What Is The Difference Between A High Mass And Solemn High Mass

I went to a beautiful Solemn High Mass last night and I was wondering what the difference is between a High Mass and a*** Solemn High Mass?***
Thank you for your help.:slight_smile:


Sorry about the typo…:blush:

See this thread:
Particular attention to post 3

In the Early Church, as it still is in the Eastern Churches, Mass was only celebrated on Sundays, was always sung, and the Celebrant was assisted by a Deacon and Subdeacon at the Altar.

From the early Middle Ages on, it became a common practice in the Latin Church for priests to celebrate Mass everyday, and dedicate their Masses for a certain intention. For practical reasons a new form of Mass developed where the prayers were spoken, not sung, some of the rubrics were simplified and the priest was assisted by one or two acolytes or Altar servers instead of the Deacon and Subdeacon who made the responses. So there were two forms of Mass- the Missa Privata, or the priest’s Private Mass, and the Missa Solemnis, the Solemn Mass sung on Sundays and major Feasts.

In recent centuries a third form of Mass came about. Because of a lack of clergy in some regions, especially missionary territory, only Missa Privata could be celebrated, even on Sundays and Feasts. So the Missa Cantata came about- a Sung Mass where the priest was not assisted by a Deacon and Subdeacon- basically a combination of Missa Privata and Missa Solemnis that allowed priests, especially in rural parishes, to sing the Mass on Sundays and Feasts.

In European terminology, Missa Privata and Missa Cantata are both forms of Low Mass, while Missa Solemnis is called High Mass or Solemn Mass or Solemn High Mass.

In North America, Missa Privata is Low Mass. Missa Cantata is High Mass and Missa Solemnis is Solemn High Mass.

Caesar - Thank you for a very clear, and concise, explanation.

Thank you all for your help.

I have a couple more questions if I may?

Then a Solemn High Mass is not what would ordinarily be said like on a Sunday morning?

Are the gestures (kneeling, sitting and standing) different between the High Mass and the Solemn High Mass?

Thank you all…:thumbsup:

God Bless…


The “High Mass” vs. “Low Mass”. The original difference is between the Roman Rite of Mass, now called “Solemn Mass” and a modification of it for simplicity and absence of Deacon and Sub Deacon called “Low Mass”.

The “Solemn Mass” is the Roman Rite of Mass with full ceremony and solemnity. Priest, Deacon, Sub Deacon, MC, Thurifer, Crucifer, Acolytes and six torch bearers, schola for the Gregorian Chant of the propers and choir for ordinary proper hymns and other hymns.

The “Low Mass” is a simplified form of the Roman Rite of Mass. Sorry to drop a bomb on anyone here but even our High Mass on Sunday at Mater Ecclesiae- with no Deacon and Sub Deacon is still a “Low Mass” due to the absence of the Deacon and Sub Deacon. (Technically it is still low Mass)

Anyway, the distinction between what is now “High Mass” and “Low Mass” is simply if the priest sings the parts of the Mass that the people hear. Incense is used and there is Gregorian Chant. There was a compromise to add solemnity to the “Low Mass” when there was no deacon and sub deacon. This is the Missa Cantata or “Sung Mass”.

The “High Mass” would generally be the principal Mass of the Sunday or of the Holy Day. It would have a choir and it would most likely be sung. Incense may or may not be used. It may be in the form of “Missa Cantata simple” or as we have most every Sunday, “Missa Cantata more solemn form”. It can also be “Solemn Mass” that has deacon and sub deacon.

Technically- High Mass has a Deacon and Sub Deacon along with the preist. Low Mass does not have Deacon or Sub Deacon.

And there is also something called a “Semi Solemn” Mass- that uses only the Deacon with no Sub Deacon. And another modification that used a cleric (sub deacon) to chant the Epistle.

I do not know what life was like in parish churches before I was born. I was born in 1966 so I do not remember much. What I was told is that what I see and hear at Mass at Mater Ecclesiae every Sunday IS NOT how it was in parishes here before the changes after Vatican II. It was Low Mass all the time- incense on only Christmas and Easter from what I was told. Basically the Church did not appreciate the treasure she had…and now she is fighting to retain it realizing the damage caused by not fostering it and abandoning it after 1965.


Is the Semi-Solemn Mass allowed on a regular basis outside the Holy Week?

Most masses were low mass. If the church had an adequate choir, the main Sunday mass would be sung.

Weddings, funerals and occasionally memorial masses were sung, usually with a soloist, not a full choir.

I occasionally encountered a solemn high mass for a memorial, again with a soloist, not a choir, as I recall. We had a solemn high mass for our wedding with three choirs [My wife is a choir director, and worked closely with another choir director.]

I have little to boast about in this life, save one. At the Chapel of Ease where I attend for Sunday Mass, when I first went to this Church [as a server] it gave me great pleasure to train young servers [the oldest of which is now at University]

With permission from the Priest, I introduced Crucifer and acolytes. We cannot have Thirifer due to this being a former Catholic Church now the property of the Anglicans whose main service follows ours and they do not want the smell of incence.

Since then, a parishioner has been ordained Deacon and celebrates with the Priest. We have full ceremony so far as we can. Acolytes accompany the Deacon when he proclaims the Gospel. We do not have a qerior as such but nearly everyone sings and does so with gusto, putting many main Church’s to shame.

Our humble congragation has grown from around 60 to 120 who raise the roof in singing.

Does this therefore meet the requirement for Solemn Mass or because we are deficient of Thirifer through no fault of our own, still Low Mass?

Blessings and peace.

Sounds great. I don’t think a Thurifer is required fo a solemn high mass, but one needs a sub-deacon.

I am surprised that the Anglican’s object to incense. They are noted for having the most skilled Thurifers.

You are right, they do. The local Anglican Church used to be run by the High Church wing. Unfortunately their new Rector [whose occupancy was short lived] replaced them with Low Church who are actually quite hostile to us. Were it not for the fact we have a long-standing covenant [and they need our rent], they would have booted us out entirely.

We had a fabulous relationship with the former wardens who bent over backwards to be of assistance. Their Successors are as obstructive and obnoxious as possible.

The High Church element are still around and indeed want us to remain. There is a lot of talk from this group of ‘moving to Rome’ so let’s praise God for their courage and eventual conversion.

A bit off thread but one of the reasons why I would like to see Rome give the Anglican’s/Lutheren’s their own rite

Blessings and peace

Slight thread drift -

I went to an Episcopal College, Trinity in Hartford CT. They have a fine Gothic Chapel built in the 30’s. At my mother’s funeral I found that the celebrant had also gone there, many years after me. He told me that by the time he got there the Episcopal presence had so fallen that they only use the Grotto chapel on Sundays and a Catholic mass is celebrated in the main chapel.

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