Thursday, October 15, 2020

Online Resources: Critical Editions of Two Ancient Manuscripts of the Roman Mass

I recently discovered that two very important resources for the study of the Roman liturgy are now available for free on the website. These are critical editions, both by Dom Leo Mohlberg OSB (1878-1963), of the oldest Sacramentary of the Roman Rite, known as the Old Gelasian Sacramentary, and of the so-called Leonine Sacramentary. The former was published in 1960, the latter posthumously in 1966; in both cases, Dom Mohlberg, a monk of the German abbey of Maria Laach, worked in collaboration with his Benedictine confreres Leo Eizenhöfer and Pietro Siffrin. The scans were made of the text, and not as pictures of the pages, so one can also do a word-search within them in the pdf format.
The end of the Preface, the Sanctus (written in Greek letters), and the beginning of the Canon, in the Gellone Sacramentary, which is only about 30 years later than the Old Gelasian Sacramentary. (Bibliothèque National de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048, folio 143v).
Unfortunately, Italian libraries generally are far behind their French, German and English counterparts in digitizing their holdings and making them available electronically. There do not appear to be any pictures at all of the Leonine manuscript on the internet, and the Capitular Library of the cathedral of Verona which holds it has no digital collection. The Old Gelasian Sacramentary is at the Vatican Library, and can be consulted online in a high quality scan, but is held under copyright, and each page is watermarked.
The so-called Leonine Sacramentary is not actually a sacramentary at all, which is to say, a book which contains the priest’s parts of the Mass, the Canon, and the variable prayers and prefaces of individual Masses. (All sacramentaries also include other materials such as blessings and catechumenal rites, which vary according to the context in which they were made to be used.) Before the creation of such books, the prayers and prefaces were written down in booklets called “libelli Missarum”, which might well vary from one church to another even within the same city. The manuscript in question is a privately made and highly irregular collection of these libelli, generally dated on internal evidence to the mid-6th century. The collection was certainly made in Rome itself, since it contains numerous specific references to the city. Its traditional name “Leonine”, in reference to Pope St Leo I, is no more than a fancy of its discoverer, Fr Giuseppe Bianchini (1704-64), a canon of Verona who later joined the Roman Oratory, and in his time, was a well-respected scholar of Christian antiquity.
The manuscript is very damaged, and begins with the sixth of a group of 43 different Masses for several martyrs. (The group is numbered within the manuscript itself.) The only parts of the Temporal cycle which are included are the Ascension, Pentecost and the following Ember Days, “daily prayers” for Mass, Vespers and Matins (without any indication of specific days), the Ember Days of September and December, Christmas, St John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents. One of the many things that demonstrates the collection’s wildly irregular nature is the placement of eight Masses for St Stephen the First Martyr on August 2nd, the feast of Pope St Stephen I, even though there can be no doubt that the feast of the former was kept on December 26th long before the collection was made.

Most of the remaining Masses are those of feast days; five for the Nativity of St John the Baptist, eight for Ss John and Paul, twenty-eight for Ss Peter and Paul, etc. Despite the complete irregularity of the collection, a considerable number of its texts passed into the regularized books properly known as sacramentaries, and in one form or another, some are still used to this very day. Many of the prefaces added to the Roman Rite in the post-Conciliar reform are derived from it, including two of those recently made optional for use in the Extraordinary Form, those of the Angels and of the Martyrs. The traditional Offertory prayer said when water is added to the chalice “Deus qui humanae substantiae” is first attested as the Collect of the first Leonine Mass of Christmas.
A great deal has been written and discussed about the second book, the Old Gelasian Sacramentary, which is the first known actual sacramentary of the Roman Rite. Broadly speaking, the scholarly consensus seems to be that the manuscript is physically from about 750 AD. It includes the Masses of the four great Marian feasts (Nativity, Annunciation, Purification and Assumption), which were added to the Roman Rite by Pope St Sergius I (687-701) at the very end of the 7th century, but does not include Masses for the Thursdays of Lent, which were instituted in the reign of Pope St Gregory II, 715-31; the text from which it was copied can therefore be dated fairly narrowly to about 700 AD.
The liturgical texts are divided into three books. The first contains the Masses of the Temporal cycle, from the vigil of Christmas to the octave of Pentecost; there are no Masses at all for the time after Epiphany. After the octave of Pentecost, there is a large group of Masses and prayers for particular occasions, including ordinations and church dedications. The second book mostly contains the Masses of Saints, including a few commons, but also the Ember Days of September and December, and the Masses of Advent. The third book begins with 16 Masses labelled simply “for Sundays”, all of whose contents are found in later manuscripts on the Sundays after Pentecost, followed by the Canon, a group of a “daily Masses” then a large number of votive Masses and prayers for special occasions, including the Masses for the Dead.
Although there are any number of differences between this Sacramentary and the Missal of St Pius V, there can be no mistake whatsoever that the former is the predecessor of the latter, and even the most casual perusal of the text of this manuscript will immediately impress the reader with the extraordinary degree of continuity between them.

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