Gemma Animae (19): De tertio officio

Ch. 19
On the Third Office

moses_with_horns_094_smallIn the third office we return to the head and remember the preaching of Christ to us. Moses prefigured this office when he ascended up the mountain to the Lord and received from him the tablets of the testament. And the Lord, whilst the entire people were listening, put forth his commandments, and Moses expounded the justices of the law, and the people responded that they would keep them all (Exod. XIX).

Thus the deacon goes towards the bishop, takes the book from the altar, and reads the Gospel, in which the divine precepts are, before the people. Then the bishop, preaching a sermon, expounds them to the people, and the people through the Kyrie eleyson, and the clerics through the Credo in unum Deum, give pledge that they will keep them all.

Now, in what way this was done by Christ and the apostles, we must briefly say.

De tertio officio.

In tertio officio ad caput reditur, et praedicatio Christi nobis ad memoriam reducitur. Hoc officium Moyses praefiguravit, quando in montem ad Dominum ascendit, et ab eo tabulas testamenti accepit. Dominusque, cuncto populo audiente, mandata proposuit, et Moyses iustitias legis exposuit, et populus se omnia servaturum respondit. Sic diaconus ad episcopum vadit, librum ab altari accipit, Evangelium, in quo divina praecepta sunt, coram populo legit. Episcopus sermonem faciens populo ea exponit, et populus per Kyrie eleyson, clerus autem per Credo in unum Deum, se spondet cuncta servaturum. Qualiter autem hoc per Christum et apostolos sit gestum, breviter est dicendum.

2 thoughts on “Gemma Animae (19): De tertio officio

  1. I’m a bit lost (perhaps I need to reread the previous entries): does office here refer to a part of the Mass or to a particular position?


    1. You’re right to be puzzled about his use of the term “office,” which is different from our own use of the word. In current English usage, it seems to refer only to “The Divine Office,” or any of the minor offices such as the “Office of our Lady” or the “Office of the Dead.”

      According to Du Cange (, in antiquity and the Middle Ages it had a more general meaning: a service or ministry of any sort. That’s the origin of the use here: the liturgy is the duty (office) of the clergy, and commentaries on liturgy are descriptions of the duties of various sacred ministers.

      But when it refers to a whole section of the Mass, as here, it also might be translated as “rite,” as in “Entrance Rite,” “Communion Rite,” etc.: a prescribed ceremony with a particular purpose. Honorius, like other commentators before him, is trying to divide the Mass into what he understands to be its intelligible parts. Each “office-rite” is a complete action that corresponds to 1) an OT event, 2) an event in Christ’s life, 3) a quality of the heavenly liturgy, and 4) a complete ceremonial action (like entrance). Each “office” enacted by the bishop simultaneously enacts, recapitulates the whole history of salvation.

      Of course others would make other divisions. Aquinas and the scholastics tend to give the Mass a “rational” structure arranged around the act of consecration. So in Aquinas (ST) there are four parts: Preparation, Instruction, the Mystery, Thanksgiving. And modern liturgists would make their own division by their own criteria.

      The interesting question for me is: Why does Honorius divide the Mass as he does, and is this way of seeing it legitimate and fruitful?

      We hope to have an outline of Gemma Animae up soon, to help keep track of Honorius’s divisions.

      Liked by 1 person

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