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

Who the author of the first Missal was it is not easy to determine. Some are of opinion that it was St. James the Apostle, first Bishop of Jerusalem, and that he composed it in the Cenacle of Sion (Kozma, 97; Renaudot, Dissert. de Liturg. Orient. Origine et Auctoritate, vol. i.) Be this so or not, all are agreed that the Liturgy which bears the name of this Apostle is the most ancient in existence. It was committed to writing about A.D. 200.

Following closely upon the apostolic age we find no less than four special books employed in the service of the altar—viz., an Antiphonary, an Evangeliary, a Lectionary, and a Sacramentary. The Antiphonary contained all that was to be sung by the choir and sacred ministers. It was something like our modern gradual. The Evangeliary contained the series of Gospels for the Sundays and festivals of the year. In the Lectionary were to be found all the lessons that were read in the Mass from the Old and New Testaments; and whatever the priest himself had to recite, such as the Collects, Secrets, Preface, Canon, etc., was found in the Sacramentary.

The authorship of these four volumes is yet an unsettled question. John the Deacon (1. 2, c. 6), who wrote the life of Pope St. Gregory the Great, tells us that he saw with his own eyes the Antiphonary which was composed by that pontiff; but whether we are to consider this as the first written, or only as a new edition of the first, the writer does not state. Many, however, are of opinion that this really was the first written, so that Pope Gregory may be considered its true author (Kozma, 99, note; Gavantus, 5).

Of the Lectionary we find mention made as far back as the middle of the third century, for St. Hippolytus, Bishop of Porto, in Italy, alludes to it in his so-called Paschal Canon (Kozma, ibid.) Its precise author is unknown. Towards the end of the fourth century it underwent a thorough revision at the hands of St. Jerome, who was specially appointed for the task by His Holiness Pope St. Damasus. The Epistles and Gospels to be read throughout the year were inserted in it, after much care had been expended in assigning to the different Sundays and festivals the particular lessons that were best suited to them. This codex is sometimes called the Hieronymian Lectionary, from St. Jerome (Hieronymus in Greek), its compiler; and it is from it that the series of Epistles and Gospels in our present Missal has been taken (Kozma, 177, note; Gavantus, Thesaur. Sacr. Rit., 5).

The authorship of the Evangeliary is still unsettled. Mention is often made of it by ancient writers, yet little attempt has been made at discovering its precise author, and this principally on account of its great antiquity.

Regarding the Sacramentary, called also the Book of the Mysteries, much dispute has been raised. Although generally ascribed to Pope Leo the Great (fifth century), and called Leonine from him, yet some of the ablest liturgical writers deny it to be his composition. Besides this so-called Leonine Sacramentary, two others appeared in course of time: one edited by Pope Gelasius, the other by Pope Gregory the Great. The Gelasian was, to all intents and purposes, a recast of the Leonine, and the Gregorian was formed from them both. Whenever allusion is now made to a Sacramentary, that issued under the appellation of the Gregorian is always understood, for it was more complete than any other (Kozma, p. 99, note 9).

As it was oftentimes very embarrassing for a priest, especially if celebrating Low Mass, to have to turn from one to another of these four volumes whenever he wanted to read a particular prayer or lesson, the necessity of having one book in which the matter of all the four would be combined was soon felt, and this led to the subsequent introduction of what were termed Plenary Missals. Although Missals of this kind were in use long before the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563), still, inasmuch as they received greater perfection in being remodelled by a special decree of the Fathers of this august assembly, their origin is generally ascribed to it. The Sacramentary of Pope Gregory the Great was the norma employed in preparing the new Plenary Missal. The task, first taken in hand by Pope Pius IV., was brought to a termination by his successor, Pius V., who in 1570 produced a new Missal and issued a bull enjoining its observance on all. This is the Mass Book that we use to-day (Kozma, p. 101, note 3).

Of course the reader must not suppose that any change of a substantial nature was made in the Ordinary of the Mass when preparing this new edition of the Missal. All that Pope Pius V. did was to reduce it to a better form and expunge those errors and interpolations from it which were introduced about the period of the Reformation. He did, it is true, make some things obligatory which it had been customary to say or omit at pleasure before his time, such as the Psalm “Judica me, Deus,” at the beginning of Mass, and the Gospel of St. John at the end; but this was all. The rest of his emendations principally concerned certain rubrical observances which affected in no way the norma of the Mass.








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