Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Mozarabic Rite: Introduction

In the Autumn, I had the opportunity to pick up a copy of an obscure little book, The Gothic or Mozarabic Mass published in the early 20th century by Manresa Press.

The acquisition of that title reminded me of a long-standing intent to provide an article upon the topic of the Mozarabic liturgy, with particular emphasis upon the Mass. However, as the Mozarabic rite contains a number of features that are unique and thus worth spending some time researching, it seems breaking this up into a series of parts would be in order, lest the piece become a work in progress indefinitely.

The name of this particular rite is usually the first point of inquiry for many. Accordingly, it seems that some basic history surrounding the name is first in order:

The name "Mozarabic Rite" is given to the rite used generally in Spain and in what afterwards became Portugal from the earliest times of which we have any information down to the latter part of the eleventh century, and still surviving in the Capilla Muzárabe in Toledo cathedral and in the chapel of San Salvador or Talavera, in the old cathedral of Salamanca. The name... originated in the fact that, after its abolition in Christian Spain, the rite continued to be used by the Christians in the Moorish dominions who were known as Mazárabes or Muzárabes... The names Gothic, Toledan, Isidorian, have also been applied to the rite — the first referring to its development during the time of the Visigothic kingdom of Spain, the second to the metropolitan city which was its headquarters, and the third to the idea that it owed, if not its existence, at any rate a considerable revision to St. Isidore of Seville.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Mozarabic Rite")

As with so many names, there is some contestation about the accuracy of this naming. The Mozarabic scholar Dom Marius Férotin, OSB, for example, preferred the term "Visigothic rite" over Mozarabic. However, for the purposes of this mini-series, we shall retain the more common designation of "Mozarabic".

With this very brief introduction aside, and one which will give some of the geographic context of the rite, we will turn our attention in the next installment (to possibly come later today) upon more specific details of the Mozarabic liturgical books, starting with the books themselves, for one of the distinctive features of the Mozarabic liturgy is that it has not one Missal, but in fact two.

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