The Mass according to St Germanus of Paris: third apology

One charge that is often brought against the Divine Liturgy of St Germanus is one of heavy byzantinisation, that is, the insertion of elements of the Byzantine rite into what ought to be a western Liturgy.

While it is true that, for various reasons, Byzantine elements were indeed incorporated into the restored Gallican Mass during its 20th-century restoration (and I will address these in a separate post), these are for the most part very unobtrusive and do not interrupt the flow of the Mass, and also are far fewer in number and far less extensive than some would suggest.  They are certanly not there to make a Western Liturgy seem palatable to Eastern Orthodox people, as is sometimes suggested.  One estimate that I encountered was that they account for approximately 70% of the Mass, in an attempt to "win people over".  Less than 5% would be a more accurate estimate, and a generous one at that.  Not wanting to attribute this inflated figure to any intention to cause a deception, I can only imagine that the person who made this observation might have been under the false impression that Western = Roman, and therefore incorrectly identified genuine western elements as eastern simply because he did not recognise them from the Roman rite.

Here I intend to deal with those elements that might appear to the modern observer to be extraneous importations but which are, in fact, authentic ancient Western practice.

The Trisagion sung shortly after the entry of the clergy

Anybody familiar with the Byzantine Liturgy will be aware that, immediately after the entrance of the clergy with its accompanying prayer and chants, the Trisagion - the hymn to the thrice-holy God - is sung.  This is a high point of the Byzantine Liturgy, as it is the first great hymn to God after the clergy have entered the altar.  It is also when they ascend to the presbyterium and, if the bishop is serving, where he ascends to his cathedra to preside over the eucharistic assembly.  For this reason, the consecration of a bishop takes place prior to this point so that the new bishop can ascend and take his place, presiding among his fellow bishops.

In the neo-Gallican Mass, the Trisagion is also sung in an identical position.  The entrance of the clergy is performed with its accompanying prayers and chants, after which the celebrant turns and blesses the faithful.  The Trisagion is sung immediately, three times.  To my knowledge, this is unique among western rites of the Mass and is therefore quite possibly a result of eastern influence.

However, that eastern influence - if that is indeed what it is - is not a modern one but rather had already become firmly established by at least the 6th century, and possibly earlier.  The letters of St Germanus tell us that the Agios (being the incipit), is sung in Greek, and then in Latin, and then in the vernacular.  Thus, this is a natural cross-fertilisation which is common in the history and development of all liturgical rites. (Click on the "ritual overlap" label on this post for other examples.)

As no complete manuscript survives, we do not know with absolute certainty that the hymn referenced here is indeed the Trisagion as we know it, but no other non-festal and non-seasonal hymn with such an incipit is known to have been commonly used in any rite apart from the Sanctus, which is universally a feature of the anaphora and so can be discounted as a possibility here.  Thus there is only a very slim margin of uncertainty about the nature of this hymn.

The deacon's stole worn over the dalmatic

The modern observer might be familiar with the apparent east vs. west distinction, in which Roman rite and most other western deacons wear their stole under the dalmatic, while Byzantine deacons wear theirs over the stikhar.  However, this is an oversimplification.


The reality is that, while the robe-type of vestment takes various forms and goes by different names in various rites, one thing that is very nearly universal is that the deacon's stole is worn over the top of everything else, as an outer garment.  This is seen in the Byzantine, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiophian, and other rites.  This is just as true of the Western rites as any others. As far as I am aware, the one exception was the use of Rome, where the deacon's stole is worn beneath the dalmatic.  The fact that the Roman rite became the most widespread of the Western rites should not mislead us into thinking that its peculiarities are mandatory in all Western rites.  See any celebration of the Ambrosian or Mozarabic Mass for comparison,  (YouTube shouldn't fail you.)

The stole worn on the outside is an authentic Gallican custom.

The deacon's litany with the response of Kyrie eleison

Ask any newbie to Eastern Orthodoxy what the most striking element of the Byzantine Liturgy is and they'll probably tell you that it's the plethora of (often repetitive) litanies.  Do not be fooled: while it was never as prevalent as it is in Byzantium, the litany led by the deacon is also standard Western practice.

As one example, the ninefold Kyrie eleison near the beginning of the Roman Mass is the remnant of just such a litany, the petitions for which survive in Sarum and possibly other manuscripts, and are blessed to be used in the Sarum Mass in the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the Gallican Mass, the corresponding Kyrie eleison was only ever sung a single time.  However, the sources tell us that there was a litany of general intercessions sung later in the Mass, which was led by the deacon and to which the people responded to each petition with "Kyrie eleison".  While this text no longer survives, the Litany of St Martin has been substituted as following this model and being an ancient Orthodox litany with the content necessary to fulfil this purpose.

The seven-branch candelabra

The seven-branch lamp on or near the Holy Table is standard in Byzantine rite churches.  However, far from being a borrowing from the Byzantine rite, its use on many altars where the Mass of St Germanus is served is a remnant of a long-forgotten Western practice.  In fact, it is a simplification of the ceremonial of the Gallican Mass, in which anciently, the seven candles would have been carried in the Gospel procession and held near to the ambo during the reading of the Gospel, to be returned again later.  In modern usage, the candelabra is (are?) stationary.

The deacon's exhortations of the faithful to be attentive

At various points in the Mass of St Germanus, the deacon calls the faithful to attention "in silence".  While this might appear to be an importation from the Byzantine Liturgy, again this is an authentic Western custom.

Remember that a universal feature of liturgical rites is that part of the diaconal role is to give practical instructions for the ordering of the worship of God by his people.  It is the deacon who calls the faithful stand, to kneel, to be attentive, to depart in peace, to pray to the Lord, to bow their heads, to give the peace, to hear the holy Gospel, and who directs the priest to bless the holy Bread and the holy Cup.

Therefore, it is the deacon who, in the Gallican Mass, calls the faithful to silence.  In some instances this might be an auditory silence, (such as prior to the Gospel, so that everyone can hear), but this is secondary.  Its true meaning is to call us to silence of the heart, so that we might be free from worldly distractions and focus on entering fully into the liturgical mystery.  (This is particularly pertinent in the Gallican Mass, which is textually much more explicitly eschatological than most other Western forms and even some Eastern).

We are called to such silence at the start of the Mass, prior to the Trisagion, in preparation for the Gospel, prior to the confession of Faith, and finally immediately prior to the Anaphora.  This calling to silence is the equivalent of the Byzantine calling to attention but was anciently phrased in terms of silence in the Gallican Mass and remains so today.

(Incidentally, it is also why the importation into the neo-Gallican Mass of the hymn "Let all mortal flesh keep silent" is very apt in the absence of the original text for the sonus, as it is very much in keeping with the spirit of this rite.)

The next instalment will focus on a particular liturgical development that applies to all forms of the Liturgy served within Eastern Orthodoxy, but which is curiously only pointed out as a negative criticism when it is applied to the Mass of St Germanus.

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