A Journey of the Development of the Missal

We’ve read and studied the Creation story from Genesis on several occasions. As familiar as we are with that story, there are several strong theological points. The one point Scott Hahn has pointed out and is worth repeating is God organized the world in six days not for Himself. It was so we ourselves could be ordered and directed. St. Paul In 1 Corinthians 3,11,and 14:26-39 addresses the disorder that place in that community and how it must adhere to the tradition of proper worship and order. Although a liturgy has already started from the time of the Last Supper, a more formalized standard of worship through what was written was destined.

Different gospels and epistles initially read in different communities at the Mass until the year 382, which is when a formal canon of scripture was created at the Synod of Rome. Father Adrian Fortescue makes a point about the dynamics of prayers at the Mass (e.g. Kyrie eleison, Alleluia, and Amen), which is “Habit and memory caused the same order to be observed and to a great extent the same expressions to be used long before anything was written down”.We see the first evidence of liturgical books in the fourth century when Optatus of Mileve approaches the schismatic Donatists. They apparently had taken both the palls and codices from the Catholics . Optatus observed that they washed the palls, and he also advised them to wash the liturgical books. This was in the year 370. We can’t pinpoint an exact year when this done, but we do know that two tablets called the Diptychs seemed to have been the first things written. One of the tablets were written prayers for the living and the other were names of the dead. These were read in a liturgy and lessons were also noted in a book.

I mentioned earlier readings of gospel writings and epistles. There was an old tradition reading these until the bishop made a sign to stop. This led to an standard of reading only portions of the scripture and not all. There were also references called companions included in the readings . Other writings included prayers and lives of the saints. Prayers and said by the celebrant and the deacon were also written out. There were two traditional arrangements liturgical books: one focused on the person who uses the book which was more popular in Eastern churches and one focused on the service which contains all that is wanted for Mass. If we consider what liturgy is (“work for the people”), both make a great deal of sense. You also had the psalms and responses for the choir. A custom very in tuned with our Jewish roots of singing of the psalms in liturgy. The bishop’s book was called the sacramentary which contained the services, ordination, baptism, blessings, and exorcisms.

The earliest Roman sacramentaries were the Leonine, Gelasian, and Gregorian. The Leonine was attributed to Pope Leo I, although Pope Leo has nothing to do with the sacramentary. However, it was only a fragment since it had no Ordinary of the Mass or Canon. It was more a collection of prayers used for the Mass. The Gelasian was attributed to Pope Gelasius and consisted of three parts: Sunday Masses, feasts and fast days from Christmas Eve to the eve of Pentecost. There were also ordination services, prayers for all rites for catechumens, the blessing of the font and of the holy oils, prayers and propers for saints, and Masses for the three Ember days (four sets of fast days – one set after Lent, one after Pentacost, one after 3rd Sunday in September, and after the Feast of St. Lucy). The third book included a series of Masses. It should be noted that this was not involved him personally. The Gregorian included every Sunday Mass, rotes for minor orders, and some non-Roman feasts. It also included supplements called the Codex Ottobonianus and Codex Reginensis. Thus, it consisted of four parts: Ordo Missale, the Ordinations, the Propers (hymns and prayers sometimes for a particular saint) for the year, and the blessings, prayers, and Votive Masses. There were other additions such as choir books added in seventh or eighth century.

Pope Pius V in 1570 promulgated the edition of Missale Romanum (Roman Missal) as the official uniform missal to be celebrated at Mass. New editions we’re promulgated in the years 1604, 1634, 1884, 1920, and 1962. These were all for the Traditional Latin Mass we know today. The missals for 1970, 1975, and 2002 are for the Novus Ordo.

There’s clearly more that could be said about this history. However, the one lesson we are reminded is Christ’s Church consistently gives us the blessings and direction to make us more ordered. Discipline as the missal helps us to do is derived from doctrine . God Our Father, Our Beloved Lord, the Blessed Mother, and the angels and saints know that well.

Dominus vobiscum

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