Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The sublime Sancta Missa Lecta et Musica

With the departure of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter from Toronto, next Sunday at St. Theresa Shrine Church the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be a Missa Lecta (Read Mass) or what is more commonly known as Low Mass. There will be NO MUSIC. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will return to the Missa Cantata or Sung Mass.

The Missa Lecta as many remember it gave rise to much of the need for liturgical reform. Bishops, priests and laity did not heed the desires of Pope St. Pius X, XI and XII in fostering the legitimate liturgical movement. Of course, ther was no internet then. The Mass was quiet or done with dated and sappy hymns with the then equivalents of On Eagles' Wings--not much has changed. People knelt and prayed the rosary or read a devotional book. They did not respond in dialogue, they did not read the Mass nor sing and the choir rarely sang the Propers and often a hybrid Mass was attempted with some of it sung and most of it not, all rubrically speaking, incorrect. Liturgical abuse or carelessness is not new and some priests said the Missa Lecta in 18 minutes! The line from the Elvis Presley, Mary Tyler Moore film, Change of Habit summed it up pretty good; "I liked the old days when we could come to church and not do a blessed thing!" That was a reference to the above and it was a film from about 1968 and as part of its finale it displayed the abrupt changes to the Mass prior to the promulgation of the 1970 Missal, it was an ugly time for liturgy including an offertory procession and a doo-wop trio.

Given that the resources were not always available for a Missa Solemnis or Missa Cantata and considering Sunday should not be simply a Missa Lecta (unless circumstances prevent anything else), what should this more basic liturgy look like?

Let us look very briefly at the different levels of what is now referred to as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Keep in mind though that notwithstanding what some may say, the so-called Tridentine or Trent Mass was not composed there. The Council of Trent codified or made the Mass as it was celebrated in Rome the norm for the whole Latin Church except for certain ancient rites such as the Mozarabic and Ambrosian or the Sarum had their been no English schism and certain rites under the purview of religious orders such as the Carmelite or Dominican Rites. There were no printing presses until a few decades before Trent so a consistent rubric before this was not necessarily possible.

Arising out the catacombs the Mass was more or less organised in its current form by the sixty century. It was celebrated by the bishop assisted in his cathedral by his priests or by the Abbot in the monastery. These were generally at the centre of town or in the countryside where the people would travel. The Mass would have always been sung and was what we would refer to now as a Missa Ponticalis (Pontifical Mass celebrated by a bishop). The first part of the Mass up to the Mass of the Faithful (Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form) was from the cathedra or chair. This is now replicated by the priest in the Ordinary Form. As time progressed and a bishop was not always available the Mass without the bishop became known as a Missa Solemnis or Solemn Mass with the bishop's role taken by the priest assisted by a deacon and subdeacon and celebrated exclusively at the altar. From this came the Missa Cantata utilised when deacon and subdeacon were not available and then the Missa Lecta or Read Mass. As apostolate orders such as the Franciscans developed and village churches were opened the Missa Lecta became commonplace. Our history in Canada is mostly that of the quiet Mass, much of it because of the silent masses necessary in Ireland due to priestly persecution and often necessarily said in houses or barns or in the forest. Eventually, music was added to the Missa Lecta and this is primarily what people would remember from the days before the reforms following the Second Vatican Council. The Missa Cantata or Missa Solemnis was a rarity because the whole Mass must be sung. As an aside, this was one of the reasons that Msgr. John Edward Ronan founded St. Michael's Cathedral Schola (now St. Michael's Choir School.)

Missa Lecta is a deeply meditative and contemplative union with God. Whenever possible during the week, it is something I will go out of my way to attend. You need a missal so that you can undertake actuoso participationem as so desired by Pope St. Pius X and you leave the rosary or private devotional book alone. You are not illiterate and this is not your grandmother's Low Mass. As we were told by Pope Pius XI in Divini cultus, Dec. 20, 1928 we are to be at Mass "not as strangers or mute spectators" but as we were advised by Pope Saint Pius X in Tra le sollecitudini, we are to engage in "actuso particpatonem." But on Sundays and Feasts or Solemnites the Mass should always be sung, though every Mass could certainly be sung and their are Gregorian Propers for every day of the year.

Depending on the local custom you may dialogue with the priest fully or partially. That is, you may recite the Server's part for the Prayer at the Foot of the Altar (not usually recommended) and undertake the responses to the priest. The Altar Server at as
Missa Lecta is actually standing in for the deacon by ancient indult. Most will remember only the Server responding. However, Popes St. Pius X and Pius XII and the true liturgical movement of the nineteenth and twentieth century encouraged the people to take their part, though many resisted and still do. Again, depending on the local culture, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus may be said with the priest. Beginning in 1922, this was encouraged by Pope Pius XI as the Missa Dialogata or Dialogue Mass. It's popularity in Europe was generally confined to France and the Low Countries and resisted firmly in Ireland and in never really took hold in North America though it was not unheard of in Quebec.

The proof of what I say follows. Again, from Pope Pius XII "Da musica sacra:"

30. The faithful can participate another way at the Eucharistic Sacrifice by saying prayers together or by singing hymns. The prayers and hymns must be chosen appropriately for the respective parts of the Mass, and as indicated in paragraph 14c.

31. A final method of participation, and the most perfect form, is for the congregation to make the liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest, thus holding a sort of dialogue with him, and reciting aloud the parts which properly belong to them.

There are four degrees or stages of this participation:

a) First, the congregation may make the easier liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Deo gratias; Gloria tibi Domine; Laus tibi, Christe; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo;

b) Secondly, the congregation may also say prayers, which, according to the rubrics, are said by the server, including the Confiteor, and the triple Domine non sum dignus before the faithful receive Holy Communion;

c) Thirdly, the congregation may say aloud with the celebrant parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei;

d) Fourthly, the congregation may also recite with the priest parts of the Proper of the Mass: Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion. Only more advanced groups who have been well trained will be able to participate with becoming dignity in this manner.

32. Since the Pater Noster is a fitting, and ancient prayer of preparation for Communion, the entire congregation may recite this prayer in unison with the priest in low Masses; the Amen at the end is to be said by all. This is to be done only in Latin, never in the vernacular.

This is the Mass that you pray most intimately with the priest. Most of it is on kneeling, sitting only for the Epistle and from after the Credo to the Sanctus with the remainder kneeling, though one may sit after the Ablutions. One would stand for the entrance, Gospel and Credo and Last Gospel. Whether silent or in dialogue, the Missa Lecta is sublime. As referred to, if one follows the whole Mass with the priest and even silently in one's mind reads the whole Mass in time with the priest, it is the most active or actual participation in the Holy Mass that any Catholic can undertake.

Eventually music was added to the
Missa Lecta, particuarly on Sundays. But because of the difficulty of a full Missa Cantata with sung Gregorian propers and the priest chanting the epistle and gospel a "hybrid" developed with the singing of the Kyrie or Sanctus and Agnus Dei as an example and perhaps a hymn. While this is what many remember, this was not in keeping with the rubrics. The Rossini Propers were meant to be the answer here for some parishes.

For the next little while, we will undertake the Mass at St. Theresa as a
Missa Lecta et Musicam and we will do it according to the rubrics. This is very important for anyone moving forward with the Extraordinary Form. Until Rome issues new rubrics if it even will we must look carefully at what was intended in every way we celebrate the EF.

Based on the document from Pope Pius XII,
De musica sacra et sacra liturgia; let's look at what the Congregation of Rites, the predecessor of today's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments had to say, quoted here at length on September 3, 1958 pp47, 48 of the 1959 Edition of Matters Liturgical:

"First of all, such popular religious hymns are greatly to be commended and esteemed, since they constitute a most effective means in directing the minds of the faithful to heavenly things and in imbuing the Christian life with a genuine religious spirit. Strongly to be encouraged for pious exercises, they can only be sung at liturgical functions "when this is expressly permitted."

"English hymns are expressly permitted during a Low Mass, but in general expressly forbidden during a High Mass: Hymns in the vernacular are permitted at a Low Mass, on condition that their theme corresponds to the part of the Mass at which they are sung. This means that a theme of sacrifice or offering is retained at the Offertory, of thanksgiving, love of God or any similar theme at Communion time. However, the singing of vernacular hymns at a sung Mass or Missa Cantata is manifestly an abuse that can only be tolerated when backed up by a long standing custom that has lasted for over a century: They [hymns in the vernacular] are permitted at a Mass in chant only in the case of a centenary or immemorial custom, which in the judgment of the local Ordinary cannot prudently be suppressed."

What the above will looks like with a few posture lyrics follows; here is a sample Missa Lecta, for Lent:

Choral Preludes:
Audi Begnigne Conditor & Parce Domine
Processional Hymn:
LORD, Who Throughout These Forty Days
Prayers at the Foot of the Altar--
stand as priest moves to Gospel side of Altar
sit (stand for Gospel if read in vernacular)
stand (genuflect at "et incarnatus est...")
Offertory Hymn:
Attende Domine
Communion Chant:
Responsory from Ash Wednesday, Emendemus in melius
Communion Hymn:
Ave Verum Corpus-chant
Second ablution--
Last Gospel--
Marian Antiphon:
Ave Regina Caelorum
Recessional Hymn:
Forty Days and Forty Nights

Oh, notice something? For good or ill, this is the origin of the Ordinary Form's four-hymn sandwich;
and we still don' sing the Propers even though they are in the book!

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