Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Mass in Gaul, Part 3 (from The Mass of the Western Rites)

Christ in Majesty (c. AD 1100),
Chapelle des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville
The "Commixtion," or "Immixtion," has, like the "Fraction," a dogmatic bearing. The celebrant soaks one or several of the consecrated particles in the chalice, allowing one of them to fall into it. Under this form, with
the words accompanying it in many liturgies, the sole meaning of this rite is to show to the faithful, before Communion, that it is the very Body and Blood of Christ which they are about to receive; and that their separation under the different species of bread and wine is only apparent. Although at this epoch Communion under both kinds was almost universal, the doctrine that Christ was present, whole and entire, under both species, was none the less of equally universal acceptance. The rites of "Commixtion" or "Immixtion," which are attached to this part of the Mass, seem, in our opinion, to favor this interpretation (see "Immixtion" in DACL).

The recitation of the "Pater" follows the "Fraction" and "Commixtion." Its recital during Mass in this place, or at some place very near to these two rites, is an almost universal practice. Some exceptions might indeed be mentioned. The "Apostolic Constitutions" do not speak of the "Pater;" neither does St. Hippolytus, nor Serapion, nor the "anaphora" of Balizeh. But these are exceptions. The "Pater" has its place, and that a place of honor in the Roman Mass, where it is surrounded with special rites. With the Gallicans, as in most other liturgies, it is, as it were, framed between a prelude or protocol and a conclusion or embolism.

Stained glass window (1140-44),
Abbey Church, Saint-Denis
Both of these are variable in the Gallican rite, like the "Contestatio," the "Post Sanctus," or the "Ad pacem." These various rites aim at emphasizing the importance of this prayer, taught to His disciples by Christ Himself, the Prayer of prayers. From the beginning its importance has been recognized and attested by the liturgy. The end of the "Pater" was enriched with a doxology, as we see in the Didache and in some of the most ancient MSS. of the New Testament; and we cannot be surprised at that assertion of St. Gregory who, astonished at finding the "Pater" relegated to a place after the close of the Canon, declared that originally this was the prayer by means of which the Apostles consecrated (see pp. 79-81). It has also an honorable place in Baptism and in the other Sacraments.

In the Gallican Mass it is recited by the entire congregation, as was also the custom amongst the Greeks; while in Africa and at Rome the celebrant alone recited the "Pater" aloud, the people responding "Amen," or "Sed libera nos a malo." In Spain we have seen there was a special place for the recitation of this prayer.

Before the Communion the Bishop, or even the Priest, blessed the faithful. This blessing also is important; it is not confined to the Gallican liturgy, but took place in Africa also, in the time of St. Augustine. It existed, too, in the Eastern liturgies, and even Rome may have known it at one time, though it has been transformed and placed elsewhere.102

102 Cf. Dom Wilmart, op. cit., col. 1088; Dom Morin, "Revue Benedictine," 1912, Vol. XXIX, p. 179 seq.

The meaning of this blessing, a kind of absolution or final purification before Communion, is determined by the accompanying formulas. The Deacon said: "Humiliate vos benedictioni;" or with the Greeks: "Let us bow down our heads before the Lord." The pseudo-Germain mentions the following: "Pax, fides et caritas, et communicatio corporis et sanguinis D.N.J.C. sit semper vobiscum." He says, too, that the blessing given by the Priest must be shorter and less solemn than that given by the Bishop. This is a discreet allusion to the discussions which doubtless took place about this time, since the canons of some of the Councils of the fifth and sixth centuries bear traces of the controversy. The question was whether the right of blessing the people should be reserved to the Bishop alone, or whether (as here) it was sufficient to mark the difference between his blessing and that of a Priest (cf. especially the 44th canon of the Council of Agde, held 506). The formula varied according to the day. In the MS. collections many episcopal benedictions exist, some of which have been published, and these must not be neglected, since they form part also of liturgical theology (see our article, "Benedictions episcopales", in DACL).

A certain hierarchical order-indeed, a very rigorous one-was enforced for the Communion. Priests and Deacons communicated at the altar; other clerics before it; the laity outside the choir. This at least was the Spanish custom. In Gaul the faithful entered the choir and communicated at the altar. Men received the Host upon the bare hand; while women received It in a linen cloth called the "Dominical" (Duchesne, op. cit., p. 257).

Mosaic of the Ark of the Covenant, Germigny-des-Prés, c. 806.
During the Communion a chant was sung: "antiphona ad accedentes." This, according to the most ancient tradition, was Psalm XXXIII, "Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore," or at least some of its verses which apply so well to the Eucharist: "Accedite ad eum et illuminamini, iste pauper clamavit et Dominus exaudivit eum;" and, above all: "Gustate et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus." Dom Cagin ("Paleographie musicale," Vol. V, PP. 22-25) has collected the principal evidence as to this tradition. It is interesting to know that Gaul had preserved it. The pseudo-Germain, amongst others, recalls it, but chiefly to prove that this chant (which he calls the "Trecanum") is an act of Faith in the Trinity. And indeed, three verses which were repeated in a certain manner, and doubtless ended with the Trinitarian doxology, did teach those who communicated that "the Father is in the Son, the Son in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost in the Son, and again the Son in the Father". P. Thibaut gives an explanation of this obscure text. "Trecanum" is an erroneous transcription of "Tricanon" (in Greek, "trikanon", three rules, or three bars). Now the Psalm "Gustate et videte" is numbered in Roman figures XXXIII, which was taken as a graphic symbol of the Trinity, three X's and three I's which must be written thus:

X X X  I I I
1  2  3  321

This would explain the pseudo-Germain's text on "Circumincession" in the Trinity. It is very subtle, but subtlety never frightened the symbolists of that period. However, what is incontestable is that these three verses with a special doxology are indeed a chant in honor of the Trinity; and on this point the Mozarabic rite agrees with that of Gaul. Other chants for Communion accompanied this, or took its place, such as the beautiful hymn, "Sancti venite," of the Celtic liturgies. In the Eastern and Mozarabic rites the Symbol of Nicea-Constantinople was recited at this moment. What must always be noticed is the intense care taken to cause an act of Faith to precede the participation in the Body and Blood of Christ; because the Eucharist is, above all, the mystery of union with Our Lord, and through Him between the faithful, in Faith and Charity.

After the Communion was said a prayer, the text of which varied. The Post-Communions preserved in the Gallican books are well worth study, for they express the faith of these liturgies in the Real Presence, and in the effects of the Sacrament upon the soul.

After these prayers the faithful were dismissed, as in other liturgies. The formula in the Roman rite is "Ite, Missa est," in the Missal of Stowe it is "Missa acta est, in pace." The Ambrosian rite has "Procedamus in pace, in nomine Domini;" while the Mozarabites have an even more solemn formula. The Eastern liturgies have yet others, and it was not until much later that, in certain rites, the reading of the Gospel of St. John and other prayers were added after this dismissal, a custom which causes the latter ceremony to lose all its meaning.

Sens Cathedral
The part played by the Gallican liturgy did not end with its disappearance. In the history of the liturgy from the ninth-fifteenth centuries Gaul's place was a very important one-it might be said, almost the most important
of all. It was in Gaul that the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries, as well as the greater number of the "Ordines Romani," have been retouched, modified, and finally moulded into that form which may be studied in the Missals of the ninth-thirteenth centuries, which are in reality Gallicano-Roman. An influence almost equally considerable was exercised in that country upon the Pontifical, the Ritual, Breviary, and other liturgical books. This history of the liturgy is not yet written, but it can be said that each day some fresh work on the subject confirms this general impression. We must also take into consideration the numerous initiatives
undertaken in that country which were in the end adopted in other lands, even by Rome herself, such as the institution of new Feasts, and of more solemn rites.

None the less, it is infinitely to be regretted that, as regards this liturgy which in the splendor of its forms could rival the Mozarabic, the Ambrosian, or even the liturgy of Rome, we are reduced to a few fragments, doubtless of great interest, but which are mere "membra disjecta," as the poet calls it. What a pity that one of our old Basilicas, that of Rheims, for instance, or Sens, did not play the same "role" as Toledo or Milan, and thus keep till our own day that collection of rites and customs of which to-day only a few relics are left! 103

103 We shall have a word to say as to the neo-Gallican liturgies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on p. 203. But they have in reality little to do with the Mass.

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