Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Dominican Solemn Mass: Pictures and Commentary

This series consists of a number of images of the Dominican Solemn Mass and other ceremonies taken about 1958 at Saint Albert the Great Priory in California, which is still the House of Studies of my province. These are an addition, requested by Shawn and others, to the series "The History of the Dominican Rite, 1946-1969." I will include comments and descriptions along with the photographs

This first image shows a server lighting the candles for Mass at the high altar of the priory. You will notice that the acolyte is wearing an alb, which shows that this is in preparation for a first- or second-class feast. If it were a third-class or ferial, he would be wearing a surplice. Those who know the Roman practice will notice that the order for lighting the candles is different. In the Dominican Rite we light the candles starting on the Gospel side and then going straight across. They are snuffed in the opposite direction, starting on the Epistle and then moving left. This way, the Gospel side has the first candle lighted and the last candle snuffed, symbolizing that Christ of the Gospel is always the "Light of the World." Those who have a copy of the Dominican Altar Boy's Manual published by the Eastern Province in the 1940s will notice that in that province they had adopted the Roman style of candle lighting; the traditional way shown here was followed in Europe and in the Western Province. The presence of an Easter lily shows that this is also Eastertide--there will be other indications of this later in the series.

In case you are wondering, the high altar is still there, although now rarely used. The two statues are St. Albert the Great, patron of the house (on the Gospel Side), and St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of studies (on the Epistle side). The altar cards were calligraphed and illuminated by a nun of Corpus Christi Dominican Monastery in Menlo Park, California, for, I believe, the dedication Mass of the chapel in 1954. They now hang over the vesting table in the sacristy. St. Albert's is our third "House of Studies" and opened in 1931; festivities will celebrate its 75th anniversary over the next year. The first Studium was in Monterey CA (1850-51), the next was St. Dominic's Priory in Benicia CA (1851-1930).


This picture shows the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar in a Dominican Solemn Mass at St. Albert the Great Priory in Oakland CA about 1958. The major ministers are Fabian Stan Parmisano, priest; Ambrose Toomey, deacon; and John Flannery, subdeacon. Fr. Fabian is the author of a history of the Western Province, Mission West: The History of the Western Dominican Province, 1850-1966 (Oakland: Western Province, 1995); Fr. Flannery later served as our provincial. Both are still alive and members of the Western Province.

The ministers have arrived at the altar, the deacon and subdeacon have placed the Missal and the Evangeliary on their respective cushions and returned to below the altar steps. As they were doing this, the priest recited quietly the prayer Actiones Quaesumus. The major ministers having reassembled at the step, the acolytes turn inward for the prayers. Those who know the Roman Rite will notice that in contrast (following the Sign of the Cross and the verse Confitemini Domino and response Quoniam in Saeculum), all the ministers bow at the same time and remain bowed together. The Dominican prayers are very simple reflecting their early origins. The short Confiteors follow the verse immediately and all rise after the Absolutionem. There is no striking of the breast at the single Mea Culpa, nor do the ministers cross themselves at the Absolutionem. They then recite the verse Adiutorium with its response Qui Fecit and ascend to the altar. After the priest recites the Aufer a Nobis, and kisses the altar, they form a line in back of the priest at the book and swing out to the right side of the altar for the recitation of the Officium (as we call the "Introit") and the Kyrie.

I don't have a picture of this swinging motion, but this one from a celebration in France, previously posted on N.L.M., gives an idea of what the result is like, although this is actually the swing at the Credo, which is on the Gospel side and also includes the thurifer. The reading of the Kyrie over, the ministers swing back into line behind the priest at the center, where he intones the Gloria. They swing again to the right and recite it with him. As the other ministers return to the sedilla (a single bench for all three, not three stools as in the French picture), the subdeacon and his acolyte go to the sacristy to retrieve the chalice and paten. During singing of the Gloria, these are brought to the altar in procession covered with the humeral veil, while the subdeacon's acolyte leads carrying the cruets. The subdeacon then sits with the other minsters until they return to the altar for the Dominus Vobiscum and the Collects. While sitting, acolytes cover the ministers' laps with the mappula (or "germial") to protect the vestments. You can see it on the stools in the French picture. The ministers hands go on top of it, not under it. It protects the vestments, it is not to keep their hands warm.


The following sections focuses on the Preparation of the Chalice during the intervening chants. After the Collects, the priest returns to the sedilla, and the subdeacon chants the Epistle (or Old Testament Reading at some Masses). During the Epistle, the deacon washes his hands (which in our rite is always done before handling sacred objects) and goes to the altar to remove the corporal from the burse and unfold it.

Accompanied by his acolyte, who carries the Missal, the deacon then returns to the sedilla, where he and the priest read the Epistle, intervening chants, and Gospel quietly. In the middle ages, they didn't read the Epistle and Gospel, but only the intervening chants (because the ministers would be too busy to sing them, as also the Ordinary, along with the choir). The Biblical readings properly belong to the deacon and subdeacon, so there was no reason for the priest to read them. The practice of reading them in our rite was a Romanization of the 1600s. The Roman Rite had picked up this practice under the influence of the late-medieval Low Mass, where the priest performed all the ministries himself. This gave some liturgists of that period the impression that, even at Solemn Mass, the priest should repeat all the words of the other ministers. We resisted this innovation until the 1690s, when it was imposed on us, along with yet another late-medieval Roman practice, the Last Gospel.

The Epistle ended, in this photograph, the cantors in medio chori are intoning the first of the two Eastertide Alleluias. You can also see the Dominican community in their stalls. They have their capuches down for the Alleluia; they would still be up if it were a Responsorium. The chapel looks very much the same today, except that the stalls are now triple-ranked instead of double-ranked. You can also see two of the twelve dedication candles on the wall above the stalls. Western Province friars will recognize Fr. Bede Wilks as the last cantor on the right. You can tell that this is a major feastday, perhaps a Sunday, because there are four cantors intoning the chants and singing the verses. On a second-class feast, there would be two; on a third-class or ferial, where would be only one. As the Responsorium or first Alleluia is sung, the subdeacon washes his hands and receives the humeral veil from his acolyte (it has been resting on the altar since the chalice arrived during the Gloria). He picks up and covers the chalice and paten with the veil, then both go to the sedilla for the Preparation of the Chalice. I might add that in the Missa Cantata the chalice is also prepared at this point but at the altar. As I mentioned above, the well-known practice of mixing the chalice before the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar is done only at Low Mass.

In this picture you can see the preparation of the Chalice, over which the priest, Fr. Fabian Parmisano, is presiding. He and the deacon are seated on the sedilla, the single bench for the major ministers. The priest sits closest the altar, then the deacon, and finally the subdeacon. That sedilla is still in use at St. Albert's, although now for minor ministers. The acolytes sit farther away from the altar on their own bench. Bro. John Flannery, the subdeacon, is mixing the chalice, pouring in the wine and water (just blessed by the priest). You can see Bro. Ambrose Toomey, the deacon, holding the paten covered by the pall. Just before the preparation of the chalice, he presented the host on the paten to the priest for his approval. (I once had the horrible experience of my deacon lifting the pall and showing me an empty paten--the subdeacon had forgotten to put a host on when he set up the chalice, as is his job, in sacristy before Mass!) On the laps of the priest and deacon, you can see the mappula protecting their vestments from spills. Over the subdeacon's shoulders you can see his humeral veil. When the Preparation of the Chalice is over, the subdeacon will return the chalice and paten to the altar and return to sit with the other major ministers. All heads are uncovered; unlike the Roman practice of wearing the biretta during readings and chants, our major ministers keep their capuches down during the entire Mass. By that time the final Alleluia has begun, and the minor ministers will be arriving in procession from the sacristy for the chanting of the Gospel. You will notice that all heads are uncovered; unlike the Roman practice of wearing the biretta during readings and chants, the major ministers keep our capuches down during the entire Mass. They are only up for the processions coming in and going out.


We not turn to the rituals and practices in the Dominican Rite at the proclamation of the Gospel. The first image is, I am sorry, not very good because it was scanned from a printed book illustration--William Bonniwell, Dominican Ceremonial for Mass and Benediction (Washington DC: Eastern Province, 1946)--and has been reused from a previous posting here on N.L.M. It shows, most importantly for our purposes, the Dominican way of carrying the book. This contrasts with the two-hand carry in the traditional Roman Rite and the over the head carry that seems to have become obligatory in the New Mass. The Dominican way is sober, and one could imagine a preacher carrying a precious book like this on a long journey. One may also see in this image an apparelled alb and amice, which would have been very common in the middle ages. This decoration is something that, as far as I can tell, was not used in the Western Province until it was introduced at Holy Rosary Church in Portland OR on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Parish in 1995, when the Archbishop Leveda presided in choro at a Dominican Solemn Mass. A video of that Mass is available, see the link on side-bar. This image shows the deacon as he is about to leave the sacristy for Mass: with the capuche down, it would be the way he carried the book during the Gospel procession.

As the choir sang the Alleluia, the two acolytes with candles would have escorted the thurifer and the crucifer from the sacristy to the sanctuary. The only time the cross is carried at Mass in our Rite is for the two proclamations of Faith: the Gospel and the Credo. The thurifer goes to the sedilla for the blessing of the incense and then returns to the center. At the verse of the Alleluia, the procession goes to the lectern where the acolytes with candles flank the crucifer behind it and the subdeacon takes his place behind the deacon, and the thurifer behind him. The deacon here is Bro. Ambrose Toomey, as in the earlier images, with Bro. John Flannery behind him. This image is a bit dark, but you can clearly see the Pascal Candle that is placed behind the lectern in Eastertide. According to the rubrics of the Dominican liturgical books, it is also possible for the Gospel Procession to leave the sanctuary, especially if there is a monumental pulpit for proclamation of the Gospel. The rubrics emphasize that the procession should be long enough to give a sense of real movement. For this reason, historically, the sanctuaries of Dominican priory churches have always had large sanctuaries to allow this kind of movement, as well as the swings to the sides of the altar.

As is clearer in this photograph from the opposite direction, the entire formation takes the form of a cross (you cannot see the thurifer behind the subdeacon). As you can see, the ministers are facing "liturgical" north, the direction of darkness and (in the middle ages) paganism, which the light of the Gospel will enlighten. You will also notice the lectern veil, which is properly a part of very set of Dominican vestments and should match them and the mappula. It is not the Dominican practice for the subdeacon to hold the book. In back you can see the high altar (where the priest is standing for the Gospel just out of the picture) and one of the dedication candles. You will also notice that the acolytes have their inner arms higher than the outer ones because they have turned. When in procession the outer arm is higher. This is the usual way of holding the candles‑-I mention this because I received a question about it from a reader who noticed that at his Indult Parish they hold them differently.

I include here one more photograph of the proclamation of the Gospel, this from Easter Sunday in the same year. The deacon will be recognized by older Western Dominicans as Fr. Barnabas Curtin (R.I.P.). You can see the friars in the act of turning toward the lectern for the chanting of the Gospel. Even in the new rite, most Dominicans have kept the practice of turning toward the Word of God when it is proclaimed. Head bows at the Holy Names are made to the book where they are written, not to the altar, in our Rite. The vestments worn by the deacon and subdeacon are the beautiful cloth-of-gold solemn set made in Germany for the dedication of the chapel. The remains of them are now in the archives of the Province.
It was the practice in the middle ages, and in the modern period when there was no sermon, for the Priest to immediately intone the Credo when the Gospel was finished. The deacon then handed the book to the subdeacon to carry back in procession and they went escorted by the candle-bearing acolytes, thurifer and crucifer. The singing of the Credo provided "traveling music" for the long procession back to the altar. It remained the practice in the order until the last century to do this, even when there was a sermon, which was given after the Credo as in the medieval practice. During the Credo the Cross remained in the center of the sanctuary, while the acolytes and major ministers did a swing to the Gospel side to read the text quietly. Of course, they would swing back to the middle at the Et incarnatus est to kneel in the famous "flying wedge" formation: priest at the altar, behind him the two major ministers, and below them the three minor ministers, forming a perfect triangle, a symbol of the Trinity proclaimed in the Creed.

In our last photograph you can see the arrival of the Gospel book at the altar. The subdeacon, Bro. John Flannery, holds it for the priest, Fr. Fabian Parmisano to kiss, as the deacon steadies it. The subdeacon will then present it for the deacon to kiss and replace it on the altar.


The Offertory of the Dominican Rite is one of its most famous features and has strong similarities to the Sarum and several other early medieval monastic uses. In this first picture we see again that beautiful cloth-of-gold solemn set. The priest is Fr. William Lewis, O.P. (R.I.P.), in that year, 1958, prior of the House of Studies. He is assisted by the deacon, Bro. Barnabas Curtin, O.P. The subdeacon was, I understand, a student visiting from another province. The elaborate vestments and the fact that the prior is celebrant shows that this is a very high ranked feast. In fact, it is actually the Easter Vigil, as you can tell because the tabernacle door is open: there have been no reserved species since the Good Friday communion. Fr. Lewis has just turned and greeted the community with the Dominus Vobiscum and said that lonely Oremus that is the only vestige of the ancient "Prayers of the Faithful" in both our Rite and the Roman. One of the archaic aspects of the Easter Vigil is that there is no Offertory chant--the Vigil's form predates its development in the 700s.

The subdeacon has uncovered the vessels and handed them to the deacon. The deacon is here handing the priest the chalice with the paten and host on top. He says quietly to the priest Immola Deo sacrificium laudis et redde Altissimo vota tua. The priest then immediately offers up the bread and wine in a single oblation. At Low Mass, where there is no deacon to address him, the priest says instead Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi? Calicem salutaris accipiam et nomen Domini invocabo before making the oblation. Our single Offertory Prayer, Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, is shared by many northern uses. The priest then places the host and chalice on the corporal and puts the paten aside. There are no other prayers at this point. You can also see in this picture the thurifer waiting to present the incense, and the two acolytes, who are preparing the lavabo bowl and towel, which they will give to the deacon and subdeacon for washing the priest's hands after the incensation.

The priest here turns to the deacon to bless the incense. In this photograph we again see Fr. Parmisano and Bro. Ambrose. The thurifer holds the censer and the deacon presents a spoonful of incense. The priest blesses it silently. We do not have the well-know Roman prayer for blessing incense, so the blessing is done with a simple Sign of the Cross. That lovely Gothic censor, which was cast for the dedication of the chapel, was stolen several years ago. I carried it many times as a student back in the 1970s and 80s. It makes me sad to see it and know that it is gone. Its twin, however, is still with us, regularly in use at the 11:00 a.m. Schola Cantorum High Mass (Ordinary Use) at St. Dominic's in San Francisco.

This photograph shows the incensing of the altar after the Offertory Prayer; the priest is assisted by the deacon. Our method of incensing is simpler than the Roman. The priest makes a single Sign of the Cross over the gifts with the thurible, bows his head, and raises the thurible three times before the gifts. He makes three lifts to the Cross. He then moves to the Epistle side, making three lifts above the altar; then he returns to the middle and proceeds to the Gospel side, making three lifts. Then he moves from Gospel corner to Epistle corner, making six lifts along the way below the edge of the altar (making a bow to the Cross at the middle). The priest gives the censer back to the deacon, who incenses him with three lifts, and then hands it off to the thurifer. There is, by the way, a Dominican way of making the lifts. We never, never, never clank the chains, and the lifts are straight up and down. I like to think that this is so that the clanking noise doesn't disturb the chant. I forgot to mention earlier that we do not incense the altar at the beginning of Mass. In the Foremass, incense is for the Gospel only. Now, as the sacrifice begins, we incense the altar.

The priest washes his hands with a shorter version of the Psalm Lavabo used in the Roman Rite. He bows and recites the prayer In spiritu humilitatis, and then turns to the ministers and says Orate fratres, to which there is no reply in our Rite. He then reads the Secrets. There is no incensing of the ministers until the Preface. In this last photograph, another unclear one scanned from Fr. Bonniwell's book, you can see the ministers in position for this incensation. The priest has just begun to sing the Preface; in a moment, the deacon and subdeacon, as well as the two acolytes, will turn to the thurifer. He will incense them: deacon and subdeacon with two lifts each, and the senior and junior acolyte with one lift each. The thurifer then goes to incense each individual friar in the stalls, according to their order of religion. The provincial, if present, gets three lifts; each priest, two lifts; unordained brothers, one lift. It was, and still is, customary for the thurifer then to incense the people in parochial churches.


After the incensation of the ministers, the deacon and subdeacon read the Sanctus with the priest as the acolytes go to light the "Sanctus Candles." Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of these, which are usually on branched candlesticks flanking the altar. These candles stay lighted till communion. There are six (three on each side of the altar) on first class feasts, four on second class, and two on ordinary days. Then, as the priest bows and begins the Te Igitur, the subdeacon puts on the humeral veil and receives the paten from the deacon. He will hold it covered until the Pater Noster. This, in our Rite and in the Roman, is a vestige of the ancient practice of receiving food offerings from the congregation at the Offertory. In order to get them off the altar they were covered and the subdeacon took then away and held them at the foot of the steps. One of the invariable rules of our Rite is that we do not follow the early modern practice of separating the Sanctus and Benedictus. The chant is always executed together. This means that there will be a silent period after the consecration. Taken with the silent period during the Offertory after the chant is over and the silent period after the Lord's Prayer, these are the "three silences" of the Mass. Medieval commentators considered them symbolic of Our Lord's three days in the tomb.

During the Canon, up to the Quam oblationem, the deacon and subdeacon stand behind the priest, with the thurifer behind the subdeacon flanked by the acolytes. Thus they form a cross. At the Quam oblationem, the ministers again form the "flying wedge" and kneel, as you can see in this photograph of the Elevation of the Chalice. The triangle formed by the priest, the major ministers, and the three servers is clearly visible. The subdeacon holds the veiled paten, the thurifer has passed the censer to the deacon, who lifts the back of priest's chasuble and incenses continuously during the elevation. After the reposition of the chalice and genuflection, the priest will extend his hands moderately beyond his shoulders to form a cross, a position he will maintain until the words Hostiam puram. This is probably one of the best-known gestures in our Rite, one shared with the Norbertines and other northern liturgies. Otherwise, the priest does not extend his hands beyond the shoulders, and (unlike Roman priests) he holds them with palms facing forward not toward each other.

I have not had the opportunity to say much about choir rubrics, but this next photograph is so interesting that I need to. In it, you see a group of French friars performing "Prostration on the Forms" in the early 1950s. In the traditional Rite, the friars stood (with capuches up) from the Sanctus to the Quam oblationem, then, when the ministers knelt, they prostrated on the forms, as they are doing here, for the consecration. That they do not look up at the elevations is a sign of how ancient this act of reverence was. In fact, when the "Four Friars" did the first standardization of our liturgy in the 1230s, the elevation of the host was not practiced in most places. We first know it at Paris in 1205. It was probably added to our Rite by Humbert of Romans in the 1250s or some time before, but we didn't adopt the elevation of the chalice until the 1300s. Even then, we kept the ancient prostration as our sign of respect at the Consecration. That is, until 1963, when simple kneeling with head uncovered replaced it.

I might add that there are other archaic aspects in our Rite. For example, the only genuflections are on entering and leaving the church (when the Sacrament is reserved) and, by the priest, before and after each occasion when he touches the host or chalice after the Consecration. Ministers make a bow when they cross in front of the tabernacle during Mass, not a genuflection. So the priest only genuflects ten times in the entire Mass, other minsters only twice. Those who are used to the multiple genuflections in the traditional Roman Mass often comment on this. On the other hand, we never, never turn our backs on the tabernacle; something those in the Roman Rite do occasionally. This takes some intricate footwork, I assure you.

After the Pater Noster and the Pax Domini, comes the priest's communion. Our priest's communion rite is very simple. He has been holding the host in his left hand since the fraction during the doxology of the Libera nos. After dropping the particle into the chalice (with the commingling formula) and kissing its lip, he says the prayer Domine Iesu Christi (also in the Roman Rite) and the short formula Corpus et Sanguis Domini. He then immediatly receives communion. That is all: there is no Domine non sum dignus, no striking of the breast, and no other prayers. In fact, our priest's communion is simpler than that in the Ordinary Use of the Roman Rite. In the middle ages, when general communions in the monastery were only about ten times a year, the ceremony of the Pax was understood as a substitute for communion. We preserved this rite into the modern age, even after general communions become more common. When the priest kissed the chalice at the commingling, he turned his head to the deacon and said Pax tibi et sanctae Dei Ecclesiae. The deacon then took up the Pax Instrument (a small plaque with a holy image on the front and a handle on the back) from the altar and kissed it. He then presented it to the subdeacon to kiss with the same formula. The subdeacon then presented it to the minor ministers. Finally, the crucifer took it to the community, each of whom received it to kiss, again in order of religion, as at the incensing.

I like this picture of the friars' communion very much. It shows the prior, Fr. William Lewis, giving Easter Vigil communion to the St. Albert's community. On most days, the friars received communion at priests' daily private Masses, but on days of general communion they received it at the Sung Mass in a very impressive rite. After the singing the Agnus Dei and the Communion Verse that immediately followed it, the friars put on their cappas and filed out of the stalls. As the priest turned half way to expose the ciborium resting on the corporal, all did the "venia": a full prostration on the floor. They then, prostrate, recited together the Confiteor.

The priest gave the absolution, and took up the ciborium. Then, in order of religion, the friars came forward to receive on the altar steps. Here the acolytes hold the "communion cloth" to catch the host should it drop. Notice that, in this photograph, since it is Eastertide, the friars are not wearing their black cappas, as they otherwise would. Those friars who are priests kneel and take the host with their own hand; the unordained receive, of course, on the tongue. I believe you can just make out in this picture a medieval practice that had died out in many parts of the Order. That friar standing in back is the deacon with a chalice of unconsecrated wine. After communion each friar communicant got a sip to cleanse his mouth of particles. I have actually only seen this elaborate communion ritual once. It was at a Missa Cantata that I sang at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco for the feast of Our Lady of the Snow three years ago. The parish Schola Cantorum under Mr. Berry sang Palestrina and Biebl, and the Dominican community assisted in choro, following all the old choir rubrics.

Well, that finishes this series. But, as I run off to pranzo with the Angelicum community here in Rome, I leave you with one last photograph: Easter Dinner in the St. Albert's refectory in 1958. Buon' appetito!


Anonymous said...

A friar is going to say Mass all Sundays in my parish and I'm charged to serve his Mass and train other servants... but, though I know well the Roman Rite, I'm less than a beginner with the Dominican one. Can I ask you for some help with rules to serve Low Mass and 'Missa Cantata'?
Thanks very much!

Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. said...

Dear Mr. Falcionelli,

You are lucky I noticed this comment. I don't go looking for new comments on long older posts. I will try and put a quick summary for low Mass together.

The rules for the Missa Canatata servers are rather detailed and I think the best thing to do will be to scan an altarboy's manual and link to it. But I will put up something on serving Low Mass.