The Indian Mass in the Modern Parish (Part Two)

Photo credit: cameralucidity
In this second installment in a series (see Part One) we are going to be looking at a yearly cycle of Indian Masses that is more properly liturgical.

The Book of Seven Nations is a parish-book (French paroissien) from the multi-ethnic mission of the Lake of Two Mountains, which was known to the Iroquois as Kanesatake and to the Algonquins as Oka.

The section beginning on page 109 contains the proper Mohawk readings and hymns for Masses throughout the year. It also indicates which Introits are to be used on each Sunday.

Not all of the Introits are listed explicitly, however. They are typically named only at the first Sunday of a liturgical season or on special feasts: i.e., when there was a change. Otherwise, the one last mentioned was simply re-used. This re-use of Introits is a notable departure from the Roman Rite in general where, except for the very last Sundays after Pentecost, each Sunday has its own dedicated Introit.

At Lake of Two Mountains, two Introits covered almost the entire cycle of Masses for the liturgical year. The Book of Seven Nations only gives the text of these Introits and not the chant, but fortunately examples with chant notation have been preserved in another book, the Kaiatonserase (1860). By way of comparison, we will be looking at the Mohawk Introits side-by-side with the corresponding Latin chants--not, however, from a modern Liber Usualis but from a 19th century Gradual of the diocese of Quebec, which is closest in melody and typography.

The most common Introit at Lake of Two Mountains was Teiotenonhianiton. It was used throughout Advent, from Septuagesima throughout Lent, and again from the feast of the Holy Trinity to the end of the liturgical year. It was based in melody and text on the Roman Introit for the dedication of a church: Terribilis est locus iste:

Latin translation: "Terrible is this place: this is the House of God, and the gate of heaven; and shall be called the court of God. How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts: my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord."

The second most common Introit is the At8atsennonni or Aete8atsennonni, used on Christmas and during its octave, throughout Epiphany, and, with a slight emendation of text, all of Eastertide. It was based on the Roman Gaudeamus for All Saints' Day.

Latin translation: "Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festal day in honor of all the Saints; at whose solemnity the Angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God. Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just: praise becometh the upright"
So generally speaking, the Teiotenonhianiton was used on penitential and ordinary seasons, and the Aete8atsennonni  was used in festal seasons. It might seem unusual to have so many Sunday Masses begin with an Introit that saw use only at the anniversary of the dedication of the Church. But as we can see from the translation, the Terribilis est somberly encapsulates the very nature of the church building and the Mass, making it an excellent choice for regular use. Likewise, the translation of the Gaudeamus shows how readily it could be adapted to any feast or season simply by a slight change of wording: "celebrating a festal day in honor of X".

A third Mohawk Introit Tek8anoronk8anions is also worth noting, this one for Masses of Our Lady. It was based on the Roman Salve, Sancte Parens, from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Latin translation: Hail Holy Mother, who in childbirth didst bring forth the King Who ruleth heaven and earth world without end. My heart hath uttered a good word; I speak my works to the King. 
Translations of these introits into other American languages can be found in other contemporary parish-books. Not surprisingly, they appear in the 1854 edition of the Niina aiamie masinaigan, for the Algonquins at Lake of Two Mountains. Note though that in the subsequent 1866 edition, published for the Algonquins who had emigrated from Lake of Two Mountains to the north of the Ottawa Valley, two additional Introits have appeared: the Reminiscere and Mino Manito Okijikom. Perhaps these were used during Lent and at Pentecost respectively.

We had occasion in Part 1 to discuss the Montagnais missions; in the 1852  Ir Mishiniigin the Terribilis Est and the Gaudeamus are given as the two Introits. The Montagnais Gaudeamus, as I mentioned last time, shared only basic melodywith the Roman Introit; its text is taken from the Pater Noster.

Such a clever adaptation of two or three key Introits allowed the missionaries along the St. Lawrence to structure a very simple cycle that could be used to mark the liturgical seasons year-round and that could later be added to as needed  In that same spirit, alternating between the Terribilis and Gaudeamus, eventually supplementing them with other Introits as well,  would be a marked refinement on the Sachem's Mass that we discussed previously, and can be implemented in a modern parish without much more additional translation work.

It may strike some as rash to encourage the spread of such Indian Masses to communities where no such tradition previously existed. If so, I will only recall readers' attention to the current status quo. Since the 1970s, the Introit has been practically abolished in most Roman Rite parishes throughout the country. It has been unceremoniously displaced by an Entrance Hymn that may or may not sound some themese of the day, but in any case is a quite aliturgical and too often draws from an extremely limited pool of "contemporary" music.

Even a simple system of native-language Introits seems much preferable to that status quo and is certainly moving us in the right direction away from ephemeral styles and back to the authentic liturgical genius of the Roman Rite. In this case, moreover, we do not mean the Roman Rite in general but specifically the dialect of it that that was created for and by the parishes of the eminently Catholic Seven Nations Confederacy. Here the goals of tradition and of inculturation neatly coincide—and it is no accident that many native languages refer to the traditional Latin Mass as "the Indian Mass".

Ultimately, however, though Lake of the Two Mountains shows an important advancement in American Indian liturgy, it is not where we see its fullest development. The Book of Seven Nations itself, as a matter of fact, lists a few alternate prayers and even a Mass of the Dead under the Mohawk label Kahnawakeha: "according to the Use of Kahnawake".

And it is to that mission, the earthly home and resting place of St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the "central fire" of the Seven Nations Confederacy, that we will turn in our next article.

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