REPOST: Nothing More Befitting, More Apt, More Worthy: Honorius on the Readings of the Assumption

The selection of Luke 10:38-42the story of Martha and Mary—as the Gospel pericope for the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, though ancient and œcumenical, may seem incongruous. Indeed, alas, it fell victim to Pope Pius XII’s hammer in 1950.

Honorius Augustodunensis’ commentary on the readings of the Assumption is one of the earliest Latin attempts to justify the choice of this Gospel. He demonstrates that it is in fact exceedingly well-chosen, however inapposite it might seem to those who lack understanding.

The Seal of Our Lady was one of Honorius’ earlier works, likely written for an English audience soon after his fantastically popular catechism, the Elucidarius. Its treatment of the Epistle and Gospel of the Mass are translated here; he subsequently comments on the traditional Matins readings, taken from the Canticle of Canticles.

Read the English below or

The Seal of Our Lady

The brethren to the solitary.

The disciples’ band, to their master most grand, who art of books a supply: mayest thou in Sion behold God most high

The whole community of brethren gives thanks to thy diligence, which didst unveil so many of the Spirit of Wisdom’s secrets to them in thine Elucidarius. All of us therefore beg thee with one voice again to undergo new travail, and of thy charity disclose to us why the Gospel Intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum[1] and the Canticle of Canticles[2] are read on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s feast, when they seem to pertain to her in no wise whatever.

The solitary’s reply.

Since I have resolved, in exchange for the denarius, to bear the burden and heat of the day in our Lord’s vineyard, I do not wish to waste the soil like the barren fig tree, but like the fruitful olive to add something lovely to God’s house,[3] that one day I might merit an abode there. Therefore, since your community warmly received the little book I sent, I will do my best to unlock, with the key of David, the difficulties that give you pause. Let this book be issued to the glory of God’s Son and his Mother, and be given the name The Seal of Our Lady. May he whose wisdom surpasseth all understanding[4] give me clear discernment.

Here beginneth the Seal of Our Lady

You say you marvel that the Gospel Intravit Jesus and the Canticle should be recited on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s feast, when, as it appears to simple minds, neither speaks of her in the least. First, then, regarding the Gospel know that nothing in the whole course of Scripture can be found more befitting, more apt, more worthy to be read on her hallowed solemnity. 

On the Gospel.

And so we read: Jesus entered into a certain borough. In a borough there is a high tower with battlements against the enemy, as well as a wall without, which is the protection of the burghers within. This borough was the chapel of the Holy Ghost, to wit the glorious Virgin Mary Mother of God, who was defended on all sides by a steadfast guard of angels. There is a high tower in her, namely her humility, reaching up to the heights of heaven. Hence it is written: He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid. The external wall, moreover, was her chastity, which supplied an internal fortification for the other virtues. The Lord entered this borough, when he united human nature to himself in the Virgin’s womb.  

And a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary Martha represents the active life, and Mary the contemplative life, both of which Mary ever-virgin carefully cultivated in Christ. 

The Active Life.

She performed  all the works of mercy toward him when she served him through the ministries of the active life. When he was exiled from his father’s kingdom for our sake and a stranger in this world, she took him into the inn of her womb, an inn wonderfully adorned with the gemstones of virtue. With her own paps she fed him when he hungered; over her knees she consoled him when he cried. When he was ill she warmed him with baths; when he was naked she wrapped him with swaddling-clothes. When he wailed she bound him with swaddling-bands; she planted sweet kisses upon him when he laughed. She was exceedingly solicitous in much serving as she fled from the face of Herod into Egypt and then returned. She was much troubled about many things, seeking safety in any place whatever in order to hide him, and a refuge to conceal him. When the sister complained that she was left alone to work, it meant this: Mary—seeing Christ seized by the impious, cruelly dragged away, bound, buffeted, beaten, mocked, condemned with felons, ruthlessly crucified on the gibbet of the cross—would have willingly given her life to deliver him, if it were possible. But since she knew that the Godhead inhabited his body,[5] in a way she anxiously complained in her soul that it did not come to his aid, but scorned him like a criminal and exposed him to so many evils as if he were so much rubbish.

The Contemplative Life.

Sitting at the Lord’s feet, she thirsted for his words in heart and ear, for she kept these things to ponder[6] through the work of the contemplative life, and ever meditating on spiritual things she yearned for heavenly things. Verily, the Fount of wisdom and knowledge himself made his abode within her,[7] and hence all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge[8] were hidden within her. Now, Martha’s labour having been taken away, she enjoys that life not in sign, but the true Mary is satisfied with the one thing necessary, the joy of eternal sweetness, wherein ever clasped in her Son’s embraces she feasts forever on the sight of his divinity along with the angels. Today she gloriously crossed over into this glory, where her son exalted her as queen of heaven over all the orders of angels. Today, that best part that she chose in this life she received double from the Lord’s hand. It shall never be taken away from her; rather when the fullness of joy is granted to the saints, it shall be increased a hundredfold.

On the Epistle.

Why we read about the praise of wisdom on her day, the cause we may easily say. Christ is God’s wisdom, whose character speaks here. He, we are to understand, sought rest in all nations, but solely in the inheritance of the Lord, i.e. in the Church, did he find a place to dwell. Rejoicing she adds: He that made me rested in my tabernacle. The Church’s and God’s tabernacle is Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, as is written: He hath set his tabernacle in the sun.[9] The Son of God coming as a man rested in it, and from it he came out as a bridegroom from his bride chamber.[10]

Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. The order of apostles is Jacob, i.e. the overthrower of vices, also called Israel, i.e. “seeing God.” God’s maiden dwelt in this Jacob, and inherited God’s kingdom with this Israel, and in these very elect she put forth her roots of chastity and humility.  

In the Church.

So was I established in Sion. Sion means watchtower and is the Church, in which the Mother of God is established as a column by writings and sermons, upon whose praiseworthy life the entire Church leans for support.

In Heaven.

And in the holy city likewise I rested. The holy city is the heavenly fatherland, enlightened with everlasting brightness. There the perpetual Virgin rests with the angels and saints, outshining all others with her crown crown of glory and honour. Hence it is written: In Jerusalem was my power. Sion is the present Church, and Jerusalem the heavenly fatherland. Mary is called the queen of heaven, and so not without cause is her power declared to be in Jerusalem. And since here she took root, by the example of sanctity, in an honourable people, that is in the people of believers, so her inheritance shall be in the portion of her God, that is, in her Son’s divinity. And this in the full assembly of the saints, that is, she shall receive praise and glory from all when the number of the elect shall be complete.

The Cedar of the Jews.

I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus. Libanus is a mountain in the promised land, wherein are cedars, and from whose foot flows the Jordan. Libanus means “made white,” and is the Jewish people, made white by the worship of God and by Holy Writ. Therein the glorious Virgin was exalted like a cedar, that is, with the odor and ornament of sanctity, surpassing the merits of all, from whose womb he gushed as from Mount Jordan, who consecrated the fount of baptism.

Cypress of Christians.

As a cypress-tree on mount Sion. A cypress-tree once cut does not regrow, and so in ancient times it was carried before funeral processions. Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God was a cypress-tree in Sion, that is, in the true watchtower, namely the Church. Her regard for the world’s delights never regrew once it had dried up with respect to vices and concupiscences, and so in sermons she is held up as an example before all Christians who seek to mortify themselves for Christ.

Rose of Martyrs

As a rose plant in Jericho:. Jericho means moon, i.e. the Church, wherein the rose signifies the martyrs. The Holy Theotokos’s passion so sublimely surpasses their own as a rose excels other flowers in redness. For when she saw God’s Son, that most innocent fruit of her womb, tortured so on the Cross, she experienced a suffering in her soul far exceeding that of all the martyrs. Hence she was more than a martyr, for they suffered in body, but she in soul, as it was said: Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.[11]

Olive-tree of Virgins

As a fair olive tree in the fields. Oil signifies mercy. A field is untilled earth, and refers to virgins, who have not been furrowed by the plowshare of a man’s embrace. Our chaste Christotokos is the most comely among them, like a lovely olive-tree in the plains. The Oil of gladness and mercy flowed from her, healed us of our infirmity, and anointed us for the heavenly realm of glory.

Plane-tree of Spouses

As a plane tree by the water in the streets. The waters are the people strolling through the streets, which is to say in the secular state, namely those who shine in married life. The Renowned Virgin was exalted among them like the plane-tree when in her fertility she bore her noble Offspring.

Cinnamon of the Innocent and Penitent

Like cinnamon. Cinnamon means without blemish, and symbolizes the innocent, for whom the Virgin was as the fragrance of cinnamon when she brought forth from her immaculate womb him who would grant us innocence. It is a fragrant, ash-colored tree, and so signifies penitents, for whom, again, the Glorious One was cinnamon when she poured out Christ as the medicine of eternal life.

Balm of Kings and Priests

I gave a sweet smell like aromatical balm. Balm has a sweet fragrance. It is used to anoint the heads of Christians, as well as priests and God’s temples. The Virgin gave a fragrance like unto precious balm when she bore Christ, the sweet fragrance of every soul, into the world: he who anoints us for his kingdom with chrism and, as Priest and King,[12] once we have become his temples, ordains us kings and priests.

Myrrh of those who Renounce the World.

Like the best myrrh. The bodies of the dead were embalmed with myrrh. For all those who renounce the world and die with Christ, the oft-mentioned and ever-more to be mentioned Mary is myrrh, and the best myrrh at that, since she crucified her flesh to the world’s temptations and afflicted herself with fasts and vigils. She inhaled the sweet odor when she bore Christ, odor of the angels, who as the best myrrh of all offered himself in death for us to God the Father[13] as a sweet odor, so that if we make ourselves dead to the vices he shall make us sharers in his divinity. Now, with the help of her of whom we speak, joined with your intercessory prayers, we turn our quill to the Canticles, and shall explain why they are read as referring to her.

Salvador Dalí, Asunción corpuscularia lapislazulina (1952)

[1] Luke 10:38-42.

[2] Canticle of Canticles 1:1-16 is read at Mattins.

[3] Luke 13:6-9

[4] Philippians 4:7

[5] Colossians 2:9.

[6] Luke 2:19.

[7] John 14:23.

[8] Colossians 2:3.

[9] Ps. 18:6.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Luke 2:35.

[12] Rex et sacerdos was the sacral title of the Byzantine and Holy Roman emperors, having its origin in Melchisedech.

[13] Cf. Ephesians 5:2.

Rejoice, Jerusalem, & Celebrate a Feast, All You that Love Her: A Mediæval Sermon for Lętare Sunday

Midway through the rigors of Lent, Honorius tantalizes his audience with a sermon abounding in allegories related to food. 

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and celebrate a feast, all you that love her. The allusion to a “feast” in this alternate textual tradition of the Introit verse from Isaiah 66:10 allows him to direct the minds of the faithful, wearied by fasting, to the feast that awaits them in the Heavenly Jerusalem. Keep your eyes fixed on our mother above, where joy awaits!

Meanwhile, he reminds us that Holy Mother Church offers them the milk of consolation in this life, expressed through the teaching of the two Testaments, where we are promised a “land flowing with milk and honey” “a paradise of delight,” “a river of peace,” and bodies that “shine like the sun” in glory that “eye hath not seen.” They are refreshed also by the teaching and example of the Holy Fathers, as if by bread.

The faithful should therefore “praise the Lord for the benefits they have received” of holy doctrine and exempla, and for the rest of Lent  “prepare themselves for this heavenly repast by cultivating cleanliness of heart and body, for chastity alone frees those who are in peril and reconciles the penitent with God.”

Several exempla serve to strengthen us for this task. The stories of the monk Malchus and the persecuted patriarchs are calculated to encourage laity to keep their obligation of marital continence (chastity) during the Lenten season, so that with the saints we might show marvelously “how much chastity can do.”

Lest we depart with minds too much inebriated with the milk of consolation, Honorius closes with a rendition of the Dantesque Vision of Dryhthelm, a dire warning to sinners to repent before it is too late!

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and celebrate a feast, all you that love her.[1] The divine office[2] we have sung today, dearly beloved, warns us not to covet worldly and perishable things unduly, without betimes directing our minds to our mother, the heavenly Jerusalem. For it says, Rejoice, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, which means “vision of peace,”[3] is the Church, who shall see in heaven the everlasting peace that is Christ. The prophet urges her to rejoice, because she shall be made joyful in gladness with the Lord’s countenance.[4] All that love her, too, are called to celebrate a feast, because in the feast of angels they shall see the Lord’s face with joy.[5] They, also are told to rejoice for joy with her,[6] who were heretofore in sadness on account of their sins, that they might exult in their forgiveness and be sated with the breasts of her consolations

Marco Zoppo, Maria lactans, 15th century

The Church’s breasts represent the two testaments, by which her children are fed with the milk of the letter and of allegory.[7] The Jewish people sucked one, the Christian people suck the other; the former the letter, we allegory. One gives milk when it consoles us in the Law: Hear, O Israel, the commandments of the Lord and write them in your heart as if in a book, and I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey,[8] that is, a paradise of delight[9]overflowing with all sweetness. The other feeds us milk when the New Law thus promises: When Christ shall appear, we shall be like to him, because we shall see God as he is.[10] The prophet presses milk from the old breast when he promises us thus: They shall not hunger nor thirst any longer, neither shall the heat nor the sun strike them, for he that is merciful to them at the fountains of waters shall give them drink.[11] The evangelist draws milk from the new breast when he tells us the Lord’s promise: The just shall shine as the sun[12] and shall be equal to the angels.[13] We suck one: They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.[14] We drink from the other: The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, it hath not entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.[15] Hasten to these joys, dearly beloved, with all your strength, so that you may flow with delights, from the abundance of her glory; the abundant glory here is that of the Church, when, established in the place of the pasture[16] of eternal life, she lacks nothing. The prophet gives a picture of this glory when he says: Behold I bring upon her as it were a river of peace, and glory as an overflowing torrent. O how blessed are those upon whom the Lord brings down an abundance of peace as a river, and in whom perfect glory is poured as an overflowing torrent!

Giovanni Pisano, Ecclesia lactans, from the pulpit of the Cathedral of Pisa, ca. 1302-1310

Today’s reading [17] tells us who shall be granted this glory on account of a gracious gift, and to whom it shall be denied on account of their lack of merit. Abraham, it says, had two sons, the one by a bondwoman, and the other by a free woman. But the bondwoman and her son are cast out, while the free woman and her son receive the inheritance. Abraham represents God the Father, Agar the Old Law, and Ismael the carnal people; Sara betokens the New Law, and Isaac the Christian people. And so the Law kept in a carnal manner is deprived of the inheritance along with the Jewish people; the Church, on the other hand, established by grace,  comes into the riches of God’s kingdom along with the Christian people. Abraham also designates our spirit, the bondwoman our flesh, and her son carnal works; the free woman is a figure of our soul, and her son of spiritual works. Therefore, just as Sara harassed Agar for disdaining her and ordered Ismael to be cast out for nearly killing Isaac,[18] so let the soul, which is the mistress, afflict the flesh, which as her bondwoman contemns her, with fasts and vigils. Let the soul cast out the flesh’s son who persecutes her own son, that is, the carnal work which impedes the spiritual. Let her beget a lordly son, that is, a good work, who might seize the joy of the Lord’s inheritance.

Abraham expels Agar and Ismael at Sara’s petition. From the Bible Moralisée (1235–1245), Oxford, Bodleian Library 270b fol. 13v

We also read[19] that the Lord went over the sea and went up into a mountain, and a great multitude from the whole area round about came unto him. Taking the boy’s five loaves of bread he handed them out to the crowd, feeding five thousand men, not counting women and children. He then ordered the fragments that remained to be gathered up, and they filled twelve baskets. The crowd gave thanks to God when they saw these things. The sea represents this world, which is ever battered by countless tempests of adversity. The Lord went over it, for while he lived here he committed no sin. He went up a mountain, when he ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father. A crowd flocked to him from the whole area round about when the apostles’ preaching drew people from every part of the globe to believe in him. They make a repast on five loaves of bread because the five books of Moses instruct them how to obtain eternal life. The additional two fishes are the psalms and the prophets which are given to the faithful. It is written that the loaves were of barley, because as barley-corn is covered by a husk, so the books of the Law are shrouded in many mysteries[20]. The boy who brought the loaves but did not eat them is the Jewish people, whose childish understanding does not comprehend the sense of the Law. Now, Jesus broke the loaves and distributed them to the crowd when he opened the faithful’s minds to understand the Scripture. They eat their fill stretched out on the grass, because only the humble are judged worthy of the Lord’s refreshment. The five loaves also represent the writings and examples of the Fathers who lived during the five ages, on which the faithful feed abundantly every day.

The multiplication of the loaves, from the Lenten veil of Millstatt Abbey (Austria), Oswalt Kreusel, 1591

In the first age, Enoch feeds us with bread of his writing when he writes that the Lord shall come to judge with a thousand saints.[21] He fills us with the bread of example when, as Scripture recalls, he pleased God on account of his justice and was snatched up to paradise. In the second age, Abraham supplies us with bread when, as it is told, he invented Hebrew letters,[22] wrote down what had occurred from the beginning,[23] taught astronomy in Egypt,[24] and obeyed God in all things. In the third age, Moses copiously restores us when his writings teach us the ten commandments and when he is described as having been exceeding meek above all men[25] and having shone with many signs. In the fourth age, David, Solomon, and most of the prophets fill us with sweet bread when they instruct us by their mystical writings and deeds. In the fifth age, Esdras sates us with bread when he renews the Law that had been burned[26] and rebuilds the temple that had been destroyed. These loaves of bread are distributed to the crowd when the doctors expound the allegorical sense of these men’s writings and deeds to the faithful.

Moreover, the two fishes represent the only two persons, who were anointed with holy oil in the Old Testament, to wit kings and the priests. Christ, for his part, used his fishermen, the apostles, to catch the faithful, who were dwelling like fish in the sea of the world, with the net of faith, and had them all anointed with the oil of chrism as kings and priests. Indeed, the alb received at baptism represents the priesthood, and the miter placed on the head represents the diadem of kings. Five thousand men are fed, because those who lived out the Trinitarian faith through the two works of charity in the five senses are restored with Christ’s body, for three plus two make five. Three signifies Trinitarian faith, and two the performance of the twin works of charity. Those whom this number consecrates Christ refects in his banquet. Further, the women and children denote heretics, who participate in the Lord’s sacraments, but since they are not counted in his number, they are not admitted into the Lord’s inheritance. The apostles filled twelve baskets with the fragments left over by those who ate, when in the sixth age they explained the earlier writings in their teaching. A basket is woven from plain wicker, and the order of apostles was chosen from humble stock. They collect the leftovers of those who ate when they give out the literal meaning to the vulgar, reserving the mystical meaning for the wise.

And so, dearly beloved, join the sated crowds in praising God for the benefits you have received. Prepare yourselves for this repast by cultivating cleanliness of heart and body, for chastity alone frees those who are in peril and reconciles the penitent with God. 

Joseph, when he does not give into lust, is freed from prison and is even raised as a prince over all Egypt. Daniel, since he loves chastity, is not harmed by the ferocious lions in the den he was twice cast into, and mighty kings elevated him above the princes. Susanna too, when out of love for chastity she did not sully her husband’s bed, not only escaped from the accusations of the wicked cabal, but even had the false accusers delivered up to a meet punishment once they were convicted by Daniel’s just sentence. The holy widow Judith rescued God’s people from the danger of imminent destruction by cherishing chastity, when she spurned the honors and riches of the generous prince. Moreover, she killed the tyrant and revels in her victory, and even today triumphant she receives due praise from the lips of all men.

Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Duomo of Milan

A certain monk named Malchus was part of a large group captured by the Saracens.[27] Along with the captured wife of another man, he was handed off by lot to a man who set him to pasture his flocks of grazing sheep and gave the women to him in marriage. But though his master coerced him, for his love of chastity he never lay with her. Eventually, he escaped with the slave woman, but his master and another slave pursued them on camels. Taking flight, the pair sought out a cave in which a lioness was caring for her cubs. Catching up with them, the master orders the slave to drag them from the cave and kill them, while he waits outside with the camels, holding his unsheathed sword. The slave enters the cave with his blade drawn, but instantly the lioness pounced and tore him to shreds before Malchus and the woman’s terrified eyes. Impatient at the slave’s delay, the master goes inside but forthwith meets the same fate. After this, the lioness brings out her cubs, giving the fearful fugitives a chance to slip out. Mounting the camels they went away and made it known everywhere how much chastity can do.

St. Malchus of Syria praying, engraving by Jan Sadeler, ca. 1550, in the book Solitudo, sive, Vitae patrum eremicolarum

There was a certain woman caught in adultery who was brought before our Lord for judgment, but her accusers were confounded and she allowed to go without harm. Dearest, serve the Lord in holiness and justness, and he will set you free from every rage of your enemies. 

My beloved, I desire to make something known to you, to put fear into the sluggishness of the indolent, and gladden the minds of those who devoutly serve God.

There passed away a certain well-born and wealthy man.[28] His family and a large crowd of his neighbors stayed up the whole night mournfully performing his obsequies, when at first light the dead man returned to his body. All there present turned tail and ran in fright and wonder. But he sped immediately to the church, where he lay prostrate in prayer until nearly midday. Upon returning from the church he divided all his property into three parts. One part he gave to his wife and children, one he gave out to the poor, and the last he bestowed on the brethren of a monastery in which he became a monk. When the brethren asked him what he had seen, he told the following story:

“Bright were the dress and countenance of the one who led me. As we headed toward a northern country, on our left ran a vale of colossal depth, exceeding breadth, and boundless length. On one of its slopes an immense fire was raging, while the other was frozen by a horrible chill. On both sides, wretched souls languished in torments, leaping now from the fire into the chill, now from the frost into the flames. Observing this, I thought to myself that this must be hell, about whose unspeakable torments I had often heard tell. My guide answered my thoughts, saying that this was not hell. As we walked along further, everything before us began to darken, and through shadows black as night, we wended our way into the regions below. And lo! a great pit loomed before us, which vomited out sulphurous eddies from its volcanic maw and then greedily guzzled them back down again. Yea more, an unbearable fetor wafted up from that furnace, making the air all around heavy with its stench. Then all of a sudden, my guide vanished, leaving me standing alone before this horrible sight. As I stood there frightened and adread, not knowing where to turn my step or what end awaited me, a pitiful clamor rose abruptly behind me, where the demons were hauling along a throng of souls. The souls wailed dolefully, while the demons cruelly mocked them and cast them into that chasm, cackling all the while. Meanwhile, loathsome spirits emerged from that abyss, breathing out fulsome fire from their mouths and noses, and tried to seize me with fiery tongs. But anon, my guide returned, and the spirits dove back into the pit bellowing frightfully. 

Hellmouth, St. George’s Church, Haguenau, Alsace, painted wood, 1496.

“Free now from the terror of the gloom, I was immediately led by him into the serene light of an eastern country, where another wall with no entrance appeared before us, rising up to heaven. When we  had reached it, we found an exceedingly vast field, wonderful in all its delights, more splendid than the light of day, planted with fragrant flowers, in which white-clad bands made merry, resounding a sweet hymn. I therefore began to think that this was the kingdom of heaven, about whose indescribable joys I had often been told. But my guide answered my heart, and said that this was not the kingdom of heaven. As we passed by those fields of the blessed, even more splendid things appeared before us, and lo! an immense light shone before us with the greatest radiance, emitting a marvelously sweet scent, and moreover resounding with the most sweetly tuneful harmony. 

“This glory was so great that everything I had considered excellent before then seemed aspaltry by comparison. Although I hoped we would enter this light, my guide turned back and coming up to the merry-makers told me, “Dost thou know what the things thou hast seen signify?” When I answered that I did not, he said: “That vale, dreadful for its flames and frost, is the place prepared for those who delay repenting of their mortal sins until the very end. Since they take refuge in penance at the time of their deaths, they escape the woes of hell, but since they did not make sufficient satisfaction for their sins in this world, they are cleansed with these torments and are freed hence by the masses, alms, and prayers offered by the faithful, until they join these thou seest here. Those, however, who die without repenting are forthwith plunged into hell, whence they shall never escape for all eternity. That volcanic pit thou sawest is Hellmouth. Now, those who lead a good manner of life come hither after their death. Those who are found perfect, however, are forthwith admitted into the kingdom of heaven, whose entry is that bright place thou sawest. Now thou shalt return to thy body: if thou livest well, thou shalt join these here.” 

Immediately the man returned to this life, and thenceforth he led such a holy life that even if his tongue had not revealed what he saw the manner of his life would have made it manifest. 

Therefore, my beloved, if you live soberly, justly, and piously in this life,[29] at last you will arrive in those joys where you may exult for everlasting ages and God shall be pleased to make his dwelling within you, whom eye has not seen, etc.[30]

[1] Isaias 66:10. The version of the text Honorius quotes is not the same as that of the Vulgate or the Introit Laetare Jerusalem (Cantus ID g00776), but does appear in the third canticle sung at Mattins on Christmas in a number of monastic breviaries written between the 10th to the 13th centuries. The monastic breviary issued after the Tridentine reform by Pope Paul V imposed the Vulgate reading. See James Mearns, The Canticles of the Christian Church, pp. 81-86.

[2] Officium was another term for the introit. 

[3] Jerome gives this interpretation, which was repeated by Augustine and Isidore, and links it to the Church’s vision of peace in the next world.

[4] Psalm 20:7

[5] Job 33:26

[6] Isaias 66:10-12.

[7] The following meditation is probably inspired by Bede’s allegorical reading of the beloved’s breasts praised in Song of Songs 4:5, in his commentary In Cantica Canticorum 3 (CCSL 119B, p. 251, lines 268-70).

[8] From a responsory sung at Matins on Laetare Sunday (Cantus ID 6143), itself a free adaptation of Deuteronomy 4:1 and 27:3.

[9] Genesis 2:8

[10] 1 John 3:2 

[11] Isaias 49:10

[12] Matthew 13:43

[13] Luke 20:36

[14] Isaias 35:10

[15] 1 Corinthians 2:9

[16] Psalm 22:2

[17] The epistle of the mass, viz. Galatians 4:22-31.

[18] In Genesis 21, Sarah asks Abram to cast out Hagar and Ishmael after seeing him “playing” with Isaac (21:9). To clarify this rather abrupt dismissal, Jewish tradition (recorded by St. Jerome in a gloss from his Questions on the Old Testament) suggested that Sarah caught Ishmael teaching Isaac to play with idols (cf. Exodus 32), or that the older boy was playing roughly in order to harm his half-brother and so steal the inheritance, as hinted by Saint Paul’s use of the word persequere in Galatians 4:25. Some Christian commentators insisted that Sarah acted thus because she was seized by a prophetic foresight of the typological significance of the moment (mysterio prophetiae compulsa, Isidore). In any case, as Bruno of Asti points out (Commentary on Genesis 21, PL 164:196), as a type of the synagogue, it was natural that Ishmael sought to harm Isaac, a type of the Church. 

[19] The gospel of the mass, viz. John 6:1-15.

[20] This interpretation is drawn from St. Augustine (De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII, 61, 1 [PL 40:48-49]).

[21] The verse from the Letter of Jude 1:14 paraphrased here refers to the extensive Jewish and Christian apocryphal traditions around Enoch, especially the Book of Enoch. It is not clear that Honorius would have had access to any Enochic texts.

[22]This unusual claim was made by the Hellenistic Jewish writer Eupolemus, fragments of whose writings were transmitted in Eusebius’ Preparation for the Gospel. Both Jewish and Christian tradition usually associated the invention of the alphabet with Moses.

[23] Possibly a reference to the

[24] Abraham’s mastery of Chaldean science was a common theme in apocryphal Jewish literature, repeated by Josephus and Philo.

[25] Numbers 12:3, in a version quoted by Jerome rather than the Vulgate text.

[26] Cf. 2 Esdras 14:21.

[27] The story is taken from Jerome’s Life of Malchus the Captive Monk.

[28] The following story is a retelling of Bede’s Vision of Dryhthelm (Ecclesiastical Histories 5.12.), part of a long tradition of vision literature ultimately stemming from the late antique Visio Sancti Pauli. See also his descriptions of Hell in the Sermo Generalis and in Elucidarium.

[29] Titus 2:12

[30] 1 Corinthians 2:9

Edition prepared from PL 172:893-898 and the following MSS:
A: Admont, Benediktinerstift, cod. 131, ff. 43r ff.;
Gr: Graz, Univ. Bibl., Cod. 173, ff. 50r ff.;
SG: St. Gall, Stiftsbibl. 1075, pp. 84 ff.;
Go: Göttweig, Benediktinerstift, Cod. 104 rot / 47 schwarz, f. 56v ff.;
L: Lilienfeld, Stiftsarchiv und Stiftsbibliothek, HS 140,  p. 73 ff.

Honorii Augustodunensis
in Dominica in media Quadragesima

Letare, Ierusalem, et diem festum agite omnes qui diligitis eam. Diuinum officium karissimi quod hodie cantauimus,[1] monet nos ne tantum terrenis et caducis[2] inhiemus,[3] nisi aliquando etiam[4] ad matrem nostram cęlestem Ierusalem[5] mentem[6] dirigamus. Ait enim, Letare Ierusalem.[7] Ierusalem,[8] quod dicitur “uisio pacis,” est Ęcclesia quę ęternam pacem xpm uisura est in cęlis. Hęc[9] a propheta letari hortatur, quia in gaudio cum uultu Domini[10] habet letificariDiem quoque agere festum iubentur omnes qui eam diligunt, quia in festo angelorum faciem Domini in[11] iubilo uidebuntGaudere etiam admonentur[12] cum[13] leticia, qui hactenus propter peccata fuerunt in tristicia, ut de uenia exultent et ab uberibus consolationis eius se satient. 

Per ubera Ęcclesię[14] duo testamenta accipiuntur, per quę filii[15] eius lacte litterę et allegorię nutriuntur. Vnum[16] suxit populus Iudaicus, aliud sugit populus xpianus. Ille litteram, nos allegoriam. De uno lac datur,[17] cum nos[18] in lege sic consolatur: Audi, Israel, precepta[19] Domini et ea in corde tuo quasi in libro scribe, et dabo tibi terram lacte et melle manantem,[20] id est paradysum uoluptatisomni dulcedine exuberantem. De alio nobis lac mulgetur, cum lex noua sic nobis pollicetur: Cum xpc apparuerit, similes ei erimus quoniam Deum sicuti est uidebimus. Propheta nobis lac de ueteri ubere premit,[21] cum nobis sic promittit: Non esurient neque sitient amplius, et non percutiet eos sol et estus, quoniam miserator eorum reget eos, et ad uitę fontes aquarum potabit illos.[22] De nouo nobis ęuangelista[23] lac elicit, dum Dominum hęc nobis spondere dicit: Iusti ut sol fulgebunt et angelis equales erunt. De uno sugimus: Obtinebunt gaudium et leticiam, et fugiet dolor et gemitus. De alio haurimus: Oculus non uidit, auris non audiuit, in cor hominis non ascendit[24] quę Deus se diligentibus preparauit. Ad hęc gaudia festinate, karissimi, totis uiribus, ut deliciis affluatis ab omnimoda gloria eius, Ęcclesię gloria quę[25] tunc omnimoda erit, cum in loco pascuę uitę collocatanichil ei deerit. Hęc gloria exprimitur cum per prophetam dicitur: ecce ego declino in eos ut flumen pacis et ut torrens inundans gloriam.[26] O quam beati in quos Dominus habundantiam pacis ut flumen declinat, et in quos omnimoda gloria ut torrens inundans[27] riuulat!

Legitur hodie quibus hęc gloria ob gratiam detur, et quibus ob meritum denegetur. Abraham, inquiens, habuit duos filios, unum de ancilla, et unum de libera. Sed ancilla cum filio suo eicitur,[28] libera cum filio suo hereditate[29] potitur.[30] Per Abraham Deus Pater[31] intelligitur, per Agar uetus lex,[32] per Ismahel carnalis populus;[33] per Saram noua lex, per Ysaac xpianus populus accipitur. Lex ergo[34] carnaliter obseruata, cum Iudaico populo hereditate Domini priuatur; Ęcclesia uero sub gratia constituta, cum xpiano populo regno[35] Dei ditatur. Per Abraham quoque noster spiritus, per ancillam nostra caro, per filium eius carnalia opera designantur; per liberam anima, per filium eius spiritualia opera figurantur.[36] Sicut ergo[37] Sara despicientem se Agar afflixit, et Ismahel ad mortis periculum Ysaac impellentem eici iussit, sic anima, quę est domina, carnem, ancillam suam se contempnentem, ieiuniis et uigiliis affligat;[38] filium eius persequentem filium suum,[39] id est carnale opus impediens spirituale eiciat;[40] herilem[41] filium, id est bonum opus, pariat, qui gaudium hereditatis Domini[42] capiat.

 Legitur etiam quod Dominus trans mare abiit[43] montemque[44] subiit, et maxima multitudo eum undique adiit. Qui V panes et duos pisces a puero acceptos turbę distribuit, et V milia uirorum, exceptis[45] paruulis et mulieribus, satiauit. Iussit uero[46] colligere fragmenta quę manducantibus superfuerunt, et XII cophinos impleuerunt; quod turbę uidentes Deo grates[47] retulerunt.[48] Per mare hoc seculum intellegitur quod innumeris aduersitatum[49] procellis iugiter colliditur. Super hoc Dominus transiit, quia hic uiuens[50]peccatum non fecit. Montem subiit, dum in cęlum ad dexteram Patris conscendit. Turba ad eum undique circumfluxit, dum predicatio apostolorum populum ex omni orbis parte[51] ad fidem eius contraxit. Qui V panibus reficiuntur quia V libris Moysi ad uitam[52]instruuntur. Duo pisces adduntur, dum psalmodia[53] et prophetia fidelibus traduntur. Panes ordeacei scribuntur, quia sicut ordeum folliculis, ita libri legis multis mysteriis inuoluuntur. Puer qui eos portauit nec comedit, est Iudaicus populus pueriliter sapiens qui[54]sensum legis non intellexit. Ihc uero[55] panes fregit, turbis distribuit, dum fidelibus sensum ad intellegendum Scripturas aperuit. Super fenum discumbentes saturantur, quia humiles tantum refectione Domini digni iudicantur. Per quinque panes etiam Scriptura et exempla patrum in quinque etatibus degentium intelliguntur, quibus cottidie fideles habunde reficiuntur. 

In prima etate Enoch pane scripti nos reficit, dum Dominum cum milibus sanctorum ad iudicium uenturum[56] scribit. Pane exempli nos saciat, dum eum ob iusticiam Deo[57] placuisse et in paradysum raptum fuisse Scriptura memorat.[58] In secunda etate panis nobis per Abraham ministratur, dum litteras Hebreas reperisse, transacta ab inicio scripsisse, astronomiam in Egypto docuisse, ac Deo in omnibus obedisse narratur. In tercia etate per Moysen copiose reficimur, dum X preceptis per eius scripta instruimur, et ipse super[59]omnes homines mansuetissimus fuisse[60][61] et multis signis fulsisse[62] describitur. In IIIIta etate, Dauid, Salomon et omnes pene prophetę nos dulci pane saciant, dum nos mysticis scriptis et factis informant. In V etate Esdras nos pane saturat, dum legem incensam reiterat, et templum destructum reedificat.[63] Hii[64] panes turbis distribuuntur, dum horum scripta et facta a doctoribus mystice fidelibus exponuntur.[65]

Per duos quoque pisces duę personę, regis uidelicet et sacerdotis, designantur, quę solę in Veteri Testamento oleo sancto unguebantur. Xpc autem[66] fideles in salo seculi ut pisces latentes per piscatores apostolos rete fidei cepit,[67] et cunctos oleo chrismatis in reges et in sacerdotes unguere fecit.[68] Per albam namque in baptismate acceptam sacerdotium;[69] per mitram uero[70] capiti inpositam designatur diadema regium. Quinque milia uirorum pascuntur, quia qui fidem sanctę Trinitatis per duo opera caritatis V sensibus uiriliter impleuerunt, xpi corpore reficiuntur, quinque enim in tria et duo diuiduntur. Per tria fides Trinitatis, per duo operatio intelligitur geminę caritatis. Quos hic numerus consecrat, hos xpc suo conuiuio recreat. Porro per paruulos et mulieres heretici[71] denotantur,[72]qui in Dominicis sacramentis nobiscum participantur, sed quia ab hoc numero excluduntur, in hereditatem Domini non admittuntur.[73] Apostoli XII cophinos de fragmentis manducantium impleuerunt, dum in VI etate[74] scripta priorum sua doctrina disseruerunt. Cophinus de gracili uimine contexitur, et ordo apostolicus de humili styrpe eligitur. Hic reliquias edentium congregat, qui litteram popularibus erogat, mystica sapientibus reseruat. 

Cum refectis ergo turbis, karissimi, Deum pro collatis beneficiis laudate.[75] Ad ipsius refectionem tota[76] cordis et corporis[77]mundicia uos[78] preparate, quia sola castitas homines in periculis liberat, penitentes Deo conciliat.[79]

Ioseph namque dum a libidine non subiugatur,[80] a carcere liberatur, insuper totius Egypti princeps eleuatur. Daniel, dum castitatem diligit, feritas leonum in caueam bis[81] eum missum non ledit, sed et regum[82] potentia super principes eum extulit. Susanna quoque, dum amore castitatis mariti thorum non uiolauit, non solum manus iniquorum iudicum euasit, sed etiam ipsos falsos accusatores iusta sententia Danielis conuictos debitę penę mancipauit. Iudith sancta uidua, castitatem diligendo, dum honorem et diuitias magnanimi principis spernit, populum Dei ab imminentis[83] mortis periculo eripit. Insuper ipsa, occiso tyranno, de uictoria tripudiat, et omnium ore usque hodie laude digna triumphat. 

Malchus quidam monachus, dum cum multis aliis a[84] Sarracenis capitur, cum uxore alterius uiri capta, uni pro sorte traditur, a quo ei grex pecudum pascendus commendatur, et mulier ei in coniugium datur.[85] Sed ipse[86] amore castitatis a domino suo etiam coactus, numquam ei copulatur. Transacto tempore aliquo,[87] cum eadem muliercula in fugam uertitur, sed dominus cum seruo in[88] camelis insequitur.[89] Illi ob timorem speluncam petebant, qua interius leena catulos fouebat. Dominus insecutus seruum eos de spelunca occidendos extrahere iubet, ipse foris camelos, euaginato tenet gladio. Seruus nudato ense ingreditur, sed ilico ab leena arripitur, ante oculos pauentium discerpitur. Quem tardantem dominus iratus insequitur, sed similem finem protinus sortitur. Hoc facto leena catulos effert, locum abscedendi[90] trepidis[91] offert. Illi ascensis camelis abierunt et quantum castitas ualeat ubique notum fecerunt.

Quędam mulier in adulterio deprehensa, Domini iudicio sistitur, sed accusatoribus eius confutatis, illesa abire sinitur.[92][93] Huic,[94]karissimi, seruite Domino in sanctitate et iusticia, et liberabit uos ab omni inimicorum seuicia. Volo, dilectissimi, ut res dilectioni uestrę innotescat, unde neglegentium ignauia perhorrescat, et Deo[95] deuote seruientium mens hylarescat.

Quidam genere et opibus preditus obiit, cuius exequiis frequens propinquorum[96] turba et lugens familia tota nocte interfuit, sed primo diluculo defunctus ad corpus rediit. Cuncti qui affuerunt in stuporem et admirationem conuersi fugerunt. Ille uero[97] concitus ad ęcclesiam cucurrit, usque ad mediam fere diem in oratione procubuit. Inde[98] reuersus cunctam substantiam suam[99] in tria diuisit, unam partem uxori et filiis dedit, unam pauperibus distribuit, unam fratribus in monasterio contulit in quo se monachum fecit. Sciscitantibus fratribus[100] quid uiderit hoc retulit: 

«Veste et facie lucidus erat, qui me ducebat. Euntibus nobis ad plagam aquilonis, erat a leua uallis immensę profunditatis, nimię latitudinis, infinitę longitudinis, cuius unum latus maximo incendio estuabat, aliud horribili frigore congelabat. In utraque parte miserę[101] animę penis deficiebant, quę nunc de igne in frigus, nunc de gelu in flammas resiliebant. Hoc uiso cogitare cepi hoc infernum esse, de cuius ineffabilibus penis me sepius contigit audire. Ductor[102] meus respondit cogitationi meę[103] dicens hoc infernum non esse. Vltra nobis[104] progredientibus ceperunt omnia ante nos obscurari, et nos per tetras tenebras quasi descendendo ad ulteriora dilabi. Et ecce magnus puteus ante nos apparuit, qui sulphurea uolumina de flammiuomo ore euomuit, et rursus eadem retracta absorbuit. Intolerabilis etiam fetor de illa fornace ascendebat,[105] qui omnia in circuitu replebat. Tunc repente ductor meus disparuit, et me in hoc horrido spectaculo solum statuit. Cumque ibi pauidus ac perterritus[106] starem, et quo gressum uerterem, uel quis finis me[107] expectaret ignorarem, subito post me miserabilis clamor exoritur, ubi turba animarum a demonibus trahitur, animę[108]flebiliter eiulantes, demones crudeliter insultantes, et eas in illud baratrum cum cachinno[109] precipitantes. Interea teterrimi spiritus ab illa[110] abysso emergebant,[111] putidum[112] ignem de ore et naribus efflantes, igneis forcipibus me capere[113] querebant;[114]sed[115] mox ductore meo adueniente in eundem puteum cum diro mugitu se precipites dabant. Qui statim me timore ex tenebris exemptum in serenam lucem orientalis plagę duxit, ubi ante nos alius murus nullum introitum habens ad cęlum usque surrexit.[116]Quo cum peruenissemus, erat campus latissimus,[117] omni amenitate conspicuus, pre diei luce splendidus, odoriferis floribus consitus, suaui odore[118] plenus, in quo letabantur albatorum[119] agmina, dulcem ymnum resonantia. Cepi itaque[120] cogitare hoc esse regnum cęlorum, de cuius inenarrabilibus gaudiis sepius michi est relatum. Ille uero cordi meo respondit, hoc regnum cęlorum non esse dixit.[121] Pretergredientes[122] illa beatorum loca, apparuerunt ante nos omnia[123] splendidiora, et ecce immensa lux ante nos maximo iubare radiabat, de qua miri odoris suauitas fraglabat,[124] insuper dulcissimi concentus armonia resonabat. Et talis erat hęc gloria, ut omnia quę prius uideram conspicua uiderentur esse permodica. Quo[125] cum nos sperarem intraturos, ductor meus reflexit et ad locum letantium perueniens, michi dixit: “Scis quod significant[126] quę uidisti?” Cui cum responderem me ignorare, dixit:[127]“Vallis ardore et algore horrida est locus his[128] preparatus qui usque ad finem[129] differunt penitere sua crimina. Hii quia in morte ad penitentiam confugiunt, inferni supplicia euadunt. Sed quia hic ad satisfactionem non emendantur, in his penis purgantur et inde per missas et elemosinas et orationes fidelium liberantur et his quos uides associantur. Qui autem sine penitentia moriuntur, mox in infernum dimerguntur, unde numquam in euum[130] liberabuntur,[131] cuius introitus erat ille puteus flammiuomus. Porro qui in bona conuersatione uitam ducunt, post obitum huc ueniunt. Qui uero perfecti inueniuntur mox in cęleste regnum introducuntur. Cuius ingressus ille est quem uidisti locus lucidus. Nunc[132] ad corpus reuerteris: si bene uixeris, his associeris.»[133] Protinus ad hanc uitam rediit, tam sanctam deinceps[134] uitam duxit ut lingua tacente uita loqueretur quid uiderit. 

Igitur, karissimi si hic sobrie, iuste et pie[135] uixeritis,[136] ad illa gaudia quandoque peruenietis ubi licet in ęternum exultare, et Deo[137] placebit in uobis habitare, quem oculus non vidit &c.

[1] cantamus SG

[2] rebus add. PL

[3] inhiamus PL

[4] nisi aliquando etquia PL

[5] Hierosolimam PL

[6] nostram add. SG, PL

[7] Hierosolima PL

[8] Hierosolima PL

[9] omit. leg. Hanc SG, PL

[10] Dei SG, PL

[11] cum SG

[12] monentur SG

[13] in PL

[14] Iherusalem Gr

[15] filio PL

[16] finis add. PL

[17] lac daturille lactatur SG, lactatur L

[18] Omit. SG

[19] mandata SG

[20] Audi … manantemAudi Israel Dominus Deus tuus unus est. Et iterum. manantemfluentem SG

[21] promittit PL

[22] eos Gr sed illos in marg., perducet eos SG, eos L, PL

[23] euangelium L

[24] in … ascendit omit. SG, nec in cor hominis ascendit L

[25] omit. Go, SG; ejus PL

[26] Isaiah 66

[27] omit. SG

[28] eicietur Go

[29] haereditatem PL

[30] ibid.

[31] omit. L

[32] intelligitur add. L

[33] omit. SG

[34] quoque SG, uero Go

[35] regnum L

[36] designantur Gr, SG

[37] enim SG

[38] affligebat L

[39] omit. PL

[40] efficiat PL

[41] heredem SG

[42] omit. SG

[43] Galilee SG

[44] montem quoque SG

[45] absque SG

[46] quoque SG, ergo Go

[47] gratias SG

[48] Mark 6

[49] aduersitati L

[50] vivent PL

[51] terrę Gr, Go

[52] fidem PL

[53] plasmodia L

[54] omit. SG

[55] autem PL

[56] aduenturum SG

[57] omit. SG

[58] conmemorat SG

[59] omit. SG

[60] testatur add. PL

[61] Numbers 12:3, in a version quoted by Jerome rather than the Vulgate text.

[62] claruisse A, fuisse L

[63] nos … reedificatsaturandos legem reuelat, et templum destructum cum aliis reedificat SG

[64] Hic PL

[65] distribuntur L

[66] omit. L

[67] accepit Go

[68] precepit SG

[69] sacerdotes SG

[70] omit. SG

[71] omit. L

[72] designantur Gr, Go

[73] intromittuntur SG

[74] VI etateueritate Gr, Go, L

[75] laudare Go

[76] toto PL

[77] et corporis omit. L

[78] omit. L

[79] reconciliat SG

[80] superatur L

[81] omit. SG

[82] regia SG

[83] eminentis PL

[84] inminenti L; omit. Go, PL

[85] et mulier … datur omit. Go

[86] omit. SG, Go

[87] aliquanto L

[88] et PL

[89] sequitur PL

[90] abscedendo PL

[91] trepidantibus SG

[92] permittitur SG

[93] John 8

[94] Hinc PL

[95] ideo PL

[96] proximorum SG

[97] quoque Go

[98] Ille PL

[99] omit. PL

[100] omit. PL

[101] omit. PL

[102] autem add. PL

[103] cogitatione meę] cogitationibus meis L

[104] nos SG

[105] illa fornace ascendebat] illo exiebat SG

[106] tremens PL

[107] Omit. PL

[108] scilicet add. PL

[109] cum cachinno omit. L

[110] illo PL

[111] dimergebantur SG, inmergebant PL

[112] putridum SG

[113] Lacuna hereafter Go

[114] me capere querebantsibi obnoxios adtrahebant SG

[115] et SG

[116] ubi … surrexit omit. SG

[117] letissimus Gr, PL

[118] amenitate SG

[119] beatorum SG

[120] autem PL

[121] omit. PL

[122] autem add. PL

[123] omit. PL

[124] flagrabat SG, L, PL

[125] Quę L

[126] significent A; signant SG

[127] ait Go, L

[128] ibi PL

[129] uitę add. SG, PL

[130] aeternum PL

[131] liberantur PL

[132] Nam PL

[133] sociaberis SG, associaberis PL

[134] omit. SG

[135] vivendo add. PL

[136] uiuetis Go, uiuitis SG

[137] ideo Go

The Mass Commentary of Radulphus of Rivo

Radulphus of Rivo (d. 1403) was a Dutch jurist, liturgist, historian, and dean of Tongres cathedral chapter, whose several works on the liturgy are of primary importance for understanding the development of the Mass and Breviary in the high medieval period.

Written to aid his apostolate as a reforming Augustinian, the treatise De Canonum Observantia examines the traditional sources of authority—Scripture, tradition, canons, papal decretals, commentaries, etc.—to establish “authentic” Roman practice. He lays out the criteria for a pristine Roman liturgy that eschews the encroachments of contemporary fashions. He also meets the challenge posed by the spread of the new mass and office of the Papal Court, spearheaded by the Franciscan Order.

As van Dijk has pointed out, Radulph may have been incorrect in blaming the Franciscans for the many abbreviations of the new curial books. He failed to see that the papacy had already imposed the curial liturgy on the whole city of Rome, that the pristine uses of the Roman basilicas were already gone. His manuscript studies, and information gleaned from invidious Roman clerics who hated the court at Avignon, led him astray.

In Proposition XXII—which appeared on this blog in English—he harshly criticized the Franciscan breviary compiled by Haymo of Faversham for departing from the traditional Roman order while claiming to be its only true representative. The piece raised interesting questions about the nature of Rome’s liturgical primacy.

Herein we offer our readers a translation of Proposition XXIII, where Radulphus discusses the rites of the Mass. We have added the paragraph numbers and section titles for ease of reading.

Download a PDF of the translation here.

A PDF of the critical edition of this work, edited by Leo Cunibert Mohlberg, OSB, is available

De canonum observantia
Proposition 23

We ought to observe faithfully the Mass offices of the Roman Church on Sundays and Saints’ days, so that in so doing we may humbly preserve the traditions of our Fathers

The Dominical and Apostolic Origin of Liturgical Praxis

1. Jesus Christ, the first and supreme Pontiff and Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, not levitical but evangelical, not of the Old Law but of the New, did at supper on the night before he was to suffer on the cross, institute and hand down to the Apostles, as a memorial of his death, the form and words for the consecration of his Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as we may plainly gather from the teaching of the Gospels. For as often as we shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, we shall show the death of the Lord. Thus, when Jesus said, Do this in memory of me, he expressly instituted this sacrament and tacitly abandoned the typic sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, as Isidore says in Super Matthaeum, and as found in de Consecratione, dist. 2, Accipite. On this point see the fourth book of the Sentences, distinction 8.

2. With regard to the form for the consecration of Christ’s Blood, the holy doctors rightly believe and hold that it is the form found in the Canon, which the whole Church uses in conformity with the primitive tradition of the Apostles and holy Fathers. For many things have been added that none of the Evangelists expressed in writing. On this point, read the beautiful words of Pope Innocent III: Liber ExtraDe celebratione Missae, ch. Cum Marthae. The Apostles received the form and matter of this sacrament from our Lord Jesus Christ, preserved it, and handed it down to the Church with respect to the act of celebration itself. In what pertains to the mode or rite, time and place, the ensemble of sacred vestments and vessels, they ordained certain things explicitly as propriety demanded. Their successors followed their example and teaching. Thus the acts of the Quinisext Council state that James—Our Lord’s brother according to the flesh and the first to have trust over the Church of Jerusalem—and Basil, bishop of Caesarea, gave us the rite of Mass: de consecratione, dist. 1, Iacobus

Vestments, Vessels, and Rite in the Primitive Church

3. According to several ancient sources, in the beginning when the Church was still young, the Apostles used to celebrate Mass by means of sign of the cross and the Lord’s prayer, and “in everyday clothes and wooden chalices.” But according to the Gemma animae, “St. Clement, handing on the teaching of Peter, took the use of sacred vestments from the Law,” based on St. Peter’s teaching. St. Soter, a native of Campania, whose reign began in A.D. 125, forbade “women from touching the sacred vestments of the altar or carrying incense near the altar”[1]dist. 23, Sacratas. Thus sacred vestments are to be used only by sacred persons and put to no other uses: de consec., dist. 1, ch. In sancta, etc, and Vestimenta. Nor may they be used as wedding garments: ch. Ad nuptiarium.

4. St. Zephyrinus, the sixteenth pope, ordered that the vessels used in liturgical celebrations should be made of glass; Pope Urban I, however, decreed that they be silver: De cons. dist. 1, Vasa. “Concerning them, when St. Boniface, bishop and martyr, was asked whether it were permitted to confect the sacrament in wooden vessels, he replied that once golden priests had used wooden vessels, and now the opposite. And so, in the case of vessels as in other things pertaining to worship, with the passage of time churches grew in splendor”: ch. Vasa. And so, let the chalice be made, if not of silver, at least of tin, not of copper or brass: ch. Et calix

5. St. Stephen, a Roman, whose reign began in 258, “ordered that Church vestments used in the Lord’s service should be both sacred and worthy”: ch. Vestimenta. Sixtus II, who reigned from 261, ordered the Mass to be celebrated on an altar, which had not been done before. Felix I, a native of Rome, who reigned beginning in A.D. 166, “ordered the Mass to be celebrated over martyrs’ tombs.”

6. St. Sylvester I, a Roman, who began to reign in A.D. 315, “ordered that deacons must use dalmatics in church, and that their left hand must be covered by a linen handkerchief. For indeed, priests wore the dalmatic before they began to use the chasuble. Later, however, when they began to don the chasuble, deacons were allowed to use dalmatics.” Likewise, he established that “the sacrifice of the altar be celebrated on, not a silken or coloured cloth, but one of pure linen consecrated by the bishop, just as Our Lord’s body was buried in a clean linen shroud”: de cons. d. 1. Consulto.

7. Regarding the Urban mentioned above, we read that he ordered the admixture of water, in conformity with the teaching of Apostolic tradition on this matter: de con., dist. 2., c. 1. and the three following chapters, and that grapes not be added to the oblation, as in c. Didicimus c. dist 2.

8. St. Boniface I, a native of Rome, whose reign began in A.D. 425, prohibited nuns or any woman from touching the sacred vessels or the altar-cloths. How the sacred vestments are to be washed is explained in the chapter Nemo per ignorantiam, in de cons., dist. 1.

9. Regarding the hour Mass ought to be celebrated, St. Telesphorus, martyr, a Greek who succeeded Sixtus in A.D. 139, established that masses should be celebrated on Christmas night and “the Angelic Hymn solemnly sung. Otherwise, Mass is not to be celebrated before the third hour, when Our Lord was crucified and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles”: de cons. dist. 1, Nocte. In Lent, however, it is celebrated usually at the hour of Vespers: de cons., dist. Solent. Likewise on Holy Saturday at the same time or at the beginning of the night: dist. 65, Quod a patribus and Ordinationes. Indeed, “judging by the decrees of the holy Fathers, ordinations were celebrated so late on Saturday that they were reckoned as taking place on Sunday rather than Saturday.” See Micrologus 29. Further, the current custom of saying Mass at None on fasting days, and on other days at Terce, stands on ancient authority. And when a fast and feast fall on the same day, the Mass of the feast is said festively at Terce, the Mass of the fast at None. It is done that way in Rome and Cologne. In collegiate churches the custom is to say the principal Mass at the last hour before luncheon, and when two fall on the same day, the first is said one hour before the second. Later on we shall discuss what is to be done nowadays.


10. According to Micrologus 1 and 23: “According to the Roman custom, when the priest prepares himself for Mass, he sings the psalms Quam dilectaBenedixistiInclinaCredidiKyrie eleisonPater noster, Et ne, and the versicles Ego dixiConverteFiat misericordiaSacerdotesProtector nosterDomine exaudi, and the collects Aufer and Actiones.” 

The Introit

11. As he enters and goes toward the altar, an antiphon is sung, “which for this reason is known as the Introit in the Roman rite,” and the Ingressa in the Ambrosian. According to Sigebert and others in the Chronicles, Celestine I, a Roman, who began to reign in A.D. 418 as the forty-first in the papal succession, “decreed the 150 psalms of David should be sung by all antiphonally before the Sacrifice, something that had not been done before. Formerly, only the Epistle of St. Paul and the Holy Gospel were said. On this basis, in the Church of Rome, psalm texts set to melodic chant began to be sung at Mass: the Introit, Gradual, Offertory before the Sacrifice, and the Communion during the distribution of communion.”

12. But we should not conclude that Celestine was the first to introduce the saying of individual psalms before the Sacrifice, for our Fathers sang them from the beginning a long time before. Hence Cassian says, in his De institutis monachorum 3.10: “But we ought to know this, too, that on Sunday only one office is celebrated before dinner, at which, out of regard for the actual service and the Lord’s communion, they use a more solemn and a longer service of Psalms and prayers and lessons, and so consider that Tierce and Sext are included in it.”[2]

Excursus on liturgical development

13. Therefore, whenever we find that a particular practice has been established by more than one person, it means that the later person restored, authorized, modified, decreed, or more broadly extended an observance established by his predecessors.

14. For instance, with regard to the Epistles and Gospels, we read that the Apostles’ successors ordered the Epistles and Gospels to be read. Thus the Apostolic canons order and de consec. dist. 1 Omnes states that “the faithful who gather for the sacred liturgy should listen to the writings of the Apostles and the Gospel, and should persevere in prayer until the end of Mass.”

15. Elsewhere it is recorded that “Pope Alexander decreed the Epistle and Gospel should be read during Mass. Likewise the book entitled Comes[3] has it that the Cardinal-Priest St. Jerome chose and arranged the Epistles and Gospels as the Church has them today,” and he himself says the same in a letter to  Bishop Constantius: “Pope Damasus decreed they should be read in the way that is customary today.” 

16. In the Ambrosian rite, however, Epistles and Gospels are provided in abundance throughout the year, agreeing with the Roman rite from time to time. This rite follows a beautiful order on masses of feasts and Sundays: after the Gloria in excelsis and threefold Kyrie eleison, they read a first lesson from the Old Testament with a responsory the Ambrosian rite calls the Psalmellusand we the Gradual, a second from the New Testament with an Alleluia and verse, as in the Roman rite, and a third from the Holy Gospel, before and after which antiphons called Ante Evangelium and Post Evangelium are sung, which the Romans lack. Indeed, the Ambrosian rite is far older than the Roman rite, as explained above in proposition 12.[4] Anyone who sees the Ambrosian rite is immediately aware that the chants of the Mass, the Epistles and Gospels and many orations, responsories, antiphons, and other elements were adopted by the Roman rite. A sign of this is the fact that chants appear in both rites in the same tone, such as the Introit Gaudeamus, which is in the first tone in both rites. But the Ambrosian chant is stronger, more robust, and more ornate. 

The Mass of the Catechumens

The Confiteor

17. Let us now return to the beginning of the Mass. Pope St. Damasus, a Spaniard, who began to reign in A.D. 370, ordered that the priest should make his confession before going up to the altar. According to the Roman order, “once the priest has vested, he makes his way to the altar and says the antiphon Introibo with the psalm Iudica and makes his confession,” which Micrologus 23 gives thus briefly: I confess to almighty God, to saints so-and-so, and to all saints, and to thee my brother, that I have sinned in thought, word, deed, and pollution of mind and body. Therefore I beseech thee, pray for me. May almighty God have mercy on thee and forgive thee all thy sins, deliver thee from every evil, and keep thee in every good work, and may Jesus Christ, son of the living God, bring us to live everlasting. Amen. May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon and remission of all our sins. Amen.

The Dominicans have a similar formula for the confession, saying: Absolutionem et remissionem, &c., taking words from the Gospel Quodcunque solveris[5] and Quorum remiseritis.[6]

The Introit

18. In the Roman rite, the Introit is said with a psalm verse and Gloria Patri and then repeated, which is not done in the Ambrosian Ingressa. In the Gradual of blessed Gregory, two psalm verses are always given for the Introit, as we observe today in the Requiem. Some have argued, based on Celestine’s order, that “formerly the entire psalm was sung.” When the composition of Introit melodies is attributed to St. Gregory, it means that he added many Introits taken from the psalms, for in fact a good deal of them were borrowed from Ambrose. 

The Kyrie

19. The Council of Nicaea composed the Gloria Patride cons. dist. 1, de hymnis, but “Pope Damasus decreed that it should be sung at the end of each psalm. It is written that Pope Sylvester borrowed the Kyrie eleison from the Greeks, and that Pope Gregory instituted it in the Mass.” It must be noted that the Greeks and Ambrosians repeat the Kyrie eleison very often during the Hours, and in the Ambrosian Mass the Kyrie eleison is said thrice in three places: after the Gloria in excelsis, after the Gospel, and at the end of the Mass. In the Roman Mass, however, it is said nine times in a single place along with Christe eleison, which the Greeks and Ambrosians do not say. 

20. Similarly, the Ambrosians sing their Kyrie eleisonGloria in excelsisCredo, and Sanctus to a single setting, while there are few settings for the Gloria in excelsis and Sanctus in the Gradual of St. Gregory used in Rome. One must conclude that the many settings made by the seculars are without authority. And so it seems to correspond to the humility of your religious state, that you follow the Carthusians in this matter. 

The Gloria

21. The Angelic Hymn was discussed above in proposition 1. Micrologus in chapters 2 and 46 says that it is sung “on every feast with a full office,” that is to say, of nine lessons, “except in Advent, Childermas, and Septuagesima.” “Even in these seasons, however,” according to Micrologus 46, “the Gloria in excelsis is said on the birthdays of Apostles and feasts of Our Lady following the Roman custom,” but the more prudent leave this matter to local custom. “Some say that the Gloria should not be said in the afternoon, except on the day of Our Lord’s Supper when the chrism is confected, and on the Saturdays before Easter and Pentecost.

Greeting, Response, and Genuflections

22. Then turning to the people the priest says Dominus vobiscum,” which is taken from the Old Testament book of Ruth. The Pax vobis is taken from the New Testament, from the Gospel; the response Et cum spiritu tuo from the epistles of Paul; and the Amenfrom Apocalypse. The popes taught us to say all these things as handed down by our Lord, and Pope Clement or Anacletus ordered them to be said.” The Ambrosians usually say Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo without turning, then Oremus

23. Note that according to Micrologus 2 “these words presuppose several persons who respond and one who greets. But just as it is foolish to respond Et cum spiritu tuo to more than one greeter, it is equally inappropriate to greet with Dominus vobiscum when only one or even none are present. Therefore, the most blessed Apostolic Fathers Anacletus, fifth after Peter, and Soter, third after Peter according to our list above, have established it thus in their decrees, that there should be at least two other persons present when a priest says Mass: de cons., dist. 1, Hoc quoque statutum est” “for a priest may not celebrate Mass or any other of the divine offices without the assistance of at least one minister.” “The Apostolic Lord Zachary, ninety-third in the succession, decreed that priests should not come in to celebrate Mass bearing a staff, nor stand at the altar with their head covered: de consec., dist. 1, Nullus episcopus. Also, the Holy Fathers at the council of Orléans, in the third chapter, decided that not only the clergy and those in religious vows, but the whole people should respond to the priest’s greeting with one voice.”

24. According to Micrologus 28, Flectamus genua is said on the Ember days (save those of Pentecost), on Wednesday before the first collect, on Friday before the principal collect, and on Saturday before each of the first four collects. In the prayer about the furnace, the genuflexion is omitted in imitation of the three young men who refused to adore the idols of the Gentiles. And according to the Roman order, we kneel in Lenten Masses after the greeting.[7] The same holds for both collects on the Wednesday following Palm Sunday. But the Franciscans omit these genuflections because they are not done in the Papal Chapel. 

The Collect

25. Then an oration follows that is called the Collect for a particular reason, since among the Romans it is said over an assembly of people as they gather to proceed from one church to another to hold the station. For example, the collect Concede is said on Ash Wednesday at Sant’Anastasia, when the station is at Santa Sabina. At Sant’Adriano on the Assumption, the oration is Veneranda. On the Nativity of Mary, the prayer is Supplicationes servorum, when according to the custom of Pope Gregory, the procession leaves Sant’Adriano for St. Mary Major. The Friars omit these two orations without cause, because they are not said in the Chapel.[8]

26. Now, “according to the Roman order, we ought to say only one oration before the reading, as Micrologus 4 states, and as Amalarius, among others, claims in the prologue to De Officiis to have learned from the Romans themselves. The very nature of the ecclesial offices seems to require that, just as during one Mass we read one Lesson and one Gospel and one Introit—indeed, we sing but one office—so we ought to say only one oration. But some people multiply orations to such an extent that they annoy those assisting. Wiser men say one, three, five, or seven: one to follow the Roman tradition, three because Our Lord prayed three times before the Passion, five because of His five-fold Passion, and seven because the Holy Apostles are said to have consecrated the Holy Mysteries with the seven-fold Lord’s Prayer. In the use of Liège no more than five are said. On the Feast of the Nativity, the Romans add a second oration of St. Anastasia because the day’s station is held in that martyr’s church.[9] We imitate them on this point, even if we do not have the same occasion for the addition.” 

27. But Rhabanus, Archbishop of Mainz, says in his Liber Sacramentorum[10] that he asked the ministers of St. Peter’s in Rome how many orations they were used to say before the Epistle in Masses when more than one oration occurs, as in the second Mass of the Nativity and on Sundays when feasts are commemorated. The response they gave him was that only one is said. Hence he says he learned about the order of orations at Mass from a work of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine: when Christmas Mass is held in the place where the body of the holy martyr lies, let the oration of St. Anastasia be said according to the Roman custom; where this is not the case, only that of the Incarnation. Likewise for other feasts and on all other days when we celebrate Masses per annum. Thus in older books, when two Masses fall on the same day, two are to be said, such as on the Invention of the Holy Cross, on the feast of St Augustine, on the Decollation of John the Baptist, All Saints, and others. The unity of a Mass demands, therefore, that no matter how many orations there might be, the first one must always be said by itself,[11] even if there are only two according to Roman custom and the more approved uses. 

28. We also know that in the Ambrosian office four orations are said at Mass: the first super populum after the Ingressa; the second super syndonem after the Gospel; the third after the Preface, as we do; the fourth after the Communion. We use the same number in Lent, albeit not in this order. They also say the Gloria in excelsis and Kyrie after the first oration, but we keep the opposite order after the Introit, saying the Kyrie eleison and Gloria then the orations. Now, St. Ambrose composed a great number of orations for the Mass, and after him St. Gelasius increased their number. I spoke about the authority of these orations above in the thirteenth proposition.[12]

29. The Gospel commands us that we are to beseech the Father in the name of the Son, and we shall receive what we ask for. Nearly all the orations, therefore, conclude with Per Dominum. A very small number end with a different conclusion to fit the sense. In every conclusion we commemorate the Holy Trinity. The Roman order and very ancient codices place the name of God in the midst of the formula, saying: Qui tecum vivit et regnat Deus in unitate Spiritus Sancti, and the Ambrosians still retain this way. But the moderns tack it on the end,[13] and this way of concluding has taken such hold among the Romans and other nations that it is no longer possible to observe the ancient tradition without giving scandal. According to Roman authority, no oration concludes with Per eum qui venturus est except ones that adjure the devil.[14]

30. During the oration, all stand following the ancient tradition of the Holy Fathers, and, as a sign of assent, must say Amen, in order to confirm the communal prayer made by the priest on behalf of all. Thus in the Secret he says the conclusion Per omnia saecula saeculorum in a louder voice so that the people can give their assent to it. 

The Readings and Intercalary Chants

31. We have already spoken about the Lesson and Gospel. From the Ambrosian order,[15] the Romans take only one lesson, from either the Old or New Testament, along with the Gradual and Alleluia. Some say that even today, in many churches of the city of Milan, they are content to follow the Roman custom of only one Lesson with Alleluia. Nevertheless, in the Duomo the ancient practice is always kept, which has been received into the Roman office only for the four masses of Our Lord’s Nativity. This is why in some Italian churches, at the three Masses of Christmas day, they say the Gradual after the first reading, imitating the custom of blessed Ambrose. And at the Vigil they split up the Gradual, singing the first part after the first lesson, and the verse after the second lesson. 

32. But our dear Friars removed these first readings from the Roman office for the six Wednesdays before Saturdays of ordination. In the Roman Office there are two Lessons with two Responsories. Micrologus 52 says that on the Monday and Wednesday after Palm Sunday, two readings are read back to back as on the Nativity of Our Lord. 

33. Ambrose put many Graduals and Alleluias into his office. Gregory put these and others into the Roman office. “Abbot Notker is said to have composed some Sequences for the melismas of the Alleluias, which Pope Nicholas allowed to be sung at Mass.” I have found a few Sequences in old Roman books, but many have added many more. Everyone loves his own novelties. It seems safer to follow the Carthusians and Cistercians in these matters. The jubili or melismas of the Graduals and Alleluias should not be removed, unless Sequences are sung in their place. 

34. “Roman authority permits only subdeacons wearing sacred vestments to read the Epistle,” as Micrologus 8 states, and dist. 34 Si subdiaconus. In chapter three, St. Hormisdas, fifty-third pope after blessed Peter, lays it down that no one who is not ordained—that is, who has never been elevated by consecration or ecclesiastical custom—should perform the office of the ordained. The canons of several other councils prohibit any person to read in church, to sing the psalms in public, to say the Alleluia, or to perform an exorcism unless he be ordained for these functions. † But concerning the Epistle (title) De vita et honestate (clericorum) of the cited chapter Ut clerici say as there. “But there is nothing preventing a priest from performing the duties of the lower orders at Mass if necessary, since the priestly order contains all the lower orders, so long as he is wearing sacred vestments, without which we may not minister at the altar, according to the Roman order.” “Thus it is more fitting that he should read the Epistle and the Gospel himself than that he should permit an unordained man to do it.” 

35. Anastasius I, a native of Rome, whose reign began in 304, ordered that no one in the church should sit while the Holy Gospel is being read, rather everyone should hear Our Lord’s words attentively and faithfully adore them: de consecratione dist. 1, Apostolica. The Greeks are said to show the same reverence to the Lesson of the Apostle, as Micrologus 9 says. Now, according to the Roman order, the deacon reads the Gospel in the ambo turned toward the South, where the men are assembled. The priest at the altar, however, reads on the left corner so that the right side is free for receiving the oblations and performing the sacrifice. Today the custom of the deacon also turning toward the North has grown to such an extent that it is considered part of the order. On this point, Micrologus 9 speaks more at length. The order also prescribes that he who is to read the Gospel should make a sign of the cross on his forehead and on his chest. The Roman order also prescribes that incense and candles should precede the Gospel as it is carried either to the altar or to the ambo. The Ambrosians, Romans, and other nations usually do not agree regarding the Gospels read on Sundays and many other feasts. On these days we follow our own ancient books, without prejudice, of course, to the Apostolic See, if it has ordered otherwise. 

The Creed

36. St. Mark, a native of Rome and successor of Silvester, who began his reign in the A.D. 339 or 340, decided that the Nicene Creed, i.e. the Credo in unum Deum, should be said aloud after the Gospel. Then Pope Damasus ordered that the same form of the Creed, which proclaims the faith of the Greeks and Latins and was handed down by the Holy Fathers after the Council of Nicaea in the second holy and universal synod celebrated at Constantinople during his reign, circa A.D. 387, should be sung at Mass on solemn days. In accordance with the canons it must be sung on all Sundays of the year, on all feasts of Our Lord, the Holy Cross, Our Lady, the Holy Apostles, All Saints, the Dedication of a church; and not without good reason, since this Creed alludes to each in some way. The same holds for the octaves of Easter and Pentecost, which are reckoned along with the principal day as one single feast. As Innocent III of happy memory says in De celebratione Missae, ch. Consilium: “On Saturdays when Mass is celebrated in honour of the Blessed Virgin, this Creed is not sung in the Roman Church, in order to manifest the difference between a solemnity and a commemoration.”

37. From this principle it follows that the Creed should not be sung during the other major octaves either. There are various opinions and arguments, however, concerning whether it ought to be sung on octave days or on the feasts of St. Michael, the Nativity of John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Mark, Luke, and Martin. And indeed the Creed is not said in masses of angels, virgins, martyrs, and pontiffs. Neither is it sung on the first and second Mass of Christmas night, albeit some have taught that it should be sung especially solemnly at the principal Mass.[16] The genuflection that same people make beginning with the words Descendit de coelis and ending in the words et resurrexit is not supported by any authority. The Council of Nicaea forbids genuflection on the Lord’s day: de cons. dist. 3. Quoniam; nor should it be done on other major feasts: De feriis 2.

38. The secular manner of singing the Creed in cantus fractus[17] does not befit your religious observance. Follow instead the Carthusian monks, from whose fellowship you are not separated, as said above. 

The Mass of the Faithful

The Offertory Chant

39. “Concerning the Offertory sung during the ceremony of offering, although some have said that it came into Christian use by way of the previous people, we do not find clear evidence regarding when precisely someone added it to our offices,” as some Chronicles relate. “Similarly in the case of the antiphon[18] sung at the end: we truly believe that in ancient times the holy Fathers both offered and communicated in silence, a practice that we continue to observe on Holy Saturday. But over time, in sundry ways and various places, the beauty of the Church has developed and will never cease to increase until the end of time.” Some people ascribe the Offertories to St. Gregory. It is indeed true that St. Gregory took many from the Ambrosian office, and composed many more, and added to all of them a great many verses, which are contained in ancient books from Rome as well as our own. But today these have all been pared down, and the Offertory is sung all the more slowly as a result.[19]

The Offertory

40. The offertory follows immediately upon the Gospel: de cons., dist. 1, Omnis, while the Offertory is sung, whose name comes from the action of offering. Hence the offertory is indeed performed in the opposite way, as the priest only asks the people to pray after he has placed the offerings on the altar.[20] Pope St. Alexander, a native of Rome, the fifth pope after Peter, whose reign began A.D. 121, ordered that only bread and wine mixed with water should be offered in Our Lord’s sacrifice, because blood and water flowed forth together from Our Lord’s side: de cons., dist. 2, In sacramentorum. Hence St. Cyprian: “In the Lord’s chalice the wine, I say, must not be without water, lest the people, who according to the Apocalypse are signified by water, appear to be separated from Christ”: de cons. dist. 2, ch. 2, 3, and 4).  The same Pope Alexander also ordered that this oblation should be made of a small quantity of unleavened bread, saying: “The smaller, the more potent.” He also ordered that the people be sprinkled with salted water that has been exorcized and blessed: de cons., dist. 3, Aquam

41. There are two customs regarding the arrangement of the oblation on the altar: one is the Roman custom, practiced by the Italians and Germans using two corporals, both of which must be of pure linen: de cons., dist. 1, Consulto. The French use only one. “In the Roman order,” according to Micrologus 10, “the oblation is placed on the corporal and the chalice is set to its right side, as if to receive the blood that flowed from our Lord’s side. But the French cover the chalice with the fold of one corporal and place the oblation in front, which many do even when doing service with two corporals. Some Chronicles claim that Leo I, about whom we shall speak below, decided that once the offertory is completed, the oblation should be incensed in memory of Christ’s death. Elsewhere it is written that the Council of Rouen ruled to this effect. Micrologus 9 states that the Roman order does not permit incensation of the oblation on the altar, a practice Amalarius, in the prologue to his De Officiis, claims the Romans avoid, even though many, nay, almost everyone does it.

The Offertory Prayers

42. The Roman order, according to Micrologus 11, instituted no prayer before the Secret. In the Gallican order, however, once the offertory is completed the priest says, Veni sanctificator omnipotens aeterne Deus, benedic hoc sacrificium tuo nomini praeparatum, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Then bowing low over the altar he says, not according to any order but by ecclesiastical custom: Suscipe sancta Trinitas hanc oblationem, quam tibi offerimus in memoriam passionis, resurrectionis, ascensionis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, et in honorem sanctae Dei genitricis Mariae, sancti Petri, et sancti Pauli, et istorum, atque omnium sanctorum tuorum, ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: Et illi pro nobis dignentur intercedere in caelis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per Christum.” The priest, rising, exhorts the people to pray saying the Orate pro me, which is ascribed to Pope Leo. In the aforesaid prayer Suscipe, there should be no mention of Christ’s Nativity, because in this sacrifice we should proclaim not Our Lord’s nativity but his death, according to the Apostle. 

43. When it comes to this sort of prayers, the more conscientious observers of the order leave much to general custom, avoiding what is superfluous as far as possible. Hence the Dominicans say only three articles, leaving out everything else. First, as they take and elevate both species at once, they say the verses Quid retribuam and Calicem, then a shorter prayer: Suscipe sancta Trinitas hanc oblationem, quam tibi offero in memoriam passionis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, et praesta, ut conspectu tuo tibi placita ascendat, et meam et omnium fidelium salutem operetur aeternam. Per Christum. Then bowing low they say: In spiritu humilitatis, and omitting the third verse[21] they say: Orate fratres, ut meum pariter et vestrum in conspectu Domini sit acceptum sacrificium. The Ambrosians have many long prayers at this point. The Secret orations are said in the same order as the Collects. In the Ambrosian rite they are said aloud. 

The Preface

44. After the Secret the priest begins the Preface, whose mention of the heavenly citizens is fitting, since they are believed to be present at that point. That is why the angelic hymn follows right after. The Sursum corda is taken from Jeremiah, Gratias agamusfrom the Apostle. St. Cyprian says that “the priest before the Canon utters a prefatory injunction, and prepares the minds of the brethren by saying Sursum corda: in order that, as the people respond, Habemus ad Dominum, they may be warned that they ought to think of nothing but the Lord. Let the breast be closed against the adversary and open to the only God; let it not allow God’s enemy to approach it in the time of prayer”: de cons., dist. 1, Quando autem stamus.[22] The Gemma says that Dionysius the Areopagite is thought to have composed the Prefaces. Ambrose wrote a book of Prefaces,[23] many of which are quoted in the Lombardic History.[24] The Ambrosian office sings a proper preface at every Mass. St. Gelasius I, about whom we spoke above in Proposition 11, composed treatises and hymns in the manner of St. Ambrose, and among his other works he wrote prefaces and prayers in a sparing and polished style. There are many prefaces in our oldest missals too. But Pelagius I, a native of Rome, who began to reign in A.D. 558, decreed that only nine Prefaces should be included in the sacred list: de cons. dist. 1, Invenimus. Sigibert, however, ascribes this act to Pelagius II. During the Council of Piacenza held in 1095, Urban II, who began to reign in A.D. 1088, added to these nine ancient Prefaces a tenth for the Blessed Virgin, which is found under dist. 70, Sanctorum. About his other council in France, I have spoken in Proposition 20. 

45. As a general rule, prefaces are used throughout their seasons and days at every Mass, provided no proper one exists. So the Preface of the Nativity is said up until the Epiphany, except on John’s day and the octaves; the Preface of the Epiphany for eight days; the Preface of Lent on Sundays as well as their ferias, from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday, as Micrologus 50 says; on Palm Sunday and the four subsequent days, the Preface of the Holy Cross; the Preface of the Resurrection from the vigil of Easter to Ascension, and the Preface of the Ascension thenceforth until the vigil of Pentecost; the Preface of the Holy Spirit from then until Trinity and whenever the Holy Spirit is honored; the Preface of the Holy Trinity whenever a Mass of the Trinity is sung, during its octave, and on all Sundays between Trinity and Advent, both when the Mass of the Sunday and when a nine-lesson feast is sung. This is the custom among the English, Germans, and many other nations. Micrologus 60 says that, according to Roman authority, this Preface should be used on all Sundays. But the Friars follow the abbreviated forms of the papal chapel.[25]The Preface of Our Lord’s Nativity is repeated on Corpus Christi and its octave; those of the Holy Cross, the Blessed Virgin, and the Apostles are said whenever their feasts are celebrated, continued throughout their octaves, and the latter is also used for feasts of Evangelists.

The Sanctus

46. Sixtus I, a native of Rome, who succeeded Alexander in A.D. 129, decreed that the hymn Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus should be sung before the sacrifice, taking half of it from Isaias and half from the Gospel. He also decreed that the sacred vessels should not be touched save by Our Lord’s consecrated ministers: de cons. dist. 1, In sancta Apostolica. We spoke of this at more length above. The priest must say this hymn, lest after begging in the Preface that his voice and others’ be allowed to join the angels’ praises, he leave out his own prayer. 

The Canon

47. The author who composed the prayer we call, after the Roman manner, Canon or Action, since it is used for regular confection of the sacrament, is not identified explicitly in written sources, except that St. Gregory claims it was composed by a certain scholastic. It is believed that this scholastic was St. Gelasius. Nevertheless, we do read that many things were later inserted into the Canon by holy prelates, as may be gathered from the following decrees and acts of the Roman Pontiffs. St. Clement I, a native of Rome, is said to have instituted a prayer before the consecration; hence some have attributed the Te igitur, clementissime paterto him. St. Alexander, whom we spoke of earlier, ordered the insertion of a commemoration of Our Lord’s very passion; hence some attribute the prayer Unde et memores to him. 

48. “Concerning the signs of the cross made over the oblation, which are performed variously by different people,” so says Micrologus 14, “we deem that we have taken their form especially from the Apostolic See, from whom we have received the origin and order of the whole Christian religion. Indeed, in our age, God has appointed as ruler of that see Gregory of—I insist—reverend memory, a man who, reared and educated in Rome under ten of his predecessors, diligently sought to discover all the traditions handed down by the Apostles, and, once he had found them, zealously made a record of them. In what pertains to the sacred mysteries, therefore, we imitate this doctor, so distinguished in piety and authority, above all; or rather, we imitate apostolic tradition through him. So, based on what we have from him and the bishops who have taken him as their model, we make an odd number of signs of the cross over the oblation: one, three, or five. There is a definite mystery at the basis of this practice: for through one and three, we signify God, who is three and one; five crosses, on the other hand, represent Our Lord’s five-fold passion. Odd numbers come up often in the ecclesiastical offices, and for good reason, since their unity prevents them from being divided into two equal parts, just as the unity of the Holy Church cannot be split into two parts. 

49. In the first place, where we say Haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia, we make only three signs of the cross over the bread and wine together, for we never make a sign over the bread or chalice separately, except when they are named separately in the Canon. We make a sign of the cross over both in such a way that only the upright part of the cross is traced over the bread, while the transverse part is traced above the chalice, for the upright part of the cross bore Our Lord’s body, and the transverse part stretched out his arms. Moreover, the chalice is thus fittingly set under his arms, as if ready to receive Our Lord’s blood from his side.[26]

50. Roman authority permits names of living faithful to be mentioned in the first Memento and the names of the faithful departed in the second, as I shall say below. Public recitation of names before the Canon, however, is prohibited according to the same distinction, toward the end.[27] Micrologus 13 says that according to the older and more correct sacramentaries, the following words in the Canon are superfluous: first, the phrase et rege nostro, et omnibus orthodoxis atque catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus, since a commemoration of the living is made in the subsequent prayer; likewise the phrase Pro quibus tibi offerimus, since the offerers are referred to elsewhere only in the third person;[28] likewise, instead of circumstantium, it has circumastantium. Likewise, in the prayer Unde et memores, the word eiusdem is superfluous. Likewise, the second Memento is in this form: Memento etiam Domine et eorum nomina, qui nos praecesserunt cum signo &c. But the Canon can no longer be executed in this manner, in line with ancient Roman tradition, without giving rise to scandal, a thing that the Apostle and the Gospel teach us to avoid. Nevertheless, it seems exceedingly temerarious that we should add to the ancient Canon at our own discretion, except what we know the Holy Fathers added or ordered to be added, especially when we read that none of the holy Fathers added anything, except those who, being endowed with apostolic authority, had the power to do so. It seems best, therefore, not to exceed the limits set by our forefathers in this matter, and not to offend apostolic authority by presuming to add our own interpolations in the Canon, a prerogative that pertains solely to the apostolic power.

51. According to a certain chronicle, Pope Siricius, a native of Rome, who began to reign on A.D. 388, added Communicantes et memoriam venerantes &c. to the Canon of the Mass. But we must not add other saints’ names besides those we find enumerated in the Canon. The only exception, according to Micrologus 13, is in the prayer after the Pater noster, where the order permits the addition of as many saints’ names as we please. On the greatest feasts, moreover, we modify several elements of the Communicantes and Hanc igitur oblationem in the Canon, but we do so on the authority of the most ancient and correct sacramentaries—I mean on our Lord’s Nativity, Epiphany, Maundy Thursday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. And these phrases should only be added on the feast days themselves, and during the six days of Easter and Pentecost. 

52. Gregory III, a native of Rome, who began to reign in 751, built a chapel dedicated to All Saints in St. Peter’s basilica, and added the phrase Quorum solemnitas hodie in conspectu tuae maiestatis celebratur, Domine Deus noster, in toto orbe terrarum to the Canon. Because it pertains to this particular feast, it is not added to the Canon in its general form. 

53. The beginning of the Hanc igitur prayer, which they attribute to St. Leo the Great, more on whom below. Blessed Gregory I added Diesque nostros in tua pace until Per Christum, as everybody writes and it shall be said. We wrote about the institution of the words of consecration previously, where we referred to the decretal of Innocent III.

54. The priest represents Christ’s humiliation unto death upon the cross before us when he bows over the altar saying, Hanc igitur oblationem. And immediately he begins the narrative of Our Lord’s Passion in the subsequent words. It lasts until Supplices te rogamus; until that point he remains bowed in front of the altar, signifying the crucified Christ who bowed his head and gave up the ghost. 

55. In the phrase Ut nobis fiat corpus et sanguis, “this oblation” is implied. And here it is fitting that we make three crosses over both, even though we have five words suitable for the purpose, in order to avoid exceeding the aforementioned limit of five, and though we might also reasonably make a fifth over the chalice as a token of the fifth wound, whence blood and water flowed out. Our Lord’s Passion is recalled in a special way in the Canon, according to the Gospel Haec quotiescumque, and the Apostle: Quotiescunque igitur. Therefore, according to Micrologus 16, the priest keeps his hands outstretched throughout the entire Canon, in order to signify before the assembly both his own devout mind and Christ stretched out upon the Cross, as in the verse Expandi manus meas tota die. He need not keep his fingers pressed together out of excessive caution, for in vain are we cautious if we do not strive with all our might to imitate Christ.[29] It is fitting, therefore, to stretch out our hands during the Canon, taking care to touch nothing with our fingers except the body of Christ, and we should not let our hands fall from this position except when signs of the cross must be made. 

56. Leo I, a native of Tuscany, who began to reign in A. D. 443, 47th in the succession—all the Chronicles say he was a skilled homilist—added Sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam to the prayer Supra quae. At the prayer Supplices te rogamus, there should be a profound inclination. (Here cite texts of saints who say that the entire heavenly court, namely the glorious Virgin, the choirs of angels, and all the saints are present at the consecration.)[30]

57. The faithful departed are commemorated in the second Memento, after Christ’s death, because we should commemorate only those who have died redeemed in Christ’s death and ended their life in Christ. Hence the Council of Chalcedon decreed, as found in de cons. dist. 1. Visum, that in all Masses the commemoration of souls should be made at the proper place. The Church has kept this custom from antiquity, a fact confirmed by the testimony of St. Augustine. 

58. When the priest raises his voice at the words “Nobis quoque,” he represents the centurion, who, upon witnessing Christ’s death, exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the son of God.” Here as above, the holy martyrs are not enumerated in the order in which they were martyred. From this fact, we can see that the Canon was not compiled by the same person or at the same time. Here four crosses are made over the chalice, and a fifth on its side as before, symbolizing the wound in Our Lord’s side. That is why, according to the Roman order, the chalice is touched on that same side. And as Micrologus 17 says, it is incorrect to make two crosses on the side, because Christ had only one side wound. But as we said earlier, Pope Gregory of reverend memory did it this way, since St. Anselm, bishop of Lucca, claims to have learned it from him. Furthermore he always kept this practice and indicated in the strongest terms that we should do it so. In the Ambrosian rite the confraction takes place at this point, and an antiphon called the Confractorium is sung. 

59. At the words Per omnia saecula saeculorum, the body and the chalice are elevated and the latter is covered as soon as it is put down, because Joseph raised Our Lord’s body from the cross, placed it in the sepulcher, and shut it with a stone. Until this point the chalice has been covered, probably as a precaution. Henceforth it is covered more on account of the mystery, since just as Christ lay covered in the sepulcher for three days, so we cover Our Lord’s body and chalice until we have complete three prayers, namely the preface to the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, and the one that follows, called the embolism of the Lord’s Prayer. 

60. Gregory I, a native of Rome, a most eminent doctor, 61st in the succession, who began to reign in A.D 562, among the many useful things he did and legislated for the Church, compiled a convenient Antiphonary by patching together and ordering various materials. He ordered that the clergy sing Kyrie eleison at Mass; he caused the Alleluia to be sung in the Roman Church outside of Septuagesima—a practice he borrowed from the church of Jerusalem—and the Tract between Septuagesima and Easter. In the Canon, he added Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas until Per Christum Dominum nostrum; and after the consecratory Canon, he added Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, and in his Registrum he claims he added the Lord’s Prayer. When some murmured on this account, he satisfied them with a humble reply, asserting that it was unseemly for a prayer composed by a scholastic to be said over the oblation, while the prayer believed to have been used at Our Lord’s bidding by the Apostles to confect the same sacraments is omitted. 

61. Praeceptis salutaribus, Pater noster, Libera nos, Domine ab omni malo, praesentibus, praeteritis, et futuris, et intervenientibus beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei genetrice, et beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea—Here, according to Micrologus 23, one can name however many saints he likes—cum omni(bus sanctis), da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi—here he takes up the paten, kisses it, and puts it back down, according to Microloguset omni pertubatione securi

62. Here and at Per Dominum, the confraction is done over the paten, first on the right side, to symbolize the beating of Our Lord’s body, then the greater part is broken in two, according to Micrologus 17. One part is put into the chalice, another is consumed by the priest before he communes from the chalice, and the third is left for those who will communicate and for the sick. Pope Sergius explains the meaning of these three parts: de consec. dist. 2. Triformeand Sentences 4, dist. 12. The Gallican custom is to make the confraction over the chalice. In the Roman order“after dropping the particle into the chalice, the priest says quietly Fiat commixtio et consecratio corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, accipientibus nobis in vitam aeternam. Amen.

63. Pope St. Innocent I,” a native of Albano, “40th in the succession, whose reign began in A. D. 407, ordered that the peace be given after the confraction”: de cons., dist. 2, Pace. “And the peace is fittingly given before communion, since he who presumes to receive communion without first making peace with his brother, ‘eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.’ By custom, we give peace to the person standing next to us saying Pax tecum. The response is Et cum spiritu tuo.

64. Sergius I, a native of Syria, 87th in the succession, who began to reign in A.D. 677, ordained that during the fraction of Our Lord’s body, the clergy and the people should sing the Agnus Dei” to beg that he who was offered up for us as an innocent victim might have mercy on us. 

65. Before the priest receives communion, he bows down and says, Domine Iesu Christe, qui voluntate patris cooperante Spiritu sancto per mortem propriam mundum vivificasti, libera me per hoc sacrosanctum corpus et sanguinem tuum, ab omnibus iniquitatibus et malis meis, et fac me tuis inhaerere mandatis, et  a te numquam in perpetuum separari, qui cum Patre, etc. “When he distributes the Eucharist, he says Corpus et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi proficiat tibi in vitam aeternam. Amen. All ought to receive communion; meanwhile an antiphon is sung whose name derives from the act of communion, and a psalm with Gloria Patri is added if need be, according to Micrologus 18. And this antiphon always takes its verses from the same psalm as the Introit, unless the antiphon is taken from a different psalm.” In Rome the old books contain such verses.[31] In the Ambrosian rite, this antiphon is called the transitorium.

66. “The prayer Domine Iesu Christe, qui nobis, which we say bowed before communicating, does not come from the order but from monastic tradition. The same is the case for the prayer Corpus et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi which we say when distributing the Eucharist to others. There are many other prayers various persons are accustomed to say privately at the Peace and Communion,” but according to Micrologus 18, “the more conscientious observers of the ancient traditions have taught us to strive for brevity in these sort of private prayers, and to prefer public prayers in the Mass office. Pope St. Innocent, writing to the bishops Sts. Augustine and Aurelius, asserted that common and public prayers are more profitable to us than solitary and private prayers.” 

67. “The habit some have of dipping Our Lord’s body and distributing the people communion by intinction is not grounded in authority. For the Roman order speaks against this, and Pope Julius, 36th in the succession, writing to the bishops of Egypt, absolutely forbids this sort of intinction, and teaches that the bread and chalice are to be consumed separately, as Our Lord established. Pope St. Gelasius 51st in the succession, writing to certain bishops, orders that those who receive Our Lord’s body but not the chalice be excommunicated, and in the same decree asserts that this sort of separation cannot but give rise to great sacrilege.

68. After everyone has received communion, the priest, according to the Roman order, silently says the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, mente capiamus, et de munere temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum. After this follow the Postcommunion oration or orations, which must match in number and order the Collects before the Lesson and the Secrets before the Preface. Clearly, these orations are meant not for those about to receive communion, but for those who have just received communion, as their very name suggests. And therefore those who wish to receive a blessing from these prayers do not neglect to receive communion before them.

69. After these are finished, there follows the Benedicamus Domino or—if it is a feast with a Gloria in excelsisIte, missa est. All respond Deo gratias for the blessings received, in conformity with the Apostle.” “Ite, missa est, whence the Mass derives its name, is taken from the Old Testament, in the place where Pharaoh allows the people to depart, and in the place where Cyrus orders the people to depart from Babylon. Benedicamus Domino is taken from the psalter, and Deo gratias from the Apostle. Pope Leo ordained that these be said. The bishop Martial,[32] a disciple of the Apostles, passed down the practice of the episcopal blessing on the basis of the Apostles’ teaching.[33] Those who used them added to their number with praiseworthy zeal, and Ambrose began to say them, and from him this custom spread everywhere. The Apostolic Lord, however, only says what is said at the end of Mass.” 

70. “After all this, the priest kisses the altar saying Placeat tibi sancta Trinitas obsequium servitii mei, et praesta, ut hoc sacrificium quod oculis tuae maiestatis ego indignus obtuli, mihi et omnibus pro quibus illud obtuli, te miserante, sit propitiabile, per Christum Dominum nostrum. As he removes his vestments, he sings the hymn of the three young men. The holy Fathers of the fourth Council of Toledo decreed that a priest who neglects to say this hymn after Mass is to be excommunicated. Then in thanksgiving he says the Psalm Laudate Dominum in sanctis eiusKyrie eleisonPaster noster, and the versicles” Confiteantur tibi Domine omnes, Exsultabunt, Exsultent iusti, Non nobis, Domine exaudi orationem mean and the collects Deus qui tribus pueris and Actiones nostras.


71. From the aforegoing, we can see how carefully all the things observed in the Holy Mass have been ordained and authoritatively introduced, a fact that should cause us to take heed not to uproot the Roman offices without cause where they are customary, or do things differently from how they are written. St. Alexander, whom we have mentioned before, says: “Just as this oblation excels and is better than all others, so it must be cultivated and venerated better than others”: de cons., dist. 1 Nihil.

72. Let us therefore cultivate and venerate the Holy Mass of the Gregorian office, and, unless impeded by a major feast, let us above all make sure to celebrate the Sunday Masses with all due Glorias,[34] rather than relegate them to ferial gloom. And so, between Easter and Pentecost,[35] within major Octaves, and when vigils of saints fall on Sunday, and above all on their Sundays, let us say the Sunday masses with all due Glorias. It will not do to let the joys of Sunday be hidden in some feria. Let us not omit the Epistles and Gospels handed down to us by the Roman Church. When other proper and special Masses fall on a Sunday or another feast, let them be said early in the morning or at another suitable hour.[36] Let us not neglect the morrow Mass on the feasts of John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Lawrence, and whenever else there might be one. When St. Gregory ordained two Masses on the same day—as on both feasts of the Holy Cross, of St. Augustine, of the Decollation of St John, on All Saints, and whenever else[37]—by all means let them both be said at some point on that day. And let this be observed whenever a Gregorian Mass cannot have pride of place on account of a major feast. 

[1] In ancient times (and in some rites to this day), deaconesses or other consecrated women had duties relating to the altar, such as lighting candles, adorning the sanctuary, and burning incense in church. 

[2] John Cassian, Institutes 3.11. Translated by C.S. Gibson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 11. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <;.

[3] The Comes Hieronimi, attributed to St. Jerome, also known as the Lectionarius or Liber Comitis.

[4] In Proposition 12, Radulph explains that the primitive Divine Office at Rome consisted in recitation of Psalms and orations. Chants and hymns first came into use in the Latin West at Milan through Bishop Hilary in the time of Theodosius the Younger (r. 402-450), and Ambrose augmented the corpus. Subsequently, Popes Gregory (r. 590-604) and Vitalianus (r. 657-672) received this corpus from Milan.

[5] Matthew 16:13-19.

[6] John 20:19-31.

[7] I.e., Dominus vobiscum, Oremus.

[8] The use of the Papal chapel had the collect Famulorum tuorum on the Assumption and Famulis tuis on the Nativity of Mary.

[9] Specifically at the second Mass, said at dawn.

[10] Actually quoting and paraphrasing quoting and paraphrasing Amalarius’ Liber officialis, “Praefatio altera.” 

[11] That is, with its own conclusion, to indicate that the first Collect is the proper and sufficient Collect of that Mass.

[12] In proposition 13, he quotes Micrologus 5 to the effect that only orations sanctioned by church councils should be recited in the Divine Office.

[13] I.e., Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus.

[14] The prayers of exorcism said during the blessing of holy salt and water, and over the catechumen at baptism, conclude with this formula.

[15] See paragraph 16, where he assumes the Romans modeled their lectionary on the Ambrosian.

[16] The Mass after Terce.

[17] Cantus fractus was “a rhythmicized form of plainchant used in the 15th century, particularly for new melodies for the Credo and certain antiphon, sequence, and hymn texts” (Ian Rumbold, “Cantus Fractus,” in The Oxford Companion to Music [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011], See [here] for an example.

[18] I.e. the Communion antiphon.

[19] By the late 12th century, the use of Offertory verses had ceased in many uses, and the pace of chant slowed in general.

[20] The canon cited by Radulph and Micrologus laments that men ask for things ordine praepostero, in the opposite way that they should: they first seek help from fellow men before asking God for help. In the Mass, however, the priest first asks God for help in the offertory prayers, then men, i.e. the congregation.

[21] I.e. Laudans invocabo Dominum

[22] Translation by Herbert Bindley, Early Church Classics (1914).

[23] Radulph may refer simply to Ambrose’s authorship of the Ambrosian prefaces, or to an independent treatise Liber praefationum, attested in some medieval catalogues, e.g. item 331 in the 1423 Inventory of the Papal library at Peñíscola.

[24] Jacob de Voragine quotes several Ambrosian prefaces throughout his Lombardic History, also called the Golden Legend.

[25] I.e. they say the common preface rather than the Preface of the Holy Trinity.

[26] In our reading, super calicem means that the transverse beam of the cross should be traced, not vertically above the chalice, but rather horizontally above it, i.e. further away from the priest toward the direction of the back of the altar. In this way, from the priest’s perspective the chalice is set beneath the arms of the cross he has traced in the air, forming a mystical representation of the crucifixion. 

[27] In the Gallican and Mozarabic rites, the names of the offerentes were read out before the Canon. This practice was condemned already at the Council of Frankfurt of 754 (can. 51) and again by Charlemagne in his Admonitio generalis of 789 (can. 54), but survived in the bidding prayers said throughout the Middle Ages. 

[28] Ed. note: The phrase pro quibus tibi offerimus was added to Frankish books the 9th century. See Jungmann, Missarum sollemnia, vol. 1, 183.

[29] The sense may be that if the priest does not imitate Christ in his life (outside the Mass) then ritual caution is in vain; or that keeping his arms extended is a sufficient symbolic imitation of Christ and any additional sign is excessive and superfluous.

[30] The editors have bracketed this text because it seems to be a shorthand note that slipped into the final version.

[31] Communion verses had fallen out of common practice by Radulph’s time.

[32] Of Limoges.

[33] The pontifical blessing before communion was a feature from the Gallican rite that resisted many Roman attempts to expunge it, before finally making its way into the solemn Roman service. Matching the great priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22–26, each blessing usually had three sections, a response, Amen, and a concluding clause. See Joseph Jungmann, Missarum Solemnia, vol. 2 (New York, 1951), 296.

[34] This use of glorificationes, borrowed from Micrologus 30, refers to the Te Deum and Gloria in excelsis sung on Sundays and feasts in the Roman rite.

[35] Some mediaeval uses, most notably that of the Holy Sepulchre and its descendant the Carmelite, repeated the Mass Resurrexi of Easter Sunday as the conventual Mass on every Sunday of Eastertide outside of major feasts, keeping the proper Masses of each Sunday for the morrow Mass, said with reduced ceremony, or relegating them to ferias during the week. See Archdale King, Liturgies of the Religious Orders (London, 1955), 249.

[36] In other words, the conventual Mass of the day should be of the Sunday, with the feast celebrated at another time.

[37] Sts. Alexander and companions on the Invention of the Holy Cross, Sts. Cyprian and Cornelius on the Exaltation of the same, St. Hermes on the feast of St. Augustine, St. Sabina on the Decollation of St. John, and St. Caesarius on All Saints. Only the feast of the Decollation was actually celebrated in St. Gregory’s time.

Veneranda Antiquitas: Dom Mabillon on the Use and Abuse of History

In the second volume of his Musei Italici, the Maurist monk and scholar Dom Jean Mabillon (1632-1707) presented the first critical edition and study of the Ordines Romani, a loose collection of ceremonial documents spanning many centuries that represent early Roman and Franco-Roman liturgical practice.

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The 17th century absorbed a swelling tide of new documentation and filtered it with the increasing rigor of new disciplines and erudite philological methods, thanks in large part to Mabillon’s own Maurist Congregation. These documents shed new light on the historical development of the western liturgy, and prompted questions about how to reconcile contemporary practices with the historical witness.

As the first editor of the Ordines Romani, Mabillon occupied a privileged vantage point from which to survey the broad streams of the Roman rite’s historical development. In his final reflections before presenting the ordines, Mabillon asks the question of his generation—perhaps the quintessential question of the modern, “historically-conscious” world—what to do with all this history?

His brief comments here furnish us key principles for thinking about the questions of continuity and reform in the Church.


Musei Italici, v. 2, cxl1 – xlxvi (Paris, 1724)

  1. Whether older liturgical rites should always be preferred to newer ones? Whether all should be restored to one form?

There are three things to consider in sacred rites: antiquity (antiquitas), uniformity (uniformitas), and constancy (constantia). Our sacred rites are almost as ancient as our religion itself, but equally ancient is their diversity across the various churches. As Firmilianus said in his letter to Cyprian: “There are many things that vary according to the diversity of places and people, but this in no way harms the peace and unity of the Catholic Church.” Diversity was present from the beginning among the Romans, not only “about the dating of Easter, but about many other divine sacraments (divinae rei sacramenta).” Firmilianus states somewhere: “the way things are done in that place is not identical to what is done in Jerusalem.” See also Socrates in book 5, chap xxii, where he says that no religious sect observed the same ceremonies, even those that held the same beliefs about God.

Diversity of rites arises from the variety of peoples’ customs, since not everyone likes to do things in the same way or is able to get accustomed to the same habits; and also from the various founders of churches who, in matters that were themselves indifferent, laid down rules this way or that to fit the variety of places and times (pro temporum ac locorum varietate constituerunt). Therefore, it seems to me that those who try to reduce all to one and the same manner want to force all peoples to conform strictly to the same exact customs habits; nor do they do justice to the churches’ first founders, since they would so easily subvert what they established or permitted. Moreover such changes are almost never attempted without harm to the peace of the Church. This could be proven by examples, if it weren’t already obvious to everyone.

So we must live with diversity of rites chiefly for the good of peace, but also for the sake of the Church, which is made beautiful by this variety. For the Church is that much sweeter to the taste because of this variety in modes of worship. Masters of Ceremonies should take especial note of this. Many of them never rest until they have forced even the most unwilling to conform to their rites!

Those who think that ancient rites should always be preferred to new ones, or vice versa that new ones should always be preferred to old ones, face another difficulty: Neither one is pleasing without tasteful discretion (Neutrum sine delectu placet). Wherever the ancient rites hold sway, let them be preserved untouched (constanter retinendi); where new have prevailed over the old, let the old be held in high esteem, and the new not rejected. For once something has come into use and been established, it can scarcely be changed without causing a disturbance. In any case, just as the changing conditions of certain places led to a variety in rites, so diversity of times in the same places has led to the same rites being changed.

What is to be praised, therefore, in such matters, is constancy (constantia), as long as the peace and concord of the Church are preserved, and Christian charity, to which all rites must yield and render tribute (cui omnes ritus cedere ac suffragari necesse est). But if it is possible to maintain antiquity while preserving peace and charity, then no one in their right mind would say that the new is to be preferred.

In recent times, it is astonishing to see how casually the writers of new liturgical books undo sacred rites of such venerable antiquity, while knowing nothing at all about the practices themselves, much less the reasons and meaning of these practices. For, seeing what is done in their own time and assuming that everything has been done in the same way in all previous centuries, they invent likely reasons for a received novelty, reasons that are not infrequently at odds entirely with the minds of the ancients.

Here it is well to point out several examples that demonstrate our point.

1) Formerly in the Roman Church the custom was to present the pope with the sacra—i.e., the Eucharist—as he made his way to the altar, and for the sacra to be kept there until the communion, when a particle of this previously-consecrated Eucharist was added to the chalice. Then, out of the latest offering of the sacrifice, a particle was reserved “and remained on the altar until the end of the Mass,” according to Amalar in Book 3, ch. 35. According to the Ordo Romanus I, this was done “so that during the whole time the Mass is being offered, the altar be not without the sacrifice.” Thus there was never a time in the Mass when the Eucharist was not on the altar, either the viaticum on the altar itself, or a particle reserved in the sacristy.

Leo X introduced an opposite rite. Writing at the time, Paris de Crassis, the Master of Ceremonies, asks “why the sacrament of the Body of Christ, which by common custom is reserved in churches, must first be removed before a Mass is held there?”

Our ancestors, he responds, did so not because they were averse to the presence of the saving host, but because otherwise the Mass ceremonies could not be fittingly and correctly carried out, since in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament the celebrating pope or bishops could not sit or wear the mitre or receive incensation before the Sacrament, and especially because they themselves would have to incense it and not the deacon, who usually incenses. Moreover, whenever the celebrating prelate incenses, he has first to kneel before the Sacrament before incensing the altar cross and oblations and the altar. Finally, it seems unreasonable that the Sacrament should be confected again in a chapel or oratory where the Sacrament is already being adored, lest there be doubt about which of the two Sacraments ought to be adored.

But in former times it was enough to adore the Sancta once, whether the Eucharist was carried first to the altar as in the first Ordo Romanus, or kept on the altar itself, as in the second. Indeed the holy Fathers were convinced that any sacred ceremony, devoutly performed, not only did not harm the Eucharist, but greatly honored God. Nor was there any doubt for them which consecrated species should be adored, since the present sacrifice is all that concerned them. And there is not need to scruple over the adoration of one species or another, since the object is the same.

2) [The Direction of Reading …]

3) It would take us too long to go through each and every respect in which modern rites differ from the ancient, but we refer to a few here for the reader’s interest. The priest once sang the angelic hymn turned toward the people, unlike the final greeting before the Postcommunion, which he sang turned toward the altar, according to OR I. He did not begin the Canon before the end of the Trisagion, clearly so that the clergy and people could stand in awe-filled silence as the priest recited the Canon in a low voice. The Communion antiphon was not sung, as now in many churches, after the communion itself, but during the communion along with its psalm [….]. The priest did not recite the parts sung by the choir or recited by other ministers, but occupied himself in meditation or the doing of some other rites. [….]

We are not advocating for the restoration of these ancient rites, as if by our private authority, nor do we intend to cast contempt on more recent ones—far be it from us!—but to encourage those in charge of church offices to consider the ancient precedent—more venerable the closer it be to the source—and warn them not to bring out all of these vulgar and insipid excuses, as if they thought that our forefathers were utter fools for sanctioning any ritual that differs from their ideal. On the contrary, if sacred rites are to be reformed, let it be according to the mind of the ancients (veterum ratio habeatur), and let us strive to be as little removed from them as possible.

The churches of Cambrai and Arras cleaved to this principle in the restoration of their sacred rites. [….] The reformers of this Ordo state that their intention was to set in order “whatever seemed to differ from right judgment (a statu rectitudinis deviando) or from the Roman ordo, but not in such as away as to institute a new ordo (novus ordo), lest any room be given for objection that the most holy Roman ordo was in any way violated.”

Epiphany and its Octave (GA 3.16 – 21)

Ch. 16
On the Sunday Dum medium silentium

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The Sunday that occurs between Our Lord’s Nativity and Epiphany signifies that time when the Lord was in Egypt. Hence the Communion antiphon Tolle puerum et matrem eius (Matthew 2).

CAP. XVI. – De Dominica, Dum medium silentium.

Dominica, quae inter Nativitatem Domini et Epiphaniae occurrit, significat tempus illud quo Dominus in Aegypto fuit, unde et in communione, Tolle puerum et matrem eius (Matth. II), canitur.

Ch. 17
On the Saints and their Octaves

We celebrate the birthdays of saints because through death they were born from this world into eternal life. We keep their octaves because in the octave, i.e. in the Resurrection, their glory will be doubled in Christ.

CAP. XVII. – De sanctis et octavis eorum.

Natalia sanctorum ideo celebrantur, quia de hoc mundo in aeternam vitam per mortem nascebantur. Octavae vero illorum ideo coluntur, quia in octava, id est in resurrectione, gloriae eorum per Christum duplicabuntur.

Ch. 18
On Epiphany


Formerly the Octave of the Ides of January was a feast for the triple triumph of Augustus Caesar. We celebrate the same day, which we call the Lord’s Epiphany, for three reasons: because a star showed the way to Our Lord and he was revealed to the nations on that day, and after thirty years he was baptized in the Jordan on the same day, and one year later on the same day he was manifested as God at the wedding of Cana through the conversion of water into wine. Thus it is called Epiphany or Theophany, which means appearance or manifestation or showing forth. For it is said that on this day the Lord fed the five thousand from the five loaves. Thus the first nocturn concerns the star’s appearance, the second nocturn the Magi’s visit, and the third Our Lord’s baptism. In the sacraments of the Mass the subject is the conversion of water into wine and the feeding of the people from the loaves.

CAP. XVIII. – De Epiphania.

Octava Idus Ianuarii olim habebatur celebris ob triplicem triumphum Augusti Caesaris. Hanc eamdem diem, quam Epiphaniam Domini vocamus, ob tres causas celebramus, quia Dominus stella duce illa die gentibus est revelatus; et post triginta annos eadem die in Iordane baptizatus, et revoluto anno ipsa die per aquae in vinum conversionem ad nuptias Deus est manifestatus. Ideo Epiphania vel Theophania appellatur, quod apparitio vel manifestatio aut ostentio interpretatur. Traditur enim quod hac die quinque millia hominum de quinque panibus Dominus satiaverit. Itaque in primo nocturno stellae apparitio. In secundo nocturno Magorum visitatio. In tertio Domini baptizatio. In sacramentis missae agitur aquae in vinum conversio, vel populi de panibus saturatio.

Ch. 19
On the Magi

Image result for chinese christmas painting magi

The king Zoroaster was the first to discover magic, and from his seed came Balaam who prophesied this about Christ: Orietur stella ex Jacob, et consurget homo de Israel (Numbers 24). The Magi who came to the Lord with gifts were descended from Balaam. Now Magi are a kind of astronomer, experts in the stars. Our Lord wanted to be sought by these men because he wanted a testimony from the wise men of the world on the basis of which the gentile peoples might believe. He wanted to be found by three men because he wanted to be worshipped in the three parts of the world, namely Asia, Africa, and Europe. He wanted to be found through a star because he wanted the people to be converted through Sacred Scripture. He wanted to be found on the twelfth day after his nativity because he wanted to draw the world to himself through the twelve apostles. Now Our Lord wanted to be baptized for three reasons. First, to “fulfill all justice”; second, to endorse the baptism of John; and third to sanctify the waters for us. He wanted to be baptized after thirty years before he began preaching because he wanted to teach the people at the perfect age after he had gained wisdom. He wanted to be baptized by John and no other because from him he wanted a witness among the people because the Jews believed that John was a prophet.[1]

CAP. XIX. – De Magis.

Primus Zoroaster rex magicam invenit, de cuius semine Balaam exstitit, qui de Christo hoc praedixit: Orietur stella ex Iacob, et consurget homo de Israel (Num. XXIV). Ex cuius progenie hi Magi fuerunt, qui ad Dominum cum muneribus venerunt. Magi autem sunt dicti, quasi mathematici, scilicet in stellis periti. Ideo autem Dominus ab his quaeri voluit, quia testimonium a sapientibus mundi habere voluit, quibus et populus gentium credidit. Ideo vero a tribus inveniri voluit, quia a tribus partibus mundi scilicet Asia, Africa, Europa, coli voluit. Ideo hoc per stellam fieri voluit, quia per sacram Scripturam populum converti voluit. Ideo in duodecimo die a nativitate sua hoc fieri voluit, quia per duodecim apostolos mundum attrahere voluit. Propter tres autem causas Dominus baptizari voluit: primo, ut omnem iustitiam impleret: secundo, ut Ioannis baptismum comprobaret: tertio, ut aquas nobis sanctificaret. Idcirco autem post triginta annos baptizari, et tunc praedicare voluit, quia nos adepta scientia in perfecta aetate populum docere voluit. Ideo vero a Ioanne, non ab alio, baptizari voluit, quia ab illo testimonium ad populum habere voluit, quia videlicet populus Iudaeorum illi, ut prophetae, credidit.

Ch. 20
On Matins of the Epiphany

In this night, we do not sing the Invitatory, because turn down Herod’s deceitful invitation to the Magi, yet the sixth psalm we sing is Venite exsultemus (Psalm 94), because we celebrate that in the sixth age of the world the gentiles came to the faith. In the third nocturn, we sing the antiphon Fluminis impetus[2] and the psalm Deus noster refugium (Psalm 45), because we remember that, in the third age, the city of God (civitatem Dei), i.e. the Church, was gladdened by the river of baptism. And so in the third nocturn we frequently sing Alleluia, because we announce that in the third age, joy came through the baptism.

CAP. XX. – De Matutinis.

In hac nocte invitatorium non cantamus, quia subdolam Herodis invitationem cum Magis declinamus; in sexto tamen loco psalmum, Venite exsultemus (Psal. XCIV), canimus, quia sexta aetate mundi gentes ad fidem venisse plaudimus. In tertio nocturno antiphonam fluminis impetus (Psal. XLV), et psalmum Deus noster refugium (ibid.), psallimus, quia tertio tempore flumine baptismatis civitatem Dei, scilicet Ecclesiam, laetificasse cognovimus. Ideo in tertio nocturno Alleluia frequentamus, quia in tertio tempore per baptismum laetitiam advenisse annuntiamus.

Ch. 21
On the Octave Day of Epiphany

On the Octave Day of Epiphany, we celebrate the baptism of the Church, as in the antiphons Veterem hominem[3] and Te qui in spiritu.[4] Baptism is performed with water, since this element is clearly contrary to fire. Now, the fire of punishment is lit by the kindling of sin, but extinguished by the water of baptism. Hence is it written that in the beginning the Holy Spirit sustained it, for water washes filth away, extinguishes thirst, and restored the image, and so by baptism we are washed of the filth of our sins, drink from the fount of life, and are restored to the image of God.

CAP. XXI. – De octava Epiphaniae.

In octava Epiphaniae baptismus Ecclesiae celebratur, sicut in antiphonis, Veterem hominem, et te qui in spiritu. Ideo autem in aqua baptizatur, quia hoc elementum igni contrarium comprobatur. Fomite vero peccati ignis poenarum accenditur, sed per aquam baptismatis exstinguitur. Ideo hanc Spiritus sanctus in principio fovisse legitur. Aqua enim sordes abluit, sitim exstinguit, imaginem reddit, ita nos baptismate a sordibus peccatorum nostrorum lavamur, a fonte vitae potamur, imagine Dei renovamur.


[1] This chapter quotes the antiphon Tribus miraculis.

[2] Fluminis impetus lætificat, alleluia, civitatem Dei, alleluia.

[3] Veterem hominem renovans Saluator venit ad baptismum ut natura quae corrupta est per aquam recuperaret incorruptibili veste circumamictans nos.

[4] Te qui in spiritu et igne purificas humana contagia Deum ac redemptorem omnes glorificamus. These and the rest of the day antiphons of the Octave of the Epiphany were of Greek origin, translated into Latin and put into the Roman liturgy at the request of Charlemagne. They were not received into the Roman curial breviary and were therefore not included in the Tridentine breviary.