Fishers of Men

\”Come, follow me,\” Jesus said, \”and I will make you fishers of men.\”

The Introductory Rites of Mass (4)

Posted by Father Joe on August 25, 2006

The following notes are largely derived from a thorough reading of Rev. Josef A. Jungmann, S.J.’s classic work, The Mass of the Roman Rite.

Absolution Prayer

Both the Misereatur and the Absolution followed the Confiteor and manifested something of the increased expressions of sorrow. However, the latter prayer has been eliminated from the current Missal. The rationale for this might not have merely been the reduction of a second absolution, but an attempt to avoid confusion with sacramental absolution. To add to this concern, at the time of their shift into the Mass, the Absolutionem was the same used in sacramental confession. The absolution retained, the Misereatur, was probably largely established in some form as early as the ninth and tenth centuries. The addition of various saints as intercessors would be rejected in the Missal of Pope Pius V and in the present ritual.
Kyrie Eleison
This prayer which is most particularly the people’s, has been reduced from nine to six petitions. However, there is nothing in the General Instruction which prevents additional invocations or even expanding the texts. The Kyrie came into Western Europe from the Greek liturgy. “The Kyrie did not get to Rome earlier than the fifth century. And when it was taken over, it was part of the litany which is traceable in the Orient since the fourth century and which has continued in use even today in the liturgies of the Orient as the so-called ektenes” (Jungmann, p. 222). However, it goes back further. The word” eleison” was probably even familiar to the pre-Christian religions. The Scriptures give us models of this prayer as in Psalm 6:3, “…have mercy on me, O Lord.” It is recorded that about 360 AD, a deacon in Jerusalem would complete Vespers with petitions, to which boys would respond, “Kyrie eleison.” About the same time, petitions prior to the dismissal of catechumens at Mass in Alexandria (like our general intercessions) were affirmed in a like manner. The response also became connected to the Litany of the Saints. The Milanese liturgy, like our own, placed the Kyrie eleison between the introit and oration. In chants that accompanied papal processions at the beginning of Mass, each utterance of the chant, according to the first Roman Ordo, was repeated three times. “Custom had thus consecrated the number three” (Jungmann, p. 228).
Both of the titles “Kyrie” and “Christus” are directed to Jesus. The tropes which are used with some versions of the Kyrie detail some attribute of Christ’s, particularly in terms of his saving action for us. With the development of various Gregorian melodies for the Kyrie, the trope materialized in the ninth century and flourished into the sixteenth. The Missal of Pius V eradicated the tropes as an “over-growth.” However, the Missal of Paul VI has restored them. “Originally the celebrating priest took no part in the Kyrie. For that reason it is not mentioned in most Ordinaries, not even in those that contain all the texts of the prayers at the foot of the altar, or the offertory” (Jungmann, p. 231).
Like the Kyrie, the Gloria was not initially created for the Mass. It is a remnant of the ancient hymns which were treasured by the early Church. They were composed to mimic biblical passages, especially the psalms.

“The line begun in the New Testament with the Magnificat and Zachary’s song of praise and the canticle of aged Simeon, is continued in these works.  Few, however, have remained in use to the present. . . . This last, [Gloria] often called the Greater Doxology, was already so highly esteemed even in the ancient Church that it outlived the fate that overtook so many songs which perished as a result of an adverse attitude towards church hymns created merely humano studio” (Jungmann, pp. 231-232).

The text of the Gloria can be traced back to three ancient sources, the most notable being the Codex Alexandrinus of the New Testament. It is from this that the Greek liturgy gets its rendition. The other two sources include a later expansion of it in the Syrian version (used in the Nestorian liturgy) and a much edited version in the Apostolic Constitutions.  This latter version existed as early as 380 AD, however, it subordinated Christ to the Father and did not address Jesus at all in the second part. Obviously, an Arian editor (denying Christ’s full divinity) altered the text to fit his theology.
As for its translation, an interesting note is made by Johannes H. Emminghaus in his book, The Eucharist:

“The English text implicitly keeps the optative form of the verb ‘to be’: ‘Glory [be] to God…’  This is not the sole possible interpretation of the original text; the indicative could just as well be used in translation (’Glory is to God. . .’), since all forms of praise of God from the Jewish period emphasize the fact that God is being glorified; they are not just wishes that God may be glorified in heaven and on earth” (Emminghaus, p. 124).

The Gloria can be delineated readily into three sections: the song of the angels on the first Christmas night (Luke 2:14); the praise of God; and the invocation of Christ. It was common for these hymns to begin with a verse from Scripture. The second element, praise of God, assembles a series of assertions about our activity toward God and his names (in the godhead). It addresses all three persons of the Trinity. The Christological segment posits Christ and God as one and on the same level. The Holy Spirit is included, but almost as an afterthought.

“No, God and Christ are the pillars of the Christian order of the universe: God, the beginning and the end of all things, towards whom all religious seeking is bent and all prayer eventually is turned; but in the Christian order also Christ, the way, the road on which all our God-seeking must be directed” (Jungmann, p. 234).

The peace that is proclaimed for God’s people on earth is properly from God. It is the gift given to those who, having received the Good News, are now receptive to his grace and favor. God has decreed that all should come to his kingdom (Ephesians 1:5). The glory made fully manifest during the events toward the end of his life begins now with his incarnation among us.

“Every day that the Church lives, every time the Church gathers her children in prayer, and particularly when she assembles them for the Eucharist, a new light flashes across the world and the Church beholds, with mingled joy and longing, the approach of the Kingdom of God, the advent, in spite of every obstacle, of the consummation of the great plan: that glory will come to God, and to men of God’s choice, peace and salvation” (Jungmann, p. 235).

We thank God for his wondrous glory.  God’s kingdom is erupting into the world and we are rewarded beyond imagining, beginning with the gift of his Son (Romans 8:32). Nevertheless, we praise God’s glory for what it is in itself and only secondarily for what it brings us. We acclaim him by his various titles and then move our attention particularly to Christ. “In this christological section we can distinguish the following framework:  (1) the laudatory salutation; (2) the litany-like invocations; (3) the triple predication, To Solus; and (4) the trinitarian conclusion” (Jungmann, p. 236). The most important of the titles used here for Jesus is “Lord” or “Kurios.”  As Saint Paul would emphasize, Christ alone is Lord. The phrase, “Only [-begotten] Son” of the Father was used in some ancient documents as a name for Jesus. The title “Lord” is repeated in a second series of three titles for him, giving it additional emphasis. Christ became one of us; however, since he shares in the light of his Father’s splendor, he is unfathomable as well (Hebrews 1:3). His redemptive labor is recalled with the name “Lamb of God.” In words similar to the Kyrie, we know at what great price he “take(s) away the sin of the world.” He will indeed “have mercy on us.” We make our prayers through Christ and he lives to intercede for us. Toward the end of the hymn, our acclaim of Christ logically blooms into an accolade of the triune God. However, even here, Christ’s name loses none of its splendor; for what is claimed of one must be acknowledged of all.  Before the world began, Christ lived in glory with the Father (John 17:5). He is the holy one who comes to make us holy. The phrase, “you alone are the Most High,” is taken from Psalm 82: 19.
Although not initially intended for the Mass, it was a festival song of thanksgiving. As such, Pope Telesphorus (d. 136 AD), commanded that it be sung for the evening Christmas Mass. Pope Symmachus (d. 514 AD) permitted it in episcopal Masses for Sundays and for the feasts of martyrs.   “According to the Ordo of St. Armand, the priest was allowed to intone it during Easter night, and also on the day of his ordination if he was installed in his titular church and there celebrated his first Mass” (Jungmann, p. 238). By the end of the eleventh century, the present rule went into effect throughout the universal Church. It may be used at any Mass of festive character. Although it would be transferred to the clergy (who intoned it), the Gloria was at first a song of the congregation, not of a special choir.


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