Sunday, February 6, 2011

Where Does the Term Missal Come From?

One of my favorite but least noticed books on the literature page of is Marie Pierik's Spirit of Gregorian Chant (PDF | printed). She offers a detailed and very inspiring look at everything a Catholic singer needs to know about the primary music at Mass. Here she presents a short version of the origin of the term Missal -- which, it occurs to me, might be a new term for younger Catholics in the English-speaking world. We know about the Sacramentary and the Lectionary but what is this thing called the Missal?
The Missal (L. Missale, from Missa, Mass) had somewhat the same development as the Breviary. At first it contained simply the Mass and a few morning services connected with the Mass. From this Sacramentarium (so called because all of its contents centered around the great Act of Consecration, and also because, in the course of time, it came to include the ritual for the celebration and administration of all the other Sacraments) the songs of the Deacon as well as the texts which the choir sang were omitted. The songs of the choir, such as the Introit, Offertory and Communion, were contained in the Antiphonarium Missae or Graduale. The parts chanted by the Deacon and Subdeacon, the Gospels and the Epistles, with lessons from the Old Testament for particular occasions, were collected in the Evangelarium and the Epistolarium or Apostolus.

Besides this, an Ordo or Directorium was required to determine the proper service. The contents of the Sacramentary, the Gradual, the various lectionaries and Ordo were amalgamated, but the development was slow, and it was several centuries before all were brought together under one cover.

The first printed edition of the Missale Romanum was introduced in Milan in 1474. Nothing officially authoritative appeared until the Council of Trent (1545-63) considered the question of uniformity in the liturgical books and appointed a commission to examine the matter. (p. 132)
The word Missa (Mass) is of folk, not of classical origin. It was used originally in the sense of "missio" or "dimissio," signifying the dismissal of the faithful at the end of any celebration of the cult. St. Ambrose used it as a liturgical term in a letter written in the year 385, applying its meaning to the Eucharistic Sacrifice; as used by another writer at that time, it would also seem, from evidence, to have included within its scope the canonical Office as well as the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The meaning of the word, therefore, originally applied to a detail, gradually embraced all of the preceding service with its rites and prayers. (p. 118)

Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the same topic.
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