Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dominican Offertory

A quick Mass is a good Mass – by which I mean, not a rushed Roman Low Mass, old or new, but that noble form of the pluriform Roman Rite, the Dominican Low Mass.  (I have only attended a Dominican High Mass once, back in the nineties, so I can't really comment on it too knowledgeably.  It is certainly more ceremonially complex than the Roman High Mass.)

One of the best features of the Dominican Mass is that the prayers at the foot of the altar, the offertory prayers, and the communion prayers are all shorter and less complicated than the Roman.  However, I will focus on the excellently arranged offertory prayers for the moment, and comment only on the Low Mass.

(To see the minutiæ of the rubrics, please refer to the handy online tutorial provided by the Dominican Province of St Joseph; as for the translations of the texts below, I took them from my copy of The Saint Dominic Missal, published 1959.)

Of course, the Dominican Offertory begins and ends as in all forms of the traditional Roman Rite: firstly Dominus vobiscum and Oremus, followed by the Offertory antiphon; lastly, the Secret.  It is the wisely devised set of prayers emplaced between these age-old parts of the Mass that testify to the genius of the Dominican Order, whose rite was fixed and stabilized in the 13th century.

Most surprisingly, the chalice in the Dominican Mass is already prepared before the Offertory!  This was in fact a common mediæval practice, surviving alone in the Dominican form of the Liturgy.  At a Low Mass, it is mixed at the very start; at a High Mass, during the Epistle.  In either case, the minister presenting the water says Benedicite (Bless), and the celebrant does so, saying In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti (In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost), to which the minister responds Amen.  There is no long prayer equivalent to the Roman Per hujus vini et aquæ mysterium.

Therefore, having prepared the chalice previously, the Dominican priest, standing at the altar, having read the Offertory antiphon, next says in a low voice, Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quæ retribuit mihi? (What shall I render to the Lord for all that He has rendered to me?)  If it were High Mass, the deacon would then say Immola Deo sacrificium laudis et redde Altissimo vota tua. (Immolate to God the sacrifice of praise, and render to the Most High your vows.)

In both cases, these selected psalm texts succinctly express the reason the priest stands at the altar – to render the perfect sacrifice of praise to God for all His blessings poured out upon him and all creation.  The Holy Eucharist is after all the perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Taking up the chalice, already containing wine mixed with water, with the host resting on the paten atop it, the priest then answers his own question by saying Calicem salutaris accipiam et nomen Domini invocabo. (I will take the chalice of salvation and will call upon the name of the Lord.)  Only by taking up the chalice and invoking the Lord's name can the priest proceed to return a perfect sacrifice of thanks to God.

It is interesting to note how Quid retribuam and Calicem salutaris are the words on the priest's lips at the very start of the offertory, whereas in the traditional Roman Mass they are said directly before the celebrant drinks Christ's Blood from the chalice.

The friar celebrant continues to elevate the chalice with the paten atop, elevating the bread and watered wine contained therein, as he offers up the sacrifice to the Holy Trinity, using a short formula, shorter than the Roman, which very curiously is identical to that used in the diocese of Hereford in the Middle Ages:

Suscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem, quam tibi offero in memoriam passionis Domini nostri Jesu Christi: et præsta, ut in conspectu tuo tibi placens ascendat, et meam et omnium fidelium salutem operetur æternam.

(Receive, O holy Trinity, this offering, which I present to You in memory of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ: and grant, that it may ascend to You worthily in Your sight, and may bring about my eternal salvation and that of all the faithful.)

Therefore, there is no separate oblation of each element, as in the Roman Rite with its prayers Suscipe sancte Pater and Offerimus tibi Domine; and the particular Dominican recension of the Suscipe sancta Trinitas – of which dozens of variants existed in mediæval times – focusses admirably, as might be expected from so scholastic an Order, on the Mass as making present the saving Passion of Christ, that the salvation of priest and all believers be wrought by this application of the power of His Sacrifice.

As is expected, next the priest goes to the epistle side of the altar and washes his fingers, praying the usual Lavabo, but only two verses (originally, only one), rather than the whole remainder of the psalm, as in the Roman Mass:

Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas, et circumdabo altare tuum Domine: ut audiam vocem laudis, et enarrem universa mirabilia tua. Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuæ, et locum habitationis gloriæ tuæ. 

(I will wash my hands among the innocent, and will compass Your altar, O Lord: that I may hear the voice of Your praise, and tell of all Your wondrous works. I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells.)

Returning to the middle, he bows down and prays the In spiritu humilitatis, which, however, has a slightly divergent text from that of the general Roman Rite:

In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito, suscipiamur, Domine, a te: et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum, ut a te suscipiatur hodie, et placeat tibi, Domine Deus.

(In a humble spirit, and with a contrite heart, may we be received by You, O Lord: and may our sacrifice be so [performed], that it be received by You this day, and be pleasing to You, O Lord God.)

Several other religious orders having their own proper rite of Mass were forced by Roman pressure to reword this text, but the Dominicans never did. Unlike the Roman practice, this prayer is not followed by the Veni sanctificator.

The Dominican priest then turns to the faithful present and says Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum pariter in conspectu Domini sit acceptum sacrificium.  (Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be pleasing in the sight of the Lord.)  There is no response to this – the brethren pray in their hearts in response, no doubt.

The only part of the Dominican offertory rite that seems an unnecessary duplication is that interposed between the Orate fratres and the Secret, albeit a common mediæval addition: the priest, after he has turned back to the altar, prays quietly Domine, exaudi orationem meam: et clamor meus ad te veniat. Oremus. (O Lord, hear my prayer: and let my cry come to You. Let us pray.)  This corresponds to the usual practice when Dominus vobiscum is not used in the Office, which suggests its origin was the transfer of such from Office to Mass; and this helps justify this apparently curious Dominican usage.

In sum, the Dominican Mass – and in particular, the offertory thereof – is to my mind plus simple et plus uni than the Roman.  Unlike Dom Claude de Vert, that early eighteenth century liturgist to whom I owe that phrase, my liturgy of predilection is not the Carthusian, but the Dominican.

If only I lived somewhat closer to a tradition-minded Blackfriar!  It's been weeks since I was at Fr Mannes' Low Mass...

No comments: