Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dominican Solemn Mass: Preparation of the Chalice

A kind reader asked where he could find a copy of the Dominican Ordinary to consult as he reads these posts. There is one on the web at:

It has the text in Latin and English, but note that this is the Ordinary for Low Mass and so has a few variants from what I am describing (e.g. mixing the chalice before Mass begins).

OUR PICTURES today focus on the Preparation of the Chalice during the intervening chants. After the Collects, the priest returns to the sedilla, and the subdeacon chants the Epistle (or Old Testament Reading at some Masses). During the Epistle, the deacon washes his hands (which in our rite is always done before handling sacred objects) and goes to the altar to remove the corporal from the burse and unfold it.

Accompanied by his acolyte, who carries the Missal, the deacon then returns to the sedilla, where he and the priest read the Epistle, intervening chants, and Gospel quietly. In the middle ages, they didn't read the Epistle and Gospel, but only the intervening chants (because the ministers would be too busy to sing them, as also the Ordinary, along with the choir). The Biblical readings properly belong to the deacon and subdeacon, so there was no reason for the priest to read them. The practice of reading them in our rite was a Romanization of the 1600s. The Roman Rite had picked up this practice under the influence of the late-medieval Low Mass, where the priest performed all the ministries himself. This gave some liturgists of that period the impression that, even at Solemn Mass, the priest should repeat all the words of the other ministers. We resisted this innovation until the 1690s, when it was imposed on us, along with yet another late-medieval Roman practice, the Last Gospel.

The Epistle ended, in this photograph, the cantors in medio chori are intoning the first of the two Eastertide Alleluias. You can also see the Dominican community in their stalls. They have their capuches down for the Alleluia; they would still be up if it were a Responsorium. The chapel looks very much the same today, except that the stalls are now triple-ranked instead of double-ranked. You can also see two of the twelve dedication candles on the wall above the stalls. Western Province friars will recognize Fr. Bede Wilks as the last cantor on the right. You can tell that this is a major feastday, perhaps a Sunday, because there are four cantors intoning the chants and singing the verses. On a second-class feast, there would be two; on a third-class or ferial, where would be only one. As the Responsorium or first Alleluia is sung, the subdeacon washes his hands and receives the humeral veil from his acolyte (it has been resting on the altar since the chalice arrived during the Gloria). He picks up and covers the chalice and paten with the veil, then both go to the sedilla for the Preparation of the Chalice. I might add that in the Missa Cantata the chalice is also prepared at this point but at the altar. As I mentioned above, the well-known practice of mixing the chalice before the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar is done only at Low Mass.

In this picture you can see the preparation of the Chalice, over which the priest, Fr. Fabian Parmisano, is presiding. He and the deacon are seated on the sedilla, the single bench for the major ministers. The priest sits closest the altar, then the deacon, and finally the subdeacon. That sedilla is still in use at St. Albert's, although now for minor ministers. The acolytes sit farther away from the altar on their own bench. Bro. John Flannery, the subdeacon, is mixing the chalice, pouring in the wine and water (just blessed by the priest). You can see Bro. Ambrose Toomey, the deacon, holding the paten covered by the pall. Just before the preparation of the chalice, he presented the host on the paten to the priest for his approval. (I once had the horrible experience of my deacon lifting the pall and showing me an empty paten--the subdeacon had forgotten to put a host on when he set up the chalice, as is his job, in sacristy before Mass!) On the laps of the priest and deacon, you can see the mappula protecting their vestments from spills. Over the subdeacon's shoulders you can see his humeral veil. When the Preparation of the Chalice is over, the subdeacon will return the chalice and paten to the altar and return to sit with the other major ministers. All heads are uncovered; unlike the Roman practice of wearing the biretta during readings and chants, our major ministers keep their capuches down during the entire Mass. By that time the final Alleluia has begun, and the minor ministers will be arriving in procession from the sacristy for the chanting of the Gospel. You will notice that all heads are uncovered; unlike the Roman practice of wearing the biretta during readings and chants, the major ministers keep our capuches down during the entire Mass. They are only up for the processions coming in and going out.

I will discuss the rites at the Gospel in the next posting.

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