Monday, June 16, 2008

The Mass as it was in the City of Rome, part 8

A 9th-century mosaic from the San Zeno Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Prassede, Rome, depicting the Lamb of God on the top, and four women, namely (from left to right): Theodora the mother of Pope Paschal I (reigned 817-824; who enlarged and decorated the Basilica; she is given the title Episcopa in the mosaic because of her son's position as Episcopus of Rome), St. Praxedis, the Virgin Mary, and St. Pudenziana. Theodora is still notably alive by the time of this mosaic's execution, due to her square halo.


The Archdeacon lifts up the Chalice and gives it to the District-Subdeacon, who holds it near the right corner of the Altar. Then the Subdeacons-attendant, with the Acolytes who carry little sacks, draw near to the right and left of the Altar; the Acolytes hold out their arms with the little sacks, and the Subdeacons-attendant stand in front, in order to make ready the openings of the sacks for the Archdeacon to put the loaves into them, first those on the right, and then those on the left.

The Acolytes then pass right and left among the Bishops around the Altar, and the Subdeacons go down to the Presbyters, in order that they may break the consecrated loaves.

Two District-Subdeacons, however, have proceeded to the throne, carrying the Paten to the Deacons, in order that they may perform the Fraction. Meanwhile the Deacons keep their eyes on the Pope so that he may sign to them when to begin, and when he
has signed to them, after returning the salutation, they start the Fraction.

The Archdeacon, after the Altar has been cleared of the loaves (except the fragment which the Pope broke off; so that while the Solemnities are being celebrated, the Altar may never be without a Sacrifice) looks at the Choir, and signals to them to sing the Agnus Dei and then goes to the Paten with the rest:

Choir: "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi; miserere nobis."
Acolytes: "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi; miserere nobis."

(Choir: Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Acolytes: Lamb of God...)

The Pope breaks one of the Loaves on the right side and leaves the fragment upon the Altar while he puts the loaves on the Paten the Deacon is holding. He then returns to his throne.

Immediately the Chancellor, the Secretary, and the Chief Counsellor, with all the District-Officials and Notaries, go up to the Altar and stand in their order on the right and left. The Invitationer and the Treasurer, and the Notary of the Papal Vicar, go up when the choir starts to sing the "Agnus Dei" and stand facing the Pope in order that he may sign to them to write down the names of those who are to be invited either to have breakfast with him, by the breakfast-invitationer, or with the Papal Vicar, by his Notary. When the list of names is completed, they go down and deliver the invitations.

A fresco dating from the first half of the 2nd Century, known as the Fractio Panis (the Breaking of Bread) from the Greek Chapel (Capella Greca) in the Catacomb of Priscilla, situated on the Via Salaria Nova in Rome, depicting an Early Christian Breaking of the Bread (the Eucharist).


The Fraction being done, the second Deacon takes the Paten from the Subdeacon and carries it to the throne to communicate the Pope. After partaking, the Pope puts a particle which he has bitten off the Body into the Chalice which the Archdeacon is holding, making a Cross with it three times:

Pope: "Fiat commixtio et consecratio Corporis et Sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi accipientibus nobis in vitam aeternam."
R: "Amen."
Pope: "Pax vobiscum."
R: "Et cum spiritu tuo."

(Pope: May the commixture and consecration of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ help us who receive it to everlasting life. Amen.
R: Amen.
Pope: Peace be with you.
R: And with your spirit.)

The Pope is then communicated with the Chalice by the Archdeacon. After that, the Archdeacon comes with the Chalice to the corner of the Altar, and announces the next Station Church (this being Easter Sunday, the Church for Easter Monday would be St. Peter's Basilica).

After the Archdeacon has poured a small quantity of the contents of the Chalice into the bowl held by the Acolyte, the Bishops in order, and then the Presbyters in the same manner approach the Papal Throne, so that the Pope may give them communion. As they receive the Body from the Pope's hands, they go to the end of the Altar (the Bishops and Presbyters to the left, but the Deacons to the right), and, placing their hands upon it, eat the Consecrated Bread.

Then the chief Hebdomadary Bishop takes the Chalice from the hands of the Archdeacon, in order to administer the Precious Blood to the remaining ranks down to the Chief Counsellor. Then the Archdeacon takes the Chalice from him, and pours it into the bowl mentioned above; he then hands the empty Chalice to the District-Subdeacon, who gives him the reed wherewith he communicates the people with the Precious Blood.

The Subdeacon-Attendant takes the Chalice and gives it to an Acolyte, who replaces it in the Sacristy. And when the Archdeacon has administered the Blood to those whom the Pope communicated, the latter comes down from his Throne, with the Chancellor and the Chief Counsellor who hold his hands, in order to communicate those who are in the places allotted to the Magnates, after which the Archdeacon communicates them with the cup.

After this the Bishops communicate the people, the Chancellor signing to them to do so with his hand under his planeta, at the pontiff's formal request, and then the Deacons administer the cup to them (The people receive the Precious Blood through the aforementioned reed.)

Next they all pass over to the left side of the Church, and do the same there. Moreover, the Presbyters, at a sign from the Chancellor, by Papal command, communicate the people also, and afterwards administer the Chalice to them as well.

VIIIa. ANNOTATIONS (from E.G. Atchley's Ordo Romanus Primus)


The singing of Agnus Dei during the Fraction was introduced by Pope Sergius I (687-701). At first it seems to have only been sung once, and by clergy and people together. But in Ordo I the people's part has disappeared, and in the Ordo of St. Amand it is sung by the Choir and then by the Acolytes. It is still only sung twice in the Ordo of John of Avranches, in the 11th century.

In the 11th century (Jean) Beleth

says that it is sung twice with the ending "Have mercy upon us" (Miserere nobis), and a third time with "Grant us thy peace" (Dona nobis pacem); but Innocent III tells us that in many Churches the ancient custom still obtained of singing it thrice uniformly with "Have mercy upon us", as was always done in the Lateran.

John the Deacon, in the 13th century, also tells us that "Grant us thy peace", was never sung at the Lateran after "O Lamb of God, etc". The Agnus Dei has never been introduced into the Mass of Easter Even, except in the Ordo Romanus of Einsiedeln, which also differs from all other Ordines in several other respects.


Justin Martyr tells us that after the people's prayers were over, "they saluted one another with a kiss". And then Bread, and Wine mingled with water were brought in to the President of the brethren. The Kiss of Peace thus fell between the end of the Missa Catechumenorum and the Missa Fidelium. In the Oriental Rites it maintained its position there, as in the Gallican.

In the African Church, as we learn from St. Augustine, the Peace fell after the Lord's Prayer at the end of the Canon; "After it, Peace be with you is said, and Christians salute one another with a holy kiss, which is a sign of peace."

Innocent I in 416 lets us know that the practice at Rome was the same, although elsewhere there was a custom (which he reprobates) of giving the kiss of peace ante confecta mysteria, before the Offertory most probably, in the Gallican and Oriental way. In Ordo I it is still found just before the Communion.


There is no form of words given in Ordo I for use at the administration of the Communion. The author of the treatise De Sacramentis, at one time ascribed to St. Ambrose, incidentally gives a formula: "The priest says to thee: The Body of Christ." This represents a North-Italian use, c. 400. In the life of St. Gregory by Paul the Deacon, c. 780, we also incidentally get another formula: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ avail unto thee for the remission of all sins and for everlasting life."

But in his life by John the Deacon, c. 875, in the course of relating the same story, we have: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul." Whether there was a fixed formula in the 8th century at Rome we cannot say; probably there was not.


St. Augustine more than once refers to the fact that the Eucharist was put into the hands of the communicant. Two centuries later, we find that at Rome the custom was to place it in the mouth of the receiver; at least, we are entitled to gather that this was so from the story of Agapitus, which St. Gregory tells in his Dialogues, about a deaf mute whose tongue was loosened when the saint put the Lord's Body into his mouth.

At the time of Ordo I the people, and perhaps everybody, were communicated with the Sacrament of the Blood through a thin tube, called pugillaris, made sometimes of silver, sometimes of gold. At a later date the Pope generally used a similar instrument at Solemn Masses, for in Ordo Jf, which Mabillon refers to the 11th century, we are told that on Maundy Thursday the pope 'confirms' himself, not with a calamus or reed, but with the Chalice only. Innocent III bears witness to the same practice in the following century.

This custom lasted long and was widespread on the Continent. In spite of the numerous fractions and pourings of the consecrated Wine from one vessel into another, we have no directions for any precaution against crumbs or drops of wine falling to the ground, accidents exceedingly likely to occur, one would imagine.

It is quite unlikely that the Romans of the 8th century ignored such possibilities; but with them custom had not crystallized into formal rule. Nor is anything said of systematic ablutions. Probably such matters were left to individual devotion. We may remember that the early Church dwelt far more strongly on the Sacrifice offered to the Father in the Mass, than on the worship of our Lord in the same.

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