Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Liturgy: Fraction Rite in the Mozarabic Liturgy

The following is an excerpt from Archdale A. King's Notes on the Catholic Liturgies, pp. 311-318. It describes at length the "fraction rite" in the Mozarabic Rite. The "fraction rite" is that part of the liturgy when the consecrated bread is divided into parts.

The [bolded translations in brackets] are my own additions. The formatting of the book is retained. Certain portions (describing the Pater noster and the blessing and other intervening portions of the liturgy) have been omitted. Numbers in {braces} indicate page numbers.

{311} After the Creed or antiphon a unique fraction takes place, when the Host is divided into nine parts, arrange on the paten symbolically in the form of a cross. This Gallican practice, which is very similar to the old Irish custom, was referred to in Canon 3 of the second Council of Tours (657): 'ut corpus Domini in altari, non in imaginario ordine, sed sub crucis titulo componatur,' [that the body of the Lord upon the altar is to be arranged, not in some fancied order, but under the form of the cross] when nine parts of the Host were to form a cross. In the Stowe missal we read that the number of fragments varied from five on ordinary days to sixty-five on the three chief festivals of Easter, Pentecost and Christmas; while the complexity of the pattersn varried accordingly (five, ferial days; seven confessors and virgins; eight, martyrs; nine, Sundays; twelve, Kalends of January and Maundy Thursday; thirteen, Low Sunday and Ascension; sixty-five, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas). In 558 Pelagius I (555-560) maintained that each part was similar to the other. These devices, however, cannot belong to the primitive Church, when the faithful were accustomed to receive Holy Communion at every Mass, and Mgr. Duchesne, writing about this elaborate and intricate fraction, says 'A certain dose of superstition was introduced early in this (Gallican) rite.' As he breaks each particle the Mozarabic {312} celebrant says aloud the name of the mystery which it is supposed to represent: 'Corporatio,' 'Nativitas,' 'Circumcisio,' 'Apparitio,' 'Passio,' 'Mors,' 'Ressurectio,' 'Gloria,' and 'Regnum.' [Incarnation, Nativity, Circumcision, Epiphany, Passion, Death, Resurrection, Glory, Reign] Then, washing his fingers ('purget bene digitos') and covering the chalice, he makes the 'Memento pro vivis,' with these three words said aloud. Dom German Brado, in his description of the Mozarabic liturgy (Revisita Ecclesiástica, September 1926), speaks of the 'Memento' as for the dead, but the 'Devocionario' quite definitely states 'pro vivis.'

In the cross of the fraction five particles form the upright and two the arms, while 'Gloria' and 'Regnum,' the largest and the smallest of the pieces, are placed together on one side:






Various theories have been put forward at different times, purporting to explain the meaning of this intricate fraction. Apringius (c. 520), Bishop of Beja (Badajoz), in his 'Commentary on the Apocalypse,' and St. Ildephonsus and Beatus of Liebana, writing on the same book, declare that the 'seven seals' are 'Corporatio,' 'Nativitas,' etc., and therefore the Host was original divided into seven parts; while, in addition to this, Christ, through the mystery of His holy humanity, {313} opened and elucidated what in the Scriputres had been previously hidden and closed. At the beginning of the thirteenth century Jacobo de Vitry, Bishop of Tusculum, tells us that the Mozarabs divide the Host sometimes into seven and sometimes into nine parts, but he does not state that the pieces were laid out in the form of a cross. It is also said that, although the Host is divided up, the same Christ is present in every part, while 'Corporatio,' standing for the first particle, shows that the beginning of our salvation was the Incarnation of the Word, and the completion of the arm of the cross by 'Resurrectio' proclaims that the consummation of the Passion and our Redemption came through that mystery. Further, the two pieces 'Gloria' and 'Regnum' occupy their respective places, since Christ as the vanquisher of death is seated at the right hand of the Father; while His Kingdom will endure eternally, neither the 'Glory' nor the 'Kingdom' of Christ being limited to either place or time.


{315} Uncovering the chalice and making a genuflection, the priest takes the particle 'Regnum' and, holding ot over the chalice, says: 'Sancta sanctis, et conjunctio Corporis Domini nostri Jesu Christi sit sumentibus, et potantibus nobis ad veniam, et defunctis fidelibus praestaetur ad requiem.' [Holy things for holy people; and may the union of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ both be unto pardon for us, receiving and drinking, and guarantee rest unto the faithful departed.] [...] After the 'Sancta sanctis' the priest drops the particle ('Regnum') into the chalice, covers it with a pall, and then in a loud voice proclaims 'Humiliate vos benedictioni' — unless it is a high Mass, when these words naturally fall to the lot of the deacon. According to the 'Liber Ordinum,' a response of 'Deo gratias' was at one time made to the invitation. [...] {316} There is no Agnus Dei, but at the time of the Communion the choir sings a responsory known as 'Ad Accedentes,' [At the approaching] which the priest repeats silently and which begins, as in the East, with the Psalm {317} xxxiii. (I, 22, 'Gustate et videte' [taste and see]). [...] Having said the 'Accedentes', the celebrant uncovers the chalice and taking from the paten the particle 'Gloria,' which is the largest in size, he continues: 'Panem coelestem de mensa {318} Domini accipiam: et nomen Domini invocabo.' [I will take the bread of heaven from the table of the Lord: and I will call upon the name of the Lord] Then, holding 'Gloria' above the chalice, he says aloud the 'Memento pro defunctis,' and in a low voice the following prayer: 'Domine Deus meus, da mihi corpus, et sanguinem Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi ita sumere: ut per illud remissionem omnium peccatorum merear accipere, et tuo Sancto Spiritu repleri, Deus noster, qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.' [Lord my God, give to me the body and blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ so to obtain: that by it I may merit to receive remission of every sins, and be filled by your Holy Spirit, our God, who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.]

This is followed by an ejaculation, popular in the Middle Ages (e.g. Sarum Rite), when, having made the sign of the cross with the same particle ('Gloria'), he receives it: 'Ave in aevum, + sanctissima caro Christi, in perpetuum summa dulcedo.' [Hail for all time, + the most holy flesh of Christ; (hail) for eternity, the greatest sweetness.]

After the celebrant has taken 'Gloria' into his hands he covers the chalice and consumes each of the remaining particles in inverse order, so that he finishes with 'Corporatio,' the result of the first fraction. God is thus represented as Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of all things, because our Redemption began with the Incarnation of Christ, and all the mysteries of His Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection were admirably ordered so that we might attain our eternal salvation. When this reception of the particles is finished the celebrant meditates for a while on the Holy Sacrament, with hands joined, and then, uncovering the chalice, genuflecting, and purifying the paten, he says 'Ave in aevum, coelestis potus, qui mihi ante omnia, et super omnia dulcis es' [Hail for all time, the heavenly drink, which to me is before all and surpassing all sweetness.] (cf. Sarum). Before receiving the precious Blood, together with the particle 'Regnum,' the priest makes the sign of the cross with the chalice, saying 'Corpus + et Sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat corpus et animam meam in vitam aeternam. Amen.' [May the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my body and soul to everlasting life. Amen.]

This is fascinating to me. If my Latin translations are in need of correction or adjustment, by all means, please leave a comment with a better translation!

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