High and Low Mass

When I was a teenager, I remember the priest celebrating low and high Mass. I remember six candles on the altar for high Mass. Was the liturgy different for each. Do we still have high and low Mass? If we do, can you distinguish between the two forms and what their purpose is?

I don’t remember much except that the High Mass was sung or chanted and took about 30 minutes longer because of this. Low Mass was spoken.

The ordinary rite of the Roman Rite at present is the Novus Ordo, or the Missal of Paul VI. Its implementation began in 1970. The distinction between Low and High Mass was discarded with. The Tridentine Latin Rite was the ordinary rite of the Roman Rite prior to 1970. It includes both High and Low Masses. On July 7, Pope Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which made the TLM extraordinary to the Roman Rite.

So, in answer to your question: yes, there still exist High and Low Masses in the Church, although in the extraordinary rite. There may be other Western rites as well which have High and Low Masses (Ambrosian?) but I’m not extremely familiar with these, so I cannot comment.

I’ll let others describe the specific differences between High and Low Masses. I’ve been to maybe a dozen High Masses but only one Low Mass. It seems that there are oftentimes many more altar boys at High Mass. Plus, at almost all the High Masses I’ve been to, there was Asperges (holy water sprinkling time) before the Mass proper. I’m not sure if this is in most Low Masses. The one low Mass I went to was a lot more silent than the High Mass. I couldn’t hear anything the priest was saying, and there was no choir.

The High Mass was sung and the Low Mass spoken, no choir in the Low Mass. In the High Mass you normally had the Asperges, sprinkling of water, prior to Mass, not so in the Low Mass. A High Mass required the Priest, a Deacon, a sub deacon , master of ceremonies, thurifier and several altar boys who performed various functions, Low Mass required just just the Priest and one server In the High Mass the choir would sing the Gloria, the Creed etc, after the Priest started it. In Low Masses the Prist said them In High Masses there were several incensings of the altar and one of the congregation. Low Mass had no incense. High Mass 6 candles on the altar, Low Mass two. High Mass the congregation stood during the Our Father in the Low Mass they remained kneeling. Low Mass had the Prayers following the Mass, 3 Hail Marys, the Hail Holy Queen, Our God our Refuge and our strength, the Prayer to St Michael and 3 Most Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on us. High Mass did not.

High Mass was the normative Mass and thus all Masses were based on it. Low Mass was a simplified version.

You don’t see a lot of High Masses. What many people think of as a High Mass is actually a Missa Cantata.

Originally Posted by palamas85:

You don’t see a lot of High Masses. What many people think of as a High Mass is actually a Missa Cantata.

Simply a “Sung Mass”? A Low Mass that is sung instead of spoken?

Hmmm…I used to go to the High Mass at St. Boniface in Pittsburgh. I wonder if that was a true High Mass. It sure seemed like it! :slight_smile:

A Low Mass simply has the priest and one or two servers. All of the prayers are spoken. There can, however, be hymns sung by the choir or congregation while the Mass is being celebrated.

A High Mass has two variations:

The Sung Mass, a.k.a. Missa Cantata, a.k.a. Simple High Mass has a priest only, without deacon and subdeacon. At a Sung Mass, all prayers are sung by priest and choir/congregation. The more common form before WWII was basically the same format as Low Mass (one priest, two servers), and no incense, but everything was sung. After WII the more common form became the Sung Mass with incense, which involved having a thurifer and MC along with the two acolytes, and possibly also torchbearers. This is the most common form of High Mass found in Latin Mass Communities today.

The other form of High Mass is the Solemn Mass, which includes three sacred ministers (celebrant, deacon, subdeacon), an MC and thurifer, two acolytes, a crucifer and torchbearers. It is common to see priests serve as deacon and subdeacon at a Solemn Mass. Often this form of celebration is referred to as a Solemn High Mass and that was its official name until the 1960 rubrics, which began to use simply Solemn Mass.

A Pontifical Solemn Mass is Mass celebrated by a bishop, and requires many more assistants, including two deacons at the throne, an assistant priest, a second MC, four attendants for the bishop (crozier, mitre, book and candle bearers) and eight (instead of six) torchbearers.

Originally Posted by Chatter163:

A Low Mass simply has the priest and one or two servers. All of the prayers are spoken. There can, however, be hymns sung by the choir or congregation while the Mass is being celebrated.

A High Mass has two variations:

The Sung Mass, a.k.a. Missa Cantata, a.k.a. Simple High Mass has a priest only, without deacon and subdeacon. At a Sung Mass, all prayers are sung by priest and choir/congregation. The more common form before WWII was basically the same format as Low Mass (one priest, two servers), and no incense, but everything was sung. After WII the more common form became the Sung Mass with incense, which involved having a thurifer and MC along with the two acolytes, and possibly also torchbearers. This is the most common form of High Mass found in Latin Mass Communities today.

The other form of High Mass is the Solemn Mass, which includes three sacred ministers (celebrant, deacon, subdeacon), an MC and thurifer, two acolytes, a crucifer and torchbearers. It is common to see priests serve as deacon and subdeacon at a Solemn Mass. Often this form of celebration is referred to as a Solemn High Mass and that was its official name until the 1960 rubrics, which began to use simply Solemn Mass.

A Pontifical Solemn Mass is Mass celebrated by a bishop, and requires many more assistants, including two deacons at the throne, an assistant priest, a second MC, four attendants for the bishop (crozier, mitre, book and candle bearers) and eight (instead of six) torchbearers.

Thank you for this valuable information :thumbsup:

It may have been.

Okay, this brings a question to my mind. When I got married in the ordinary rite several years ago (never mind the actually number…) the priest offered us three options:

  1. High Mass
  2. Low Mass
  3. Sacrament of Matrimony w/o any Mass.

Maybe the priest was in error. I don’t know. Are you sure there is no High Mass and Low Mass distinction in the ordinary rite?

The reason I asked about high and low Mass is because a fellow Catholic insists there should be no distinction. Her reply is “Mass is Mass.” I tried to explain to her, but you have basically answered my question. Thanks.

Chatter163, I remember singing in the choir every Sunday for a low Mass in our little parish in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Our parish had a choir of adult men who sang at the one high Mass we had every Sunday. I hope that we can make use of the low Mass today while we train choirs, organists and our priests for the rigors of a Missa Cantate which is probably the most solemn Mass that an ordinary parish will attempt. We can sing our traditional hymns in English, and the other prayers can be said. Lets not bite off more than we can chew at first and then get discouraged.

My parish has a I’m not sure what you call it but the creed, gloria, etc. are sung in Latin, but the rest of the mass is in English. The priest faces away from the congregation and there are what I refer to as a “platoon of altar boys”. The music is simply beautiful. My parish also has referred to special masses like Easter Sunday as “Solemn High Mass”

I don’t recall much singing if any at low masses before about 1960. High Masses always had an organist who could sing the responses or on Sundays a choir as well. Solemn High Masses they pulled out all the stops. High Mass would run about 45 minutes to an hour, solemn high about two hours, and low masses depending on the priest anywhere from 15 t0 30 minutes. I have checked with a couple of retired priests who are friends of mine and they both agreed when the priest does not have to sing aloud, he can say that Latin faster then a machine gun can spit bullets. As an altar boy I can remember in the prayers at the foot of the altar, the priest would speak the altar boy reply, but the priest immediately went on to the next piece before we altar boys had finished the previous prayer.

Originally Posted by Patrick2340:

Okay, this brings a question to my mind. When I got married in the ordinary rite several years ago (never mind the actually number…) the priest offered us three options:

  1. High Mass
  2. Low Mass
  3. Sacrament of Matrimony w/o any Mass.

Maybe the priest was in error. I don’t know. Are you sure there is no High Mass and Low Mass distinction in the ordinary rite?

I’ve never heard of or seen a “Novus Ordo High Mass,” nor a “Novus Ordo Low Mass.” Maybe what your priest meant by these terms was something different:

  1. Sung Mass with altar boys and the whole works.
  2. Spoken Mass, less grande.
  3. No Mass, just blessing of the priest and the exchange of vows, etc.

I’ve only been to one wedding in my life, and it wasn’t even Catholic (Presbyterian). I just managed to get out of going to another one scheduled for this August. I’m more a funeral kind of guy, I suppose. (I’ve been maybe to 15 of those) :smiley:

The English/Latin Mass that was described is a Mass of the current missal, even though the priest may have faced the altar at times. This blend is informally known as a Hybrid Mass, because of its mixed language use. This is what one typically sees on EWTN.

The terms High and Low Mass are unknown in the current rite, though some more traditional-minded folks still use them to denote sung and spoken Masses.

I have heard of this sort of misnomer. However in the Novus Ordo there exists no distinction between a “High Mass” or a “low Mass”. There does exist however what can be seen as a “simple form” without incense and choir and a “solemn form” that has incense and a choir.

Ken

The distinction between “High Mass” and “Low Mass” is really not even “official” as per the 1962 Missal distinction between what is commonly referred to as such.

The “Roman Rite of Mass”, what is now to be called the “Extraordinary Rite” (sic as in makes me sick to hear of the Traditional Roman Rite of Mass to be referred to as “extraordinary”), is the Solemn Tridentine Latin Mass, with Deacon and Subdeacon, full solemnity and cermony. It is quite lengthy, over one and a half hours long.

The “Low Mass” is the “simplified form” of the Roman Rite of Mass when a Deacon, Subdeacon, cantors and choir are not available. It can be celebrated by the priest alone or with altar boy(s). Low Mass (1962 Missal) was not used in Rome because there existed no problem in obtaining the required clerics. Low Mass is about 45 minutes long with no singing or hymns.

There arose, as told in a previous post, the “Missa Cantata”. The Missa Cantata is a “Low Mass that is sung”. It has two forms, a simple form or a more solemn form.

In the Missa Cantata, the priest sings the parts of the Mass that are designated to be sung by him at Solemn Mass, as well as the Epistle and Gospel. No incense or chant is used in the simple form and you can use two servers.

In the Solemn Form of the Missa Cantata- there can be several servers- including an MC and Thurifer - with incense and Gregorian Chant.

I was born in 1966 so I couldn’t tell you of what is not told to me in books I read as per the “Extraordinary” Roman Rite. I do not know if they lit all six candles at a Missa Cantata. All I do know is that at Mater Ecclesiae we have what we call a “High Mass” every Sunday- that is “Missa Cantata”, “Solemn Form” with Gregorian Chant, Incense and servers- many of them- Thurifer, MC, Acolytes, Crucifer and torch bearers. All six candles are lit at our “High Mass”.

As far as purpose, well some people prefer the Low Mass and some the High Mass. The Low Mass is simpler in form and shorter in duration.

Ken

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