Gemma Animae (83): The Mass as Tragic Theater

Ch. 83
On Tragic Theatre

Scène de théâtre dans un manuscrit du ixe siècle.
Scene from a theatre in a 9th century manuscript
Codex Vaticanus Latinus 3868, f° 4v°, ixe s.
Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Source)

As everyone knows, the actors who used to recite tragedy in the theatres represented fight scenes to the audience (populo) using gestures. Our tragic actor uses gestures to represent Christ’s duel to the Christian audience (populo) in the theatre of the Church, and in this way impresses upon them the victory of their redemption. So when the priest says Orate, he imitates Christ in his agony agony, when he admonished the apostles to pray. The sacred silence signifies Christ led dumbly to the slaughter, without uttering a word. His extended arms signify Christ’s arms stretched on the cross. The Preface chant expresses Christ’s cry as he hung on the cross. For Christ sang ten psalms, from Deus meus respice (Psalm 21) to In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum (Psalm 31), and having finished them he died. The silence of the Canon points to the silence of the Sabbath. The peace and the communion symbolize the peace given after Christ’s resurrection and our shared joy. After the sacrament has been confected, peace and communion is given to the people by the priest, because once our accuser is laid low in the duel by our agonothetes , the judge announces peace to the people and invites them to the banquet.

Concert of the Academy of Gelati in San Petronio for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, 1676. The actors are arranged on a stage in front of the baldacchino (Source)

CAP. LXXXIII. – De tragoediis.

Sciendum quod hi qui tragoedias in theatris recitabant, actus pugnantium gestibus populo repraesentabant. Sic tragicus noster pugnam Christi populo Christiano in theatro Ecclesiae gestibus suis repraesentat, eique victoriam redemptionis suae inculcat. Itaque cum presbyter Orate dicit, Christum pro nobis in agonia positum exprimit, cum apostolos orare monuit. Per secretum silentium, significat Christum velut agnum sine voce ad victimam ductum. Per manuum expansionem, designat Christi in cruce extensionem. Per cantum praefationis, exprimit clamorem Christi in cruce pendentis. Decem namque psalmos, scilicet a Deus meus respice usque In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum cantavit, et sic exspiravit. Per Canonis secretum innuit Sabbati silentium. Per pacem, et communicationem designat pacem datam post Christi resurrectionem et gaudii communicationem. Confecto sacramento, pax et communio populo a sacerdote datur, quia accusatore nostro ab agonotheta nostro per duellum prostrato, pax a iudice populo denuntiatur, ad convivium invitatur. Deinde ad propria redire cum gaudio per Ite missa est imperatur. Qui gratias Deo iubilat et gaudens domum remeat.


One thought on “Gemma Animae (83): The Mass as Tragic Theater

  1. At every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, what is happening? Jesus is again renewing His victory over Satan and breaking the power he holds over us poor sinners. It is the Exorcism par excellence being carried out through the sacred words and actions of the Priest. It was and still is the fiercest battle every fought on this earth. Only Jesus, true God and true Man could have lasted to the finish with the Redemption of mankind. Every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is this battle, this victory, this new life in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

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