Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dominican Solemn Mass: The Gospel

Today's series shows the rituals and practices in the Dominican Rite at the proclamation of the Gospel. The first image is, I am sorry, not very good because it was scanned from a printed book illustration--William Bonniwell, Dominican Ceremonial for Mass and Benediction (Washington DC: Eastern Province, 1946)--and has been reused from a previous posting here on N.L.M. It shows, most importantly for our purposes, the Dominican way of carrying the book. This contrasts with the two-hand carry in the traditional Roman Rite and the over the head carry that seems to have become obligatory in the New Mass. The Dominican way is sober, and one could imagine a preacher carrying a precious book like this on a long journey. One may also see in this image an apparelled alb and amice, which would have been very common in the middle ages. This decoration is something that, as far as I can tell, was not used in the Western Province until it was introduced at Holy Rosary Church in Portland OR on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Parish in 1995, when the Archbishop Leveda presided in choro at a Dominican Solemn Mass. A video of that Mass is available, see the link on side-bar. This image shows the deacon as he is about to leave the sacristy for Mass: with the capuche down, it would be the way he carried the book during the Gospel procession.

As the choir sang the Alleluia, the two acolytes with candles would have escorted the thurifer and the crucifer from the sacristy to the sanctuary. The only time the cross is carried at Mass in our Rite is for the two proclamations of Faith: the Gospel and the Credo. The thurifer goes to the sedilla for the blessing of the incense and then returns to the center. At the verse of the Alleluia, the procession goes to the lectern where the acolytes with candles flank the crucifer behind it and the subdeacon takes his place behind the deacon, and the thurifer behind him. The deacon here is Bro. Ambrose Toomey, as in the earlier images, with Bro. John Flannery behind him. This image is a bit dark, but you can clearly see the Pascal Candle that is placed behind the lectern in Eastertide. According to the rubrics of the Dominican liturgical books, it is also possible for the Gospel Procession to leave the sanctuary, especially if there is a monumental pulpit for proclamation of the Gospel. The rubrics emphasize that the procession should be long enough to give a sense of real movement. For this reason, historically, the sanctuaries of Dominican priory churches have always had large sanctuaries to allow this kind of movement, as well as the swings to the sides of the altar.

As is clearer in this photograph from the opposite direction, the entire formation takes the form of a cross (you cannot see the thurifer behind the subdeacon). As you can see, the ministers are facing "liturgical" north, the direction of darkness and (in the middle ages) paganism, which the light of the Gospel will enlighten. You will also notice the lectern veil, which is properly a part of very set of Dominican vestments and should match them and the mappula. It is not the Dominican practice for the subdeacon to hold the book. In back you can see the high altar (where the priest is standing for the Gospel just out of the picture) and one of the dedication candles. You will also notice that the acolytes have their inner arms higher than the outer ones because they have turned. When in procession the outer arm is higher. This is the usual way of holding the candles‑-I mention this because I received a question about it from a reader who noticed that at his Indult Parish they hold them differently.

I include here one more photograph of the proclamation of the Gospel, this from Easter Sunday in the same year. The deacon will be recognized by older Western Dominicans as Fr. Barnabas Curtin (R.I.P.). You can see the friars in the act of turning toward the lectern for the chanting of the Gospel. Even in the new rite, most Dominicans have kept the practice of turning toward the Word of God when it is proclaimed. Head bows at the Holy Names are made to the book where they are written, not to the altar, in our Rite. The vestments worn by the deacon and subdeacon are the beautiful cloth-of-gold solemn set made in Germany for the dedication of the chapel. The remains of them are now in the archives of the Province.
It was the practice in the middle ages, and in the modern period when there was no sermon, for the Priest to immediately intone the Credo when the Gospel was finished. The deacon then handed the book to the subdeacon to carry back in procession and they went escorted by the candle-bearing acolytes, thurifer and crucifer. The singing of the Credo provided "traveling music" for the long procession back to the altar. It remained the practice in the order until the last century to do this, even when there was a sermon, which was given after the Credo as in the medieval practice. During the Credo the Cross remained in the center of the sanctuary, while the acolytes and major ministers did a swing to the Gospel side to read the text quietly. Of course, they would swing back to the middle at the Et incarnatus est to kneel in the famous "flying wedge" formation: priest at the altar, behind him the two major ministers, and below them the three minor ministers, forming a perfect triangle, a symbol of the Trinity proclaimed in the Creed.

In our last photograph you can see the arrival of the Gospel book at the altar. The subdeacon, Bro. John Flannery, holds it for the priest, Fr. Fabian Parmisano to kiss, as the deacon steadies it. The subdeacon will then present it for the deacon to kiss and replace it on the altar.

The next installment in this series will discuss the rites at the Offertory. I noticed that no one commented on the last posting, which is fine, but thanks for letting me know if anyone is reading all this.

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