separately. 


The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar 

If we compare the Mass to an ancient temple, we find that 
an addition has been made to the f acade of the edifice. This 
addition (the prayers at the foot of the altar) is one of the 
most recent parts of the Roman Mass rite. It is the priest's 
immediate preparation for the celebration of Mass. 

There are various other preparations, preceding the 
prayers at the foot of the altar. Above all, the soul should 
strive to be free from every sin, especially mortal sin. St. 
Paul gave the following warning against an unworthy 
celebration of the Lord's Supper: "Therefore whosoever 
shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord un- 
worthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of 
the Lord. But let a man prove himself : and so let him eat 
of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth 
and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment 
to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord [from 
ordinary food]" (I Cor. 11:27-29). 

If anyone, priest or layman, be conscious of a mortal sin, 
he may not be satisfied with an act of perfect contrition be- 
fore receiving this sacrificial meal, but must confess his sin 
in the sacrament of Penance. (Council of Trent, Sess. 
XIII, chap. 7, de Euch.) 

The blessing of holy water and the sprinkling of the 
people on Sundays before the principal Mass, arose from 



the Church's solicitude that the soul should be purified 
before the celebration of Mass. Holy water is a symbol of 
the water of baptism, by which we were freed from sin and 
made children of God. Conscious that they have stained 
their baptismal innocence by sin, priest and people sing 
the penitential psalm 50 (Miserere), and are sprinkled 
with holy water. 

As a more immediate preparation, the celebrant should 
spend some time in prayer. Further, he should previously 
recite Matins and Lauds and generally Prime and Tierce, 
and on fast days he should recite also Sext and None. This, 
of course, is obligatory only in monasteries and chapters 
bound to the recitation of the Office in choir. 

Besides this, a proper liturgical preparation for the 
celebration of Mass is to be found in the Missal, the Prae- 
paratio ad Missam, which is, however, not preceptive (pro 
op port unit ate sacerdotis facienda) . This preparation con- 
sists of psalms 83, 84, 85, 115, and 129, followed by some 
very beautiful prayers to the Holy Ghost. In it are ex- 
pressed a desire to be free from sin and a prayer for the 
graces of the Holy Ghost. These directions for the priest 
are instructive for the layman, and should suggest to him 
how to prepare for this august sacrifice. 

The priest makes another preparation in the sacristy. 
He washes his hands, an action which with the accompany- 
ing prayer expresses his desire to "serve the Lord" with a 
"pure soul and body." While putting on the sacred vest- 
ments, the priest also recites a number of prayers, which 
are to remind him of the necessary sacerdotal virtues. These 
prayers were most probably composed by the abbot Am- 
brose Autpertus of Italy (d. about 780). 



In the following description of the holy sacrifice of the 
Mass, we have high Mass in mind, because it represents 
the unabbreviated and complete liturgy of the Mass, and 
enables us to understand the rite of the Mass better than 
the low Mass does. The priest goes with his ministers (dea- 
con, subdeacon, and acolytes) in solemn procession to the 
altar; he makes a profound bow — we are supposing that 
the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved on the altar — while 
his assistants genuflect. Standing at the foot of the altar, 
they sign themselves with the sign of the cross, and say 
alternately and in a loud voice {vox alta) the antiphon: 
Introibo ad alt are Dei . . . ("I will go in unto the altar 
of God"), then the forty-second psalm, concluding with 
the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father), and repeating 
the antiphon. Next they recite the versicle: Adjutorium 
nostrum in nomine Domini; qui fecit coelum et terram 
("Our help is in the name of the Lord; who hath made 
heaven and earth"). Then the priest, making a profound 
bow, recites the Confession (the Confiteor), striking his 
breast three times at mea culpa ("through my fault") ; 
thereupon the ministers say the intercessory Misereatur 
tui ("May Almighty God have mercy on you"), the priest 
answering Amen. The ministers bowing profoundly recite 
the same Confession ; and the priest closes this rite of con- 
trition with the Misereatur and the intercessory absolu- 
tion, Indulgentiam . . . ("Pardon . . ."). The priest 
and his assistants make a moderate inclination and say 
alternately two verses, which express confidence in the for- 


giveness of sins. With the liturgical sacerdotal greeting, 
Dominus vobiscum, the priest ascends the steps of the altar, 
saying meanwhile another prayer that his sins may be for- 
given: Aufer a nobis ("Take away from us our iniquities, 
we beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be worthy to enter 
with pure minds into the holy of holies, through Christ 
our Lord. Amen"). This prayer concludes the prayers at 
the foot of the altar. It should be noted that the choir takes 
no notice of this Confession, chanting at this time the In- 
troit of the Mass ; today as in ancient times the choir begins 
the Mass with the Introit. From this we may perceive the 
private character of these preparatory prayers ; they are 
the private preparation of the clergy for the Mass ; but they 
can, of course, be very fittingly used by the laity in prepara- 
tion for their assistance at the holy sacrifice. During the 
prayers at the foot of the altar the people kneel. 


In the ancient Church, prior to the Middle Ages, the 
prayers at the foot of the altar were unknown; although 
the washing of the feet at the Last Supper (the first Mass) 
might be taken as a sort of rite of contrition ("He that is 
washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean 
wholly"). The Didache, however, contains the following 
direction to the early Christians : "On the day of the Lord 
you shall assemble, break bread, and celebrate the Eucha- 
rist ; but first confess your sins, that your sacrifice may be 
holy" (chap. 14). In later sources describing the ancient 
Christian Mass, we find nothing about a rite of contri- 
tion. The primitive Church considered itself "a holy peo- 


pie" ; nor did it possess the clearly defined consciousness of 
sin of medieval and modern times. It did not, therefore, see 
the need for a special rite of purification. 

It is only in the specifically Roman Mass of the seventh 
century that we are able to discover the origin of the 
prayers at the foot of the altar. The earliest Roman Mass 
Ordo (Ordo Rom. I, n. 8) relates that the pope or the 
bishop went in solemn procession to the altar and there, 
bowing his head, he prayed for a short time silently. A 
later Ordo (Ordo Rom. VI, n. 5) of the tenth century adds : 
"he prays for his sins" (inclinans se, Deum pro peccatis 
suis deprecetur) . In the beginning, then, this prayer, being 
one of recollection and adoration, became gradually an 
act of contrition and developed into the prayers at the 
foot of the altar. It was, however, a matter of centuries 
before this silent act of sorrow took the form of an act of 
contrition and of our Confiteor. 

The Confiteor arose from the so-called Apologies, which 
were prayers containing a confession of sins and a petition 
for their forgiveness. These Apologies, which often bore 
the names of great saints, reached the highest point of 
their development in the period between the ninth and the 
eleventh century, and are most often found among the 
writings of the Gallican and Celtic liturgical schools, al- 
though they are thought to be of Eastern origin. In them 
we find all the parts of the Confiteor, the entire scheme of 
the Confiteor being given in the Micrologus of Bernold of 
Constance (d. 1100). The Confiteor attained its present 
form in the thirteenth century, although it was often un- 
duly drawn out by the insertion of the names of many 


saints. Pius V (d. 1572) prescribed it in his Missal for the 
universal Church. 

The introduction of the psalm Judlca among the prayers 
at the foot of the altar is shrouded in obscurity. St. Am- 
brose, in his sermons on the sacrament of baptism (De 
mysteriis, chap. 8, and De sacramentis, chap. 4), says that 
psalm 42 with the antiphon Introibo was the baptismal 
hymn of the liturgy of Milan, chanted by the neophytes 
as they went in procession on Easter night from the baptis- 
tery to the church, to assist at their first Mass and to re- 
ceive their first Holy Communion. These words are espe- 
cially appropriate on the lips of the newly baptized: "I 
will go in unto the altar of God; unto God, who giveth 
joy to my youth." They are indeed about to go to the altar 
of God, who will truly rejoice their youth in the life of 
grace with the body of the Lord. The neophyte says : "Clad 
in this white garment and holding this burning light in my 
hand, I will go for the first time to celebrate the holy sacri- 
fice of the Mass." In the waters of baptism the neophyte 
was reborn, and now his youth in grace is to be enlivened 
and brought to maturity by the Holy Eucharist. We do 
not, however, know how this venerable baptismal chant 
came to be the daily prayer before Mass, or even whether 
there is any connection between the two. It is certain that, 
when the private or low Mass was introduced, in which the 
chanted Introit was replaced by the abridged recitation, 
it no longer answered as an "Entrance," and the Judica 
with its antiphon Introibo was substituted as a kind of 
Introit. Formerly the choir chanted the Introit as the 
priest went to the altar ; now he himself recited the Judica 


as he went from the sacristy to the altar, according to the 
rubrics of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the thir- 
teenth century the psalm was recited at the altar, accord- 
ing to Innocent Ill's commentary on the Mass. At all 
events the Confiteor is the oldest and most important part 
of the prayers at the foot of the altar ; indeed in some places 
there seems to have been no obligation to recite the Judica. 
That the practice of reciting the psalm was by no means 
uniform, can be seen from the Missal of Paul III (1550), 
which permitted the priest to recite it silently or aloud on 
the way to the altar. It was Pius V's Missal that first made 
the practice obligatory. Owing to this development, the 
Roman Mass received a twofold Introit, the one complete 
and invariable, the other rudimentary, abridged, and vari- 
able. Viewing the matter from the standpoint of the dra- 
matic requirements of the rite of the Mass, we see that the 
twofold Introit is not an ideal arrangement. 


From their history we learn that these prayers are in- 
tended to induce the proper disposition for the celebration 
of the sacrifice and to excite contrition. Let us consider 
these two thoughts separately. 

a) Before I touch the strings of the harp of prayer, the 
instrument must be properly tuned. Such is the theme of 
the forty-second psalm and its antiphon. "I will go in, unto 
the altar of God; unto God who giveth joy to my youth." 
Here is the good intention, here the firm resolution : I wish 
to offer this holy sacrifice in a worthy manner. The anti- 
phon accounts for the choice of the psalm, and when we 
recite it the antiphon should receive the emphasis. The 


whole psalm, however, can profit us much in preparing for 
the celebration of Mass. It is not the way of the liturgy to 
apply every verse of a psalm — the liturgy often adopts an 
entire psalm because of a single verse. Hence we find that 
not every verse of this psalm has a direct application to 
the beginning of the Mass. Some suitable reflections, how- 
ever, suggest themselves. 

Psalm 42 is part of a ballad which includes psalms 41 
and 42, possessing three strophes of similar structure, each 
ending with the same refrain. The ballad is a touching 
chant of the Jews in exile, bemoaning their hard lot in 
banishment, and expressing their longing for the homeland 
and for the Temple ("the holy hill and Thy tabernacles"). 
Applying this psalm to the beginning of the Mass, we may 
see in it the struggle between two forces, between our 
lower and our better selves. The world, the devil, and our 
baser self unite to hinder our ascent to spiritual things. 
Therefore we cry : "Distinguish my cause from the nation 
that is not holy; deliver me from the unjust and deceitful 
man" (within me). There is a hard battle to be fought 
"whilst the enemy afflicteth me." But "O God, Thou art 
my strength" in this wrestling ; and so we enter upon this 
spiritual pilgrimage confident of victory. Two angels will 
lead us and accompany us, "Thy light and Thy truth." 
As once the cloud and the pillar of fire led the Jews in the 
desert, they will lead us to "Thy holy hill and into Thy 
holy tabernacles," to the altar and to the hill of Calvary. 
Therefore "I enter in joyfully unto the altar of God," and 
I praise the Lord on the zither of my heart. Away, there- 
fore, with all sadness and confusion; trusting firmly in 
God, I will go in to the altar. 


Thus this psalm with its antiphon puts us in the proper 
mood for prayer; it makes the transition from the world 
into the sanctuary. If we recall this psalm as the baptismal 
hymn and remember the neophytes who sang it on their 
way to their first Mass and first Holy Communion, we find 
it filled with touching sentiment ; each time we recite it, it 
becomes a renewal of baptism. Indeed, every Mass should 
be the continuation and the unfolding of our baptismal 
grace. From baptism to the Eucharist, such was the royal 
road of primitive Christian piety. How touching, then, the 
antiphon: "I will go in unto the altar of God; unto God 
who giveth joy to my youth." The Eucharist will truly 
nurture that divine life, received in baptism, and bring it 
to maturity, to the full bloom of youth, to the fulness of 
joy. But since our baptismal garment has not been kept 
unblemished, it must be purified by contrition in the Con- 

b) The Confiteor. The layman who has not been initiated 
into the secrets of liturgical prayer, on first hearing the 
Confiteor, will hardly consider it a suitable act of contri- 
tion. The acts of contrition which he has learned from the 
catechism contain the motives for sorrow and formulate 
perfect and imperfect contrition, none of which are found 
in the Confiteor. Instead, however, the Confiteor is highly 
dramatic. It may be said to represent a judicial scene in 
two parts. When I recite the Confiteor, I imagine myself 
transported to the court of heaven, where I stand before 
the judgment seat of God. The eternal Judge is enthroned 
amid the saints ; among these saints I see the Blessed Virgin, 
Michael the captain of the heavenly host, John the Baptist 
the precursor of the Lord, and Peter and Paul the princes 


of the Apostles. Standing thus before this heavenly court, 
I know they are accusing me because I have been un- 
faithful to the grace of my baptism, I begin to realize 
my sinfulness, and I wish that I could sink away into noth- 
ingness. "Through my fault, through my fault, through 
my most grievous fault." Here is the climax of the Con- 
fiteor, or rather the profound moment when I descend into 
that pool into which flow the tears of contrition. There is 
now a sudden reversal in the scene: these saints who a 
moment ago were my accusers, are now my defenders and 
petitioners, turning to the almighty Judge to pray for my 
forgiveness. Such is the drama of the Confiteor. 

The priest's position during the Confiteor should also 
be noted. He stands at the lowest step of the altar, bowing 
profoundly; he does not venture to raise his eyes to the 
altar ; three times he strikes his breast, as if to chastise his 
heart, that source of all unfaithfulness. We should imitate 
these actions of the priest, at least in spirit. We should 
note further that the Confiteor is recited alternately by 
the priest and the ministers of the altar (in the low Mass 
the server takes the place of the ministers, not of the 
people) ; it is therefore a mutual confession of sins (a kind 
of chapter of faults, observed in certain religious houses), 
and as such it is a prayer offered by the community, a 
prayer in common, and thus a truly liturgical prayer. We 
are accustomed to look upon the forgiveness of our sins as 
a personal matter, between ourselves and God alone. The 
Church, however, looks upon it differently. During the 
psalm in these prayers at the foot of the altar it is "I" that 
speaks ; but now in the Confiteor the confession of sins 
is made in common. The ancient Church did penance in 


common; Lent was the time set aside for the observance 
of penitential practices in common. Again and again the 
liturgy emphasizes this note of common observance, be- 
cause God will grant His grace not so much to the indi- 
vidual as to the community. Further, we see in the Con- 
fiteor the important place which the veneration of the 
saints holds in the economy of our salvation; the com- 
munion of saints belongs to the life of the Church. Where- 
ever defects are to be remedied in the Church, wherever 
diseased members are to be made well, there the glorified 
members of the mystical body must bring health and 
strength. As the confession of sins was mutual, so too the 
prayer for pardon is mutual, inspired by the precept of 

Finally the priest pronounces an intercessory absolu- 
tion (distinct from the judicial, sacramental absolution). 
The three synonymous expressions, indulgentiam, absolu- 
tionem, remissionem ("pardon, absolution, remission"), 
are used merely for emphasis, expressing the hope that God 
in His mercy will take away the guilt of sin entirely. 

The verses which follow are the conclusion of this prayer 
of contrition. We are confident now that the anger of God 
has been appeased. These two verses are taken from psalm 
84, characterized by its fervor and tenderness, and identi- 
fied with the season of Advent and Christmas. Now God 
turns the countenance of His grace toward us, life flows 
again in our veins, and with life comes joy ; even as the sun, 
after the freezing winter, brings life into all nature. This 
verse, "Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy 
salvation," actually finds fulfilment in the Mass ; here, in- 
deed, God shows us His mercy incarnate, Christ Himself. 


The priest, his burden made lighter, and his heart filled 
with holy longing, now ascends the steps of the altar, pray- 
ing that he may enter the holy of holies with a clean heart. 
The holy of holies of the Temple, into which the high priest 
was permitted to enter but once a year, is a type of the 
Christian altar, unto which we are permitted to go daily. 11 
This prayer definitely concludes the prayers at the foot 
of the altar, which began with the Introibo, the resolve to 
go in, and which are now concluded with the Introire, the 
actual "going in." 12 They are the permanent, invariable 
Introit of the Mass. 

11 In some churches the priest and the congregation recite the prayers 
at the foot of the altar alternately during the high Mass. In view of the 
reflections made above, I consider this inappropriate. In earlier times 
these prayers were never said by priest and people; their character of 
private prayers should not be changed; the clergy and the congregation 
should each say it by themselves. It should be our purpose to preserve 
for the Introit its proper place as the Entrance hymn of the Mass. 

12 A very ancient prayer; found in the Sacratnentarium Leonianum 
as a Secret, and in the Sacramentarium Gelasianum as an Oratio. 


The Introit 

The prayers at the foot of the altar did not formerly be- 
long to the solemn liturgy of the Mass ; they were rather 
the private preparation of priest and people. Now the 
celebrant ascends the steps of the altar, kisses the altar 
while saying a prayer ; in a solemn Mass he places incense 
on the burning charcoal and censes the altar. He goes then 
to the Epistle side and, signing himself with the sign of 
the cross, he reads the Introit. This is the actual begin- 
ning of the Mass. 


The priest ascends the altar steps saying the prayer: 
Aufer a nobis ("Take away from us . . ."). Having 
reached the altar, he says: Oramus te ("We beseech thee, 
O Lord, by the merits of Thy saints [here he kisses the 
altar] whose relics are here, and of all the saints, that Thou 
wouldst vouchsafe to forgive me all my sins. Amen"). We 
see from this prayer that the kissing of the altar is a venera- 
tion of the relics contained in the altar. We know the pre- 
scription of the Church that some relics of martyrs must 
be placed in every consecrated altar. 

The kissing of the altar has, however, a deeper meaning, 

going back to an older day when it was not so strictly 

binding to place relics in the altar. The altar kiss is the 



bridal kiss of the Church and Christ her spouse. We will 
understand this better when we come to know the liturgical 
significance of the altar. In the liturgy the altar is Christ, 
not because in our day the Holy Eucharist is reserved in 
the tabernacle — this was, of course, not the custom until 
a few centuries ago — but because by the anointing with 
chrism it became the symbol of Christ, a symbol in the 
ancient Christian sense, more than a figure, a representa- 
tion of the reality. We realize this more fully on Good 
Friday, when the clergy lie prostrate in adoration before 
the altar with its empty tabernacle. Unfortunately we mod- 
ern Christians have lost the true appreciation of the altar. 
The altar is the most august part of the house of God; 
not the superstructure which is of course entirely unes- 
sential, not even the tabernacle; but the altar itself, the 
table of sacrifice — this is Christ. 

The priest plays a twofold role in the celebration of the 
Mass, in that he is the mediator between God and man; 
sometimes he takes the place of Christ in the Mass, particu- 
larly in the Canon, during the sacrificial actions ; and he is 
also the representative of the Church, of the assembled con- 
gregation — thus being also the representative of the 
Spouse of Christ. Ascending now to the altar, he represents 
the Church, and the altar kiss is the bridal kiss of the 
Church and her divine Spouse. Every Mass is a "fulfilment 
of the work of the redemption" (opus redemptionis exer- 
cetur, Secret for the the ninth Sunday after Pentecost), 
lovingly expressed as an espousal. Thus the altar kiss is a 
symbol of the redemption and particularly of the sacrifice 
of the Mass. Coming after the act of contrition at the 
foot of the altar, it may also be regarded as a kiss of 


reconciliation of Christ and the Church with the soul. Such, 
of course, was not the sense of the ancient liturgy. In the 
ancient Church the bishop, arriving at the altar, kissed 
the Book of the Gospels and the altar (O.R. I, n. 8), as 
he still does in pontifical Mass. (The Gospels are also a 
symbol of Christ.) Let us remember that the altar kiss is 
the bridal kiss between the Church and Christ, and be- 
tween the soul and Christ. The espousal of my soul with 
Christ is renewed in the Mass. 


At the solemn Mass the priest now places incense in the 
censer, blessing it with the words : "May you be blessed 
by Him, in whose honor you are to be burnt." Then the 
priest takes the censer and incenses the altar. This cere- 
mony is not of great antiquity, going back no farther 
than the ninth century (O.R. V) and is probably an imita- 
tion of the practice of the high priest in the Old Testa- 
ment, who entered into the holy of holies with a censer. In 
the ancient Roman Christian sacrificial liturgy incense 
was not used, but the pagans employed it in their worship 
of the gods. One instance of the use of incense was in the 
procession of the pope or bishop, when it was carried be- 
fore him as a sign of the respect due him. The vessels con- 
taining the incense were hung on the poles of the ciborium 
altar after the procession. Incense was carried before the 
Book of the Gospels when the deacon went to the ambo, 
since the Gospels represent Christ. 

The incensing of the altar in our modern liturgy is 
plainly the veneration of the place of sacrifice, and an act 


of homage and adoration offered to Christ, of whom the 
altar is a symbol. 


At the beginning of many of the old Mass formulas 
(numbering about eighty-seven) in our Roman Missal, 
we find a notation indicating the station church. This 
notation possesses more than mere historical interest. For 
example, we find at the beginning of the Mass for Easter 
Sunday, the notation, Statio ad S. Mariam majorem (i. e., 
station at St. Mary Major), which tells us that in ancient 
times the station service was held on Easter Sunday in 
the Church of St. Mary Major. We have already ex- 
plained the meaning of the station service. On certain 
days of some liturgical importance, it was customary for 
the pope or the bishop, at Rome and also in other places, 
to go in solemn procession to a determined church. The 
faithful, having first assembled in some church, called the 
church of assembly (the ecclesia collecta), recited a 
prayer, the Collect, proceeded then while chanting the lit- 
any (i. e., the Kyrie) to the station church, where the Eu- 
charistic celebration took place. This church was called the 
statio, which is a military expression for a sentinel's post. 
But, since the third century, in the language of the liturgy 
it came to denote the meeting of the faithful with their 
chief shepherd; in Rome, the Domnus apostolicus, the 
apostolic Lord. In Rome the basilicas and patriarchal 
churches (those of the Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. 
Mary Major, the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, St. Lawrence, 
the Twelve Apostles, and a number of titular churches) 


were selected as station churches and, beginning in the 
fourth and fifth centuries, these became centers of litur- 
gical observance. At first the station church was left to 
the choice of the pope, and the name of the church was 
made known to the faithful in an announcement by the 
archdeacon before the distribution of Holy Communion 
at the previous station observance. Later the feasts and 
fast days (especially in Lent) of the ecclesiastical year 
were definitely assigned to a particular station church. 
Because of this arrangement, the station observances have 
had a deciding influence on the choice of the pericopes 
and chants of the Mass formulas. Indeed the station saint 
was represented as a living person, and considered as alive 
and present in the midst of the congregation. We may 
still read in our Missal : Statio ad Sanctum Paulum, as if 
the service were to be held not only in the church of St. 
Paul, but also in his presence. During the station celebra- 
tion, then, St. Paul is to be considered as the leader and 
model of the congregation. Nay more, the assembled con- 
gregation enters into a mystical union with the saint, par- 
taking of his glory, and with him anticipating the second 
coming of the Lord, during the sacrifice. 

The station celebration has a special significance in the 
Lenten season, during which it was and still is daily ob- 
served. The ancient Roman Church wished to sanctify 
this important time of Christian congregational life by the 
daily celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice; and she 
wished to intensify the salutary effects of this sacrifice by 
the assembling of the entire congregation, by the station 
procession and the observance in the station church. Bap- 
tism, penance, and conversion were the concern of the 


entire congregation; therefore the newly baptized, the 
penitents, and all the faithful as one congregation must 
go in procession through the streets, praying and singing 
together. The zeal of one should serve to encourage and 
inspire the others, the first fervors of the newly baptized 
should edify the community. Then, the station church of 
the saint should have its salutary effect. The saint's ex- 
ample, his words, his very person should become vividly 
present to the congregation. This was the method of the 
ancient Church in effecting a conversion of the soul. The 
opus operatum and the opus operantis, the inner efficacy 
of the Eucharist and this powerful psychological force of 
the station observance, worked together to effect this con- 
version. Whereas in the ancient Church the daily celebra- 
tion of the Eucharist was unknown, in the period we are 
now considering it was celebrated daily during Lent ; the 
Domnus apostolicus was present; the neophytes and the 
penitents were a living sermon; this long procession, this 
large assembly of so many of the faithful, this venerable 
church, this tomb of one of God's saints, the sermon, all 
these psychological means must certainly not be passed 
over lightly. 

Even today the station observances are of importance. 
They are important, first of all, from a historical point of 
view, since the station church often gives us the key for 
the explanation of the Mass formulas. For example, the 
Mass for Sexagesima Sunday, especially the Collect and 
the Epistle, can be explained only if we remember that the 
station is at St. Paul's. Many of the refinements and beau- 
tiful nuances of the liturgy become apparent if we keep 
in mind the significance of the station observance. 


The station observance is further a constant exhorta- 
tion to worship in common. On the important liturgical 
days particularly, we should be conscious of the fact that 
we as Christians form one great family, that we are mem- 
bers of the mystical body, and that the sacrifice of the 
Mass offered in our parish churches is one with the sacri- 
fice of Christ on the cross. The celebration in the station 
church impresses upon us the fundamental truth that 
there is one sacrifice in one Church. The church within 
our parish should be considered the station church in 
Rome, in which the Christian family at Rome assembles 
about the pope, the high priest and vicar of Christ, for 
the celebration of the Eucharist. In all truth the liturgy 
contemplates but one Mass. This idea is salutary in 
strengthening the bond of mystical union, the union of 
living and praying in a united Church. 

Lastly, the station celebration is a form of the venera- 
tion of the saints, one especially beloved by the liturgy. 
The station saint enters into a very close relationship with 
us. On his station day, he becomes in a special way our 
model, our helper, our fellow-warrior, the leader of our 
chant during the holy sacrifice. He is present in the midst 
of the congregation, mystically united with the faithful, 
and in his company they go forward to meet Christ the 
Savior. We should begin now to think of the titular saints 
of our churches with greater appreciation. These saints 
are the honorary citizens of our towns ; here in the church 
is their abode, here it is we come into their company. These 
things were more deeply appreciated by the ancient 
Church. Today the faithful are no longer impelled, by 


their devotion to a saint, to visit his titular church and 
pray there for his intercession. This veneration of the 
saints would also have a practical effect upon our daily 
lives. When we sin, it is in the presence of the saints ; our 
penance likewise should be in their presence, and with the 
help of their intercession. We might well give some thought 
to reviving the station observance in our times. 

The station celebrations began during the fourth and 
fifth centuries, and in that period we find the great sta- 
tions observed in the principal basilicas. They reached the 
height of their development during the time of Gregory I 
(about 600), who was responsible, at least in the West, 
for the order of the stations prevailing to the present day. 
During the pontificate of Gregory II (715 to 731) the 
last additions were made to the number of station churches 
(principally for the Thursdays in Lent). From this time 
on, the station celebrations began to decline until, after 
the exile of the popes at Avignon, they were entirely dis- 
continued. We may be thankful that the notations of the 
station churches in the Missal at least have remained, a 
sort of constant remonstrance against their abrogation. 
Since the World War some zealous prelates have encour- 
aged the revival of the station observances. Each year the 
Cardinal Vicar of Rome, in his pastoral letter issued at 
the beginning of Lent, exhorts the clergy and laity of 
Rome to participate in the station celebrations. 

In modern times the station celebration is observed with 
the greatest possible solemnity, often as a pontifical Mass. 
Such relics as the church may possess are exposed for ven- 
eration in precious reliquaries on the altars. Although the 


penitential spirit of Lent forbids the use of flowers, never- 
theless the high altar is beautifully decorated with many 
relics and with candles that are lighted throughout the 
day. The floor of the church, and especially of the crypt 
where the bodies of the martyrs and of the titular saint are 
entombed, is strewn with branches of evergreen and box- 
wood, the sweet odor of which permeates the whole church. 
The simple palm branch adorning the tomb of the titular 
saint is especially impressive. The church remains thus 
ornamented for the entire day, and throughout the day 
devout worshipers may be seen in the church for the ven- 
eration of the saints. In the late afternoon the station 
procession takes place, generally after Compline has been 
chanted. At this time a large relic of the true cross is 
exposed for veneration and is incensed. Then follows the 
station procession moving through the neighboring streets, 
and during the procession clergy and laity chant the Lit- 
any of the Saints. At the end of the procession comes the 
bishop carrying the relic of the cross, accompanied by his 
ministers. After the procession returns to the church, a 
number of prayers are said, the first of which is the sta- 
tion Collect. The station celebration closes with the solemn 
blessing of the people with the sacred relic. 

The stations of Ash Wednesday and Low Sunday, the 
beginning and close of the Lenten series of stations, are 
observed with special solemnity. Great throngs of the 
faithful come to the station church, on Ash Wednesday 
to the spacious basilica of St. Sabina on the Aventine, on 
Low Sunday to the tomb of the youthful martyr St. 
Pancratius on Monte Verde, some distance from the city. 



The celebrant goes now with his ministers to the Epistle 
side and reads the Introit. We will consider this important 
prayer in full detail. 

Today the Introit is merely rudimentary. It is no longer 
the entrance hymn and often, because of its abbreviated 
form, it is hardly intelligible. Like a fossil, it is imbedded 
in the Mass, only a reminder now of that once dramatic 
celebration of the Mass, in which the people took such 
active part. Hence we can best understand the meaning 
and the form of the Introit from the unabbreviated prac- 
tice of the ancient Church. The old papal Mass is de- 
scribed in the early Roman Mass Ordos. If these sources 
are not at hand, a complete description will be found in 
the pamphlet by Wintersig (Eine Papstmesse im VII 
Jahrhundert) . This booklet will be found very helpful for 
an understanding of the ancient Mass rite. 


The pope or the bishop went in solemn procession with 
the clergy through the basilica, from the sacristy, near 
the door of the church, to the altar. Acolytes carrying 
candlesticks with seven lighted candles and with censers 
went before him. During this procession the schola can- 
torum, standing before the altar and divided into two 
choirs, sang the Introit in the following manner : the first 
choir sang the antiphon, which was repeated by the sec- 
ond choir; then the first choir sang the first verse of the 
psalm, and the second choir repeated the antiphon; the 


first choir then sang the second and third verses of the 
psalm, the second choir repeating the antiphon after each 
verse. The chant continued even while the pope lay pros- 
trate before the altar in prayer. In this manner the psalm 
was sung to the end ; whereupon the pope arose and went 
to his throne erected behind the altar. If the psalm was 
somewhat too long, it was interrupted at a sign given by 
the pope, and ended with the singing of the Gloria Patri 
by both choirs. Often the first choir sang in addition the 
verse of repetition (versus ad repetendum), and the second 
choir responded with the antiphon. The manner of singing 
the Introit just described discloses a high standard in the 
art of chanting. In earlier times the people very likely 
joined in these chants, singing the antiphon, the verses of 
the psalm being sung by a trained choir. 


We can at once see from the description given above 
that the Introit is a processional chant; in fact it is the 
chant for the procession to the celebration of the Mass. In 
the ancient Mass there were four such processions accom- 
panied by chants. These chants were intended to fill the 
pauses occasioned by the ceremonial processions (and to 
last only as long as the pause) , and besides this the chants 
were to make articulate the significance and the religious 
mood of the procession. These four processions and their 
chants are still to be found in our Mass, but only in rudi- 
mentary form; now the processions are either entirely 
omitted or very much abridged; and the accompanying 
chants have been misplaced, so that they are no longer 
properly brought to the attention of the people. Our Mass 


rite has thus lost an important life-giving and dramatic 
element. The active participation of the people in the ac- 
tion of the Mass might reach its liveliest and most active 
expression in these four processions — the Introit, Gospel 
procession, Offertory, and Communion procession. 


Now the purpose of the Introit becomes clearer. It is 
the entrance chant, intended to arouse such thoughts and 
moods as we should cultivate at the entrance of the priest 
and especially at the beginning of the Mass. It is a chant 
(we must always presuppose the Introit as sung) which is 
able to stir up the proper dispositions and feelings in the 
heart of man. Thus it is not without reason that we sing 
a suitable hymn before the sermon, e. g., a Lenten hymn 
before the Lenten sermon. To make a modern comparison, 
we might call the Introit the overture to the drama of the 
Mass that is to follow. Just as in an overture the principal 
musical theme is heard, so in the Introit the mystery of the 
feast or its mood finds expression. 

Even after what has already been said, the Introit will 
not be wholly intelligible to us in its abbreviated form, 
separated from the entrance of the priest, unless we view 
it fully with the complete psalm and the verse of repeti- 
tion, and as an accompaniment of the priest's entrance to 
the altar. We must reconstruct the chant with all its real- 
ism and drama. A few examples will make this clearer. 

In the mind of the Church, Christ the King appears on 
Epiphany in His own city of Jerusalem. The liturgy sees 
the Lord Himself in the person of the priest, entering the 
church in procession ; therefore it chants the Introit, Ecce, 


advenit . . . ("Behold the Lord the Ruler is come; and 
a kingdom in His hand . . ."). The chant becomes more 
and more dramatic, as it is sung repeatedly by the people 
during the entrance of the priest. Imagine the solemn en- 
trance of the pope into St. Peter's. In the same Introit we 
find in our Missals only the first verse of psalm 71 : "Give 
to the king Thy judgment, O God; and to the king's son 
Thy justice." As it stands, alone, the verse means very 
little and the layman will find very little in it. It is all 
different when we read the entire psalm, which is really 
the psalm of the Magi. It depicts the kingdom of peace 
of the divine King, and His gifts ; it speaks of the journey 
of the Magi, bringing their gifts. The verse of repetition 
is precisely the typical Epiphany verse: "The kings of 
Tharsis and the islands shall offer gifts ; the kings of the 
Arabians and of Saba shall bring presents." The solemn 
entrance of the priest is enriched with still another symbol : 
at the same time we see the three Magi going in proces- 
sion to the altar. This single instance will show how much 
of the drama and of the true liturgical meaning we have 
lost when we recite the shortened Introit after the prayers 
at the foot of the altar. 

A second example. The Church often sees the saint, 
whose feast is being celebrated, in the person of the priest 
as he proceeds to the altar. In the Mass of the Common of 
Virgins, the Mass Dilexisti (Masses are designated by the 
first word of the Introit), the Introit is a bridal march; 
the priest in the procession represents the spouse of Christ 
(the Church and likewise the saint). We address the 
spouse of Christ in the antiphon: "Thou hast loved jus- 
tice and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath 


anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." 
The first verse of the psalm is: "My heart hath uttered 
a good word: I speak my works to the king." This verse 
even taken by itself suggests a beautiful thought ; we can 
take it as coming from the saint, or make the words our 
own. But how touching the meaning of the Introit, when 
we make use of the entire psalm (44) to explain it! This 
psalm is indeed the wedding hymn of Christ the King, 
and of His bride, the Church. Now we see how this en- 
trance chant becomes a bridal march. 

A third example. The Introit often indicates the sym- 
bolism of the entrance of the priest. On the last Sundays 
after Pentecost, when our longing for the Parousia and 
our homesickness for heaven reach a climax, the entrance 
of the priest represents our homecoming out of the earthly 
banishment into the heavenly Jerusalem. At the portal of 
the house of God the heavenly Father Himself appears, 
comforting those who enter: "I think thoughts of peace, 
and not of affliction ; and I will bring back your captivity 
from all places." And now we sing our homecoming song: 
"Thou hast blest Thy land, O Lord: Thou hast turned 
away the captivity of Jacob." The entire eighty-fourth 
psalm sings of the benefits of the completed redemption. 
How dramatic the entrance of the priest, when it is ac- 
companied by this chant ! 

These few examples may persuade the reader to seek 
out the deeper meaning of the Introit. He will discover 
many new and beautiful reflections. But it is important 
to remember that the Introit must be viewed as the en- 
trance procession, with its complete chant. 

There remain for our consideration a few characteris- 


tics of the Introit. Sometimes it is so impulsive that it 
breaks forth at the beginning with the main theme ; some- 
times the very first word expresses the mystery of the 
feast. On Easter it begins: Resurrexi ("I have arisen") ; 
on Pentecost: Spiritus Domini ("The Spirit of the 
Lord"). On the third Sunday of Advent the Mass begins: 
Gaudete . . . ("Rejoice in the Lord always; again I 
say, rejoice; the Lord is nigh"). Sometimes the Introit 
pictures the scene of the principal event, as on Ascension 
Thursday: Viri Galilaei . . . ("Ye men of Galilee, why 
wonder you, looking up to heaven?"). At other times it 
points out the way. For example, on the first Sunday of 
Advent: "Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me, and teach me 
Thy paths." On the Ember Friday of Advent and in 
other Masses : "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who 
walk in the law of the Lord," the entrance of the priest 
represents the true way. The Introit is often to be taken 
in a very real sense. When the Introit of the eleventh 
Sunday after Pentecost says: "God in His holy place; 
God who maketh men of one mind to dwell in a house: 
He will give strength and power to His people," it ex- 
presses an actuality — God, or Christ, dwells in the 
church; those "of one mind" are the Christians gathered 
for the Sunday worship; here in the holy sacrifice they 
receive power and strength for the battle of life. 

These remarks are true only of the Introits of the older 
Masses, in which the solemn entrance procession of the 
priest was actually held. In the newer Masses which have 
a "proper" Introit, the Introit was conceived without the 
older amplification and as having no connection with the 
ancient form of the composition. A typical example is 


found in the Mass of St. Aloysius Gonzaga (June 21). 
The Introit of this Mass is composed of two verses from 
two different psalms, which characterize this youth of 
angelic purity; the antiphon is taken from the eighth 
psalm : "Thou hast made him a little less than the angels" ; 
the middle verse, contrary to all tradition, is taken from 
psalm 148. Again, on the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of 
the Blessed Virgin, the Introit is made up of two verses 
from the Gospel according to St. John, describing the 
scene of the feast: Mary standing beneath the cross, and 
Christ giving His Mother to John. 


A few words remain to be said about the composition 
of the Introit. As a rule the Introit consisted of a psalm, 
to which was added an antiphon expressive of the theme 
of the psalm; this antiphon was chosen from the psalm 
itself. The explanations given above will make the com- 
position of the Introit intelligible. Formerly a psalm 
was chosen for the feast, and the characteristic verse of 
the psalm was selected as the antiphon, which became the 
theme song and was woven into the psalm by the congre- 
gation. Today, in the abbreviated Introit, the antiphon 
becomes a frame verse, making a frame for the middle 
verse (the first verse of the psalm). Such, an Introit is 
said to be regular. It is said to be irregular when the 
antiphon is not taken from the psalm for which it serves 
as a frame, but from some other part of the Scriptures. 
This latter form always indicates the importance of the 
Mass. Only a few antiphons are of original composition. 
By way of exception, one of these is the work of an ec- 


clesiastical poet (Salve sancta Parens, by Sedulius). In 
the irregular Introits the verse of repetition often indi- 
cates the characteristic verse of the psalm, and also in- 
terprets the meaning of this unexpressed verse. 

Our modern Introit consists therefore of four parts: 
the antiphon, the middle part (the first verse of the 
psalm), the Gloria Patri, and the repeated antiphon. The 
first verse, as we have seen, stands for the entire psalm, 
and it is only accidental if this verse contains the theme 
of the psalm. There are examples in which the first verse 
of the psalm contributes nothing or is even contrary to 
the thought of the antiphon. A striking example of this 
is found in the Mass for the Vigil of an Apostle (Ego 
autem), which has the following middle verse: "Why dost 
thou glory in malice, thou who art mighty in iniquity?" 
If we did not know that this verse stands for the whole 
psalm, we would not be able to explain its presence here. 
The antiphon, then, gives the principal thought, as does 
also the complete psalm; only in the later Masses is the 
middle verse chosen for its own sake. 

From these observations the purpose of the Introit be- 
comes clear. It is indeed no essential part of the action of 
the Mass, yet it is an important part of the drama of the 
Mass and, when it is in its proper place in the Mass and 
rightly understood, it contributes much toward a living 
and dramatic presentation of the sacred action. 


During the first three centuries of the Church, the 
chanting of a psalm as an Introit to the Mass was un- 
known, since the Mass was always preceded by the chant- 


ing of the Vigil Office. The Introit is the contribution of 
the Roman Church to the liturgy, and the Liber Pon- 
tificalis (I, 230) attributes its introduction to Pope 
Celestine I (d. 432) ; this seems probable. The words of 
the Liber Pontificalis are: Constituit, ut psalmi CL ante 
sacrificium psalli antephonatim ex omnibus, quod ante 
non fiebat, nisi tantum epistola beati Pauli recitabatur 
et sanctum Evangelium. During the days of persecution 
there could be no thought of a solemn entrance of the 
bishop into the church; nor were there any churches to 
permit the carrying out of such ceremonies. 

When, however, the Church obtained her freedom, 
when the great basilicas were erected, and when the sta- 
tions began to be celebrated, it was but a logical step to 
the solemn entrance of the pope into the basilica and the 
accompanying entrance chant. This chant, as described 
above, consisted of a psalm or at least of the greater por- 
tion of a psalm, with the antiphon interpolated after each 
verse. At first it was chanted by the people led by a group 
of singers. 

When, during the time of Gregory I, the schola can- 
torum began to adopt a more elaborate chant, the first 
signs of the deterioration of the chant also appeared. The 
melismatic 13 antiphons consumed more time, and there- 
fore fewer verses of the psalm were sung. In the eighth 
century the station processions and with them the solemn 
entrance gradually disappeared. Thus the Introit was 
continually shortened until only the first verse of the 
psalm remained. Durandus (IV, chap. 5, n. 3) writes that 

is Melismatic chants are those in which several notes may be sung to 
one syllable of the text. 


for some time the antiphon was sung three times on great 
feasts : 14 at the beginning of the Introit and before and 
after the Gloria Patri. 

In the Middle Ages the Introit was often disfigured by 
the so-called tropes, metrical lines to support the ampli- 
fied chant. This change was a sign that the true purpose 
of the Introit was no longer understood. The introduc- 
tion of private Mass, and with it of the prayers at the 
foot of the altar, reduced the Introit to a mere vestige 
of what it had formerly been, and robbed it of all im- 
portance in the low Mass. Today we see the anomaly of 
a twofold Introit in the Mass ; one, the psalm Judica, 
complete and invariable; the other, the true Introit, still 
variable but a mere shadow of the original Introit. 


It is clear, therefore, that a minor role should be as- 
signed to the prayers at the foot of the altar, and the 
Introit should again receive its rightful place as the en- 
trance hymn of the Mass. The new Roman Gradual ap- 
parently inclines to this view, when it expressly directs: 
"The chanters begin the antiphon of the Introit as the 
priest goes to the altar (accedente) ," thus making the In- 
troit again the entrance chant. In the most recent papal 
Masses, too, the Introit was sung in the old manner, with 
several verses of the psalm. We should endeavor to bring 
back the solemn entrance procession of the priest. Today 
the priest hurries to the altar by the shortest way, as if, 

14 Durandus, a famous liturgist of the Middle Ages (d. 1296), in his 
Rationale divinorum officiorum. 


one might say, by stealth. Certainly the solemn entrance 
procession with its accompanying chant, at least on major 
feasts, would deeply impress the faithful, and be a proper 
and fitting beginning for the holy sacrifice. 


The Kyrie and the Gloria 

The last tones of the Introit have died away. It was the 
entrance chant or, one might say, the invitation hymn, 
announcing the mood in which we should come to the wor- 
ship of God; it was the overture, in which we heard the 
motive of the day or of the feast. The choir passes now 
from the Introit to the prayerful Kyrie, singing Kyrie 
eleison three times, Christe eleison three times, and again 
Kyrie eleison three times. Meanwhile the priest, standing 
at the Epistle side, after the Introit, has prayed the Kyrie 
alternately with his assistants — in a low Mass he recites 
it at the middle of the altar. When the choir has finished 
the singing of the Kyrie, the priest intones the Gloria in 
excelsis (which is continued by the choir) on feast days 
and Sundays (excepting Advent and Lent), and during 
the Easter season (excepting the Rogation days). 


Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, are Greek words, mean- 
ing in English: Lord, have mercy on us; Christ, have 
mercy on us. These petitions, particularly the former, are 
found in Holy Writ. Thus in the fortieth psalm: "But 
thou, O Lord, have mercy on me" ; then frequently in the 
Gospels. We have, for example, Matt. 9 : 27 : the two blind 



men crying out to Jesus: "Have mercy on us, Son of 
David" ; Matt. 20 : 30 : the two blind men crying out : 
"O Lord, thou son of David, have mercy on us." The 
Kyrie is the ardent cry of the Church for assistance, ad- 
dressed to God and to Christ. In very ancient times the 
pagans, too, made use of this prayer. No wonder, then, 
that it became a liturgical acclamation, in which the peo- 
ple frequently joined, as is still the case in the Greek 


Two theories are advanced to explain the incorporation 
of the Kyrie in the Mass. According to the first, the Kyrie 
is all that remains of a litany recited at the beginning of 
the Mass, in imitation of the Greek Ektenies (litanies), 
which are still chanted in the Greek Mass. This explana- 
tion seems hardly tenable, since there is nothing in liturgi- 
cal history to indicate the existence of such a litany, nor 
is it certain that the Greek Ektenies were not of later 
origin. The second theory, offered above, appears more 
acceptable: viz., that the Kyrie is a relic of the station 
procession, chanted during the procession from the 
church of assembly to the station church. When the sta- 
tion processions were discontinued, the Kyrie was chanted 
in the church before Mass. We find the following rubric 
in the Gregorian Antiphonary for Ash Wednesday: 
"When there is a Collect [i. e., a meeting in the church of 
assembly], the Kyrie is not sung for the Mass, since the 
subdeacon has already chanted it during the litany (pro- 
cession)" (Thomasius, IV, 37). 

Its preservation in the Greek language is a sign of its 


antiquity. It goes back at least as far as the fourth cen- 
tury, since until then Greek was the liturgical language 
at Rome. The Kyrie was especially well adapted as the 
united cry of petition of a large gathering of people, be- 
cause of its brevity and terseness. Even when Latin be- 
came the liturgical language, it remained the customary 
and frequently used appeal for divine assistance, espe- 
cially in the ancient liturgy. Today, in the Greek liturgy, 
the Kyrie is much more frequently used than in the Latin 

In the Roman Mass the repetition of the Kyrie was not 
limited; and after Gregory I (about 600) it was alter- 
nated with the Christe eleison. Pope Gregory, in one of 
his letters (Ep. 9), writes as follows: "In the daily Mass, 
we omit certain things which are usually said ; however, we 
say the Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison, that we may con- 
tinue somewhat longer in the words of this prayer." The 
ninefold repetition is mentioned in the Ordo composed by 
John, the archcantor of St. Peter's (680), although the 
Ordo Romanus I still presupposes an unlimited repetition ; 
hence the number of repetitions must have been limited 
soon after the time of Gregory I. Thus the Kyrie received 
a Trinitarian implication, i. e., the first three Kyrie's 
were addressed to the Father, the three Christe's to the 
Son, and the last three Kyrie' 's to the Holy Spirit; the 
triple repetition to each of the divine Persons is expres- 
sive of its urgency and devotion. During the course of the 
Middle Ages, the Kyrie was often ornamented by tropes, 
offering an excellent occasion for these metrical compo- 



During the prayers at the foot of the altar we cleansed 
our souls from the stains of sin. We were standing, as it 
were, in the porch of the church, and we washed our hands 
at the fountain, as the Christians did of old. During the 
Introit we entered and came to the portal of the sanctu- 
ary, and were introduced to the spirit of the feast. And 
now we stand at the door of the heavenly Father's house 
and knock nine times in the Kyrie. The Kyrie expresses 
our great need of redemption. This consciousness of the 
need for salvation is always the first step (or, if we in- 
clude the contrition of the prayers at the foot of the altar, 
the second step) in the elevation of our souls in prayer. 
We cannot hope to receive from God any grace or any 
gift unless the desire for it has first been awakened in us. 
As the sensation of hunger is the beginning of the desire 
for food, so also the consciousness of our need of salva- 
tion is the beginning of the desire for the graces of the 
redemption. This knowledge of our needs must be ac- 
companied by the spirit of humility: we must recognize 
our own insignificance and our poverty, our unworthiness 
to receive this gift; we must stand like beggars at the 
door of the heavenly Father. When we recall, moreover, 
how precious is the gift we are about to receive, the best 
in all the world, Christ in the Eucharist, our sacrifice and 
our food, we understand the urgency and the fervor of the 

The Kyrie is, so to speak, the Advent time of every 
day. If we celebrate Christmas and Easter in every Mass, 


then the Kyrie is the longing Advent prayer of the 
Church, the "Drop dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds 
rain the Just One." We sing this Advent Kyrie for our- 
selves, because within our souls there is much that is still 
unregenerate, much still pagan: we sing, too, for our 
unregenerated fellow-men, who sit in the shadow of death, 
of unbelief and of paganism; for them, too, may there 
come an Advent time. The Kyrie should stir up within 
us a wealth of petitions, longings, and pious feelings. In 
it, all that longing of our earthly, unredeemed, sinful be- 
ing for the kingdom of God finds expression. Music finds 
in the Kyrie a magnificent inspiration: the pathos and 
the grief of unredeemed humanity. 

The Kyrie is also the song of the Church in her exile. 
We sing it only as strangers in this world; in that other 
world we will sing the Alleluia, the song of our heavenly 
fatherland. Thus in the Kyrie we give expression to our 
yearning, and to our homesickness for our heavenly home. 
The Kyrie is the old Maranatha (Come, O Lord) of the 
primitive Church. 


With a sudden change of mood, the jubilant, praising 
Gloria in eoccelsis, follows the yearning, prayerful Kyrie. 
The Gloria is not an integral part of the earliest liturgy. 
Abruptly it makes its appearance in the oldest Ordo of 
the Roman Mass. In reading the history of the Gloria, 
we must distinguish between the Gloria itself and its 
introduction as a part of the Mass. 



Undoubtedly the Gloria goes back to the earliest times 
of the Christian era. It is a venerable memorial of very 
ancient chants, such as were composed by the pneumatists 
(prophets) in inspired moments, and may be compared 
with the Magnificat and the Benedictus. Indeed not all 
parts of the text are equally ancient, since additions were 
made in the course of time. The form of the chant indi- 
cates its antiquity, and the numerous acclamations recall 
Hellenistic types. Father Casel is of the opinion that "we 
have here in the Gloria a series of very old inspired ac- 
clamations addressed to Christ by the pneumatists, and 
really no hymn at all. Since, however, the Gloria was used 
as a hymn, one may easily understand that soon the ad- 
dresses to the Father were added, and then the entire 
first part devoted to Him." The introduction, too, Gloria 
. . . voluntatis, was probably added shortly after the 
hymn came into use. We should also note that the ancient 
petition eleison ("have mercy on us") is found in the 

The oldest witness to the Gloria goes back to the fourth 
century, and is found in a work attributed to St. Athana- 
sius (De virginitate) 9 in which the hymn together with 
the sixty-second psalm is recommended to the consecrated 
virgins as a morning prayer. Since in this book the hymn 
is supposed to be well known, only a few verses are given. 
A complete Greek text is found in the Apostolic Constitu- 
tions (vii, 47), where it is also given as a morning prayer. 
The text of the Gloria is likewise found in the Codex 



Alexandrinus, where it is already very similar to the 
present text. The oldest Latin text is found in the 
Antiphonary of Bangor (seventh century), which is in 
essential agreement with the text of the Codex Alexan- 
drinus. Our present text is found in the Psalter of Wolfcoz 
of St. Gall (ninth century), and since the eleventh cen- 
tury it has been universally accepted. A comparison of 
the different texts follows: 



fourth century 


Glory to God on high 
and on earth peace, 
and joy among men. 
We praise Thee, 
We bless Thee in 

We glorify Thee, 
We extol Thee, 

We adore Thee 
through Thy excel- 
lent high priest. 

Thou, the true, unbe- 
gotten, one God, 

alone inaccessible be- 
cause of Thy great 

Lord King of heaven, 

Father, Almighty, 

Codex Alexandrinus 

fifth century 


Glory to God on high 
and on earth peace, 
and joy among men. 
We praise Thee, 
We bless Thee, 

We adore Thee, 
We glorify Thee, 
We give Thee thanks 
for Thy great glory. 
Lord King in heaven, 

Father, Almighty, 
Lord, the only begot- 
Son Jesus Christ, 
And Holy Spirit. 

Present Text 

Glory to God on high 
and on earth peace 
to men of good will. 
We praise Thee, 
We bless Thee, 

We adore Thee, 
We glorify Thee, 
We give Thee thanks 
for Thy great glory. 
Lord, God, heavenly 

God the Father Al- 
Lord, the only begot- 
Son Jesus Christ, 





fourth century 


Lord God, Father of 

the Immaculate Lamb, 
Who takes away the 

sins of the world; 

Receive our prayers. 
Thou who rulest the 

For Thou alone art 

Thou alone the Lord 


The anointed of God, 
of all creation, our 

Through whom there 
is to Thee glory, 
honor, and adora- 
tion. Amen. 

Codex Alexandrinus 

fifth century 


Lord God, Lamb of 

Son of the Father, 
Who takest away the 

sins of the world, 
have mercy on us. 
Who takest away the 

sins of the world, 
have mercy on us. 
Receive our prayers. 
Thou who sittest at 

the right hand of 

the Father, 
have mercy on us. 
For Thou alone art 

Thou alone art the 

Lord, Jesus Christ, 
in the glory of the Fa- 
ther. Amen. 

Present Text 

Lord God, Lamb of 

Son of the Father, 
who takest away the 

sins of the world, 
have mercy on us. 
Thou, who takest away 
the sins of the world 

Receive our prayer. 
Thou who sittest at 

the right hand of 

the Father, 
have mercy on us. 
For Thou alone art 

Thou alone art the 

Thou alone, O Jesus 

with the Holy Ghost, 

art most high in the 

glory of God, the 

Father. Amen. 


We are not able to say definitely when and how the 
Gloria was incorporated in the Mass. In the ancient 
Christian Mass, even until the fourth and fifth century, 
it was unknown. In the sixth century it appears in the 
Roman Mass, but we do not know the circumstances un- 
der which it was introduced. Since for a long time it re- 
mained the exclusive privilege of bishops, it may have 


been sung as a kind of Introit at the entrance of the 
bishop, as vicar of Christ. According to the Liber Pon- 
tificalis, Pope Telesphorus (d. 136) ordained that "the 
angelic hymn should be said before the sacrifice." This 
statement is, of course, historically unreliable, but, since 
the Liber Pontificalis closes with the sixth century, we 
may conclude that the Gloria was in use at that time. 
According to the first edition of the Liber Pontificalis 
(Duchesne, I, 57), the Gloria was intoned only in the 
Mass of Christmas Night; Pope Symmachus (d. 514), 
however, permitted it to be chanted on Sundays and on 
the feasts of martyrs. According to the Gregorian Sacra- 
mentary, the Gloria was chanted only in the Mass of 
bishops ; and the Roman titular priests were permitted to 
intone it on the day of their consecration, when they were 
installed in their titular churches. A simple priest was 
permitted to chant it only on Easter. We find liturgical 
writers until the eleventh century complaining about 
these restrictions, although the Micrologus, also of the 
eleventh century, seems not to be cognizant of these dis- 
tinctions. Since the twelfth century the Gloria has been 
chanted universally throughout the Church, being sung 
in all Masses of a joyful character, according to the prin- 
ciple that the Te Deum of Matins, the Gloria, and the Ite 
Missa Est are always found together. 


Let us consider the wording of this beautiful and in- 
spiring hymn. 


Glory be to God on high And on earth peace to men 

of good will. 
I. Glory to the Father II. Peace from the Son 

We praise Thee. O Lord, the only begotten 

We bless Thee, Son, Jesus Christ, 

We adore Thee, O Lord God, Lamb of God, 

We give Thee thanks for Son of the Father, 

Thy great glory, Who takest away the sins 

Lord God, heavenly of the world, 

King, Have mercy on us. 

God the Father Almighty. Who takest away the sins 

of the world, 
Receive our prayer. 
Thou who sittest at the 
right hand of the Father, 
Have mercy on us. 
For Thou alone art holy, 
Thou alone art the Lord, 
Thou alone, O Jesus Christ, 
art most high, 

III. To the Holy Ghost 
With the Holy Ghost, 
In the glory of God, 
the Father. Amen. 

This hymn of praise consists of an introduction and three 
parts. It begins with the song of the angels, the Christ- 
mas hymn, the cradle song of our Lord, which the angels 
sang to the shepherds on the fields of Bethlehem at the 


birth of Christ. It contains the program of our Lord's 
life and of our redemption by Him. The end and purpose 
of the redemption is to restore the glory of God, of which 
He has been robbed by sin, and to bring to men the Mes- 
sianic peace. Peace is the essence of all those gifts that 
Christ came to bring; but this Messianic peace will of 
course be given only to those who are "of good will." In 
every Mass we are, in a sense, celebrating Christmas, for 
the Savior comes down upon the altar under the humble 
appearance of bread, as once He came as a Child, and 
the purpose of His coming is the same as then: to give 
glory to God, to bring peace to men. Here is the theme 
of our hymn: Glory to the Father, peace from the Son. 

The first part is the singing of praise and the giving 
of thanks to the Father. We recognize here the poverty of 
our speech, for the hymn seems to find difficulty in giving 
adequate expression to this praise. We should note espe- 
cially the verse: "We give Thee thanks for Thy great 
glory." Elsewhere man is thankful for the benefits he has 
received; here we give thanks for the greatness and the 
glory of God Himself. It is an unselfish, disinterested giv- 
ing of thanks, the joy of those who as children of God 
are vouchsafed a glimpse of His sublime majesty. 

The second part, directed to the Son of God, is a 
prayer for salvation. Salvation is the purpose of His 
coming, it is also the purpose of the Mass. We first ad- 
dress our Lord with His titles of honor. We pause when 
we come to the "Lamb of God," for this title refers to 
the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and its continuation in 
the Mass. Tenderly this prayer for salvation is thrice 


repeated and is directed to our Lord in His glory, sitting 
at the right hand of His Father. This second part ends 
with praising Christ, as the only and the most high Lord. 

Briefly, at the end, the Holy Ghost is praised, in union 
with the two other divine Persons. Thus the hymn concludes 
with an act of homage to the Blessed Trinity. 

The Gloria is assuredly one of the most sublime of all 
the chants of the Church. Like a mighty stream it rushes 
onward, full of devotion and faith and love, tenderly yet 
profoundly, despite the simplicity of its language. May 
we, when we recite it or chant it, feel a movement of the 
spirit of the ancient Church, so full of faith, so fervent 
in love. 

Briefly, what is its position in the structure of the 
Mass? It is the morning prayer of the Church, a hymn 
of praise to the Blessed Trinity ; an intimate, tender plea 
for salvation, moving on in majestic cadences, portending 
the mystery of the Eucharist. The Gloria is the joyful 
response to the pleading of the Kyrie; it is the jubilant 
anthem of redemption of the children of God. Having 
made known in the Kyrie our need for salvation, now in 
the Gloria we express with gratitude and joy our con- 
fidence in the knowledge of our redemption: I have been 
redeemed by Christ, I am a child of God, an heir of 
heaven ; therefore I am jubilant. 

We come to the Mass, conscious of two things: that 
we stand greatly in need of redemption, and that we have 
actually been saved. When I think of the first, I recognize 
my own insignificance; when I realize the second truth, 
I perceive my strength; in the first I see my weakness 


and utter poverty, in the other I see my power and great- 
ness. Let us put into the prayerful Kyrie our yearning 
for salvation. In the joyful Gloria let us sing out con- 
fidently of our redemption, celebrating thus in every 
Mass both Advent and Christmas. 


The Collect 

At the end of the Gloria the priest kisses the altar and, 
turning to the people with hands extended, sings or says 
aloud: Dominus vobiscum ("The Lord be with you"), 
whereupon the choir and the people (in their stead the 
server) answer: Et cum spiritu tuo ("and with thy 
spirit"). If the celebrant is a bishop or a consecrated ab- 
bot, he greets the people with Pax vobis ("Peace be with 
you"). The priest then goes to the Epistle side; turning 
to the cross of the altar and extending his hands, he 
chants: Or emus ("Let us pray"). Then with hands ex- 
tended he recites aloud a prayer, closing with a formula, 
to which the choir and people respond: Amen. This 
prayer is the Collect. 


The Dominus vobiscum is the time-honored and fre- 
quently used greeting of the Church, addressed to her 
children. Its origin is to be found in the traditional greet- 
ing formulas of the Old Testament. Thus we read in the 
Book of Ruth (2:4): "Booz came out and said to the 
reapers : "The Lord be with you" (Dominus vobiscum) ; 
and they answered him: "The Lord bless thee" (Bene- 
dicat tibi Dominus). In the Book of Judges (6:l£n\) 

the angel of the Lord appears to Gedeon the judge, and 



greets him with the words: "The Lord is with thee 
(Dominus tecum), O most valiant of men." But Gedeon 
answers: "I beseech thee, my lord, if the Lord be with 
us, why have these evils fallen upon us?" Later the angel 
says to Gedeon: "Peace be with thee" {pax tecum). "And 
Gedeon built there an altar to the Lord, and called it 
the Lord's peace, until this present day." When the arch- 
angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said: "Hail, full of 
grace, the Lord is with thee" {Dominus tecum, Luke 1 : 
28). From these instances we see that this greeting orig- 
inated among the Jews, and was indeed a wish as well 
as a statement of fact, rather the latter as we can see 
from the majority of instances. This greeting was then 
Christianized and, as used by the Church, received a 
deeper meaning: "The Lord is (or, May the Lord be) 
with thee. And with thy spirit." The liturgy generally 
uses the word "Lord" for Christ. By this greeting the 
Church expresses the wish that Christ dwell in us and 
with us, or states as a fact that He does so. Here we are 
reminded of the famous prophecy of Isaias concerning the 
virgin birth of the Savior (7:14) : "Behold a virgin shall 
conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called 
Emmanuel" (God with us). In the vita aeterna (the divine 
life), Christ lives in us, and we cannot desire anything 
higher for ourselves than this: Christians, you are the 
children of God, Christ-bearers; see that you become 
such, more and more. 

The answer Et cum spiritu tuo ("And with thy 
spirit"), is addressed to an individual, and here, in the 
Mass, to the priest. This saying, "And with thy spirit," 
is really a Hebraism, meaning the same as "with thee." 


The Hebrew prefers thus to circumscribe the personal 
pronoun; instead of "with thee," he rather says, "with 
thy soul, with thy spirit." It is, then, really the response : 
"The Lord is (or, May He be) with thee also." Moreover, 
the liturgy discovers a special meaning in the word 
"spirit" ; it interprets it as the power of Orders of which 
the celebrant partakes, through the Holy Spirit. This is 
confirmed by the fact that this greeting belongs only to 
the deacon and the priest. The cleric in lower Orders 
(subdeaconship and the minor Orders) and the layman 
(even a religious) is not permitted to use the Dominus 
vobiscum, precisely because one cannot respond: "With 
thy spirit." We can see that the Holy Spirit has this 
significance in the power of Orders when we recall the 
rite of ordination. In the ordination of deacons and priests 
(not subdeacons), the Holy Spirit is solemnly invoked 
and called down upon those to be ordained. The Dominus 
'vobiscum is therefore the solemn greeting of the deacon 
and the priest to the people, and the response is the peo- 
ple's respectful recognition of the power of Orders of their 
liturgical minister, and of the "Spirit" dwelling in him. 

At this point the bishop or the abbot greets the people 
with Pax vobis instead of Dominus vobiscum, but only 
when the Gloria has been recited or sung in the Mass. 
This is a distinction of those who have received the fulness 
of the Apostolic power of Orders. Since the Pax tftbis 
("Peace be with you") has some relationship to the 
Gloria, the latter offers us a key for its explanation. In 
the Gloria we heard: "Peace on earth to men of good 
will." This peace is the essence of all the gifts of the re- 
demption. Therefore Christ after His resurrection greeted 


His Apostles again and again with the words : "Peace be 
with you" {Pax vobis). It is especially instructive to read 
(John 20: 19 f.) : "Jesus stood in the midst, and said to 
them: Peace be to you. . . . He said therefore to them 
again: Peace be to you; As the Father hath sent me, I 
also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on 
them: and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. 
Whose sins you shall forgive. . . ." The expression 
"Holy Ghost" is used here in the same sense as the word 
"spirit" in the expression "with thy spirit," meaning: 
"Receive the power of Orders, which comes from the 
Holy Ghost." The Pax vobis is, then, both of itself and 
through its use by the Savior, the distinctive greeting of 
the bishop. By it the bishop wishes for the congregation 
the fulness of the graces of the redemption, which he has 
received in the fulness of his consecration. 

Let us consider for a moment the ceremonies which 
precede and accompany the Dominus vobiscum. The 
priest kisses the altar; we know already that the altar is 
the symbol of Christ — from Christ comes every grace of 
salvation. In the kiss, then, the priest receives from Christ 
the strength of grace. Turning to the people, with ex- 
tended hands, he says: Dominus vobiscum; he wishes to 
transmit to the people the graces which he has received 
from the altar. Let us say rather: The priest brings 
Christ from the altar, and gives Him to the people in this 
greeting. Uniting the words and the action, the greeting 
becomes even more full of meaning: it is no mere wish, 
but becomes a mystery full of grace and truth. 

One more important thought is suggested by the posi- 
tion of the Dominus vobiscum in the structure of the 


Mass. The greeting is found eight times, and always in 
relation to some following action. We can say: As often 
as the congregation is expected to take an active part in 
the Mass, it is invited to do so by this greeting. We could 
render the Dominus vobiscum somewhat prosaically by 
saying: "Christians, attend now; what is about to take 
place concerns you especially." This can be clearly seen 
throughout the Mass. In this particular place the priest 
says Dominus vobiscum because of the Collect that fol- 
lows; for it is really the prayer of the congregation. Be- 
fore the Gospel the deacon says: Dominus vobiscum, as 
though he would say: "Christians, hear these glad tid- 
ings." At the Offertory procession, the Preface, and the 
Communion prayer, the people are again invited by this 
greeting; it is truly the invitation of the Church to take 
an active part in the celebration of the Mass. The Dom- 
inus vobiscum is moreover a comforting proof for the 
friends of the liturgy, that the Church desires the active 
participation of the people in the liturgy. If through the 
ravages of time the Mass has become merely an action of 
the priest, the Dominus vobiscum remains an imperish- 
able, perennial witness that the active participation of 
the people is an essential trait of the liturgy. 


The Dominus vobiscum is the preparation of the peo- 
ple for the principal liturgical prayer of the day. The 
term Collect is rarely found today in liturgical books 
(Ritus celebrandi, XI, 1). In our Missals it is called the 
Oratio, the "prayer" (of the Church). However, the old 
designation still remains, and we are glad to retain it, for 


it gives a clue to the history of the prayer. The Collect 
is not mentioned in the oldest liturgies of the first cen- 
turies ; and it is probably a specifically Roman addition. 
In the older liturgies the service of reading came first, fol- 
lowed by the service of prayer, with the long prayer of 
the congregation (oratio fidelium), as is still the case with 
us on Good Friday. 

There are several explanations for the origin of the 
Collect. The one we here propose seems to be the most 
acceptable. Our Oratio was originally the prayer said in 
the ecclesia collecta (church of assembly). The custom 
of assembling in one church (ecclesia collecta), and going 
from there in procession, reciting psalms and litanies, to 
another church (statio, station church), where Mass was 
celebrated, is well known. In the church of assembly a 
prayer was said, the Oratio ad collectam, the prayer in 
the assembly church, or better, the prayer of the as- 
sembled congregation. 15 Some of these prayers are still 
in use among us, e. g., on Ash Wednesday before the dis- 
tribution of the ashes and on Palm Sunday before the 
procession. Later, when the procession was omitted, this 
prayer was said at the beginning of the Mass in the 
church where the Mass was celebrated. We see, then, that 
the Collect is a venerable liturgical unit of the Roman 

The Collect in its specifically Roman form is found for 
the first time in the Leonine Sacramentary, the oldest such 
sacramentary that has come down to us ; its textual matter 

is The congregation was exhorted to say a silent prayer by the 
Flectamus genua ("Let us bend our knees"); and after the Levate 
("Arise"), the priest recited the Oratio. These exhortations have in 
some instances been preserved in our liturgy. 


goes back certainly as far as the fifth and sixth centuries. 
Here we find the Collect completely formed and in such 
profusion that the period from Leo I to Gregory I (450— 
550) must be considered the heyday of the development 
of the Collect. The Leonine Sacramentary is not an 
official Mass Book, but a private collection of Mass for- 
mulas. During the fourth and fifth centuries the com- 
position of the Collects (and Prefaces) was left to the 
celebrant, who was obliged merely to observe a certain 
form, within which he was entirely free to compose. "Year 
after year, it was left to the pope to compose a new 
prayer, if not with the utmost freedom of one extemporiz- 
ing, still, provided he observed the forms of the written 
orationes, he was able to give the prayer a new beauty 
by his choice of words, expressing at the same time the 
mood of the regular succession of Christian feasts, and 
weaving into the prayer the succeeding joys and sorrows, 
with which the heart was then filled." 16 Thus there arose 
a repertory of Orationes from which the celebrant or other 
liturgical minister could draw, when about the middle of 
the sixth century this stream of freely composed liturgi- 
cal texts began to disappear. Collections were made, first 
privately, later by the authorities. Such was the origin 
of our Missal. In the Leonine Sacramentary there are 
often two orationes for one day, of which the first was re- 
cited before the lesson, the second between the two lessons 
not taken from the Gospels (at this time there were still 
three Scripture readings). The Gregorian Sacramentary 
and the Or do Romanus I (seventh century) have but one 
oratio, which was the only one, no others being added ; and 

i« Baumstark, Mis sale Romanum, p. 80. 


this became the rule later and down to our own times. It 
is to be hoped that the rule of one Collect may again ob- 

During the Middle Ages and in our time the word 
"Collect" is often explained as the prayer which gathers 
together the petitions of the faithful, as though the priest 
gathered these prayers into a sheaf and offered them to 
God. However edifying this explanation may be, we can- 
not accept it in the light of historical research. 


Many Christians, accustomed to the prayer books in 
common use, are frequently disappointed by the brevity 
and the poverty of sentiment of the ecclesiastical prayers, 
especially the Collects. But this is really their advantage ; 
these prayers are, in fact, noted for this quality. They 
are constructed in a lapidary Roman style, brief, yet 
pregnant with meaning. Elegance of language goes with 
brevity and conciseness of expression. Seldom does the 
Latin language find a more correct or choicer application. 
The exterior form of the Collects is uniform; variety is 
not their outstanding characteristic. This uniformity was 
somewhat necessary, since these formulas were generally 
composed with a view to being sung according to a uni- 
form melody. In the absence of a metrical and prosodical 
cadence, which was then unknown, another had to be 
found which, though somewhat resembling such cadence, 
was in other respects very much in contrast with it. Hence 
a peculiar rhythm was invented, known as a cursus. This 
rhythm usually consisted of an introduction, serving to 
arouse attention, then one or two parts (a statement and 


the petition), allowing the thought to be fully unfolded, 
and finally a conclusion, in which the thought came to 
rest. The quality for which in my estimation these Col- 
lects should be especially valued, is that, although con- 
taining the loftiest thoughts in such abundance, they 
never suggest wordiness or diffuseness. The composer is 
always concerned that every expression shall be concise, 
well calculated to include the greatest amount of beauty 
in the fewest words; and in this he has been remarkably 

As to the content of the Collects, we find that they are 
basically petitions, founded generally on the thought of 
the feast. We might say they are the festal thought in 
the form of a prayer; this is particularly true of the 
feasts, rarely of the Sundays. 

We will illustrate what we have said about the contents 
and form of the Collect, taking as an example the old 
classical Collect for the Feast of the Epiphany. The Eng- 
lish translation reads as follows: 

O God, who on this day by the guidance of a star didst re- 
veal Thine only -begotten Son to the Gentiles: grant in Thy 
mercy that we who know Thee now by faith may be led even 
to contemplate the beauty of Thy maj esty. Through the same 
our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with 
Thee and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen. 

This prayer, like most of the classically constructed 
Collects, is divided into three parts. The first is the ad- 
dress : "0 God." To the word "God" various attributes are 
often added, such as: "almighty," "eternal." The second 
part is generally a relative clause, containing the motive 
for the petition, based on the thought of the feast. In our 


example, we see the Magi being led by the star to the Son 
of God. The third part is the petition itself. Note how 
this petition often harmonizes with the festal thought. 
This is especially true in our example. The journey of the 
Magi is applied to our lives: like the Magi we are being 
led by a star, the star of faith, which guides us safely to 
the goal of our life's journey. This goal of ours is similar 
to that of the Magi, not indeed the new-born Son of God, 
but the beatific vision of the divine Majesty after death, 
in the Parousia. So our lives are like the journey of the 
Magi. This example may well show us how varied and 
profound are the thoughts contained in these few words. 
Some Collects, e. g., many of those on the Sundays after 
Pentecost, are so rich in thought, that they afford us 
material for long meditations. 

The great importance of the Collects, however, lies in 
the fact that they are the principal liturgical prayer of 
the day, recited not only in the Mass, but appearing again 
and again in the Hours of the Breviary, designating the 
liturgical mood of the day. Thus, too, the Collect unites 
the Mass and the Breviary into one organic whole. 


We wish to call attention to a few of the characteristics 
of the Collect. The prayer always begins with an invita- 
tion: Or emus ("Let us pray"). Thus the Collect is desig- 
nated as a prayer of the congregation; the priest recites 
it for the congregation and in their name. 

The Collect is recited by the priest with extended hands ; 
the old posture for prayer. It was thus the first Christians 
prayed, whereas we are accustomed to pray with folded 


hands. The old objective piety and the new subjective 
piety are strikingly expressed in these two positions for 
prayer. The hands folded in prayer, symbolize man's de- 
votion, his labor and striving to come to God, in a word 
piety as seen from the human viewpoint. The hands open 
and extended in prayer are an expression of man's readi- 
ness to open his heart to grace, and of the consciousness 
that all things come from God — piety as conceived from 
the viewpoint of God. 

The Collect closes with a formula, which has but few 
variations; the most common one is this: "Through our 
Lord Jesus Christ, who lives with Thee and reigns as 
King in unity with the Holy Ghost, world without end." 
By this conclusion the Collect becomes a prayer in the 
name of Jesus, which according to our Lord's promise is 
certain of being heard. Most of the Collects are addressed 
to the First Divine Person, the Father, for such was the 
ancient method of prayer, "through the Son to the Fa- 
ther." Only a few of both the new and the older Collects 
are addressed to the Son, and in them the formula is 
changed to: "Thou who livest and reignest as King with 
God the Father in unity with the Holy Ghost." If the 
Second or Third Person is mentioned in the Collect, 
the formula is changed to: "Through the same our 
Lord . . . ," and "in unity with the same Holy Ghost." 
No Collect is addressed to the Holy Ghost. The idea of the 
kingship, which only since the establishment of the Feast of 
Christ the King has again become prominent, is also note- 
worthy; therefore we translate the formula: "reignest as 
King," instead of the colorless "livest and reignest." We 
should not pass over these concluding formulas thought- 


lessly, for they contain a wealth of ideas and are in fact 
a confession of faith in the Blessed Trinity. 

The people or the choir answer the Collect with the 
word Amen. The word is from the Hebrew and means "So 
be it," i. e., may this petition be granted. By this word 
the congregation gives its assent to the prayer, and de- 
clares itself to be one with the priest. Thus the Dominus 
vobiscwm, the Or emus, and the Amen unite the priest with 
the congregation, and make the Collect a prayer offered 
by the entire body. 


We will refer briefly to the prescriptions of the Church 
regarding the number of Collects. A layman participat- 
ing in the Mass will, by referring to the Ordo, find the 
prescribed number of Collects. Since the rubrics of the 
Catholic service are very complicated, I will not burden 
the reader with their details, but will merely call attention 
to a few of the rules to be observed. The solemnity of a 
feast or of a Mass is indicated by the number of the Col- 
lects. The higher the feast the fewer the Collects in the 
Mass. Every great feast has but one Collect, that the 
thought of the day may remain undisturbed. Any lesser 
feast permits a reference to another feast, in the so-called 
commemoration, giving rise to the second Collect. Ac- 
cording to their solemnity, Masses are divided into two 
main groups; the double rite and the simple rite. The 
former has basically only one Collect, but permits the in- 
troduction of commemorations; thus one, two, or more 
Collects may be found in a Mass of the double rite. The 
Mass of the simple rite has in principle three Collects. If 


this number is not reached by the commemorations, sup- 
plementary Collects, or orationes, are used, which vary 
according to the seasons of the ecclesiastical year; e. g., 
the oratio, A cunctis or Ecclesiae. Further, there are the 
orationes imperatae, prescribed by the bishop at various 
times. But any thorough consideration of these regula- 
tions would lead us far beyond the scope of the present 

In the Collect we reach the climax of the service of 
prayer. We have ascended to God by four steps of prayer : 
contrition (in the prayers at the foot of the altar), long- 
ing (Kyrie), praise (Gloria), and petition (Collect). Now 
we stand before the throne of God, pouring forth our pe- 
titions ; now God descends to us, in the readings that fol- 


The Lessons 

Following the Amen of" the Collect, there is a clearly 
marked line of separation in the liturgy of the Mass of 
the Catechumens: the service of prayer has come to an 
end, the service of reading is about to begin. First man 
spoke, now it is God who speaks. The lessons and the ser- 
mon are a response to the word of man spoken in prayer. 
The lessons that follow are the most important and the 
oldest part of the Mass of the Catechumens. As we have 
seen above, the different parts of the service of prayer 
were assembled without any view to an organic whole, but 
the lessons form the oldest integral part of the Mass of 
the Catechumens. They are, as we already know, a heri- 
tage from the synagogue, having been adapted from the 
Jewish service in the synagogue. 


At present the Roman Mass contains as a rule two 
Scripture readings: the Epistle (or Lesson), and the Gos- 
pel. The first reading is called the Epistle whenever it is 
taken from one of the Letters of the Apostles. It is called 
the Lesson when it is taken from some Book of the Old 
Testament, from the Acts of the Apostles, or from the 
Apocalypse (these latter are sometimes, though incor- 
rectly, called Epistles). 

We have said that as a rule the Roman Mass contains 



two readings, but in our Missal we still find Masses with 
three and even seven readings ; these Masses are among 
the very oldest. This fact leads us to believe, and history 
confirms the point, that there were in the earliest times 
more than two readings in the Mass. 

The service of the synagogue, which, as we know, was 
the model of the Mass of the Catechumens, used two les- 
sons: the Law and the Prophets. We may surmise that 
when this service was Christianized the twofold lesson was 
retained. Justinus (about 150) speaks of readings taken 
from the "Memoirs of the Apostles" (Gospels) or from 
the writings of the prophets. We would not, however, be 
justified in deciding the number of readings in the an- 
cient Roman Church from such indefinite testimony. The 
sources belonging to the next century speak of a three- 
fold reading: from the Old Testament, from the writings 
of the Apostles, and from the Gospels ; and this order of 
readings is expressly corroborated by the Apostolic Con- 
stitutions (ii, 57). According to Book viii, chap. 5, it 
seems that at certain times there were as many as five 
readings : from the Law, the Prophets, the Epistles, the 
Acts of the Apostles, and the Gospels. The threefold read- 
ing was adopted by the liturgies of the East (Jerusalem, 
Constantinople, and the Armenian Rite) and the West 
(Rome, Milan, and other places in the West) ; some have 
retained it until the present time, as the Ambrosian and 
Mozarabic Rites. 

There were, then, at Rome three readings, of which 
the first two on Ferias were taken from the Old Testa- 
ment, the Epistle being the privilege of the Sunday. How 
it came about that at Rome the change was made to the 


twofold reading, is unknown. At the beginning of the 
sixth century the change seems to have been made in most 
of the Masses, and very few Masses with three readings 
have remained. 17 The liturgy of Good Friday is an exam- 
ple of the old order of readings in the Mass at Rome ; here, 
too, the gradation of the readers is quite apparent; the 
first reading is by the Lector, who merely "reads" ; the sec- 
ond reading is "chanted" by the subdeacon in the Epistle 
tone; and the third reading, the Passion, is solemnly 
sung by priests and deacons. The word of God, therefore, 
is announced in an ascending series by the lector, sub- 
deacon, deacon, and we may add to these the bishop (or 
the priest), who preached the sermon from his throne or 
cathedra. In order to emphasize these four gradations in 
the announcement of the word of God, the ancient Church 
appointed a different place for each reading. In the 
Church of San Clemente in Rome, which has preserved 
the old arrangement of the house of worship, these four 
places are still to be seen. In front, near the chancel rail, 
is a lectern for the lector ; on the south side, to the right 
of the congregation, there is a raised ambo (reading desk) 
for the reading of the Epistle; on the north side is a 
higher and more ornate ambo for the Gospel ; and lastly, 
in the middle behind the altar is the cathedra of the 


In the first centuries the readings were continuous, i. e., 
there were as yet no fixed Scriptural selections for the 

17 The seven readings on Ember Saturdays originated from the old 
Vigil Office, which immediately preceded the Mass of Sacrifice. 


different Masses. The reading continued, as Justin says, 
"as long as there was time," that is, according to the pleas- 
ure of the bishop, and at the next Mass the reading was 
continued from the place where it had been interrupted. 
The book selected for the reading was, of course, in agree- 
ment with the character of the ecclesiastical season, and 
on the feasts of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, 
and the like, the appropriate passages from the Scrip- 
tures were read. In the Greek Church the readings are 
still continuous (lectio continua) at certain times of the 
year; e. g., the readings from the Gospel after Pentecost. 
From this continuous reading a transition was made to 
a system according to which certain passages were se- 
lected to be read, but their order in the sacred text was 
preserved, so that at certain times of the year there were 
courses of readings in certain books of Scripture. 

We may still find such courses of reading in our Missal ; 
for example, the Gospels for the Sundays after Epiphany 
(third to sixth) are arranged according to their order in 
the Gospel of St. Matthew. A similar arrangement may 
be noted in the Epistles for the Sundays after Pentecost, 
from the sixth to the twenty-fourth (excepting the eigh- 
teenth, which is thus evidently an interpolation). There 
are also other traces of the old order of readings. 

In the Roman Church the pericopes were adopted at an 
early date ; that is, a certain passage was selected for each 
Mass, without regard for any order of book and chapter. 
At first the choice of the passage to be read, as well as 
that of other variable parts of the Mass, was left to the 
pope or the bishop. At the beginning of the Mass the pope 
indicated to the deacon and to the lector or subdeacon 


the particular passage to be read, as also the psalm to be 
chanted, and he himself composed the Oratio and the Pref- 
ace. It is easy to see that soon an order of such readings, 
or pericopes, arose, particularly if the order of readings 
came from some pope of special eminence or had been 
approved by him. 

In the period from Leo I to Gregory I an order of read- 
ings was for the greater part definitely established. Writ- 
ers of the Middle Ages attribute, without reason how- 
ever, the order of readings to St. Jerome (d. 420), or to 
his contemporary, Pope Damasus I (366—384). At any 
rate the so-called Comes (i. e., index of the pericopes) has 
not come down to us. The oldest existing record of an 
order of readings dates from the beginning of the sixth 
century, and is found in a manuscript of the eighth cen- 
tury, preserved at Wiirzburg. This document still enu- 
merates the prophetical lessons. 

It would be interesting to ascertain how far back the 
oldest pericopes go. The sermons of Leo I (440—461) 
give us a glimpse into the circumstances existing about the 
middle of the fifth century ; there were even then series of 
Gospel and Epistle readings, which we still observe to- 
day : e. g., the Gospel of the Epiphany, of which St. Leo 
speaks as a "custom," the Gospel for the first Sunday 
of Lent as well as the Epistle, and the Gospel (of the Trans- 
figuration) for the Ember Saturday in Lent. 

A more complete picture of the Gospel readings is pre- 
sented by the Homilies of St. Gregory I (590-604). Un- 
fortunately no other evidence of the pericopes exists, and 
the earlier history of the Roman system of readings for 
the Mass remains uncertain. Some differences existed in 


the Missals of the Middle Ages, and it was not until the 
official Roman Missal of 1570, authorized by Pius V, that 
the order of readings was imposed upon the universal 


If we peruse the Missal, we shall find that the first 
reading on Sundays, without exception, is an Epistle, that 
is, a selection from the Letters of the Apostles ; in by far 
the greater number of cases, from the Letters of St. Paul. 
All the older week day Masses for Lent, for the Ember 
days, and most of the older Masses of the saints, have for 
their first reading a lesson from the Old Testament. In 
olden times the Epistle was called the "Apostle" and was 
a distinctive mark of the Sunday. 

In high Mass the Epistle or Lesson is now chanted ac- 
cording to a simple melody by the subdeacon. During 
the reading he stands, facing the altar at the lowest step 
on the Epistle side. This position is by no means an ideal 
one ; a reader should properly turn to those for whom the 
reading is intended. The present position of the subdeacon 
arises from the symbolism of the Middle Ages, which saw 
in the subdeacon the person of St. John the Baptist, who, 
by his call to penance, directed attention to Christ (the 
altar) ; this symbolism is now exemplified by the sub- 
deacon's position, facing the altar. It is, however, still 
permissible for him to turn to the people during the first 
reading (Caerem. Episc, II, 8, 40) as is the custom, for 
example, in the great monastery of Maria Laach, where 
two ambos have been erected at the chancel rail. 

The Epistle is introduced by the words (mutatis mu- 


tandis) : Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Ro- 
manos ("a reading from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the 
Apostle to the Romans") ; the Sapiential Books of the 
Old Testament (Canticle of Canticles, Ecclesiasticus, Wis- 
dom, and Proverbs) are introduced by the words, for ex- 
ample : Lectio Libri Sapientiae ("a reading from the Book 
of Wisdom"). The Epistles generally begin with: Fratres 
("Brethren"), or Carissimi ("Dearly beloved") ; Prophe- 
cies often begin with: Haec dicit Dominus Deus ("Thus 
saith the Lord God"), although these words are not actu- 
ally found in the Scriptural passage. The choir and the 
people are seated during this reading; it is followed by 
the response: Deo gratias ("Thanks be to God"). After 
the reading, the subdeacon goes to the celebrant and, 
kneeling before him, receives his blessing and kisses his 
hand as it is placed on the book. This concluding rite ex- 
presses the return of the Book of the Epistles to the cel- 
ebrant, who commissioned the subdeacon to read; and 
the celebrant, by placing his hand on the book, receives the 
book again. 


In the reading of the Gospel the highest point of the 
Mass of the Catechumens is reached, in it the main 
thought of the feast or of the day finds definite expres- 
sion. In the beginning this reading was the duty of the 
lector, but since the fourth century it has been the office 
of the deacon, who is often represented in the old mosaics 
with the Book of the Gospels in his hand. At first the 
Gospel was sung by the deacon from an ambo placed on 
the north side of the church, and facing the south, toward 


the place where the men were seated. After the introduc- 
tion of private Mass, the priest turned toward the north, 
at least so far as the position of the book on the altar al- 
lowed. Now the deacon too turns toward the north, since, 
in the mind of the ancients, the north was the region of 
benumbing cold and misfortune, which the lifegiving an- 
nouncement of the message of salvation was to dispel. It 
is also permissible now for the deacon to sing the Gospel 
from an ambo facing the people. 


The ceremonies to be observed during the singing of 
the Gospel indicate how much more important it is than 
the first reading. From them it also becomes clear that 
the Gospel is not only an instruction, not merely the cli- 
max of the instructional part of the Mass ; it is more. The 
Gospel is an act of homage offered to Christ. In the Gospel 
the liturgy envisages Christ Himself; Christ Himself 
speaks to us in the Gospel, Christ is honored in it. 

Now the ceremonies surrounding the Gospel become 
intelligible, now indeed the full meaning of the Gospel be- 
comes clear. Christ continues to live in the sacrifice of the 
Mass: in the sacrificial part of the Mass, as the great 
High Priest offering Himself on the altar of the cross; 
in the Mass of the Catechumens, as the Teacher who 
brings us the word of life, as once He did in Judea. In 
the Gospel it is Christ who speaks to us. 

Let us consider the ceremonies. First the deacon lays 
the book on the altar. The altar is Christ. If the Gospel is 
the word of Christ or even the symbol of Christ, then it 
must come from the altar. The book itself, which is to re- 


ceive the honors offered to Christ Himself, must have a 
precious binding. In the old Church especially, great at- 
tention was given to the outward appearance of the book 
and to its preservation. There was a special cabinet for 
the four books of the Gospel, and their safekeeping was 
entrusted to the deacon. Lights and incense are carried; 
the celebrant places the incense on the burning coals. 
Then the deacon, kneeling and bowing profoundly, makes 
a consecration of his faculty of speech. If his word is to 
become the word of Christ, if he is to place his voice in the 
service of the Lord, it must be pure and holy. Thus we 
interpret the prayer Munda cor meum: "Cleanse my heart 
and my lips, O Almighty God, who didst cleanse the lips 
of the prophet Isaias with a live coal; vouchsafe, of Thy 
gracious mercy, so to cleanse me that I may worthily pro- 
claim Thy holy Gospel. Through Christ our Lord. Amen." 
Isaias in his book (chap. 6) tells in graphic language of 
his vocation to the office of a prophet : 

In the year that king Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting 
upon a throne, high and elevated : and his train filled the tem- 
ple. Upon it stood the seraphims : the one had six wings. . . . 
And they cried one to another and said : Holy, holy, holy, the 
Lord God of Hosts, all the earth is full of his glory. And the 
lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, 
and the house was filled with smoke. And I said : Woe is me, 
because I have held my peace ; because I am a man of unclean 
lips . . . ; and I have seen with my eyes the King, the Lord 
of hosts. And one of the seraphims flew to me, and in his hand 
was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs of the altar. 
And he touched my mouth and said : Behold this hath touched 
thy lips, and thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin 
shall be cleansed. 


The deacon, too, must cry out : "Woe is me, I must hold 
my peace, because my lips are unclean . . . and yet I have 
seen with my eyes the King, and placed my speech in His 
service." This prayer for the purification of the tongue 
applies to the deacon; but the layman can also recite it, 
that during the day he may be preserved from the faults 
of speech. 

Now the deacon takes the book from the altar and, kneel- 
ing before the priest, he asks for the blessing : Jube, domne, 
benedicere, "Lord, grant thy blessing" — the "domne" is 
used as referring to the priest ; "Domine" refers to Christ 
or to God. The priest responds with the blessing: "The 
Lord be in thy heart and on thy lips, that thou mayest 
worthily and in a becoming manner announce His holy 
Gospel. Amen." The priest gives the blessing, and the 
deacon kisses the priest's hand. Thus equipped, the deacon 
goes in procession for the reading of the Gospel. First in 
the procession, the fragrant censer, then two acolytes with 
burning lights (formerly also the cross), then the sub- 
deacon, and lastly the deacon, who carries the book of the 
Gospels. Slowly and solemnly the procession goes to the 
ambo, while the choir sings the Alleluia. What is the mean- 
ing of this procession? Today unfortunately its meaning 
is lost. It is Christ, symbolized by the Gospel, who goes in 
procession through the church. Anyone who has witnessed 
the Gospel procession in the Greek or the Armenian Rite 
(called the lesser entrance procession) will grasp its sig- 
nificance : Christ Himself appears to us in the Gospel, and 
speaks to us. 

The singing of the Gospel begins. We behold a beautiful 
scene : the subdeacon holds the book, unless it is placed on 


the ambo ; it is surrounded by lighted candles and envel- 
oped in clouds of incense. These are honors paid to God 
and to Christ alone; the liturgy, we know, sees here the 
presence of Christ. The deacon greets the people with the 
well-known Dominus vobiscum; the people answer : Et cum 
spiritu tuo. Both expressions have here a special meaning ; 
for the Lord is present among us, and the Holy Spirit 
speaks through the deacon. The deacon chants, e. g. : Se- 
quentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem ("The con- 
tinuation of the holy Gospel according to St. John"), at 
the same time signing the book and himself with the sign 
of the cross (Christ crucified speaks, and we willingly re- 
ceive the message of the cross). The Sequentia reminds us 
of the days when there were no selected pericopes. The 
people answer: Gloria tibi, Domine ("Glory be to thee, O 
Lord"). We address Christ, as though He were actually 
present among us. The deacon incenses the book; it is an 
act of adoration offered to Christ. All those present, in- 
cluding the celebrating priest, stand reverently, turning to 
him who chants the Gospel. The bishop takes off his miter. 
All these actions indicate that we believe Christ to be in 
our midst, After the solemn chanting of the Gospel, the 
people answer: Laus tibi, Christ e ("Praise be to thee, O 
Christ"). Here again the Lord is addressed as being pres- 
ent. The procession returns to the altar; the book is pre- 
sented to the celebrant for him to kiss, the action being 
expressive of his surrender to Christ. At the same time the 
priest says : "By the words of the Gospel may our sins be 
blotted out." The priest is incensed as the representative 
of Christ, another act of homage offered to Christ. Thus 
the Gospel is ended. 


The sermon follows. From the beginning it was consid- 
ered an integral part of the liturgy and was preached by 
the bishop from his throne. 


A brief word may now be said about the contents of the 
readings and their relationship to one another. From the 
rites accompanying the readings we can easily see that the 
Gospel is the principal reading, and that the Epistle holds 
a subordinate place. Indeed the Gospel is the climax of 
the Mass of the Catechumens, it is the first approach to the 
mystery of the Eucharist, forming the transition to the holy 
sacrifice, for it is the same Christ speaking to us in the 
Gospel, who later appears to us in the Holy Sacrament and, 
in the sacrificial banquet, bestows on us the graces of sal- 
vation that were announced in figure and parable in the 
Gospel. In most Masses, therefore, we will find in the Gospel 
the key for the interpretation of the entire Mass ; in the 
Gospel we will find the principal thought of the day or of 
the feast. Rarely, as on Pentecost and the Feast of St. 
Stephen, the principal theme is announced in the first read- 
ing. In order, therefore, to interpret a Mass formula, it 
is well to begin with the Gospel and later to study the Epistle 
and the other parts of the Mass. In the station Masses, 
the Epistle is very often the sermon addressed to us by 
the station saint. In order to emphasize this point, the 
saint is introduced to us as speaking ; e. g., on Easter Mon- 
day (station at St. Peter's) : "In those days, Peter stand- 
ing in the midst of the people, said . . ." 

Those entrusted with the care of souls often complain 
that the pericopes for Sundays are devoid of material for 


sermons. Of course it must be admitted that any unchang- 
ing system of pericopes must soon be exhausted, especially 
when the pastor has been preaching to the same congrega- 
tion for years. The difficulty does not lie in the system of 
pericopes, but rather in this, that many pastors overlook 
the meaning and purpose of the Gospel pericopes, par- 
ticularly those for the Sundays after Pentecost. Those 
Gospels are not primarily intended to furnish thoughts and 
material for sermons ; they are rather figures and parables 
of the effects of the Mass. Such is the purpose of the 
Gospels telling of miraculous cures, and of the raising of 
the dead to life. As during His sojourn on earth Christ was 
the Savior, the Healer of physical ills, so now, especially 
in the Eucharist, He is the Healer of spiritual ills, now 
He raises those who are spiritually dead to a new life. The 
liturgy is not concerned with preaching doctrines in the 
pericopes, but wishes rather to explain and illustrate by 
figure and parable the labors of Christ, the divine Healer 
in the mystery of the Eucharist. If we keep this purpose 
in mind, the Gospels will take on another meaning for us. 
We readily concede that the Gospel narratives of the 
ten lepers, of the man with the withered hand, of the para- 
lytic, and others of the same sort are quickly exhausted of 
material. The application of the Gospel is quickly and 
easily made, and the danger arises that the preacher may 
descend into subtleties and strained interpretations. If, 
however, we keep in mind the purpose of the liturgy, each 
of these miracles will lead us to the focal point of Christian 
living, to grace, to the divine life within us, to the Eucha- 
rist, to Christ, and to His mystical body. The preacher 
will thus have innumerable opportunities of speaking about 


these important Christian truths, and of explaining the 
drama of the Mass. Each one of us is the sick man, the 
leper, the man born dumb, the paralytic, and with these 
afflictions of the soul we come to Mass, and there we find 
in the Eucharist our salvation and our Savior. 

It is difficult to give a categorical answer to the ques- 
tion, whether there is a textual relationship between the 
two readings. Since the adoption of the pericopes, attempts 
have been made to establish some kind of harmony between 
the Epistle and the Gospel. On feast days the two readings 
harmoniously express the festal theme. In the station cele- 
brations they were united by the station saint or the place 
of the station. But in the case of several Masses, e. g., on 
many of the Sundays after Pentecost, there is no connec- 
tion between the Epistle and Gospel, since the Epistles are 
parts of a course of readings originally not assigned to 
any particular Sunday. We should be careful not to manu- 
facture such relationships where they do not exist, and we 
should avoid tortuous and labored attempts to harmonize 
the two readings. 

In many Masses the relationship is not at first apparent. 
The two readings may have a connection like that of 
prophecy and its fulfilment. The first reading sometimes 
gives us the promise or the prophecy, and the Gospel tells 
of the accomplishment. For example: on the Feast of the 
Epiphany, in the Lesson we read the colorful prophecy 
of Isaias, foretelling the reception of the Gentiles into the 
Church ("Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem . . .") ; in 
the Gospel we see the Magi, representing the Gentiles, 
adoring the new-born Son of God. On the Feast of the 
Annunciation the Lesson contains the famous prophecy 


of the virgin birth, and the Gospel proclaims the fulfilment 
in the message of the angel. 

Again, in some Masses, the Epistle contains the moral 
drawn from the article of faith which the Gospel announces 
in the guise of a narrative. Thus on the second Sunday of 
Lent we read the Gospel of the Transfiguration, which is 
a figure of our spiritual transfiguration effected by the 
grace of our adoption as children of God. The Epistle in- 
dicates the road to this spiritual transfiguration and its 
prerequisite condition, the road of sanctification. Above 
the Mass for the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost we 
might write as a title : "I believe in the Resurrection of the 
Body." The Gospel illustrates this article of faith : Christ 
raises the ruler's daughter from the dead and cures the 
woman troubled with the issue of blood. The Epistle teaches 
us that Christ will also reform the body of our lowness and 
make it like to the body of His glory, and that therefore 
our conversation should be in heaven. 

The analogies between the readings are particularly apt 
in a number of the Lenten Masses. The sixth century, when 
these Masses were composed, seems to have had a fondness 
for such analogies. The Masses for the Saturdays of the 
second and third weeks of Lent are excellent examples. In 
the first of these Masses, we find two pairs of brothers, of 
whom the elder is set aside and the younger is preferred : 
in the Lesson the younger brother (Jacob) receives the 
blessing of the first-born (Esau) ; and in the Gospel we 
have the parable of the Prodigal Son. At the same time the 
station saints, Marcellinus and Peter, are united in the 
brotherhood of martyrdom. In the second Mass, we find in 
each reading a woman, an unjust judge, and a savior: in 


the Lesson we read the story of the chaste Susanna and her 
deliverance by Daniel from the evil designs of the wicked 
elders ; in the Gospel, Christ protects the woman taken in 
adultery from the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The con- 
trast is most effective, and the analogy between the Old 
and the New Testament is clearly brought out. Here the 
station saint is Susanna. These two examples are illustra- 
tive of how we can gather up the fine threads which often 
unite the readings. Sometimes it may be only a word or a 
sentence that reveals the analogy. The reverent and sympa- 
thetic study of these liturgical contrasts will be repaid with 
much spiritual joy and satisfaction. 

The Lesson, Epistle, Gospel, and sermon are in the tru- 
est sense the word of God ; in them God actually speaks to 
us. Consider how intimate and direct the appeal of the 
Sacred Scriptures becomes in the liturgy. If we take up 
the Epistle to the Romans to read, it remains merely the 
Letter written by St. Paul to the Christian congregation at 
Rome. The reading, it is true, will be of profit to us, be- 
cause it is the inspired word of God. But when we read the 
Epistle in the Mass, it is no longer St. Paul addressing the 
Romans ; it is God and the Church exhorting the assembled 
congregation. With profound reverence we should hear the 
word of God and receive it into our hearts, when it is ad- 
dressed to us in the liturgy. 


In sympathy with the liturgical revival, let us strive to 
re-establish the Mass of the Catechumens as the service of 
the word of God. Unfortunately, in most cases there is no 
service of the word of God. Many Masses are celebrated in 


which the people hear nothing of the word of God. A read- 
ing service of which the people hear nothing and under- 
stand nothing, has lost the purpose and reason of its ex- 
istence ; yet the people rightly expect to have the word of 
God announced to them. 

There are several ways in which the Mass of the Cate- 
chumens can again be given its rightful place as the service 
of the word of God. A zealous priest will be eager to put 
the text of the Mass into the hands of his people so that 
they can at least read what God says to them in the Mass. 

The Canon Law (canon 1345) urges the pastor of souls 
to preach a short homily or instruction at each of the Sun- 
day Masses. Such brief instructions, not only on Sundays, 
but also on week days, would be a source of untold blessing 
and spiritual good, and would tend to bring about a deeper 
appreciation of the Mass. 

To effect that much desired active participation of the 
people in the Mass and to enable the people to hear the 
word of God as it is contained in the Mass, some priests 
have introduced a congregational Mass, others have re- 
vived the chanted Mass, and still others combine prayer 
and chant during the Mass. Would it not be desirable to 
have the readings of the Ante-Mass publicly read in the 
vernacular? To make such a change is, of course, the pre- 
rogative of the Holy See. But we are permitted to hope 
for it, for then the Ante-Mass would again be what it was 
originally intended to be, the announcement of the word 
of God. 


The Interposed Chants 

The human mind requires that after a reading there be a 
pause during which the mind can reflect and meditate on 
the things it has heard or read. If there are several read- 
ings, we do not profitably pass from one to another without 
some pause or refreshing variation. Moreover, if the read- 
ings are to an assembled body, it is natural that the echo 
of what has been heard and the transition into the next 
reading should be expressed in some chant. This psycho- 
logical requirement for reflection and change gave rise in 
the liturgy to the interposed chants, which are found in the 
Mass as well as in the Breviary. In the latter they are called 
responses, recited especially in Matins after the Lessons. 
In the Mass the interposed chant is found between the 
readings, generally between the Epistle (Lesson) and the 
Gospel. It is usually called the Gradual. We shall learn, 
however, that it is not one chant but several chants, which 
have different names : the Gradual properly so called, the 
Alleluia chant, the Tract, and the Sequence. 


The interposed chant is a very old part of the liturgy. 
Like the readings, it was originally adapted from the serv- 
ice in the synagogue, where a psalm was sung between the 

readings. The Church continued this custom, and thus we 



find in the oldest liturgical books that a psalm or psalm-like 
chant (canticum) was sung between the readings. Tertul- 
lian, writing in the third century, is the pertinent witness. 
He says : "At first we heard a reading from the Apostles, 
then we sang a psalm ; after this we read the gospel of the 
ten lepers" (De anima, chap. 9). The Apostolic Constitu- 
tions (II, 57) likewise mentions the psalm-chant between 
the readings. In his sermons on the psalms (Enarrationes 
in Psalmos), St. Augustine frequently speaks of the psalm 
chanted between the readings, and describes it as a re- 
sponsory chant. As late as the time of Leo I (Sermo 3), 
an entire psalm was sung. We may again adduce the 
venerable Good Friday liturgy, in which two chants have 
been preserved between the three readings ; after the first 
reading, a part of the Canticle of Habacuc, and after the 
second reading almost all of psalm 1B9. Gradually, espe- 
cially in the period from Leo I to Gregory I (450—550), 
these chants were shortened, since the schola cantorum be- 
came more proficient and, instead of the simple chant of 
the people, adopted the melismatic chant, which would have 
unduly protracted the rendition of an entire psalm. Today 
the interposed chant is limited to a few verses, but it retains 
its place as one of the most artistic chants of the Roman 

At a very early date, the interposed chants were rendered 
by selected singers, and the people made the responses. St. 
Augustine, in his sermons on the psalms, remarks: "The 
psalm to which we have listened and to which we have re- 
sponded was short" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 119). Until 
the time of Gregory I, the psalm was chanted by a deacon, 
and such was the importance attached to this solo chant 


that the name of the chanter had to be announced to the 
pope before the high Mass began. (Or do Rom. I, 7.) Only 
after the twelfth century was the chant entrusted to two 
chanters, and this rule is still observed. 


As we pointed out above, the interposed chants are of 
different kinds. In the Mass, as a rule, they are two in 
number: the Gradual and the Alleluia. During the time 
when the Alleluia cannot be sung (from Septuagesima 
until Easter) , they are the Gradual and the Tract. How- 
ever, it should be noted that these chants are entirely di- 
verse as to content and origin. 

We may, indeed, ask how two different chants came to be 
placed between two readings, when the oldest sources have 
but one chant. The old Roman Masses, as we have indi- 
cated, had three readings, and therefore, as even now on 
Good Friday, a psalm was chanted after each of the first 
two lections. Soon, perhaps as early as the fifth century, 
the second psalm was replaced by the Alleluia, at least in 
Easter time (Sozomen, H.E., VII, 19), and the Alleluia 
served as a transition to the Gospel. It is probable that 
Gregory I extended the Alleluia to the whole year and 
added the Alleluia verse. Later, when the service began to 
be shortened and the third reading was abandoned, the 
Alleluia, which had found a place in the affection of the 
people, was retained. Since that time there have been two 
chants : the first, the Gradual, may be considered the echo 
of the first lesson ; the second, the Alleluia, is the prelude 
to the Gospel. 

From Septuagesima until Easter, the Alleluia chant in 


the solemn Mass is replaced by another chant, called the 
Tract because it is drawn out without interruption. This 
chant, which is also of great antiquity, has retained its 
original simplicity. It probably arose from the second 
psalm, before the introduction of the Alleluia. 

These three chants, — Gradual, Alleluia, and Tract — 
coming down to us from the classical period of the liturgy, 
are the most important. Another chant, the so-called Se- 
quence, appears early in the Middle Ages. When the last 
"a" of the Alleluia began to be enriched with a greater 
number of notes, the resulting "jubilee" melodies were 
called, in the ninth century, sequentia (i. e., following upon 
the Alleluia). To facilitate the singing of these melodies 
that were without text, words were supplied, at first in 
prose, at a later date (twelfth century) in meter. Thus 
arose the Sequence, which enjoyed such great popularity 
during the Middle Ages that it was introduced into all 
festive Masses, and today we are able to count 900 Se- 
quences dating from the Middle Ages. Nevertheless the 
Sequence is really alien to the spirit of the classical liturgy. 
Pius V, in his reform of the Missal (1570), recognizing 
the true spirit of the liturgy, cut away these rank growths 
and retained but five Sequences. These five, it must be 
admitted, are excellent examples of religious poetry. 

During Easter time, from Low Sunday until the Octave 
of Pentecost, the Gradual is omitted, because, according 
to the symbolism of the Middle Ages, it was explained as 
a penitential chant, the echo of the Epistle, which in turn 
was looked upon symbolically as the penitential preaching 
of St. John the Baptist. During the Easter season, then, 


the time of unrestrained joy, the note of penance must be 
silenced ; therefore, in place of the Gradual we find the so- 
called Great Alleluia, a more elaborate Alleluia chant. 

The Tract is not sung in every Mass, during the time 
when the Alleluia is prohibited, but only in Masses that 
possess a certain solemnity ; if the Mass loses this solemnity, 
the Tract is omitted. Thus, for instance, the Tract is sung 
on the Sundays before Lent ; if the Sunday Mass is trans- 
ferred to a following week day, the Tract is omitted. Dur- 
ing Lent the Tract is chanted on the so-called feriae legiti- 
mate (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), but not on the 
other week days. 

From the foregoing cursory remarks, we can see that 
the following combinations of the interposed chants are 
possible. For the greater part of the year (from Trinity 
Sunday to Septuagesima) the Gradual and the Alleluia 
are chanted; this time is one of mixed moods, of joy and 
penance. During Easter time we have only the Alleluia, 
and that the greater Alleluia ; this is the season of unmixed 
joy fulness. During the time of Septuagesima and in Lent, 
we find only the Gradual, emphasized by the Tract, since 
it is the time of penance. Thus the combinations of the in- 
terposed chants indicate the spirit and the mood of the 
ecclesiastical seasons. In all this the Sequence exercises no 
influence; we have Sequences for the greatest feasts (Eas- 
ter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi) ; but we have a Se- 
quence also in the somber Requiem Mass. These few verses 
of the interposed chants have their peculiar function in 
the structure of the Mass liturgy ; they are, as it were, the 
gauge of the solemnity and of the mood of the Mass. 



To understand the Gradual, we must say a few words 
about the corporate prayer of the liturgy. If a group of 
persons wish to pray in common, they may do so in several 
different ways : 

1. One may pray aloud, while the others pray silently. 

2. All may pray aloud together. 

3. One or more may pray aloud, while the rest express 
their participation in the prayer by reciting a re- 
frain verse. This is the responsory prayer. 

4. All, divided into two groups, may take active part 
in the prayer, as is done in choir. This is antiphonal 

Which method does the liturgy adopt? It seldom uses 
the first, except in the case of a Collect or lection as the 
climax of a service. The second is used scarcely at all. In 
their stead the Church makes extensive use of the respon- 
sory and antiphonal methods of corporate prayer. In the 
former method the leader or the schola cantorum carries 
on the service, and the congregation expresses its partici- 
pation in the refrain-verse. In the latter method the con- 
gregation is divided into two choirs, which proceed alter- 
nately in the prayer. 18 It is instructive to note how the 
Church cultivates these two methods of prayer, preferring 
the antiphonal prayer, which proceeds alternately. The 
responsory method is used when reflective prayer is desired, 
and when rest pauses are to be made during the prayer 
service. In the Breviary the entire psalmody, that is, the 

is "Antiphon" refers to the musical octave; antiphonal prayer is prayer 
with an accompaniment in the octave, i. e., the men's and women's choir. 


major part of the Divine Office, is recited in the antiphonal 
method ; it is only after the Lessons that we find rest pauses, 
during which the mind may reflect upon what has been 
read. Of the four chants in the Proper of the Mass, three 
(the Introit, Offertory, and Communion) are chanted in 
the antiphonal mode, i. e., alternately in choirs. Only one 
is sung in the responsory mode : our Gradual and Alleluia. 
This practice arises from the nature of these chants : the 
first three are processional chants, where movement and 
progress are required; the latter is a rest in the sacred 
action, a pause for reflection. Thus we may understand 
how the Gradual and the Alleluia became solo chants, ex- 
emplifying very frequently the most artistic melodies. 
Let us look more closely at each of these chants. 


The first of these interposed chants has had several 
names in the course of time. The oldest designation was 
Responsum, which later became Responsoriu/m; in the 
Gregorian Antiphonary it is called Responsorium gradate. 
But as early as the ninth century it began to be called 
simply Gradate, or Graduate. It was so called because it 
was chanted from the steps (gradus) of the ambo; but, 
according to the Ordo Rom. II, the chanter must not stand 
on the highest step {non superiorem gradum), which was 
reserved for the singing of the Gospel. 

Today the Gradual generally consists of two verses, which 
are in no way co-ordinated ; for the first verse is really the 
refrain verse or Responsum, and the second is the only re- 
maining verse of the chant. It is therefore improper for 
these two verses to be sung or recited one after the other, 


as we do today. The chanting should take place rather in 
the following manner: the chanter sings the refrain verse 
(first verse), and all repeat it; the chanter then sings the 
"proper" verse (second verse), and all repeat the refrain- 
verse ; or as follows : 

Precentor : Choir : 

a) first verse a) first verse (repeat) 

b) second verse b) first verse (repeat) 
It will be scarcely necessary to point out that this, the 

original and authentic way of singing or reciting the Grad- 
ual, is much more dramatic and effective, since the meaning 
of the chant is made intelligible. From this structure of the 
chant we see that the refrain verse, repeated throughout 
the whole chant, is the more important part ; whereas the 
second verse is generally the beginning of the psalm, of 
which the refrain verse is really the antiphon. The Grad- 
uate Vaticanum (De ritibus servandis, IV), the latest edi- 
tion of the choral chants of the Mass, recognizing the 
historical character of this chant, permits the Gradual to 
be sung either as a solo chant or in the manner described 
above with the repetition of the Responsum. 

That the foregoing arrangement of the verses is impor- 
tant for a correct understanding of the text may be seen 
from the Gradual for the Feast of St. John the Baptist 
(June 24). The original manner of chanting affords the 
following dramatic interchange of verses : 

a) Precentor : Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew 
thee. . . . 

a) People : (reflective repetition) : Before I formed thee 
in the womb, I knew thee. . . . 


b) Precentor: The Lord put forth His hand, and 
touched my mouth ; and said to me : 

a) People: Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew 
thee. . . . 
Clearly the second verse, ending with: "and said to me," 
requires a concluding verse, which is naturally the first or 
refrain verse. 

The Gradual had the practical purpose of interrupting 
the monotony of the readings, especially when the people 
participated by singing the refrain verse. As to content, 
the Gradual is the echo of the first lesson, and the more it 
recalls the thought of the lesson the more it fulfils its pur- 
pose. It may therefore express the most diverse moods ; now 
it is a fervent petition, and now it breathes forth a firm 
reliance on the divine assistance ; often, too, it is filled with 
joy and thanksgiving. Since its content is so diversified, the 
Medieval view that it was a penitential chant, is not 

Here is a task for a friend of the liturgy : to study the 
Gradual texts in the light of these considerations — as- 
suredly a useful labor, that promises interesting results. 


Like the Gradual, the Alleluia chant is composed in the 
responsory style. It consists of two Alleluias, a verse, and 
another Alleluia. The greater Alleluia (during Easter 
time) has an additional verse and Alleluia. The structure is 
therefore similar to that of the Gradual, using the Alleluia 
as the refrain verse. The chanter sings the Alleluia, which 


all repeat ; then he sings the verse, and all repeat the Al- 

Actually the Alleluia is a prelude, or a preparation for 
the Gospel, giving expression to the inner rejoicing of the 
soul about to hear the tidings of great joy — the Gospel. 
Indeed the Alleluia is the public cry of the herald, an- 
nouncing the entrance of Christ, the King of heaven. In 
the last chapter we saw that Christ appears to us, in the 
Gospel; the Alleluia is at once the joyous greeting and the 
lowly homage offered to Him on His coming. The Alleluia 
chant is certainly an important part of the Mass of the 
Catechumens ; its melodies were more and more elaborated, 
eventually leading to the Sequence. The significance of the 
Alleluia is still more emphasized by the ceremonies that ac- 
company it. During the Gradual chant the clergy are en- 
gaged at the altar preparing for the singing of the Gospel ; 
this preparation over, the deacon, carrying the Gospel 
Book, the symbol of Christ, goes in procession to the ambo. 
Christ makes a solemn entrance, during which the Church 
in the jubilant Alleluia gives Him her homage. 

The Alleluia verse is varied in content. Often it is the 
first verse of a psalm. Hence we may conclude that formerly 
the entire psalm was sung, or at least called to mind. Not 
infrequently the verse is taken from the Gospel, being 
heard frequently as the main motive throughout the Mass. 
A classical example is found in the Mass for the second 
Sunday after Easter. Here the main thought, "I am the 
Good Shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know Me," 
is brought out in strong relief in the Alleluia verse and in 
the Communio. Similarly, we find in the Mass of Easter 
that the main motive, taken from the Epistle, reappears 


in the Alleluia chant and in the Communio: "Christ our 
pasch is immolated." 

An especially well chosen Gradual and Alleluia chant 
is in the Mass for the Feast of Epiphany : 

The Gradual: a) All they from Saba shall come, bring- 
ing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to 
the Lord. 

b) Arise, and be enlightened, Jerusalem, for the glory 
of the Lord is risen upon thee. 

The Alleluia : a) Alleluia, alleluia. 

b) We have seen His star in the East : and are come with 
gifts to adore the Lord. 

a) Alleluia 

The Gradual is truly an echo of the preceding Lesson, 
repeating two phrases, the first and the last. They are 
evidently chosen because of their reference to the visit of 
the Magi; they speak of the "light" (the star) and of 
the presentation of gifts. The Alleluia chant preluding 
the Gospel, selects from it a sentence, which also speaks 
of the star and the gifts of the Magi. How beautifully these 
chants form the transition from one reading to the other ! 


On days of penance, and in Requiem Masses, the Al- 
leluia is omitted. Its place is taken by the Tract, so called 
because it is sung continuously without interruption. In 
contrast with the foregoing chants, it is not in the respon- 
sory mode, nor is its structure as formal as that of the 
Gradual and the Alleluia. It consists generally of a num- 
ber of verses, sometimes of an entire psalm. As a rule the 
psalm is the one containing the theme of the day: e. g., on 


the first Sunday of Lent, the ninetieth psalm; on Palm 
Sunday, the twenty-first psalm. The Tract retains the 
older method of singing the interposed chants, being sung 
by the entire choir without any repetition of verses, accord- 
ing to melodies that are probably the oldest in our posses- 


The Sequence has no place in the classical structure of 
the Mass. It originated, as we remarked above, in the texts 
written for the last "a" of the Alleluia. At first these texts 
were prose compositions, and later became metrical, and 
about the twelfth century complete hymns were evolved. 
The Canon Regular, Adam of St. Victor (d. 1192), who 
represents "the flower of liturgical poetry in the Middle 
Ages," was the chief composer of the metrical Sequences. 
They were enthusiastically received throughout France 
and Germany, but Rome held itself aloof from the innova- 

The Sequence was intended, at least as to textual con- 
tent, to be a meditation on the Alleluia verse. Two of the 
Sequences of the Missal fulfil this purpose. The Sequence 
for Easter (composed about 1050 by Wipo of Burgundy, 
court chaplain of Conrad II) consists, in its first and oldest 
part (i. e., down to Die nobis Maria) , of an amplification 
of the Alleluia verse : "Christ our Pasch is immolated." The 
Sequence for Pentecost (composed about 1050, author un- 
known) presents a still more beautiful variation of the 
theme of the Alleluia verse: the immortal Veni Sancte 
Spiritus, in which the meaning of each word of the verse 
is completely exhausted. 


The Lauda Sion for the Feast of Corpus Christi, from 
the pen of the poet-philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, is a 
dogmatic poem on the Holy Eucharist. The Dies Irae of the 
Requiem Mass (probably by Thomas of Celano), although 
an excellent example of medieval poetry, is inappropriate 
in the Requiem Masses, which are so expressive of Christian 
hope and salvation. The Stabat Mater (probably by Jaco- 
pone da Todi, d. 1306) does not appear in the Roman Mis- 
sal until 1727. We see in these five Sequences examples of 
a development which attained, it is true, great artistic 
merit, but which was at no time imbued with the spirit of 
the liturgy. 19 


Besides its historical significance, the interposed chant 
is still a vital force in the liturgy. All the variable chants 
of the Mass, however rudimentary and suppressed they 
may be in their present state, are witnesses of that blessed 
time when the people were permitted an active participa- 
tion in the Mass. A careful and intelligent furtherance of 
these chants will help to awaken the liturgy from the sleep 
into which it has fallen. If the Gradual is the echo of the 
reading, then the reading must again become a vital and 
living part of the service for the people ; if the Alleluia is 
an acclamation offered to the Savior on His entrance into 
the mystery of the Mass, then assuredly our faith in the 
mystery will be enlivened. In short, the interposed chant 
constantly exhorts us to a more active and more intelligent 
participation in the liturgy. 

i» Cf. N. Gihr. Die Sequenzen des romischen Messbuches, and CI. 
Blume, Vom Alleluia zur Sequenz, in "Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch 
24," Ratisbon, 1911. 


The Conclusion of the Mass of the 

On Sundays and on certain feast days (of the Blessed 
Virgin, the angels, the Apostles and doctors of the Church) , 
the Mass of the Catechumens closes with the recitation of 
the longer profession of faith (Nicene-Constantinopoli- 
tan). This profession of faith is, as it were, an echo of the 
Mass of the Catechumens, a response to the service of the 
word of God : "We profess our faith in what we have j ust 
heard." To engender faith was the purpose of the Mass of 
the Catechumens; we listened to the readings and to the 
sermon in order to strengthen and confirm our faith. Faith 
is the porter standing at the entrance of the sanctuary of 
the sacrifice ; faith is the prerequisite for those graces that 
we hope to receive in the sacrifice. The Credo, therefore, is 
a fitting transition from the Ante-Mass to the Mass of 

The Credo of the Mass is probably an amplified version 
of the profession of faith at baptism in the Church at Jeru- 
salem. It appears in the liturgy of the Mass, first at An- 
tioch in the fifth century, and in the sixth century at Con- 
stantinople. In the West we find it in Spain as early as the 
sixth century; and during the next two centuries it was 
adopted into the Mass in France and Germany, with the 

consent of the Holy See. It was, however, not until 1014 

J 50 


that it officially became a part of the Roman liturgy, by a 
decree of Pope Benedict VIII at the request of Emperor 
Henry II. From the outset in the Roman Mass it was 
placed after the Gospel, whereas in the Byzantine Mass it 
follows the kiss of peace at the Offertory. Throughout the 
East it is always recited; in the West it is generally 

Today the Credo is found in the Mass for one of three 
reasons: (a) because of the mystery celebrated, if this 
mystery refers to something mentioned in the Credo (thus 
Sundays, feasts of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, and 
of the angels) ; (b) because of the eminence of certain 
saints as teachers of doctrine (the Apostles, doctors of the 
Church, St. Mary Magdalen) ; (c) because of the solem- 
nity of the feast (patronal feast, solemn votive Mass) . 

On Sundays, we may say, the Credo is the renewal of 
the profession of faith made at baptism ; during the week 
it is a martyrium (martyrdom), i.e., a witnessing for 
Christ and the faith. It is a public profession of faith made 
by the pastor of souls, as the leader of the souls entrusted 
to his care. 

We have compared the Mass of the Catechumens to a 
vestibule, or to the atrium before a sanctuary. The com- 
parison seems to be quite appropriate. What purpose does 
a vestibule serve? We do not ordinarily come without 
further ado directly into a house ; from the street into those 
rooms reserved for the family. We build another room 
where the din and noise of the street may be silenced, where 
we may collect our thoughts before entering the home or 
the sanctuary. The Mass of the Catechumens serves the 
same purpose for the holy sacrifice ; for we come from the 


world with all our cares, our sinfulness, our distractions. 
"Before prayer prepare thy soul : and be not as a man that 
tempteth God" (Ecclus. 18:23). Now, the Mass is the 
most exalted of prayers. Will we come in, to offer this holy 
sacrifice with our souls unsanctified, laden with alien 
thoughts and desires? Therefore we first enter the vesti- 
bule, there we shake the dust from our feet, bidding fare- 
well to all that is foreign to the Mass. On the other hand, 
the Mass of the Catechumens connects the world with the 
sanctuary ; for the chasm between our everyday lives and 
the service of God is one that can be bridged over. The 
Mass of the Catechumens joins the two together: in the 
Mass of the Catechumens we enter the house of God with 
our cares, our petitions, and our needs; here they are 
purified, refined, transformed, that they may become a 
worthy sacrifice. 

In the primitive Church the neophytes and penitents 
were dismissed at the end of the Mass of the Catechumens. 
The ecclesia collecta, the assembled congregation, becomes 
now the ecclesia secreta, the congregation of the elect, the 
community of the saints; it is bound together into the 
mystical body of Christ, lifted up above the cares of this 
worldly life — now the sacrifice may begin. 


The Offertory 

In the Mass, the sacrifice is actually accomplished, when in 
the Consecration the body and blood of Christ become 
present; then, too, the sacrifice of the cross is once more 
re-enacted, continuing in the Canon. This sacrifice is the 
sacrifice of the assembled people ; therefore they must par- 
ticipate in its offering. They express this participation in 
their sacrifice in two ways: first, before the sacrifice, in 
the preparations for the sacrifice, and afterwards in the 
sacrificial meal. Hence there are three parts in the Mass 
of Sacrifice : the sacrificial procession, the sacrificial action, 
and the sacrificial meal. We shall now speak of the first 
part, the Offertorium, or Offertory. 


The essence of the Off ertory, the first part of the Mass of 
Sacrifice, is the offertory procession. In the first Mass, cel- 
ebrated at the Last Supper, we find nothing resembling 
our Offertory, unless it be the preparations made by Peter 
and John for the paschal meal, for which they set the 
table, made ready bread and wine, thus serving as the first 
deacons. In the Agape Masses we may discern the seed 
from which the Offertory developed. The faithful brought 
food, which they gave to one another; a certain portion, 

some bread and wine, was set aside for the sacrifice. The 



principle seems to have been recognized, that whoever 
wishes to partake of the holy Banquet, must bring gifts 
for the sacrifice. 

Out of this came the offertory procession of the faithful, 
who, at the beginning of the sacrifice, came in procession, 
bringing their gifts to the table near the altar (prothesis) . 
The gifts consisted principally of bread and wine (the 
latter in small jugs, called ainulae), but also of wool, oil, 
fruit, wax, silver, gold, and other articles of value. The 
gifts were received by the deacon, who arranged them on 
the table. He then brought to the altar the bread and wine 
needed for the sacrifice, and the rest of the gifts were set 
aside for the support of the clergy and of the poor. Since 
the offertory procession was somewhat prolonged and 
easily gave rise to distractions, a processional chant was 
introduced in the fifth century to help maintain prayerful 
sentiments among priests and people and to impress upon 
them the significance of their offering. In the meantime the 
bishop received the gifts selected for the sacrifice, and 
lastly recited over them a prayer, the oratio super secreta, 
or the prayer over the gifts selected for the sacrifice. Such 
was the Offertory at the time, when priest and people to- 
gether offered the holy sacrifice. Clearly, then, the whole 
significance and purport of the Offertory lies in the of- 
fertory procession of the faithful. 

In support of this view we present a few quotations 
from early ecclesiastical writers. 

St. Justin Martyr (d. about 165) says somewhat 
vaguely: "Bread and a chalice with water and wine are 
presented to the president of the brethren, and he accepts 


them [the offerings] ." It is difficult to conclude from these 
words that there was an offering by the people. 

Hippolytus, in his Church Ordinance (about 218) fre- 
quently speaks of the offertory of the people during the 
Eucharistic sacrifice, although he does not mention an of- 
fertory procession. "The deacon brings the offerings to 
the bishop" {The Deacons 16, 22). That, besides bread 
and wine, there were other gifts is clear from other pas- 
sages : "If anyone offer oil during the Eucharistic celebra- 
tion, let him do as with bread and wine, giving thanks in 
the same manner" (I, 22 f.). In the Ethiopian Church Or- 
dinance, he adds : "If anyone offer cheese and olives, let 
him speak in a similar manner." A proper form for the 
blessing of oil after the Consecration is also given ; during 
the Easter Mass, milk and honey were offered (16, 22). 

Two chapters (23, 24) treat of the offering of fruit, 
which took place during the Eucharistic sacrifice. 

Everyone should be mindful to offer to the bishop the first- 
fruits of the field. The bishop receives them with thanks and, 
pronouncing the name of the offerer, blesses them and says : 
"We give Thee thanks, Lord God, and offer to Thee the first- 
fruits which Thou hast given us, that we might partake of 
them, for by Thy word Thou didst bring them to maturity, 
and didst command the earth to bring forth all manner of 
fruits for the use, the pleasure, and the nourishment of all 
mankind and of all creatures. We praise Thee, O God, for this 
and all other ways in which Thou didst bestow Thy benefits on 
us ; for Thou hast adorned the whole creation with diverse 
fruits, through Thy holy Son, Jesus Christ, through whom, 
to Thee, with Him and the Holy Spirit is honor for all eter- 
nity. Amen." 


These are the fruits which are to be blessed: grapes, figs, 
apples, olives, pears, pomegranates, peaches, cherries, and al- 
monds ; but lotus, onions, garlic, pumpkins, cucumbers, and 
other vegetables are not to be blessed. If flowers are brought, 
the roses and lilies are to be accepted; others should be re- 

A distinction, therefore, was made between those fruits 
which might be brought for the offertory procession, and 
those which were not acceptable. Although nothing is said 
of the manner in which these gifts were brought to the 
altar, the words of Hippolytus enable us to imagine the 

St. Cyprian (d. 258) chides the rich who come to Mass 
without a gift to offer, and yet receive a part of that of- 
fered by the poor in Communion (partem de sacrificio, 
quod pauper obtulit, sumit). 20 These words indicate that 
the gifts necessary for the sacrifice were brought by the 

In the second of the Apostolic Canons (an appendix 
to the Apostolic Constitutions; fourth century), we read: 

If a bishop or priest, contrary to the ordinances which the 
Lord has given concerning this sacrifice, shall offer upon the 
altar any other thing besides honey or milk, or, instead of 
wine, some heady or artificial drink, or birds or any animal, or 
any legumes ; let him be deposed, because he has acted con- 
trary to the ordinances. Excepting the time when fresh ears 
of corn and fresh grapes are offered, nothing may be brought 
to the altar, besides the oil for the holy light and sweet spices 
for the time of the holy sacrifice. Every other fruit should 
be brought to the house, as the firstfruits for the bishop and 
the priest, but not to the altar. It is well known that bishops 

20 De opere et eleemos., c. 15. 


and priests share these things with the deacons and the other 

From this canon it seems that there was an ever increas- 
ing selection of gifts, and that a distinction was being 
made between the gifts for the sacrifice, and the firstf ruits 
which were to be sent to the bishop's house. 

The Synod of Macon (585) decreed (can. 4), that both 
men and women should bring bread and wine every Sun- 
day for the altar. Until late in the Middle Ages, we find 
synods, apparently with diminishing success, trying to en- 
force this obligation. 

A striking proof for the offertory procession is found 
in the mosaics in the floor of the Aquileia Cathedral. The 
floor was laid probably about a. d. 317. In one of the four 
divisions of the mosaic we find a representation of an offer- 
tory procession of the people. In the center is the well- 
known "Eucharistic Victory": an angel with a palm and 
a crown in either hand, before him a basket with bread and 
a large vessel of wine, the Eucharistic symbols. Around 
this central piece are smaller figures carrying various of- 
fertory gifts : bread, wine, fruits, flowers, and even birds. 
It is unmistakably an offertory procession. Further, imme- 
diately above this mosaic was the table to receive the offer- 
ings, for the marks of the table-legs are clearly discernible 
in the mosaic. This table stood about fifteen feet in front 
of the altar, the position of which is known from an in- 
scription. There are other representations of the offertory 
procession in the mosaics at Ravenna, e. g., Emperor Jus- 
tinian and Empress Theodora walking in the offertory 

Following is a description of the offertory procession, as 


reconstructed from the Ordo Romanics I by Father 
Kramp,S.J.: 21 

The deacon who has read the Gospel goes to the altar and 
receives from an acolyte the chalice and corporal. The cor- 
poral in those days was a large cloth which was spread over 
the entire altar table. The Pope rises and with his immediate 
assistants passes into the senatorium, a forward part of the 
nave where the senators, and later the nobility, had their 
place, and there he receives the offerings of the laity. 

Each one presents a small flasjk of wine and a roll of bread. 
The Pope hands the wine offerings to the archdeacon who 
empties the flasks into a chalice which is carried by one of the 
regional subdeacons ; the latter empties the chalice from time 
to time into a larger vessel which is carried by an acolyte. The 
bread offerings are handed by the Pope to one of the regional 
subdeacons ; the latter hands them on to another subdeacon 
who gathers them all into a large cloth held by two acolytes. 

In this way the Pope receives the offerings of the nobility, 
first on the side of the men and then on that of the women. 
When he turns to the women's side, one of the assisting 
bishops begins to take the offerings from the rest of the con- 
gregation on the men's side and then passes to the side of the 
women. When the number of those present is large the priests 
assist in receiving the oblations. 

All this ended, the Pope and his assistants return into the 
presbyterium or apse where he and those who have taken part 
in receiving the oblations wash their hands. The archdeacon 
goes to the altar and arranges the oblations upon the altar 
table. He receives from a subdeacon the Pope's personal obla- 
tion of wine and pours it into the chalice and then does like- 
wise with the wine oblations of the deacons and all the clergy. 
The subdeacon receives from the director of the choir a vessel 
of water from which he pours a quantity of water into the 

21 Eucharistia (English trans.), pp. 29-32. 


chalice with the wine. During all this time the choir has kept 
up the chanting of the Offertory antiphon and psalm. 

The Pope rises from his throne and goes to the altar, bows 
in reverence to it, and personally receives the bread oblations 
of the deacons which he places on the altar. The archdeacon 
receives from the subdeacon the Pope's own personal oblation 
of two rolls of bread which he gives to the Pope to be placed 
with the others. 

All have now made their offering. From the Pope himself 
to the last man in the assembly, everyone has contributed his 
part in the Eucharistic sacrifice. These offerings united on the 
altar are a visible symbol of the united brotherhood of all the 
faithful here assembled before the Lord of heaven and earth. 

Up to the present the description of the scene has not 
plainly focused upon a fixed point. From now on there is one 
center where all the action converges, and it is the altar. 

The Pope stands at the altar — we would say behind the 
altar — looking across the altar table toward the choir and the 
people. At a glance from him the choir ends the Offertory 
psalm. At the same time the bishops, priests, and deacons take 
their stand about, behind, and to the sides of the Pope. The 
subdeacons stand before the altar and in front of the choir, 
opposite to and facing the Pope. 

The Pope prays the Secret prayers, ending aloud with the : 
Per omnia saecula saecwlorwm, to which the subdeacons reply : 

During the Middle Ages, while synods were vainly try- 
ing to retain the offertory procession of the people, it was 
gradually abandoned. However, since the people were ac- 
customed to it, the resulting hiatus in the service was filled 
in with a series of prayers recited by the priest. These are 
our Offertory prayers, which have been in use in their 
present form since the fourteenth century. In contents 


they are similar to the Canon, and were therefore known 
during the Middle Ages as the Little Canon. But they do 
not express the meaning and spirit of the Offertory. 


a) In the act of giving, the gift represents the giver ; it 
is the manifestation of his love and affection for another ; 
it is, in a way, the offering of his heart and of himself. So, 
too, the offertory gift is a symbol of the offerer; in this 
offering he surrenders himself to God. 

b) The offertory gifts are bread and wine: bread, the 
symbol of man's labor, earned in the sweat of his brow; 
wine, the symbol of suffering, for the grapes are trodden 
in the wine press. We offer the bread of our labor and the 
wine of our sufferings — labor and suffering, the warp and 
woof of our lives. 

c) In the offertory procession there is also the idea of 
corporate union. Everyone offers some part of those things 
that belong exclusively to himself, something of his own 
choosing, and lays it on the altar, where it becomes a part 
of the great oblation of the corporate body. It is placed in 
the service of Christ, be it for His soul in the Holy Eucha- 
rist, or for His head in support of the clergy, or for His 
feet for the alleviation of the needs of the poor. The offer- 
tory procession was a magnificent communal action; men 
came with their individuality and were merged into the 
mystical body of Christ. The thought of corporate action 
is expressed several times in the Secrets of the Masses for 
the Sundays after Pentecost: "that what is offered indi- 
vidually to the honor of Thy Majesty, may profit all unto 
salvation" (seventh Sunday after Pentecost). 


d) In the offertory procession the Christian brought to 
the altar bread and wine ; later, in the sacrificial meal, he 
receives again the same bread and wine, now however be- 
come divine, changed into the body and blood of Christ. 
This exchange symbolizes his coming to the sacrifice: it 
is the natural man who comes to the sacrifice, but he re- 
turns a partaker of the divine nature, changed into Christ ; 
in the words of St. Paul : "I live, now not I ; but Christ 
liveth in me." The offertory procession and the sacrificial 
meal were striking manifestations that in the Holy Eucha- 
rist we become partakers of the divine nature of Christ. 

e) This act of offering, the most human action in the 
Mass, signifies man's surrender to God, his submission to 
the divine will. Recall the story of Abraham. He waited 
long for the heir whom God had promised him. Finally, 
when Isaac had passed the years of childhood, God said 
to Abraham: "Take thy only begotten son, whom thou 
lovest; and offer him for an holocaust . . ." Abraham 
arose during the night, and with his son went to the moun- 
tain which God had shown him. On the way the youth 
asked his father : "My father, behold fire and wood : where 
is the victim for the holocaust?" With a bleeding heart 
Abraham answered : "God will provide himself a victim for 
an holocaust, my son." And Abraham offered the heroic 
sacrifice: "And when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid 
him on the altar upon the pile of wood. And he put forth 
his hand and took the sword, to sacrifice his son" — and 
God was pleased. Here was submission, surrender. God 
asked of Abraham the greatest sacrifice of his life, and 
Abraham gave in utter submission. (Gen., chap. 22.) 

How powerful, how vital the forces in this act of obla- 


tion ! Is not this surrender, this submission, the essence of 
all religion? God does not ask for our emotions, for our 
speech, for our gifts. God asks for ourselves. The Blessed 
Virgin, in her great hour, pronounced her Fiat: "Behold 
the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to 
thy word." It was her surrender to God. Before His pas- 
sion, Christ our Savior wrestled in Gethsemane with the 
same Fiat: "Father, not my will, but thine be done." In 
that prayer which He Himself gave us, He taught us to 
say : "Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven." Thus 
the Offertory teaches us to offer to God that sacrifice which 
is most pleasing to Him, a sacrifice so beautiful and yet 
so difficult — the sacrifice of ourselves, our entire surrender 
to Him. 

Lord, Thy will be done, wherever I go, wherever I may be ; 
Lord, Thy will be done, even though I cannot understand ; 
Lord, Thy will be done, however long the agony. 

In the offertory procession we are drawn close to Christ's 
own spirit of sacrifice. Before we are worthy to partake of 
Christ's priesthood and to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, 
we must show that we can surrender ourselves in sacrifice 
to God. This sacrifice of surrender we make in the offer- 
tory procession. 

/) Even now we have not examined the very essence of 
the Offertory, because we have not as yet seen its intimate 
relationship with the sacrifice of our Lord. In the Mass, 
the labor of our redemption, especially our Lord's death 
and resurrection, becomes present before us. Christ died 
for us and offered atonement to His Father for all man- 
kind, thus making it possible for us to be saved. But we 


are actually redeemed only when the merits of Christ's re- 
demption become our own, or, in the words of St. Paul, 
when we have died with Christ, and with Him have risen 
from the dead. For our actual redemption, two things are 
necessary : that Christ should die for us ; that we die with 
Him and rise again. Both are accomplished anew in the 
Mass : the sacrificial death of Christ is re-enacted, and we 
enter into that sacrifice, for in the Offertory and Com- 
munion we die and rise again. This entrance into the sac- 
rifice of the Lord was beautifully expressed in the offertory 
procession; the faithful brought to the altar their gifts, 
which symbolized their own selves. Thus they laid them- 
selves upon the altar of sacrifice, to die with Christ ; they 
ascended the cross to die with Him. We are united with 
Christ in sacrifice. This indeed is the most profound sig- 
nificance of the Offertory — our entering into the sacrificial 
death of Christ. 

Precisely because of its profound symbolism the offer- 
tory procession is again being observed in many places 
where the liturgical revival has taken hold. Generally a 
twofold procession takes place: the offering of the hosts 
and the offering of the gifts for charity. In the first, the 
faithful bring their hosts to the altar, placing them upon 
the paten or in the ciborium held by the priest. In the 
second procession, the faithful bring money or other gifts, 
destined for the relief of the poor. Undoubtedly the sym- 
bolism is deeper in the former, but, for rubrical and hy- 
gienic reasons it is impractical, and several bishops of 
Germany and Austria have declared themselves opposed 
to it. The offering of the gifts is more easily carried out, 
and is quite in harmony with the symbolism of the Offer- 


tory and the customs of the people. The practice of this 
procession of gifts has really never ceased in the Church ; 
in some places the custom has been retained, particularly 
in Masses for the dead. It is a touching scene, as the people 
pass in procession by the altar, and the priest offers the 
paten and chalice. The offertory procession gives us an 
opportunity to ennoble the charitable activities of the 
people, and to associate them with the altar. Thus the 
sacrifice of the Mass may again become the center of hu- 
man living. From this center grace and faith would flow 
into the hearts of the faithful, and streams of love and 
mercy into all the world. 


The Offertory Today 

As we have pointed out, the first part of the Mass of Sac- 
rifice was intended to be, on the part of the priest, a prep- 
aration of the offerings, and on the part of the people the 
time of their intimate association in the sacrifice by means 
of the offertory procession. It was precisely in this proces- 
sion that the people manifested their active participation 
in the sacrifice. Unfortunately it has gradually fallen into 
disuse, so that the Offertory has become a purely priestly 
liturgy. In early times the Offertory was an action, today 
it is merely a prayer. In the classical period of the liturgy 
(about the year 600), the Offertory appeared somewhat 
as follows: During the chant the people came in the li- 
turgical offertory procession to the tables of the offerings, 
bringing their gifts ; the deacon selected the gifts (bread 
and wine) required for the sacrifice, and brought these to 
the altar. After the washing of the hands, the priest or 
bishop recited the single oblation prayer, known to us to- 
day as the Secret. This concluded the Offertory. Later, 
when the offertory procession was discontinued, the chant 
was shortened, and a series of prayers by the priest was 
introduced, chiefly for the private Mass, to fill in the void 
created by the omission of the people's offertory proces- 
sion. These prayers, in their present arrangement, came 
into use in the Roman Church in the fourteenth century 



(O.R. XIV, n. 53) ; elsewhere, until the time of Pius V, 
the greatest diversity existed in these prayers. 

Since then even the original concept of the Offertory has 
undergone changes. Formerly attention was almost ex- 
clusively directed to the offerings of the people, who took 
an active part in the Offertory, as we can gather clearly 
from the older Secret prayers. Since the cessation of the 
offertory procession, the idea of the offerings as already 
consecrated comes to the fore. The words of the prayers 
still refer to the bread and wine, but they clearly indicate 
that the graces we pray for are asked not so much because 
of the offering of the bread and wine, but rather in view 
of the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Offertory prayers today 
the consecration is anticipated; only thus can we under- 
stand such expressions as hostia immaculata, calix salutaris 
("immaculate victim, chalice of salvation"). Our modern 
Offertory is a presentation and an offering of the Eucha- 
rist, conceived as already present on the altar, as in the 
Canon ; and therefore the Offertory is frequently referred 
to as the "little Canon." 

In general the Offertory prayers now contain these lead- 
ing thoughts : 

a) The offerings are alienated from their natural uses 
and dedicated to God: "Accept, Holy Father . . ."; 
"Receive, Holy Trinity . . ." 

b) They are sanctified by a formal blessing: "Come, O 
Sanctifier . . . and bless . . ." 

c) The end and purpose of the sacrifice is clearly ex- 
pressed: "For the salvation of the whole world," "for all 
faithful Christians," "for the living and the dead." The 
sacrifice is to benefit all men — the priest, those present, 


all Christians, and, even beyond this, all mankind. This 
determination of the ends of the sacrifice is repeated again 
and again, and is entirely in harmony with the medieval 
concept of the Offertory. 

d) The fruits of the sacrifice will be increased in propor- 
tion to the pious dispositions of priest and people; we 
hear, therefore, of humility and contrition. "In a humble 
and contrite heart . . ." 

In general, we may say that the Offertory prayers of 
our Missal lack the coherence, the concise unity, and the 
classic lapidary style which distinguish the prayers of the 
ancient liturgy ; these prayers are not from one mold, they 
are of various origin. From all this the layman may rightly 
conclude that he need not give these prayers the same at- 
tention he gives the other prayers of the Mass, since they 
are in no way necessary for his participation in the Mass. 

Let us now consider the parts of the Offertory in detail. 


In the ancient Church, the Mass of the Catechumens 
closed with the Gospel and the sermon, and then the cate- 
chumens were dismissed. Now that the faithful were alone, 
the prayer of the faithful was recited (the oratio fidelium) , 
which is still to be found in the Greek liturgy, and in the 
liturgy of Good Friday. It has disappeared from the 
Roman Mass ; only a vestige remaining in the Oremus said 
by the priest at the beginning of the Offertory. This Ore- 
mus cannot refer to the following Offertory antiphon, 
since only orationes, not chants, are introduced by the 
Oremus. The Dominus vobiscum preceding the Oremus 
probably also had a reference to the prayer of the faithful, 


and was originally an invitation to the people to join in 
the prayer. We may now accept it as an exhortation by 
the priest to join in the Offertory, and allow the Or emus to 
include all the present Offertory prayers. 


While the people went in the offertory procession, the 
schola cantorum sang a hymn. Once this consisted of an 
entire psalm, sung by alternating choirs, with an antiphon 
between the verses, as in the Introit and Communion. This 
chant was calculated to maintain religious sentiments 
among the faithful during the long and distracting offer- 
ing of the gifts. It was a processional chant and lasted only 
as long as the procession. Later, when the procession be- 
came shorter, the chant was likewise abbreviated, until at 
last only the antiphon remained, which is the present Of- 
fertorium of our Missals. As to content, this chant, like 
the other "proper" chants (Introit, Gradual, Commun- 
ion), was influenced by and subordinated to the spirit of 
the feast or season. There is very seldom any reference to 
the sacrificial act ; on the feast of a saint, the saint is hon- 
ored, and in the mind of the liturgy, he is considered to be 
present as the leader of the choir. 

According to St. Augustine, the custom of accompany- 
ing the offertory procession with a chant arose during his 
time in the Church of Carthage. In a separate work written 
by him, the Bishop of Hippo defended this custom against 
the attacks of a certain Hilarius. He states explicitly that 
Hilarius was opposing the introduction of the psalm-chant 
as unlawful. Unfortunately this writing of the holy doctor 
has been lost ; we know of its existence only from the Second 


Book of the Recantations, in which St. Augustine says 
briefly that he wrote it at the request of his brother bishops. 

The Offertory chant was later introduced into the 
Roman Church. In the Ordo Romanics of the Archcantor 
John (a. d. 680) there is no mention of the Offertory 
chant, although all the other "proper" chants are explic- 
itly mentioned. In the Ordo Romanus I, dating probably 
from the seventh century also, but depending for its mate- 
rial in great part on the reforms of Gregory I, mention is 
made of the Offertory chant. Apparently the chant was 
brought over to Rome about this time. 

The text of many of the ancient Mass formulas also in- 
dicate that the Offertory chant was a later addition: 
whereas the other chants are original selections, the Offer- 
tory is drawn from the other chants ; e. g., in the Mass for 
the Nativity of St. John Baptist, for the Purification of 
the Blessed Virgin, for the Finding of the Holy Cross, and 
especially for the Wednesdays and Saturdays of the Em- 
ber weeks. 

In the Gregorian Antiphonary, containing the "proper" 
chants for the Mass, we find an unabbreviated Offertory, 
i. e., the antiphon with several verses. We have here an 
Offertory chant preserved from the time when the offertory 
procession was still being observed, although the classical 
period of the liturgy had already passed. In place of the 
entire psalm, only a few selected verses were now chanted. 

To show the structure of this longer chant, we give here 
the Offertory chant for the first Sunday of Advent : 

Ant. : Ad te, Domine, levavi Ant. : To Thee, O Lord, have 
animam meara : Deus meus, in I lifted up my soul. In Thee, 
te confido, non erubescam : my God, I put my trust : let 


neque irrideant me inimici me not be ashamed. Neither 

mei : * etenim universi, qui te let my enemies laugh at me : * 

exspectant, non confunden- for none of them that wait on 

tur. Thee shall be confounded. 

V. 1 : Dirige me in veritate V. 1 : Direct me in Thy truth, 

tua et doce me; quia tu es and teach me: for Thou art 

Deus Salutaris meus ; et te God my Savior : and on Thee 

sustinui tota die. have I waited all the day 


Rep. : Etenim universi . . . Rep. : For none of them . . . 

V. 2 : Respice in me ; et mis- V. 2 : Look Thou upon me, 

erere mei, Domine: custodi and have mercy on me, 

animam meam et eripe me : Lord : keep Thou my soul and 

non confundar, quoniam in- deliver me; I shall not be 

vocavi te. ashamed, for I have cried to 


Rep. : Etenim universi . . . Rep. : For none of them . . . 

The chant was sung in the following manner : The first 
choir sang the antiphon, the second repeated it; the first 
choir sang the first verse, the second choir sang the part 
of the antiphon, from the asterisk, and so on. The Offer- 
tory verses are the most interesting of these longer texts of 
the old Missals, adding a surprising wealth of ideas to the 
Mass. In studying the Mass texts, we should note these 
verses especially. They will be a source of much joy to 
lovers of the liturgy. 

We give below another classical example, taken from the 
eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: 

Moses sanctified unto the Lord a table of sacrifice 
And offered to Him a holocaust, 
Offering victims, he prepared an evening sacrifice, 
An odor of sweetness to God, the Lord, 
In the sight of the sons of Israel. 


The Lord spoke to Moses and said : 

Come up to Me upon the mountain 

And place yourself upon its pinnacle. 

Moses arose and ascended the mountain, 

As God had commanded him. 

And the Lord descended to him in a cloud 

And stood before his face. 

When Moses saw Him, he fell to the ground, 

Adored Him, and said : 

I conjure Thee, Lord, 

Forgive the sins of Thy people. 

And the Lord said to him : 

I will do according to thy word. 
Then Moses prepared an evening sacrifice. 
Moses besought the Lord and said : 

If I have found favor in Thy sight, 

Show Thyself to me openly, that I may behold Thee. 

And the Lord spoke to him and said : 

No man can see Me and live. 

But place thyself there upon that high rock, 

And My right hand shall cover thee, 

As I pass by. 

But when I have passed by, 

I will take away My hand, 

Then you will look upon My glory. 

But My countenance will not appear to thee, 

For I am God, who doeth wonderful things upon the et r (h. 
Then Moses offered an evening sacrifice. 


After the priest has recited the Offertory verse, he re- 
moves the veil from the chalice, takes the paten with the 
bread (it is unleavened bread), holding it in both hands, 
about the level of his eyes, and offers it to God, saying: 
(Suscipe, sancte Pater) : 


Receive, holy Father, almighty, eternal God, this spot- 
less host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, do offer unto Thee, 
my living and true God, for mine own countless sins, offences, 
and negligences, and for all here present ; as also for all faith- 
ful Christians, living or dead, that it may avail for my own 
and for their salvation unto life eternal. Amen. 

In this prayer — it is the most fraught with meaning of 
all the prayers in this part — we find expressed all that 
we should know about the sacrifice of the Mass. The priest 
is the actual offerer of the sacrifice: "This host, which I, 
Thy unworthy servant offer." It is offered to God: "Holy 
Father, almighty, eternal God, living and true." What is 
offered? "This spotless host." Principally the bread is now 
offered; although the expression immaculata hostia indi- 
cates that the prayer does not contemplate this bread 
alone, for it cannot be called, in the true sense of the word, 
either spotless or a victim ; we are already looking beyond, 
to the Holy Eucharist, for which the bread is intended, 
which is in truth the immaculata hostia. The priest is an- 
ticipating the unbloody sacrifice. Why is the offering 
made ? It is offered in atonement for the "countless sins, of- 
fences, and negligences" of the priest — these expressions 
are practically synonymous. It is a sacrifice of atonement 
not only for the priest but for all those present. The con- 
centric circles widen to include all Christians, living and 
dead ; all shall benefit by the sacrifice. Mention is also made 
of the end of the sacrifice : "that it may avail for my own 
and for their salvation unto life eternal." The end of the 
sacrifice of the Mass is identical with that of the sacrifice 
of the cross — the salvation of men. This prayer is very 


instructive ; in it indeed is contained the complete doctrine 
of the sacrifice of the Mass. 


It is probable that our Lord at the Last Supper used 
unleavened wheaten bread, since it was the Pasch. In early 
Christian times, however, ordinary leavened bread was 
used in the Mass, since the Christians brought it from their 
homes. The bread used for the offering was usually a round 
flat loaf, broken into smaller pieces for the Communion of 
the faithful. At the time of Gregory I, the shape of the 
bread was like a wreath, and the loaves were called coronae. 
This was the form for bread of finer quality, as is still cus- 
tomary in Italy. In some representations the bread for 
Mass seems to have been formed in figures or knots. 

Since the eleventh century the Western Church has used 
unleavened bread, which could not be taken from the ob- 
lations of the faithful, but was especially prepared for the 
Mass ; afterward the bread was prepared for the altar by 
the convents with special ceremonies. In the period from 
the ninth to the eleventh century the smaller breads, par- 
ticles for the faithful, were introduced, and the old break- 
ing of the bread was omitted. These particles became 
smaller and smaller and much thinner, so that it can no 
longer be said that they are eaten. The liturgical move- 
ment would return to the larger hosts for the Communion 
of the faithful. The custom of imprinting crosses or images 
on the hosts goes back to Christian antiquity. 



The priest now places upon the corporal the bread which 
he has offered. He then pours wine and water, brought to 
him by the servers, into the chalice. In solemn Mass the 
deacon pours the wine and the subdeacon pours the water ; 
in both instances the water is blessed (except in Requiem 
Masses). Only a few drops of water are added, a quantity 
much less than that of the wine, in order to safeguard the 
substance of wine. While the priest adds the water to the 
wine, he says the following prayer : 

O God, who, in creating human nature, didst marvelously 
ennoble it, and hast still more marvelously renewed it ; grant 
that, by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made 
partakers of His divinity who vouchsafed to become partaker 
of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord ; who liv- 
eth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, 
one God, world without end. Amen. 

The mingling of the water and wine has first of all a 
historical significance ; Christ did so, for in His time wine 
was never taken without the addition of water; and the 
Church has always observed the practice. In the oldest 
descriptions of the Mass liturgy (e.g., Justin Martyr), 
mention is made of the mingling of the water and wine. 
("Then a vessel was brought to the president containing 
water and wine.") Soon the practice received a number of 
symbolical interpretations. It will be safest to accept only 
the symbolism found in liturgical books. We refer, there- 
fore, only to the Roman Missal and to the Chrysostom 

The explanation offered by the Roman Missal is found 


in the beautiful prayer for the mingling of the water and 
wine. Originally this prayer was a Collect for the Feast of 
Christmas (in the Leonine Sacramentary), to which were 
added the words, "by the mystery of this water and wine." 
The prayer refers to a sacred exchange: Christ assumed 
human nature to make it a partaker of the divine nature. 
The mingling is the symbol of this participation in the di- 
vine nature. Christ is represented by the wine, men are 
represented by the water; and therefore the water is 
blessed, but the wine is not blessed. The drops of water are 
merged in the wine ; thus our human nature should disap- 
pear in the divine nature of Christ, and in it become divine. 
The mingling of the water and the wine is a symbol of the 
effect of the sacrificial banquet, indeed of the whole pur- 
pose of the redemption, the transfiguration of man's 

The Greek liturgy offers another interpretation, which 
was also received with much favor in the Middle Ages. 
During the preparation of the oblations at the beginning 
of the Mass, the priest pierces the bread with a small lance, 
and at the same time the deacon pours water and wine into 
the chalice, and the following words are said : "One of the 
soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately 
there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath 
given testimony: and his testimony is true." Thus the 
Greek liturgy symbolizes the water which flowed from the 
opened side of the Savior. 


After the wine and the water have been poured into the 
chalice, the priest slightly raises the chalice, his right 


arm being supported by the deacon. At the same time he 


We offer unto Thee, Lord, the chalice of salvation, be- 
seeching Thy clemency, that it may rise up in the sight of 
Thy divine majesty, as a savor of sweetness, for our salvation, 
and for that of the whole world. Amen. 

In the light of what we have said above, this prayer 
needs little explanation. The chalice is called the "chalice 
of salvation" in view of the Consecration. The purpose of 
the offering is more clearly expressed than in the first of- 
fering prayer, "for our salvation, and for that of the whole 
world." The expression, "as a savor of sweetness," is taken 
from the imagery of the Old Testament, where God is rep- 
resented as being pleased with the odor of a sacrifice. 

In the ancient Roman Church the chalice was placed on 
the altar beside the host, not behind it. After a visit to 
Rome (831), Amalar (Migne, P.L., CV, 992) recorded: 
Haec in eis sunt, quae a Romano, sede accept: Calix in 
latere oblatae in altare componitur, non post tergum 
("Among the things I learnt at Rome is this: that the 
chalice is placed at the side of the host, not behind it"). 
From this it appears that our custom of placing the chalice 
behind the host was already the custom beyond the Alps. 
Similarly Durandus explains that the chalice was placed 
to the right of the host, "as if to receive the blood which 
flowed from the right side of Christ." This point is also 
confirmed by the Ordo Romanus I. 


The value of a sacrifice lies in the intention of the of- 
ferer ; in the highest sense a sacrifice is the symbol of the 


immolation of oneself. In that sense, after the offering of 
the gifts, the priest makes an offering of himself and of 
the faithful. The wording of this beautiful prayer (In 
spiritu humilitatis) is as follows : "In a humble spirit and 
a contrite heart, may we be received by Thee, O Lord; 
and may our sacrifice so be offered up in Thy sight this day 
that it may be pleasing to Thee, O Lord God." 

The priest recites this prayer bowed before the altar. 
The words are taken from the Old Testament. We find 
them in the story of the three youths in the fiery furnace 
(Dan. 3: 39, 40). In the midst of the flames they prayed 
for their exiled race, that God might not forget the cove- 
nant He had made with their fathers. The Jews in exile, 
having no temple, could offer no sacrifice; but they 
prayed : "in a humble spirit and a contrite heart, may we 
be received by Thee. As in holocausts of rams and bullocks, 
and as in thousands of fat lambs: so let our sacrifice be 
made in Thy sight this day, that it may please Thee." 
How beautiful this prayer is, as we hear it recited by the 
three youths ! So, when we are in the fiery furnace of our 
afflictions, temptations, and sufferings, we should offer 
them up in union with the sacrifice of Christ, making them 
an acceptable offering to God. We should note further that 
the prayer is in the plural: priest and people are now 
again united in the common sacrifice ; the priest stands at 
the altar as the representative of the people. 


In the ancient Christian liturgy and even today in the 
Greek liturgy, there is to be found, after the words of 
Consecration, the so-called Epiklesis, which is an invoca- 


tion of the Holy Spirit upon the oblations, and a prayer 
that He may consecrate them. In the Eastern liturgies this 
prayer is considered to be of the greatest importance ; in- 
deed, the Orthodox Church believes that during it the con- 
secration takes place. In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysos- 
tom, the prayer is as follows: "We offer to Thee this 
reasonable and unbloody sacrifice, and we pray, beg and 
beseech Thee to send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and 
upon these gifts here present. And make this bread the 
sacred body of Thy Christ ; and make that which is in this 
chalice the precious blood of Thy Christ: changing them 
by Thy Holy Spirit." In this prayer there is the Church's 
firm conviction by faith, that the Holy Spirit, even as He 
is the Author of the human body of Christ (et incamatus 
est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria . . . "and was incarnate 
by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary . . ."), so He is 
also the Author of the Eucharistic body of Christ. The 
Roman liturgy soon removed the Epiklesis from its place 
after the Consecration, and today there is a scarcely per- 
ceptible vestige of it in one of the prayers after the Con- 
secration : "Command these to be carried by the hands of 
Thy holy angel to Thy Altar on high . . ." In its place, 
during the Middle Ages, a kind of Epiklesis arose among 
the Offertory prayers, Veni, sanctificator . . . ("Come, 
O Sanctifier, almighty, eternal God, and bless this sacri- 
fice set forth to Thy holy name"). In the old manuscripts 
we find "Holy Spirit" added after "Sanctifier." The ges- 
ture which the priest makes during this prayer is also note- 
worthy : he raises his hands, as if to bring down the Holy 
Spirit ; at the word "bless," he makes the sign of the cross 


over the oblations. The word "bless" here really means 


In solemn Mass there follows now the incensing of the 
oblations, the altar, the clergy, and the people. This cere- 
mony is not found in the older Roman liturgy, and was 
universally observed only in the later Middle Ages. The 
incensing is intended above all else to increase the solem- 
nity of the liturgical action. Like the bread and the wine, 
incense is also an oblation. In the liturgy, incensing has a 
positive and a negative purpose; to cleanse (to lustrate), 
and to sanctify. Here it is to free the gifts offered from 
every unholy influence, and envelop them in an atmosphere 
of holiness. Lastly, incensing has a symbolical meaning: 
it represents a prayer ascending to heaven ("Let my 
prayer, O Lord, be directed as incense in Thy sight"). 
Therefore the incensing should be expressive of our sacri- 
ficial spirit. Since those present are also included in the 
sacrifice, they are likewise incensed. Now all is prepared 
for the great act of sacrifice. As once in the Old Testament, 
so now the Lord may descend in a cloud upon the altar. 

During the incensing, the priest recites four prayers 
which beautifully express the meaning of this sacred cere- 
mony. While blessing the incense, he says : 

Through the intercession of blessed Michael the archangel 
standing at the right of the altar of incense, and of all His 
elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless this incense, and to 
receive it for a sweet savor. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 


The archangel Michael is looked upon as the guardian 
angel of the Church, and according to the Apocalypse 
(8:3), "there was given to him much incense, that he 
should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden 
altar, which is before the throne of God." The archangel 
Michael and many other angels are now, in the mind of 
the liturgy, present about the altar. 

While incensing the oblations, with the assistance of the 
deacon, the priest says: "May this incense which Thou 
hast blessed, O Lord, rise up before Thee, and may Thy 
mercy come down upon us." Here is a brief and pointed 
expression of the symbolism of the incensing: the ascend- 
ing smoke is our prayer, the descending fragrance is the 
grace of God. 

The priest next goes from one end of the altar to the 
other, incensing it and reciting three verses of psalm 140 : 

Let my prayer, O Lord, be directed as incense in Thy 
sight ; the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set 
a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a door round about 
my lips ; that my heart incline not to evil words, to make ex- 
cuses in sins. 

The choice of these verses was prompted by their inter- 
pretation of the incensing. The prayer admonishes us all, 
however, to unite our prayers with the sacrifice of Christ, 
that they may ascend, like a sweet odor, to God. 

When the priest returns the censer to the deacon, he says 
another beautiful prayer: "May the Lord enkindle in us 
the fire of His love, and the flame of everlasting charity. 
Amen." A new symbolism : the glowing coals in the censer 
are the flame of the love of God in our hearts. In these 


prayers is to be found a complete instruction on the sym- 
bolism of the incense. 


The washing of the hands after the receiving of the 
gifts for the Offertory is an ancient ceremony. It is men- 
tioned in the Apostolic Constitutions (fourth century). 
Originally the action had a practical purpose. In receiv- 
ing the oblations, the priest had soiled his hands, and he 
washed them in order to offer the sacrifice with clean hands. 
But even in the beginning the washing was taken as a 
symbol of spiritual purity. The Apostolical Constitutions 
note that the washing symbolizes purity of heart. Grad- 
ually the psalm (25: 6—12) was introduced to emphasize 
the symbolism, especially by its first verse: "I will wash 
my hands among the innocent: and compass Thine altar, 
O Lord." In this place the liturgical writers of the Middle 
Ages referred to Pilate washing his hands after the con- 
demnation of Christ. Many beautiful thoughts are sug- 
gested by other verses of the psalm: e. g., "0 Lord, I have 
loved the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy 
glory dwelleth." Such especially should be the thought of 
the priest. 


The priest has washed his hands at the Epistle side. Re- 
turning to the middle of the altar and bowing profoundly, 
he reads the prayer Suscipe, sancta Trinltas: 

Receive O Holy Trinity, this offering, which we make to 
Thee, in remembrance of the passion, resurrection, and ascen- 
sion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of blessed Mary 


ever Virgin, of blessed John the Baptist, of the holy Apostles 
Peter and Paul, of these and of all the saints : that it may avail 
to their honor and our salvation : and may they vouchsafe to 
intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on 
earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This is another offertory prayer, expressing new mo- 
tives. It is one of the oldest prayers, coming from the Am- 
brosian liturgy. It is distinctive in this respect, that it is 
addressed to the Holy Trinity ; such a form is rare in the 
prayers of the liturgy. The two new motives are the re- 
membrance of Christ and the veneration of the saints. 
Mention is here made of what we shall learn in that vener- 
able prayer after the Consecration, namely, that this sac- 
rifice is a living memorial of the important phases of our 
Lord's life, of His passion, resurrection, and ascension. 
The sacrifice is also offered in honor of the saints. Four 
saints are mentioned by name: Mary, John the Baptist, 
and the Princes of the Apostles. Following these, some par- 
ticular saints may have been mentioned in earlier times; 
very likely those whose relics were enclosed within the altar, 
the titular of the church, or the saint whose feast was being 
celebrated. The purpose of this Eucharistic veneration of 
the saints is also indicated: "To their honor and to our 
salvation"; for the saints will indeed intercede for us if 
we honor them on earth. 


Now the priest turns to the people and says: Orate 
fratres — "Brethren, pray that my sacrifice and yours may 
be acceptable to God the Father almighty." The server 
(not the congregation) answers: "May the Lord receive 


the sacrifice at thy hands, to the praise and glory of His 
name, to our benefit, and to that of all His holy Church." 

Originally this prayer was only an Or emus or Orate : an 
invitation such as is found before every Collect, exhorting 
the co-celebrating clergy to assist devoutly at the oblation 
prayer that is to follow. Since the Middle Ages, the clergy 
or the server responds with a prayer, that the sacrifice may 
be graciously received by God. 


At last the priest silently recites the prayer that was 
once the only Offertory prayer; it is found in the oldest 
sacramentaries. In the Gelasian Sacramentary (the sec- 
ond oldest) it is called the Secret; in the Gregorian Sac- 
ramentary it is called the Oratio super oblata — the prayer 
said over the offerings. The term "Secret" has received 
various explanations. Some translate it the "silent" prayer. 
Abbot Herwegen offers the explanation, that the word 
ecclesia should be understood after Seer eta; meaning, then, 
the select congregation, to distinguish it from the ecclesia 
collecta, the assembled congregation, prior to the dismissal 
of the catechumens. The Secret is, accordingly, the Offer- 
tory prayer of the chosen congregation. 

The word may also refer to the gifts ; to those selected 
(segregated) from the oblations for use in the Consecra- 
tion, as distinct from those which were merely to be 

As to their contents, the older Secrets speak of the of- 
ferings of the faithful, and presuppose the offertory 
procession. The more recent Secrets direct attention to the 
sacrificial act which follows. The Secret is not constructed 


as artistically as the Collect ; but it has the same endings 
as the Collect. The last words of the ending are chanted or 
recited aloud by the priest, and form the transition to the 

Let us briefly summarize what we have said in this sec- 
tion. The essence of the Offertory lies in the offertory 
procession of the faithful, who thus show their active par- 
ticipation in the Mass. With the discontinuance of this 
offertory procession, the Offertory became a pre-offering 
of the Eucharistic sacrifice, which follows. It has become 
since then a sacerdotal liturgy. But the layman should, 
even now, see in the offertory procession, even though it 
be performed only spiritually, the essence of the Offertory. 


The Canon 

We now enter the holy of holies in the temple of the sacri- 
fice of the Mass. We have come to that most sacred moment, 
when the sacrifice of the New Law is offered ; the sacrifice 
in which the body of the Lord, and His blood, the blood of 
a New Covenant, lie upon the altar of sacrifice. It is the 
moment when the King of heaven descends from His royal 
throne to us on earth. It is that part of the Mass known 
as the Consecration, or in the language of the liturgy, the 
Canon. This word is of Greek origin, and signified a car- 
penter's rule, and also a rule of conduct. Here in the Mass 
it may be understood as the unchanging prayer for the 

In early times several terms were used to designate this 
prayer. St. Cyprian (d. 258) calls it simply the oratio; 
Innocent I (d. 417) and Gregory I (d. 606) called it 
prex. Other names were praefatio and actio (still used in 
our Missal) . The word "Canon" is first found in a letter 
addressed to Gregory I (Ep. IX, 12), where also the ex- 
pression Canon actionis is used. In the first days of the 
Church, this prayer was known as the Eucharistia (the 
Eucharistic canticle) ; in the Greek Church it is called 
the Anaphora. These names are sufficient indication of the 
great antiquity of this prayer, and of its origin in the 

earliest days of the Church. 



The Canon is really the sacrificial prayer, and is in- 
tended to be recited by the sacrificing priest alone, who 
therefore, in the Roman liturgy, recites it silently. The 
layman is, of course, permitted to say the prayer, and he 
should at least be familiar with it. 


The origin and historical development of the Canon is 
one of the most difficult problems in the entire history of 
the liturgy. Indeed it seems to be a problem that will never 
be satisfactorily solved. Therefore I will not burden the 
reader with the various theories and hypotheses advanced 
about the origin and development of the Canon. I will 
merely put down, in larger detail, how the prayer came 
into being, and point out the historical sources at our dis- 
posal for a study of the Roman Canon. There are four 
stages in the historical development of our Canon. 

1. The first stage is the Last Supper, as recorded in 
the New Testament. In four Scriptural passages we are 
told that the Lord, before instituting the Holy Eucharist, 
pronounced a prayer of blessing or thanksgiving, although 
the text of the prayer has not been preserved for us. The 
following are the four texts : 

St. Matthew (26 : 26) : "And whilst they were at supper, 
Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke : and gave to his 
disciples, and said : Take ye, and eat. This is my body." 

St. Mark (14 : 22) : "And whilst they were eating, Jesus 
took bread ; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said : 
Take ye. This is my body." 

St. Luke (22 : 19) : "And taking bread, he gave thanks, 
and brake: and gave to them, saying: This is my body, 


which, is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of 


St. Paul (I Cor. 11 : 24) : "And giving thanks, broke, 
and said : Take ye and eat : this is my body, which shall be 
delivered for you : this do for the commemoration of me." 

Two words are used in the Greek for this prayer of 
thanksgiving: eulogesas (to bless), and eucharistesas ("to 
give thanks"). These two words are synonymous, mean 
ing a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving. It was the sec 
ond expression which was preferred by the ancient ChurcL:, 
and the word "Eucharist" was adopted. The eucharistesas 
was the germ from which the Eucharistic canticle was de- 
veloped, so called because it began with an act of thanks- 
giving. In the time of the Apostles a prayer of thanksgiv- 
ing was no doubt formulated in imitation of the Savior's 
prayer at the Last Supper. It was joined with the Jewish 
table-prayer, which our Lord certainly used; or perhaps 
another prayer of praise was composed with a Christian 

2. The next stage is presented by St. Justin Martyr, 
about a. d. 150. In his well-known Apologia, he writes : 

Then bread and a chalice with wine and water are brought 
to the president of the brethren. He receives them (the gifts 
for the sacrifice) and offers praise and honor to the Father 
of all things, in the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, 
and continues in a prayer of thanksgiving (eucharistia — a 
Eucharistic prayer) at some length, because we have been 
made worthy by Him to partake of these gifts. Having fin- 
ished these prayers and the thanksgiving, the assembled con- 
gregation consenting, cry out : "Amen." "Amen" is a Hebrew 
word and means : So be it. The president having now given 


thanks, and the people having consented, the deacons dis- 
tribute. . . . 

It is clear, then, that the Consecration was surrounded 
by a prayer of some length, which was the free composition 
of the bishop ; indeed such prayers, prompted by the abun- 
dance of spiritual emotion, were quite customary in the 
first Christian era. Gradually certain compositions of these 
Eucharistic prayers, particularly those of the more promi- 
nent bishops, came to be permanent. 

3. From the beginning of the third century we come 
upon set forms of the Eucharistic prayer (anaphora) . We 
are fortunate enough to possess the text of the oldest Canon 
of the Roman Church, preserved in the Apostolic Tradi- 
tion of Hippolytus (about the year 220). Although the 
original Greek text (for at that time Greek was the litur- 
gical language of Rome) has been lost, we are able to 
reconstruct it from the Latin and Ethiopian versions. 

This Canon was not the only one in use; others have 
come down to us from very early times : e. g., in the 
Euchologium of Serapion of Thmuis, and in a papyrus 
fragment of Der Balizeh. 22 An extended formula of the 
Eucharistic prayer may be found in the Apostolic Con- 
stitutions of the fourth century. It is very long, and we 
may surmise that it served as a model for the prayers 
that were actually in use in the liturgy. Because of its 
great length we are unable to quote it in full ; but, to show 
the topical development of the old Anaphora and their 
relation to our Roman Canon, we give here a short 

22 Puniet, Report of the Eucharistic Congress, London, 1909. 


The prayer begins with the customary responses : "Lift 
up your hearts." "We have lifted them up to the Lord." 
"Let us give thanks to the Lord." "It is meet and just." 
Then the prayer continues as does our Preface: "It is 
truly meet and just, to offer praise to Thee above all 
things. . . ." The hymn of praise is very long. It praises 
God for His attributes and for the work of the Creation, 
describes the six days of Creation, continues to the fall in 
Paradise, and recounts the story of salvation in the Old 
Testament (Abel, Seth, Abraham, Jacob, Moses). Before 
the prayer goes on to the description of Christ the Savior, 
the angelic hymn of praise is sung with its triple "Holy," 
as in our Sanctus. After this the chant goes on with the 
life of Christ and continues with the Last Supper and the 
Consecration almost in the same words as our Canon. As 
with us, the Consecration is immediately followed by the 
so-called Anamnesis (Prayer of Remembrance) : "Being 
mindful now of His passion and death, His resurrection 
from the dead and His return into heaven, and of His 
future second coming . . . according to His ordinance, 
we offer to Thee, our God and King, this bread and this 
chalice." Then follow the invocation of the Holy Ghost, 
the so-called Epiklesis ; the petitions for the Church, for 
the clergy, and for the king; the remembrance of the 
saints, petitions for the people, for enemies, and for fruits 
of the field. The Eucharistic prayer concludes with the 
offering of praise to the Holy Trinity and the Amen of 
the people, just as with us. 

From this brief summary it is quite evident that all 
the elements of our Canon were already present in the 
Eucharistic prayer of the fourth and fifth centuries, al- 


though the arrangement is somewhat different. The Ana- 
phora still in use in the liturgy of St. Chrysostom in 
the Greek Church has a still closer relationship to this 
Eucharistic prayer of the Apostolic Constitutions. The 
text indeed is slightly different, but the topical develop- 
ment is almost identical: the Preface is shorter, followed 
by the triple "Holy," then immediately the Consecra- 
tion, the Anamnesis, the Epiklesis, and then the petitions. 
Thus the Canon (Anaphora) in the Eastern Church re- 
mained stationary in its earliest period, while in the West 
it underwent a period of change and development. 

4. The fourth stage of development is the Roman 
Canon. For the history of the Roman Canon, however, we 
are forced to rely on very meager sources. The oldest 
source is the Canon of Hippolytus, which is unmistakably 
a predecessor of our Canon; its threefold response as an 
introduction is similar to our Preface, and in the narra- 
tive of the Institution and in the Remembrance prayers 
there are textual identities. 

Perhaps both the Canon of Hippolytus and the present 
Roman Canon go back to some older Greek model. The 
passage: summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech in our 
Canon, can be explained only as a faulty translation of 

T7]v Trpocr<f)opav M.eXxicreBeK rov tepew? (rov rov vxptarov ; for Mel- 

chisedech is never called the "high priest"; he is called 
the "priest of the most high God" (Gen. 14:18). This 
Greek prayer may be identical with the oratio oblationis 
in Greek, quoted by Marius Victorinus in the latter half 
of the fourth century. 23 

The next source for our Canon is the De sacramentis, 

23 Baurastark, Missale Romanum* pp. 13 f. 


indirectly attributed to St. Ambrose (d. 897), it being a 
transcript of his sermons addressed to neophytes. In this 
work certain prayers are given which, in their contents 
and sometimes even in their wording, are similar to our 

Searching farther for sources, we learn from the Liber 
Pontificalis that in the course of time additions were made 
to the Canon ; e. g., the words sanctum sacrificium . . . 
were added to the Supra quae by Leo the Great ; and the 
petition diesque nostros . . . was added to the Hanc 
igitur by Gregory the Great. 24 

These are the important sources for the Canon, until 
the time when the complete text appears, which does not 
antedate the time of Gregory the Great, since Gregory's 
addition of diesque nostros is already found in it. The 
Memento of the Dead, however, is still missing. 

Comparing the text of our Canon with the old Anaph- 
ora, we see that important changes and interpolations 
have been made, causing much speculation among students 
of the history of the liturgy. As yet, no satisfactory solu- 
tion of these problems has been offered. For example, no 
satisfactory explanation is advanced for the position of 
the Mementos before and after the Consecration, although 
undoubtedly this is not their original arrangement; but 
a number of theories have been presented to explain this 
displacement. Again, it is not known whether the Roman 
Canon had an Epiklesis, such as we find in all the old 
Anaphora and still in the Eastern Church. The reader will 
find on page 198 a comparative table, in which he may 
trace the development of the Canon. There are four col- 

24 Duchesne, Liber Pontificalis, 1,^239, 312. 


umns : the first contains the model formula of the ancient 
Canon as found in the Apostolic Constitutions, with its 
principal parts : introduction, thanksgiving for the Crea- 
tion, the triple "Holy," the redemption, the institution, 
the prayer of remembrance, the Epiklesis, the petitions, 
and the concluding doxology. The second column presents 
the Canon of Hippolytus, which brings us closer to the 
Roman Canon; the third column contains the Ambrosian 
text, in which phrases of our Canon are found ; and lastly, 
in the fourth column, is the original form of our Canon, 
so far as we are able to reconstruct it. 

In this comparison we note the following changes: (1) 
The Eucharistic canticle, which originally was recited 
aloud, contracts into a hymn of praise, the Preface, which 
is divided into numerous festal Prefaces. (&) The remainder 
of the Consecration prayer becomes a series of silent offer- 
ing prayers, recited exclusively by the celebrant. (3) The 
Epiklesis, which certainly had a place in the ancient Roman 
Canon, is omitted for some unknown reason. (4) The 
petitions are interpolated in the Consecration prayer, and 
are separated, some being said before the Consecration and 
some after it. This is perhaps the most radical change. 
(5) Certain new prayers are introduced, e. g., the Memento 
of the Dead by Leo I and Gregory I. Since the time of 
Gregory I, no essential change has been made in the Canon, 
and therefore we may conclude that our present Canon 
has been in use since about a. d. 600. 

In the following explanation I am not concerned with 
historical and technical considerations. Accepting the 
Canon of our Missal as a given whole, I will attempt to 


sketch the outline and the larger details in order to present 
to the reader a pictorial representation of the Canon. 


We are able to discern in our Canon the lines of a beau- 
tiful and artistic structure, a dramatic picture beneath 
which might be written, as a legend, the words of our Lord : 
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things 
to myself" (John 12 : 32) . These words are pictorially and 
dramatically represented in the Canon. All creation is as- 
sembled around the cross, and as once the good thief cried 
out to the crucified Savior : Memento — Remember me when 
thou shalt come into thy kingdom — so now in the Canon, 
all creation, standing in six groups beside the crucified 
Savior, cries out to Him : Memento — "Remember." Let us 
examine this picture of the Canon. 

The central point of the Canon is the Consecration, in 
which Christ re-enacts His death upon the cross. In the 
center of the picture, Christ is seen hanging on the cross, 
transfigured and glorious now on the throne of the cross. 

About the cross are the six groups of created beings; 
these are the six Mementos of the Canon. 

1. The Church on earth (the Church Militant). 

2. The living. Among whom we distinguish those who 
are dear to us and all those present at the Mass. 

3. The saints (the Church Triumphant). They, too, 
stand in the presence of the sacrifice of salvation, for by it 
they have attained eternal happiness, and they continue 
in the work of redemption by their intercession for us. 

4«. The dead (the Church Suffering). They also stand 


beside the cross, for by it they have been saved, although 
they still await the glory of heaven. 

5. Ourselves. In Christian modesty we have first placed 
the others about the cross ; now we come into its presence 
to ask for a share in the fruits of redemption. 

6. Lastly, the irrational creation. It, too, must be sancti- 
fied, for through man's fall it came under the curse of sin. 
Now beneath the cross it must be blessed and hallowed. 

Thus in the picture, all creation has been brought to 
stand in the presence of the sacrifice of the cross, re-enacted 
here in the Mass. Only the angels and the damned are ab- 
sent; the former have no need to be saved, and the latter 
are beyond the pale of salvation. Yet we shall see that these 
are not entirely omitted in the Canon. 

In the introduction to the Canon, the picture takes on 
life and becomes an action. There in the beginning we see 
the glorified Savior entering in to the sacrifice, as once 
before on Palm Sunday He entered the city of Jerusalem 
amid the joyful greeting of the people. Now he comes to 
the mystical Calvary, accompanied by the angels in the 
Sanctus, and He is received by His disciples in the Hosanna. 
He ascends now the throne of the cross, and in the Con- 
secration He dies in sacrifice. Corresponding to this solemn 
entrance at the beginning, we find a conclusion in the 
solemnity of the Little Elevation. 

Let us consider further the arrangement of the prayers 
and actions. The Consecration is placed in the exact middle 
of the Canon, and about it the other parts are symmetrically 
grouped in order to impress upon us the truth that Christ's 
death on the cross is the central point of the Mass. The 
narrative of the Last Supper corresponds to the Remem- 


brance Prayer ; there are two offering prayers before and 
after the Consecration, just as there are three Mementos 
before and after; lastly the introduction corresponds to 
the conclusion. Even the signs of the cross correspond; 
three at the beginning and three at the end ; and five im- 
mediately before and after the Consecration. The Canon 
might also be graphically described as a series of concentric 
circles. Let the Consecration be the central point of these 
circles. In the first circle is the narrative of the institution 
and the Anamnesis. The second circle will include the two 
offering prayers before and after the Consecration. In the 
third circle we place the six Mementos, forming a wreath 
about the sacrifice. And the outermost circle is formed by 
the Preface and the Little Elevation. This concentric struc- 
ture is schematically set forth on the next page. 

Perhaps from these brief observations we may obtain 
some insight into the beauty of the Canon. How much 
greater would be the devotion of the faithful, if they kept 
before their eyes this picture of the Canon ! When we assist 
at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, we stand in the midst 
of the assembled Creation in the presence of this mystical 
Calvary. Here the Church, our loved ones, the saints, the 
poor souls, all created beings are assembled beneath the 
cross, and in the midst of all these we find ourselves. Truly, 
the Canon is the universal prayer, embracing the whole 
world in the genuine spirit of the liturgy. "And I, if I be 
lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself." 




The solemn entrance chant: praise 
and thanksgiving. 


I: 1 


III: 1 

I: 1 

III: 1 

The hymn of the angels and dis- 
ciples (Palm Sunday). 
3 crosses 

1. Memento: the Church Prayer for the Church, pope, and 


2. Memento: the living Prayer for those present and for 


3. Memento: the saints The intercession of the saints (cat- 

alogue of the saints). 

1. Offering prayer 

.2. Offering prayer 

(a) A peaceful life on earth; (b) 
preservation from hell; (c) 

(Imposition of hands: vicarious 
5 crosses 
Narrative of Last The Last Supper. 

CONSECRATION Christ re-enacts His death on the 


Memorial prayer 

5 crosses 
r3. Offering prayer 

4. Offering prayer 
4. Memento: the dead 

Remembrance of the passion, resur- 
rection, and ascension of our 

The three types: the innocent Abel, 
the obedient Abraham, the royal 

The heavenly altar. 
Our own dead and all the poor 

I 5. Memento : we sinners A humble petition to be united with 

the saints (catalogue of the 

. 6. Memento : nature 

Blessing of the non-consecrated 

Blessing of nature. 
8 crosses 
Little elevation Solemn doxology; conclusion. 



The Apostolic Constitutions Hippolytus (220) 


The grace of almighty And when he (and the 

God, the charity of our Lord priests) has laid his hand 

Jesus Christ, and the com- on the gifts, giving thanks, 

munion of the Holy Spirit he shall say: The Lord be 

be with you all. with you all. And all the 

All : And with thy spirit, people say : With thy spirit. 

Lift up your minds. — And then: Lift up your 

We have lifted them up to hearts. And the people say : 

the Lord. We have lifted them up to 

Let us give thanks to the the Lord. And again : Let us 

Lord. — It is meet and just, thank the Lord. And all the 

people say: It is meet and 
just. Dominus cum omnibus 
vobis. — Cum spiritu tuo. 
Sursum corda vestra. — Ha- 
bemus ad Dominum. Gratias 
agamus Domino. — Dignum 
et justum est. 
The Preface (the Creation) : 

It is truly meet and just, He prays again in the same 
to give thanks above all manner, and recites the fol- 
things, to Thee, the truly lowing as is customary dur- 
living God. . . . ing the holy sacrifice. 

(Thanksgiving for the 
Creation, and for His guid- 
ance in the Old Testament) 




The Ambrosian Text 

The Roman Canon 

Dominus vobiscum. — Et 
cum spiritu tuo. 
Sursum corda. — Habemus 
ad Dominum. Gratias aga- 
mus Domino Deo nostro. — 
Dignum et justum est. 

Vere dignum et justum 
est, aequum et salutare, nos 
tibi semper et ubique gratias 
agere : Domine sancte, Pater 
omnipotens, aeterne Deus: 
per Christum Dominum nos- 
trum. Per quern majestatem 



The Apostolic Constitutions 

Myriad hosts of angels 
adore Thee, and cry unceas- 

Holy, holy, holy, Lord 
God of Sabaoth. Heaven and 
earth are full of Thy glory. 
To Thee be praise for all 
eternity. Amen. 

Hippolytus (220) 

The redemption: 
For He that is the highest, 
exalted above all things, is 
truly holy, most holy. Holy 
is His only-begotten Son, 
our Lord and God Jesus 
Christ. . . . 

(A thanksgiving for the 

Then they recite the Eu- 
charistic prayer, repeating 
after the bishop : "We thank 
Thee, Lord, through Thy 
beloved Son Jesus Christ, 
whom Thou didst send in 
these latter days as Re- 
deemer and Savior, and the 
messenger of Thy council. 
He is the Word, that comes 
from Thee, by whom Thou 
hast made all things accord- 
ing to Thy will. Thou didst 
send Him from heaven into 
the bosom of the Virgin. He 
became flesh and rested be- 
neath her heart. Bv the 



The Ambrosian Text The Roman Canon 

tuam laudant angeli . • . 
dicentes : 

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanc- 
tus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. 
Pleni sunt caeli et terra 
gloria tua: Hosanna in ex- 
celsis. Benedictus qui venit 
in nomine Domini. Hosanna 
in excelsis. 

Te igitur, clementissime 
Pater, per Jesum Christum 
Filium tuum Dominum nos- 
trum supplices rogamus ac 
petimus, uti accepta habeas 
et benedicas, haec >J< dona, 
haec >J< munera, haec >J< 
sancta sacrificia illibata. 



The Apostolic Constitutions 

The offering prayer 


Hippolytus (220) 

Holy Ghost He was revealed 
as Thy Son, to do Thy will, 
to win back the people to 
Thee, by stretching out His 
arms (on the cross). 

Narrative of the institution : 
We are mindful now of 
all He suffered, and we 
thank Thee, almighty God, 
not as much as we should, 
but as much as we are able, 
and we obey His ordinance. 
For in the night in which 
He was betrayed, He took 
bread in His holy and im- 
maculate hands, looked up 
to Thee, His Father and 
God, broke and gave to His 

He suffered to free those 
who suffer, those who believe 
in Him. He was delivered up 
to suffering according to 
Thy will, in order to de- 
stroy death, to break the 
bands of Satan, to crush hell 
and lift up the saints, to lay 
down laws and open the 
gates of resurrection. He 
took bread, gave thanks and 
said: Take and eat; this is 



The Ambrosian Text The Roman Canon 

Fac nobis hanc oblationem Quam oblationem tu, 

ascriptam, ratam, rationabi- Deus, in omnibus, quaesu- 
lem, acceptabilem, quod fig- mus, bene^dictam, adscrip- 
ura est corporis et sanguinis >I<tam, ra^tam, rationabi- 
Jesu Christi. lem, acceptabilemque facere 

digneris : ut nobis Cor^pus, 
et San^guis fiat dilectissimi 
Filii tui, Domini nostri 
Jesu Christi. 

Qui pridie quam patere- Qui pridie quam patere- 

tur, in Sanctis manibus suis tur, accepit panem in sanc- 

accepit panem, respexit in tas ac venerabiles manus 

caelum ad te, sancte Pater suas, et elevatis oculis in cae- 

omnipotens, aeterne Deus, lum ad te Deum, Patrem 

gratias agens, benedixit, suum omnipotentem, tibi 

fregit, fractumque apostolis gratias agens, bene^hdixit, 

suis et discipulis suis tra- fregit, deditque discipulis 

didit dicens: Accipite et suis, dicens: Accipite, et 

edite ex hoc omnes : hoc est manducate ex hoc omnes. 

enim corpus meum, quod pro Hoc est enim Corpus meum. 

multis confringetur. Simili modo postquam 



The Apostolic Constitutions 

disciples, saying : This is the 
mystery of the New Testa- 
ment, take and eat, this is 
my body, which is offered for 
many for the remission of 
sins. In like manner He 
mingled wine and water in 
the chalice, hallowed it and 
gave it to His disciples, say- 
ing: Drink all of this, this 
is my blood, which is shed 
for many, for the remission 
of sins. Do this for a com- 
memoration of me. For as 
often as you eat this bread 
and drink this chalice, you 
shall announce my death un- 
til I come. 


Hippolytus (220) 

my body, which is broken 
for you. In like manner (He 
took) the chalice, saying: 
This is my blood, which is 
shed for you. When you do 
this, you shall do it for a 
commemoration of me. 

The remembrance prayer : 
Mindful now of His pas- 
sion and death, His resurrec- 
tion from the dead and His 
return into heaven and of 
His future second coming, 
in which He shall come with 
power and glory to judge 

In remembrance (Record- 
antes igitur offerimus tibi 
hunc panem et calicem) of 
His death and resurrection, 
we offer to Thee this bread 
and this chalice, and we 
thank Thee, because Thou 



The Ambrosian Text The Roman Canon 

Similiter etiam calicem, coenatum est, accipiens et 
postquam coenatum est, hunc praeclarum Calicem in 
pridie quam pateretur, ac- sanctas ac venerabiles manus 
cepit, respexit in caelum ad suas : item tibi gratias agens, 
te, sancte Pater omnipotens, bene^dixit, deditque disci- 
aeterne Deus, gratias agens, pulis suis, dicens : Accipite, 
benedixit, apostolis et dis- et bibite ex eo omnes. Hie 
cipulis suis tradidit, dicens : est enim Calix Sanguinis 
Accipite et bibite ex hoc mei, novi et aeterni testa- 
omnes ; hie est enim sanguis menti : mysterium fidei : qui 
meus. pro vobis et pro multis ef- 

fundetur in remissionem 
peccatorum. Haec quoties- 
cumque feceritis, in mei 
memoriam facietis. 

Ergo memores gloriosis- Unde et memores, Dom- 

simae eius passionis et ab in- ine, nos servi tui, sed et plebs 

feris resurrectionis et in tua sancta, ejusdem Christi 

caelum ascensionis, offeri- Filii tui, Domini nostri, tarn 

mus tibi hanc immaculatam beatae passionis, necnon et 

hostiam, hunc panem sane- ab inf eris resurrectionis, sed 

turn et calicem vitae aeter- et in caelos gloriosae ascen- 



The Apostolic Constitutions 


Hippolytus (220) 

the living and the dead, and hast made us worthy to 
to render to each one ac- stand before Thee, and ex- 
cording to his works, we of- ercise the office of the priest- 
fer to Thee, according to hood. 
His ordinance, this bread 
and this chalice. We thank 
Thee, through Him, because 
for these gifts Thou hast 
made us worthy, to stand be- 
fore Thee and engage in the 
service of the priesthood, 
and we beseech Thee to look 
down graciously, on the 
gifts which lie here, Thou, 
who art God and needest 
nothing, and receive them 
graciously for the honor of 
Thy Christ. 




The Ambrosian Text 

nae ; et petimus et precamur, 
ut hanc oblationem suscipias 
in sublimi altari tuo per 
manum angelorum tuorum, 
sicut suscipere dignatus es 
munera pueri tui iusti Abel 
et sacrificium patriarchae 
nostri Abrahae et quod tibi 
obtulit summus sacerdos 

The Roman Canon 

sionis: offerimus praeclarae 
majestati tuae de tuis donis 
ac datis, hostiam >J< puram, 
hostiam *i* sanctam, hostiam 
*i< immaculatam, Panem ►{* 
sanctum vitae aeternae, et 
Calicem Hh salutis perpet- 

Supra quae propitio ac 
sereno vultu respicere dig- 
neris: et accepta habere, 
sicuti accepta habere digna- 
tus es munera pueri tui justi 
Abel, et sacrificium Patriar- 
chae nostri Abrahae: et 
quod tibi obtulit summus 
sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, 
sanctum sacrificium, imma- 
culatam hostiam. 

Supplices te rogamus, 
omnipotens Deus : jube haec 
perferri per manus sancti 
Angeli tui in sublime altare 
tuum, in conspectu divinae 
majestatis tuae: ut, quot- 
quot ex hac altaris parti- 
cipatione sacrosanctum Filii 
tui CoHhpus, et San^gui- 



The Apostolic Constitutions Hippolytus (220) 

The Epiklesis : 

That Thou wouldst send We earnestly beseech 

down the Holy Spirit, who Thee, to send Thy Holy 

giveth testimony of the pas- Spirit upon the sacrificial 

sion of the Lord Jesus, upon gifts of this Church, and to 

this sacrifice, that He let grant Him to all who par- 

this Bread be manifested as take of them, that it may be 

the Body of Thy Christ, so to them unto salvation : that 

that those who receive it may they may be filled with the 

be strengthened to godly liv- Holy Spirit, in truth unto 

ing, may obtain the remis- the confirmation of faith, 

sion of sins, be freed from that they may praise and 

the devil and his snares, be glorify Thee, in Thy Son 

filled with the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, through whom 

become worthy of Thy there is honor and praise to 

Christ, and attain eternal Thee in the Holy Church, 

life, after Thou, almighty now and forever and 

Ruler, hast been reconciled through all eternity, Amen, 
with them. 

Then follow supplications 
for the Church 
for the clergy 



The Ambrosian Text The Roman Canon 

nem sumpserimus, omni be- 
nedictione caelesti et gratia 
repleamur. Per eundem 
Christum, Dominum nos- 
trum. Amen. 

Per quern haec omnia, 
Domine, semper bona creas, 
sanctiHhficas, viviHhficas, 



The Apostolic Constitutions Hippolytus (220) 

for the king (civil author- 


to the saints 
for the people 
for enemies 

for catechumens (peni- 
for good weather (crops) 
for those absent. 

Closing doxology : 

For all glory, veneration, 
thanksgiving, honor, and 
adoration be to Thee, Fa- 
ther, and to the Son, and to 
the Holy Ghost, now and at 
all time, and forever and 

The people : Amen. 



The Ambrosian Text The Roman Canon 

bene^dicis e t praestas no- 

Per ip^sum et cum ip^so, 
et in ip^so, est tibi Deo 
Patri *i* omnipotenti, in uni- 
tate Spiritus *i* Sancti, 
omnis honor, et gloria. 

Per omnia saecula saecu- 

R. Amen. 


The Preface 

We have given a brief sketch of the Canon. Let us keep 
before our minds the picture which it presents: Christ 
lifted up on the cross, and all Creation gathered about 
the cross. By the Sanctus of the angels and the Hosanna 
of the disciples the picture becomes a drama. Let us now 
consider the various prayers and actions of the Canon. 
It begins with the Preface; and today the Preface is ac- 
tually the solemn foreword to the Canon, or let us say 
rather, the solemn hymn of praise in preparation for the 
coming of the King of heaven. It is evident, however, from 
what we have said of the historical development of the 
Eucharistic prayer, that the Preface no longer fulfils its 
original purpose. What we understand by the Preface — 
the expression is first used in this sense in the Gregorian 
Sacramentary 25 — was the beginning and the first part of 
the Eucharistic canticle, which continued until after the 
Consecration. Essentially it was always a hymn of praise 
offered to the heavenly Father for the benefits of the crea- 
tion and redemption. In the first centuries of the Church, 
these benefits were mentioned at great length, as we have 
seen in the example in the Apostolic Constitutions, and in 
the beginning the entire chant was the free composition 

25 Lietzmann, Das Sacrarnentarium Gregorianurn, p. 12. 



of the celebrant, only gradually being brought down to a 
set form. 

In contrast to the older Eastern liturgies, the Roman 
liturgy manifests a striving for brevity and conciseness. 
We have already noted this characteristic in the Ante- 
Mass, in the pronounced abbreviations made in the ancient 
liturgy, e. g., the decrease in the number of the readings. 
The same trait is found in the Preface. The motives for 
offering praise to God are restricted, the description of the 
creation is entirely omitted, and the reasons for offering 
praise for the redemption are distributed among the dif- 
ferent feasts. Thus a type of Preface arose, which is en- 
tirely peculiar to the Roman Church. It came to be a 
principle of the liturgy that the Preface belonged to the 
variable parts of the Mass ; each day was to have its own 
proper Preface, in which God was praised and thanks were 
offered for the mystery commemorated in the feast. Hence 
the oldest Roman Missal, the so-called Sacramentary of 
Pope Leo, had a Preface for each Mass; there are 267 
Prefaces contained in what is only a fragment of the orig- 
inal Sacramentary. Even today, in the Mozarabic and 
Ambrosian rites, each Mass has its proper Preface. Soon, 
however, in Rome there was a deviation from this principle 
of a constantly changing Preface, and gradually the num- 
ber decreased, until at the time of the Gelasian Sacra- 
mentary there were only fourteen, and somewhat after 
Gregory the Great the number was further reduced to ten, 
remaining thus until our times. Recently a tendency in the 
opposite direction is again noticeable; we have seen the 
introduction of four new Prefaces within the space of a 
few years : St. Joseph, Requiem, Christ the King, and the 


Sacred Heart. These new Prefaces are without doubt a 
source of satisfaction and joy, and it is to be hoped that 
the ancient Prefaces, which are undeniably precious liturgi- 
cal pieces, will again come into use. 

With respect to form and structure, the Prefaces are 
uniform throughout. They begin with the usual ancient 
acclamations, and conclude with the singing of the Sanctus. 
The Preface proper may be divided into three parts : the 
offering of praise to God, in general ; a particular reason 
for offering praise and thanks ; the description of the an- 
gelic choirs, making a transition into the Sanctus. The 
second part is omitted in the Common Preface, since this 
Preface from its very purpose has no particular mystery 
on which to base its thanksgiving; and the first part is 
omitted in the Preface of the Apostles, which begins im- 
mediately with a petition. At present our Missal contains 
fifteen Prefaces. 

From the aesthetic point of view the Preface is not a 
prose composition, but a poem in free verse, flowing on in a 
beautiful rhythm and in well-ordered word groups, in the 
style of ancient Christian poetry. The following transla- 
tion may give some indication of the rhythm : 

It is truly meet and just, right and profitable to salvation, 

That we should, at all times and in all places, give thanks 
unto Thee, 

O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God, 

Through Christ our Lord. 

Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, 

The dominations adore, 

The powers tremble, 

The heavens, and the virtues of heaven, and the blessed sera- 


Rejoice in united exultation. 

With these, we pray Thee, let our voices also be joined, 

Who in humble confession say : 

Holy, holy, holy . . . 

The Preface begins with the acclamations, which are ex- 
amples of the spontaneous exclamations so frequent in the 
public life of ancient peoples. In our civilization such 
spontaneous outbursts of expression are almost entirely 

The Dominus vobiscum at the beginning of the Preface 
is not only the usual greeting of the priest to the people, 
but also a declaration that the Emmanuel has indeed come 
among us. 

The Sursum cor da ("Lift up your hearts") is found for 
the first time in the Canon of Hippolytus. It is quite true, 
therefore, that these acclamations have been in use in the 
Roman liturgy since about a. d. 200. The Sursum cor da 
calls attention to the sublimity of the action about to take 
place in the Canon. There are two classical explanations 
of this acclamation, one by St. Cyprian 26 and the other 
by St. Cyril of Jerusalem. 27 

According to St. Cyprian : 

When we rise to pray, we must be careful to give our at- 
tention wholeheartedly to the prayers we say. Every thought 
of the world or of earthly things must retire into the back- 
ground, so that the soul may contemplate nothing but the 
content of the prayer. Therefore the priest recites a foreword 
before the [Eucharistic] prayer, preparing the hearts of 
the brethren, by saying : Sursum Corda, so that when the peo- 

26 Be dominica oratione, c. 31. 

27 Cat. myst., 5, 4-5. 


pie answer Habemus ad Dominum, they will be reminded that 
they should think of nothing but God. 

St. Cyril: 

Thereupon [after the kiss of peace] the sacrificing priest 
says aloud : Lift up your hearts. For in this sublime moment 
the heart should be lifted up to God, and not be allowed to 
descend to the earth and to earthly concerns. With all possible 
emphasis the sacrificing priest exhorts us in this hour to lay 
aside all the cares of this life, all domestic worries, and direct 
our hearts to God in heaven who hath so loved men. Then you 
answer: We have lifted them up to the Lord; confessing 
thereby your obedience to the admonition of the priest. Let 
there be none among you, who shall confess with his lips : We 
have lifted up our hearts, and allow his thoughts to remain 
with the cares of this life. We should, indeed, think of God at 
all times, but this is impossible because of our human frailty ; 
but in this holy time especially our hearts should be with God. 

The following acclamation, Gratias agamus Domino Deo 
nostro ("Let us give thanks to the Lord our God"), was 
no doubt the invitation to the actual celebration of the 
Eucharist : Let us celebrate the Eucharist (eucharistomen) . 

The expressions dignum, iustum, aequum, salutare 
(meet, just, right, salutary) are synonymous; the same 
may be said of "holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God," 
which are intended to be poetic amplifications. 

We say in the Preface : "to give thanks at all times and 
in all places," for such, as St. Paul repeats so often in his 
Epistles, is the only true attitude of the Christian. Again : 
"Through Christ, our Lord," the ancient Christian for- 
mula, over which we are inclined to glide, as though we com- 
pletely understood its meaning: all praise, all honor, the 
entire liturgy indeed, are offered to the Father, through 


the Mediator, Jesus Christ. Recall the description of St. 
Justin Martyr: "[the bishop] offers praise and honor to 
the Father of all, in the name of the Son and of the Holy 
Spirit" (Apol. I, 65, 3) ; and the Canon of Hippolytus: 
"We thank Thee, O Lord, through Thy Son Jesus Christ." 
The special motive for offering thanks also deserves at- 
tention. The spirit of the feast or of the season is char- 
acterized so completely and with such admirable economy 
of language: e. g., in the Preface for Lent, the meaning 
of fasting is expressed with brevity and inimitable beauty : 


By this bodily fast, 

Thou suppressest vices, 

Liftest up our minds, 

Bestowest virtue and its reward." 28 

How beautiful the antithesis, in the Preface of the Cross, 
in which the tree of knowledge and the tree of the cross 
are contrasted one with the other ! How profound the re- 
ligious enthusiasm in the Preface for Pentecost, in its joy- 
ful chant: "The whole world exults in exceeding great 
joy !" The Prefaces for Requiem Masses and for the Feast 
of Christ the King show that our own time is capable of pro- 
ducing noble and sublime Prefaces. The Requiem Preface 
is modeled upon the Mozarabic Liturgy. The Blessed 
Virgin Preface dates from the Middle Ages (probably by 
Urban II, 1095). The Trinity Preface, which is one of 
the most recent, is, however, lacking in poetic sentiment, 
and bears too clearly the stamp of scholastic theology. 

The third part of the Preface, remarkable for its mag- 
nificent cadences, forms the transition into the chant of the 

28 Cf. Parsch, Jahr des Heiles, II, 133. 


angelic choir. Those who understand Latin will remark 
its buoyant rhythm and euphony. It resounds with expres- 
sions descriptive of the adoration and awe of the angelic 
hosts; each choir is pictured in a different attitude of 
reverence and homage ; the angels are praising, the domina- 
tions adore, the powers tremble, the seraphim are jubilant 
in their praising, and from them we might learn the awe 
and reverence due to God. In overwhelming humility, we, 
the poor children of earth, associate ourselves with these 
celestial choirs ; round about us, as we bow to adore, may 
be heard the soft rustling of angels' wings. 

Musical critics and artists have been in wonderment at 
the beauty of the Preface chant, in which such touching 
melodies have been wrought with so few tones. I do not know 
whether it is true or not, but it is said that Mozart once 
declared he would have given all his works to be known as 
the composer of the Preface chant. 

The Preface concludes with the twofold chant of the 
Sanctus and Benedictus; or with greater truth, it might 
be said, that the Eucharistic canticle is interrupted by 
these two chants. Probably because of these chants, it came 
about that the remainder of the Canon was recited secretly, 
and the text itself underwent radical changes. The opinion 
of scholars is divided with regard to the origin of these 
chants. Some believe that they are an ancient possession of 
the liturgy, taken over from the Synagogue (Baumstark) ; 
others, however, consider them an intercalation, though per- 
haps of great antiquity, which interrupt the thought of 
the Eucharistic prayer (Brinktrine). These chants are not 
found in the Canon of Hippolytus, although they are part 
of almost every other liturgy. 


The Sanctus is an angelic chant, as the last words of the 
Preface clearly indicate. The words are originally found in 
Isaias (6:3), where the prophet describes the vision in 
which he received his calling. 

There is even more dramatic significance in the Bene- 
dictus, the second of these chants. It should be clearly un- 
derstood that the Benedictus properly belongs before the 
Consecration ; since the Middle Ages it has been sung after 
the Consecration, merely because there was not sufficient 
time before it for the longer musical compositions. In- 
herently it should be placed before the Consecration, at the 
beginning of the Canon. The Benedictus is the hymn 
chanted by the disciples during our Lord's entrance into 
Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Similarly, at the beginning 
of the Canon, the liturgy receives the Lord entering into 
the mystery of the Mass. The ancient liturgy did not wait 
for the actual moment of the Consecration, but looked on 
the entire canticle (our Canon) as the Consecration prayer, 
in which the mystery was accomplished. The Savior comes 
to the altar : "Blessed is he, who cometh in the name of the 
Lord." The words "Hosanna" and "Sabaoth" have come 
down to us from the primitive Church of Palestine, and were 
not translated, because a peculiar meaning had in the 
course of time become associated with these words. The 
Hosanna in excelsis is cognate to the Gloria in excelsis. 

Thus, accompanied by the hosts of angels, joyfully re- 
ceived by the Church, the Lord has entered into His mysti- 
cal passion and death, as once before on Palm Sunday. 
He ascends the throne of the cross, He gathers us all about 
Himself : "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw 
all things to myself." 


The Prayers of the Canon Before the 

Let us recall that dramatic picture which the Canon pre- 
sents to us. In the Sanctus, "the Almighty Word comes 
from heaven, from the royal throne" (Introit of the Sun- 
day within the Octave of Christmas), accompanied by the 
angels, singing "Holy, holy, holy," and is received by the 
Church, which greets Him with the "Hosanna." The Lord 
ascends another kingly throne, the cross, and now "is lifted 
up from the earth, and draws all things to Himself." First 
He draws to Himself His beloved spouse, the Church on 
earth ; with the pope and the bishop she stands beneath the 
cross. Secondly come those who are near and dear to us ; 
they have a special claim to the fruits of the sacrifice. 
Thirdly the saints; they are to open the flood-gates of 
salvation with their merits and prayers. Now the picture is 
interrupted. Two oblation prayers follow: the first prays 
for the gracious acceptance of the sacrifice and mentions 
the special fruits of it ; the second prays that the oblations 
may be changed into the Holy Eucharist. Now we have 
entered into the innermost sanctuary of the sacrificial ac- 
tion. The narrative of the Last Supper introduces the 

Let us for a moment consider the outward construction 
of these prayers before the Consecration. If we judge ac- 



cording to the usual concluding formularies of the liturgy, 
we have but three prayers before the Consecration (as also 
after it) ; the first prayer has three parts, containing the 
petitions for the Church, for the living, and to the saints. 
It begins with the Te igitur and closes with Per eundem 
Christum . . . Amen. The second prayer is the Hanc 
igitur, closing in the same way. The third begins with 
Quam oblationem, and lacks a complete ending. 

We find the same arrangement after the Consecration: 
three prayers, the first of which has three parts. But this 
merely external classification is not in harmony with the 
contents of the prayers. It will be better to retain the clas- 
sification given above, particularly since these endings are 
later additions. The ancient Canon had but one Amen at 
the end. 

All the prayers of the Canon, after the Preface, are 
recited secretly by the priest, with the exception of three 
words after the Consecration, pronounced in a slightly 
raised voice. The Church veils herself behind the screen of 
silence, to express the mystery of the sacrificial action. The 
recitation of these Canon prayers in secret is a peculiarity 
of the present Roman Rite. The ancient Eucharistic prayer 
was recited in a loud and clear voice, to which the people 
responded with their Amen, according to St. Justin Mar- 
tyr. At one time the Roman Canon, too, was chanted aloud. 
The Or do Romanus (about 680, edited by Silva-Tarouca) 
directs that the pope chant the Canon "in the same voice 
and melody" (de simili voce et melodia) as the Preface, 
or perhaps not quite as loud. The Or do Romanus II, how- 
ever, directs that the pope recite the Canon secretly. The 
reasons for this change are not clear. The liturgiologists 


of the Middle Ages thought the change was made to pre- 
serve the sacred mysteries from any irreverence. The ex- 
planation does not seem plausible. The change, which was 
gradual, was probably made for other reasons ; perhaps be- 
cause of the strain on the celebrant, or because of the in- 
terpolated Sanctus, which caused a delay, especially when 
the chant became more elaborate. 

The custom of ringing a bell at the Sanctus goes back to 
the Middle Ages, and was intended to announce the en- 
trance of the Lord into the mystery. In papal Masses, even 
at the present time, the bell is not rung. In solemn Mass 
clerics (Mass servers) carry wax torches at the Sanctus. 
The general rubrics of the Mass (Tit. XX) prescribe that 
there shall be a candelabra at the Epistle side of every altar 
for the candle which is to be lighted at the Sanctus. This 
candle, which is known as the Sanctus candle or Consecra- 
tion candle, may be placed on a candlestick or on a bracket 
attached to the wall. It is intended to show that our Lord 
is present in the Holy Eucharist, and therefore should be 
allowed to burn until after the Communion. Unfortunately 
this prescription is generally unknown or has been allowed 
to fall into oblivion. 


The first prayer of the Canon consists of two parts, which 
were composed at two different times. It begins with the 
petition addressed to the Father, asking that He graciously 
accept the gifts of sacrifice, and that the firstfruits of the 
sacrifice may be for the prosperity of the Church. The two 
parts of the prayer are joined together by the word im- 
primis. The first part is very likely a part of the original 


Canon ; the second is a later addition, certainly before the 
middle of the sixth century. 

The prayer begins with the letter "T" (Te igitur) , which 
is in the form of a cross, i. e., the crux commissa; therefore 
in the illuminations of the medieval Missals it was orna- 
mented as a cross. The first example of this practice is 
found in the Sacramentary of Gellone (eighth century). 
Later (about the eleventh century) it became customary 
to insert a picture of the Crucifixion before the Canon. 

Since the Preface and the Canon are at present so clearly 
separated, the igitur ("therefore") seems to be out of 
place. Yet it is a reminder that in ancient times this prayer 
was a continuation of the Preface, which had been inter- 
rupted by the Sanctus. 

The Father is addressed with the seldom used "most 
clement" (dementis sime) . Here again, as in the Preface, 
the mediatorship of Christ is emphasized ; all our petitions 
go to the Father through Christ the Mediator. Two words 
are used for the petition (supplices rogamus, ac petimus), 
and the petition is offered in all humility — note, too, the 
profound bow of the priest. The prayer is for the acceptance 
and blessing (consecration) of the sacrificial gifts, for 
which three expressions are employed: haec dona, haec 
munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata ("these gifts, these 
offerings, this holy and unblemished sacrifice"). These 
words refer primarily to the Offertory gifts of the faith- 
ful, but the expression "holy and unblemished" is used in 
view of the coming Consecration. 

Note the priest's gestures. Before beginning the prayer, 
he extends and raises his hands, bows profoundly, kisses the 
altar at the mention of Christ the Mediator (since the altar 


is the symbol of Christ), and makes the sign of the cross 
three times over the offerings. These signs of the cross in 
the Canon have been a knotty problem for the liturgists. 
Before the Consecration the crosses are interpreted as 
blessings ; and after it, as signs that the sacrifice present 
here on the altar is identical with the sacrifice of the cross. 
The explanation seems far-fetched. The early Church 
looked upon the entire Canon as the Consecration prayer 
and did not differentiate between the prayers before and 
the prayers after the actual Consecration. The signs of the 
cross as well as the prayers are the gradual unfolding of 
the Consecration. 

The firstfruit of the sacrifice is applied to the Church, 
which is called the "Holy Catholic Church." We ask four 
blessings, namely: peace, protection, unity, and divine 
guidance. The words pro ecclesia, quam adunare, r eg ere, 
custodire digneris are found in a letter of Pope Vigilius 
(d. 555) . The verbs imply that these blessings are at times 
in danger of being lost. It is not an abstract Church 
that we have here in mind, but the actual community of 
Christians now living on earth. Therefore we mention by 
name the present pope and the bishop of the diocese, and 
then "all orthodox believers of the Catholic and Apostolic 
Faith." At the name of the pope, the celebrant slightly 
bows his head out of reverence for the head of the Church. 
Pope Pelagius I (561) required the inclusion of the pope's 
name in the Canon, calling it an established custom. After 
the tenth century, the name of the emperor or of the king 
is sometimes mentioned. The words et omnibus orihodoxis 
at que catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus ("as also 
all orthodox believers who keep the Catholic and Apostolic 


faith") are probably not of Roman origin, coming into the 
Roman Canon from the Gallican Church ; 29 orthodoxi 
and cultores refer to the faithful, but especially to the 
priests, whose duty it is to propagate the faith. 

We should not overlook the rhythm of the prayer, and 
the word-grouping, containing two, three, and four words. 
Those who are sympathetic to the Latin idiom, will readily 
appreciate the easy fluency of the rhythm. 


The two memento prayers, probably the oldest of the 
additions to the Canon (fourth century), 30 were placed 
symmetrically before and after the Consecration. Formerly 
at this time of the Mass, the deacon read the names of those 
who were to be remembered at the sacrifice. The names were 
inscribed upon double tablets, called diptychs. When the 
reading of the diptychs was discontinued, the forms came 
into the Canon as the mementos; but the circumstances 
in which this occurred are unknown. In the Gallican Rite 
the mementos appear before the Eucharistic prayer. 

The letters N. et N. in our Missals, remind us of the 
forms of the diptychs (the beginning and conclusion of 
our memento prayer formed the frame in which the names 
were written on the tablets). At present the priest folds 
his hands, pauses and calls to mind all the living for whom 
he wishes especially to offer the sacrifice. The faithful 
should do the same. 

In ancient times, among both the Jews and the pagans, 

29 Edm. Bishop, Litwrgica Histor., p. 82. 

so Excepting the prayer before the Consecration, which replaced the 



it was a custom to remember friends and allies at a sacrifice, 
as may be seen from the First Book of Machabees (1£ : 11) ; 
Jonathan is writing to his allies at Sparta : "We therefore 
at all times without ceasing, both in our festivals, and other 
days, wherein it is convenient, remember you in the sacri- 
fices that we offer, and in our observances, as it is meet, and 
becoming to remember brethren." 

Continuing, the priest remembers now those who "stand 
around," (circumstantium) , i. e., those who are present at 
the sacrifice. The expression circumstantes is very old, and 
implies that during the Mass the faithful did not kneel, 
but that they stood. At the present time the faithful are 
directed to kneel throughout low Mass, except at the Gos- 
pel. The practice is in contradiction to the spirit of the 
liturgy, which requires the active participation of the peo- 
ple; and kneeling is not a position of activity. The word 
circumstantes also tells us that the faithful stood around 
the altar ; i. e., the altar was in the center of the church, 
and the people were grouped around it. 

In the prayer the Church requires of the faithful two 
virtues: fides et devotio, "faith and devotion" (surrender). 
Indeed these are the two requirements of true Christian 
living: faith and the fulfilment of the will of God. In the 
words of St. Paul: "faith that worketh by charity" (Gal. 
5:6). The clause "for whom we offer," is not found in the 
old Canon, and seems to disturb the construction of the 
sentence. It was inserted when the offertory procession of 
the people had been discontinued. Originally the prayer 
was said for all who took part in the sacrifice, including all 
present. Then as now, the relatives and friends of the peo- 
ple were included in the prayer. For these we pray that they 


may be delivered from the bonds of sin, and that they may 
obtain salvation and enjoy well-being of body and soul. 
It was for this purpose that the faithful brought their 
gifts (vota) to the altar. 


The prayers containing the names of saints, also placed 
symmetrically before and after the Consecration, are the 
second oldest additions to the Canon. They were first in- 
troduced in the fifth century, and the Lists of saints were 
completed at the beginning of the sixth century, probably 
by Pope Symmachus (d. 514) . 31 It is likely that they were 
inserted to supplement the other mementos. St. Augus- 
tine 32 and St. John Chrysostom 33 write that we should 
commemorate the saints, especially the martyrs, at the 
Eucharistic sacrifice, because their deaths resembled the 
death of our Lord. The insertion of these prayers is easily 
explained by the great increase in the veneration of the 
martyrs that took place in the fifth and sixth centuries. 

Communicant es et memoriam verier antes ("communicat- 
ing and reverencing the memory"), the introductory words 
of the prayer, might be written as an inscription over every 
Mass, and indeed over the entire liturgy. For in the Mass 
we come ever closer to the intimate communion of the saints ; 
especially, now in the sacrificial action when we become in- 
corporated into the mystical body of Christ, tqgether with 
all the living, with the pope, the bishop and the priest, with 
all our relatives; together with all these, the members of 

si Batiffol, Legons sur la Messe, p. 227. 
82 Tract. 84 in Joh., n. 1. 
88 Horn. 21. in Act., n. 4. 


the Church Militant, we join the communion of the Church 
Triumphant. These words, memoria, memento ("remem- 
brance, remember"), are heard throughout the Canon. 

There is proportion and symmetry in the arrangement 
of the names of the saints. With special reverence, the 
name of the Mother of God is placed first (the Genet rix 
recalls the Council of Ephesus, 431) ; then come the twelve 
Apostles ; then the names of twelve male martyrs whose 
tombs were at Rome, where their cult was warmly received 
by the people. The fact that these saints are all from the 
first four centuries is an indication of the great antiquity 
of this prayer. Saints of a later period were not received 
into the prayer, although all saints are included in gen- 
eral. The petition of the prayer is expressed in its final 
words : "by whose merits and prayers grant that in all 
things we may be guarded by Thy protecting help" ; that 
we may share in the fruits of the sacrifice yet more abun- 
dantly by the intercession of the saints. 

In the enumeration of the Apostles, St. Matthias is 
omitted and St. Paul is included. This preference for St. 
Paul at Rome is easily understood. In the list of martyrs, 
the first five are Roman pontif s : Linus, Cletus, Clement are 
the immediate successors of St. Peter. Xystus (Sixtus) 
may be either the first (115—125) or the second (d. 258) 
of that name. Pope Cornelius (d. 253) was intimately as- 
sociated intlife with the African martyr-bishop Cyprian 
(d. 258) ; hence their names are united in the canon. Then 
follow the names of the holy deacon Lawrence, who makes 
the transition to the names of the laity : Ch^sogonus (of 
the legend of St. Anastasia), John and Paul (brothers, 
victims of the Julian persecution), and the physician- 


saints Cosmas and Damian. The history of these saints is 
shrouded in much uncertainty. 34 

In our Missals, we find above this prayer the inscription 
Infra actionem, i. e., within the action, within the sacri- 
ficial action. The inscription serves merely to remind us 
that on certain occasions, as at Christmas or Easter, a 
special mention of the feast is inserted here. Thus we say 
at Christmas : "Communicating and keeping that most holy 
night, on which the spotless virginity of the blessed Mary 
brought forth a Savior to this world. . . ." These inser- 
tions have been customary since the beginning of the sixth 


After the interruption caused by the insertion of the 
memento and the commemoration of the saints, the Eucha- 
ristic prayer returns again to the sacrificial prayers in 
which we beseech almighty God graciously to receive the 
sacrifice, and to change the gifts into the body and blood of 
Christ. The second of these prayers, the Quam oblationem, 
is the older of the two, being a part of the ancient Canon 
as early as, the fourth century; the first part of the first 
prayer, the Hanc igitur, is also very old, though not a part 
of the original Canon. 

When, in early times, the sacrifice of the Mass was of- 
fered for some special intention, at this point (after the 
memento) a prayer was inserted beginning with the words 
Hanc igitur. The old Sacramentaries contain several forms 
of this prayer, six in the Leonine Sacramentary and thirty- 
four in the Gelasian; even now our Missal contains four 

34 Cf. Hosp, Die Heiligen im Canon Missae. 


proper Hanc igitur prayers. Gradually the prayer became 
a permanent part of the Canon, especially when Gregory I, 
by adding the words diesque nostros in tua pace . . . , 
imposed a special intention on every Mass. The prayer then 
became a kind of permanent and universal oratio imperata. 
The great Pope inserted this intention in the disturbed 
times of the migration of nations and of the Lombard in- 
vasion of Italy. The second petition for preservation from 
eternal damnation, is somewhat startling at this sacred 
moment of the Mass ; but it may have been occasioned by 
the belief, current in the time of Gregory the Great, that 
the destruction of the world was imminent. It cannot be 
denied that the Hanc igitur prayer, by the repetition in 
its first part, and especially in its second part, disturbs the 
fluency and continuity of the thought of the Canon. Yet 
these prayers for the peace of the Church, for preserva- 
tion from eternal damnation and for our acceptance into 
the kingdom of heaven are appropriate at all times. 

During this prayer, the priest extends his hands over 
the offerings, which is the gesture expressive of vicarious 
atonement. At the sacrifice of atonement the Jews placed 
their hands on the animal which was to be offered in the 
sacrifice, wishing to show thereby that the guilt of their 
sins had passed over to the victim of the sacrifice. It was, 
of course, an imperfect sacrifice, since the animal was in- 
capable of atoning for the sins of men. The sacrifice of the 
New Law, however, is a perfect sacrifice, for the Lamb of 
the sacrifice is Jesus Christ Himself, who makes adequate 
satisfaction for our sins. Now this action reaches its full 
significance; when the priest extends his hands over the 
sacrificial offerings, he shows that Christ has taken upon 


Himself the sins of all mankind in the sacrifice of the cross, 
and now again in the Mass, which is the re-enactment of 
that divine sacrifice. The action of extending the hands 
over the offerings was not observed in the universal Church 
until Pius V ; before that time, the priest bowed profoundly 
while reciting this prayer. 

At certain times of the ecclesiastical year, as noted above, 
insertions are made in this prayer, expressive of special 
intentions for the sacrifice. On the ancient days of baptism 
(Easter and Pentecost) mention was made here of the 
newly baptized. 


For the third time the priest makes petition for the ac- 
ceptance and blessing of the sacrifice, and in this prayer 
adds a new petition for the consecration of the offerings. 
Until this moment nothing has been said explicitly of the 
Consecration. Now for the first time we hear the petition 
that these offerings may become the body and blood of our 
Lord Jesus Christ. The intent of the prayer is that al- 
mighty God may bestow on the offerings the greatest meas- 
ure of His blessing, that they may become the body and the 
blood of His Son. 

This prayer (Quam oblationem) belongs to the oldest 
part of the Roman Canon, being found in the De sacra- 
mentis of St. Ambrose (370). It may be considered a kind 
of Epiklesis. In the language of the liturgy, an Epiklesis 
is a prayer in which the Holy Spirit is invoked upon the 
offerings, that He may change them into the body and 
blood of Christ. In the ancient Church, as is done even now 
in the Eastern liturgies, such an Epiklesis was always 


recited after the Consecration. From the Canon of Hip- 
polytus we may see that at one time the Roman Canon 
also possessed an Epiklesis. Such a prayer is lacking in 
the present Roman Canon, but the Quam oblationem is a 
substitute for the Epiklesis, since it contains the petition 
for the Consecration, although there is no invocation of 
the Holy Spirit. 

We find an indication of the antiquity of this prayer, in 
the five expressions, which were partly adopted from the 
Roman law courts and almost defy translation : benedictam, 
adscriptam ("dedicated" or "consecrated" to God), ratam 
("approved"), rationabilem ("reasonable," in harmony 
with the nature of the liturgy), accept abilem ("accepta- 
ble"). The accumulation of adjectives adds forcefulness 
to the thought. The five signs of the cross made at these 
words are very old, appearing in all the ancient manu- 
scripts. Thus we arrive at the threshold of the holy of holies, 
before the Consecration itself. 


The Consecration and the Prayers 
Following It 

With the Consecration petition we have come to the 
threshold of the holy of holies of the Mass, the Consecra- 
tion. That most holy moment, in which the body and the 
blood of Jesus Christ will he upon the altar, is drawing 
close. Now Christ, the eternal high priest, renews His 
sacrifice and His death upon the cross. Now our Lord, in 
eternal glory and majesty, descends to us from His throne 
in heaven. Now the work of the redemption is being accom- 
plished. In the Consecration, past, present and future are 
united. It is the Lord who comes to us — or rather, He passes 
by (Pascha, transit) — clothed in the flesh and blood of 
His first coming ; at the same time He is the transfigured 
King of glory, present now, as then when He will come at 
the end of the world. 

Christ Himself is the priest of the sacrifice, the human 
priest retires into the background; Christ is the great 
celebrant ; the human priest is only the visible instrument, 
and therefore his actions and his words are the same as 
those of Christ at the Last Supper. 

Christ is really and truly present among us under the 
veil of the Eucharistic appearances; nay more, we have 
become one with Him. The mystical body of Christ (which 
we are) is enlivened by the Eucharistic Christ. The divine 



high priest, the human priest as mediator, the participat- 
ing people, are bound together in a most intimate union. 


The Consecration is not pronounced in the form of a 
prayer, nor is it uttered as a declaration (the usual sacra- 
mental form). It is enclosed within the narrative of the 
institution of the Holy Eucharist, and is worded as fol- 

Who the day before he suffered took bread into His holy 
and venerable hands, and with His eyes lifted up to heaven, 
unto Thee, God, His Almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, 
He blessed, broke, and gave to His disciples, saying: Take 
ye, and eat ye all of this, FOR THIS IS MY BODY. 

In like manner, after He had supped, taking also this ex- 
cellent chalice into His holy and venerable hands ; also giving 
thanks to Thee, He blessed, and gave it to His disciples, say- 
ing: Take, and drink ye all of this; FOR THIS IS THE 
UNTO THE REMISSION OF SINS. As often as ye shall do 
these things, ye shall do them in memory of Me. 

This simple narrative form of the Consecration is strik- 
ing. We might have expected a more solemn form for this 
the most sacred part of the Mass. But we must not forget 
that the ancient Eucharistic canticle (the old Canon) was 
entirely in the narrative form, without the interruption 
of our present petitions and oblation prayers. And the 
Consecration was not given so much prominence in ancient 
times, either by the elevation of the species, or by the sound- 
ing of the bell. In the early Church the entire Canon was 


the Consecration prayer. No one asked, at what precise 
moment the Consecration took place. At the end of the 
Canon the sacred Species were shown, with the words: 
"Here is the body and the blood of the Lord." The eleva- 
tion of the Species at the Consecration (called the greater 
elevation, to distinguish it from the lesser elevation at the 
end of the Canon) appears first in the eleventh or twelfth 
century ; the bell appears in the thirteenth century ; the in- 
censing, in the fourteenth century ; the genuflexion of the 
celebrant was first prescribed in the Missal of Pius V 

In the greater elevation the Mass received a central point 
which stands out in great prominence, and around it the 
actions and prayers of the Canon were symmetrically ar- 
ranged. It cannot be denied, however, that by this eleva- 
tion and the accompanying adoration of the sacred Species, 
an alien element was brought into the Mass, which had the 
effect of beclouding the true significance of the holy sacri- 
fice. The Mass came to be less and less appreciated as the 
sacrifice of Christ. Instead, a movement arose in which 
the adoration of the Eucharist was greatly developed, and 
thereby the spiritual energies of the faithful were, in the 
course of centuries, turned away from the sacrifice itself. 

The words of Consecration are not taken verbatim from 
Holy Scripture, and in the course of time they have re- 
ceived numerous additions : e. g., "holy and venerable 
hands" was added out of reverence for our Lord ; the words 
"with His eyes lifted up to heaven" are not found in the 
record of the institution in the Scriptures, but at the first 
multiplication of loaves (Matt. 14 : 19 ; Mark 6 : 41 ; Luke 
9:16). The "excellent chalice" (praeclamm calicem) is 


taken from psalm 22 (calix mews . . . praeclarus est). 
The insertion of "the mystery of faith" is most unusual, 
since it even disturbs the construction of the sentence. 
Some explain this last interpolation as an exclamation of 
the deacon, who thus called the attention of the congrega- 
tion to the completion of the sacrificial action ; others (e. g., 
Brinktrine) think that these words were used by our Lord 
Himself, as a part of the sacramental form. 

Let us consider further the ceremonies of the priest at 
the Consecration. During the narrative of the institution, 
he makes precisely the same gestures which Christ made at 
the Last Supper ; he takes the bread into his hands, lifts 
his eyes to heaven, bows in giving thanks, and blesses the 
bread. Then he bows over the altar and pronounces the 
words of Consecration; he kneels reverently to adore the 
body of the Lord, rises and elevates the Host in order to 
show it to the people. He then lays it upon the corporal, 
and makes another genuflection. He does the same at the 
Consecration of the precious blood: he takes the chalice, 
blesses it, bows over it, and pronounces the words of Con- 
secration ; genuflects, elevates the chalice to show it to the 
people, and makes another genuflection. 

The server, or the assisting cleric, slightly lifts the 
chasuble by its edge. This ceremony dates from the time 
when the bell-shaped chasuble was worn. It was necessary 
to raise it so as to give freedom for the movement of the 
priest's arms. The acolyte incenses the sacred Species at 
each elevation. Nothing is prescribed for the laity but that 
they should kneel during the Consecration. In some coun- 
tries it is customary to make the sign of the cross and 
strike the breast three times. The sign of the cross is prob- 


ably intended to show that we wish to make the fruits of the 
sacrifice our own ; but there is no apparent reason for the 
striking of the breast, which is a gesture expressive of 
sorrow, and is certainly out of place here. So, too, the bow- 
ing of the head during the elevation is opposed to the very 
purpose of the elevation; the sacred Species are elevated 
in order that we may look upon them. Now the custom is 
growing to omit all actions and prayers on the part of the 
people, and simply behold the sacred Species. We must try 
to keep in mind that, during the Mass and particularly at 
the Consecration, the primary and essential thing is the 
offering of the sacrifice; the adoration of the Species is 
entirely secondary. We should strive to impress ourselves 
and those committed to our care, with a deep understand- 
ing and appreciation of the sacrificial action. The Mass is 
not a "devotion," it is not the adoration of the Eucharist ; 
it is the sacrifice offered by Christ, and in this offering we 
are actually participating since it is also our sacrifice. We 
come to Mass, we celebrate Mass, not so much to adore 
Christ in His divinity, as to offer Him, the divine Lamb, 
to our heavenly Father. Indeed, there will be need of much 
teaching and preaching before the present generation re- 
turns to an appreciation of the Mass as a sacrifice. 


The prayers which follow are similar in construction to 
those preceding the Consecration. There are three prayers, 
with the usual conclusion : "through (the same) Christ our 
Lord. Amen." The first prayer is again divided into three 
parts, the last prayer closing with the solemn doxology. In 
contents, the prayers after the Consecration are similar to 


those before it and are analogous with them, viewed from 
the Consecration as the central point. The prayer of re- 
membrance (the Anamnesis) corresponds to the narrative 
of the Institution. The two oblation prayers, Hanc igitur 
and Quam oblationem, correspond to the two petitions for 
an acceptable offering; the memento of the living, with 
the memento of the dead ; the commemoration of the saints, 
with a similar prayer after the Consecration containing a 
catalogue of saints. 


The narrative of the institution closes with our Lord's 
words : "As often as ye shall do these things, ye shall do 
them in memory of Me." The Church continues the thought, 
saying: Unde et memores . . . ("Wherefore, O Lord, we 
Thy servants, as also Thy holy people, calling to 
mind . . .") . The Church is therefore conscious of her obli- 
gation to keep alive the memory of the Lord, as she proceeds 
to do in this prayer. The two classes in the Church are 
prominently mentioned : "the servants" of the Church (i. e., 
the clergy), and the faithful, who in the spirit of the 
early times are called "Thy holy people"; holy in more 
senses than one, sanctified in baptism, sanctified by being 
incorporated into the mystical body of Christ, who is now 
offering this sacrifice; a people set apart from the world, 
belonging to God. We should recall that in the primitive 
Church the faithful were called "saints." 

We would expect the Church to mention the passion and 
death of Christ as the object of its remembrance. St. Paul 
impresses the thought on us when, immediately after his 


account of the institution of the Eucharist, he says : "For 
as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink this chalice, 
you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come" (I Cor. 
11 : 26) . But our prayer does more than mention our Lord's 
death ; it also recalls two other events in His life : His resur- 
rection from the dead and His glorious ascension into 
heaven. From this we see that the Church does not look 
upon the holy sacrifice of the Mass as a memorial celebra- 
tion simply of Christ's death, but of the whole redemption. 
We have already seen that this prayer is one of the oldest 
parts of the liturgy. It is found after the Consecration in 
all the ancient Anaphora : e. g., in the Canon of Hippolytus 
(220), in the Apostolic Constitutions, as also in the oldest 
text of the Roman Canon, in the De sacramentis of St. 
Ambrose. We have here a prayer of the greatest antiquity, 
which most probably goes back to Apostolic times. In some 
liturgies the prayer commemorates other events of our 
Lord's life : for example, His Incarnation, and His second 
coming. These are sometimes mentioned in the Missals of 
the Western Church in the tenth and eleventh centuries. 

The prayer also indicates the co-operation of priest and 
people in the offering of the sacrifice. The passion of our 
Lord is not recalled with all its pain and suffering, but as 
a happy and blessed event, even as the Church venerates 
the cross, not as the instrument of suffering, but as the sign 
of victory and salvation. 

For more extended considerations, the reader is referred 
to the Introduction of this book (p. 5), where he will 
find an attempt to show that this prayer expresses the 
essence of the Mass. The Anamnesis expresses the three 


principal thoughts of the Mass : the remembrance of Christ, 
the sacrifice, and the Eucharistic food ; this is the first refer- 
ence to the Communion. 

The priest makes the sign of the cross five times over 
the consecrated Species (as also immediately before the 
Consecration). We have already pointed out that these 
are not blessings, but merely indications that the sacrifice 
of the Mass is identical with the sacrifice of the cross. 


The next two prayers are really parts of the Anamnesis, 
but they may be considered separately. The sacrifice of the 
Mass is, of course, the sacrifice offered by our Lord, who 
here in the Mass offers again the sacrifice of the cross. It 
is, however, likewise the sacrifice of the Church, offered, in 
the words of the Anamnesis, to the "excellent majesty" 
of God. Therefore, in the Anamnesis, the Church offered 
to God, this "pure, holy, and spotless victim," and in the 
two following prayers, she prays fervently that the sacri- 
fice may be acceptable to God. 

The prayer Supra quae is also a very old part of the 
Roman Canon, being found as early as the fourth century 
(St. Ambrose, De sacramentis, where it is placed after the 
Supplices). Illustrations of the prayer may be seen in 
mosaics in the Churches of St. Apollinaris in Classe and 
the Church of St. Vitalis at Ravenna. The following is a 
translation of this prayer : 

Upon which do Thou vouchsafe to look with a propitious 
and serene countenance, and to accept them, as Thou wert 
graciously pleased to accept the gifts of Thy just servant 
Abel, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and that 


which Thy high priest Melchisedech offered to Thee, a holy 
sacrifice, an unspotted victim. 

The prayer mentions three types: the sacrifice of the 
just Abel, "who offered of the firstlings of his flock, and 
of their fat ; and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his 
offerings" (Gen. 4:4); the sacrifice of the patriarch Abra- 
ham, which was a sacrifice of obedience of the first order, 
when he took his son up to a mountain, prepared to offer 
him in sacrifice (Gen., chap. 22) ; lastly, the sacrifice of 
Melchisedech, the mystic priest-king of Salem (Jeru- 
salem), who "offered bread and wine" in the presence of 
Abraham (Gen. 14 : 18) . 

We may find two points of comparison in these sacrifices. 
In the first place, the spirit with which we offer the sacrifice, 
should be like that of Abel, Abraham, and Melchisedech. 
It now becomes a concern of the Church that this sacrifice, 
in itself "holy and unspotted," should find gracious ac- 
ceptance with God, and this depends upon our spirit of 
sacrifice, and that of the Church. The divine Lamb of 
sacrifice is now laid in our hands ; it will be a sacrifice pleas- 
ing to God, only if our hands and hearts are clean and 
our sentiments pure. Therefore these three persons are 
types and models for us. Even as Abel was just and in- 
nocent, so we should be men of justice and purity ; as Abra- 
ham was ready to offer such a magnificent sacrifice of his 
hopes and ambitions, so we should unite our obedience and 
faith with the sacrifice of Christ ; and, in imitation of the 
royal priest Melchisedech, we should exercise our "royal 
priesthood" with truly royal sentiments. 

But these three sacrifices are also types of the sacrifice 
of Christ. In Holy Scripture and in the writings of the 


Fathers, these three men are taken as types of our Lord, 
and their sacrifices as types of the sacrifice of the cross and 
of the Mass. Abel who, precisely because of his acceptable 
sacrifice, was murdered by his brother Cain, is a figure of 
the Savior, who upon the cross was at the same time priest 
and victim. According to St. Paul, the blood of Christ 
"speaketh better than that of Abel" (Hebr. 12: 24). The 
blood of Abel cried for vengeance, the blood of Christ pleads 
for grace and mercy. 

Abraham is, first of all, a type of the heavenly Father, 
who did not spare His only-begotten Son, but gave Him 
for us. As Isaac silently carried the wood of sacrifice and 
meekly allowed himself to be bound and laid upon the wood, 
so, too, our Lord offered Himself upon the cross. Abraham, 
in his obedience to God, is also a figure of Christ, who was 
"obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross." 

In psalm 109, David speaks of Melchisedech, the figure 
of Christ: "Thou art a priest forever according to the 
order of Melchisedech" (i. e., not in the manner of the 
Jewish priests, who offered the bloody sacrifices of animals, 
but according to Melchisedech, who offered bread and 
wine). Christ also applied this psalm to Himself (Matt. 
22 : 44) . In the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul explains 
at great length how Melchisedech is the figure of Christ, 
the royal Priest. The expression summus sacerdos tuus 
Melchisedech ("thy high priest Melchisedech") is unusual ; 
nowhere in the Scriptures is Melchisedech called a high 
priest. Baumstark 35 is of the opinion that the expression 
is a faulty translation from the Greek predecessor of the 
Roman Canon : "the offering of Melchisedech the priest of 

35 Baumstark, Missale Bomanum, p. 13. 


Thee the Most High." The expression "Most High" was 
erroneously applied to the priest instead of to God. This 
explanation substantiates the theory that the Canon is a 
translation of a Greek predecessor. The last words of the 
prayer — "a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim" — are an addi- 
tion made by Leo I, according to the Liber pontificalis, to 
counteract the Manichaean teaching that the taking of 
wine in the Eucharist was a sinful act. 

Let us come, then, to the holy sacrifice with the purity 
and innocence of Abel, with the submission of Abraham, 
and with the royal heart of Melchisedech, that almighty 
God may look down graciously upon this sacrifice of His 
Son, prefigured in these three sacrifices of the Old Testa- 


There is still another prayer that this sacrifice may be 
acceptable to almighty God. The priest now j oins his hands 
upon the altar, and bowing profoundly says : 

We most humbly beseech Thee, almighty God, to command 
that these things be borne by the hands of Thy holy angel to 
thine altar on high, in the sight of Thy divine majesty, that as 
many of us as, at this altar, shall partake of and receive the 
holy body and blood of Thy Son, may be filled with every 
heavenly blessing and grace. Through the same Christ our 
Lord. Amen. 

This prayer marks the climax of the series of offering 
prayers. The prayer excels in beauty of structure and con- 
tents, although it contains several obscure passages. 

It is a prayer that the holy angel of God may carry this 
sacrifice from the earthly altar to the heavenly altar ; for 


only then can this sacrifice, in which we now receive the 
body and blood of Christ, obtain for us grace and blessing 
from heaven. 

The prayer presents a picture. According to the Apoc- 
alypse (6:9), there is an altar in heaven upon which St. 
John saw the "Lamb standing as it were slain" ; and in 
the vision we learn of a heavenly rite, as it were the celebra- 
tion of Mass by the saints in glory. From the Old Testa- 
ment we learn that the angels present the prayers and deeds 
of mankind before the throne of God : e. g., in the Book of 
Tobias (12 : 12) , the archangel Raphael says : "When thou 
didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, ... I 
offered thy prayer to the Lord." The Church makes use of 
these beautiful images in this sublime prayer; she prays 
that the angel of God may present this sacrifice on the 
altar of heaven, for only that sacrifice which is accepted 
above can obtain for us grace and divine blessing. No par- 
ticular angel is indicated; perhaps in the mind of the 
Church it was St. Michael, the guardian angel of the 
Church. The oldest text, from the fourth century, has : "by 
the hands of Thy angels." How vivid the imagery of this 
prayer ! While the Church is offering the holy sacrifice here 
on earth, a heavenly sacrifice is being offered by the Blessed 
in heaven, and from the union of these two sacrifices, we 
pray that the fruit of the sacrifice may be granted to us. 

In the prayer we find the word "these," where we might 
expect "this" (sacrifice) . However, the word really includes 
many things. First, the body and blood of Christ, then 
also the offerings of the people, their sacrificial spirit, their 
labors, their sufferings and their prayers. In short, the 
word includes the sacrifice of the mystical body of Christ, 


the sacrifice of the Head as well as that of the members. 
Writers on the Mass are unanimous in acclaiming the 
sublimity of this prayer, which, according to Gihr, "we 
ought to reverence in humility and holy awe, rather than 
attempt to interpret or explain it." 

In harmony with the words Supplices te rogamus ("we 
most humbly beseech Thee"), the priest bows profoundly 
while reciting this prayer. Formerly the preceding prayer 
was also said thus. (Cf. the Or do Romanus of the Arch- 
cantor John.) The kissing of the altar at the words ex 
hac altaris participatione ("at this altar, shall partake 
of") requires no explanation. At the words omni benedic- 
tione caelesti ("with every heavenly blessing"), the priest 
makes the sign of the cross on himself to show that every 
blessing of the Eucharist comes to us through the cross. 

The prayer is of historical interest, since it occupies the 
place at which we find the Epiklesis in the Eastern liturgies. 
As we said above, the Epiklesis is that prayer following 
the words of the Consecration, in which the Holy Spirit 
is invoked upon the offerings that He may change them 
into the body and blood of Christ, and may bestow on the 
faithful the fruits of Holy Communion. The Canon of 
Hippolytus still retained an Epiklesis; but it is a moot 
question whether our Roman Canon ever contained an 
Epiklesis. The prayer Quam oblationem before the Con- 
secration may be considered a sort of Epiklesis, since it 
contains a petition for the consecration, although without 
mention of the Holy Spirit ; or, a vestige of the petition for 
the fruits of the sacrifice may be seen in the words "holy 
angel" (Holy Spirit?) of this prayer. 

These prayers after the Consecration, which we have 


just considered, really form one prayer with three parts ; 
in the first part (the Anamnesis) we offer the sacrifice; in 
the second, we try to increase our sacrificial spirit by re- 
calling the three sacrifices of the Old Testament; in the 
third, the sacrifice, enveloped in our sacrificial spirit, is 
lifted up to God. Thus the act of offering is completed. 
This threefold prayer belongs to the most ancient parts of 
our Canon. Now we return again to the petitions (memento) 
of the Canon. 


The priest makes a gesture similar to that made at the 
memento of the living. He folds his hands, pauses, and re- 
calls those deceased whom he wishes especially to commend 
to God. (Here the faithful should also remember their 
dead.) The priest recites the following beautiful prayer: 

Be mindful also, Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids 
N. and N., who are gone before us, with the sign of faith, and 
sleep in the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all that 
rest in Christ, we beseech Thee, grant a place of refreshment, 
light, and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. 

In the early ages, the names of the dead who were to be 
included in the sacrifice, were read from the diptychs. The 
letters "N. and N." are reminders of that custom. The 
word "also" joins the prayer with the memento of the Liv- 
ing. The dead whose names were read from the diptychs, 
must have fulfilled two conditions: they must have been 
equipped with the sign of faith, i. e., the character of 
Baptism ; and they must have departed in peace with the 
Church. We should note the touching expressions that 


primitive Christianity employed when referring to death: 
"death" and "dying" are never used; in their stead we 
find "go before us," "sleep in the sleep of peace," "rest in 
Christ." Heaven is called the "place of solace, of light, and 
of peace" ; these, too, are ancient liturgical expressions, es- 
pecially "light" ("may perpetual light shine upon them"), 
and "peace" (as expressive of the happiness of heaven). 
All these expressions may be found in the epitaphs of the 
early Christians. Besides those deceased who were accorded 
particular mention, all Christians departed who have not 
attained to the beatific vision are recommended to God. It 
is a consoling thought that our Holy Mother the Church 
remembers in every Mass the souls of all the faithful de- 
parted, even those who have been entirely forgotten, since 
their memory has gone from among the living. 

We should recall that although the mementos are in- 
terpolations in the Canon, they are the oldest of such addi- 
tions. The omission of the memento of the dead in the 
Gelasian Sacramentary is explained by the fact that this 
memento was formerly omitted on Sundays; later it was 
inserted in all Masses. 

The Church Fathers teach that our prayers offered for 
the deceased in the presence of the Eucharistic sacrifice 
are especially efficacious. St. Augustine says it is an in- 
spiration and a consolation to know that in the holy sacri- 
fice the Church remembers all those who have died in the 
Lord ; and thus, even for those who have neither parents nor 
children, neither relatives nor friends, and for those for 
whom no one prays, prayers are offered by our Mother, the 
Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechesis (Cat. 
my st., 5, 9), says: "We remember also those who have 


fallen asleep, . . . because these prayers, offered when 
the most holy sacrifice lies before us on the altar, will be of 
the greatest benefit to those for whom we pray." 

The prayer closes with the usual ending : "Through the 
same Christ our Lord." During this conclusion the priest 
bows his head, although this ceremony is generally observed 
only at the name of Jesus. The reason for this deviation is 
not clear. Medieval commentators recalled how our Lord 
bowed His head in death ("And bowing his head, he gave 
up the ghost"). This explanation is, of course, quite un- 
satisfactory. Brinktrine is of the opinion that this rubric 
for bowing the head refers to the following Nobis quoque. 


The priest recites the first three words of the following 
prayer (Nobis quoque peccatoribus, "To us sinners also") 
in a moderate tone of voice, and at the same time strikes his 
breast. The prayer is as follows : 

To us sinners also, Thy servants, hoping in the multitude 
of Thy mercies, vouchsafe to grant some part and fellowship 
with Thy holy Apostles and martyrs : with John, Stephen, 
Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, 
Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, 
and with all Thy saints, into whose company we pray Thee 
admit us, not considering our merit, but of Thine own free 
pardon. Through Christ our Lord. 

In this prayer we pray now for ourselves. In Christian 
modesty we have gathered all others about the sacrifice: 
the Church, the living, the saints, the dead. Now, like Mary 
Magdalen, we cast ourselves down at the foot of the cross 


and embracing it we beg that the fruit of the sacrifice may 
be bestowed upon us. We pray that we may be received into 
the "company of the saints" ; that we may enter into the 
"fellowship" of the saints. It is difficult to understand the 
connection of this prayer with the preceding prayer for 
the dead, unless we associate the "company of the saints" 
with the "place of refreshment, light, and peace." 

Evidently this prayer is an interpolation, disrupting the 
original compactness of the Canon. It was apparently in- 
serted here to establish the parallelism of the prayers before 
and after the Consecration. Since there was a commemora- 
tion of the saints after the memento of the living before the 
Consecration, so this prayer for admittance into the com- 
pany of the saints was added after the Consecration, fol- 
lowing the memento of the dead. The prayer belongs to the 
second group of additions to the Canon. The first three 
words: Nobis quoque peccatoribus ("To us sinners also") 
are said aloud because in early times the subdeacons re- 
mained bowed during the Canon up to this point. Later, 
when the Canon was no longer recited aloud, these words 
were pronounced so as to be heard by those about the altar, 
as a sign especially for the subdeacons that the priest had 
reached this point in the Canon. 36 

The prayer is offered in great humility, and somewhat 
resembles the conclusion of the Preface. We are conscious 
of our great unworthiness to enter into the company of the 
saints and therefore we strike our breasts — the gesture that 
accompanies the confession of sins. We humbly ask for 
"some" part, which might be paraphrased as "some ob- 

86 Eisenhofer, II, 192. 


scure place in the realm of glory" ; finally we ask for this 
"fellowship" not because of our merits, but purely by the 
grace and mercy of almighty God. 

As before the Consecration, so now the names of several 
saints are mentioned, in this instance, fifteen martyrs. And 
here, too, the symbolism of numbers seems to have had some 
influence ; perhaps in imitation of the Communicantes. In 
the Communicantes there were 1 + 12 + 12 saints, and here 
we have 1 + 7 + 7. St. John the Baptist is the first men- 
tioned, then follow seven male and seven female saints, all 
of whom lived in the first four centuries. This circumstance 
is another indication of the antiquity of this prayer. 

The words, "fellowship with thy holy Apostles and mar- 
tyrs," seem to indicate that this is a continuation of the list 
of saints in the Communicantes. St. John the Baptist, at 
the head of the list, holds a place corresponding to that of 
the Blessed Virgin in the foregoing prayer. St. Stephen is 
mentioned because of the great veneration accorded him, 
especially after the finding of his relics in 415. Matthias 
and Barnabas complete the list of the Apostles. Ignatius, 
the venerable bishop of Antioch, was thrown to the beasts 
about 107. Pope Alexander was beheaded about 119; his 
tomb is in the church of St. Sabina in Rome. Marcellinus 
the priest, and Peter the exorcist, are companions, and 
were beheaded about 304. All of these saints were devoutly 
venerated at Rome. Then follow seven female saints. St. 
Perpetua and St. Felicitas were probably martyred at 
Carthage in 202 or 203 ; but they were also venerated at 
Rome. The same is true of the Sicilian virgins Agatha and 
Lucy. The last three are Roman saints: Agnes (died in 


304 at the age of thirteen), Cecilia (died about 117), and 
the Roman widow Anastasia. 


The Canon reaches its finale in the outwardly simple yet 
truly sublime praise of the Holy Trinity. But before the 
concluding doxology, the priest recites a short prayer, 
which is a kind of summary of the preceding prayers, and 
a reiteration of the belief that Christ is the Mediator of all 
gifts, of both the natural and the supernatural order. The 
prayer: "Through whom (Christ), O Lord, Thou dost 
create, hallow, quicken, and bless these Thine ever- 
bountiful gifts and give them to us." 

Here again it is difficult to grasp the full import of this 
short prayer, and to establish its connection with the pre- 
ceding prayers. We might paraphrase it as follows: 
Through Christ, God created bread and wine, the represen- 
tatives of all the gifts of nature ; in the Mass He hallowed 
them and made them the food and drink of the super- 
natural life; in the Eucharist He opened up a fountain of 
the richest blessings, which are about to be bestowed on us 
in the approaching sacrificial meal. During the prayer the 
priest makes the sign of the cross three times over the offer- 
ings. As we know, this signing of the cross is not a blessing, 
but a sign that the sacrifice is the same as the sacrifice of the 

We cannot appreciate the full significance of this prayer 
except by recalling that it is a remnant of a blessing pro- 
nounced over the non-consecrated offerings. As is well 
known, the early Christians offered many varied gifts in 


the offertory procession, such as bread and wine, oil, wax, 
wool, flour. Bread and wine for the sacrifice were selected 
from among these gifts ; the rest was left on the prothesis, 
or table of offerings. Before these gifts were distributed to 
the poor, they were now blessed, at the end of the Canon. 
This prayer is the short form for the conclusion of these 
various blessings, and the signs of the cross, therefore, were 
intended not for the Eucharistic species, but for these non- 
consecrated offerings. In the old Sacramentaries there are 
traces of these blessings : e. g., on Pentecost a blessing for 
milk, honey, and water (Leonine Sacramentary) ; on the 
Ascension, a blessing for firstfruits and legumes (Gela- 
sian) ; on August 6, for grapes (Gregorian). This last 
blessing remained until modern times. Up to the sixteenth 
century it was to be found in the Missals of the Diocese 
of Passau. The blessing is worded as follows : 

Benedic, Domine, et hos novos Bless, O Lord, also these first- 
fructus uvae, quos tu, Do- fruits of the vine, which 
mine, rore caeli et inundantia Thou, by the dew of heaven, 
pluviorum et temporum sere- by plentiful rains, and by se- 
nitate et tranquillitate ad rene and undisturbed weather, 
maturitatem perducere dig- hast brought to maturity ; 
natus es, et dedisti eos ad and which Thou givest now 
usus nostros cum gratiarum for our use with thanksgiv- 
actione in nomine Domini ing, in the name of our Lord 
nostri Jesu Christi, per quern Jesus Christ, by whom, O 
omnia, Domine . . . Lord, Thou dost create, hal- 

low, quicken, and bless these 
Thine ever-bountiful gifts 
and give them to us. 

In the light of this blessing, our formula immediately 
becomes more intelligible. The blessing of the holy oil for 


the sick on Holy Thursday, is still recited in this place in 
the Mass. 

Now, after the entire kingdom of God has been assembled 
in the Canon about the Eucharistic sacrifice, inanimate 
nature, too, is sanctified by the Holy Eucharist. Christ had 
chosen these gifts of nature as the mystical veil for His 
sacramental presence, thus indirectly honoring all inan- 
imate creation; now the blessings of the redemption are 
poured out upon "every creature that groaneth and travail- 
eth in pain." 

It is possible, at least in part, to revive this blessing: 
at this point in the conventual Mass in the monastery of 
Klosterneuburg, the people pray: "Bless, Lord, these 
our offerings and all that belongs to us." Our intention is 
that the blessing of the Eucharist may descend upon the 
offerings which were made in the offertory procession and 
upon all our possessions. 


We have come now to the conclusion of the Canon, the 
little elevation, so sublime in its significance and yet so 
simple and austere in outward ceremony. Taking the sacred 
Host, the priest makes with it three crosses over the chalice 
and two before the chalice, then elevating the Host and the 
chalice, he says: "Through Him [Christ], and with Him, 
and in Him, is to Thee, God the Father almighty, in the 
unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory, forever and 
ever. Amen." 

Thus the Canon closes with the solemn doxology to the 
Holy Trinity. The whole end and purpose of Christ's re- 
demption was the glory of God, as the angels had an- 


nounced at His birth in Bethlehem. The redemption was 
primarily to restore to God the honor and glory of which 
He had been robbed by sin. The Holy Eucharist, which re- 
enacts and actualizes the redemption for us, has the same 
end. The three expressions, "Through Him, with Him, in 
Him," should be noted. They are not mere amplifications, 
but serve to reveal our most intimate relationship with 

"Through Him" ; for He is our Mediator. The expres- 
sion is a familiar one, since we find it as the conclusion of 
the Collects: "Through our Lord Jesus Christ." All our 
prayers, especially those in which we honor and glorify God, 
are offered "through Him." "With Him"; the Church, 
the mystical body of Christ, must unite "with Him" in 
offering praise to the heavenly Father. We, too, unite with 
Him by the living union of grace "in Him." These three 
expressions speak to us of the Vine and its branches. Let 
us meditate on these things: our union with Christ, the 
three crosses, the elevation of the sacred Species, and the 
deep significance of this sublime moment. This doxology 
is a presage of a scene that may take place at the end of 
time. The last of those who are to be saved has been incor- 
porated into the mystical body of Christ. Christ our Lord 
comes into the presence of His heavenly Father to announce 
that the work of the redemption has been accomplished: 
"My Father, the redemption of the human race has been 
consummated. The breach between Thee and mankind has 
been closed. Through Me, and with Me, and in Me, is unto 
Thee, Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and 
glory." Then all those who have been saved will fall down 
in adoration before God's throne. It will be one of those 


magnificent liturgical moments, such as St. John pictures 
in the Apocalypse ; it will be the closing scene in the drama 
of salvation. 

This was the only elevation of the sacred Species in the 
early Church. The present greater elevation after the Con- 
secration was not introduced until the Middle Ages ; from 
that time this lesser elevation was more and more curtailed, 
until today it is barely recognizable. And yet this elevation 
at the conclusion of the Canon is much more appropriate. 
In ancient times the entire Canon was considered the Con- 
secration prayer, and at the end of it the sacred Species 
were shown to the people, and an invitation was given to 
partake of the sacrificial meal. The priest faced the people, 
and the elevation of the sacred Species was as if the priest 
said : "Behold the body and the blood of Christ." The signs 
of the cross are gradual additions of later date. In the oldest 
Roman Ordo the priest takes a Host and touches the rim 
of the chalice, which is elevated by the deacon. There is no 
mention of the signs of the cross. In earliest times, the 
chalice stood to the right of the Host. 

I would like to induce my fellow-priests not to let this 
elevation remain the mere suggestion, which it now is, but 
to make it higher and slower, and thus also more impressive. 
Perhaps we may be able to re-awaken these rudimentary 
ceremonies to new life. 

The priest says or sings the concluding words aloud: 
Per omnia saecula saeculorum, wishing thereby to reunite 
himself with the faithful in prayer. The people take an 
active part throughout the Mass, except during the Canon, 
when the priest, as it were, enters into a cloud, remaining 
hidden from them, conversing intimately with God. Veiled 


by the screen of silence, he alone speaks the Consecration 
prayer (Canon). Now he returns to the people and invites 
their assent and their continued participation. With the 
"Amen," the people again join in the holy sacrifice, which 
is offered by us and for us, through the hands of the priest. 
This Amen is of venerable antiquity, and was indeed, in the 
ancient Church, the only Amen in the Canon. It should not 
be taken from the people, nor should the choir or the server 
take their place; for as early as the time of St. Justin 
Martyr (about 150) it was considered an important pre- 
rogative of the congregation. — Thus the Canon has been 


The Sacrificial Banquet 


The sacrificial action was completed in the Canon. In it 
the victim of the sacrifice, the body and the blood of the 
Son of God, was brought to the altar. In the Canon, the 
faithful offered this sacrifice to God through their official 
minister. Finally, the three estates of God's kingdom were 
assembled about the sacrifice, which was to obtain God's 
grace and blessing for them. We have come now to the last 
part of the Mass, the sacrificial meal, better known as the 

Let us at once inquire what place the Communion holds 
in the great structure of the Mass. It will be helpful to 
turn again to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. There 
we find that a sacrificial meal was part of most of the sacri- 
fices. Whenever a family brought a calf or a lamb to the 
Temple, it was given to the priest to be slaughtered. Part 
of the victim was burnt upon the altar in the presence of 
the offerers ; this was the "food of God," the "burnt offer- 
ing of the eternal God." The burning signified that God 
had graciously received the sacrifice as a "sweet odor." 
Now the whole victim belonged to God ; it had been sancti- 
fied, it had become the food of God, because of that burnt 
part, which had, as it were, been consumed by God. Now 



God invited the offerers of the sacrifice to His table; He 
was the host, and those who partook of the sacrifice were 
His guests at table, and partook of His meal. There arose 
an intimate union between God and the offerers from this 
sacrificial meal; and this union (communion) was the ulti- 
mate end and the fruit of the sacrifice. 

The old sacrifices were types of the infinitely perfect 
sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Here, too, the victim is slain, 
the divine Lamb is put to death, and God is pleased to ac- 
cept the sacrifice for the great family of mankind. Was 
there to be no sacrificial meal following upon this sacrifice, 
whereby God would manifest that He was well pleased? 
Christ discovered a wonderful means by which He would 
not only re-enact this sacrifice among us, but would also 
give us the body and the blood of His sacrifice as a sacrifi- 
cial food in the Holy Eucharist, in the sacrifice of the Mass. 
Now there is repeated in a most exalted manner what took 
place in the Old Testament. The children of God offer 
their Lamb for the sacrifice, the body and the blood of the 
Lord (which became their very own, in that they provided 
the material for the sacrifice, the bread and the wine, in 
the offertory procession) ; they offer it to God; and God 
immediately invites them to His table ; He gives them what 
is truly a divine food, and unites Himself intimately with 
them (communion). In the sacrificial meal God bestows 
on us the fruit and blessing of the sacrifice. Christ there- 
fore made the sacrifice of the New Testament at the same 
time a banquet for the nourishment of the divine life within 

Now we understand more clearly the meaning of our 
Lord's words in the synagogue at Capharnaum : "The bread 


that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. . . . 
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath ever- 
lasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For 
my flesh is meat indeed : and my blood is drink indeed. He 
that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, 
and I in him" (John 6:5% if.). Let us join these words 
with the words of the institution : "Take ye and eat : this 
is my body. . . . Drink ye all of this ; for this is my blood 
of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto 
the remission of sins" (Matt. 26 : 27 f .) . Now it is clear that 
the sacrificial meal belongs to the sacrifice, and that the 
fruit of the sacrifice is bestowed upon us in the sacrificial 
meal. That fruit is the divine life, union with Christ, and 
a glorious resurrection on the last day, when the redemp- 
tion will be fully accomplished. 

Thus the tree of the cross in the holy sacrifice becomes the 
tree of life in the paradise of the New Testament; its 
branches are bent down to us; and the children of God, 
who wish to preserve the divine life within themselves, must 
constantly partake of this divine fruit. We should be firmly 
convinced that the sacrificial meal belongs inseparably to 
the holy sacrifice. A Mass without Communion is like a 
ring that has lost its jewel. In the sacrificial banquet we 
manifest in the highest degree our participation in the 
sacrifice, when we actually receive the fruit of the sacri- 
fice. For this reason, in the early Church, all who assisted 
at the sacrifice of the Mass "communicated" ; only those who 
had been cast out from the communion of the Church, the 
"excommunicated," were not permitted to receive Holy 
Communion. Therefore let us return to the old discipline : 
"No Mass without the sacrificial banquet." We ought to 


censure severely, as an abuse, the withholding of Com- 
munion from the faithful during the Mass, and the giving 
of Communion only before or after the Mass. The faithful 
should be instructed by their pastors, that only in excep- 
tional cases should they receive Communion outside the 
Mass. The normal and logical time to receive Communion 
is in the Mass. 

It is likewise an abuse to regard the receiving of Holy 
Communion as a devotional exercise, separate from the 
Mass. There have been and still are Christians, even nuns, 
for whom Communion is the all important thing. They have 
but little appreciation of the sacrifice of the Mass; for 
them it is merely a devotional exercise for Communion. 
They much prefer, therefore, to receive Communion be- 
fore Mass, so as to make a "thanksgiving" during the whole 
Mass ; or they use the time of Mass in making a preparation 
for Communion. Thus throughout the year they celebrate 
a sort of missa praesanctificatorum, as on Good Friday, 
that is, they have Communion devotions without the holy 
sacrifice. The best preparation for Communion is to join 
in the celebration of the Mass. The customary acts of faith, 
hope, love, and contrition are not essential or obligatory ; 
for that matter, they are contained in the prayers of the 
Mass. And there is no obligation to make a thanksgiving 
longer than that contemplated by the Mass prayers. Of 
course, whoever wishes to remain and pray for a longer time 
is certainly free to do so. The all important thing is Christ's 
holy sacrifice ; and the fruit of that sacrifice is Holy Com- 
munion. Let us strive to re-establish the ancient discipline, 
so that the reception of Holy Communion will be considered 
part of the regular and normal attendance at Mass. 


In the sacrificial meal we receive in return the bread 
which we offered in the Offertory; but now it has been 
changed, it has become divine. This transformation of 
natural bread into divine bread, is profoundly symbolic of 
the Mass. We have said that the gift is the representative 
of the giver. As the gift was transformed, so, too, is the 
giver. He, the natural man, comes to the sacrifice ; he re- 
turns home transformed, participating in the divine nature. 
This is the salvation which is merited for us in the holy 
sacrifice of the Mass. 


Let us again glance back into history and observe the 
gradual development of this last part of the Mass. At the 
Last Supper our Lord broke the bread after the Consecra- 
tion, and gave it to the Apostles, that they might eat it ; 
and likewise He gave them the chalice with the wine. It is 
certain that those who partook of this meal stayed in their 
places at table. This fraction remained for all times an 
important ceremony in the preparation of the sacrificial 

In Apostolic times, when the Mass was celebrated with 
the Agape, the eating and drinking of the consecrated Spe- 
cies was an important and prominent part of the rite. 
Here, too, the participants sat or rather reclined at table, 
and there was most probably no special altar. 

Toward the end of the Apostolic period (about the close 
of the first century) , we find in the Didache a formal Com- 
munion rite, with the text for the thanksgiving after Com- 

Our next witness is St. Justin Martyr (about 150), who 


describes the distribution of Holy Communion in his First 
Apology (I, 65, 5 f.) as follows: "When the president has 
given thanks, and all the people have assented in prayer, 
the deacons, as they are known among us, distribute to all 
present of the bread, over which the thanksgiving has been 
pronounced, and also of the wine with water, and they 
bring some to the absent." Thus we see that in the second 
century it was still customary to distribute the consecrated 
offerings to the faithful while they were seated at table. 
Moreover it was the office of the deacon to distribute Holy 
Communion ; the bishop seems to have taken no part in it. 
The distribution of Holy Communion in the houses of the 
faithful is also indicated. 

About seventy years later (about 220), Hippolytus, in 
his long description of the distribution of Holy Communion 
at Rome, indicates a preparatory prayer, a thanksgiving, 
a form for the distribution, and a reference to a Com- 
munion psalm. Here for the first time we read that the peo- 
ple came forward to receive Communion, and that the bishop 
distributed the bread; the priest or deacon offered the 
chalice. The following is taken from Hippolytus' account : 

The bishop says: "Again we beseech almighty God, the 
Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to grant us to 
receive this holy sacrament in His honor, and to permit none 
of us to be unworthy, but to make us all worthy, who receive 
the holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, our al- 
mighty Lord and God." The deacon says : "Pray. Almighty 
God, in receiving this holy sacrament, permit none of us to 
be unworthy, but bless us all in Christ, through whom there 
is to Thee in unity with Him and the Holy Ghost, praise and 
power now and forever for all eternity. Amen." The deacon 
says (further) : "All you, who stand here, bow your heads. 


Eternal Lord, Thou who seest in secret, Thy people have 
bowed their heads before Thee, and have submitted the hard- 
ness of their hearts and their flesh. Look down upon them 
from the habitation, which Thou hast made for Thyself, and 
bless them, men and women. Incline Thy ear to them, and hear 
their prayers. Strengthen them by the might of Thy hand, 
and protect them from every evil passion. Defend them in 
body and soul. May faith and the fear of the Lord grow in 
them and in us, through Thy only Son, through whom there 
is to Thee in unity with Him and the Holy Ghost, praise and 
power, now and forever, and for all eternity. Amen." The 
deacon says : "Let us behold, etc." ; and the bishop : "Holy 
things to the holy." The people answer : "(There is) one Holy 
Father, one Holy Son, one Holy Ghost." The bishop says: 
"The Lord be with you all." The people answer : "And with 
thy spirit." Then they intone the hymn of praise, and the peo- 
ple approach to receive this salutary remedy of their souls, 
by which sins are taken away. 

Prayer after the distribution (of the Holy Sacrament). 
"Almighty God, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 
we give Thee thanks, because Thou hast permitted us to re- 
ceive this Thy holy mystery ; let it not be to us unto judgment 
or condemnation, but for the renewal of our souls, bodies and 
spirits, through Thy only Son, through whom there is to Thee 
in unity with Him and the Holy Ghost praise and power for 
all time, now and forever and for all eternity. Amen." The 
people say : "Amen." The priest says : "The Father be with 
you all." 

The imposition of hands after the reception of Holy Com- 
munion. "Almighty and eternal Lord, Father of our Lord and 
Savior Jesus Christ, bless Thy servants and handmaids ; pro- 
tect, assist, and save them by the power of Thy holy angels ; 
by Thy majesty defend them and strengthen them in their fear 
of Thee; strengthen them that they may think thoughts of 
Thee; grant them to believe in Thee, and to desire Thy 
things ; graciously grant them harmony without anger and 


sin, through Thy only Son, through whom there is to Thee, 
in unity with Him and the Holy Ghost, praise, etc." The peo- 
ple say: "Amen." The bishop says: "The Lord be with you 
all." The people : "And with thy spirit." The deacon says : 
"Go in peace." And with this the Eucharistic celebration is 

In another passage (16, 24 f.) we read: 

When the bishop has broken the bread, he gives to each one 
a particle, saying : "This is the bread of heaven, the body of 
Jesus Christ." He who receives it answers : "Amen." If a suffi- 
cient number of priests is not present, the deacons take the 
chalice and, observing order, offer the blood of our Lord 
Jesus Christ like milk and honey. Offering the chalice, the 
deacon says : "This is the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ," 
and he who receives says : "Amen." 

Beginning early in the third century, a number of 
changes took place in the distribution of Holy Communion, 
as may be seen from these passages. Most important was 
the change from the convenient position at table, to a more 
reverential reception of the Sacrament. 

Another witness for the distribution of Holy Communion 
is the Apostolic Constitutions (Book VIII, chaps. 13-15) : 

When all have answered "Amen," the deacon says : 

"Let us attend." 

And the bishop calls out to the people : 

"That which is holy to those who are holy." 

The people answer : 

"Thou alone art holy, Thou alone art Lord, Jesus Christ, 
for the honor of God the Father, art praised for all eternity. 

"Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, acclaim 
among men, Hosanna to the Son of David ; blessed is He that 


cometh in the name of the Lord. The Lord God has also ap- 
peared unto us. Hosanna in the highest." 

Then the bishop receives Holy Communion, then the priests, 
deacons, subdeacons, readers, chanters, and ascetics ; among 
the women, the deaconesses, virgins, and widows, then the chil- 
dren, and lastly all the people in order, in reverence and awe, 
without noise. 

And the bishop offers the sacrifice saying : 

"The body of Christ." 

He who receives answers : 


And the deacon offers the chalice, and says thereby : 

"The blood of Christ, the chalice of life." 

He who drinks, answers : 


During the time when all are communicating, the thirty- 
third psalm should be recited. When the men and women have 
received Holy Communion, the deacons shall gather the re- 
maining fragments and carry them into the Pastophoria. 

When the psalm is concluded, the deacon says : 

"Having received the precious body and the precious blood 
of Christ, let us give thanks, because He hath made us worthy 
to partake of His holy mysteries, and let us beseech Him, that 
they will not be to us unto judgment, but unto salvation, for 
the benefit of body and soul, for the preservation of piety, for 
the remission of sins, and for life in the time to come. 

"Let us arise. 

"Let us surrender ourselves in the grace of Christ, to the 
only and uncreated God and His Christ." 

The bishop offers the thanksgiving : 

"O Lord, almighty God, Father of Thy Christ, Thy Son 
who is worthy of all praise, Thou who hearest those who call 
on Thee in the sincerity of their hearts, and who knowest the 
prayers of those who are silent. 

"We thank Thee, because Thou hast made us worthy to 
partake of Thy holy mysteries, which Thou hast prepared 


for us, for the complete understanding of what Thou hast 
taught us, for the preservation of piety, and for the remission 
of sins, because the name of Thy Christ has been invoked upon 
us, and we have been intimately united with Thee. Thou hast 
separated us from the congregation of the godless, lead us 
now into the company of those who are consecrated to Thee, 
strengthen us by the visitation of the Holy Ghost in truth, 
reveal unto us those things of which we are still ignorant, 
supply our defects, and strengthen us that we may under- 

"Preserve the priests without blame in Thy service, keep the 
kings in peace, the magistrates in justice, the air salubrious, 
fruits in abundance, and the world in Thy providence. Soften 
the warlike tendencies of nations and convert those who are 
in error. Sanctify Thy people, preserve the virgins, protect 
married people in fidelity, strengthen the continent, lead the 
young to maturity, strengthen the neophytes, instruct the 
catechumens and make them worthy of the dedication (bap- 
tism), and lead us all together into the kingdom of heaven, in 
Christ Jesus, our Lord, through whom there is to Thee and 
the Holy Ghost praise, honor, and adoration for all eternity. 

This form for the sacrificial meal has been preserved 
almost entirely in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. 

An interesting description of the distribution of Holy 
Communion in Christian antiquity is found in the famous 
mystagogical Catechesis of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), 
which we shall quote later (Chap. 21, p. 307). 

In conclusion, let us see how this part of the Mass was 
carried out in the first Roman Ordo (about 700) . We quote 
again from Father Kramp's adaptation, 37 as follows : 

37 Kramp, S. J., Eucharistia (English \rans.), pp. 35-38. 


The Pope breaks off a particle from one of the consecrated 
Breads, lays this particle upon the altar and the rest upon the 
paten which a deacon holds, and then turns and leaves the 
altar and takes his place at his throne. 

The archdeacon takes the chalice from the altar and gives 
it to a subdeacon who stands holding it at the right of the 
altar. Other subdeacons advance and with them acolytes who 
carry small bags of linen. They hold these open before the 
archdeacon that he may place therein the consecrated Breads. 
When that is done the acolytes go to the right and left and 
present the linen bags with the consecrated Breads to the 
bishops and priests. The paten containing the Pope's own 
consecrated Breads is brought by two subdeacons and given to 
two deacons who stand beside the Pope. 

There now remains at the altar no more of the Eucharistic 
Species except that particle which the Pope broke and left 
there when he returned to his throne ; and this particle remains 
on the altar till the end "in order that the altar may not be 
left without the oblation" and is reserved for the following 

The higher clergy stand with the holy Eucharist in their 
hands and their eyes upon the Pope. And at a signal from him 
all break their Breads and the two deacons beside the Pope 
break his Breads. At the same time the archdeacon has sig- 
nalled to the choir to chant the Agnus Dei. 

The master of the papal court and the papal notary go into 
the nave to carry to designated persons the Pope's invitation 
to dine with him after the Mass. This will appear strange to 
us unless we know that it is a relic of the "agape" or charity 
meal which in Apostolic days was connected with the Eucha- 
ristic sacrifice. 

The Bread being broken, the deacon holds out the paten 
to the Pope, and he first of all receives the Body of the Lord, 
standing at his throne and turned away from the assembly. 
He has first put a portion of the sacred Bread into the chalice, 
which has also been brought to him, with the words : "May this 


mixture and consecration of the Body and Blood of our Lord 
Jesus Christ avail us who receive it unto life everlasting" ; to 
which is answered: "Amen." And now to the archdeacon he 
says : "Peace be to you," and is answered : "And to you." Then 
the archdeacon gives him to receive of the precious Blood. 

The higher clergy in the order of their rank, bishops, 
priests, and deacons, come before the Pope and receive from 
his hands the Body of the Lord. They then proceed to the 
altar where the first of the bishops takes his stand with the 
chalice which the archdeacon has given him, and he gives to 
each one to receive of the precious Blood. 

The Pope himself descends into the senatorium in the for- 
ward of the nave and in the same order which we saw at the 
Offertory he distributes the Body of the Lord to the nobility. 
The archdeacon follows immediately behind him with the chal- 
ice and a tube of gold or silver by means of which each one may 
receive some drops of the precious Blood. Meanwhile from the 
moment the Pope leaves his throne, the choir chants the Com- 
munion antiphon and psalm, continuing until all have re- 
ceived. The bishops and priests, as many as may be necessary, 
assist in distributing to all the assembled faithful the Body 
of the Lord, followed by deacons who administer the precious 

Returned to the throne, the Pope and archdeacon admin- 
ister the double Holy Communion to the subdeacons and lower 
clergy. The members of the choir receive either before or after 
the Communion chant. When all have communicated the Pope 
gives a signal to end the Communion chant with the Gloria 
Patri and the antiphon. 

There remains only the final prayer, the oratio ad complen- 
dum or Postcommunion. The Pope approaches the altar and, 
turned away from the people, chants : "Dominus vobiscum," 
and is answered : "Et cum spiritu tuo." At the end of the 
prayer the archdeacon signals one of the deacons to chant the 
dismissal : "Ite missa est/' to which the assembly replies : "Deo 


Thus the Communion of the Mass, in the days when there 
was complete and active participation on the part of the 
people, was a comparatively simple ceremony. The various 
prayers and chants of our Mass were added later, par- 
ticularly during the Middle Ages. Thus the Agnus Dei was 
introduced by Pope Sergius I (d. 701), to fill in the pause 
caused by the breaking of the breads. The preparatory 
prayers for Holy Communion were adopted late in the 
Middle Ages, as a private preparation for the priest. Since 
the various prayers at the time of the Communion orig- 
inated at different periods, this last division of the Mass 
does not even possess that minimum of organic unity which 
we found in the Canon. For the sake of clarity, however, we 
may divide this part of the Mass as follows : 
1. The preparation of the sacrificial meal: 

a) Pater Noster, with its introduction and conclusion ; 

b) The breaking and mingling; 

c) The kiss of peace ; 

d) Preparatory prayers. 

3. The meal with the Communion chant. 
3. The conclusion of the Communion rite: 

a) The ablution prayers ; 

b) The Postcommunion. 

4*. The conclusion of the Mass : 

a) The dismissal and blessing ; 

b) The last Gospel. 


The Pater Noster 

As the Canon was introduced by the solemn chant of the 
Preface, so this last part of the Mass, the sacrificial meal, 
begins with the solemn chanting of the Pater Noster, the 
Our Father. The Pater Noster is unquestionably the most 
sublime and the most precious of all prayers, since our Lord 
Himself taught it to us. We shall comprehend the full mean- 
ing of the Pater Noster, only when we have studied it care- 
fully in every detail. 

The Our Father is recorded by two of the Evangelists : 
Matthew (6:9-13) in the Sermon on the Mount, and 
Luke (11:1—4) in the narrative of our Lord's journey; 
in the latter it is probably found in its original historical 
setting. But the two Evangelists have given it to us in dif- 
ferent versions. In Luke it is shorter, the address is 
abridged, and the third and seventh petitions are omitted. 
As we shall see, this abridgment is intentional, and does 
not disturb the sense of the prayer. 

It was probably at the time of the Feast of the Dedication 
of the Temple at Jerusalem (during the December before 
His death) that our Lord taught His disciples this prayer. 
The Savior often spent the night in prayer on the Mount of 
Olives. There, after such a night of prayer, at their request 
He taught them the Our Father. This supposition is con- 
firmed by an ancient tradition ; for on this sacred site the 



Pater Noster Church has been erected. Bishop Keppler 
writes : "There is a lovely Gothic church in this place, with 
a cloister ; in the arcade are thirty -two stone tablets upon 
which the Our Father is inscribed in thirty-two languages." 
The Mount of Olives becomes doubly dear to us; for it 
witnessed not only the agony of our Lord and His farewell 
before His ascension, but also the scene when Christ taught 
His disciples how to pray. 

Our Lord had again spent a long time in prayer on the 
Mount of Olives. His disciples, observing Him secretly, 
saw how His countenance was illumined. They, too, wished 
to pray thus, and timidly approached the Master and said : 
"Lord, teach us to pray." And then Jesus taught them and 
His Church the Our Father. 

"Our Father." The first word, Abba ("Father"), de- 
notes how great is the hour that has now come for the world. 
This word "Father" transports us at once into a new era. 
We are not, as in the Old Testament, servants of God, or 
His slaves ; now God is our Father, and we are His beloved 
children, heirs of heaven. We are permitted to call God our 
Father. Perhaps we do not now appreciate the overwhelm- 
ing joy of this privilege; but the first Christians were en- 
thused and amazed that they were allowed to say : "Abba, 
Father." "For you have not received the spirit of bondage 
again in fear : but you have received the spirit of adoption 
of sons, whereby we cry : Abba Father" (Rom. 8 : 15) . We 
enter the house of God our Father, not as beggars, but as 
His children. How much confidence is expressed in this first 
word ! We are one great family of God, brothers and sisters 
to one another. The Christian does not pray selfishly for 
himself alone, he prays for all the members of this great 


family. Thus the Our Father is not the prayer of the in- 
dividual, but a prayer of the community, and so a truly 
liturgical prayer. 

"Who art in heaven." We are strangers and pilgrims on 
earth; our fatherland is above. There is our Father's 
house, there Christ our elder brother has prepared a dwell- 
ing place for us. The heavens are the throne of the Father ; 
high thereon is His glory, and toward it all our longing is 
directed, and our every prayer is an ascent into heaven. 
Our Father, who art in heaven — this is the foreword of the 
great prayer. 

Since the time of St. Augustine the prayer has been 
divided into seven petitions (seven, the sacred number of 
the Jews) . Let us study the beautiful symmetrical structure 
of the Our Father. We begin with the center of the prayer, 
the fourth petition, the petition for bread. 

"Give us this day our daily bread." The petition for this 
earthly life is placed in the center of the prayer. Bread 
stands for everything needed to support physical life. This 
petition presupposes faith in God as the Giver of all gifts, 
and a childlike confidence in His providence. Here God 
appears as the good Provider, who is not unmindful of the 
needs of His creatures; a complement to this picture is 
found in our Lord's words in the Sermon on the Mount, 
when He speaks of the birds of the air and the lilies of the 
field. (Matt. 6:26 f.) 

"This day our daily bread." We are to come daily, as 
children to their parents ; we should be solicitous only for 
today, and we ought not be anxious about tomorrow. We 
should always feel that we are in God's hands, and not be 
dependent solely upon ourselves and our own providing. 


"Our bread." Bread therefore, for which we do not beg, 
but bread which we have earned, to which we have some 
right. The thief does not eat his own bread. 

"Give us," not me. We are here reminded of our needy 
brothers. The fourth petition, for bread, is the central 
point of the prayer. Our Lord is a realist ; He knows how 
man is dependent upon the earth, and how he is in daily 
need of bread, and of the other fruits of the earth. 

Did not our Lord, whose thinking and striving was all 
directed to the kingdom of God, also have in mind that 
other bread for the nourishment of the soul, the Holy 
Eucharist? The Fathers of the Church often explain this 
petition in this sense. Holy Church early placed the Our 
Father in the Mass before the sacrificial banquet as the 
table prayer for the sacred meal. 

The fourth and central petition divides the Our Father 
into two parts; the first part (the first three petitions) 
raises the soul to God; the second part (the last three 
petitions) lifts up the soul from the chains and out of the 
depths of sin. The first three petitions are also closely re- 
lated to one another. 

"hallowed be thy name" 

The name stands for the person or the thing. In ancient 
times the name was often accepted for the person ; hence, 
in our prayer : "Thou shalt be hallowed, honored, glorified." 
This glory of God is the end of all creation. Every creature 
exists primarily for the glory of God. The inanimate crea- 
tion gives glory to God unknowingly. Man must give glory 
to God according to his nature, knowingly and willingly, 
in all the actions of his life. He should be a living Te Deum. 


"thy kingdom come" 

The first petition was couched in general terms, refer- 
ring to and including all creatures ; the second petition 
narrows down the thought to man. God has established a 
special means whereby man is to accomplish in the most 
perfect manner God's glory on earth, by making his whole 
life a service of God in the kingdom of God. This kingdom 
is not in heaven, but appears visibly in the Church; it 
grows invisibly and inwardly in the soul, and reaches its 
fulfilment in the blissful life of heaven. The kingdom of 
God on earth is to grow by being extended throughout the 
world, and grow also in the souls of men by merit and grace 
(merito et numero augeatur," Or. sup. pop., Tuesday after 
Passion Sunday). Very probably the first Christians also 
expressed in this petition their desire, for the Parousia: 
Maranatha ("Come, O Lord"). 

"thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" 

The third petition shows the way for the accomplishment 
of the second petition. The kingdom of God will be estab- 
lished on earth, when the will of God is fulfilled. Here is a 
brief expression of the entire import of the commandments. 
To do God's will is to observe all the commandments. His 
holy will, however, is made known to us not only in the com- 
mandments, but also in the directions and dispositions of 
Providence, by our calling, our state in life. We must com- 
ply with the demands made on us by every day, by every 
hour. We must be heroes of the present. Our Lord places be- 
fore us in this petition an ideal for our imitation, the obedi- 
ence of the angels in heaven, who stand constantly before 


God attentive to His every wish. This third petition is an 
explanation and an amplification of the second. It is omitted 
by St. Luke. 

In these first three petitions the Savior has led us to 
God. He has made known to us our individual calling, which 
is the glory of God in the kingdom of God, accomplished 
by the fulfilment of His will. This is the "one thing neces- 
sary." Only now do we come to the petition for bread. Thus 
we find three petitions for the life of the soul, and only one 
for the life of the body. In these three petitions our Lord 
has taken us to heaven; now we return to earth. He does 
not wish us to wander about with our heads among the 
stars ; we must also stand firmly on the earth. It is here on 
earth that we are to do the will of God, in our lowly every- 
day lives. The eye of the Master beholds us, endowed indeed 
with spiritual souls, but garbed in the soiled workaday 
clothes of this earthly pilgrimage. 

Our prayer thus far could have been said by Adam in 
Paradise. But now with the fifth petition we descend into 
the depths of human misery. In the first three petitions we 
ascended into heaven ; in the fourth we stood firmly on the 
earth ; in the last three Christ rescues us from hell. 

"and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those 
who trespass against us" 

We sinful men are daily in need of God's forgiveness. 
In the first place, this petition refers to the venial sins of 
each day, because the Our Father is the prayer of the chil- 
dren of God; but should anyone be in mortal sin, he too 
should pray confidently to God. If we have the firm inten- 
tion to do penance, this petition contains the elements of a 


perfect act of contrition. But our Lord attaches an in- 
dispensable condition to this petition, which He explains 
in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:14) : "For if you 
will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will 
forgive you also your offences." The parable of the un- 
forgiving servant (Matt. 18: 33 f.) is also a commentary 
on this petition. It would indeed become a foolhardy and 
outrageous petition, were we to say the Our Father with 
enmity in our hearts. It would be asking God not to for- 
give us ; it would be calling down upon our heads the punish- 
ment of God, as if we said : "O God, do not forgive me, even 
as I do not forgive." 

"and lead us not into temptation" 

We pray for forgiveness of past sins ; and we pray also 
that we may be preserved from sin in the future. Thus in 
the sixth petition we say : Let not temptation come to us 
(parallel with the second petition : let Thy kingdom come 
to us). We pray either for preservation from temptation, 
if we should be unable to bear it ; or for victory over it, if 
it is unavoidable. In other words : Let us not consent to 
temptation, and guard us against sin. 


Deliver us from sin, and from all that is morally bad. The 
Greek word poneron can be taken either as in the neuter 
gender, meaning evil in general ; or as masculine, referring 
to the Evil One. The meaning is the same : All evil which 
may threaten a child of God, all the effects and consequences 
of sin. Here is the fervent cry of the child of God to be 


liberated from this sin-laden world, and from the fetters 
that weigh it down. It recalls the petition for the kingdom 
of God. This petition is an amplification of the sixth peti- 
tion. It is omitted by St. Luke. 

Let us once more view the whole structure of the Our 
Father. We have in reality but two great petitions and one 
lesser petition. The greater petitions are that we may come 
to possess the kingdom of God, and that we may be de- 
livered from the slavery of the kingdom of sin. Placed be- 
tween these two great concerns of every child of God, is 
that lesser concern for the daily bread. 


Our Father, who art in heaven (the address) 

1. Hallowed be Thy name God's honor 

2. Thy Kingdom come God's kingdom 

3. Thy will be done God's will 

4. Give us this day our daily bread Daily bread 

5. And forgive us our trespasses as we 
forgive those who trespass against 

us Man's sin 

6. And lead us not into temptation Man's temptation 

7. But deliver us from evil Man's evil 

The address breathes forth an ardent and loving trust 
in the heavenly Father. This note of confidence seems to be 
somewhat suppressed in the first three petitions, which are 
three urgent pleas for the attainment of the highest good, 
God's kingdom. The end of man is expressed in the honor, 
the kingdom, and the will of God. The mood of these peti- 


tions is solemn, earnest, pressing, confident ; they are in the 
conversational form, the sentences short, unconnected. The 
tone of the petitions changes after the petition for bread, 
which stands between the prayers for the kingdom of God 
and those for liberation from evil. Man is now praying for 
himself, he is more trusting, more humble, and more ex- 
pansive. The sentences are connected by "but" and "and." 
The third and fifth petitions resemble each other in the 
qualifying clauses "as . . ." 

Christ has given us the model of all prayers. No prayer 
can compare with the Our Father as to form or contents, 
none can compare with it in arrangement or in its exalted 
spirit. All our needs, all our desires are summed up in it 
and placed in the light of the great divine plan. 

The Lord's Prayer is one of the most precious heritages 
bequeathed to us by Christ. Who will count the Our Fa- 
thers that since then have come from the heart of man, by 
day and night, in joy and sorrow, in tribulation and dis- 
tress, in yearning hope, in fervent thanksgiving, in the 
wrestlings with despair, in blissful ecstasy. It was recited 
in the Last Supper chamber ; it is one of the most ancient 
parts of the liturgy ; it was said by St. Peter the Apostle 
in prison, by St. Paul on his journeys, by St. John in com- 
pany with the Blessed Mother. It was heard in the cata- 
combs, in the prisons of the martyrs ; it was the prayer of 
all great saints. The greatest minds, St. Augustine, St. 
Thomas Aquinas, were unable to exhaust its meaning, and 
children stammer it lovingly. Who can measure the heavenly 
strength and power that have come down to earth in an- 
swer to all this pleading. We should, therefore, say the Our 
Father with holiest reverence : the Church says in the Mass : 


audemus dicere ("we venture to say"). Let us always pre- 
pare ourselves for the recitation of this prayer, let us say 
each petition slowly, to the best of our ability exhausting 
the sweet savor of its meaning. 


The Preparation for the Banquet 

Having spoken in general of this last part of the Mass, 
the sacrificial meal, we will now consider its several parts. 
This portion does not, as does the Canon, form an organic 
whole, for the individual parts were added gradually dur- 
ing the course of centuries. As we have already noted, the 
rite of the sacrificial banquet in the ancient Church was 
simple and brief ; it was not considered a separate part of 
the Mass rite, but rather a completion and conclusion of 
the sacrifice. Little by little separate prayers in preparation 
for the holy banquet were introduced. The oldest of these 
prayers is the Our Father. 


a) The rite. The priest sings the conclusion of the Canon 
aloud {Per omnia saecula saecwlorum) , the people answer: 
Amen. The priest continues immediately with the singing 
of the introduction to the Our Father : Or emus. Praeceptis 
salutaribus . . . ("Let us pray. Taught by the precepts 
of salvation, and following the divine commandment, we 
make bold to say"). The priest sings these words with 
folded hands, since they are not a part of the prayer itself. 
Then with hands extended he sings the Our Father, in a 
simple yet impressive melody that has called forth universal 



admiration, while looking on the Host that lies upon the 
altar before him. The last petition, Sed libera . . . ("But 
deliver us from evil") , is sung by the choir or by the people ; 
the priest silently answers: Amen. 

b) Historical. Unfortunately we are unable to determine 
the time and place in which the Our Father came into the 
Mass. The oldest explicit witness attesting the use of the 
Our Father in the Mass in the Eastern Church is St. Cyril 
of Jerusalem (d. 386) ; in the Western Church it is St. 
Augustine (d. 430). In the Catechesis, St. Cyril is ex- 
plaining the Mass to the newly-baptized ; after speaking of 
the Consecration and the following petitions for the living 
and the dead, he continues : "After this we [i. e., the people] 
recite that prayer which the Lord taught His disciples; 
with a pure conscience we call God our Father, and we say : 
'Our Father, who art in heaven.' How exceedingly great is 
God's love for us men ! To those who have fallen away from 
Him into great wickedness, He has granted such complete 
forgiveness of their wrongs, and such a great share in His 
grace, that He even allows them to call Him Father." Then 
the saint explains the several petitions, and in conclusion 
he adds : "At the end of this prayer you say : 'Amen.' By 
this Amen you consent to everything contained in this God- 
given prayer." This description of the rite by St. Cyril is 
found to apply to most of the Eastern liturgies ; the Our 
Father was recited by the people immediately after the 
petitions of the Canon and before the breaking of the 
bread. In the West, according to St. Augustine (Sermo 
58, n. 12 ; Ep. 149, n. 16), the Our Father was almost uni- 
versally recited in the Mass ; generally, however, after the 
breaking of the bread. But the Our Father is not found in 


some ancient Christian liturgies, e. g., in the Apostolic 
Constitutions and in the Ordinances of Hippolytus. 

In the Roman liturgy, apparently the Our Father was 
not part of the rite in the third century (Canon of Hip- 
polytus), nor can we definitely establish when the prayer 
was introduced into the liturgy. In the time of Gregory I, 
it had been accorded its present place, immediately after 
the Canon. Liturgists are unable to ascertain whether, be- 
fore Gregory I, it had a position in the Mass after the 
breaking of the bread, or at some other point of the Mass, 
as in other Western liturgies, e. g., Africa, Milan, and 
Spain. At any rate, Gregory I followed the liturgies of the 
East — St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. James, St. Mark. 

In connection with this question of the Our Father in 
the Mass, we possess a letter written by Gregory I (Ep. 9, 
12) to the Bishop of Syracuse. In this letter the Pope denies 
the insinuation that he had made a number of changes in 
the liturgy in imitation of the Greek liturgies. One of the 
complaints was that he had ordered the Our Father to be 
recited immediately after the Canon. In reply, the Pope 
says : "The Lord's Prayer is recited immediately after the 
Canon (post precem), because it was a custom of the 
Apostles to consecrate the offerings only when this prayer 
was also recited (ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem obla- 
tionis hostiam consecrarent) . It also seemed most inappro- 
priate to me, to recite at the sacrifice a prayer which was 
composed by some learned person, and to omit the recitation 
of the prayer which our Savior Himself had composed, in 
the sacrifice of His body and blood." When Gregory says 
that it was a custom of the Apostles to consecrate the offer- 
ings during the recitation of the Our Father, we must un- 


derstand the word "consecrate" in its more general sense 
of "bless" and not in our sense of "change." Gregory's first 
reason, therefore, was the practice of the Apostles ; his sec- 
ond reason (congruentia) was the lack of fitness in reciting 
a prayer of human authorship at the sacrifice, while omit- 
ting a prayer composed by the Savior Himself. 38 There 
was, moreover, an opinion prevalent during the early ages 
of the Church and also during the Middle Ages, that the 
Our Father possessed the power of consecration. 

An introduction to the prayer is common in all the litur- 
gies of the East and the West, expressive of the sacred and 
venerable character of this prayer. The introduction is 
mentioned by St. Jerome (Contra Pelag., 3, 15). In some 
liturgies (e. g., the Gallican), the introduction is variable 
according to the feasts. 

c) The significance of the Our Father in the Mass. Its 
position in the Mass, immediately after the Canon, is suf- 
ficient witness to the great reverence which the Church has 
for this prayer. This reverence is expressed in the prefatory 
words. They sound almost like an apology : in our unworthi- 
ness we dare not utter this prayer; we rely solely on our 
Lord's express command: "When you pray, say . . ." 
(Luke 11 : 2). Thus it is a prayer offered in the name of 
Jesus, i. e., at His command. To recite this prayer is the 
special privilege of Christians, who alone are permitted to 
call God their Father. It is, then, with profound reverence 
that the priest invites us to say the Our Father, when he 
says : Or emus. 

In attempting to give the reason for the Our Father's 
position here at the beginning of the sacrificial meal, let 

ss Cf. Brinktrine, Die hi. Messe. 


us recall the letter of Gregory I. According to the great 
Pope, the Our Father is not so much a preparation for the 
Holy Banquet, as a consecration prayer, in the ancient 
sense of a prayer for the offering of the sacrifice. For this 
reason, in the Roman liturgy, it is recited by the celebrant 
alone, whereas in the Greek liturgy it is considered the table 
prayer of the congregation, who therefore recite it in com- 
mon as a family about to approach the sacred banquet. Ac- 
cording to Gregory I, therefore, the Our Father should be 
considered the completion of the Canon, corresponding to 
the Preface, in such wise that the Preface and the Our Fa- 
ther mark the beginning and the end of the Canon, which 
is recited in mystical silence. 

Notwithstanding this view, it is true that the Our Father 
has reference to the Communion, and should be considered 
the table prayer of the children of God who are about to 
approach the sacrificial meal ; it is the first prayer in prepa- 
ration for Holy Communion, and in early times it was the 
only prayer of preparation. The fourth petition, "Give us 
this day our daily bread," was interpreted by the oldest 
Fathers and writers of the Church (Origen, d. 254 ; Ter- 
tullian, d. 225 ; Cyprian, d. 258) as referring primarily to 
the Holy Eucharist, which is the "daily bread" that pre- 
serves and nourishes the divine life within us. According to 
this interpretation, the Our Father is most appropriate at 
the beginning of this part of the Mass. It is as though we 
assembled about the holy table, as members of the great re- 
ligious family, and recited our table prayer. 

The other petitions of the Our Father also have reference 
to the Communion of the Mass. As the prayer expresses all 
our wants and petitions, so, too, it is a summary of all the 


graces we may obtain in the holy sacrifice. We may say 
that the fruit of the sacrifice and the effect of Holy Com- 
munion are the fulfilment of the petitions of the Our Fa- 
ther. The petitions of the Lord's Prayer are realized in the 
Eucharist, for by it the kingdom of God is more firmly 
established, and sin and its consequences are removed. This, 
as we know, is the principal content of the Our Father. 

During the Canon we were lifted up, as it were, from this 
realm of time, and we stood with the chanting angels be- 
fore the throne of God. This world, with its cares, its strife, 
its labors, disappeared beneath us. Now during the sacri- 
ficial meal we return again to consider our needs. Again we 
become conscious that we are weak, frail children of earth, 
desperately in need of divine assistance. Again we see about 
us the temptations and sufferings of our everyday lives, 
the consequences of original sin that weigh so heavily upon 
us, all of which is expressed in the word "evil." Thus with 
all our hearts we say in the last petition : "Deliver us from 
evil." We can easily understand why the faithful join in 
this petition ; we can also understand why this petition is 
continued and amplified in the so-called embolism (i. e., 
addition, amplification), the prayer for deliverance. 


a) The Rite. At the end of the Our Father, the priest 
takes the paten, which has been lying to the right under 
the corporal or, covered with the humeral veil, has been 
held by the subdeacon. The priest holds the paten, resting 
its edge on the altar, and says the following prayer, during 
which he makes the sign of the cross with the paten, and 
then kisses it. After a genuflection, he places the Host on 


the paten and, during the last words of the prayer, he 
breaks the Host into three parts, the smallest of which he 
places in the chalice while saying a short prayer for peace. 
The prayer (Libera nos . . .), which we may call the 
prayer for deliverance, is as follows : 

Deliver us, we beseech Thee, Lord, from all evils, past, 
present, and to come ; and by the intercession of the blessed 
and glorious Mary ever virgin, Mother of God, together with 
Thy blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and Andrew, and all the 
saints, mercifully grant peace in our days : that through the 
help of Thy mercy, we may always be free from sin, and safe 
from all trouble. Through the same Jesus Christ Thy Son our 
Lord who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the 
Holy Ghost, one God, forever and ever. 

As we remarked above, this prayer is said silently by 
the priest. Only in the "troubled" Mass, the Missa Prae- 
sanctificatorum on Good Friday, is it said aloud, and then 
it is introduced by Or emus. 

b) Historical. This prayer for deliverance goes back to 
Christian antiquity, being found in all the oldest ordi- 
naries. St. Gregory I knew it; indeed it was he who added 
the name of St. Andrew and the petition for peace ("merci- 
fully grant peace . . ."). Gregory I had a special devo- 
tion to St. Andrew, in whose honor he had built a Bene- 
dictine monastery, where before his election to the papacy 
he had been abbot. During the Middle Ages it was permis- 
sible to add the names of other saints, in any number, after 
the name of St. Andrew. This continuation and amplifica- 
tion of the Our Father is not peculiar to the Roman liturgy ; 
it is found in other liturgies also. In the old Gallican liturgy 
this prayer is variable according to the feast. 


c) Explanatory. The prayer for deliverance is a con- 
tinuation of the last petition of the Our Father ; in it we 
pray to be delivered from all evils. These evils are men- 
tioned in detail ; from past evils, that is, such as come out 
of the past — the consequences of sin and its punishment ; 
from present evils, those now weighing down upon us ; from 
future evils, which through our own fault threaten us in 
the future. Hence our prayer is that every kind of evil may 
be turned away from us. 

In the second part of the prayer we ask for peace "in our 
days." The greatest evil that may threaten the Church is 
the disturbance of its internal and external peace. In sup- 
port of this plea for peace, we call upon the saints. The two 
following clauses explain the nature of this peace: free- 
dom from sin, which is internal peace ; and security from 
all disturbance, which is external peace. The prayer thus 
expresses the petition both negatively and positively ; free- 
dom from all evil and the preservation of the inward peace 
of the soul and the establishment of peace in the Church 
and throughout the world. 

This word "peace" introduces a new thought into the 
Mass. The thought is developed in the succeeding prayers, 
and reaches its climax and conclusion in the kiss of peace. 
This blessing of peace is the most cherished possession of 
the Church. 


While the priest says the concluding formula of the 
prayer for deliverance, he breaks the sacred Host into two 
equal parts, one of which he lays on the paten. From the 
other part he breaks a smaller particle, with which, during 


the solemn Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum ("The peace 
of the Lord be always with you") , he makes the sign of the 
cross three times over the chalice. The people or the choir 
answer : Et cum spiritu tuo. He then allows the small par- 
ticle to fall into the chalice, saying silently : Haec commix- 
tio et consecratio . . . ("May this mingling and hallow- 
ing of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ avail 
us that receive it unto life everlasting. Amen"). After he 
has also placed the second part of the sacred Host on the 
paten, he makes a genuflection ; rising, he strikes his breast 
three times, saying at each of the first two times : Agnus 
Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; the third time, 
in place of miserere nobis, he says: dona nobis pacem 
("Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, 
have mercy on us" ; the third time: "Grant us peace"). In 
Requiem Masses the striking of the breast is omitted, and, 
instead of "have mercy on us," the priest says : "Give them 
rest ; give them rest everlasting." 

b) Historical. Before proceeding to explain these ac- 
tions, let us recall this part of the ancient Roman Mass 
according to the Roman Ordos. In the papal Mass there 
were three fractions and two minglings. The order was as 
follows : The Pax Domini announced the time for the kiss 
of peace, then came the first mingling, when the particle 
reserved from the preceding Mass (called the "sancta") 
was placed in the chalice ; then the kiss of peace. The first 
fraction followed; the pope broke a small particle from 
his Host, leaving it on the altar as the "sancta" for the next 
Mass. While the Agnus Dei was being chanted, the more 
important fraction for the Communion of the clergy and 
the faithful took place. Lastly, the third fraction and the 


second mingling : the pope broke a particle from his Host 
and mingled it in the chalice, saying : Haec commixtio . . . 

Of these various actions, but one fraction and one min- 
gling remain in our Mass. Our mingling is at the point 
where formerly the pope placed the "sancta" in the chalice ; 
the prayer Haec commixtio is from the second mingling. 
The fraction in our Mass takes the place of the first and 
third fractions in the ancient Mass, and probably arose out 
of the custom of placing the "sancta" in the chalice. When 
the custom of reserving the "sancta" was discontinued, a 
particle was broken from the large Host and placed in the 
chalice. 39 

c) The fraction. The breaking of the sacred Host is 
among the most ancient of the actions of our liturgy ; in- 
deed, it was observed at the institution of the Holy Eucha- 
rist at the Last Supper. Since then it has been practiced 
at all times and in all liturgies. It is important to remember 
that the form of bread in use among the Jews was different 
from the form used by us. With us it would not be a break- 
ing of bread, but rather a cutting of bread. Among the 
Jews it was customary to bake round loaves, about the 
size of a plate, and the thickness of a finger. Therefore it 
had to be broken to be eaten. Hence the expression "to 
break bread" meant "to eat." To break the bread was a 
privilege accorded to the father of the family or to the 
guest. A beautiful example of this is given in the scene at 
Emmaus, where Christ was recognized by the breaking of 
the bread. (Luke 24: 35.) At the Last Supper the Lord 
also "broke" the consecrated bread (Matt. 26 : 26 ; Mark 
14 : 22 ; Luke 24 : 30 ; I Cor. 11 : 24), and gave it to His 

»» Cf. Eisenhofer, p. 200. 


disciples. At the multiplication of loaves we are told ex- 
pressly that, "looking up to heaven, he blessed, and broke, 
and gave the loaves to his disciples" to distribute to the mul- 
titude (Matt. 14: 19). The breaking of bread, then, had 
a double meaning : the one practical, the other figurative. 
The breaking was necessary for the meal, and at the same 
time the ceremonial beginning of the meal. We can easily 
understand why in Apostolic times the Eucharistic meal 
was called the "breaking of bread." "Breaking of bread" 
was the first name given to the sacrifice of the Mass. 
(Acts 2: 36, 42; 20: 7, 11.) Since the old form of bread 
was retained for centuries in the Mass, the fraction was an 
important preparation for the holy banquet, and was per- 
manently adopted into all liturgies. The Middle Ages, 
which did not consider the historical development, prefer- 
ring an allegorical interpretation, explained the breaking 
of the sacred Host as signifying Christ's passion and death 
at the hands of the executioners ; and the mingling which 
follows, was interpreted as the resurrection of Christ, in 
which the blood and the soul of our Lord were united with 
His body. (Durandus.) 

In the Roman rite the fraction is into three parts (trace- 
able to the ninth century, Amalarius) . The medieval inter- 
pretation referred to the threefold Church : the triumphant 
(the small particle placed in the chalice) , the militant (the 
first part, which alone was received by the celebrant), and 
the suffering Church (the second part which was reserved 
for the Communion of the sick and dying). In the papal 
Mass even today the pope receives only the first part, the 
second part is received by the deacon and subdeacon. In 
the Mass for the consecration of a bishop or an abbot, the 


second part is received by the one newly consecrated. St. 
Thomas Aquinas (Summa theol., Ill, q. 83, a. 5) has the 
following memory verse : 

Hostia dividitur in partes : tincta beatos 
Plene, sicca notat vivos, servata sepultos.* 

In other liturgies the Host is divided into a greater number 
of parts, with other interpretations. 

In the Greek liturgy the particles are arranged accord- 
ing to a definite design on a plate (diskos) at the beginning 
of the Mass in the proskomide (preparation of the bread 
and wine). The largest particle, marked with a seal and 
known as the "Lamb," is again broken into parts before 
the Communion, and laid on the diskos in the form of a 
cross. In the Mozarabic Rite the division and arrangement 
of the particles is most complicated, and each particle re- 
ceives a name corresponding to some event in our Lord's 
life, e. g., corporatio, nativitas, circumcisio, apparitio, pas- 
sio, mors, resurrectio, gloria, regnum. This ceremony ex- 
emplifies the great difference between the Eastern Church, 
with its exaggerated symbolism, and the Western Church, 
with its moderation and delicate sense of proportion. 

d) The mingling. Before the priest places the particle 
in the chalice, he makes the sign of the cross with it three 
times over the chalice while saying the Pax Domini. The 
sign of the cross is made three times either for emphasis 
or perhaps as a reference to the Holy Trinity. The Pax 
Domini is undoubtedly a continuation of the thought of 

40 "The Host is divided into parts : that which is placed in the chalice 
signifies the saints; the dry part, the living; the part reserved, signifies 
the dead." 


peace expressed in the prayer for deliverance, and an- 
nounces the coming kiss of peace. 

The history of these ceremonies will throw light on the 
significance of the mingling and the kiss of peace. In the 
old papal Masses it was customary, at the beginning of the 
Mass, for two acolytes to bring to the altar a vessel con- 
taining a particle of the Holy Eucharist, remaining from 
a preceding Mass. This particle, called the "sancta," was 
at this part of the Mass placed in the chalice. It was in- 
tended to show the unity and continuity between this sac- 
rifice and that which preceded. Originally this mingling 
served a practical purpose, since the leavened bread, hav- 
ing been reserved for some days, had become hard, and it 
was necessary to soften it in the consecrated wine. In other 
episcopal churches of Rome the so-called fermentum 
(leaven) was here placed in the chalice. The fermentum 
was a consecrated particle which the pope sent to the other 
churches of Rome as a sign of their communion with the 
Holy See. On Saturday before Palm Sunday the pope sent 
the fermentum to neighboring bishops also, for the coming 
feast of Easter. To newly ordained priests the pope likewise 
gave a consecrated Host, from which for eight days they 
broke off particles and mingled them in the chalice. 

With regard to the custom of sending the fermentum, 
the following passages may be of some interest. Eusebius, 
in his Ecclesiastical History (V, 24) relates that Irenaeus 
wrote to the somewhat rigorous Pope Victor, that the pope's 
predecessors had sent the Eucharist to certain bishops from 
Asia Minor then sojourning in Rome, to show the unifying 
bond of the Eucharist, although these bishops observed a 
different practice at Easter. The Council of Laodicea (be- 


tween 343 and 381) attests the prevalence of this custom, 
when in its fourteenth canon it prohibits the sending of the 
Eucharist abroad. A letter of Pope Innocent I to Decentius 
of Gubbio is of some consequence in this question. De- 
centius had written to the Pope to inquire what he should 
do about the practice of sending the Eucharist, which he 
calls the fermentum. In his reply, Pope Innocent described 
the Roman custom, according to which the pope sent the 
Eucharist by acolytes to the priests of Rome who could not 
be present at the papal Mass because of their parochial 
duties. He says further, however, that the Eucharist is not 
sent to the suburbicarian dioceses or to the cemetery basili- 
cas, "because the Eucharist should not be carried for a 
great distance." From the Liber pontificalis 41 it appears, 
that in the sixth century the custom prevailed in Rome and 
in other episcopal cities, of sending the Eucharist from the 
episcopal Mass to the Masses of the priests. The practice 
of sending the fermentum on Holy Thursday was main- 
tained at Rome until the eighth century. 42 

This mingling was intended, therefore, as a sign and a 
symbol of the unity of the Church and the continuity of 
the sacrifice. But the custom had entirely disappeared in 
the ninth century. 

Besides this mingling, in the ancient Church there was 
another mingling, which took place before the pope re- 
ceived Communion under the appearance of bread. A part 
of the Host that he was to receive, was broken off and placed 
in the chalice, with the words : Haec commixtio . . . This 
second mingling is the only one that has remained in our 

4i Duchesne, Liber pont., I, 168, 216. 
42 Duchesne, Origines, p. 488. 


Mass, and after the ninth century it was performed after 
the Pax Domini. The original significance underlying this 
mingling has not as yet been made clear. 

Perhaps the mingling was a preparation for the Com- 
munion of the laity, who received the body of the Lord 
mingled in the precious blood, by means of a small spoon. 
The accompanying words would in that case be appropri- 
ate: "May this mingling and hallowing of the body and 
blood of our Lord Jesus Christ avail us that receive it unto 
life everlasting." The two words "mingling and hallow- 
ing" are perhaps best explained according to the Ambro- 
sian Rite, which has : Haec commixtio consecrati corporis 
et sanguinis ("This mingling of the consecrated body and 
blood of Christ"). This prayer, then, expresses the hope 
that the reception of Holy Communion under both species 
will be a fountain of eternal life to all who communicate. 

The solemn wish for peace, Pax Domini, may have been 
either a public invitation for the kiss of peace, or a form 
of a blessing to be given before the dismissal. Until the time 
of Pius V (d. 1572) the bishops of Germany and France 
(and until the present in Lyons) actually gave a blessing 
with a rather long form before the Pax Domini, which form 
varied according to the feast. In the ancient Gallican rite 
this blessing was also given by priests. It seems that our 
Pax Domini was a blessing and a dismissal of those who 
did not receive Communion, a kind of substitute for Com- 
munion. This blessing, however, seems never to have been 
given at Rome. 

e) The Agnus Dei. At this point in the Mass, the break- 
ing of the Hosts for the Communion of the clergy and the 
people took place ; the Hosts for the laity were also of large 


size. This fraction took considerable time. Since it is a 
fundamental principle of the liturgy, that such pauses 
must be filled in with a chant, the Agnus Dei was sung at 
this time by priests and people. 43 The custom of singing 
the Agnus Dei was introduced during the time of Pope Ser- 
gius (d. 701). Sergius, a Syrian by birth, may have been 
influenced in his choice of the Agnus Dei by the Greek 
liturgy. In the Byzantine Mass the fraction is accompanied 
by a chant, the Koinonikon, which also appears in those 
Western liturgies that came under the influence of the 
Eastern rite, e. g., the Gallican, Mozarabic, and Ambro- 
sian rites. In the Chrysostom liturgy, the priest, while di- 
viding the Host into four parts, says : "The Lamb of God, 
the Son of the Father, is broken and divided, broken and 
yet not divided, eaten at all times and yet not consumed, 
but sanctifying all those who receive Him." The Agnus Dei 
was repeated as long as the fraction lasted, and always 
ended with miserere nobis. Not until a later time (appar- 
ently in the twelfth century), when the fraction was simpli- 
fied, were the repetitions limited to three. The dona nobis 
pacem ("give us peace") after the third Agnus Dei was 
added during a period of great distress in the Church, ac- 
cording to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216). 44 There is, how- 
ever, evidence that it was used during the twelfth century. 

How solemn and profound the reflections which the Ag- 
nus Dei stirs within us ! Here on the altar before us lies 
the sacred Host, broken and mingled for the Holy Banquet. 
"This is my body, which is given for you." Here is the body 
and the blood of our Lord, which He gave on the cross in 

43 Liber pontificalis, I, 376. 

4 *De sacro altaris vnysterio, I, 6, c. 4. 


sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. On the cross the 
divine Lamb of sacrifice took away the sins of the world. 
The same divine Lamb lies upon our altar once more in 
sacrifice, now a mystical victim, prepared for our recep- 
tion in Holy Communion. This present sacrifice is the re- 
enactment of Christ's death upon the cross, and in the 
sacrificial meal we receive the fruit of this sacrifice. This 
fruit is "the taking away of sin" and "the granting of 
peace" to the soul. Let us reflect further that the Agnus 
Dei is placed here in the midst of these prayers for peace. 
To obtain the gift of peace for us, it was necessary for the 
Lamb of God to take issue in battle with the forces of evil, 
and give His life in sacrifice. 


a) The rite. Before priest and people proceed to the 
Holy Table they perform the sacred and touching cere- 
mony of the kiss of peace. After the Agnus Dei, the priest, 
moderately bowed before the altar, says a prayer for peace ; 
then, in the high Mass, he kisses the altar, and embracing 
the deacon at his right (or the presbyter assistens) , he gives 
him the kiss of peace, saying: "Pax tecum" ("Peace be 
with thee"), receiving the answer: "Et cum spiritu tuo" 
("And with thy spirit"). The kiss of peace is then given 
successively to the clergy present, and to the laity by means 
of the Pax-board (Instrumentum pads) . 

b) Historical. The kiss of peace is a very ancient prac- 
tice of Holy Mother Church. St. Peter and St. Paul ex- 
horted the Christians, saying: "Salute one another with 
a holy kiss." The expression appears five times in the 
Epistles (Rom. 16:16; I Cor. 16:10; II Cor. 13:12; 


I Thess. 5: 26; I Peter 5: 14). It was the customary ex- 
pression of fraternal charity among the Christians of 
Apostolic times. Quite naturally, therefore, the practice 
found a place in the liturgy. St. Justin Martyr (d. 165) 
speaks of the kiss of peace in the Mass. In the primitive 
Church, the kiss of peace was given immediately after the 
Mass of the Catechumens, before the offertory procession 
of the faithful, in conformity with our Lord's admonition : 
"If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there 
thou remember that thy brother hath anything against 
thee ; leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first 
to be reconciled to thy brother" (Matt. 5: 23). Since the 
fourth century, however, the kiss of peace has been given 
before the Communion. (Cf. the letter of Pope Innocent I 
to Decentius of Gubbio.) From St. Augustine we learn that 
in the African Church the kiss was given before Com- 
munion : "After the Consecration we say the Lord's Prayer. 
Afterwards the Pax vobiscum is said, and the Christians 
give one another a holy kiss." 45 In the Greek liturgy the 
kiss of peace has remained at the beginning of the Mass 
of the Faithful. Formerly the priest kissed not merely the 
altar, but also the sacred Host, or the chalice, or the paten ; 
and the kiss was given immediately after the Pax Domini, 
which was therefore unmistakably an invitation to receive 
the kiss — the Agnus Dei was not recited by the priest until 
the tenth century. Later the Agnus Dei and another prayer 
for peace were inserted between the Pax Domini and the 
kiss of peace. 

c) Explanatory. The kiss of peace is primarily an ex- 
pression of fraternal charity and a preparation for Holy 

MSermo 227. 


Communion. It is furthermore a sacramental, conferring 
the grace of a still greater purification of the soul. It is 
especially a glorious symbol of the union of Christians 
among themselves and of their union with Christ ; for the 
kiss comes from the altar, which is the symbol of Christ. 
Therefore it is Christ who kisses those who are participat- 
ing in the holy sacrifice. The kiss goes from one to another, 
thus uniting all the faithful most intimately among them- 
selves and with Christ. That mystical union of the faithful 
in Christ, which the holy sacrifice and Communion are to 
accomplish, is beautifully represented in the kiss of peace. 

It is therefore extremely regrettable that the kiss of 
peace has almost entirely gone out of practice. It is only 
rarely, at high Mass, that the faithful see this sign of char- 
ity among their priests ; and they themselves are never al- 
lowed to take part in it. No great obstacles seem to hinder 
the administering of the kiss of peace to the faithful with 
the Pax-board, as the rubrics of the Missal permit. The 
server kneels before the priest and offers him the tablet; 
the priest kisses the altar and then the tablet, saying : Pax 
tecum; the server likewise kisses the tablet, and answers: 
Et cum spiritu tuo; then the server offers the tablet to the 
faithful to be kissed. 

The prayer (Domine Jesu . . .) which the priest re- 
cites before the kiss of peace is a petition for peace: "O 
Lord Jesus Christ, who didst say to Thy Apostles, Peace 
I leave with you, My peace I give unto you ; look not upon 
my sins, but upon the faith of Thy Church ; and vouchsafe 
to her that peace and unity which is agreeable to Thy will ; 
who livest and reignest God forever and ever. Amen." 

The prayer continues immediately from the last words 


of the Agnus Dei, "Grant us peace." We have already re- 
marked that the idea of peace is woven into all the prayers 
from the Our Father to the kiss of peace. Now the priest, 
relying on Christ's promise, prays for peace and unity in 
the Church (the prayer is addressed to our Lord) . The kiss 
of peace is, as it were, the fulfilment of the prayer, at least 
in so far as we are concerned ; it is as if we said : "We will 
do all we can, that peace and harmony may reign in the 

It should be noted also that the kiss of peace and the 
prayer for peace are omitted in Requiem Masses. The 
reason is instructive. The kiss of peace has reference ex- 
clusively to the living ; but in Requiem Masses the grace of 
the sacrifice is applied primarily to the poor souls. In the 
Masses of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday the kiss of 
peace is likewise omitted, though the prayer for peace is 

The ceremony of the breaking of the bread and of the 
mingling, as well as the kiss of peace, teaches us that the 
Holy Eucharist is the most powerful incentive to fraternal 
charity and Christian fellowship and the most effective 
preservative of these virtues. 


The Holy Banquet 

After the table prayer (the Our Father), the prepara- 
tion of the banquet (the fraction and the mingling), and 
the sign of membership in the family (the kiss of peace) , 
the people, being now sanctified, proceed to the sacrificial 
meal. First the priest, the father of the family, partakes 
of it ; then he offers it to the children. 


Although in earlier times the reception of Holy Com- 
munion followed immediately upon the kiss of peace, since 
the Middle Ages a number of prayers have been inserted, 
clearly showing the introduction of subjective piety into 
the objective liturgy. In part they are private prayers of 
the priest, and in part they have arisen from the pro- 
nounced consciousness of sin in the Middle Ages. 

The priest recites the two preparatory prayers in si- 
lence, bowing moderately, and looking upon the sacred 
Host, to increase his devotion. These prayers arose from 
the private Mass and from private devotion. We find them 
in medieval Missals since the eleventh century, in varied 
arrangement and sometimes inserted among other prayers. 
The second prayer was often said after Communion and 
was the ordinary Communion prayer, that is, it was the 
prayer for the fruit of the sacrificial meal. Since the offi- 



cial Missal of Pius V (1570), they have been in their pres- 
ent place, and are a petition for a worthy and blessed re- 
ception of the holy banquet. Since they are in the singular 
number and recited silently, it is evident that they are in- 
tended primarily for the celebrating priest. 

In general we might say of the preparatory prayers, 
that they are like two angels, who accompany us to the 
table of the Lord : the angel of confidence and the angel of 
humility. The first urges us on, the second seeks to keep 
us back. The former joins us in the first prayer, the latter 
in the other. Later the angel of humility says : "O Lord, I 
am not worthy . . . ," but the angel of confidence adds : 
"Say but the word . . ." ; it is he that leads us to the holy 

a) The first prayer (Domine Jesu Christe) . The priest 

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, according 
to the will of Thy Father, through the co-operation of the 
Holy Ghost, hast by Thy death given life to the world, de- 
liver me by this, Thy most holy body and blood, from all my 
iniquities and from every evil ; and make me always cleave to 
Thy commandments, and never suffer me to be separated from 
Thee ; who with the same God the Father and Holy Ghost liv- 
est and reignest God forever and ever. Amen. 

We notice in the first place that this and the following 
prayer are addressed directly to the Son of God, whereas 
the older prayers are addressed to the Father through the 
Son. The address is most solemn : "Son of the living God." 
We are immediately reminded of St. Peter's confession of 
faith : "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." In this 
address, too, there is certainly a fervent confession of faith. 


The participation of each divine Person in the work of the 
redemption is also beautifully expressed : the Father by the 
divine decree, the Holy Ghost by His co-operation, and the 
Son by His sacrificial death, have accomplished the work 
of salvation, have indeed "given [divine] life to the world." 
After the recital of these motives — the structure of the 
prayer is similar to that of the Collects — the priest prays 
for three things: that he may be freed from the guilt of 
sin and from all other evils ; that he may be faithful in keep- 
ing the commandments of God; that he may persevere in 
Christ unto the end. Let us note the earnest spirit of devo- 
tion in the last two petitions : "make me always cleave to 
Thy commandments" (inhaerere, to be rooted in) ; "never 
suffer me to be separated from Thee." We become sepa- 
rated from Christ when we have been broken off from the 
divine vine, when the union of grace has been dissolved. 
This petition is doubly impressive at this moment, when 
the soul is most intimately espoused to Christ in the Holy 
Eucharist. We are asking in these three petitions for the 
fruit of Holy Communion. 

b) The second prayer {Perce ptio corporis) . As the first 
prayer was supported by lowly confidence, so the second 
is penetrated with humility and holy fear : 

Let not the receiving of Thy body, O Lord Jesus Christ, 
which I, all unworthy, presume to take, turn to my judgment 
and damnation : but through Thy loving kindness may it avail 
me for a safeguard and remedy, both of soul and body. Who 
with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, livest and 
reignest God forever and ever. Amen. 

The first thing to strike us in this prayer, is that only 
the body of the Lord is mentioned, nothing being said of 


the precious blood — thus on Good Friday in the Mass of 
the Presanctified this pra}^er alone is said. The reason is 
that originally this prayer was said for the reception of the 
body of Christ only, and another prayer was said for the 
reception of the precious blood. 

The prayer is first a petition for preservation from an 
unworthy Communion, and then for the blessed effects of 
the holy banquet. The first petition is accompanied by the 
priest's humble confession: "Thy body which I, all un- 
worthy, presume to take." With this petition the words of 
St. Paul come to mind: "For he that eateth and drinketh 
unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not 
discerning the body of the Lord" (I Cor. 11 : 29). During 
this petition we should be filled with a salutary fear of an 
unworthy Communion. 

The second petition speaks of the real effects of the Holy 
Eucharist — protection and healing : protection against the 
dangers of soul and body, healing of the wounds of fallen 
nature. The work of sanctification, begun in baptism, but 
not completed, is to be brought to a blessed consummation 
by the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist presupposes that 
our nature is fallen, and that sin is still possible. If baptism 
had restored us to the state of original justice (the state of 
Adam in Paradise), if concupiscence had not remained, 
there would be no need for the healing effect of the Holy 
Eucharist. But baptism and the Eucharist belong to- 
gether ; what the one has begun, the other completes by the 
protection and healing it confers. 

c) The Domine non sum d'ignus. After these two pray- 
ers, the priest genuflects, takes the sacred Host in his left 
hand, saying an ejaculatory prayer, that joyous exclama- 


tion (Panem caelestem . . .) : "I will take the bread of 
heaven, and call upon the name of the Lord." The words 
are taken partly from psalm 115, which was a fervent 
prayer of the Jews in thanksgiving for their liberation 
from the Babylonian exile. According to the ancient text, 
the words "call upon the name of the Lord" are not so much 
petition as praise ; as if to say : "I will receive the bread of 
heaven, while praising the name of the Lord." 

Then the priest bowing before the altar, humbly strikes 
his breast three times, making use of the words of the cen- 
turion of Capharnaum, with some slight change (Matt. 
8:8): "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter 
under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be 
healed." This prayer, too, came into the Missal during the 
Middle Ages as a private devotion. It can indeed be of great 
profit to us, if we call to mind the figure of this noble of- 
ficer. It is as though this Gentile accompanied us each time 
to the table of the Lord. The Church has given him a 
glorious and lasting memorial in these words, and at the 
same time would say to us : "Go to the holy banquet with 
the same humility, the same trust in God and the same 
faith, with the same love of neighbor, with the same fidelity 
to duty, as was shown by the centurion of Capharnaum, 
and you will obtain for your soul what he obtained for his 
servant, and you, too, 'shall sit down with Abraham, and 
Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.' " 


Now the priest receives Holy Communion under both 
species. He places the two halves of the Host one upon the 
other, takes them in his right hand, makes the sign of the 


cross with them, and says: "May the body of our Lord 
Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto life everlasting. Amen." 
Bowing and resting his arms on the altar, he then rever- 
ently receives the bread of heaven. Rising slowly, he folds 
his hands (expressive of interior recollection) and remains 
standing thus for a short time. As the Missal says, "He 
remains for a little while meditating on the most Holy Sac- 

The formula for receiving Holy Communion, which is 
also used for giving Holy Communion to the faithful, dates 
from the eleventh century ; it expresses the desire for the 
most important fruit of Holy Communion, the preserva- 
tion of the soul unto everlasting life. 

The priest rouses himself from the silent meditation of 
this sacred moment, genuflects, and uncovers the chalice, 
to receive the sacred blood of Christ. After gathering to- 
gether from the corporal such particles as may have fallen 
from the sacred Host, and placing them in the chalice, he 
takes the chalice and says : "What return shall I make to 
the Lord for all He hath given unto me? I will take the 
chalice of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. 
Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved 
from my enemies." 

These words, likewise taken from psalm 115, are like an 
effusion, flowing out from the priest's heart, which is filled 
to overflowing with gratitude. They are a mute thanksgiv- 
ing. Words canrrt express the sentiments and emotions of 
the human heart iii this moment. Hence this impotent ques- 
tioning: "What return shall I make to the Lord?" It 
should be emphasized that this is the only thanksgiving 
prayer after Communion ; rarely does the Postcommunion 


contain a thanksgiving. We can therefore hardly speak of 
a thanksgiving after Communion in the Roman liturgy. 

But the priest comes to his own assistance in reply to this 
question. He himself gives the answer : out of gratitude for 
all the graces that have come to him through the body of 
the Lord, he will receive the precious blood. It is only with 
the Lord's own gifts that we can properly thank Him. The 
best thanksgiving we can offer to God is the right use of 
His gifts. 

The priest makes the sign of the cross with the chalice, 
and says : "May the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ keep 
my soul unto life everlasting. Amen." Reverently he re- 
ceives the precious blood ; this time, however, without paus- 
ing in meditation. 


It is the explicit wish of the Church that the faithful 
should receive Holy Communion, neither before nor after, 
but during the Mass, after the Communion of the priest. 
(Ritus celebrandi Missam, X, 6; Rituale Rom., tit. IV, 
c. 2, n. 2.) The faithful exercise their priesthood, that is, 
take that active participation in the holy sacrifice, desired 
by Christ and the Church, in no other way than in the sac- 
rificial meal after the sacrifice has been offered. 

a) Historical. In the ancient Church, where the active 
participation of the faithful was taken for granted, every- 
one received Holy Communion, and indeed under both 
species ; only the penitents (the excommunicated) were ex- 

Two descriptions from the third and fourth centuries 
give us some insight into this practice. The Apostolic Con- 


stitutions (VIII, 13) picture the Communion of the faith- 
ful as follows : 

After all have said "Amen," the deacon says : "Let us at- 
tend." The bishop calls out to the people: "Holy things to 
those who are holy." The people answer : "Thou alone art holy, 
Thou alone art the Lord, Jesus Christ, for the honor of God 
the Father, Thou art praised for all eternity. Amen. Glory to 
God in the highest, peace on earth, among men acclaim, Ho- 
sanna to the Son of David ; blessed is he that cometh in the 
name of the Lord. The Lord God hath also appeared unto us. 
Hosanna in the highest." After this the bishop communicates, 
then the priests, deacons, subdeacons, lectors, chanters, and 
ascetics, and among the women, the deaconesses, the virgins, 
the widows, then the children and all the people according to 
order, with awe and reverence, without disturbance. The 
bishop gives the oblation saying: "The body of Christ." He 
who receives, answers : "Amen." The deacon offers the chalice, 
saying : "The blood of Christ, the chalice of life." He who re- 
ceives, says : "Amen." While Holy Communion is being dis- 
tributed, the thirty-third psalm is recited. 

St. Cyril of Jerusalem describes the reception of Holy 
Communion in his famous mystagogical Catechesis (V, 19— 
22) as follows: 

Afterwards [after the Our Father] the priest says: "Holy 
things to those who are holy." For that indeed is holy, which 
lies here before us, after it has received the descent of the 
Holy Ghost. You too are holy after you have been made 
worthy by the Holy Ghost. But holy things are for those who 
are holy. Then you say : "One is holy, one is the Lord, Jesus 
Christ." For in truth there is but one who is holy by nature. 
We also are holy, not by nature, but by participation and 
mortification and prayer. Then you hear the chanter of the 
psalms, inviting you with a heavenly melody to the Com- 
munion of the holy mysteries, saying: "Taste and see, how 


sweet is the Lord." Let not your judgment be according to 
the material eating, but according to the faith which ex- 
cludes all doubting. For those who taste of it are not said 
to have tasted bread and wine, but the figure of the body and 
blood of Christ. Therefore, when you approach do not put 
forth the flat hand nor spread your fingers apart, but make 
your left hand a kind of throne for the right hand, which is 
to receive the King. Then receive the body of Christ in the 
hollow of your hand, saying : "Amen." After you have sancti- 
fied your eyes by carefully touching them with the sacred 
body, receive it and take great care that nothing be lost. For 
if you shall allow anything to be lost, it is as if you had lost 
a part of your own members. For tell me, if someone should 
give you grains of gold, would you not hold them with the 
greatest care, anxious that nothing should be lost? How much 
more must you exercise care that not the smallest crumb of 
that is lost, which incomparably surpasses the value of gold 
and jewels ! Then, after the Communion of the body of Christ, 
go also to the chalice of the blood ; do not stretch forth your 
hands, but bow down in adoration and veneration, saying: 
"Amen" and sanctify yourself by also receiving the blood of 
Christ. While there is still moisture on your lips, touch them 
with your hands and sanctify your eyes, your forehead and 
the other senses. Then wait for the prayer and give thanks to 
God, who has made you worthy of such great mysteries. 

This sanctification of the senses by touching them with 
the Eucharistic Species, which is also mentioned by other 
Fathers of the Church, was discontinued when the manner 
of receiving Holy Communion was changed. The custom 
of placing the sacred Host on the bare hand of the men, 
and upon a cloth (dominie ale) spread over the hand of the 
women, was observed until after the beginning of the Mid- 
dle Ages ; as late as the ninth century, a council at Rome 
was legislating against the practice. 


b) The present practice. It is the urgent wish of the 
Church, and the point should be stressed, that the faithful 
should receive Holy Communion within the Mass whenever 
that is possible : "The Communion of the people within the 
Mass shall take place immediately after the Communion of 
the celebrating priest (unless, for a reasonable cause, it 
take place immediately before or after the private Mass), 
for the prayers which are said after the Communion in the 
Mass apply not only to the priest but also to the people" 
(Rituale Rom., Tit. IV., c. 2, n. 2). A fundamental aim 
of the liturgical movement is that the people shall be given 
the opportunity to communicate within the Mass, for they 
are really co-offerers and have therefore a right to the 
sacrificial meal during the Mass. We also deprecate the 
abuse by many pious souls of receiving Holy Communion 
before Mass, in order to make a thanksgiving during the 
whole Mass ; in this way the holy sacrifice is degraded to a 
mere devotional exercise. Priest and people must be con- 
vinced that the sacrificial meal belongs to the sacrifice, and 
that it is the fruit and the effect of the holy sacrifice. It 
must become self-evident that they should all partake in 
common of the sacrificial fruit of the common sacrifice. 
Further, it is desirable that the faithful receive Holy Com- 
munion ex hac altaris participatione, i. e., receive Hosts 
which have been consecrated in the present Mass. This, of 
course, cannot always be carried out. We also express the 
wish that Communion be administered to the faithful un- 
der both species. Even in the West, until the thirteenth and 
into the fourteenth century, the laity communicated under 
both kinds, and it was only because of custom, or let us say 
rather because of the decline of the liturgical life and of 


the active participation of the people in the liturgy, that 
it was discontinued. The liturgical revival may indeed be 
permitted to strive for a restoration of this ancient Chris- 
tian practice. Pope Pius X has paved the way; he per- 
mitted Roman Catholics to receive Communion under both 
species in the Greek Rite, and at any time, merely for the 
sake of devotion. (Canon 866.) 


Immediately after receiving the precious blood, the 
priest prepares the Hosts for the Communion of the faith- 
ful. Meanwhile the server spreads the communion cloth 
(unless there is one already on the communion rail), and 
recites the Confiteor, the confession of sins, for the faith- 
ful ; they themselves may recite it in common. After a genu- 
flection, the priest turns to the people and, with folded 
hands, says the Misereatur vestri, and then the Indulgen- 
tiam while imparting a blessing. Turning again to the altar 
he genuflects, takes a particle, holding it a little above the 
paten or ciborium. He turns to the people and in a clear 
voice says in Latin: Ecce Agnus Dei . . . ("Behold the 
Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the 
world") . Then he says three times : Domine non sum digitus 
. . . ("Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter un- 
der my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be 
healed") . He now gives holy communion, first to the minis- 
ters ; priests and those in sacred orders receive kneeling on 
the steps of the altar (priests and deacons wear a white 
stole, or one of a color corresponding to the vestments of the 
celebrant) . The priest gives the Blessed Sacrament to each 
one, making a sign of the cross with the Host and saying : 


"May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep thy soul unto 
life everlasting. Amen." "When he has distributed Holy 
Communion, he returns to the altar without saying any- 
thing, nor does he give the blessing (which is given outside 
of Mass), because he will give it at the end of the Mass" 
(Rituale, Tit. IV, c. % n. 12) . He continues the Mass. The 
Ritual and the rubrics of the Missal mention that one or 
more vessels with wine and water may be prepared, and 
offered to the faithful by the server after Communion for 
the purification of the mouth. This practice is almost en- 
tirely unknown to us. 46 

A word might be said about the Confiteor before the 
Communion of the faithful. The practice of saying the 
Confiteor, the absolution formulas, the Agnus Dei, and 
the more recent Domine non sum dignus, came into the 
Mass during the fourteenth century, from the rite of Com- 
munion for the sick, and from the Communion rite outside 
of Mass. In the Communion of the sick, this practice is well 
founded, because the Communion rite for the sick repre- 
sents an abbreviated Mass, which begins with the Confiteor 
and closes with the blessing by the priest. The fact that 
this practice has broken into the Mass, was possible only 
because since the Middle Ages the people no longer knew 
of the active participation in the Mass ; otherwise the Con- 
fiteor recited at the beginning would have been considered 
sufficient. At any rate, it becomes difficult today for the 
layman who has joined in the prayers of the priest, to de- 
scend again into the depths of the Confiteor after his soul 

46 The new Missal prescribes as follows in the Bitus servandus : "The 
server shall carry in his right hand a vessel with wine and water, in his 
left hand a cloth, and following the priest, he presents the purification, 
and the cloth for wiping the lips" (Ritus servandus, X, 6). 


has been lifted up to the fellowship of the saints in the Mass 
of the Catechumens, and yet more in the Mass of Sacri- 
fice, especially in the Canon. The Ritual says expressly 
that the blessing by the priest is to be omitted after the 
distribution of Holy Communion in the Mass, "because 
the priest will give it at the end of the Mass." We can 
logically reach a similar conclusion with regard to the 
Confiteor; since the server says it at the beginning of 
the Mass in the name of the people, it should not be 
here repeated. According to present prescriptions, a dis- 
tinction is made between the co-celebrating priests and 
other communicants. The former (at the consecration of 
a bishop, blessing of an abbot, ordination of a priest) do 
not recite the Confiteor, while all others must do so. It is 
indeed improper to remonstrate against the prescriptions 
of the Church now in force, and all such directions should 
be observed with the greatest fidelity ; yet it is within the 
scope of the liturgical movement to point out such liturgi- 
cal practices which are less essential than others. We 
might remark here, that the custom of receiving Com- 
munion standing lasted until the seventeenth century. 
This is perhaps a more appropriate position for a meal 
than kneeling is ; the most ancient custom was to sit at 
table for Holy Communion. 

c) The Communio. After the purification of the chal- 
ice, the priest recites, at the Epistle side, an antiphon 
called the Communio. At high Mass the choir sings it 
after the Communion of the priest and during the Com- 
munion of the faithful. This short chant is a relic of the 
longer Communion chant of the ancient Church. We have 
already learnt that during the Communion of the faith- 


fill the thirty-third psalm was sung, principally because 
of the verse : "O taste and see that the Lord is sweet." In 
Greek the word we translate "sweet" is chrestos. This 
word chrestos in ordinary speech was often pronounced 
as christos, and thus we have a play on words : "O taste 
and see that it is Christ the Lord." For a long time in 
the early Church this psalm was the only Communion 
chant. In the West, mention is first made of a Communion 
chant b}^ St. Augustine (Retract., %, c. 11) ; very prob- 
ably at that time the Roman Church also had such a 
chant. The oldest written witnesses of the Roman liturgy 
have handed down to us the Communio as a psalm chant, 
sung in the same manner as the Introit. In fact, different 
psalms were chosen, in accord with the feast or the ec- 
clesiastical season ; as a rule, however, it was the psalm of 
the Introit. The antiphon was sung by the first choir of 
the schola, and repeated by the second choir (in earlier 
times by the people) ; then the first verse of the psalm by 
the first choir, and the antiphon repeated by the second 
choir; and thus it continued as long as the Communion 
of the faithful lasted. The Communio was therefore orig- 
inally a processional chant of the faithful, proceeding to 
the holy banquet. Like the Offertory chant, it was in- 
tended to maintain pious sentiments among the people. 

As to the contents of the Communio, we cannot exactly 
say that all these chants refer directly to the Holy Eu- 
charist; perhaps merely the older chants express the 
thought of the feast or of the season. On the feasts of 
the saints, however, they generally refer to the particular 
saint. Often it is the Communio which calls attention to the 
mystical action of the Mass. Sometimes it brings the prin- 


cipal verse of the Gospel into relief, as if to say that it has 
been mystically enacted in the Mass. 

Since, during the course of the Middle Ages, the Com- 
munion of the faithful became more infrequent during 
the Mass, the liturgical Communion chant dwindled more 
and more, until at last only the antiphon without the 
chant remained (in the Introit the first verse with the 
Gloria Patri remained, but here not even that much). 
Today the Communio is not considered to be a chant at 
all, and it is recited by the priest after the completed 
sacrificial meal. It has thereby lost much of its meaning 
and significance, and with it the Mass again has suffered 
the loss of a great part of its drama and life. 

Recently during papal Masses the Communio has been 
sung with the psalm. The latest regulations permit the 
psalm to be sung in the chanted Mass. I know of liturgi- 
cal communities (abbeys) where this is done every day 
during the Communion procession of those partaking in 
the Mass. How touching the Communio will often be as 
it is constantly repeated and woven into the psalm! In 
liturgical Masses sung by the people, and during the so- 
called general Communions, the old Communion chant 
might be revived even in the vernacular. 

In this way we will also find the key for a better and 
deeper appreciation of the Communion verses. For the 
Communio, to be understood, must be studied in the light 
of its accompanying psalm. We must keep in mind that 
the chant accompanied the distribution of Holy Com- 
munion. Lastly, we must not overlook the reference to the 
mystical action which is the essence of the Mass rite. 

How, it may be asked, shall we find the particular 


psalm which corresponds to the Communio? If the Com- 
munio is the verse of a psalm, then that particular psalm 
was chanted, with this verse as the antiphon. When the 
Communio is not the verse of a psalm, but is taken from 
some other book of the Holy Scripture, then the psalm 
of the Introit was selected for the Communio. In such in- 
stances this psalm is the principal theme, with which the 
action of the Mass begins and ends. I have found very 
few exceptions to this rule. In the identical Communio 
of the twenty-third and twenty-fourth Sundays after 
Pentecost, instead of the Introit psalm, the De profundis 
(Ps. 129) is sung, appearing also in two other parts of 
that Mass, in the Alleluia and in the Offertory. 

Let us illustrate this deeper significance of the Com- 
munio in the light of several examples. 

In a number of Masses the entire psalm is a fitting 
Communion hymn, or at least is appropriate for the holy 
banquet. Thus, for instance, in the Mass for the Vigil 
of Christmas, the twenty-third psalm is a Communion 
prayer, uniting in itself the thought of the Feast of 
Christmas: "Who shall ascend into the mountain of the 
Lord : or who shall stand in his holy place ? The innocent 
in hands, and clean of heart. ... Be ye lifted up, O 
eternal gates . . . and the King of glory shall enter 
in . . ." Here in the sacrificial meal we are already cele- 
brating Christmas. On the third Sunday of Lent, the 
entire eighty-third psalm is a beautiful Communion 
prayer: "How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of 
hosts ! My soul longeth and f ainteth for the courts of the 
Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living 
God . . ." On the fourth Sunday of Lent, psalm 121 


is a pilgrims' chant, which tells, in the fullest Christian 
sense, of love for the Church and for her treasure, the 
Holy Eucharist. On the Saturday after the fourth Sun- 
day in Lent, we sing the Good Shepherd psalm (2£) ; 
how beautifully the thought of the hymn is amplified 
when we sing of the Good Shepherd, and of the Host in 
the Holy Eucharist! On Palm Sunday we chant that 
lament of the Mount of Olives : "My father, if this chalice 
may not pass away . . ." and the psalm of the passion 
(21), in which David pictures the deep humiliation of 
Christ in His passion. On Low Sunday, Pentecost Monday, 
and Corpus Christi, we sing with the antiphon the eightieth 
psalm, in which are foretold the blessings of the kingdom 
of God, including the Holy Eucharist : "He fed them with 
the fat of wheat, and filled them with honey out of the 
rock." On the eighth Sunday after Pentecost the ancient 
Communion psalm (33) with its significant antiphon is 
chanted: "O taste and see that the Lord is sweet . . ." 
How powerful is the effect of this psalm with the con- 
stantly repeated antiphon at the moment of the sacri- 
ficial meal of the faithful! The psalm De profundis is 
also exceedingly touching as a Communion hymn, ex- 
pressing now the ardent longing for redemption, and 
now hope and confidence: "He shall redeem Israel from 
all his iniquities," redeem it, indeed, by the Holy Eu- 

We now give some examples in which there is reference 
to the accompanying action, the Communion. On Low 
Sunday the Communio is taken from the Gospel of the 
unbelieving Thomas : "Bring hither thy hand and see the 
print of the nails . . ." In the early Church, the faith- 


ful stretched forth their right hand to receive on it the 
body of the Lord; this Communio therefore meant much 
more to them than to us. In the Communio of the eigh- 
teenth Sunday after Pentecost, we read : "Bring up sacri- 
fices and come into his courts"; but in the early Church 
the words had another meaning, implying: "Come for- 
ward to receive the Hosts, and enter into . . ." They 
were really an invitation to receive Holy Communion. 

How glorious in the Mass of virgins (Dilexisti) is the 
exhortation addressed to us, who are likened to the 
prudent virgins : "Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye 
forth to meet him"! These words are woven into the 
bridal hymn of the Church (Ps. 44). In the Mass (Salve 
sancta) of the Blessed Virgin, we sing during the time 
of the sacred banquet: "Blessed, the body of the Virgin 
Mary, which bore the Son of the eternal Father." This 
word is fulfilled in us during the holy banquet, and we 
become like the Mother of God. Here, too, we weave this 
sublime verse into the bridal hymn of the Church; it is 
our mystical espousal with Christ. In the Mass of a doc- 
tor of the Church, we see in the person of the celebrant 
the holy doctor present before us ; during the distribution 
of holy Communion he is indeed "the faithful and wise 
steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give 
them their measure of wheat in due season," the wheat, 
which is the Holy Eucharist. 

Finally we give two examples in which a sentence of 
the Gospel is sung in the Communio. On Good Shepherd 
Sunday, during the Communion procession we sing: "I 
am the good shepherd, alleluia; and I know mine, and 
mine know me, alleluia, alleluia." This Communio means 


that this figure of the shepherd has been realized in our 
regard in the Holy Eucharist; especially this mutual 
"knowing," in that most intimate union of Christ and 
our souls. On the fourth Sunday after Easter, the prin- 
cipal verse of its tragic Gospel is repeated in the Com- 
munio: "When he the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, is 
come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, 
and of judgment." We may ask, what relation have these 
words to Holy Communion? It is important to remember 
that we must not look always for a direct relation to 
Communion in the older Masses; in them the Communio 
often refers to the sacrifice as a whole. Only in recent 
times has the Communion come to be of separate impor- 
tance; formerly it was considered as the continued action 
of the Mass. With this in mind, we will grasp the sig- 
nificance of this Communio. The operation of the Holy 
Ghost in the world will be manifested especially in the 
Holy Eucharist; the divine life which Christians draw 
from the Eucharist and which the Holy Ghost bestows 
on us, will convince and overcome the world. 


After the Sacrificial Meal 

After the sacrificial meal the celebration of Mass is 
quickly concluded, in striking contrast to the devout in- 
clinations of the people and present-day piety, according 
to which one should remain as long as possible in thanks- 
giving after Communion. There is, however, a sound psy- 
chological reason for this rapid conclusion. We may see 
in it the realism of early Christian piety, which did not 
stress the thanksgiving in word, but translated it into 
action. The heavenly bread that had been received in 
Holy Communion was to exercise an influence on the lives 
of the Christians, consecrating their labors, their ambi- 
tions, their joys and sufferings, their affections and their 
emotions ; and the thanksgiving was extended throughout 
the day. 


St. Cyril of Jerusalem had already impressed upon 

the communicants that nothing*, not even the smallest 

particle, of the body of the Lord should be lost. This 

precaution is echoed today in the prescriptions of the 

Roman Missal. It is prescribed that the celebrant shall 

carefully gather the particles of the sacred Host from 

the corporal and the paten, even before receiving the 

precious blood, and shall receive them with the chalice. 



The priest is further directed, after receiving the chalice, 
to purify his mouth with wine, and then, with wine and 
water, to wash the consecration fingers (with which he 
has touched the sacred Host), and to consume the purifi- 
cation as well as the ablution. This careful procedure 
reminds the priest, and the people too, how sacred are 
those things which they have just received, and gave rise 
to appropriate prayers. 

The first of these prayers (Quod ore sumpsimus . . .) 
recited at the purification, is as follows : "Grant, Lord, that 
what we have taken with our mouth we may receive with 
a pure mind; and that from a temporal gift may it be- 
come for us an eternal remedy." The priest prays to God 
the Father, that He may give to all those who have com- 
municated, the grace to embrace with a pure soul, with 
all its effects of grace, what they have received sacra- 
mentally with their mouths, so that this precious gift be- 
stowed on these earthly pilgrims (munus temporale) may 
become for them an eternal remedy. Note the contrasting 
expressions in this prayer: mouth and soul; temporal 
gifts and eternal remedy. The Communion of the mouth 
must be followed by a communion of the soul, otherwise 
this earthly gift will not have an eternal effect. 

This prayer is very old and is found in all the Sacra- 
mentaries, even in the Leonine (sixth century) ; not in- 
deed ^,s a purification prayer, for such a prayer was 
unknown in the first thousand years, but as a Postcom- 
munio. As a matter of fact, it is still the Postcommunio 
for the Thursday of Passion week. During the tenth and 
eleventh centuries this prayer was the ordinary Post- 


communio, being recited before the variable Postcom- 
munio. {Or do IV.) 

During the Middle Ages the purification and the ablu- 
tion were carried out in various ways, sometimes with 
wine, and again with water alone ; the water used for the 
ablution of the fingers was not consumed, but frequently 
poured into the piscina. 

The second prayer (Corpus tuum . . .), at the ablu- 
tion of the fingers, is as follows : "May Thy body, Lord, 
which I have received, and Thy blood winch I have drunk, 
cleave to my bowels; and grant that no stain of sin may 
remain in me, whom Thy holy sacraments refreshed ; who 
livest and reignest world without end. Amen." 

Nothing shall be permitted to adhere to the fingers, the 
mouth, and the chalice, but the priest prays our Lord that 
His flesh and blood may cleave always to his innermost 
parts (in visceribus, i. e., not his body, but the innermost 
parts of his soul), and that, as a consequence, no blemish 
of sin will remain in him, who has been nourished by this 
pure and holy Sacrament. The species will soon disap- 
pear, but the operation of the Sacrament is to be lasting, 
taking away the stain of sin. As salt keeps off corrup- 
tion, so may the Eucharist prevent the corruption of sin. 

This rayer is first found in the eleventh century, 
originating in the private devotion of the Middle Ages (a 
prayer in the first person singular, addressed to Christ). 

After the purification and the ablution, the chalice is 
again covered with the veil and, in solemn Mass, is then 
removed. The celebrant has meanwhile gone to the Epistle 
side to say the Communio. It is understood, of course, 


that in olden times the Communio was chanted by the 
people or the choir, and was not recited by the priest. In 
this place, after the Communion is at an end, the Com- 
munio, abbreviated to a very short verse, has scarcely any 
significance. It is like a fossil, which tells of life in some 
time past, at the same time constantly reminding the 
liturgist that the Communion of the people really belongs 
to the Mass. 


The priest returns to the middle of the altar. After 
kissing it, he turns toward the people to invite them to 
join in the official Communion prayer; this is the mean- 
ing of the Dominus vobiscum in this place. He goes again 
to the Epistle side, and there, with ceremonies similar to 
those observed at the Collect {Or emus, extended hands, 
turning to the cross), he says the so-called Post communio, 
a prayer for the enduring fruit of Holy Communion. 
This prayer, with the Collect and the Secret, belongs to 
the oldest parts of the Roman Mass (found in the Sacr. 
Leon.). Formerly it was called (Oratio) Ad complendum, 
or Complenda, with reference to the concluding of the 

A solemn prayer after Communion is found in all 
liturgies. Whereas in the East the predominant idea is 
that of thanksgiving for the Sacrament, in the Roman 
Mass the petition that the graces of the Sacrament may 
be efficacious comes to the fore. In the Oriental rites this 
prayer is not variable; the Communion prayer, change- 
able according to the feast, is a specifically Roman pe- 


The construction of the Postcommunio is not quite as 
uniform as that of the Collect. As a rule the prayer pro- 
ceeds from the thought that all who have participated in 
the Mass have also communicated and have thereby re- 
ceived extraordinary graces, "refreshed with heavenly 
food and drink" (Feast of St. John), or "filled with holy 
gifts" (Feast of St. Anastasia). Upon this grace, so 
worthy of thanks, the priest builds new petitions for bless- 
ings, both natural and supernatural, as they may be sug- 
gested by the thought of the feast or of the season. Very 
few prayers contain a formal act of thanksgiving. Such 
an exception is the Postcommunio for the Feast of St. 
Silvester (December 81) : "Grant, we beseech Thee, al- 
mighty God, that, while we thank Thee for the gifts we 
have received, we may, through the intercession of blessed 
Silvester, Thy confessor and pontif, obtain still greater 
benefits." (See also the Ember Friday of September.) 
This prayer is also helpful for a correct understanding 
of Holy Communion. Whereas modern piety is more con- 
scious of the personal presence of Christ, the liturgical 
Communion prayers speak constantly of the reception of 
a holy Thing (Sancta). In the prayer just quoted, "still 
greater benefits" are asked for, namely, the blessings of 
heaven. The Eucharist confers grace, but we await the 
glory of heaven, which is a greater good. The Postcom- 
munio for the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension 
is also very beautiful: "Grant, we beseech Thee, Lord, 
that we who are nourished with sacred gifts, may ever abide 
in thanksgiving." 

The petitions of the Postcommunio either refer to this 
earthly life, or look forward to the life beyond. In the 


former instance they pray for strength to keep God's 
commandments : "Make us, we beseech Thee, ever to obey 
Thy commandments" (twentieth Sunday after Pentecost) ; 
"Teach us to despise the things of earth and to love those 
of heaven" (second Sunday of Advent). Sometimes they 
look to the life of heaven, and pray for its glory : "Grant 
us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, that we may have to the full 
that eternal enjoyment of Thy Godhead, which is pre- 
figured by Thy precious body and blood which we receive 
in this present life" (Feast of Corpus Christi). 

The Postcommunio ends with the usual formulas (as 
in the Collect), to which the people answer: "Amen." 

On the week days of Lent a prayer of similar structure 
follows the Postcommunio, the so-called oratio super 
populum, the prayer over the people. It is introduced by 
the ancient exhortation of the deacon to the people: Hu- 
miliate capita vestra Deo ("Bow your heads before God") . 
This shows it to be an old benediction prayer. In earlier 
times this prayer was said also on the Sundays of the 
pre-Lenten season (Gelasianum), and on the Feast of the 
Purification (Gregorianum). The origin of this benedic- 
tion prayer has not yet been clearly established. Amalar, 
a liturgical writer of the Middle Ages (d. 857), calls it 
the benedictio ultima, the "last blessing," since the bless- 
ing of our Mass rite did not at that time belong to the 
liturgy of the Mass. Perhaps, too, this prayer is fashioned 
after the model of the old Oriental liturgies. In the Apos- 
tolic Constitutions (VIII, 15, 6), before the last benedic- 
tion prayer of the bishop, the deacon called out to the 
people: "Bow down before God, through His Son Christ, 


and receive the blessing." The gradual disappearance of 
this prayer was caused perhaps by the later introduction 
of the blessing after the Ite, missa est. At all event} the 
oratio super populum is a very ancient part of the liti irgj . 



At present the Mass concludes with the dismissal, the 
blessing, and the last Gospel. In olden times the Ite, missa 
est ended the divine worship; not until the Middle Ages 
(eleventh century) were the prayer Placeat and the bless- 
ing added. The Last Gospel is the most recent addition 
to the Mass, appearing sporadically in the thirteenth 
century. Until the time of Pius V it was frequently re- 
cited on the way to the sacristy, as even now in the pon- 
tifical rite. (Caer. Ep., 2, c. 23, n. 9.) 

a) The dismissal. It was an ancient custom to close 
an assembly with a formal dismissal. In earlier times, in 
these matters men possessed a more refined sense of form, 
which they expressed precisely in these classical acclama- 

In the Early Church, Ite, missa est ("Go, you are dis- 
missed") was the only dismissal, which since then the 
deacon has announced, and to which the people answered : 
Deo gr atias ("Thanks be to God"). This response was a 
concise and fervent thanksgiving for the graces received 
during the holy sacrifice. In the mind of the early Chris- 
tian this formal dismissal was something so characteristic 
and significant of the whole rite that it led to the name 
given the holy sacrifice: missa, "Mass." 

Even at first the Ite, missa est possessed a solemnity; 



it was announced only at a bishop's Mass and stood in 
a certain relationship to the Gloria in excelsis, which of 
course only the bishop could intone. This relationship has 
remained up to the present day ; we still have the rule that 
the Ite, missa est is used only in those Masses in which 
the Gloria is said or chanted. 

In Masses that have no Gloria, ever since the eleventh 
century it has been customary to use the dismissal of the 
Breviary: Bene die amus Domino ("Let us bless the 
Lord"). The usual explanation, that this dismissal im- 
plies an invitation to the following recitation of the Hours, 
seems not altogether tenable, because on penitential days 
the Hours did not follow the Mass. 

The Requiescant in pace . . . Amen was later incor- 
porated into Requiem Masses. Since in these Masses the 
references to the living and blessings for the living (such 
as the kiss of peace, the blessing, Agnus Dei) are omitted 
so far as possible, this is quite logical. All three of these 
acclamations are introduced by the kissing of the altar 
and the usual greeting to the people. 

We may offer an edifying observation on the Ite, missa 
est. It may be considered a formal commission given to 
the faithful: Go, and begin now to celebrate the Mass in 
your lives; carry out your mission. It is as though the 
Church wished to say: "You have received the graces of 
the holy sacrifice; now you must make use of them in 
showing yourselves as Christians in your labors and suf- 
ferings, by your patience and charity." 

b) The Placeat. This solemn dismissal logically con- 
cludes the celebration of Mass. The following parts are 
clearly later additions. Among them is first the priest's 


concluding prayer (Placeat), which he recites silently, 
bowed before the middle of the altar: "May the homage 
of my service be pleasing to Thee, O Holy Trinity; and 
grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have 
offered in the sight of Thy Majesty, may be acceptable 
to Thee: and through Thy mercy win forgiveness for me 
and for all those for whom I have offered it. Through 
Christ our Lord. Amen." Conscious of his own un worthi- 
ness, the priest once more beseeches the Holy Trinity 
graciously to accept the sacrifice which he has offered. 
This is an admonition for all to examine their consciences 
as to how they have celebrated the holy sacrifice. 

c) The last blessing. After this prayer the priest kisses 
the altar, raises his eyes and his hands to God, as if to 
receive the blessing from above, and from Christ (the 
altar). He turns to the people and (except in Requiem 
Masses), making the sign of the cross, bestows the holy 
blessing, saying: "May Almighty God bless you, Father, 
and Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen." In pontifical Mass this 
blessing is even more solemn, since the following verses 
are sung before it: Sit nomen Domini benedictum 
("Blessed be the name of the Lord") ; Ex hoc nunc et 
usque in saeculum ("From this time forth for evermore") ; 
Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini ("Our help is in 
the name of the Lord") ; Qui fecit caelum et t err am 
("Who hath made heaven and earth"). Thereupon the 
bishop or abbot bestows the blessing, with miter and staff, 
as in the plenitude of the power of his office. 

In this blessing of the triune God, there is once more 
a summarizing of the graces of the holy sacrifice ; it is the 
blessing of the Father, who gave His Son for us; the 


blessing of the Son, who died for us on the cross, and 
whose sacrifice we have even now offered up ; the blessing 
of the Holy Ghost, who preserves in us that divine life 
which has been imparted to us in the Eucharist. This 
blessing is the farewell benediction of the Father bestowed 
on His children, who are about to go out into an alien 
world, out to their daily labor. 

Here we may recall a scene from the life of our Lord. 
Before His ascension He visited His disciples in the Up- 
per Room. There He ate with them and addressed His 
last words to them. Then He led them to the Mount of 
Olives. There He lifted up His hands for the last bless- 
ing ; and blessing them, He ascended before their eyes into 
heaven. The disciples stood there as if transfixed, until 
two angels appeared to them and brought them back to 
the present, and reminded them of their mission. Some- 
thing similar to this takes place here in the Mass. During 
the holy sacrifice the Lord was in our midst; now He 
leaves us as in that holy mystery ; He departs from us as 
He gives us His blessing. But the Ite, missa est of the 
deacon recalls us to the harshness of this everyday life, 
and sends us out to the Mass of our lives. 

The blessing probably arose from the episcopal bless- 
ing which the pope or the bishop imparted as he went 
from the altar to the secretarium. 

d) The last Gospel. The practice of reciting another 
Gospel at the end of the Mass was entirely unknown in 
the early Church; and it would have offended the early 
Christians' sense of proper form. Indeed this Gospel, the 
prologue of the Gospel of St. John, is not so much an 
announcement as it is a prayer ; let us say, a kind of ex- 


orcism. It was thus that it came to be at the end of the 
Mass. During the Middle Ages, the prologue of St. John's 
Gospel was accorded the efficacy of a sacramental ; there- 
fore priests returning from the altar often recited it at 
the request of the faithful as a protection against all 
evils. Even today this prologue is used as a prayer for 
good weather. 

This Gospel, adopted into the liturgy of the Mass, is 
the abridgment and summary of all those things we have 
received in the holy sacrifice : "The Word was made flesh, 
and dwelt among us ; and we saw His glory, the glory 
as it were of the only-begotten of the Father, full of 
grace and truth." These words have been verified in the 
most sublime manner in the celebration of the Mass. Deo 
gratias ("Thanks be to God") is the response of our 
grateful hearts. 


The Prologue of St. John 

Since the holy sacrifice of the Mass concludes with the 
prologue of St. John's Gospel, we present here an exegesis 
of it. All who have attempted an explanation of the in- 
troduction of the Gospel of St. John, have extolled its 
sublimity; but, at the same time, they are obliged to ad- 
mit that it contains many difficulties. 

"Like a mighty portal, supported by massive pillars, 
the prologue stands before the temple of the Gospel of 
St. John. In brief, succinct phrases, it erects the structure 
of its revelations. It is a hymn, not only by reason of the 
heavenly beauty of its content, but also in its external 
form. The simple forms of Hebrew poetry, the thetic and 
antithetic parallelism of ideas and verses, the strophe-like 
structure of the whole, should not be lost sight of." 47 

We give first the translation, with the division into 
strophes ; 

I. Christ before the creation of the world. 

In the beginning was the 

Word, a) eternal 

and the Word was with 

God, b) with God 1. God 

and the Word was God : c) divine 

the same was in the begin- 
ning with God. 

47 Cf . Tillmann. 




All things were made by 

and without him was made 

nothing that was made. 
In him was life, 
and the life was the light 

of men; 
and the light shineth in 

and the darkness did not 

comprehend it. 

II. The precursor. 

There was a man sent 
from God, whose name 
was John; 

This man came for a wit- 

to give testimony of the 
light, that all men 
might believe through 

He was not the light, but 
was to give testimony 
of the light. 

III. His coming into the world. 
There came into the world 

the true light, 
which enlighteneth every 

£. Creator 



8. Redeemei 

48 Here the Vulgate, departing from the ancient text, says: "That was 
the true light, which enlightened every man that cometh into this world." 



He was in the world, 
and the world was made 

by him, 
and the world knew him 

He came unto his own, 
and his own received him 

But as many as received 

he gave them power to be- 
come the sons of 

to them that believe in his 

who are born not of blood, 
nor of the will of the 

nor of the will of man, 
but of God. 

The heathens 

The Jews 

The children of God 

IV. The Incarnation. 

And the Word was made 

and dwelt among us ; 
and we saw his glory, 
the glory as it were of the 

only-begotten of the 

full of grace and truth. 


In this prologue Christ is called Logos "the Word." 
The origin of this term is to be found in Scripture, as 
well as in Greco-pagan philosophy. In the Old Testament 
Sapiential Books, divine Wisdom is personified; and in 
contrast to human wisdom it is represented as being 
eternal, and as having been present at the creation of 
the world. It is this divine Wisdom that reveals to us the 
true religion. 

This concept of wisdom prepared the way for Christ. 
But the idea of the Logos comes from the pagan Greek 
philosophers. By "Logos" they understood some kind of 
being intermediate between God and the world, through 
which God operated in the world. It was this idea that 
St. John adopted and Christianized. By "Logos," St. John 
understood the Second Divine Person, who is consubstan- 
tial with the Father, and who became man. 


In the first part, St. John speaks of Christ before the 
creation of the world, of His life, of His relation to the 
world, of His relation to the children of God; in other 
words, of Christ as God, as Creator, and as Redeemer. 

1. Christ is God. 

a) The Logos was before all time, He is timeless, 

eternal ; 

b) He lives in the most intimate union with the 

Father ; 

c) The Logos is divine in nature. 

The fourth verse is a rest pause ; "as if the eagle rested 
for a moment before lifting himself for further flight." 

2. Christ is also the Creator. It was through the media- 


tion and co-operation of the Logos that all things were 
endowed with existence and life; everything without ex- 
ception, spiritual and material, from the greatest sun in 
the heavens to the least atom. But St. John does not de- 
lay over the physical world. 

3. The Evangelist returns to the realm of the super- 
natural; for the Logos is the giver of light and of life. 
Important and powerful truths are announced to us. In 
the Logos is the divine life itself, which alone can be truly 
called life; it is the first source and fountain of the vita 
aeterna, of that divine life in us. From this life there 
came light for mankind; even as the sun is to all living 
things, so the Logos is to our souls. As long as this sun 
did not shine, the darkness of sin was all about the world. 
And then that plaintive cry : instead of the darkness seek- 
ing for this spiritual sun, it failed to comprehend it, nay 
more, it fought bitterly against it. 

In these simple yet majestically tremendous words, St. 
John speaks of Christ. The first part is like a triptych 
with three pictures of the Logos : as God, as the Creator, 
and as the Redeemer. 


We now behold the entrance of the Logos into the 
world. The second part tells of the coming of the Pre- 
cursor. The Baptist was merely the child of man, yet he 
was sent by God as were the prophets before him. His 
mission it was to give testimony of the Light, that all 
might come to believe. The Evangelist, who was himself 
a disciple of St. John, guards against misunderstanding 
by clearly saying that John was not the Messias. 


Christ's coming into the world 

The third part of the prologue returns again to Christ, 
and speaks of His entrance into the world. He is called 
the "true Light, which illumines every man." As if the 
Evangelist wished to say : as no living thing can live with- 
out the sun, so no man can live without Christ; and yet 
the incredible takes place — the world does not recognize 
its Creator. And what is still more incredible: not only 
the heathens, even His own people, the chosen race of the 
Jews, who were to have been even as the very property 
of the Messias, did not receive Him. If Israel as a people 
had rejected its Redeemer, the decree of God was not to 
be made void. For there are men from among the Jews 
and also from among the Gentiles, who recognized Him 
and received Him. These He exalted; the Logos made 
them to be His brothers, and children of God. Lest there 
be any misconception, St. John adds that this Sonship 
of God is not by earthly descent, but by the creative 
power of God. In broad outlines then, this third part an- 
nounces the end and purpose of Christ's coming into the 
world ; he speaks of things that are deeply tragic and also 
of things of surpassing good fortune: the rejection of the 
Jews and the election of the children of God. 


The fourth part brings us into the holy of holies. It 
shows us the crib at Bethlehem and tells of Jesus the 
humble Son of man, who dwelt in the land of the Jews. 
"And the Word was made flesh." As we say these words, 


we genuflect ; here is the climax of the prologue. Hearing 
all this of the Logos, we comprehend and appreciate much 
better what it meant when the Logos, the eternal consub- 
stantial Son of God, became man. 

And He "dwelt among us": thus the Vulgate. The lit- 
eral meaning of the Greek text ("he erected his tabernacle 
in our midst") is more expressive. Just as God in the Old 
Testament pitched His tent (tabernacle) among His peo- 
ple, especially during their sojourn in the desert, so Jesus 
dwells among us. It was no permanent abode that He 
erected in our midst, because He did not will to remain 
on earth; it was only a tent — our poor and lowly human 
nature. But St. John, His beloved disciple, was able to 
testify in the name of the other Apostles, that beneath 
this veil of human nature, he could see the majesty of 
the only-begotten Son of God, the giver of grace and 

These few words may suffice to sketch the exalted flight 
of the thought of the prologue. We may rightly rejoice 
that we are permitted to recite these words as the finale 
and conclusion of the Mass. The prologue reveals to us 
the profoundest truths about our Lord. All the sublime 
doctrines taught by the eagle of the Fourth Gospel, are 
touched on in the prologue: the divine life, the light, 
grace, and truth, and the divine Sonship. Thus the pro- 
logue is the synopsis of all those things that are bestowed 
upon us in the mystery of the Mass. The divine Sun has 
illumined us, too; we have received new life and new 
light. The Son has brought us, His brothers, the children 
of God, closer to God His Father. "Truth and grace" 
briefly characterize the Mass: truth in the Mass of the 


Catechumens, grace in the holy sacrifice. Indeed in every 
Mass the Lord erects His tent in our midst, within us, 
and every Mass is an Epiphany, a manifestation of His 
glory full of grace and of truth. 


The Preparation for Mass 

There are several methods by which we may come to an 
understanding and appreciation of a particular Mass 
formula. Of these various methods, two are here pre- 
sented: the first may be called the genetic method; the 
second, the dramatic method. Both are practical and re- 
liable, but one or other may appeal more strongly to the 

The genetic method considers the origin and the forma- 
tion of a Mass formula, and can be used, therefore, only 
for the older Masses. It asks the question: How did this 
Mass formula come into being? In ancient times the 
choice of the variable parts of the Mass was left to the 
bishop. Before the service the bishop considered how best 
to clothe the celebration of the day's Mass; for the 
variable texts are nothing more than the setting for the 
holy sacrifice. Before Mass the bishop distributed the 
various roles or offices. First he called the deacon and 
directed him to announce a designated passage from the 
Gospels ; then he pointed out to the subdeacon the reading 
from the Epistles. Lastly he instructed the chanter to 
sing this or that psalm. The Collects and the Preface were 
composed by the bishop himself. By what principles was 
the bishop guided in his selection of these various parts? 
Let us suppose it is the Feast of the Ascension, The Gos- 



pel, as we know, is the principal reading for the day; 
quite logically then, the bishop will choose the most com- 
plete narrative of the Ascension in the Gospels. From 
the Gospel, he probably went over to the Epistle, seeking 
some appropriate text from the Apostolic Letters or from 
the Acts of the Apostles. He finds a text in the Epistle 
to the Ephesians (4 : 7 f.) and in the Acts ; he chooses the 
latter. What chants are to be rendered? There are two 
Ascension psalms (46 and 67), and these are chosen. The 
bishop composes the Collects, basing them on the thought 
of the Feast; and the Preface will be a lyric expression 
of the principal thought of the day. In interpreting a Mass 
formula, we may follow the same method as guided the 
bishop in composing it. Beginning with the principal read- 
ing, the Gospel, and proceeding to the Epistle, we then 
study the chants and last of all the Collects. But we must 
not fail to keep in mind the various functions of these parts : 
the readings offer thought for reflection, the chants deter- 
mine the religious mood, and the Collects express the peti- 

Another method for evaluating a Mass formula is to 
consider the Mass as a whole, and to follow the course 
and development of its dramatic action. We represent the 
Mass to ourselves in the succession of its parts, and we 
attempt to understand the relationship of the parts to the 
whole. It is, of course, necessary to visualize the original 
Mass with its unabbreviated and vital actions, along with 
the active participation of the people. 

The Mass begins with the Introit, the entrance chant. 
Since the sacred action of the Mass begins with the en- 
trance of the clergy, the accompanying chant may be 


considered the overture. The Introit is intended to trans- 
port us into the religious mood of the day; very fre- 
quently it is a kind of Invitatorium intoning the principal 
motive of the day. We cannot completely understand 
the Introit unless we take the entire psalm into con- 
sideration, and visualize the procession of the clergy. 
Often the Introit refers to the symbolism of the priest's 
entrance, or to our own entrance into the church. We might 
profitably read the antiphon and psalm of the Introit at 
home before going to Mass. Placing the Introit after the 
prayers at the foot of the altar, distorts its meaning. 

The Kyrie and the Gloria are antipodes : the first is the 
prayer of man before his redemption, the second is his 
prayer after his redemption. The first is the pleading cry 
of humanity for salvation; the second, the joyous expres- 
sion of salvation attained. 

The Collect is the principal prayer of the day, the focal 
point of our petitions and the conclusion of the Hours of 
the day. This prayer, renowned for its succinctness, has 
the admirable quality of saying much in few words, and 
deserves our special reverence. A careful analysis of the 
Collect is strongly recommended. 

The Epistle (or Lesson, when it is not taken from one of 
the Letters) is not to be received so much as the word of 
the original composer, e. g., of St. Paul, but as the exhorta- 
tion or instruction of the Church, or of the saint honored 
at the station or in the feast. Let us accustom ourselves to 
look upon the Mass as a sublime drama. In the person of 
the priest, Christ or the saint makes his entrance. In the 
Epistle the saint is addressing us; in the Gospel Christ 
stands before us, the saint of the feast beside Him; the 


Lord speaks to us and He seems to be constantly referring 
to the saint as one of those who have followed Him. In the 
offertory procession and in the Communion procession the 
saint goes before us as the leader of the choir. 

The Gradual is the echo of the reading; the Alleluia 
chant is the prelude to the Gospel. Since the Gradual is a 
responsory chant, the first of the two verses is the more 
important. As a rule the connection between the Gradual 
and the reading is not so close, since, like the Introit and 
the other variable chants, the Gradual often indicates the 
general religious mood of the day. The Alleluia chant 
should be considered the accompaniment to the Gospel pro- 
cession, sounding the grail-motive for the coming of the 
King. The verse, which is surrounded by the Alleluia, some- 
times accentuates the principal thought of the Gospel. The 
Sequence is a meditation and elaboration on tins verse. 

Until now we have had the Mass of the Catechumens, 
or the service of the word of God. We have been standing 
in the vestibule, on our way to the sanctuary. In the of- 
fertory procession we enter the sanctuary. Now the Word 
will become flesh, or rather it will be to us unto grace. The 
Word of the Mass of the Catechumens is fulfilled and re- 
alized in the sacrifice. 

The Offertorium of our Missals is all that remains of 
the ancient chant for the offertory procession. To under- 
stand the significance of the Offertorium, we must presup- 
pose the offertory procession, which was the entrance into 
the passion of Christ. This procession and the Communion 
procession are the two bands uniting us to the Lord's sac- 
rifice ; they are the most striking expressions of our active 
participation in the sacrifice. Moreover, they are of the 


utmost importance in the drama of the Mass ; hence these 
two accompaniment chants often treat of the mystery of 
the day. In the offertory procession we enter into the fel- 
lowship of the sacrifice; in the Communion procession we 
enter into the fellowship of glory with Christ and the saint 
of the feast. The Mass has suffered a very notable loss in 
the discontinuance of these processions. 

The Secret is the oblation prayer, expressing the peti- 
tions of the offering. 

The Communion chant has been described above. It is 
only a remnant, the antiphon of the psalm-chant that ac- 
companied the Communion procession. The psalm chanted 
was the one from which the antiphon was taken, or, if the 
antiphon is not from a psalm, the Introit psalm was re- 
peated. We should remember that the chant accompanied 
the Communion procession and the distribution of Holy 
Communion. Occasionally the antiphon is the principal 
verse of the Gospel or expresses the principal thought of 
the day, indicating that the Gospel has been realized in 
the sacrifice, the fruit of which we are now partaking. 
When the antiphon is repeated after each verse of the 
psalm (as was done in ancient times), we may understand 
how deeply the thought was impressed upon those who 
were receiving Holy Communion. 

The Postcommunion is not a thanksgiving, but a peti- 
tion that Holy Communion may work its effect in us. The 
effect and fruit of the sacrifice are expressed in the light 
of the day's mystery. 

To interpret and understand a Mass formula, we must 
remember these three points: (1) the variable parts of the 
Mass are the vesture in which the mystery of the sacrifice 


is clothed for the day ; (£) we must endeavor to resuscitate 
the Mass from what might be called its petrified state to 
the warmth and life of the congregational celebration of 
ancient times ; (3) the Mass must be conceived as a drama 
and explained as such. 




Acclamations V. Per omnia saecula 

From the R. Amen, 

primitive V. Dominus vobiscum. 

liturgy R. Et cum spiritu tuo. 

V. Sursum corda. 
R. Habemus ad Domi- 

V. Gratias agamus Do- 
mino Deo nostro. 

R. Dignum et justum est. 

First found in 
Hippolytus (200), 
Cyprian (c. 250), 
Cyril of Jerusalem 
(c. 350), Apostolic 
Constitutions (4th 


canticle, prim 
itive liturgy ; 
Preface, an- 
cient Roman 

Vere dignum et justum 
est, aequum et salutare, nos 
tibi semper et ubique gratias 

-agere : Domine sancte, Pater 
omnipotens, aeterne Deus : 
per Christum Dominum nos- 
trum. Per quern majestatem 
tuam laudant Angeli, ador- 
ant Dominationes, tremunt 
Potestates. Caeli caelo- 
rumque Virtutes ac beata 
Seraphim socia exsultatione 
concelebrant. Cum quibus et 

♦nostras voces ut admitti 
jubeas, deprecamur, sup- 
plici confessione dicentes : 

Originally impro- 
vised by the bishop 
(Justin Martyr, c. 
150). Model for- 
mula found in 
Apostolic Con. (4th 
cent.). Leonine 
Sacram. contains 
267 Prefaces; Gel- 
asian Sacram., 54 
Prefaces; Grego- 
rian Sacram., 10 

Sanctus Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanc- 

tus Dominus, Deus Sabaoth. 
Primitive Pleni sunt caeli et terra 

liturgy gloria tua. Hosanna in ex- 

celsis. Benedictus, qui venit 
in nomine Domini. Hosanna 
in excelsis. 

Is. 6:2; Ps. 117: 
26; Matt. 23:35. 
From liturgy of 
synagogue. Clem- 
ent of Rome; in 
all liturgies, ex- 
cept Hippolytus. 





Te igitur, clementissime 
Pater, per Jesum Christum, 
Filium tuum, Dominum nos- 
trum, supplices rogamus, ac 
petimus, uti accepta habeas 
et benedicas, haec *J« dona, 
haec Hh munera, haec *J< 
sancta sacrificia illibata, in 
primis, quae tibi offerimus 
pro Ecclesia tua sancta 
catholica : quam pacificare, 
custodire, adunare et re- 
gere digneris toto orbe ter- 
rarum : una cum f amulo tuo 
Papa nostro N. et Antistite 
nostro N. et omnibus ortho- 
doxis, atque apostolicae 
fidei cultoribus. 

Oldest text of the 
Canon, 7th cent. 
(Missal of Bobbio, 
Miss. Francorum, 
Sacram. Gelas., 
Missal of Stowe.) 
Does not antedate 
Gregory I. 

Letter of Pope 
Vigilius (d. 555) : 
pro ecclesia, quam 
adunare, regere, 
custodire digneris. 
Naming of Pope, 
called an old cus- 
tom (560; Pope 


Oldest inser- 
tions in the 
Canon, after 
4th cent. 

Memento, Domine, famu- 
lorum famularumque tua- 
rum N. et N. et omnium cir- 
cumstantium, quorum tibi 
fides cognita est et nota de- 
votio, pro quibus tibi of- 
ferimus : vel qui tibi off erunt 
hoc sacrificium laudis, pro 
se suisque omnibus : pro re- 
demptione animarum su- 
arum, pro spe salutis et in- 
columitatis suae : tibique 
reddunt vota sua aeterno 
Deo, vivo et vero. 

Pope Innocent I 
(d. 417) knew of 
the custom of read- 
ing these names 
"inter mysteria." 

Later addition, 
after fruits of na- 
ture were not of- 

Catalogue of 


Communicantesj et c^e- 
moriam venerantes, m pri- 
mis gloricsae semper Vir- 



made after 
the mementos 
(5th cent.) ; 
insertions in 
cantes made 
since 6th cen- 
tury (Pope 

ginis Mariae, Genetricis Dei 
et Domini nostri Jesu 
Christi: sed et beatorum 
Apostolorum ac Marty rum 
tuorum, Petri et Pauli, An- 
dreae, Jacobi, Joannis, 
Thomae, Jacobi, Philippi, 
Bartholomaei, Matthaei, 
Simonis, et Thaddaei: Lini, 
Cleti, dementis, Xysti, 
Cornelii, Cypriani, Lauren- 
tii, Chrysogoni, Joannis et 
Pauli, Cosmae et Damiani: 
et omnium sanctorum 
tuorum ; quorum meritis 
precibusque concedas, ut in 
omnibus protectionis tuae 
muniamur auxilio. Per eun- 
dem Christum, Dominum 
nostrum. Amen. 

. . . Genetrix: 

Council of 

Ephesus, 431. Pope 


(d. 514) completed 

list of saints. 

Saints of the first 
three centuries. 

Hanc igitur 

Added about 
the time of 
the mementos 
(4th cent.) 

Hanc igitur oblationem 
servitutis nostrae, sed et 
cunctae f amiliae tuae, quae- 
sumus, Domine, ut placatus 
accipias : diesque nostros in 
tua pace disponas, atque ab 
aeterna damnatione nos 
eripi, et in electorum tuorum 
jubeas grege numerari. Per 
Christum, Dominum nos- 
trum. Amen. 

Originally variable 
prayers for special 
intentions. The 
Gelasian Sacram. 
contains 38 Hanc 
igitur prayers. 
Petition for peace 
added by Gregory 
I, 600 (Lib Pont., 
I, 312). Since then 
the Hanc igitur is 
not variable. 

Consecration Quam oblationem tu, 


Part of the 
most ancient 

Deus, in omnibus, quaesu- 
mus, bene^dictam adscrip- 
►I«tam, ra^htam, ration- 
abilem acceptabilemque 

facere digneris: ut nobis 

The papyrus of 
Der Balyzeh con- 
tains also an Epik- 
lesis. This prayer 
found in De sacra- 
mentis of St. Am- 
brose (370). 



Narrative of 

From primi- 
tive liturgy 

Cor^hpus, et San^guis fiat 
dilectissimi Filii tui, Domini 
nostri Jesu Christi. 

Qui pridie quam patere- 
tur, accepit panem in sanc- 
tas ac venerabiles manus 
suas, et elevatis oculis in 
caelum ad te Deum, Patrem 
suum omnipotentem, tibi 
gratias agens, bene^dixit, 
fregit, deditque discipulis 
suis, dicens : Accipite, et 
manducate ex hoc omnes. 

Simili modo postquam 
coenatum est, accipiens et 
hunc praeclarum Calicem in 
sanctas ac venerabiles ma- 
nus suas: item tibi gratias 
agens, bene^dixit, deditque 
discipulis suis, dicens: Ac- 
cipite, et bibite ex eo omnes. 
Haec quotiescumque feceri- 
tis, in mei memoriam f acietis. 

Prayer of Unde et memores, Do- 

Remembrance mme > nos serv i tui, sed et 

plebs tua sancta, ejusdem 

Primitive Christi Filii tui, Domini nos- 

liturgy trij tam beatae passionis, 

nee non et ab inferis resur- 

St. Ambrose, De 
sacramentis (see 
Apostolic Const., 
Hippolytus, and all 
the old liturgies). 

Hippolytus (220) 
and Apostolic 
Const, contain tex- 
tual resemblance. 
In St. Ambrose, 
De sacramentis 



The three 

Part of the 
most ancient 

rectionis, sed et in caelos 
gloriosae ascensionis : of- 
ferimus praeclarae majes- 
tati tuae de tuis donis ac 
datis, hostiam *i* puram, 
hostiam *i* sanctam, hos- 
tiam *i* immaculatam, 
Panem >i* sanctum vitae 
aeternae, et Calicem ►J* 
salutis perpetuae. 

Supra quae propitio ac 
sereno vultu respicere dig- 
neris : et accepta habere, 
sicuti accepta habere dig- 
natus es munera pueri tui 
justi Abel, et sacrificium 
Patriarchae nostri Abra- 
hae : et quod tibi obtulit sum- 
mus sacerdos tuus Melchi- 
sedech, sanctum sacrificium, 
immaculatam hostiam. 

The heavenly Supplices te rogamus, 
altar omnipotens Deus : jube haec 

perferri per manus sancti 
Angeli tui in sublime altare 
tuum, in conspectu divinae 
majestatis tuae: ut, quot- 
quot ex hac altaris partici- 
patione sacrosanctum Filii 
tui Cor^hpus, et SanHh- 
guinem sumpserimus, omni 
benedictione caelesti et 
gratia repleamur. Per eun- 
dem Christum, Dominum 
nostrum. Amen. 

Here the Canon of 
Hippolytus has the 

St. Ambrose, De 
sacramentis. "Siini- 
mus sacerdos Mel- 
chisedech" in Ques- 
tiones Vet. et N. 
Test. (370). See 
Mosaics of Ra- 
venna (6-7th 

Added by Leo I, 
450 (Lib. Pont., 
I, 239). 

Apoc. 6:9. St. Am- 
brose, De sacra- 
mentis (370). St. 
Ambrose: "by the 
hand of Thy an- 

"Amen," later ad- 



Memento of 
the dead 

Oldest inser- 
tion (4 th 

Memento etiam, Domine, 
famulorum famularumque 
tuarum N. et N. t qui nos 
praecesserunt cum signo 
fidei, et dormiunt in somno 

Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus 
in Christo quiescentibus 
locum refrigerii, lucis et 
pacis ut indulgeas, depreca- 
mur. Per eundem Christum, 
Dominum nostrum. Amen. 

This memento not 
found in the Gela- 
sian Sacramen- 
tary. Omitted on 

Cyril of Jerusalem 
and Augustine 
speak of the re- 
membrance of the 
dead in the pres- 
ence of the Eu- 
charistic sacrifice. 

Nobis quoque Nobis quoque peccatori- 
bus, famulis tuis, de mul- 
Inserted abouttitudine miserationum tu- 
5th century arum sperantibus, partem 
aliquam et societatem do- 
nare digneris, cum tuis Sanc- 
tis Apostolis et Martyribus : 
cum Joanne, Stephano, 
Matthia, Barnaba, Ignatio, 
Alexandro, Marcellino, Pe- 
tro, Felicitate, Perpetua, 
Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, 
Caecilia, Anastasia, et om- 
nibus Sanctis tuis : intra 
quorum nos consortium, non 
aestimator meriti, sed ve- 
niae, quaesumus, largitor 
admitte. Per Christum, Do- 
minum nostrum. 

List of saints com- 
pleted by Pope 
(d. 514). 

Saints of the first 
three centuries. 

Blessing of 
the offerings 

Per quem haec omnia, Do- 
mine, semper bona creas, 
sancti^ficas, vivi^hficas, 
bene^dicis et praestas no- 

The closing for- 
mula for the varia- 
ble blessings. 



Little eleva- Per ip^hsum, et cum ip*I<- 

tion so > e t i n ipH^so? est tibi Deo 

Patri >J« omnipotenti, in 

unitate Spiritus Hh Sancti, 

omnis honor, et gloria. 

Per omnia saecula saecu- 
It. Amen. 

This Amen men- 
tioned by Justin 
Martyr (e. 150). 



Abel, Sacrifice of, 9 

Abraham, Sacrifice of, 161 

Adam of St. Victor, 148 

Advent, Introit for first Sunday 
of, 88 

Agape, 19 

Agnus Dei, 288, 294 

Alexandrinus, Codex, 100 

Alleluia, 54, 145 

Aloysius, Introit for Mass of St., 

Altar, Kissing of, 74 

Amalar, 176, 290, 324 

Ambo, 122 

Ambrose, St., 67, 190, 231, 239 

Ambrosian rite, 50, 121 

Anamnesis, 5, 189, 238 

Anaphora, 188 

Ante-Mass, 51 (See Catechumens, 
Mass of) 

Antiphon, 142 note 

Antiphonary, of Bangor, 100; Gre- 
gorian, 95, 169 

Apologies, 66 

Apostles, Mass of, 18 

Apostolic Canons, 156 

Apostolic Constitutions, 47, 52, 100, 
138, 181, 282, 307, 324 

Apostolic Tradition, The, 32 

Aquileia, Cathedral of, 157 

Armenian rite, 50, 129 

Ascension, Introit for, 88 

Asperges, 62 

Athanasius, St., 99 

Augustine, St., 138, 168, 227, 247, 
272, 281, 297, 313 

Bangor, Antiphonary of, 100 
Baumstark, 113 
Benedicamus Domino, 327 

Benedict VIII (pope), 151 
Benedictus, 218 
Bernold of Constance, 66 
Blessing, The last, 328 
Blessing of offerings, 251 
Bread for the offering, 173 
Byzantine rite, 51, 295 

Caeremoniale Episcoporum, 125 
Canon, 185; Development of the, 

197; History of the, 344; The 

Little, 160 
Catechumens, Mass of, 46, 120 
Celestine I (pope), 55, 91 
Chant, Melismatic, 138 
Chants, in breviary, 137 ; interposed 

in Mass, 137 
Chrysostom liturgy, 7, 178, 190, 227, 

Clement, St., 25, 31 
Clemente, Church of San, 122 
Collect, The, 54, 107, 111, 341; for 

Epiphany, 115 
Collects, Number of, 118 
Comes, of St. Jerome, 124 
Commemorations, 114 
Communicant es, 227 
Communio, 312, 343 
Communion, of the faithful, 306 ; of 

the priest, 304; under both spe- 
cies, 309 
Confiteor, 70; before communion 

of the faithful, 311 
Consecration, The, 233 
Corpus tuum, 321 
Credo, 61, 150 
Cursus, of the Collect, 114 
Cyprian, St., 156, 185, 215 
Cyril of Jerusalem, St., 215, 247, 

266, 281, 307 




Damasus I (pope), 53, 124 

Decentius of Gubbio, 293 

Der Balizeh, 188 

Didache, 25, 65 

Dies Irae, 149 

Domine Jesu Christe, 298, 301 

Domine non sum dignus, 303 

Dominicale, 308 

Dominus vobiscum, 107, 130 

Doxology at conclusion of Canon, 

Durandus, 92, 290 

Eastern Apostolic Constitutions, 

Ecclesia collecta, 54, 77, 112, 152 
Ecclesia secreta, 152 
Egyptian Church Ordinal, 32, 155 
Ektenies, 95 
Elevation, The Greater, 235; The 

Little, 253 
Embolism, of the Pater Noster, 

Epiklesis, 38, 177, 231, 245 
Epiphany, Introit for, 85 
Epistle, The, 341 
Eucharistic Canticle, 31, 37 
"Eucharistic Victory," 157 
Eusebius, 292 

Fermentum, 292 
Fraction of the host, 287 

Gelasian Sacramentary, 183, 213 
Gellone, Sacramentary of, 223 
Gloria, 54, 341 ; History of text of, 

Good Friday, Liturgy of, 50, 52, 

112, 122, 138 
Gospel, 126, 341 ; The last, 329, 331 
Gradual, 51, 54, 143, 342; for Epiph- 
any, 147; The Roman, 92, 144 
Gregorian Antiphonary, 95, 169 
Gregorian Sacramentary, 183, 212, 

Gregory I, St. (pope), 31, 56, 81, 
91, 96, 113, 124, 185, 230, 282, 286 
Gregory II, St. (pope), 81 

Haec commixtio, 289 
Hallel, Psalms of, 18 
Henry II (emperor), 61, 151 
Hippolytus, 32, 155, 188, 190, 215, 

217, 218, 239, 262, 282 
Holy Trinity, Offering to, 181 

Imitation of Christ, 44 
Incense, 76; at the offertory, 179 
Innocent I (pope), 185, 293 
Innocent III (pope), 68, 295 
Introit, 54, 74, 340; Composition 

of, 89; History of, 90 
Irenaeus, St., 292 
Ite missa est, 326 

Jerome, St., 124, 283 
John (archcantor), Ordo of, 96, 169 
Jonathan, 226 

Justin Martyr, St., 22, 27, 50, 121, 
154, 187, 256, 261, 297 

Keppler, Bishop, 270 

Kiss of peace, 296 

Kissing of the altar, 245 

Koinonikon, 295 

Kyrie, 54, 94, 341 ; History of, 95 

Laodicea, Council of, 292 

Last Supper, 17 

Lauda Sion, 149 

Lectio continua, 123 

Leo I, St. (pope), 113, 124, 138 

Leonine Sacramentary, 213, 229, 

320, 322 
Lessons, History of, 120 
Liber Pontificalis, 55, 91, 102, 191, 

243, 293 
Libera nos, 286 

Macon, Synod of, 157 

Mary Major, Church of St., 56 

Mass of Catechumens, 46, 120; 
Conclusion of, 150 

Memento, of the dead, 246; of the 
living, 225 

Micrologus, of Bernold of Con- 
stance, 66 



Mingling of water and wine, 174 
Missa Praesanctificatorum, 286 
Mozarabic rite, 50, 121, 291 
Munda cor meum, 128 
Mystical body of Christ, 132 

Nobis quoque peccatoribus, 248 

Offertorium, 168, 342 

Offertory, 153; for eighteenth Sun- 
day after Pentecost, 13, 170; for 
first Sunday of Advent, 170 

Offertory procession, 153; Descrip- 
tion of, 157 

Orate Fratres, 182 

Oratio super populum, 324 

Orationes imperatae, 114 

Orationes solemnes, 53 

Ordo Romanus (I), 56, 66, 76, 36, 
113, 139, 158, 169, 176, 266; (II), 
143, 221; (V), 76; (VI), 66; 
(XIV), 166; (Silva-Tarouca), 

Pater Noster, 270 

Paul III (pope), 68 

Pax Domini, 288, 291 

Pax vobis, 109 

Pax-board, 298 

Pelagius I (pope), 224 

Pentecost, Introit for Sundays af- 
ter, 87 

Perceptio corporis, 302 

Pericopes, 122 

Pius V, St. (pope), 67, 68, 125, 140, 
231, 235, 301 

Pius X (pope), 310 

Pius XI (pope), 60 

Placeat, 327 

Pneumatists, 99 

Postcommunio, 322, 343 

Prayer of the Faithful, 54, 167 

Preface, 212; for Lent, 217 

Preparation for Mass, 62, 339 

Processions, 85 

Proskomide, The, 291 

Prothesis, 154, 252 

Psalter of Wolfcoz of St. Gall, 100 
Purification of the vessels, 319 

Quam oblationem, 229, 231, 245 
Quod ore sumpsimus, 320 

Ravenna, Mosaics of, 157 

Readings, 131 

Relics in the altar, 74 

Responsories, 142 

Rituale Romanurn, 306, 811, 312 

Ritus celebrandi, 111 

Sacramentary, Gelasian, 183, 213 
Gregorian, 113, 183, 212, 230 
Leonine, 113, 213, 229, 320, 322 
of Gellone, 223 

Sacrifice, Meaning of, 9 

Sancta, 58, 288, 292 

Sanctus, 218 

Sanctus candle, 223 

Schola cantorum, 83, 91, 138, 142 

Secret, The, 183, 343 

Sequence, The, 140, 148 

Serapion of Thmuis, 188 

Sergius I (pope), 269, 295 

Sermon, The, 51, 131 

Seven Sorrows, Introit for Mass 
of, 89 

Shemoneh Esreh, 23 

Stabat Mater, 149 

Stations, The, 54, 77 

Sursum Corda, 215 

Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, 181 

Symmachus (pope), 102, 227 

Synagogue worship, 22, 46 

Te igitur, 223 

Telesphorus (pope), 102 

Tertullian, 138 

Thomas Aquinas, St., 149, 291 

Thomasius, 95 

Todi, Jacopone da, 149 

Torah, 46 

Tract, The, 51, 147 

Trent, Council of, 62 


Urban II (pope), 217 

Veni Sancte Spiritus, 148 
Veni sanctificator, 178 
Victimae paschali, 148 
Victor (pope), 292 


Vigilius (pope), 224 

Virgins, Introit for Mass of, 86 

Washing of hands, 181 

Wipo of Burgundy, 148 

Wolfcoz of St. Gall, Psalter of, 100 

Date Due 



" g 19^ 


, -; . ■■:. i-<i 

Library Bureau Cat. no. 1137 

264,02 P25I 

3 5002 00105 5818 

Parsch, Pius 

The liturgy of the mass, 

BX 2230 . P32 
Parsch, Pius, 1&&4- 
The liturgy of the Mass