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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

The moment the sermon was ended, or, in the absence of a sermon, at the end of the Gospel, the catechumens were dismissed from the church, and then the Mass of the Faithful began with closed doors. “Ecce post sermonem,” says St. Augustine, “fit missa catechumenis; manebunt fideles”—that is, “After the sermon the catechumens are dismissed; the faithful will remain” (Sermo 237). Together with the catechumens were also dismissed the energumens, or those troubled with unclean spirits; the lapsed, or those who had denied the faith openly; public sinners whose term of penance had not yet expired; and, finally, Jews, Gentiles, and pagans. As the going out of these caused no small commotion in the church in the early days—for their number was very great—it was usual to place porters at the outer doors to see that the strictest decorum was observed, and that nothing was done out of keeping with the dignity of the place. The forms of dismissal varied with different churches. Sometimes it was, “Si quis est catechumenus exeat foras”—“If there be any catechumen present let him go out”—at other times, “Catechumens depart! Catechumens depart!” This was vociferated several times by the deacon. For a while the phrase used to be, “Si quis non communicat det locum”—“If any one does not intend to communicate let him depart.” We shall see by-and-by that all who assisted at Mass in the early days were expected to approach Holy Communion, or be considered among the excommunicated. According to the Liturgy of St. James, the form of dismissal was, “Let none of the catechumens remain; let none of the uninitiated, let none of those who are not able to join with us in prayer, remain!” After which the deacon cried: “The doors! the doors! All upright!”

The Mozarabic is the only rite in the Latin Church which yet retains in divine service the appellations of “Mass of the Catechumens” and “Mass of the Faithful.” Neither in the East nor in the West are these dismissals anything more now than mere commemorations of an ancient practice.








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