E. The Present Roman Mass. — It is not the object of this paragraph to give instruction as to how the Roman Mass is celebrated. The very complicated rules of all kinds, the minute rubrics that must be obeyed by the celebrant and his ministers, all the details of coincidence and commemoration -- these things, studied at length by students before they are ordained, must be sought in a book of ceremonial (Le Vavasseur, quoted in the bibliography, is perhaps now the best). Moreover, articles on all the chief parts of the Mass, describing how they are carried out, and others on vestments, music, and the other ornaments of the service, will be found in THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. It will be sufficient here to give a general outline of the arrangement. The ritual of the Mass is affected by (1) the person who celebrates, (2) the day or the special occasion on which it is said, (3) the kind of Mass (high or low) celebrated. But in all cases the general scheme is the same. The normal ideal may be taken as high Mass sung by a priest on an ordinary Sunday or feast that has no exceptional feature.
Normally, Mass must be celebrated in a consecrated or blessed Church (private oratories or even rooms are allowed for special reasons: see Le Vavasseur, I, 200-4) and at a consecrated altar (or at least on a consecrated altar-stone), and may be celebrated on any day in the year except Good Friday (restrictions are made against private celebrations on Holy Saturday and in the case of private oratories for certain great feasts) at any time between dawn and midday. A priest may say only one Mass each day, except that on Christmas Day he may say three, and the first may (or rather, should) then be said immediately after midnight. In some countries (Spain and Portugal) a priest may also celebrate three times on All Souls' Day (2 November). Bishops may give leave to a priest to celebrate twice on Sundays and feasts of obligation, if otherwise the people could not fulfil their duty of hearing Mass. In cathedral and collegiate churches, as well as in those of religious orders who are bound to say the Canonical Hours every day publicly, there is a daily Mass corresponding to the Office and forming with it the complete cycle of the public worship of God. This official public Mass is called the conventual Mass; if possible it should be a high Mass, but, even if it be not, it always has some of the features of high Mass. The time for this conventual Mass on feasts and Sundays is after Terce has been said in choir. On Simples and ferię the time is after Sext; on ferię of Advent, Lent, on Vigils and Ember days after None. Votive Masses and the Requiem on All Souls' Day are said also after None; but ordinary requiems are said after Prime. The celebrant of Mass must be in the state of grace, fasting from midnight, free of irregularity and censure, and must observe all the rubrics and laws concerning the matter (azyme bread and pure wine), vestments, vessels, and ceremony.
The scheme of high Mass is this: the procession comes to the altar, consisting of thurifer, acolytes, master of ceremonies, subdeacon, deacon, and celebrant, all vested as the rubrics direct (see VESTMENTS). First, the preparatory prayers are said at the foot of the altar; the altar is incensed, the celebrant reads at the south (Epistle) side the Introit and Kyrie. Meanwhile the choir sing the Introit and Kyrie. On days on which the "Te Deum" is said in the office, the celebrant intones the "Gloria in excelsis", which is continued by the choir. Meanwhile he, the deacon, and subdeacon recite it, after which they may sit down till the choir has finished. After the greeting "Dominus vobiscum", and its answer "Et cum spiritu tuo", the celebrant chants the collect of the day, and after it as many more collects as are required either to commemorate other feasts or occasions, or are to be said by order of the bishop, or (on lesser days) are chosen by himself at his discretion from the collection in the Missal, according to the rubrics. The subdeacon chants the Epistle and the choir sings the Gradual. Both are read by the celebrant at the altar, according to the present law that he is also to recite whatever is sung by any one else. He blesses the incense, says the "Munda Cor meum" prayer, and reads the Gospel at the north (Gospel) side. Meanwhile the deacon prepares to sing the Gospel. He goes in procession with the subdeacon, thurifer, and acolytes to a place on the north of the choir, and there chants it, the subdeacon holding the book, unless an ambo be used. If there is a sermon, if should be preached immediately after the Gospel. This is the traditional place for the homily, after the lessons (Justin Martyr, "I Apolog.", lxvii, 4). On Sundays and certain feasts the Creed is sung next, just as was the Gloria. At this point, before or after the Creed (which is a later introduction, as we have seen), ends in theory the Mass of the Catechumens. The celebrant at the middle of the altar chants "Dominus vobiscum" and "Oremus" -- the last remnant of the old prayers of the faithful. Then follows the Offertory. The bread is offered to God with the prayer "Suscipe sancte Pater"; the deacon pours wine into the chalice and the subdeacon water. The chalice is offered by the celebrant in the same way as the bread (Offerimus tibi Domine), after which the gifts, the altar, the celebrant, ministers, and people are all incensed. Meanwhile the choir sings the Offertory. The celebrant washes his hands saying the "Lavabo". After another offertory prayer (Suscipe sancta Trinitas), and an address to the people (Orate fratres) with its answer, which is not sung (it is a late addition), the celebrant says the secrets, corresponding to the collects. The last secret ends with an Ekphonesis (Per omnia sęcula sęculorum). This is only a warning of what is coming. When prayers began to be said silently, it still remained necessary to mark their ending, that people might know what is going on. So the last clauses were said or sung aloud. This so-called Ekphonesis is much developed in the Eastern rites. In the Roman Mass there are three cases of it -- always the words: "Per omnia sęcula sęculorum", to which the choir answers "Amen". After the Ekphonesis of the Secret comes the dialogue, "Sursum Cords", etc., used with slight variations in all rites, and so the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer which we call the Preface, no longer counted as part of the Canon. The choir sings and the celebrant says the Sanctus. Then follows the Canon, beginning "Te Igitur" and ending with an ekphonesis before the Lord's Prayer. All its parts are described in the article CANON OF THE MASS. The Lord's Prayer follows, introduced by a little clause (Pręceptis salutaribus moniti) and followed by an embolism (see LIBERA NOS), said silently and ending with the third ekphonesis. The Fraction follows with the versicle "Pax domini sit semper vobiscum", meant to introduce the kiss of peace. The choir sings the Agnus Dei, which is said by the celebrant together with the first Communion prayer, before he gives the kiss to the deacon. He then says the two other Communion prayers, and receives Communion under both kinds. The Communion of the people (now rare at high Mass) follows. Meanwhile the choir sings the Communion (see COMMUNION-ANTIPHON). The chalice is purified and the post-Communions are sung, corresponding to the collects and secrets. Like the collects, they are introduced by the greeting "Dominus vobiscum" and its answer, and said at the south side. After another greeting by the celebrant the deacon sings the dismissal (see ITE MISSA EST). There still follow, however, three later additions, a blessing by the celebrant, a short prayer that God may be pleased with the sacrifice (Placeat tibi) and the Last Gospel, normally the beginning of St. John (see GOSPEL IN THE LITURGY). The procession goes back to the sacristy.
This high Mass is the norm; it is only in the complete rite with deacon and subdeacon that the ceremonies can be understood. Thus, the rubrics of the Ordinary of the Mass always suppose that the Mass is high. Low Mass, said by a priest alone with one server, is a shortened and simplified form of the same thing. Its ritual can be explained only by a reference to high Mass. For instance, the celebrant goes over to the north side of the altar to read the Gospel, because that is the side to which the deacon goes in procession at high Mass; he turns round always by the right, because at high Mass he should not turn his back to the deacon and so on. A sung Mass (missa Cantata) is a modern compromise. It is really a low Mass, since the essence of high Mass is not the music but the deacon and subdeacon. Only in churches which have no ordained person except one priest, and in which high Mass is thus impossible, is it allowed to celebrate the Mass (on Sundays and feasts) with most of the adornment borrowed from high Mass, with singing and (generally) with incense. The Sacred Congregation of Rites has on several occasions (9 June, 1884; 7 December, 1888) forbidden the use of incense at a Missa Cantata; nevertheless, exceptions have been made for several dioceses, and the custom of using it is generally tolerated (Le Vavasseur, op. cit., I, 514-5). In this case, too, the celebrant takes the part of deacon and subdeacon; there is no kiss of peace.
The ritual of the Mass is further affected by the dignity of the celebrant, whether bishop or only priest. There is something to be said for taking the pontifical Mass as the standard, and explaining that of the simple priest as a modified form, just as low Mass is a modified form of high Mass. On the other hand historically the case is not parallel throughout; some of the more elaborate pontifical ceremony is an after-thought, an adornment added later. Here it need only be said that the main difference of the pontifical Mass (apart from some special vestments) is that the bishop remains at his throne (except for the preparatory prayers at the altar steps and the incensing of the altar) till the Offertory; so in this case the change from the Mass of the Catechumens to that of the Faithful is still clearly marked. He also does not put on the maniple till after the preparatory prayers, again an archaic touch that marks them as being outside the original service. At low Mass the bishop's rank is marked only by a few unimportant details and by the later assumption of the maniple. Certain prelates, not bishops, use some pontifical ceremonies at Mass. The pope again has certain special ceremonies in his Mass, of which some represent remnants of older customs, Of these we note especially that he makes his Communion seated on the throne and drinks the consecrated wine through a little tube called fistula.
Durandus (Rationale, IV, i) and all the symbolic authors distinguish various parts of the Mass according to mystic principles. Thus it has four parts corresponding to the four kinds of prayer named in I Tim., ii, 1. It is an Obsecratio from the Introit to the Offertory, an Oratio from the Offertory to the Pater Noster, a Postulatio to the Communion, a Gratiarum actio from then to the end (Durandus, ibid.; see MASS, SACRIFICE OF THE: Vol. X). The Canon especially has been divided according to all manner of systems, some very ingenious. But the distinctions that are really important to the student of liturgy are, first the historic division between the Mass of the Catechumens and Mass of the Faithful, already explained, and then the great practical distinction between the changeable and unchangeable parts. The Mass consists of an unchanged framework into which at certain fixed points the variable prayers, lessons, and chants are fitted. The two elements are the Common and the Proper of the day (which, however, may again be taken from a common Mass provided for a number of similar occasions, as are the Commons of various classes of saints). The Common is the Ordinary of the Mass (Ordinarium Missae), now printed and inserted in the Missal between Holy Saturday and Easter Day. Every Mass is fitted into that scheme; to follow Mass one must first find that. In it occur rubrics directing that something is to be said or sung, which is not printed at this place. The first rubric of this kind occurs after the incensing at the beginning: "Then the Celebrant signing himself with the sign of the Cross begins the Introit." But no Introit follows. He must know what Mass he is to say and find the Introit, and all the other proper parts, under their heading among the large collection of masses that fill the book. These proper or variable parts are first the four chants of the choir, the Introit, Gradual (or tract, Alleluia, and perhaps after it a Sequence), Offertory, and Communion; then the lessons (Epistle, Gospel, sometimes Old Testament lessons too), then the prayers said by the celebrant (Collect, Secret, post-communion; often several of each to commemorate other feasts or days). By fitting these into their places in the Ordinary the whole Mass is put together. There are, however, two other elements that occupy an intermediate place between the Ordinary and the Proper. These are the Preface and a part of the Canon. We have now only eleven prefaces, ten special ones and a common preface. They do not then change sufficiently to be printed over and over again among the proper Masses, so all are inserted in the Ordinary; from them naturally the right one must be chosen according to the rubrics. In the same way, five great feasts have a special clause in the Communicantes prayer in the Canon, two (Easter and Whitsunday) have a special "Hanc Igitur" prayer, one day (Maundy Thursday) affects the "Qui pridie" form. These exceptions are printed after the corresponding prefaces; but Maundy Thursday, as it occurs only once, is to be found in the Proper of the day (see CANON OF THE MASS).
It is these parts of the Mass that vary, and, because of them, we speak of the Mass of such a day or of such a feast. To be able to find the Mass for any given day requires knowledge of a complicated set of rules. These rules are given in the rubrics at the beginning of the Missal. In outline the system is this. First a Mass is provided for every day in the year, according to the seasons of the Church. Ordinary week days (ferię) have the Mass of the preceding Sunday with certain regular changes; but ferię of Lent, rogation and ember days, and vigils have special Masses. All this makes up the first part of the Missal called Proprium de tempore. The year is then overladen, as it were, by a great quantity of feasts of saints or of special events determined by the day of the month (these make up the Proprium Sanctorum). Nearly every day in the year is now a feast of some kind; often there are several on one day. There is then constantly coincidence (concurrentia) of several possible Masses on one day. There are cases in which two or more conventual Masses are said, one for each of the coinciding offices. Thus, on ferię that have a special office, if a feast occurs as well, the Mass of the feast is said after Terce, that of the feria after None. If a feast falls on the Eve of Ascension Day there are three Conventual Masses -- of the feast after Terce, of the Vigil after Sext, of Rogation day after None. But, in churches that have no official conventual Mass and in the case of the priest who says Mass for his own devotion, one only of the coinciding Masses is said, the others being (usually) commemorated by saying their collects, secrets, and post-Communions after those of the Mass chosen. To know which Mass to choose one must know their various degrees of dignity. All days or feasts are arranged in this scale: feria, simple, semidouble double, greater double, double of the second class, double of the first class. The greater feast then is the one kept: by transferring feasts to the next free day, it is arranged that two feasts of the same rank do not coincide. Certain important days are privileged, so that a higher feast cannot displace them. Thus nothing can displace the first Sundays of Advent and Lent, Passion and Palm Sundays. These are the so-called first-class Sundays. In the same way nothing can displace Ash Wednesday or any day of Holy Week. Other days (for instance the so-called second-class Sundays, that is the others in Advent and Lent, and Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima) can only be replaced by doubles of the first class. Ordinary Sundays count as semidoubles, but have precedence over other semidoubles. The days of an octave are semidoubles; the octave day is a double. The octaves of Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost (the original three greatest feasts of all) are closed against any other feast. The displaced feast is commemorated, except in the case of a great inferiority: the rules for this are given among the "Rubricę generales" of the Missal (VII: de Commemorationibus). On semidoubles and days below that in rank other collects are always added to that of the day to make up an uneven number. Certain ones are prescribed regularly in the Missal, the celebrant may add others at his discretion. The bishop of the diocese may also order collects for special reasons (the so-called Orationes imperat ). As a general rule the Mass must correspond to the Office of the day, including its commemorations. But the Missal contains a collection of Votive Masses, that may be said on days not above a semidouble in rank. The bishop or pope may order a Votive Mass for a public cause to be said on any day but the very highest. All these rules are explained in detail by Le Vavasseur (op. cit., I, 216-31) as well as in the rubrics of the Missal (Rubr. gen., IV). There are two other Masses which, inasmuch as they do not correspond to the office, may be considered a kind of Votive Mass: the Nuptial Mass (missa pro sponso et sponsa), said at weddings, and the Requiem Mass, said for the faithful departed, which have a number of special characteristics (see NUPTIAL MASS and REQUIEM MASS). The calendar (Ordo) published yearly in each diocese or province gives the office and Mass for every day. (Concerning Mass stipends, see MASS, SACRIFICE OF THE: Vol. X.)
That the Mass, around which such complicated rules have grown, is the central feature of the Catholic religion hardly needs to be said. During the Reformation and always the Mass has been the test. The word of the Reformers: "It is the Mass that matters", was true. The Cornish insurgents in 1549 rose against the new religion, and expressed their whole cause in their demand to have the Prayer-book Communion Service taken away and the old Mass restored. The long persecution of Catholics in England took the practical form of laws chiefly against saying Mass; for centuries the occupant of the English throne was obliged to manifest his Protestantism, not by a general denial of the whole system of Catholic dogma but by a formal repudiation of the doctrine of Transubstantiation and of the Mass. As union with Rome is the bond between Catholics, so is our common share in this, the most venerable rite in Christendom, the witness and safeguard of that bond. It is by his share in the Mass in Communion that the Catholic proclaims his union with the great Church. As excommunication means the loss of that right in those who are expelled so the Mass and Communion are the visible bond between people, priest, and bishop, who are all one body who share the one Bread.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, pp. 798-800
Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York