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 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 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 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.
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.
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.)
The Agnus Dei and peaceAfter 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.
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.
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, 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.
|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.