Monday, August 06, 2007

Attending Mass: instructions to parishioners

These extracts from Mediaeval manuals on the right attitude at Mass are as fresh as when they were written nearly 600 years ago, and just as revelant in the 21st century too.

Arrival at church
When thou comest to the holy place,
Cast holy water in thy face,
And pray to God that made us all,
Thy venial sins might from thee fall.
Then look to the high altar,
And pray to Him that hangeth there.

At the reading of the gospel etc.
Though ye understand it naught,
Ye may well wit that God it wrought,
And therefore wisdom were it
For to worship all God’s works
To lewd men that be none clerks . . .

To the priest hearken then,
If thou aught of the letter can,
The office, the orison and the epistle,
And answer him well with good will,
Or in the book thyself it read,
There to take thou well-good heed.
If thou cannot read, nor say,
Thy Pater Noster rehearse alway,
Till the Deacon or the priest the Gospel
There to take thou well-good heed.

Making an offering to the priest
A little before the priest wash,
Let him not his offering ask,
If thou think for to offer.
When he turneth anon tille [thereto],
Go up to him with full good will,
And thy penny him proffer.

At the ringing of the sacring bell / elevation of
the Host
And when he ringeth the cross bell,
Pray then for another skill,
That thou be worthy to see that sight,
That shall in his hands alight.
And when he resteth Him up on height,
Kneel adown with all thy might.
And if thou ask anything
Speak dreadfully [with awe] as to a king.
And look thou ask nothing of right,
But of His grace and of His might.
When he hath that Host in hand,
Look thou neither sit nor stand,
But do the reverence that thou can,
In token that He is both God and man.

Then is time nigh of sacring,
A little bell he will to us ring
Then is reason that we do reverence
To Jesus Christ’s presence,
That may loose of all baleful bonds;
Therefore kneeling, hold up thy hands,
And with inclination of thy body,
Behold the elevation reverently.

God’s flesh he raiseth aloft,
And His blood fair and soft
In the chalice within;
Then shall ye kneel adown,
And say a little orison [prayer],
For nothing that ye blynne [stop].

After the service
And after forsooth well thou may
In God’s name, go home thy way.

A year and forty days at least
For verbum caro factum est
To pardon have ye shall.
Man or woman shall have this,
That kneels down the earth to kiss,
For that [therefore] think on it, all.

God that made more and less,
Give us grace to hear Mass,
And so to #ght, and to pray,
That we be saved at dooms day.

All three sources are in T. F. Simmons, The Lay
Folks Mass Book, 1879. The spelling has been
modernised in the above extracts.
1. ‘A treatise of the manner and mede of the Mass’,
written in a late 14th-century hand.
2. Lydgate’s ‘Merita Missae’, by Dan John Lydgate,
priest and later monk of Bury who was active in
the #rst half of the 15th century.
3. Version F of ‘The lay folks Mass Book’, written
in a mid 15th-century hand.

1 comment:

irena said...

This is sooo beautiful! Thanks for posting it.
Some things should never change. My favourite passages are "At the ringing of the sacring bell / elevation of the Host". What happened to us giving proper reverence to our God!! The Dalai Lama said that he would convert all his followers to Catholicism, but doesn’t since there isn’t enough people truly living the faith. Ignoring what that says about him, his statement says a lot about us. We are a religion so blessed because we actually have before us our God - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. How much do we believe in this? Do we really “kneel down with all [our] might” when we are in His presence. Actions speak more than words and we are being observed, as is the case with the Dalai Lama.