Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Liturgical Curiosity from Monte Cassino

In the traditional Pontifical liturgy, the bishop possesses three different sorts of mitre, used on various occasions during the year and at different moments in the liturgy--the simple white mitre (mitra simplex), the golden mitre (mitre auriphrygiata), and the jeweled precious mitre (mitra pretiosa). The rubrics governing their use seems to be vaguer in the modern use of the rite, but their variety can be used to grant levels of dignity to different masses throughout the calendar, on the principle of progressive solemnity.

However, the seven different precious mitres once (still?) permitted to the Abbot of Monte Cassino during his own solemn pontifical liturgy are surely a wondrous anomaly:

The Diocese of Monte Cassino includes most of the Abruzzi, and is one of the most extensive in Italy. It was formed by uniting seven ancient dioceses, a fact which is borne in mind by the interesting custom that, when the abbot sings pontifical High Mass, he uses seven different precious mitres in succession. As ordinary the abbot is directly subject to the Holy See, and the choir monks take rank as the chapter of the diocese, of which the abbatial basilica of Monte Cassino is the cathedral. The conferring of sacred orders, blessing of Holy Oils, and administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation are the only pontifical functions which the abbot does not exercise. The vicar-general is usually one of the community.


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