The Golden Mass

Ember Wednesday of Advent comes up tomorrow. In the middle-ages, it was usually the custom to transfer feasts away from Rorate Wednesday. John XXIII happily restored the predominance of the Advent Ember Days in 1961, but they were done away with altogether in the less fortunate reform of Paul VI in 1969.

The Missa aurea or Golden Mass is stationed at Saint Mary Major in the Roman missal. We find the texts chosen on account of the Gospel. The Rorate introit (or Office as we call it), unlike the Roman missal, is not used in the fourth Sunday of Advent. This Mass is that of the Annunciation of Our Lady. This reflects the Ambrosian rite keeping the last Sunday of Advent as the feast of the Incarnation. The Mozarabic rite fixes the Annunciation on 18th December. In some places, white vestments were used instead of the penitential violet or blue, and the deacon and subdeacon wear dalmatic and tunicle instead of folded chasubles. In Bayeux, the Gospel was sung by a priest in a white cope, not by the deacon. He held a palm branch in his hand. This Wednesday became a second feast of the Annunciation in Paris, where it remained until the Archdiocese of Paris adopted the Roman missal in 1873.

The Rorate Wednesday Mass is also a focus of devotion in Poland and much of northern Europe. Here it is from the Sarum missal in the Warren translation.

Wednesday in Ember Week of Advent in the Use of Sarum.

At Mass. Office.
Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness ; let the earth open, and bring forth a Saviour.
Ps. And let righteousness spring up together ; I the Lord have created it.

The Collect shall follow without The Lord be with you, and only with Let us pray.

Grant, we beseech thee. Almighty God, that the approaching solemnity of our redemption may both afford us succour in this present life, and bestow on us abundantly the rewards of eternal happiness. Through the same etc.

The Lesson. Isaiah. ii. 2-5
In those days the Prophet Isaias said, in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord our God.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors ; and the King of Glory shall come in. V. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord ? or who shall rise up in his holy place ? Even he that hath clean hands and a pure heart.
The gradual shall not be repeated, but there shall immediately follow The Lord be with you and Let us pray.

Hasten we beseech thee, O Lord, and tarry not ; and grant us the assistance of thy strength from above ; that they who trust in thy goodness may be sustained by the consolations of thy coming. Who livest etc.

The accustomed memories are said here.

The Lesson. Isaiah vii. 10-15
In those days, the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him : yea, all such as call upon him faithfully.
V. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord : and let all flesh give thanks unto his holy name.
The gradual is to be repeated.

The Gospel. Luke i. 26-38
At that time, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

Hail, Mary, full of grace ; the Lord is with thee : blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
V. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

We present offerings, O Lord, befitting this health-giving fast : grant that by these offices we may be prepared for the nativity of the eternal Bread. Through etc.

Ferial [Advent] Preface.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”

Being filled, O Lord, with the gift of thy salvation, we humbly pray thee, that rejoicing in the taste thereof we may by it be effectually renewed. Through etc.

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7 Responses to The Golden Mass

  1. Father Martin says:

    What percentage of the collects and readings found in the 1662 BCP are taken verbatim from the Sarum Missal?

    • I’m afraid I have no idea, but quite a lot of them. The Sunday order of readings is almost the same.

    • John U K says:

      If Father Martin has access to Brightman’s The English Rite, he will find every line of each edition of the BCP from 1549-1662 sourced.
      Links to online edition of this book are here:
      There is also William Bright’s Ancient Collects:
      Kind regards

      • Father Martin says:

        Thank you for the information. Although I don’t have a lifelong acquaintance with the BCP like many on Father Anthony’s blog, I’ve grown to love it. I think of it as liturgical Shakespeare. I didn’t realize until I began to study Sarum that most of the similarities are found in the propers not so much the ordinary, the Prayer of Humble Access, Gloria, Credo, etc. excepted. My first experiences with the BCP were in an Anglo-Catholic parish, several years before I was ordained, which used the Anglican Missal (Frank Gavin) for mass. Morning and Evening Prayer were the only times in which the prayerbook was followed without interpolations. It’s most unfortunate that the RCC didn’t have a more established and universal practice of parochial matins or vespers, I can only once remember my parish celebrating vespers followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I was there, as a server, and loved every minute of it, wrong notes and all.

  2. Ray says:

    I’m not sure “that holy thing” in the Offertory sounds quite right in English. Does it reflect the Latin?

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