Monday, February 23, 2015

Things I’ve learned from Eastern Orthodoxy, again: Cheesefare Sunday

Every couple of years, I visit an eastern rite church to see how they do things on the “other side” of the empire. I often consider this exercise to be the closest I’ll get to knowing what it was like to go to church during the Middle Ages because the Orthodox, in many respects, are stuck in the 11th century; and I say that as affectionately as possible.

Yesterday’s victim was a local parish of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). I’m not too well-read on the history of Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States, but my understanding is that the OCA started out as a Russian mission in Alaska and grew to embrace a bunch of other Orthodox ethnic groups elsewhere in America. During the Cold War, growing differences between this communion and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (ROCOR) and an influx of Anglo converts to Orthodoxy led to this communion, with the Moscow Patriarchate’s consent, gaining autocephaly and dropping the “Russian” part of the name. As a result, the OCA is the “least ethnic” of all the major Orthodox churches in this country.

I walked in about 40 minutes late, just in time to miss the first sermon (yes, there was more than one). It was Forgiveness Sunday, which is the last Sunday before Lent begins in the east. Eastern fasting rules for Lent are exponentially more difficult than the west’s, so this day is dedicated to getting rid of all one’s dairy stores. Hence, they call it “Cheesefare Sunday” and make lots of pancakes, just like our nearly-forgotten Pancake Tuesday on the day before Ash Wednesday. I stood mostly in the back, but also observed part of the forgiveness rite which follows the Divine Liturgy on this day, and stayed afterward to eat pancakes with the parishioners because I will never say no to free pancakes.

Here follows my observations as an incognito Roman, in a handy numeric list:

1.)    No pews.
Not that I expected there to be, but it’s always striking as a westerner to go to a church that has no furniture whatsoever except for a handful of pews along the walls for the elderly and infirm. The first sermon was just coming to an end, so I saw that a lot of people were just standing from having been seated on the floor like it was story time at elementary school (or, perhaps, like being one of those lucky people listening at the feet of the Lord Himself in those paintings of the Sermon on the Mount). I walked in with Madame and our six-month old daughter, and one of the church ladies immediately spotted us and said, “please help yourself to this seat over here! You’ve got your hands full!” Some folks who were still sitting there immediately vacated the pew to make room for us. I decided not to take advantage of this luxury, but I appreciated the gesture and stood in front of the pew about half the time. I spent the other half perambulating around the church, holding my fussy daughter and showing her the different icons of saints to keep her amused.

What I learned: pews, consciously or not, erect barriers between worshippers. When you stand among other believers in an amorphous crowd, you’re more likely to smile at others as you bump elbows and feel as though you’re part of a true assembly of the faithful. Pews also clutter up space, but when you throw them out, even a small church building (like the one I visited yesterday) can suddenly feel a lot bigger. Western churches, too, were open spaces for most of Christian history. Pews didn’t come fully into vogue until the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, both which saw the length of sermons triple or quadruple in length; Protestant ministers emphasized the spirit of the “word” over vain repetitions and readings from a book, and Catholic priests fought back in kind by drilling the catechism into the faithful to dispel the heresies of Luther’s minions. All this preaching required lots of sitting, so bam! Pews came in to save the day. (For Catholics, the growing prevalence of low Mass and the custom of kneeling entirely throughout also ensured a steady demand for kneelers.) But the trends toward the privatization of religion go back a little further. In a few old English churches, we can see the remains of chantries built by wealthy families as far back as the 15th century to give them private worship spaces, e.g. walled off from the unwashed plebs. The “it’s just me and Jesus” mentality, held even by many orthodox Catholics while attending Mass, contributed in some way to the trends leading up to the Reformation.

If I were ever tasked with designing a new church, I would definitely give serious thought to trashing the idea of pews altogether. Though, of course, this is probably why no one will ever ask me to….

2.)    Walking aimlessly around the church is a thing.
Again, this is made possible by ditching the pews. Now, I’ll walk around with my daughter even in a western church to tour the statues during Mass without much regard for whether people in the pews are distracted, but this is much easier to do in an eastern arrangement. There, the church is built to engage people in their surroundings. I noticed, for example, people walking up to kiss the icon in the center of the church at random. At the same time, the congregation as a whole was still more engaged with the priest’s actions behind the iconostasis (by singing the responses and making endless dramatic signs of the cross in sync) than your typical Catholic parish, despite forty-plus years of liturgical experimentation after Vatican II in a crusade to get the peasants to drop their rosaries and prayer books.

How the east is so successful at doing both at the same time (milling about AND being engaged in the liturgy) is beyond me. I can only guess that centuries of privatized worship in the west, starting with the chantries and growing ever further with the pews and the low Mass mentality, ensure that no matter where you stand on liturgy; no matter how many clowns you put in the sanctuary, swooping gestures your lectress makes, or even how many fine Saint Edmund Campion Missals you put into people’s hands; Roman Catholics are usually just going to stay put, mind their own business at Mass, and get the heck out after Communion to catch the game.

3.)    Bad music is everywhere.
I don’t mean to say that I heard anything like “On Eagle’s Wings” or fake folk hymns to get everyone to feel more culturally sensitive; just that this parish, as with every other eastern rite church (Catholic or Orthodox) I’ve ever personally attended, had the same dreary four-part responses throughout the entire Divine Liturgy. Whatever happened to Byzantine chant?

The same thing that happened to Gregorian chant, it seems. I’m still learning about the history of sacred music in the eastern churches, but it seems the tide of modernization did hit the Orthodox in at least one way: in his push to reshape Russia as a modern western nation, Tsar Peter the Great imported the concepts of harmony and multi-voiced choirs from France into his own court chapels, which thence trickled down to the parish level over time. What probably sounds beautiful in the hands of a professional choral music program is easily several degrees less edifying among Sunday volunteers; thus we arrive at the same warbling one might have heard in the pre-Vatican II days from a small Roman parish attempting the Mozart Ave Verum as the that of the choirs singing the responses at these parochial Divine Liturgies today…. those descended from the Russian tradition, at least.

4.)    You can never have too much of a good thing.
In the classical Roman Rite, for example, the incensing of objects and people is governed by very specific rules. A single server gets a single swing. A major minister, like the deacon, gets two double-swings. The Blessed Sacrament and icons of our Lord get three doubles. The congregation as a whole gets three swings total: middle, left, and right. It’s all very hierarchical and reserved.

If any such rules exist in the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, this priest has never heard of them. He came out of the iconostasis to incense the congregation like a madman. Imagine the motion of a quaint suburban lawn sprinkler, but in the form of a heavy, golden mass of fire and smoke, riddled with bells, swinging furiously in one great arc. Dwell on this, and you can understand the fundamental difference between eastern and western liturgy in a nutshell.

5.)    Normal people can like reverence, too.
This is all quite subjective, and I don’t use the word “normal” as though it’s necessarily a positive thing, but in the face of the Divine Liturgy’s sheer intensity (in length, amount of singing, and lack of seating), the people in attendance struck me as quite average. I was the only man below 60 in a suit and necktie, and Madame was the only woman below 70 in a hat. A few other ladies wore headscarves, but most were bare-headed. Even most men singing in the choir were of the jeans-and-flannel-shirt variety. By contrast, a Catholic parish which consciously works toward reverent worship will probably attract a slightly more eccentric crowd, from your prairie skirts, to your bow-tied professors, to your seven brothers all wearing the exact same blue blazer and red necktie. At this Orthodox church, though, there weren’t even all that many men with beards, which I found disappointing. One lady did stop us after the DL, however, to say "you really raised the fashion consciousness of the entire church when you came in here today. I'm glad some people still take going to church seriously!" I wasn't sure how to respond to that.

As I said in the beginning, the OCA is probably the least "ethnic" of all the Orthodox churches here in the States. This parish, as I found from speaking with people at the breakfast, was made up of a lot of converts, including the priest. The ones who stuck out the most, ironically, were the ones who were obviously Russian expatriates. Apparently in the motherland, it's normal for women to dress for church like they're going to the club. Not judging, merely making an observation here. I don't know how they can make all those prostrations in those heels.

Also: during the pancake breakfast afterward, there was one middle-aged fellow with a five-o-clock shadow who greeted me with a thick Russian accent: “hello, my name is Dmitri. Are you Orthodox?” And yes, he was wearing a chain necklace. And he was exceedingly friendly. If this gentleman who one could easily mistake for being an agent of the Russian mob could be so welcoming, Catholics have no excuse for being brusque with visitors after Mass.

I don’t have any profound thoughts with which to conclude this article, except perhaps this: let us western Christians try harder this Lent. It doesn't matter how many or how few show up to church on any given day. When we're there, though, let's try harder to follow the essence of the great commandments, "love the Lord thy God" and "love thy neighbor as thyself", with all heavenly grace. Too often we think it has to be one or the other; and while it's certainly better to err on the side of the first commandment, there's no reason we can't do both, as this humble little parish does.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Photo essay: our solemn high nuptial Mass, part IV - miscellaneous photos and other remarks

In the two weeks since I first posted this series, numerous people have left comments on this blog and elsewhere that they were "inspired" by what they saw. I'm glad for it! But really, all I did was make a long series of requests to friends involved in the Church in some way or another. Nothing was invented; everything was drawn together from the treasury of the Roman Church's musical, liturgical, or cultural heritage, assembled in a way that I hoped would be cohesive, rather than theatrical. Most importantly, I hope the world sees these pictures as a display of traditional, Christian marriage exalted in an era that no longer respects or cares for it.

For those interested in the "complete" medieval wedding experience, you might like to know that the Sarum Manual has two post-nuptial blessings. The first is a blessing of food and drink. We had Father Romanoski use this during the reception, but it is properly intended for blessed bread and wine (or beer) set out in the narthex of the church, for the bride and groom to eat immediately after Mass. For most of Christian history, Mass could only be celebrated in the morning hours, and the bride and groom (and any other persons who received Communion) would have been fasting since midnight. These refreshments, then, are the true meaning of "breakfast": breaking the fast. I understand that many eastern churches still offer blessed bread after ordinary Sunday liturgies.
"Bless, O Lord, this bread, this drink, and this vessel, just as Thou blessed the five loaves in the desert, and the six water jugs in Cana of Galilee, so may they be healthy and sober, and all who eat of them spotless, O Saviour of the world, who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, through the ages of ages.  Amen."
The second blessing is only for the most medieval of moderns! On the night of the wedding, the bride and groom are escorted into bed, and the priest blesses them with incense in the presence of the entire party. If our wedding reception had been at home, we would have had this thrown in as well. I include this for any of you readers out there are bold enough to undergo this rite!

For the bedroom:
"Bless, O Lord, this bedroom, and all who dwell in it: that they may abide in thy peace, and remain in Thy will, and live in Thy love, and grow old and multiply into length of days.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."
And the bed itself:
"Bless, O Lord, this bed, Thou who sleepest not, nor may sleep.  Thou who guardest Israel, guard Thy servants who rest in this bed from all false dreams of demons.  Guard them while they watch, that sleeping they may meditate upon Thy precepts, and sense Thee through sleep, that here and anywhere they may be guarded by the help of Thy defence.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen."

Here are some miscellaneous photos that didn't make the cut elsewhere.

The schola rehearsing the nuptial Mass chants in the baptistery.

The altar servers say a prayer of preparation before the liturgy begins.

The priest putting on the first of the vestments, the amice.

The thurible used at our wedding. Some Roman Rite purists really hate the eastern-style bells attached to the chain here, but I love them, anyway.

My three oldest friends and their awkward faces.

I had only three relatives in attendance, but my cousin (far right) drove all the way from Georgia with a friend just to be there!

Photo essay: our solemn high nuptial Mass, part III - the Mass of the Faithful

This is third part of a photo essay series on our wedding on December 29, 2014.

Part III, below, walks the reader through the second half of the Mass itself, the Mass of the Faithful.

The Mass of the Faithful

The congregation has heard the Scriptures read and explained from the pulpit. If appointed, they have recited the summary of faith, the Creed. In the early Church, this would  have been the time for the inquirers and catechumens to depart. Even today in the eastern liturgy, the deacon signals the porter to close shut the doors of the church, crying out, "the doors! The doors!" For in those earliest centuries under the rule of Rome, to participate in the offering of the body and blood of Christ was sometimes a treasonous act, incurring the severest penalties, and so only the baptized were allowed to take part in the holy mysteries from this point forward.

The Offertory

The priest begins the offertory rite, also called the "preparation of the gifts", where ordinary unleavened bread and wine are brought to the altar and offered up to God in a series of quiet prayers while the schola sings an antiphon proper to each Mass. Here, it is from Psalm 30:

Offertory antiphon and verse: In te speravi

In te sperávi, Dómine: dixi: Tu es Deus meus: * in mánibus tuis témpora mea.
1. Illúmina fáciem tuam super servum tuum; salvum me fac me fac propter misericórdiam tuam: Dómine, non confúndar, quóniam in vocávi te. * In mánibus tuis témpora mea.
2. Quam magna multitúdo dulcédinis tuae, Dómine, quam abscondísti timéntibus te! Perfecísti autem sperántibus in te conspectu filiórum hóminum. * In mánibus tuis témpora mea.
In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped: I said, Thou art my God; my times are in Thy hands.
1. Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant; save me in Thy mercy. Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon Thee. * My times are in Thy hands.
2. O how great is the multitude of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou hast hidden for them that fear Thee! Which Thou hast wrought for them that hope in Thee, in the sight of the sons of men. * My times are in Thy hands.

Durandus complained that by his time (the 13th century), the practice of singing an entire psalm during the Offertory rite had been reduced to that of the antiphon only (with the notable exception of the Requiem Mass). The 1962 Missal still requires only that the schola sing the antiphon; at nearly all sung Masses today, the antiphon alone is sung, followed by a motet or hymn at will, or the organ playing alone. However, in 1935, Karl Ott published the Offertoriale sive versus Offertorium, a collection of all the Offertory antiphons for the year with verses transcribed from ancient books. These are not set to simple psalm tones, but rather, are virtuosic melodies which can only be sung by the most experienced of chanters. One or two cantors sing each verse, which is then answered in a responsorial style by the rest of the schola (as in the Requiem Mass). Our nuptial Mass's inclusion of the full verses would have made Durandus proud.

The recording below, taken at the nuptial Mass my friends and I sang at a few days after our own wedding, features just the first verse. The nuptial Mass this was recorded at didn't have incense, so there was no need to sing a second; tragic, since no recording of the second verse exists on the Internet.

Following along during the Offertory rite.
As the offertory as we know it was a later development, the precise prayers used during the Offertory varied greatly in the Middle Ages in different countries or even different dioceses. For the Tridentine Missal, Pope Pius V prescribed six prayers for the priest to use here:

-to offer the bread, in the form of an unleavened wheat wafer called the Host; "Receive, O holy Father, almighty everlasting God, this spotless host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my numberless sins, offences and negligences; and for all who stand here around, as also for all faithful Christians, both living and departed, that to me and to them it may avail for salvation unto life everlasting. Amen."
-to bless the water, presented by the subdeacon, that will be mixed into the wine, a sign of the water and blood which flowed together from Christ's side upon the cross; "O God, who didst wondrously create, and yet more wondrously renew the dignity of human nature: grant that by the mystery of this water and wine we may be made co-heirs of his divinity, who vouchsafed to be made partaker of our humanity, even Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord: who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God: world without end. Amen."
-to offer the chalice; "We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the cup of salvation, humbly beseeching Thy mercy: that in the sight of Thy divine majesty it may ascend as a sweet-smelling savour for our salvation, and for that of the whole world. Amen." Even though the priest uses this plural form, offerimus ("we offer"), even in low Mass, it's best understood in reference to solemn Mass because here, the deacon, who has long considered to be the guardian of the Chalice, lifts it up and recites the prayer together with the priest.
-that the gifts together may be pleasing and acceptable to God; "In a humble spirit, and with a contrite heart, may we be accepted of Thee, O Lord: and so let our sacrifice be offered in Thy sight this day, that it may be pleasing unto Thee, O Lord God."
-invoking the Holy Ghost; "Come, O Thou Fount of holiness, almighty, eternal God: and bless ✠ this sacrifice, made ready for Thy holy name."
-and finally, a prayer called the Secret which is proper to the Mass of the day or occasion. This corresponds to the modern Mass's "prayer over the gifts" and, like the Collect, collects the intentions of all the faithful into one. The Secret prayer of the nuptial Mass is: "Accept, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the gifts offered for the sacred law of marriage: and do Thou dispose according to Thy will, that which is instituted by Thy bounty."

If it is solemn Mass, then before the Secret, he will incense the gifts and then the entire altar.

The priest blessed the incense silently at the beginning of Mass. This time, he prays, "Through the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel standing at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all His elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless ✠ this incense, and to receive it for a sweet smelling savour. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

After the gifts, he incenses the entire altar. The deacon, the guardian of the chalice, moves the chalice out of the way so that the priest may safely incense the cross behind it. The prayer he says, Dirigatur, Domine, is drawn from Psalm 140: "Let my prayer, O Lord, be set forth in Thy sight as the incense: and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips: O let not mine heart be inclined to any evil thing, let me not be occupied in ungodly works."

The priest returns the thurible to the deacon, who descends to the foot and incenses the priest. He then incenses the subdeacon, who is guarding the paten  (a plate, typically of gold, upon which the Host rests during the offertory and after the fractioning) with a long cloth over the shoulders called a humeral veil. The paten and chalice, as precious objects associated with the holy Eucharist, are always veiled when not directly in use at the altar.

The priest briefly turns to the people to say the prayer Orate, fratres. It is the last time they see his face again until after the bread and wine are transformed. "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty." The ministers nearest to the priest respond, "The Lord receive the sacrifice at thy hands, to the praise and glory of His name, to our benefit also, and that of all His holy Church." 

The Canon of the Mass

The word "canon" means "rule"; in this context, it refers to the fixed series of prayers from the end of the Offertory to the Communion rite which were considered to be fundamental in ensuring that the Mass was a true sacrifice. It doesn't mean that there are no variations whatsoever. The Canon begins with a dialogue between the priest and people:

V. Dóminus vobíscum.
R. Et cum spíritu tuo.
V. Sursum corda.
R. Habémus ad Dóminum.

V. Grátias agámus Dómino, Deo nostro.
R. Dignum et justum est.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We have lifted them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.

He continues with the Preface to the Canon, which varies by the season or occasion. At our nuptial Mass, the priest sang the Preface of the Nativity according to the "most solemn" tone.

Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutáre, nos tibi semper et ubíque grátias agere: Dómine sancte, Pater omnípotens, ætérne Deus. Quia per incarnati Verbi mysterium, nova mentis nostrae oculis lux tuae claritatis infulsit: ut dum visibiliter Deum cognoscimus, per hunc in invisibilium amorem rapiamur. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia caelestis exercitus, hymnum gloriae tuae canimus, sine fine dicentes:
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God. For by the mystery of the Word made Flesh, the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind: so that while we acknowledge Him as God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen. And therefore, with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominions, and with the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing a hymn to Thy glory, evermore saying:

The Preface always ends with the Trisagion, or Sanctus, which recalls the vision of Isaiah the prophet when he saw the serphim sing praises endlessly before the throne of God (Isaiah 6:3): "holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory. Hosanna in the highest." If the composition is prolonged, such as the one in Josquin's Missa, the choir breaks it in two. They sing up to the end of Hosanna in excelsis, then wait until after the elevation of the chalice to sing Benedictus.

Sanctus and Benedictus (from Josquin's Missa Pange Lingua)

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dóminus, Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis.
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory. Hosanna in the highest.

While the choir sings the Sanctus, the priest continues on silently with the Eucharistic Prayer. At its heart are the words of institution: the words Christ commanded to do in commemoration of Him, "this is My body" and "this is the chalice of My blood". The silent Canon can be very bizarre for Catholics who have only ever attended the modern order of Mass, because in the reformed rite, the priest always waits for the complete Sanctus to finish, then recites the entire Eucharistic Prayer aloud (which is usually much shorter and completely different than the one in the classical Roman Rite; the classic Roman Canon is now the longest and least popular among several different options). For many centuries, Catholics lived and died without ever hearing the most important words of the Mass. It is a tapestry of prayers which has remained essentially unchanged since the reign of Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. The Roman Canon is too long to reproduce in full here, but you may read it at this link if you wish.

The Roman Canon's second petition, Memento, Domine, invites the priest to insert the names of people to be prayed for at this particular Mass. "Remember, O Lord, Thy servants and handmaids James and Lauren, and all who here around us stand, whose faith is known unto Thee and their steadfastness manifest, on whose behalf we offer unto Thee: or who themselves offer unto Thee this sacrifice of praise, for themselves, and for all who are theirs; for the redemption of their souls, for hope of their salvation and safety; and who offer their prayers unto Thee, the eternal God, the living and the true."

Each time, after consecrating the Host and Chalice into the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest raises it over his head for the faithful to see. Christians of the Middle Ages were so moved by this action that would call out to the priest to keep it held up a while longer. Churches would ring the tower bells during the elevations so that all in the village might take a moment to turn toward them and make an act of devotion.

The choir waits until after the priest has raised the Chalice to continue with Benedictus: the words proclaimed by the masses upon Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Benedíctus, qui venit in nómine Dómini! Hosánna in excélsis.
Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.

The priest continues on silently. Among the many prayers, there is a counterpart to the prayer for the living mentioned above: the prayer for the faithful departed. "Remember also, O Lord, Thy servants N. and N., who have gone before us sealed with the seal of faith, and who sleep the sleep of peace. To them, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, we beseech Thee to grant the abode of refreshing, of light, and of peace." He breaks his silence only to sing the Lord's Prayer:
Orémus. Præcéptis salutáribus móniti, et divína institutióne formáti, audémus dícere:

Pater noster, qui es in cælis: Sanctificétur nomen tuum: Advéniat regnum tuum: Fiat volúntas tua, sicut in cælo, et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidiánum da nobis hódie: Et dimítte nobis débita nostra, sicut et nos dimíttimus debitóribus nostris. Et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónem.

R. Sed líbera nos a malo.
Let us pray: Instructed by Thy saving precepts, and following Thy divine institution, we are bold to say:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation.

R. But deliver us from evil.

Though the phrase oratio Dominica, the "Lord's Prayer", appears in official liturgical books, ordinary medieval Christians only ever knew it by its first two words: Pater noster. Yes, they were the words taught by Christ during the sermon on the Mount, but in the medieval mind, the prayer was especially hallowed because those who prayed it were piously imitating the priest at Mass. Just as the priest prayed his Paternoster over the precious Body and Blood, the lay faithful prayed their Paternosters as a blessing over anything. For many, it may have even approached the level of a superstition. Whatever the intention, the medieval Christian's mind invariably associated his prayer with that of the Mass, and "our daily bread" was understood to be that of the Eucharist. How opposite this is to the modern Catholic's reckoning, which has "Our father" memorized from catechism and private devotions,
Pope Gregory the Great gave his reason for relocating the Lord's Prayer to its current place, immediately following the Roman Canon: "We say the Lord's Prayer... immediately after the Canon, because it was the custom of the Apostles to say this very prayer alone at the consecration of the Host; and it seemed to me very incongruous that we should say over the Oblation the Canon composed by a scholastic, and should not say over His Body and Blood the prayer composed by our Redeemer Himself." --Gregory the Great: His Place in History and Thought, Vol. 1, p. 265

The nuptial blessing

If, then, its transfer was to give the words of Christ Himself an even greater dignity by placing them so soon after the miracle of consecration, the same could be said for the nuptial blessing. The priest imparts a solemn blessing to the couple, not at the very end of Mass (where the general blessing is found), but immediately following the Lord's Prayer.

Shown above is the ancient tradition of holding the velatio nuptialis, or nuptial veil, over the bride and groom during the nuptial blessing. The medievals ascribed numerous meanings to this action: for instance, that the veil "shielded" the bride and groom from the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, radiating from the altar. Another was that if any children born out of marriage stood under the veil, they were to be proclaimed legitimate in the eyes of God and the Church.
The Tridentine Missal directs the priest to turn toward the couple and say the following two prayers, the second made especially for the bride:
Let us pray: Be gracious, O Lord, to our humble supplications: and graciously assist this Thine institution, which Thou hast established for the increase of mankind: that what is joined together by Thine authority, may be preserved by Thine aid. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
Let us pray: O God, who by Thine own mighty power, didst make all things out of nothing: who, having set in order the beginnings of the world, didst appoint Woman to be an inseparable helpmeet to Man, made like unto God, so that Thou didst give to woman's body its beginnings in man's flesh, thereby teaching that what it pleased Thee to form from one substance, might never be lawfully separated: O God, who, by so excellent a mystery hast consecrated the union of man and wife, as to foreshadow in this nuptial bond the union of Christ with His Church: O God, by whom Woman is joined to Man, and the partnership, ordained from the beginning, is endowed with such blessing that it alone was not withdrawn either by the punishment of original sin, nor by the sentence of the flood: graciously look upon this Thy handmaid, who, about to be joined in wedlock, seeks Thy defense and protection. May it be to her a yoke of love and peace: faithful and chaste, may she be wedded in Christ, and let her ever be the imitator of holy women: let her be dear to her husband, like Rachel: wise, like Rebecca: long-lived and faithful like Sara. Let not the author of deceit work any of his evil deeds in her. May she continue, clinging to the faith and to the commandments. Bound in one union, let her shun all unlawful contact. Let her protect her weakness by the strength of discipline; let her be grave in behavior, respected for modesty, well-instructed in heavenly doctrine. Let her be fruitful in offspring; be approved and innocent; and come to the repose of the blessed and the kingdom of heaven. May they both see their children's children to the third and fourth generation, and may they reach the old age which they desire. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.

In pre-Reformation England, the veil was commonly called a "care-cloth". It was a prescribed part of the Sarum Manual, with its rubrics calling for four clerks in surplice to hold the care-cloth by its four corners over the couple from after the Sanctus to the end of the nuptial blessing. The care-cloths envisioned by Sarum were probably more voluminous than what you see above, but ours was a last-minute commission and there wasn't enough ecclesiastical fabric on-hand to make it larger; thus, having four would made a crowd. The Manual of York (Sarum's northern cousin), however, called for only two clerks, and this arrangement seemed appropriate enough for our purposes.

While a widow or widower may certainly remarry and have the nuptial Mass again, the nuptial blessing's grace is conferred permanently. The rubrics make it clear, therefore, that neither a previous marriage nor the birth of children are any obstacle to a woman receiving the blessing; but if the bride has had the nuptial Mass before, the blessing would be omitted at any future nuptial Masses. (This is the case, at least, in both the Tridentine and Sarum rituals. I am unsure if this reckoning has carried over to the post-1970 marriage rites.)

medaille du mariage, much like the ones used at our exchange of rings and arrhae. which shows that the French were still familiar with care-cloths in the mid-19th century. I have read that the custom persisted in some rural regions of France, the eldest daughter of the Church, until the First World War.

The Agnus Dei and peace

After the blessing, the priest resumes Mass as usual. He breaks the Host in half, then breaks apart an even smaller fragment and mixes it into the Precious Blood, signifying the reunion of Body and Blood after Christ's glorious resurrection from the dead. The choir sings the last movement of the Ordinary of the Mass: Agnus Dei. As with the other texts, this too is moved by Scripture: the words Saint John the Baptist used to refer to the Messiah.

Agnus Dei (from Josquin's Missa Pange Lingua)

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi: miserére nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi: miserére nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi: miserére nobis.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

The Christ-as-lamb motif has always been more popular in the western Church, with its emphasis on sacrifice, than the east. The Agnus Dei was first sung in Rome during the first Mass of Christmas, then at pontifical Masses (that is, those celebrated by bishops) generally. Eventually, in 687, Pope Sergius I decreed it to be used at all Masses in defiance of the Quinisext Council held by the eastern bishops in Constantinople, which condemned a number of western practices, including the rendering of Christ in art as a lamb.

The threefold Agnus changes its last petition from "have mercy on us" to "grant us peace". It is a plea for the faithful to be granted the inward peace that allows them to partake of the Communion in grace. The priest and deacon initiate a beautiful outward sign of Christ's admonishment on the mount that "if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:23-24) They kiss the altar, then embrace each other, the priest saying Pax tecum, "peace be with you". The deacon, answering Et cum spiritu tuo, then passes the pax in turn to the subdeacon. The subdeacon transmits it to the members of the choir, then the servers in turn.

The pax, in our time, has been tragically reduced to an awkward handshake festival at the average Catholic parish, and is so rarely seen at the older form of Mass that some EF devotees will mock the entire idea of the pax as a modernist innovation without realizing its truly traditional ancestor. Observe one fundamental difference between the two styles, though: at the average parish, the people spontaneously exchange a sign of peace "contemporary to the times" (the mundane handshake of the business world) to one another. But in the classical form, the peace is passed in a chain from the altar, which is Christ, individually in a solemn embrace from one member of the faithful to the next. The pax was once given to all the laity as well in the form of a "paxbrede": an icon made of precious metal or ivory with the icon of Christ as the lamb. This made giving the pax easy even at low Mass, but as with so many other external signs, the paxbrede too fell into obscurity by the time of the Vatican II reforms.

The Communion

While the other ministers are exchanging the pax and the choir continues singing Agnus Dei, the priest goes on to prepare to receive Communion with many more silent prayers. Though receiving the Body and Blood is surely the fullest way for anyone attending Mass to participate, it is the celebrating priest's Communion alone that completes the sacrifice of the Mass. (Hence, there is no such thing as a priest abstaining from Communion at his own Mass. Imagine how vigilant a priest who celebrates daily Mass must be to keep the purity of spirit required to receive Communion every day of the week!) After drinking from the Chalice, the deacon leads the people in preparing for their Communions by chanting the Confiteor, as at the beginning of Mass.

The priest turns to face the people with the holy Eucharist in hand, saying ecce Agnus Dei... "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world." The people respond thrice with the prayer of the centurion, Domine, non sum dignus: "Lord, I am not worthy, that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed."
He places the Host directly onto the communicant's tongue while saying to each, "the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul unto everlasting life. Amen." The deacon holds the paten under each person's chin to ensure that no crumbs or other particles fall onto the floor.
At our nuptial Mass, the ministers, servers, and chanters received Communion first, then began singing the last of the proper chants, the Communion antiphon, while we received ours.

Communion antiphon and verses: Ecce sic benedicteur

Ecce sic benedicetur omnis homo, qui timet Dominum: et videas filios filiorum tuorum: pax super Israel.
Behold, thus shall every man be blessed that feareth the Lord; and mayest thou see thy children's children; peace upon Israel.

"Grant, O Lord, that what we have taken with our mouths we may receive in purity of heart: and let this temporal gift avail for our healing unto life eternal."

After the last person among the faithful has received, the priest, assisted by his ministers, must purify the Chalice, paten, and other Eucharistic vessels. The liturgy allows any hymn, in addition to the proper antiphon, to be sung during Communion and the ablutions. We had the schola sing the Marian antiphon Salve Regina, with one chanter sustaining an oblique organum (a "drone"). The technique is now associated mainly with the Byzantine chant of the eastern churches, but the early music group Ensemble Organum insists that the drone was a staple of chant in the west, too.

Salve Regina

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ, Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

It's become something of an American tradition for the couple to stop before an altar dedicated to our Lady the Virgin before the wedding is over. We knelt before the Lady Chapel while Communion was distributed to others. The parish's Christmas creche was still laid out.

To the end of the Mass

The vessels have been put away, and the Missal has been transferred back to the Epistle side of the altar, as at the beginning of Mass. The priest sings the last proper prayer, the Postcommunion. 

The Postcommunion of the nuptial Mass: "We beseech Thee, almighty God, to accompany with Thy gracious favor, the institution of Thy Providence, and keep in lasting peace those whom Thou dost join in lawful union."

Just as the deacon in the ancient Church would dismiss the catechumens, he now dismisses all the faithful with the words that give the Mass (missa) its name: ite, missa est. "Go, it is sent." In the new order of Mass, the liturgy actually ends here. The Tridentine Missal, however, has the priest bless the people with the sign of the cross (after the dismissal, not before) and then go to the left horn of the altar to read the "last gospel". This is the first section of the gospel according to John, in principio erat verbum: "in the beginning was the Word". Today, it probably seems like just another unnecessary addition to make the Mass even longer, but at the height of Christendom, it was a popular pious practice to ask a priest to bless them with these words that tell of Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, as the Logos, the Word of God; that is, for the priest to recite or sing the first part of John's Gospel from memory. Hence Geoffrey Chaucer's audience understood what he meant when he described the Friar of his Canterbury Tales by saying, "so pleasaunt was his in principio".

Before the priest blesses the people, the nuptial Mass has him impart one final blessing for the newlywed couple: "May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you: and Himself fulfill His blessing on you: that you may see your children's children even to the third and fourth generation: and thereafter possess life everlasting, by the aid of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, God, world without end.  R. Amen."

As a devotion after Mass, we sang the hymn of thanksgiving, Te Deum, after the last Gospel. Te Deum was once a standard part of the Christian vocabulary. It was sung to celebrate momentous occasions such as a coronation, the signing of a peace treaty, and the canonization of a new saint. Our schola has sung Te Deum after baptisms in the past, and it seemed like an excellent way to conclude this Mass as well. The schola sang every other verse in alternatim with the organ, in a manner similar to the recording below.

Te Deum

The servers line up for the recession while the schola sings Te Deum.
The servers, chanters, clergy, bride and groom recessed out to the final movement of Jean Langlais's Suite Medievale, the Acclamations carolingiennes. Those familiar with chant might hear snippets from the royal praises, Christus vincit, which I wrote about in 2012 here.

What a joyous (if long) end to this wedding, but of course, it's just the beginning of a new journey! I could go on for many more pages about what I had thought or did prior to our wedding, but I firmly resolved to limit myself to commentary on wedding customs and the history of the Catholic Mass that visitors to this site that don't know my wife or me at all would still find interesting.

Some final remarks and miscellaneous photos that don't fit anywhere else can be found in this final entry, part IV, here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Photo essay: our solemn high nuptial Mass, part II - the Mass of the Catechumens

This installment picks up where I left off in part I. Here, you can read about and see pictures of our marriage rite up until the beginning of Mass, with some commentary on the wedding rituals used. Below, I've written on a short response to the question, "why have a nuptial Mass?", and then posted pictures of the nuptial Mass with a walkthrough of the liturgy, written as though the reader has never attended a Catholic Mass before.


Prelude chants: Gaudeamus (introit for the feast of Saint Thomas Becket) and Veni Sancte Spiritus
Organ Processional: Prelude from the Suite Medievale by Jean Langlais (1907-1991)
Minor Propers (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, Communion): Gregorian chant from the Liber Usualis
Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei): Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1521)
Offertory: antiphon extended with two verses from the Offertoriale
Preface: of the Nativity, in the "most solemn" tone
Motet during the ablutions: Salve Regina, solemn tone with oblique organum (drone)
After the Last Gospel: the hymn of thanksgiving, Te Deum, simple tone in alternation with organ
Organ Recessional: Acclamations carolingiennes from the Suite Medievale by Jean Langlais

Why have a Mass?

The nuptial Mass, wherein ordinary bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ and offered especially for the souls of the bride and groom, is often an excruciating addition to any newlywed couple's guests who aren't Catholic; and, to be honest, even for many that are. When they see "Mass" on an invitation, it's a good sign that the ceremony will take more than twice as long as the usual American wedding. From procession to recession, thanks largely to our very particular musical selections, ours ran almost two and a half hours. We had two choirs: an all-male schola cantorum of Gregorian chanters vested in cassock and surplice singing the propers in makeshift choir stalls at the front, and a choir of male and female voices in the organ loft, drawn from musical professionals at the parish and all around the state of Texas to sing the Ordinary of the Mass according to Josquin des Prez's Missa Pange Lingua..... and all this for a very small group of guests in attendance (fewer than the total number of ministers, servers, and singers). I can only hope that our guests, Catholic or not, came away with the impression that they bore witness to a very sacred and special rite.

A rare example of a preconciliar solemn nuptial Mass
(Saint George's, Sudbury).
During the height of Christendom, say the 13th century, the nuptial Mass and its blessing was considered by the vast majority of the faithful to be an integral part of marriage. Priests had to go so far as to remind their flock that the nuptial blessing (which was always bestowed only during Mass, never outside of it) wasn't necessary for their marriages to be valid. Simply put, if a couple got married in the Church at all, even if it was a second or third marriage, and even if children had been born out of wedlock, they almost certainly followed it with the nuptial Mass... though not necessarily on the same day. Why, you ask? This is mostly because the Church, until the 20th century, was very strict on which days of the year the nuptial Mass (and other votive Masses for various intentions) could be celebrated. Sundays were forbidden, for they were to be reserved for the Lord's Day. The seasons of Advent and Lent were restricted because the nuptial Mass, a joyous affair, couldn't be held on a day of penance. So, too, were major feast days and entire octaves off limits; of which the medieval Church had a great many. (By medieval standards, our own nuptial Mass would probably have been disallowed since it occurred within the octave of Christmas.) Therefore, it wasn't unusual for a couple to wed during Lent and then wait until after Quasimodo Sunday to have the nuptial Mass.

By the 20th century, the fervor that all but demanded the holy Sacrifice to be offered for a newlywed couple's intentions waned into indifference for everyone but the devout. The traditions that added solemnity and splendor to the marriage rites, such as the care-cloth or nuptial veil, faded into obscurity as man marched from one world war to the next in the name of progress. Multiple recollections from "old timers" attest that in the years before Vatican II, it was quite normal for couples in America to marry on weekday mornings without Mass, even back to back or in large groups. Those who did request the nuptial Mass almost invariably had it low, with just one server and no music; solemn Mass with incense and a choir became the preserve of the elite, and even then, more as a sense of obligation to fit the trappings of state and station, rather than a desire to express the fullness of the liturgy.

There are, of course, perfectly good reasons why a Catholic couple may opt not to have the nuptial Mass, to postpone it for some day after the wedding, or keep it simple with a low Mass. The solemnity of our nuptial Mass, described below, should in no way imply that Madame and I are holier or "better" Catholics than couples who wedded with a less elaborate liturgy or none at all. Our own position was simply to strive toward the liturgical ideal as best as we knew how. As a bonus, it was a great way to introduce our friends, some of whom are not churchgoers of any kind, to a great treasure they had never seen before.

Here follows an overview of the Mass as it was celebrated at our wedding. It was offered according to the Missal of 1962, the last edition of the Roman Missal before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, by the Rev. Father Jonathan Romanoski, FSSP. He was assisted at the altar by a deacon and "straw" subdeacon from the same Fraternity. My friends or their sons made up the body of altar servers: one master of ceremonies, one crucifer, one thurifer, two acolytes (both in formation at our local diocesan seminary), and four torchbearers. There were eight chanters in cassock and surplice. Nine singers formed the choir for the Josquin Mass.

The Mass of the Catechumens

The reformed order of Mass calls its first half the Liturgy of the Word. The older form, though, uses the more antiquated expression, Mass of the Catechumens. In the earliest centuries of the faith, when the holy mysteries were still being offered in private homes and catacombs, visitors and new converts were permitted only to attend the first half of the liturgy. This was made up of prayers, hymns, and lessons from Scripture that the first Christians, who were nearly all Jews, easily adapted from the synagogues. A prospective convert, called a catechumen, was expected to study and grow in faith by hearing the Scriptures read and the teachings of Christ preached for a year (or more) before being admitted to the waters of baptism and full participation in the Church's rites. Until that time, the catechumens were to be dismissed after the homily.* Though the requirement of catechumens to depart has long since fallen out of use, the overall structure of the Mass of the Catechumens; confession of sins, hymn, readings from Scripture, and homily; remained.
*This was perhaps also a safety measure. We know that the early Christians were suspected in Rome of practicing cannibalism. Someone without an understanding of the sacrament, witnessing Christians eat and drink the flesh and blood of their god, might have invited the wrath of the legionaries during the age of persecution.

The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

After the last prayer of the marriage rite, the priest changes from the cope to the chasuble, which he wears only when he is about to perform the holy sacrifice. Together with the deacon and subdeacon, they prepare themselves before ascending the altar steps by quietly reciting the "prayers at the foot of the altar": the 42nd Psalm ("Judge me, O God"), and the Confiteor, or confession of sins. The schola chants the Introit, the first of five "minor propers": chants that are assigned to each particular Mass of the year or occasion. The 1962 Missal calls the schola to sing the same antiphon used to begin the nuptial Masses in Rome since at least the era of Charlemagne, Deus Israel (Tobit 7:15 and 8:19).

This video below, though it uses our pictures, is not a recording from our nuptial Mass. Rather, it's a recording from my phone of three of the same chanters, plus myself, singing at another couple's wedding five days later. Unfortunately, I have no quality audio or video recordings from our nuptial Mass, so this is the best I can do.

Introit: Deus Israel

Deus Israel coniúngat vos: et ipse sit vobíscum, qui misértus est duóbus únicis: et nunc, Dómine, fac eos plénius benedícere te.

(Ps. 127 :1) Beáti omnes, qui timent Dóminum: qui ámbulant in viis eius.
V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper: et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.

Deus Israel...
May the God of Israel join you together: and may He be with you, who was merciful to two only children: and now, O Lord, make them bless Thee more fully.
(Ps. 127:1) Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, that walk in His ways.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
May the God of Israel…

Introibo ad altare Dei... "I will go unto the altar of God: to God, who giveth joy to my youth."

The priest bows and confesses to his brothers, the deacon and subdeacon, "that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault".

The Kyrie, Gloria, and Collect

Immediately after the Introit is sung Kyrie eleison. The last vestige of the ancient Greek liturgy in the west, the choir invokes each Person of the Trinity: "Lord, have mercy", "Christ, have mercy", "Lord, have mercy". On joyous occasions, such as the nuptial Mass, the Kyrie is followed immediately by the Church's most ancient hymn of praise, Gloria in excelsis: "Glory be to God on high". The Kyrie and Gloria together make up two of five "movements" that frequently or always appear in every liturgy, called the Ordinary of the Mass.

These regularly occurring movements have inspired countless composers across the ages to set the Ordinary to more and more elaborate scores. Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1521) was one of the preeminent composers of the northern Renaissance. From what little we can gleam of his life, he learned his craft in France as a chapel chorister for the Duc d'Anjou. From there, he moved to Italy to serve the powerful Sforza family in Milan, and even had a stint in the Sistine Chapel choir under the infamous Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. Josquin's musical career spanned 50 years; his last two decades concentrated ever more on Mass settings and other religious works. Around 1515, at the eve of the Protestant Reformation, Josquin composed what is believed to be his final Mass, a setting inspired by the Eucharistic hymn of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Pange lingua gloriosi. The Missa Pange Lingua was one of four Masses by Josquin which were based on plainchant rather than secular melodies of his age. You can listen to the first two movements, the Kyrie and Gloria, sung by the Ensemble Clément Janequin, much as it sounded at our Mass, in the videos below:
Kyrie (from Josquin's Missa Pange Lingua)

(An excellent alternate, less studio-like recording of the Kyrie can be listened to below)

P. Kýrie, eléison.
S. Kýrie, eléison.
P. Kýrie, eléison.
S. Christe, eléison.
P. Christe, eléison.
S. Christe, eléison.
P. Kýrie, eléison.
S. Kýrie, eléison.
P. Kýrie, eléison.
P. Lord, have mercy.
S. Lord, have mercy.
P. Lord, have mercy.
S. Christ, have mercy.
P. Christ, have mercy.
S. Christ, have mercy.
P. Lord, have mercy.
S. Lord, have mercy.
P. Lord, have mercy.
As the choir sings Kyrie eleison, the priest receives the thurible from the deacon and incenses the altar. He first blesses the grains before they are loaded onto the coals, saying, "Be thou blessed by Him in whose honour thou shalt be burned." 

Gloria (from Josquin's Missa Pange Lingua)


Et in terra pax homínibus bonæ voluntátis.
Laudámus te.
Benedícimus te.
Adorámus te.
Glorificámus te.
Grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam.
Dómine Deus, Rex coeléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens.
Dómine Fili unigénite, Iesu Christe. Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris.
Qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis.
Qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram.
Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis.
Quóniam tu solus Sanctus.
Tu solus Dóminus.
Tu solus Altíssimus, Iesu Christe. Cum Sancto Spíritu in glória Dei Patris.
And in earth peace, goodwill towards men.
We praise Thee.
We bless Thee.
We worship Thee.
We glorify Thee.
We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For Thou only art holy;
Thou only art the Lord;
Thou only, O Christ,
with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The priest returns to the altar to sing the Collect, so called to collect all the prayer intentions of the faithful there present into one petition. The Collect varies by the day, and sometimes more than one can be said if the Mass falls on multiple occasions. (For example, a collect for the nuptial Mass, and a collect for the feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.)

"Let us pray: Hear us, almighty and merciful God: that what is performed by our ministry may be abundantly fulfilled with Thy blessing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen."

The Lessons

The modern order of Mass typically has three Scripture readings: a prophecy from the Old Testament, a New Testament Epistle, and one of the four Gospels. A similar cycle was used by the early Church, but by the Middle Ages, had dropped to only two: Epistle and Gospel. The 1962 Missal still uses just the two readings, with a handful of exceptions where the ancient Old Testament prophecies yet remain (such as the ember days).

At solemn Mass, the Epistle is sung by the subdeacon while standing on the right side, the Epistle side, of the church.

The Epistle of the nuptial Mass in this form is always Saint Paul's lesson on marriage: Ephesians 5:22-33.
"BRETHREN: Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. He is the savior of His body. Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it: that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it; as also Christ doth the Church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great Sacrament, but I speak in Christ and in the Church. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself, and let the wife fear her husband."
As in the synagoguges of the Old Covenant, the readings are punctuated by the singing of a psalm, called the Gradual. The eminent rubricist, the Rev. Adrian Fortescue, wrote that it is the "oldest and most important" of all the propers, because where the others are sung by the choir to fill time while the priest carries out his duties, the Gradual alone is sung for its own sake, while all are seated attentively. It is believed to have gotten the name from an ancient practice whereby two clerks sang the verse from a gradus, or step, leading up to the ambo where the Gospel would be sung. The medieval Church, over time, dropped the singing of an entire psalm in favor of just a few verses... but the anonymous monks who left us the body of Gregorian chants embellished these fragments into the tours de force now found in books such as the Graduale Romanum and Liber Usualis today. The nuptial Mass's gradual is taken from the "marriage psalm", Psalm 127.

Gradual: Uxor tua

Uxor tua sicut vitis abúndans in latéribus domus tuæ. V. Fílii tui sicut novéllæ olivárum in circúitu mensæ tuæ.
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine on the sides of thy house. V. Thy children as olive plants round about thy table.

The schola chanting the Gradual and Alleluia, one after the other.

On most days of the year, the Gradual is followed by another proper chant, the Alleluia. Alleluia, an ancient expression meaning "All hail to Him who is", was retained in its original Hebrew form and adapted as an outburst of joy long after people forgot precisely what it originally meant. Alleluia is sung twice, then a verse from Scripture (usually a psalm), then Alleluia again. When sung using the full scores given in the Liber Usualis, the second and third alleluia are extended by a long phrase called a jubilus. The medievals placed a remarkable, even a mystical, significance to this extension. Bishop Guillaume Durandus (c.1230-1296) said of it: "the Alleluia is short in word and long in neum, because that joy is too great to be expressed in words. For the neum or jubilus at the end denotes the joy and love of the faithful". The nuptial Mass's Alleluia follows the usual pattern, with the verse taken from Psalm 19.

Alleluia: Mittat vobis

Allelúia, allelúia. V. (Ps. 19: 3) Mittat vobis Dóminus auxílium de sancto: et de Sion tueátur vos. Allelúia.
Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Ps. 19: 3)  May the Lord send you help from the sanctuary, and defend you out of Sion. Alleluia.

The extended "a" of the Alleluia, signifying unending joy, is called the jubilus.

The servers line up to take the Gospel in procession while the schola sings the Alleluia. The deacon genuflects before the priest and says, "Bid, sir, a blessing". The priest blesses him with the sign of the cross, replying, "The Lord be in thy heart and on thy lips: that thou mayst worthily and fitly proclaim his Gospel: In the name of the Father, and of the Son,  and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
The Lindau Gospels
Meanwhile, the servers form up to escort the book of the Gospels in procession to the place where it will be sung; typically somewhere in the left side, the Gospel side, of the church, near or even well within the nave. The Gospels have always been accorded a greater dignity than other books of the Bible when read in the liturgy, and by the fifth century, the right to read them in church was reserved to the deacon alone, rather than the lector. In the eastern churches, the Gospel book is always the most handsomely bound book in their possession and is treated as an icon of Christ, just like the altar; traditionally, they have even eschewed any covers made from the skin of animals in favor of gilded metal cases studded with precious stones. The west, too, once shared this reverence for the Gospels. The most famous Gospel book in history, after all, is the Book of Kells, produced in the British Isles around the 9th century. Unfortunately, as the frequency of solemn Mass (and, therefore, gospel processions) declined, the art of publishing Gospel books dwindled into virtual non-existence by the 20th century. Few Tridentine Latin Mass communities today have solemn Mass, so they have no need to buy a special Gospel book. With the aid of other patrons, we ordered a recent publication called the Canticum Clericorum Romanorum, which compiles the Epistles and Gospels together in full chant notation. The deacon at our nuptial Mass sang from this book according to the tonus antiquior, the "more ancient" tone.

In the old Mass, the deacon reads the Gospel facing north. Some medieval authors wrote that this was to signify the preaching of the Gospel to the pagan "barbarians" north of Rome, earlier in Christian history. Others say this was a directive from the Pontificale, so that the deacon would not turn his back on the bishop if present, whose throne would be on the Gospel side. 

The Gospel of the nuptial Mass is always Matthew 19:3-6.
"AT THAT TIME: The Pharisees came to Jesus, tempting Him and saying; It is lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Who answering said to them, Have ye not read, that He who made man from the beginning, made them male and female? and He said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore, now they are not two but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."

If there is a homily, or sermon, it will usually be preached after the Gospel reading.

Some priests are content to say no more than the exhortation before marriage, as found in the Ritual. But we invited Father Romanoski to prepare a homily to also teach those present about the Catholic Mass, some of whom had never attended one before. He was very glad to do so.

The summary of faith: the Creed

On Sundays and other major feasts, the Mass of the Catechumens is brought to an end with the singing of the Nicene Creed. The Creed was composed by the bishops of the Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325) and Constantinople (381) to settle debates then raging over the divinity of Christ, and to set down the most necessary teachings of the Christian faith. Because it was introduced into the western liturgy much later than the other parts of the Ordinary, there are fewer settings of the text into plainchant.

The Credo is rarely sung at nuptial Masses, but because December 29 falls within the octave of Christmas (the eight days following the feast), the 1962 Missal required its use. Here, it was sung from Josquin's Missa, the priest first intoning the words Credo in unum Deum.

Credo (from Josquin's Missa Pange Lingua)

(an excellent alternate recording of the Josquin Credo below, if Ensemble Clement is not to your liking)

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipoténtem,
factórem cæli et terræ,
visibílium ómnium et invisibílium. Et in unum Dóminum Jesum Christum,
Fílium Dei unigénitum.
Et ex Patre natum ante ómnia sæcula.
Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine,
Deum verum de Deo vero. Génitum, non factum,
consubstantiálem Patri:
per quem ómnia facta sunt.
Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem descéndit de cælis. Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto ex María Vírgine: Et homo factus est.
Crucifíxus étiam pro nobis: sub Póntio Piláto passus,
et sepúltus est.
Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras.
Et ascéndit in cælum:
sedet ad déxteram Patris.
Et íterum ventúrus est cum glória judicáre vivos et mórtuos:
cujus regni non erit finis.
Et in Spíritum Sanctum,
Dóminum et vivificántem:
qui ex Patre,
Filióque procédit.
Qui cum Patre, et Fílio simul adorátur et conglorifícatur: qui locútus est per Prophétas.
Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam.
Confíteor unum baptísma in remissiónem peccatorum.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum.
Et vitam ventúri sæculi.
I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man,
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the world to come. Amen.

If the Credo is sung to a prolonged score, the priest may return to his seat after reciting it privately at the altar. The master of ceremonies customarily remains standing, ready to direct the clergy on when to bow or return to the altar.

Following along in a hand missal and being nervous.

The series will continue with the second half of the Mass in part III: the Mass of the Faithful here! Below is a preview photo featuring the nuptial veil, or care-cloth, during the nuptial blessing....