Why Solemn Mass

Discourses on Solemn Mass: Introduction

Explanations about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Roman Rite abound. But these tend to focus on Low Mass, thus neglecting the profound and beautiful rituals found only in the more complete form of the Latin Church: Solemn Mass. Those works that do examine ceremonial aspects of Solemn Mass, usually do not discuss the reasons behind the actions, let alone delve into the rubrics that regulate them, thus illuminating further the profundity of its ritualistic praxis.

Such an expose on Solemn Mass becomes even more pertinent when we realize that most Roman Catholics do not have the opportunity to witness its ceremonies – or perhaps not frequently enough to impress them upon the memory –or are unable to clearly view some of its ritualistic actions. Thus these “Discourses on Solemn Mass” will endeavor to methodically, but briefly examine the rite of Solemn Mass, not only in a general sense, but also a more particular one.

For starters, we must understand that Low Mass (missa recitata) is merely an abbreviated version of Solemn Mass (missa solemnis). Once upon time, all Masses were sung Solemn Masses until the development of Low Mass. Even then, many religious orders and institutions (even some parishes) continued to daily offer the Solemn form for public or conventual Mass. This idyllic situation though was tragically ended by the effects of the Protestant Reformation and its subsequent convulsive revolutions against the Church.

Secondly, we must recognize that Solemn Mass form is the liturgical ideal of the Latin Rite (not Low Mass). At Solemn Mass, we witness the Roman balance of contemplative chant and meditative silence, the proper division of the liturgical offices, and the edifying participation of the faithful, who united as a body devoutly “pray twice” through the singing of the Kyriale and hymns, while conforming their bodies (e.g., bowing, sitting, standing or kneeling) according to the circumstances. As some have probably ascertained, many of these same aspects also exist in the context of High Mass (missa cantata), which is a more-recent hybrid of Solemn Mass.

The next discourse will examine a main defining point of Solemn Mass: its ministers.





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