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Cabrol F. The Mass of the Western Rites. Preface.
THE MASS OF THE WESTERN RITES
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By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol
Theologians, historians, and liturgiologists are to-day in agreement in
recognizing that the Mass is the most important function of all Christian
worship; and that the greater part of the other rites are in close relation
with the Eucharist.
This affirmation rests upon the most serious study of Christianity, in
antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages; and the various works regarding
the Mass, which have been multiplied in recent years, have merely confirmed
this truth. More and more have the faithful, in their turn, become
convinced of it; while even those who are without the Faith are beginning
to interest themselves in the Mass, and to endeavor to know more of its
history and to understand its meaning.
These facts explain the number of books which have recently appeared on
this subject. A glance at the Bibliography printed at the end of this
Preface will suffice to give an idea of their extent, and may serve as a
guide to those who wish to study the question more deeply. This
consideration might have dissuaded us from adding to all these works (some
of which are excellent) another book on the Mass. But we may first remark
that the "Bibliotheque catholique des sciences religieuses" had, from
the beginning, comprehended in its plan a volume on the Latin Mass as one of
the elements of its synthesis.
Further, it may be noticed that the larger number of the books whose titles
we quote are chiefly, and sometimes entirely, occupied with the Roman Mass,
while our own plan comprises a study of the Latin, or Mass of the Western
Rites; that is, of the Mass as celebrated in Africa, Gaul, Spain, Great
Britain, and Northern Italy and in the other Latin countries in the Middle
Ages, as well as in Rome.
Now this comparison of the different Latin rites is most suggestive. Better
than all other considerations it reveals first the relationship of these
rites, and the fundamental unity of all the liturgies under their different
forms. Then, as we shall see, it throws light on the rites of the Roman
Mass which, consequently on the suppression of some of their number, can
only be understood by comparison with more complete rites. It must be added
that the Mass is so rich in material that each may study it from his own
point of view, and while receiving much benefit from the latest works on
the same subject, may present his own under a new aspect. Thus, following
Mgr. Duchesne's book, Mgr Batiffol thought it worth while to give us his
"Lecons sur la Messe;" and assuredly no one will consider that these
"Lessons" are a repetition of the work of his illustrious predecessor, or
of any of the other books already published upon this subject.
To those who may recognize in our own study views already exposed by one or
other of the authors quoted, we may remark that many articles in our
"Dictionnaire d'archeologie chretienne et de liturgie" (anamnese, anaphore,
canon, etc.) had taken chronological precedence of the greater part of
these books, so that in drawing inspiration from them we have but made use
of the "jus postliminii."
This, then, is the line we shall follow in this new study of the Mass; and,
while conforming with chronology, it seems to us at the same time to be the
most logical. We shall first examine the Mass in the first three centuries,
during which a certain liturgical unity reigned, and while the different
Christian provinces of the West had not each created its own special
liturgy. We shall then explain (Ch. II) how and why, from the fourth to the
seventh century, those liturgical characteristics which distinguish the
various Latin families became definite. According to these principles we
shall attempt to establish the classification of these liturgical families
and their genealogy.
In the following chapters we shall rapidly sketch the general
characteristics of the Mass in Africa, Gaul, Spain, Milan, and Great
Britain. It goes without saying that the Roman liturgy having become our
own, as well as that of the West (with rare exceptions), and also that of
the East, the Far East, and the New World — in short, of most Christian
countries — it demands detailed study, as well as a close following of its
historical development from the fifth to the twentieth century.
We have, according to the usual method, placed in an Excursus certain
questions which would have delayed the progress of the work, since they can
be studied separately. Such are: the chants of the Mass, the liturgical
gestures, the meaning of the word "Missa," the ancient books now united in
the existing Missal, the different kinds of Masses, etc. We hope that those
who are willing to follow us on these lines will arrive at certain
conclusions, and, if they are not specialists (for whom this book is not
written), that their ideas as to the great Christian Sacrifice will be
clearer and more precise.
The Mass as it is to-day, presents itself under a somewhat complicated form
to the non-Catholic, and even to a large number of the faithful. The
ceremonies, readings, chants, and formulas follow each other without much
apparent method or logic. It is a rather composite mosaic, and it must be
confessed that it does seem rather incoherent. Rites, indeed, have been
added to rites; others have been rather unfortunately suppressed, and where
this is the case, gaps, or what have been styled "gaping holes," appear.
But the historical and comparative method applied in this book explains the
greater part of these anomalies, making it fairly easy to reconstitute the
synthesis of the Mass, to grasp the guide-line, and, once in possession of
the general idea which has presided at all these developments, to
understand the whole better when light is thus thrown on the details.
The Mass thus studied throughout its different epochs reveals a magnificent
theological and historical thesis. We have not been able to insist on this
point as strongly as we could have wished, because in the first place these
volumes are not intended to be books of spiritual edification, nor,
strictly speaking, of apologetics. But it seems to us that here facts speak
for themselves, telling us why the Mass has from its very origin taken its
place as the true center of the liturgy; how it has drawn everything to
itself; how at one moment it was almost the whole liturgy, in the sense
that, primitively, all Christian rites gravitated round it.
At the same time Sacrifice and Sacrament, the One Christian Sacrifice and,
if one may say so, the most Divine of the Sacraments, it sums up and
sanctifies all the elements which have made of sacrifice the center of the
greater part of all religions; first, by the idea that man owes to God
homage for the gifts he has received from Him and that he recognizes His
dominion over all creation; then, by the idea that he must expiate his
faults in order to render God favorable to him; lastly, by a certain desire
to unite himself to God by participation in that sacrifice. Thus the Mass
raises the idea of sacrifice to its highest expression, whilst purifying it
from all the false notions which had obscured it in pagan religions.
For the Christian, too, it is the best means by which to unite himself with
his brethren in communion with Christ. Prayer in common, the Kiss of Peace,
above all the participation in the same Banquet of the Body and Blood of
Our Lord are so many expressive, living symbols of Christian unity, of
Catholicity, of charity.
For the Christian, again, the Mass is an efficacious help along the road of
the spiritual life. One of his essential duties, common to all men, is to
praise God in His works, to offer Him our thanks, to present our requests
to Him: in a word, to pray. Now the Mass is the center of the whole Divine
Office; we even believe it would be possible to show that at one time the
first part of the Mass was the most eloquent and, indeed, the only mode of
expression of this official prayer.
The Mass, then, sums up the greatest mysteries of our Faith. The faithful
Catholic is present at the Last Supper, at the Passion and Death of Our
Lord upon the Cross щ he realizes what Christ has willed by the institution
of this Divine Sacrament and by the accomplishment of His Sacrifice on
Calvary. He is invited to share in that Banquet which was the Last Supper,
when Our Lord gives Himself in Holy Communion; and, being present at the
bloody Sacrifice of Calvary, he sees what Christ has suffered for the sins
of the whole of humanity as well as those of His own disciples.
Theologians and all mystical writers have dwelt upon these different
aspects of the Mass, and when once the claims of erudition and of history
are satisfied it will be easier and more profitable to go direct to these
authors, for so far from being an obstacle, the exact knowledge of facts
is, on the contrary, of the greatest assistance to true piety.
1. "La Messe en Occident," of which the present volume is a translation,
was published (1932) in the above series.
LE BRUN (Pierre), "Explication litterale, historique et dogmatique des
prieres et des ceremonies de la Messe," remains the most complete and
learned work on the Mass. It has been many times republished, and has not
lost its value. (First edition, 4 vols., Paris, 1726.) The first volume
contains the "Explication de la Messe romaine," the second and third,
"Etude des diverses liturgies orientales et occidentales," the fourth,
dissertations on different subjects, notably on the "Silence des prieres de
The work of Mgr. DUCHESNE, "Origines du culte chretien" which is in reality
an "Etude sur la liturgie latine avant Charlemagne" (fourth edition, 1908),
is an admirable synthesis of the Latin liturgies which has on more than one
point shown the subject in a new light, though several syntheses, even in
the opinion of the writer, are subject to revision.
Mgr. BATIFFOL, in his "Lecons sur la Messe" (Paris, 1919), has laid down on
this subject the latest pronouncements of criticism. In the "Eucharistie
(La Presence reelle et la transubstantiation" (fifth edition, revised,
Paris, 1913) he had already studied the history of Eucharistic dogma from
its origins to the Council of Ephesus.
ADRIAN FORTESCUE in "The Mass, a study of the Roman liturgy"(London 1912),
had approached the same subject a few years earlier; his book treats
specially of the history of the Roman Rite. See also his article "Mass" in
the "Catholic Encyclopaedia."
JOH. BRINKTRINE:, the latest comer, "Die Heilige Messe" (Paderborn, 1931),
has also treated the subject specially as a historian and liturgiologist.
M. GIHR, "Le Saint Sacrifice de la Messe" (2 vols., Paris, 19O1), a
theological, ascetical, and liturgical "summa" upon the Mass, containing a
great quantity of information.
AD. FRANZ, "Die Messe im Deutschen Mittelalter "(I vol., 8vo,
Cardinal SCHUSTER, "Liber Sacramentorum, Notes historiques et liturgiques
sur le Missel romain," translated from the Italian (6 vols., Brussels,
Dom J. DE PUNIET, "La Liturgie de la Messe" (Avignon, 1928). P. MARANGET,
"La Messe romaine" (Brussels, 1925).
Dom E. VANDEUR, "La Sainte Messe "(Maredsous, 1928, seq.).
The articles "Eucharistie" and "Messe" in the "Dictionnaire de Theologie
catholique," and in DACL (which, once for all, may be said to stand for
"Dictionnaire d'Archeologie chretienne et de Liturgie"), and the same
articles in U. CHEVALIER, "Topo-bibliographie," for the Bibliography; there
is also a Bibliography in FORTESCUE, op. cit., p. 541 seq. In our own
pamphlet on THE MASS there is a chapter on the literature of this subject.
See also in DACL the articles "anamnese," "anaphore," "Communion," "canon,"
"Eucharistie," "elevation," and others mentioned in the course of our work.
Ch. ROEAULT DE FLEURY has written a fine monumental work in his "La Messe,"
consisting chiefly of archeological studies (4to, Paris, 1883-1889). The
most valuable information is to be found here upon the furnishing of
churches, the ornaments and sacred vessels, and upon all those things
connected with the service of the Mass.
AUTHOR'S NOTE. — The works of Duchesne, Batiffol, Gihr, Schuster, and De
Puniet mentioned above have been translated into English.