Saturday, November 02, 2019

The Ambrosian Requiem Mass

It is generally the case that minority liturgical traditions to various degrees adopt the customs of the majority traditions with which they live in close proximity, and the Ambrosian Rite is no exception. One of the places where it has been most evidently Romanized is in its liturgy for the dead; both the Mass and Office have incorporated several features of the Roman Rite, and in some cases, have retained the specifically Roman form of those features, even where it might just as easily been conformed to the normal pattern of the Ambrosian Rite. Here we will sum up the proper texts of the Ambrosian Requiem Mass; the ritual features (e.g. the use of black vestments, omission of the Peace, etc.) are not sufficiently different to call for much comment. The two photos here were provided by Nicola; a follow-up post will describe the Ambrosian form of the Absolution at the catafalque.

Mass for all the faithful departed celebrated early this morning in the Ambrosian Rite in the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Milan.
The Ambrosian equivalent of the Introit is called the Ingressa, and is sung without a Psalm verse, Gloria Patri, or repetition. At the Requiem Mass, however, it is identical to the Roman form, with the addition of the single word “Domine” to the Psalm verse. (In the Missal, the Psalm verse is called “Psalmellus”, which is also the name of the Ambrosian equivalent of the Gradual.)

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Dómine: et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Psalmellus (Ps. 64, 2-3) Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddétur votum in Jerúsalem: exaudi oratiónem meam, Dómine, ad te omnis caro veniet. Réquiem… – Eternal rest grant to them, o Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. Ps. A hymn becometh thee, o God in Sion: and to Thee shall a vow shall be paid in Jerusalem. Hear Thou my prayer, o Lord: all flesh shall come to thee. Eternal rest…


The Ambrosian Mass has no Kyrie, so the first prayer, called the “super populum”, follows immediately. (The prayers are always introduced by “Dominus vobiscum” and “Et cum spiritu tuo”, but “Oremus” is not said.) The prayers of the first two Masses on November 2nd are the same as in the Roman Rite; at the third it is as follows. “Praesta, quaesumus, Domine, animabus famulorum famularumque tuarum misericordiam sempiternam; ut mortalibus nexibus expeditas, lux eas aeterna possideat. – Grant, we ask, o Lord, eternal mercy to the souls of Thy servants and handmaids; that, being set free from mortal bonds, the eternal light may keep them.”

At the first and second Masses, there are three Scriptural readings, at the third only two. The Old Testament readings of the first two Masses are 2 Maccabees 12, 43-46 (the Epistle of the Roman second Mass and anniversary Mass), and Job 14, 13-16 (the sixth reading of Roman Matins of the Dead).

The Psalmellus which follows is uniquely Ambrosian, and one of the very few not taken from the Psalms; it is also sung as a responsory in the Office of the Dead in Lent.

Psalmellus Qui suscitasti Lazarum quatriduanum foetidum, tu dona eis requiem, et locum indulgentiae. V. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Dómine: et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Tu dona eis requiem, et locum indulgentiae. – Thou who raised Lazarus that stank on the fourth day, grant to them rest, and a place of indulgence. Eternal rest grant to them, o Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. Grant to them rest, and a place of indulgence.

The Epistles readings of the three Masses are as follows:
1 Corinthians 15, 51-57 (the Epistle of the Roman first Mass, and the burial Mass of priests)
1 Thessalonians 4, 13-18 (the Epistle of the Roman burial Mass for non-priests)
Apocalypse 14, 13 (the Epistle of the Roman third Mass, also said at the daily Requiem)

The Ambrosian equivalent of the Tract is called a Cantus; the repertoire of these chants for ferial days is very small, and they are all very short. The one used at the Requiem Masses is also sung on the Thursdays of Lent, and consists of only the first four words of Psalm 101, “Domine exaudi orationem meam. – Lord, hear my prayer.” (Coincidentally, I suppose, in chant it is exactly 101 notes long.)

The Ambrosian Rite never adopted the Sequence, and so the Gospel follows immediately after the Cantus. The Gospels of the first Mass is John 5, 25-29, the same as at the Roman first Mass; those of the second and third Masses, John 6, 44-47 and 5, 21-24, are specifically Ambrosian.

Following the Gospel, the Ambrosian Mass has a series of features which have no true analog in the Roman Mass. The priest says “Dominus vobiscum”, to which the choir replies “Et cum spiritu tuo. Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison,” and then sings an antiphon called “post Evangelium – after the Gospel.” At a Requiem, however, the three Kyrie eleisons are omitted, and the antiphon is quite short. “Requiem sanctam dona eis, Dómine: et lux misericordiae lúceat eis. – Holy rest grant to them, o Lord; and let the light of mercy shine upon them.”


During the antiphon, the deacon spreads the corporal in its place on the altar; he then turns to the people and says “Pacem habete”, to which the choir answers “Ad te, Domine”, but this is also omitted at a Requiem. The priest then says “Dominus vobiscum” again, followed by a prayer called “super sindonem – over the shroud.” The form of this prayer is the same as that of the Roman Collect, and there are many Ambrosian Masses in it is the same as the Roman Collect of the same day. The “super sindonem” of the Third Mass, however, is used in the Roman Rite as a Post-Communion prayer for several deceased. “Deus, cui soli cómpetit medicínam praestáre post mortem: praesta, quáesumus; ut ánimae famulórum famularumque tuárum, terrenis exútae contagiis, in tuae redemptiónis parte aggregentur: Qui vivis. – O God, to Whom alone it belongeth to grant healing after death; grant, we ask, that the souls of Thy servants and handmaids, being rid of earthly contagion, may be joined unto the portion of Thy redemption. Who livest.”

The Offertory chant of the first Mass is the same as the Roman one, with one very small variant that hardly changes the sense (“laci” instead of “lacu”), and the music has many similarities. At the second and third Masses, however, an entirely different chant is used, which is also said at the daily and anniversary Requiems.

Libera me, Domine Deus, in die illa tremenda judicii: quando Angeli offerent tibi chirógrapha peccatorum hominum. V. Miserere mei, Deus, miserere mei; quoniam in te confidit anima: quando Angeli… – Deliver me, Lord God, on that fearful day of judgment, when the Angels shall offer Thee the writing-down of the sins of men. V. Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me: for my soul trusteth in thee. When the Angels …

The incensation at the Offertory during a traditional Ambrosian Requiem Mass; note that the deacon wears his stole on top of the dalmatic. The Ambrosian custom is to hold the chasuble very high during the incensations, parallel to the floor.
The Ambrosian equivalent of the Secret is introduced by “Dominus vobiscum” like the other prayers, and is said outloud. Those of the first and second Masses are the same as in the Roman Rite; that of the third is taken from the Ambrosian daily Requiem for several deceased. “Hostias tibi, Domine, humili supplicatione deferimus: ut animae famulorum famularumque tuarum per haec piae placationis officia tuam misericordiam consequantur. Per. – We bring Thee offerings o Lord, with humble supplication, that the souls of Thy servants and handmaids, by this holy office of propitiation, may obtain Thy mercy. Through…”

The Preface for the Dead is attested in many ancient Roman sacramentaries, and inspired the neo-Gallican preface of the 1738 Parisian Missal, which Pope Benedict XV later added to the Roman Missal.

Qui es assumptor animarum sanctarum. Quamvis enim mortis humano generi illata conditio pectora humana mentesque contristet: tamen clementiae tuae dono spe futurae immortalitatis erigimur, et memores salutis aeternae, non timemus lucis huius subire dispendium. Quia misericordiae tuae munere fidelibus vita mutatur, non tollitur: et in timoris tui observatione defunctis domicilium perpetuae felicitatis acquiritur. Tibi igitur, clementissime Pater, preces supplices fundimus, et maiestatem tuam devotis mentibus exoramus, ut animae famulorum famularumque tuarum, quorum diem Commemorationis celebramus, mortis vinculis absolutae transitum mereantur ad vitam: et in ovium tibi placitarum benedictione, aeternum numerentur ad regnum. Per Christum.

Truly it is worthy… Who receivest the holy souls. For although the condition of death brought upon the human race saddeneth human hearts and minds, nevertheless by the gift of Thy clemency, we are raised up in the hope of future immortality; and mindful of eternal salvation, we do not fear to undergo the loss of the light of this world; fecause by the gift of Thy mercy, life is changed for the faithful, not taken away, and in keeping the fear of Thee, a place of everlasting happiness is obtained for the dead. To Thee, therefore, most clement Father, we humbly pour forth our prayers, and beseech Thy majesty with devout hearts, that the souls of Thy servants and handmaids, whose day of commemoration we celebrate, may be set free from the bonds of death, and merit to pass over to life, and in the blessing of the sheep that have pleased Thee, be numbered unto the eternal kingdom.

The Fraction is done immediately after the Canon, while the choir sings an antiphon called the Confractorium; the text at the Requiem Mass is based on the reading of the Apocalypse listed above, and is also said as the versicle of Roman Vespers and Lauds of the Dead. “Audivi vocem de caelo dicentem: Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur. – I heard a voice from heaven, saying: Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord.”


As in the Roman Rite, the Peace is not given in a Requiem Mass. The Ambrosian Rite does not normally have the Agnus Dei, but in a Requiem, it is said, with a longer addition to the third invocation. “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi: dona eis requiem * sempiternam, et locum indulgntiae cum Sanctis tuis in gloria. – Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest * everlasting, and a place of forgiveness with Thy Saints in glory.”

The final proper chant of the Mass, the equivalent of the Roman Communio, is called the Transitorium. The text from John 11, 25-26 is said in the Roman Rite as the Benedictus antiphon at Lauds of the Dead. “Ego sum resurrectio et vita : qui credit in me, etiam si mortuus fuerit, vivet: et omnis qui vivit et credit in me, non morietur in aeternum: dicit Dominus. – I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, although he be dead, shall live: and every one that liveth, and believeth in Me, shall not die for ever, saith the Lord.”


The prayer “after Communion” is identical in form and function to the Roman prayer. That of the second Mass is not found in the Roman Missal. “Inclina, quaesumus, Domine, precibus nostris aures tuae pietatis, et animabus famulorum famularumque tuarum remissionem tribue omnium peccatorum: ut his sacrificiis purificati, consortio mereantur perfrui Beatorum. – Incline the ears of Thy mercy, we ask, o Lord, unto our prayers, and grant to the souls of Thy servants and handmaids forgiveness of all their sins; that, being purified by these sacrifices, they may merit to enjoy the company of the blessed.”

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