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

That Mass formerly terminated at the “Ite missa est” is too well known to need proof, for the Gospel of St. John is a late introduction. The old custom is yet kept up by the Carthusians, who neither say the “Placeat tibi,” as we do, nor bless the people at this place.

The custom of blessing the people at this part of the Mass only goes as far back as the tenth century. Before this time the only blessing given was that spoken of as taking place before the “kiss of peace” (Bona, p. 372; Romsee, p. 334). Some writers, from not having borne this carefully in mind, have fallen into the strange blunder of saying that in ancient times the blessing used to be given before the “Ite missa est.” If by before they mean, in this case, what used to take place at the “Pax,” they are right; but as they cannot mean this, their mistake is a great one. This error arose from the fact that the prayer now called the “Post-Communion” used to be anciently called the “Benedictio,” inasmuch as it was said to invoke a blessing on all who had communicated that day. No particular ceremonies attended its recital, and no blessing was imparted before or after it. Strabo makes this very clear when he says: “It was decreed by the Council of Orleans that the people should not go away from Mass before the blessing of the priest, by which blessing is understood the last prayer that the priest recites” (Bona, p. 372).

When the custom of blessing the people at the end of Mass was introduced every priest blessed with a triple cross, as bishops do now; and this continued to be the rule until the sixteenth century, when it was abrogated by Pope Pius V., yet so as not to abolish it altogether, for he allowed it at Solemn High Mass. Pope Clement VIII., however, entirely restricted the triple form to bishops, and ordained that priests should bless only with a single cross (Romsee, p. 336). The old custom of not blessing the people at all is yet kept up in Masses for the dead. In the old law it was customary, too, to pronounce a blessing over the people before they were dismissed. This was generally worded as follows: “May the Lord bless thee and keep thee; may the Lord show thee his face and have pity on thee; may the Lord turn his countenance to thee and grant thee peace” (Bona, p. 373; Reasons of the Law of Moses, by Maimonides, notes, p. 402). The Jews even at the present day are dismissed from their synagogues with this blessing, which they all look upon with the greatest reverence. According to many liturgical scholars of note, the triple blessing now peculiar to bishops is founded on the three divisions made of this ancient mode of blessing in use with the Jews, which, as we see, is taken from the Book of Numbers, 6:24–26 (Bona, ibid.) When the priests of the Carmelite Rite have given the last blessing they kneel down on the upper step of the altar and recite aloud the “Salve Regina,” or “Regina Cæli” if it be Paschal time.








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