The Voyages Liturgiques de France: St. Maurice of Vienne - Lent

Vienne Missal (14th c.), Lyon, Bibl. mun., ms. 0526, f. 110v
On all Sundays from Septuagesima to Easter there was a procession or station at a church in the city. On Ash Wednesday there were also stations. After None they blessed the ashes. Then the archbishop (or in his absence the priest of St. Pierre de Vienne) and his chaplain, vested in black silk copes came into the choir, taking the place of the Dean along with the deacon and subdeacon who carried the ashes.


On all days of Lent before Compline they said the Office of the Dead, then went to the chapter room for a reading from the Dialogues of St. Gregory, after which they went to the refectory to drink some wine.

They called this the potus caritatis. Even then they did not eat. That came later.

Wednesday of the fourth week of Lent is called in the Ordinary of Vienne and their last Missal Feria quarta in Scrutiniis. They still perform the scrutinies today in this church, even though all those to be baptized are children, with the subdeacon reciting the Credo for each child before the priest, as a profession of faith. For good reason, the Gradual of this Mass is Venite filii. The ceremonies are too long to record here in French. They can be found in Latin in the Ordinary, which we hope to make available to the public.

They said the Te Deum laudamus on Palm Sunday, as at Lyon and in the whole Order of St. Benedict on the Sundays of Advent and Lent, and I see no sound reason to omit it.

The blessing of palms was done by the archbishop (or in his absence by the priest of Saint-Pierre) vested in alb, amice, stole, and greek silk cope. The cross was bare in the procession and they did not say Attollite portas.

On Spy Wednesday at the mass they said (and still say) all the solemn intercessions for the various states as on Good Friday.

On Holy Thursday after None the archbishop, vested in alb and amice, stole and silk cope with his mitre and crosier went to the doors of the church to admit the public penitents who were waiting their to receive permission to enter.

Then he gave a sermon, at the end of which he said three times Venite filii. The archbishop said the verse Accedite and let in the penitents. Immediately the seven penitential psalms were said, during which the archbishop and penitents lay prostrate before the pulpit. Then the archbishop said the prayers, verses, and collects, and gave them the pardon and indulgence.

Presently there is no more trace of this public penitence except the seven penitential psalms, along with this rubric in the Supplement to the missal:

Feria V in Ecclesia Primatiali ante missam sit officium catechumenorum et reconciliatio poenitentium, et ideo dicuntur septem psalmi poenitentiales.” They still do the office of the catechumens.

The blessing of the oil of the sick was done before the Per quem haec omnia Domine and the blessing of the oil of catechumens and chrism after the Pax Domini. Vespers were embedded in the Mass and ended with the Postcommunion.

To this day, after the mass, the deacon carries the Blessed Sacrament to the place prepared for it, and brings it back the next day to the high altar for the mass ex praesanctificatis, as at Chartres.

In the Mandatum ceremony when the canons’ feet are washed, the archbishop, his ministers, and the clergy were barefoot. The archbishop and the dean washed their feet, poured water over their hands, then gave them unleavened bread and wine blessed by the prelate.

On Good Friday only the archbishop in black silk cope and his ministers in albs say the Confiteor in the vesting room, then come out entirely barefoot (and still do so today), prostrate themselves before the altar and spend some time in prayer. Rising, the reading of the two prophecies begins, and the chanting of the two tracts. Then an archdeacon chants the Passion according to St. John. (The whole rest of the office is nearly the same as in the ancient Ordinary of Rouen from the 11th century). Afterwards they return barefoot to the vesting room.

After Communion, in a loud voice the celebrant said (and still says) In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus sancti. The response was Et cum spiritu tuo. This is still the cases in the missal of 1519; the response today is Amen. Then the cantors, standing before the altar, begin a Responsory and verse, then repeat from the beginning up to the verse, while the archbishop does the incensation. In ancient times and up to the present in Vienne, this ceremony constitutes the whole of Vespers for this day.On Holy Saturday the archbishop, vested in a silk cope and the archdeacon in a white dalmatic, preceded by candle-bearers, a subdeacon, and twelve curés-prêtres assistants and the master of the choir boys, went to the chapel of Our Lady in the cloister to admit the infants to be baptized, and the archdeacon said: Orate electi, flectite genua, Levate. Complete Orationem vestram, et dicite Amen. Then the sign of the cross was made on their heads.

The archbishop asked each the name of each, and said the oration or exorcism Nec te lateat, Satana. Then the archdeacon said Catechumeni recedant, Si qui Catechumeni, exeant foras. After the catechumens have left, the archdeacon, having received the blessing of the archbishop, descended with the subdeacon in the choir in front of the altar to perform the blessing of the Paschal candle. Meanwhile the members of the small choir stood and the great choir sat until the deacon said Dominus vobiscum.

During the blessing of the candle, the choir master (capiscol) or scholastic vested in a silk cope blessed the incense and fire, and then carried the grains of incense to the archdeacon whom he helped to embed in the holes of the candle at the proper time. Then the archdeacon lit the paschal candle with the new fire. (Some of the faithful take away flames from this blessed fire to their homes, as at Lyon and Rouen.) Then a lector climbed the jubé to read the prophecies, which were intermixed with orations and Tracts, as they are today. (the twelve curés chanted each oration after each of the twelve prophecies according to the Missal of Vienne of 1519. Today it is done by two priests who chant them alternately.)

When they began the Tract Cantemus Domino, the choir-master took a priest and his boys with him (and perhaps the rest of the cantors too) and went to the baptismal font which were in the chapel of St. John the Baptist (in the cloister) and there chanted the Litany, repeating each verse three times. (This is called the Litania terna. It is the origin of the nine-fold Kyrie eleison in the Mass, in which each group of three was sung by the cantor and the two choirs in alternation.) After the Litany, everyone returned to the choir.

Vienne Missal (14th c.), Lyon, Bibl. mun., ms. 0526, f. 111v

After the prophecies, Tracts, and Orations were finished, they invited forward those who were to be baptized. They placed the boys on the right side and the girls on the left, and said over them the orations for catechumens. Going in procession to the baptismal fonts, the Curé of St. John went with the priest assistants carrying the vase of holy chrism, as the cantors chanted the second litany and the two choirs responded. After it was finished, the archbishop blessed the fonts conjointly with the twelve curés, as they do today at Troyes; namely, they made the blessings in the form of the cross and the aspirations with the bishop, and held their hands up like him, though they did not touch either the water or the candle, as is marked in the Ordinary of the cathedral church of Vienne written in 1524.

The reason these curés assisted at the blessing of fonts at the Saturday vigils of Easter and Pentecost is because they brought with them to the cathedral all the infants of their parishes that were to be baptized. For in ancient times the only baptismal fonts were located in the cities, in the cathedral churches, as is the case today in Florence, Pisa, Parma, Padua, and elsewhere. The bishop put holy chrism in the water in the form of a cross. After the ordinary questions on the faith of the creed and other things, the priest baptized each of the infants by three immersions, plunging him three times in the water (sub trina mersione) and invoking the holy Trinity: saying Et ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, then plunging the infant once into the water, then et Filii, and plunging him for a second time, and et Spiritus Sancti, and plunging him in for the third time. Taking the infant from the font, the priest took a bit of holy chrism with his thumb and made a sign of the cross on the top of his head saying the prayer Deus omnipotens. Then the priest clothed him in a white robe in the form of an alb, saying the usual words Accipe vestem candidam etc. (Receive this robe, white and without blemish, which he must carry before the Tribunal of Our Lord Jesus Christ, if you wish to attain eternal life.) Terrible words on which Christians should reflect….

After this, if the bishop is present (according to the Ordinary), he also gave the infants the Sacrament of Confirmation. Si Episcopus adest, statim confirmari oportet infantulum. Then the procession returned to the choir as two priests chanted the third litany, which was repeated seven times.

The archbishop went to prepare for the Mass, and as he returned to the altar the deacon said (and still says) in a loud voice: Accendite[1] (as the canons still do in Lyon, and used to do in Rouen less than one hundred years ago; and as is still done at Angers on major feasts). Then all the candles were lit and they began the Kyrie eleison. The whole rest of the mass and Vespers are the same as everywhere else, except that at the end, instead of Ite missa est, the deacon says Benedicamus Domino without Alleluia, on account of Vespers.

I was very surprised not to find a communion of the newly baptized in this Mass, which (as Rosweyde and Cardinal Bona prove) used to be given not only to adults but also to newborn infants. It is found in the ancient Ordo Romanus, cap. de Sabbato sancto, and was still practiced in France in the 12th century in the time of Hugh of St. Victor, who in his first book on Ecclesiastical Sacraments and Ceremonies, chapter 20, speaking of a newly baptized, said that the priest dipped the end of his finger in the blood of Christ and in this way gave the Sacrament of the Eucharist to the newly baptized infant who has learned by nature to suck. Pueris recens natis idem Sacramentum in specie Sanguinis est ministrandum digito sacerdotis, quia tales naturaliter sugere possunt.[2]

This practice of giving communion to newly baptized infants was present, not only in the 12th century, but at Beauvais less than three hundred years ago, as we see in the Ordinaries of this church that go back to that time, and hence comes the custom, even today, of carrying the newly baptized infants to the high altar, which is done in the whole diocese of Rouen and in many others.)


[1] In the Ordo Romanus I, this is the word said by the subdeacon to indicate that the pope is ready to leave the sacristy and begin the stational Mass: Quod cum nunciatum fuerit, statim sequitur subdiaconus adstans ante faciem pontificis usque dum ei adnuat pontifex ut psallant: cui dum adnuerit, statim egreditur ante fores secretarii et dicit : Accendite. Qui dum accenderint, statim subdiaconus sequens tenens thymiamaterium aureum, pro foribus  ponit incensum ut pergat ante pontificem.

[2] Author's note: “On this question, see St. Augustine in his book to Boniface against the Pelagian heresy (1.22) and his letter to Vitalis, St. Ambrose, (Lib de Initiandis, ch. 8) and St. Paulinus, Letter 32. Everyone knows that the deacon in the African church gave both species to infants in their mothers’ arms, something the Greeks still do today.”

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