Why does low mass exist in the west and not the east?

In my dealings with Eastern Catholic & Orthodox Churches I have noticed that they have not the existence of a “low mass”. The high solemn sung liturgy appears to have continuously dominated their history to the point that they show great suspicion towards a “low mass”.

I share this suspicion that the low mass may be a grave mistake made by the Latin Churches in its’ liturgical development.

To my fellow servants of God I ask that you please do your best to defend the Latin Churches tradition of low mass. The main way to do this is to share with me during which region(s) and centuries low mass came into existence and what reasons it was seen as necessary to exist. Also why did concelebration “become in the early Middle Ages replaced by separate private celebrations” (temporarily).

Low Mass originated in the early Middle Ages as a shortened or simplified form of Solemn Mass. Catholic practice had been that there was (at most) one Mass in a monastery or parish church each day. However, over time it became necessary for a variety of reasons to celebrate more than one on the same day. It also became customary for monasteries to ordain most of their monks, though originally monks were almost all laymen, and for every priest to say a daily Mass. For a while, concelebration, whereby several priests took a full priestly part in offering Mass, provided all with the possibility to celebrate Mass each day, but this custom died out. Low Mass is considered to be a necessity that falls short of the ideal, which is Solemn Mass.

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 describes the result as follows:

… concelebration was in the early Middle Ages replaced by separate private celebrations. No doubt the custom of offering each Mass for a special intention helped to bring about this change. The separate celebrations then involved the building of many altars in one church and the reduction of the ritual to the simplest possible form. The deacon and subdeacon were in this case dispensed with; the celebrant took their part as well as his own. One server took the part of the choir and of all the other ministers, everything was said instead of being sung, the incense and kiss of peace were omitted. So we have the well-known rite of low Mass (missa privata). This then reacted on high Mass (missa solemnis), so that at high Mass too the celebrant himself recites everything, even though it be also sung by the deacon, subdeacon, or choir.

My last request. Do not move this to the eastern churches section. It is not for them, it is for YOU and myself - the west.

The Low Mass was developed to allow priests to celebrate daily without the full complement of ministers and choir needed for a Missa Solemnis, which, in theory, was and is the norm.

However, several centuries of low masses made these seem to be the norm–and oddly enough, influenced Protestant worship (which is too long a story to tell here).

Indeed, recited Liturgies developed in Eastern Churches in communion with Rome. I have been to a few: Byzantine, Maronite, Chaldean.

However, this practice is actually alien to the Eastern tradition, as it was alien to the Western tradition.

Please remember not to unfavorably compare rites of the Church with one another. Thank you.

The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is frequently celebrated with only a priest and cantor in private chapels. I attended one on St Elias feast day.

This makes no sense that a low mass would have been come up with. I see no reason why it was necessary.

it’s ashame that there aren’t any other responses to my question.

This is not about unfavourably comparing rites.

It is about acknowledging mistakes and ending them for the good of mankind.

Two things:
At least within the Ruthenian

  1. The functional equivalent of the “Low Mass” is the no-repeat DL of St. John. It’s a sung liturgy, still.
    The Solemn High Mass equivalent is the DL of St Basil with all the repeats in triplicate.

  2. A daily liturgy is not a requirement of Ruthenian priests nor parishes. St. Nicholas, in Anchorage, offers a daily DL on Tues, Weds, Thurs only, barring holy days of obligation.

Well, by definition, a low Mass is an unsung Mass without a Deacon or sub-deacon.

So the only real difference between that and what I have seen in the East, is if the Liturgy is chanted or not.

Do you define that as a mistake?

The Presanctified Liturgy, a “dry mass” is something like a low mass. The reason for it is also why no low mass (Besides the correct observation above about Basil vis-a-vis John), every Sunday is a little Pascha, and every Divine Liturgy a participation in its joy. Hence no Liturgy during Lent on weekdays, besides Saturday and Sunday (never liturgy fasting days).

The comment of moving this to the Eastern thread is well founded.

The concept of “Low Mass” has crept into Eastern Catholicism. I have gone to Byzantine Churches where the daily liturgy is spoken. On Holy Days some of the prayers are chanted, but not all of them. Sunday Liturgies are generally chanted. But I’m sure it’s different in each Eparchy. The first Byzantine Liturgy I went to was a daily one in Virginia. All together there were only three of us in the church, it was entirley chanted, including the readings.

I have also been told that the concepts of Daily Eucharist and Holy Days of obligation are foreign to Eastern Christianity but have become a part of it in this country.

I’m going to speculate for a moment…

The Roman liturgies, as a rule, arose in a society of celibate and/or continent (abstaining from sex in marriage despite being married) priests; priests who had no job but being priests.

The Roman ritual evolves in a culture with strong ties between governance and church; feudal lords were “divine right” rulers, and had to support the church as well to stay that way. Daily liturgy was part of the social order, and the church bells were most people’s only clock.

Roman rite societies also tended, in the middle ages, to be forcible conversion at the hands of the rulers. They took a uniform but pagan group, and joined it to the church as a unified group, subjecting itself to the greater unity, often with violence and severe civil punishments. (See also Harold of Denmark.)

In the east, however, priests often had “day jobs.” Most had a plot to farm, being peasants. Most had children. It was developed that a daily liturgy wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a major requirement.

In the east, as well, much of the east was not “uniformly Christian”, unlike the west. Even before Islam took over, Zoroastrians, non-Christian Gnostics, Gnostic Christians, and even greco-roman paganism continued to exist because local rulers took no efforts to erradicate them.

Further still is a sense in the west of “Change is Progress” as opposed to the Eastern “Change is the enemy of Tradition.” The west looks to the future, while the east looks to the past.

So, given the combinations of social, political, and practical needs, the roman church called for priests to say mass daily. In so doing, however, the practical needs of the congregants became a factor: since many were required by civil law to attend, the shorter workday liturgy was even more essential. Sections that may have been once read aloud boldly were hidden and advanced so that the prior prayer of the people was simultaneous with them. Driven not just from below, but from the local lords.

To compare the low mass and high mass to the difference between St John and St Basil’s liturgy is not valid.

What we are looking for is a balance. We dont want the liturgy to be too long, we dont want it to be too short. We don’t want to be out of sync with the other Apostolic Churches. Why should the Church of Rome, being regarded as having primacy among all Churches, celebrate liturgies in the shortest length of time?

How is this fitting for a role model and leader?
Do as we say, not as we do?

Now St James liturgy took somewhat over 4 hours to celebrate.
St Basil’s takes between 2 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 hours to celebrate.
And St. John Chrysostom’s takes 1 and a half hours to celebrate.

No Eastern Church has a liturgy as short as the low mass of Rome.

The average Solemn sung high latin mass takes 1 hour 15 mins to 1 hour and a half. This is very harmonious with the Eastern Churches.

So even at it’s shortest an eastern liturgy is nearly always longer or equal to the longest western liturgy of today.

The Roman liturgies, as a rule, arose in a society of celibate and/or continent (abstaining from sex in marriage despite being married) priests; priests who had no job but being priests.

where is the evidence that this is true? I have never seen evidence to support the idea of most western priests being continent or unmarried before 1000 A.D.

Perhaps you can explain why between 967 to 1067 in england before the Norman invasion, 70% of the bishops were from the ranks of monks. This is how the Eastern Churches continue to be today.

If only the west of today could have continued to be a monastic church it would not have developed the problems that it has.

Even before Islam took over, Zoroastrians, non-Christian Gnostics, Gnostic Christians, and even greco-roman paganism continued to exist because local rulers took no efforts to erradicate them.

This is completely false until the 9th century pagans continued to be persecuted throughout the Byzantine Empire.

"804 The Gentile Hellenes of Mesa Mani (Cape Tainaron, Lakonia, Greece) resist successfully the attempt of Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, to convert them to Christianity.

850 to 860 Violent conversion of the last Gentile Hellenes of Mesa Mani by the Armenian “Saint” Nikon. "

take from this site: community-2.webtv.net/tales_of_the_western_world/TEMPLEDESTRUCTION/

It is true that in the East change was viewed as the enemy of tradition and moreso the opposite in the West. In the West lack of change was the reason Rome fell, in the East lack of change was the reason Constantinople survived.

For centuries Constantinople was the repository of greek and roman culture and of the tradition that had been built up in preceding ages in egypt, babylon, athens, rome and jerusalem. Our civilization wouldn’t be the way it is today if the city of Constantine hadn’t endured to transmit these traditions. To transmit the latin of Rome and the Greek of Athens. The skills, the art, the thought, the memories to the barbarians of the west and to their gradually more civlized successors. So the survival of constantinople was crucial because it helped to make our (western) past.

Perhaps the most important factor in it’s survival was the conviction that the empire was willed by God and protected by God and his anointed representatives. On the other hand it was this same religious conviction that goes a long way to explain the traditionalism, the extreme conservatism of byzantium. If your state is founded on the will of heaven, why innovate? A byzantine ruler might be dethroned, and God knows enough of them were. By murder, palace revolutions or riots in the city, but a change in emperor did not mean a change of policy, except in minor details, because to change it would have been something like changing your faith. And so with heaven’s approval secure, the byzantine sovereign the the byzantine state were both defenders of the faith.

The concentration of all authority in the hands of God’s representative was in itself a great source of strength

In the west men lived there lives under a lot of different legal systems, tribal law, local law, minorial law and the law of the central or would be central state fought a continuous battle for recognition from the countryside, from the provinces which took centuries and really didnt get settled until quite recent times.
The great landowners of the 6th century west were a law unto themselves. Spain, France and Italy are still not unified countries all having their own subtlely different languages, cultures & cuisines within

But in the east there was only one law and that Roman law emanated from a single source: the ruler.

Even the decisions of the councils of the church needed the emperors approval. This is what has been called “caesaropapism”, a political system in which the head of state is also master of the church and the patriarch, the bishop of constantinople lived in the shadow of the imperial palace.

When Constantine died in 337 AD with his heir far from Constinople the embalmed remains of the dead emperor continued to rule the empire through a whole summer, autumn and winter with couriers reading their messages before it, ministers making reports to it, and courtiers seeking audience before it.

It’s important to realize however that even this macabre image of a ruling corpse had it’s roots in a long past. It was simply the triumph of the hellenistic view of the emperor’s lofty position, a view which had developed in the east since the days of Alexander which the romans had taken some time to adopt but which the Emperor Diocletian explicitly claimed in Rome at the end of the third century and it was very useful because it lent the Byzantine Empire a sort of authority and stability that the old unified empire had never had.

probably that the west is below sea level,and that the catholic faith is sinking in some parts .:slight_smile:

<<The Presanctified Liturgy, a “dry mass” is something like a low mass.>>

Not at all. The Prescanctified Liturgy in the Byzantine Churches is basically Lenten Vespers followed by Communion from the previously consecrated Holy Gifts.

Typica would be more like a “dry mass”–that is, the Liturgy of the Word with some other prayers. Theoretically, it is possible to distribute Communion from the Reserved Mysteries during it.

Having attended the DL of St John in cases as short as 45 minutes (no omissions, no repetitions, daily propers), sure, its’ not the “Fr. Fearon 20 minute Special” Dominican Mass, but it is quite short, and requires a cooperative and skilled cantor, and a short communion line, plus a short sermon.

And its shorter by far than the full repetitions and readings of the Easter Vigil (with 7 readings) of the Roman; a two hour mass.

Even the DL of St. Basil can be done in under 90 minutes. Rev. Fr. Greskowiak, not rushing, hit about 90 minutes for DL of St. Basil. (Adding in ressurection matins at 1 hour, a separate liturgy, but part of the typical celebration.)

(Rev. Fr. John Fearon, O.P., of eternal memory, would use the Dominican Latin for his private masses. 20 minutes, counting communion and sermon, with 2 servers and up to 10 others… And it was a chanted mass. He was faster chanting than speaking.)

Brother Aramis, these 40 and 20 minute liturgies you’re pointing out are loopholes for the guiness book of world records.

I’m talking about average situations not odd exceptions.

These do not realistically change the situation of a somewhat secular Greek Orthodox man in strong Long Island accent telling me with a big smile, thinking I don’t know “do you know how long our liturgies are? that’s why I dont attend (as if it’s a ridiculous amount of time for him to spare)”

Every western catholic I have talked to about differences comments on the liturgies being longer.

and yes…let’s see…once again

How hard is it to do St. John in 20 mins compared to St Peter (low mass) in 20 mins? hmmm…i rest my case.

Tell me a Western Latin Church that has a 4 hour vigil and liturgy at least once a month like this greek church does


Im confused here, do you want a long or short Liturgy?

From what I have read the EO dont have daily mass, correct me if Im wrong…right there explains a lot. If they had daily mass that took 1.5 to 2-3 to “over 4 hours” then that is a significant chunk of the day used.

While I personally do favor longer (though I have never had the privilege of attending such long ones as you listed) I do wonder what takes place that requires 2.5-4 hours.

It was formulated during the Middle Ages when there were a lot of penniless Churches with only the Priest managing the Church. Of course, it was nearly impossible to celebrate Mass according to its True, Grand, and Solemn form.

Another factor is the multiple Masses said each day. For various reasons (for example, it was customary for a Monastery to ordain its Monks as Priests, and each had to say at least one Mass for each day), Churches started to hold many Masses in one day and started tobuild side Altars and Chapels. Concelebration was originally the solution, but since this custom died out (except in a few cases) in the West, each had to say his own Mass, and Solemn Masses were time consuming, especially if you had only one Altar or had a large number of monk-priests that the Altars are not enough. So the Low Mass came into being; less time consuming and doesn’t require Deacon, Subdeacon or a choir; only a single Altar Server (or none) will do.

do you want a long or short Liturgy?

I want Long compared to a low mass. I want Long but not too long.
1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours. Although for feast days and extra holy days beyond 2 hours might be nice.

Someone asks what takes up the 4 hours of time… only answer I know of is that it’s many many prayers and many many chants/hymns. I’ve been to a St John of Chrysostom liturgy was close to 4 hours, but because it was in greek and I had no translation I had trouble understanding what was going on to a certain extent, nevertheless it was a great experience, with an astoundingly good mouth dropping cantor from St Sophia Greek Cathedral…

I appreciate the responses to the question.
It is ashame no one has been able to give detailed information as to how the low mass came into existence. I’ll have to consult books and professor priests instead. It’s nice to say that it came into use in the middle ages when parishes were poor but this is actually vague when one considers the middle ages lasted from 600 to 900 years.

If for instance it started in the 900’s that would still leave 450 years since the first sack of Rome where it was not seen as necessary to have a low mass…or not officially sanctioned.

Please return to the original topic. The discussion is not about the legitimacy of any rite, long or short. Thank you.

Think about it, if you had to celebrate DAILY mass and it took up 2.5 - 4 hours then you might envision a “low” mass as well.

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