Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Sarum High Mass: Mass of the Faithful

The previous articles in this series:

-The Use of Sarum: A Brief History, and Why It Matters
-The Sarum Low Mass: Mass of the Catechumens
-The Sarum Low Mass: Mass of the Faithful
-The Sarum High Mass: Mass of the Catechumens

At last, we come to the Sarum's summit: the Eucharistic sacrifice as seen in high Mass. This last comparison is short, though, because the rubrics for the Mass of the Faithful concern mostly the celebrant himself, and there are few differences between high and low Mass for him from the Offertory onward. The deacon and subdeacon, who may be said to be the "stars" of the Mass of the Catechumens, now step aside to humbly assist the priest as he fulfills his vocation upon the high altar.

The Offertory

As in the Mass of Trent, the Offertory begins after the celebrant says Dominus vobiscum, then Oremus. I said before that in a parish Mass, the Sarum rubrics place the bidding prayers "after the Gospel or Offertory". I placed my account of them after the Gospel, or after the Creed when the Creed is said. "After the Offertory" is a very awkward place for bidding prayers, but on closer thought, I offer the possibility that the rubric means after the Oremus. The reason? Because this was the place where the oratio fidelium, the prayers of the faithful, were made in Rome prior to the reforms of Pope Gregory the Great. This, at least, is the argument made by the Rev. Father Adrian Fortescue which can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on 'Liturgy of the Mass':

'The "Oremus" said just before the Offertory is the fragment of quite another thing, the old prayers of the faithful, of which we still have a specimen in the series of collects on Good Friday.'
'At Rome the prayers of the faithful after the expulsion of the catechumens and the Intercession at the end of the Canon have gone. Both no doubt were considered superfluous since there is a series of petitions of the same nature in the Canon. But both have left traces. We still say Oremus before the Offertory, where the prayers of the faithful once stood, and still have these prayers on Good Friday in the collects. And the "Hanc Igitur" is a fragment of the Intercession.'
It may have been the case, then, that Sarum preserved this ordering, or at least the option of it.

Now, as the celebrant reads the Offertory sentence privately, the choir sings it. There are some days (ferial days in Advent and from Septuagesima to Easter) in which the Offertory has a verse and response, like in the Tridentine's Requiem Offertory or in the Offertoriale Triplex. However, the rubrics state these are not to be said outside of these days. (I see no reason why the verses can't be sung by the choir ad libitum to cover additional time, however, if they can be found in the Offertoriale or elsewhere.)

The usual position of the ministers when the celebrant reads from the middle, though I'm unsure about the northward-facing acolyte there.
The deacon presents the chalice and the paten with the Host to be consecrated to the celebrant, "kissing his hand each time". As in low Mass, the celebrant offers the Host and chalice at the same time with the prayer Suscipe, sancta Trinitas. After placing the gifts properly upon the altar, he receives the thurible from the deacon and censes the gifts "thrice, making the sign of the cross over it; then thrice round and on either side: then thrice between himself and the Altar". While doing so, he recites the prayer:

Dirigatur, Domine, ad te oratio mea, sicut incensum in conspectu tuo.
Let me prayer, O Lord, be set forth in Thy sight as the incense.

He then returns the thurible to the deacon, who, if the Creed has been said, censes him. The subdeacon brings the celebrant "the Text" to kiss, but I'm not sure what text is being referred to here; perhaps the Missal. While the celebrant steps to the right of the altar to wash his hands as at low Mass, the deacon is incensing the left of the altar "and the relics in order". The rubrics don't specify if the deacon ever censes the altar's right.

One of the acolytes is tasked with incensing the choir, differing with the practice of Trent which has the deacon do so. The order prescribed is for the acolyte to first cense the rulers, then the dean, then those on the "upper grade" of his stall on the north side. Then he censes the precentor and the upper grade on the south side. He then goes back and forth to cense the middle and lower grades of the stalls in what must have been a lengthy ritual. The subdeacon, meanwhile, follows the acolyte and presents the Text for each member of the choir to kiss after they've been censed. If the Creed has not been said, then the incensing of anything but the gifts upon the altar is omitted.

After the handwashing, the celebrant returns to the middle of the altar and continues as he would at low Mass, while his ministers assume their places behind him. As in Trent, he sings per omnia saecula saeculorum aloud at the end of the Secret and continues with the Preface.

The Canon

During the versicles of the Preface, the deacon gives the paten and humeral veil to the subdeacon, who holds the paten with the veil until the Lord's Prayer. At the Sanctus, if there are rulers, the rubrics instruct the choir to exit their stalls at the ringing of the bell and stand outside the first stalls in the center of the quire. They do not kneel, except on ferial days.

There are no instructions throughout the Canon which differ from low Mass, except that after the consecration, the cerofers assist the deacon with washing his hands, and toward the end, at per ipsum et cum ipso, "let the Deacon stand at the right of the Priest, having first washed his hands, and assist him in raising the corporals; and as he retires let him kiss the Altar and the right shoulder of the Priest."

As at low Mass, the priest extends his arms in a cross after the consecration of the wine.

From the Lord's Prayer to Communion

As the celebrant begins the Lord's Prayer with Præceptis salutaribus moniti, the deacon takes the paten from the subdeacon and stands to the celebrant's right, holding the paten uncovered with both hands, arms extended out. At Libera nos, the deacon hands the paten to the celebrant, kissing his hand. The celebrant makes a curious gesture here which I neglected to mention in the low Mass article. Taking the paten from the deacon, he kisses it, then holds it over his left, then his right eye before signing himself with it.

At the Kiss of Peace, the deacon receives the peace from the celebrant and gives it to the subdeacon. The deacon also gives it to the rulers of the choir, who then give it to their respective sides.

As with low Mass, there are no instructions in the Missals for the people's Communion. I've done a bit more research into this subject, and it seems that there are no surviving rubrics for administering Communion to the people in any book whatsoever; largely because by the end of the Middle Ages, it seems the common practice was for the laity to receive Communion only a few times a year, and in those cases, usually outside of Mass.

The Rev. Seán Finnegan, who was involved with the Sarum Candlemas liturgy at Oxford in 1997, wrote of their difficulties in handling precisely how to approach the people's Communion "accurately". I'll quote from his series of posts on this:
"This was one part of the ceremony where we really had to wing it. We had gleaned that the confiteor was said before Communion, because there is a record of one king of England saying it on his own before his coronation. So we gave the Sarum Confiteor to the Deacon to recite, as in the Roman Use. There was a lot of agonizing about whether we should have Ecce Agnus Dei and Domine non sum dignus, but we could find no evidence for either (which is not the same as it never existing) so in the end, though we printed it in the booklets, we omitted it in the ceremony, probably correctly, I think. The formula for Communion we had, from the order for the visitation of the sick: Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat corpus tuum et animam tuam in vitam æternam, it goes. We knew that there was the custom of the 'houselling cloth' —the long cloth you can see being used — in many places, and that unconsecrated wine was given after the host to cleanse the mouth. We had no formula for administering that, so the acolyte simply presented a chalice with the wine, saying nothing."
The houseling cloth, which is held under the communicant's chin to prevent dropping the Host, is still used at some Tridentine Masses I've attended in the past. Father Finnegan also mentions the interesting custom of administering unconsecrated wine to "wash down" the Eucharist. This may have been a remnant of the late medieval Church's transitional period, when it withdrew Communion via the Chalice from the people. Perhaps unconsecrated wine was still administered as a matter of habit. Other reasons given were that it made swallowing the Host easier, and that it prevented anyone from spitting out any small particle of the Host later on.

Illustration of Communion from the Coronation Book of King Charles V of France, c.1365. (I believe the Tridentine form doesn't allow a bishop to distribute Communion with the mitre on.)

From the ablutions to the end of Mass

At the ablutions, the rubrics have the subdeacon pour the water and wine into the chalice (a few sources contradict and have the deacon here). At the third and last ablution, all sources have the deacon pour the water. The subdeacon ministers to the celebrant in washing his hands, while the deacon folds up the corporals, places them in the burse, the burse over the chalice, and gives them to the acolyte (wearing the humeral veil), who returns them to the credence or shelf.

The subdeacon assisting with the ablutions.
All else follows as in the Mass of Trent, but after the dismissal, the Mass is truly ended. As with low Mass, there is no final blessing, and the Last Gospel is recited privately by the celebrant on his way back to the sacristy. (The medieval priest may have recited it at the altar, though, if he were in one of those churches that had no sacristy to speak of.) The choir remain in their places and proceed with None, or the appropriate Divine Hour, immediately after Deo gratias.


  1. Absolutely fascinating series of articles, which I happened across by chance. As an Orthodox deacon, I see several similarities between the Use of Sarum and the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. More, anyway, than the Tridentine Mass; and certainly much more than the modern practice. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect.

    We still use the houseling cloth when distributing Holy Communion, and afterwards cleanse our mouth with a piece of blessed bread. In some traditions - mostly, but not limited to, those of Eastern Europe - it is also customary to rinse ones mouth with a mixture of wine and hot water.

  2. Dear Modern Mediaevalist,

    I thank you for these well written and eloquent appeals to the Sarum Mass. I fear that I have been going up and down in the Internet, and to and fro in it, seeking what mischief I may. As a part of that mischief, I have written the following essay, of which I thought that you might perhaps have some interest: