Liturgical Notes on the Mozarabic Rite (or Visigothic Rite)

The Mozarabic rite is one of those distinctive western rites that generally receives a fair amount of interest from liturgical enthusiasts -- perhaps because of its relative obscurity. Strictly speaking, the Mozarabic liturgy from the modern, post-medieval period is more properly speaking a synthesis of some historical Mozarabic liturgical features and the medieval Roman rite as it was expressed in Toledo, Spain. Perhaps, in part, interest is also driven by the rather unusual term, "Mozarabic."  Indeed, the name of this particular rite is often the first point of inquiry for many; accordingly, it seems that some basic history surrounding the name is first in order:

The name "Mozarabic Rite" is given to the rite used generally in Spain and in what afterwards became Portugal from the earliest times of which we have any information down to the latter part of the eleventh century, and still surviving in the Capilla Muzárabe in Toledo cathedral and in the chapel of San Salvador or Talavera, in the old cathedral of Salamanca. The name... originated in the fact that, after its abolition in Christian Spain, the rite continued to be used by the Christians in the Moorish dominions who were known as Mazárabes or Muzárabes... The names Gothic, Toledan, Isidorian, have also been applied to the rite — the first referring to its development during the time of the Visigothic kingdom of Spain, the second to the metropolitan city which was its headquarters, and the third to the idea that it owed, if not its existence, at any rate a considerable revision to St. Isidore of Seville.

(Catholic Encyclopedia, "Mozarabic Rite")

As with so many names, there is some contestation about the accuracy of this naming. The Mozarabic scholar Dom Marius Férotin, OSB, for example, preferred the term "Visigothic rite" over Mozarabic. However, for our purposes, we shall retain the more familiar designation of "Mozarabic". 

It should be noted, first off, that our consideration here is presently in view of the Mozarabic liturgy of recent centuries; namely from the 16th until the 20th century, and not, per se, the earlier historical forms of the Mozarabic liturgy. Those interested in the earlier forms may wish to consult the work of the aforementioned Dom Marius Ferotin; namely, his scholarly editions of the Liber Mozarabicus Sacramentorum and the Liber Ordinum.

One of the interesting aspects of the liturgical books of Mozarabic liturgy was that in early modern editions it was contained within two missals; the Missale Omnium Offerentium, which equates to what we would speak of as the Ordo Missae in the Roman and other Western rites and uses -- or in other words the Ordinary parts of the Mozarabic liturgy (as well as a specimen Mass; that of St. James the Greater) -- and then another liturgical book which contained all of the other proper liturgical texts for all the other Masses. (It is worth noting that in the later, 19th century edition of the Mozarabic missal, the Missale Gothicum, these two books were combined into the more familiar form of a single liturgical book.)

Archdale King. in Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, notes that these two missals are properly required for the celebration of the Mozarabic rite of Mass.

The Catholic Encyclopedia further comments upon the nature of these two missals accordingly:

The Missale Omnium Offerentium contains what in the Roman Rite would be called the Ordinary and Canon. As nearly the whole Mass varies with the day, this book contains a specimen Mass (that of the Feast of St. James the Great) set out in full with all its component parts, variable or fixed, in their proper order. On all other days the variables are read from the complete Missal.

-- Catholic Encyclopedia, "Mozarabic rite"

The question of the intended meaning of "Omnium Offerentium" is debated. Some suggest that it references the Mass of the Catechumens, "of all who offer", while others surmise it refers to the "Missal of all Masses" -- that is to say, those parts which would be applicable to all Masses; the ordinary. As to why St. James the Greater was the particular "specimen Mass" to be found in this particular missal, King surmises that "It is possible that... by the time of Cardinal Cisneros the old liturgy was celebrated, hardly more often than on this one day of the year" (p. 566) though clearly this is speculative. This statement does however point to another fact; namely, that even by the time of the Renaissance, the Mozarabic liturgy was relatively obscure in use:

...when Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros became Archbishop of Toledo in 1495, he found the Mozarabic Rite in a fair way to become extinct. He employed the learned Alfonso Ortiz and three Mozarabic priests, Alfonso Martinez, parish priest of St. Eulalia, Antonio Rodrigues of Sts. Justa and Ruffina, and Jeronymo Guttierez of St. Luke, to prepare an edition of the Mozarabic Missal, which appeared in 1500, and of the Breviary, which appeared in 1502. He founded the Mozarabic Chapel in Toledo cathedral, with an endowment for thirteen chaplains, a sacristan and two mazos sirvientes, and with provision for a sung Mass and the Divine Office daily. Soon afterwards, in 1517, Rodrigo Arias Maldonado de Talavera founded the Capilla de San Salvador, or de Talavera, in the Old Cathedral of Salamanca, where fifty-five Mozarabic Masses were to be said yearly. They were later reduced to six, and now the rite is used there only once or twice a year.

- Catholic Encyclopedia, "Mozarabic rite"

Cardinal Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros

As mentioned above, in the year 1500 the complete version of the missal (not to be confused with the smaller Missale Omnium Offerentium) was published containing elements formerly found in the old Mozarabic Sacramentary, Lectionary and Antiphoner. This was reprinted in 1755 and again in 1804 (this time under the title of Missale Gothicum) -- it is also republished in Migne's Patrologia Latina, LXXXV. However, these editions also added in a number of mediaeval Roman-Toledean features which were not a part of the historical Mozarabic rite. (King, p. 528.)

Title pages of three modern editions of the Mozarabic Missal from the 18th and 19th centuries

While we have been speaking of two different missals, it is worth making note of the fact that in the complete version of the Mozarabic missal, "the 'Omnium Offerentium' appears twice: "[on the] First Sunday in Advent, which presents a model Mass, and again between Easter Saturday and Low Sunday." (King, Primatial Sees)

To clarify, what King is noting here is distinct from the Missale Omnium Offerentium heretofore mentioned, and published as a smaller missal.

Of interest with regard to these instances is that "certain inconsistencies exist between them, as, for example, the use of the Benedicite, which in one place seems to infer that it was the exclusive feature of Lent, whereas in the other it would appear to have been recited throughout the year. Further than this, we find differences in the two texts of the canticle. There are also differences in the prayers following the Gloria in Excelsis and the position of the sacrificium." (King) 

As was the case in so many of the western rites, it came under Romanizing influences, with the mediaeval Roman missal of Toledo being rather freely borrowed from in this later incarnation of the Mozarabic liturgy. (This said, the 19th century English liturgiologist, Edmund Bishop, was still of the personal opinion that despite this relatively free borrowing, the modern Mozarabic missal "may safely be considered a sufficiently good and safe representative for working purposes of the missal in use in Spain in the 7th and even the 6th century." (Liturgical Note to the Book of Cerne, p. 239.)

This noted, we turn our attention to the preparatory prayers, opening rites and readings. 

Two illustrations from a Mozarabic missal illustrating the fight to preserve the Mozarabic liturgy in the face of a push to adopt the Roman liturgy

The Introductory Rites

The prayers at the foot of the altar at the beginning of the Mozarabic liturgy are done similar to those of the Roman liturgy, with some variation in the texts. This is for good reason, for as The Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "a good deal of this preliminary matter was borrowed by Cardinal Ximenes from the Toletan (Roman) Missal, and is not Mozarabic" in its historical origins. Archdale King also notes in Liturgies of the Primatial Sees that the preparatory prayers generally were a later Romanization of the historical form of the Mozarabic liturgy. 

After the priest ascends to the altar, he makes the sign of the cross upon the altar, saying the in nomine, kisses the altar and then proceeds to the adoration of the Cross, which King attributes to being adopted from the mediaeval Roman use of Toledo as well:

Hail, O Precious Cross, which was adorned by Christ's body and adorned by his members as so many pearls; save thou the crowd of those now present all gathered together in thy praise.

V: We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee. R: Because by thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world. 

Let us pray. Hear us O God our salvation and by the triumph of the Holy Cross defend us from all dangers. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Further prayers follow this and, shortly after these, many sources suggest that the priest would at this point lay out the corporal and prepare the chalice. (Some may recognize this from the similar practice found in the Low Mass of the Dominican rite.) However, it should be noted, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, that in the "Missa Omnium Offerentium there is a direction to put wine into the chalice during the Epistle", however they continue, "but it is not done." (See "Mozarabic Rite") Dom Fernand Cabrol in The Mass of the Western Rites also makes note of a similar rubric, though he doesn't comment on the issue of whether it was followed. King in Notes on the Catholic Liturgies further makes note of this situation and surmises various possibilities, including that the preparation of the chalice may have taken a similar form as that seen in the Dominican rite, with it being done at the beginning of Mass in the instance of Low Mass, and around the time of the Epistle during Solemn Mass. This is only a theory however.

Regardless, we then proceed to what amounts to the beginning of the Mozarabic liturgy prior to the missal of Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros; namely to the Antiphona ad praelegendum, or the "Officium" as it is known from the 16th century Mozarabic books on; that is to say, it approximates to what is called the introit in the Roman liturgical books, or to the "Ingressa" of the Ambrosian rite.

This completed, rather than going into the Kyrie as per the Roman rite, the Gloria is then recited in its proper seasons. This is deemed a later Roman importation, coming around the latter part of the 8th century and both Msgr. Duchesne and Adrian Fortescue  suggest the Gloria may have replaced the Trisagion.

The Collect is then prayed followed by the readings.

The Lessons

First there is a reading from the Old Testament prophecies (or during the Easter season, a reading from the Book of Revelation). It is suggested that in the earlier history of the Mozarabic liturgy, this was the beginning of their liturgy following the liturgical greeting -- and apparently continued to be so on days of fast. However, with regard to this Old Testament prophecy a couple of notes are in order. The first is that both Archdale King and Dom Cabrol note that this reading later came to be suppressed as far as Sundays were concerned. However, during Lent and on days of fast, there were actually two Old Testament readings (one from the books of Solomon and one from the Pentateuch or historical books) -- in these instances, there were also two New Testament lessons.

On Sundays and Feast days, the "Hymnus Trium Puerorum" or Benedicite (an abridged form of the Canticle of the Three Youths from the Book of Daniel) was sung. W.C. Bishop notes that, historically speaking, the Benedicite was to be required at all Masses by the fourth Council of Toledo in A.D. 633, but that "its use was by no means constant and appears to have been subject to much variation." (The Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites: Four Essays in Comparative Liturgiology, "The Mass in Spain", p. 23) Archdale King further notes that the missal itself would seem to restrict its use to the first Sunday of Lent and the Feast of St. James. 

The Psallendo, psalm verses, then come as a form of chanted responsory -- formerly sung by a cantor or multiple cantors from the "lesson" or "prophecy" ambo with the choir singing the response. (St. Isidore of Seville historically identifies three types of ambos; one for the prophecy, psallendum, benedictiones, and epistle; one for the gospel and homily; and one, the tribunal, reserved for the priest or bishop.) 

During part of Lent, the psallendo were replaced by the "Trenos" which approximated the "Tract" of the Roman liturgical books -- some sources suggest the texts were taken from Lamentations, Jeremiah or Job. These were non-responsory. In the 16th century Missale Mixtum the title of "Tractus" was adopted, while also reducing these chants to three verses. These were followed by the preces; a short penitential litany which were prayed kneeling before the altar. On the Palm Sunday however, the Traditio Symboli would be used. 

Prior to the 16th century Missale Mixtum there was also the clamor which followed the psallendo on more solemn feasts, which was also taken from the psalter, and which was responded to antiphonally by an acclamation on the part of the faithful; these included "Deo gratias", "Kyrie eleison, Deo Gratias" and "Deo gratias, Kyrie eleison" and may have been repeated several times. King identifies the clamor as unique to the Mozarabic liturgy, though as was noted, it did not find a presence in the Cisneros edition of the Mozarabic books.

Following this, the deacon or priest proclaims "Silentium facite", a call for silence. The Epistle is then read.

After the reading of the epistle had concluded, no chant follows as it does in the Roman liturgy; instead, after the priest greets the faithful and some private preparatory prayers are said, the Gospel immediately follows. "At the Gospel both lights and incense are used 'more Romano', and while it is being sung, [at solemn Mass] the "Liber Omnium Offerentium,' containing the Ordinary of the Mass, is placed on the Epistle side of the altar, so that the priest has in the left-hand missal the 'variables' and in that on the right the 'constants.'" (King, Notes on the Catholic Liturgies, p.289)

At the conclusion of the gospel, the sign of the cross is made on the book, it is kissed, and the following prayer is said: "Hail divine word, reformation of virtues, restorer of health."

The Lauda or laudes chants, composed of alleluias and psalm verses, were then sung. (The Alleluias being suppressed in Lent.)

A word about a couple of distinctive repetitive texts found within the Mozarabic liturgy might be in order at this point.

While we are all quite accustomed with "Dominus vobiscum" (The Lord be with you) in the Roman liturgy, within the Mozarabic books this takes the form of "Dominus sit semper vobiscum" (The Lord be always with you.) The response is the same as in the Roman liturgy: "Et cum spiritu tuo" (And with your spirit.) Similarly, the "Gloria Patri" (Glory be to the Father) becomes "Gloria et honor Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto in sæcula sæculorum." (Glory and honour to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.)

The Offertory

We now turn our attention to the Mass of the Faithful where we are brought to what the Mozarabic Missal calls the Sacrificium; a prayer and chant which is variable, approximating itself to the Roman offertory chant. (Though at this point I would bring to mind again an interesting discrepancy within the Mozarabic missal. While the Omnium Offerentium places the sacrificium before the offering of the host and the chalice with its associated prayers, the other, which is found within the context of the First Sunday of Advent, sees this order reversed. For our purposes here, I will simply follow the textual order found within the Omnium Offerentium.)

Archdale King notes "that it was here that the offering of bread and wine by the people in the old Mozarabic rite took place. The priest removed the pallium (covering), which until then had covered the altar, and spread the corporal. The officiant then received the gifts of the people, with the bread offered in a linen cloth, and the wine in a cruet or other receptacle. Deacons poured wine into a large 'ministerial' chalice. Such of the offerings as were needed for the Mass were placed on the altar and covered with a veil of silk, which was known as the coopertorium, pall or palla corporalis. There was a prayer ad extendendum corporalia, but the various offertory acts were not accompanied by prayers. At the conclusion of the oblation, the sacred ministers washed their hands, and a signal was given for the chant of the sacrificium to cease." (Ibid., p. 591)

As was already noted earlier however, the actual preparation of the chalice in the later incarnation of the Mozarabic missal seems to have been somewhat akin to its position in the Low Mass of the Dominican rite, happening near the beginning of the Mass before the readings.

At this time the host and the wine are offered with the accompanied prayers.

Following this, the Lavabo occurs and from there, an interesting rubric may be observed. The priest returns to the centre of the altar, and with three fingers over the oblation prays quietly:

"In the name of the Father +, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, reign Thou O God, forever and ever. I will approach Thee in the lowliness of my spirit; I will speak to Thee because Thou has given me much hope in strength. Do Thou, O Son of David, Who revealing Thy mystery, didst come to us in the flesh, do Thou open the secret places of my heart with the key of Thy cross, and send one of Thy Seraphim to cleanse my defiled lips (He signs his lips) with that burning coal which has been taken from Thy altar to enlighten my mind (He signs his forehead) and to furnish me with the matter for teaching (He signs himself from his forehead to his breast) so that my tongue which serves to the help of my neighbours by charity, may not resound with the misfortune of error, but ceaselessly re-echo the praise of truth."

At this point, we enter into the "seven prayers" spoken of by St. Isidore of Seville (A.D. 560–636) in De Ecclesiasticis Officiis (Book 1, ch. 15), beginning with what the Mozarabic missal calls the Missa -- which is variable according to the particular liturgical day. These might be addressed to the faithful, to God the Father, or to Christ. An example of the prayer for the feast of St. James -- which is the Mass given within the Omnium Offerentium as noted previously -- is as follows:

"O Christ whose might and power shone forth so conspicuously in Thy apostle James, that he merited to command with power in Thy name the hordes of demons cast out by him; do Thou defend Thy Church from the attacks of her enemies; so that in the might of her Spirit conquering adversity, she may indeed be rendered perfect by his teaching, whose example of holy suffering she honours today."

After the conclusion of this prayer we see another interesting feature; we see the use of the Greek "Άγιος" (Agyos or Hagios): "Hagios, hagios, hagios, Domine Rex aeterne, tibi laudes et gratias" - Holy, holy, holy, O Lord God, Eternal King, to Thee be praise and thanks. (Lest one think this is in place of the "Sanctus" as we think of it in Roman terms, it is worth noting that the Sanctus is still yet to come.)

After this one then proceeds into what Archdale King calls "a very compressed form of litany". The text is chanted.

"Let us bear in mind in our prayers the holy Catholic Church, that the Lord may mercifully deign to increase it in faith, hope and charity; let us bear in mind all the lapsed, the captives, the sick, and strangers, that the Lord may mercifully deign to look upon them, to ransom, to heal, and to strengthen them."

To which the choir responds: "Grant, O Eternal Almighty God."

Following this, a second proper prayer for the Mass of the day, the Alia oratio, is then prayed and from here we are led into the chanting of the Nomina or names:

"Through Thy mercy, O our God, in Whose sight the Names are recited of the holy apostles and martyrs, of the confessors and virgins. R. Amen.

"Offer they the oblation to the Lord God, our priests, the Roman Pontiff, and the rest, for themselves and for all the clergy, and for the peoples of the Church entrusted to them, likewise for the entire brotherhood. These also, all priests, deacons, clerics and people assisting, make the offering in honour of the saints, for themselves and for all theirs."

To which the choir responds: "They make the offering for themselves and for the entire brotherhood."

Continuing, the priest chants (and one will note here a close approximation to the Roman communicantes):

"Making commemoration of the most blessed apostles and martyrs, of the glorious holy Virgin Mary, of Zacharias, John [the Baptist], the Infants [the Holy Innocents], Peter, Paul, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, Simon and Jude, Matthias, Mark and Luke."

(The choir responds:)

"And of all martyrs"

(The priest continues chanting:)

"Likewise for the souls of them that are at rest: Hilary, Athanasius, Martin, Ambrose, Augustine, Fulgentius, Leander, Isidore, David, Julian, also Julian of Peter, also Peter, John, Servideus, Visitanus, Vivens, Felix, Cyprian, Vincent, Gerontius, Zacharias, Coenapolus, Dominic, Justus, Saturninus, Salvatus, also Salvatus, Bernard, Raymond, John, Celebrunus, Gundisalvus, Martin, Roderic, John, Guterrius, Sanctius, also Sanctius, Dominic, Julian, also Julian, Philip, Stephen, John, also John, Felix."

(The choir responds:)

"And of all them that are at rest."

Archdale King comments that the Mozarabic "diptychs are divided into classes: (1) the saints of the Old and New Testaments; (2) the names of bishops of the Church, as well as priests and clerics; (3) the names of certain bishops of other Churches renowned for their holiness or doctrine; (4) the dead for whom the holy Sacrifice was being offered... The choir respond Et omnium pausantium at the conclusion of the diptychs, as we find in the Celtic missal of Stowe." (Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, p. 597)

After this comes the Post Nomina which is again a proper prayer and thus variable dependent upon the Mass of the day.

It is at this point that the Pax comes within the Mozarabic liturgy, rather than after the consecration and prior to the communion as we see in the Roman liturgy and some other liturgical uses. The prayer which introduces the pax is likewise a variable proper it should be noted.

The rite of peace concluded, we now turn to the prayers which most immediately lead up to the consecration. 

The priest chants, "Introibo ad altare Dei mei" to which the choir responds, "Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meum." Placing his hands over the chalice he says, "Your ears to the Lord" and from here we enter into some texts which will be much more familiar to Roman ears, such as the "Sursum corda" -- though not necessarily in the same order and with some textual variations.

The Preface

This then brings us to the Preface, or as it is termed in the Mozarabic books, the Inlatio or Illatio -- yet another prayer which is also variable. Of this King notes that "the Mozarabic books offer the richest and most varied collection of prefaces, hardly a Mass without its own proper inlatio..." (Ibid., p. 604)

Here for example, is an excerpt from the text of the Inlatio for the feast of St. James: 
It is right and just that we always give thanks to Thee, Holy Lord, Eternal Father, Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, in Whose name the chosen James, when he was being dragged to his passion, cured a paralytic who called out to him, and by this miracle so softened the heart of him who mocked him, as to cause him now imbued with the sacraments of faith to arrive at the glory of martyrdom. And so he himself having perished, by having his head struck off in the confession of Thy Son, attained in peace to Him for Whom he suffered this passion...

This brings us to the Sanctus which text is similar to that of Rome, but also presents some interesting variations. Aside from the minor textual variation which includes "son of David", you will also note the inclusion, again, of the Greek: "Hagios, hagios, hagios, Kyrie O Theos." This is then followed by the Post Sanctus, which, yet again, is a variable prayer.

Our attention now turns to the Canon of the Mozarabic liturgy.

The Canon

Within the Roman liturgical books we are accustomed to the Canon of the Mass beginning with the Te igitur in which the Pope and local bishop are prayed for, followed by the Memento Domini, or commemoration of the living, the communicantes, where various saints are invoked including the twelve apostles and twelve other saints, the Hanc Igitur, Quam oblationem and finally the Qui pridie which takes us to the words of consecration. 

By comparison, in the Mozarabic liturgical books we see as follows:

Come, O come, Jesus, good high-priest, into our midst, as You were in the midst of Your disciples, and sanctify + this offering, + that we may receive hallowed things + through the hand of Your holy Angel, O holy Lord and Redeemer eternal.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night (the priest washes his fingers) on which He was betrayed, took bread, (the priest takes the host) and giving thanks, (the priest bows his head) blessed + and broke, and gave it to His disciples saying:

Receive and eat.


(The Host is elevated)

As often as you shall eat It, do this in memory + of Me. R: Amen.

In like manner the chalice also after He had supped, (the priest takes the chalice) saying:


(The chalice, covered with the pall, is elevated)

As often as you shall drink, do this in memory + of me. R: Amen.
With regard to this variation, Archdale King comments:
Qui pridie was the formula introducing the words of institution for all the Churches of Latin Christendom, Spain included, but at some unknown date an audacious change was made in the Mozarabic liturgy by the introduction of the prayer Adesto, Jesu bone and the replacing of the Qui pridie by in qua noctae, as in the Eastern liturgies." (The Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, p. 607.)

Regarding the words of consecration, King further makes the following interesting point:
Hoc est enim Corpus meum. This Roman formula of consecration is prescribed in a footnote of the [Mozarabic] missal to be said exclusively, as also the Roman formula for the chalice, although the text [of the Mozarabic missal -- see image above right] provides a different form: Hoc est Corpus meum quod pro vobis tradetur. (Ibid., p. 608)

The explanation offered for this textual discrepancy is that the older form continued to be given as a memorial to the antique usage, but in actual practice, the Roman form of consecration became the words used in practice.

The Creed

After some additional prayers following the consecration, an interesting variation can again be found. Namely, the recitation of the Creed (on Sundays and Festivals) -- which itself has some textual variances. 

In the Roman liturgical books the Creed is recited after the Gospel and homily of course, but in the Mozarabic books, it is recited now, just after the consecration. (Various sources surmise that this likely replaces an older chanted text, the confractorium.) The manner in which this is done is also interesting; the priest takes the consecrated host from the paten and places it over the uncovered chalice, elevating it so that the faithful may see, he invites the faithful to recite the Creed, which is then recited.

The Fraction

It is at this time that the Mozarabic fraction rite is performed, and of course, the fraction within the Mozarabic liturgy is surely one of its most interesting and distinctive aspects of this rite.

In the Roman rite, the host is, of course, broken in half with a third, smaller piece dropped into the chalice. In the Mozarabic liturgy, the host is broken into nine pieces in total and arranged on the paten in the form of a cross. As each particle is broken off, the priest pronounces a respective mystery from Christ's life. Proceeding from the top down on the vertical axis of the cross:

1. Corporatio (i.e. Incarnation) 2. Nativitas 3. Circumcisio 4. Apparitio (i.e. Epiphany) 5. Passio

On the horizontal axis from left to right:

6. Mors 7. Resurrectio

To which is finally added the last two particles:

8. Gloria 9. Regnum

Archdale King offers a bit of historical context for this practice:

The unique method of the fraction in which the Host is divided into nine particles, and arranged symbolically on the paten in the form of a cross, is somewhat similar to what existed in the Gallican and Celtic rites... Sometimes the particles were arranged on the paten in such a manner as to represent the human form. Such a practice was denounced by the second council of Tours (567), and it was decreed that the portions should be arranged in the form of a cross. The Irish treatise on the Mass incorporated in the Celtic missal of Stowe (end of the 8th or beginning of the 9th century) speaks of the Host as divided in seven different ways according to the day. The number of particles varied from five at ordinary Masses to sixty-five on the principle feasts of Easter, Christmas and Pentecost. They were arranged in the form of a cross, with certain additional dispositions when they were numerous. At the Communion, each particle of the cross, or of its additions, was distributed to a special group of persons, that is priests, monks, etc. In the Mozarabic rite, the priest first divides the Host in the middle, placing one half on the paten, and dividing the other into five particles which he puts also on the paten. Then the first half is divided into four particles. Each fragment so formed bears the title of a mystery in the life of our Lord, which the priest enumerates at its specific fraction... The ceremony of the fraction affords a parallel to the Byzantine proskomide, which is in fact an anticipation of the fraction of the consecrated bread.... Symbolism has suggested also that Corporatio is the first particle, as the Incarnation was the beginning of our salvation, whereas the arm of the cross is completed by Resurrectio, the mystery which consummated the Passion and Redemption. The particles Gloria and Regnum are so placed on the paten since Christ, the vanquisher of death, is seated on the right hand of the Father, and, although his kingdom is eternal, neither 'glory' nor 'kingdom' are limited to place or time. (The Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, pp. 615-617)

Pater Noster

After purifying his fingers following the fraction and the recitation of another variable prayer, the Mozarabic liturgy proceeds to the praying of the Pater Noster. Following each of the petitions the congregation would respond with "Amen." For example:

Our Father who are in Heaven. R: Amen 
Hallowed be Thy Name. R: Amen. 
Thy Kingdom come. R: Amen.

Duchesne comments that evidence exists that in earlier Mozarabic practice the priest and the faithful would have prayed the entire Pater together -- similar to the current practice of the modern Roman liturgy.


Following the "Our Father" comes a prayer which corresponds to the Nobis quoque of the Roman liturgy and the rite of commixture. At this point, the aforementioned "Regnum" particle would be dropped by the priest into the chalice, during which time the priest prays in the low voice the Sancta sanctis:

Holy things to the Holy, and may the uniting of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ be to us who eat and drink for pardon and to the faithful departed for their rest.

Some will no doubt recognize the similarity here to the Byzantine liturgy. W.C. Bishop, in The Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites, proposes that this is not a survival of an earlier liturgical form but rather a later adoption from the Byzantine liturgy. (cf. p. 42). King offers no particular comment other than to note it as an ancient Eastern formula also used in Gaul.

During Eastertide and during the Octave of Corpus Christi however, the Sancta sanctis is replaced by the following, said three times, each time with a slightly more elevated tone of voice:

The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, the root of David, alleluia.

Each time the schola responds: "You Who sits upon the Cherubim, the root of David, alleluia."

Blessing, Communion and Dismissal

Next follows the blessing and communion of the priest. The blessing is particular to each Mass in Mozarabic rite.

For the priest's communion, the priest takes the "Gloria" particle from the paten, the largest of the particles, and, having prayed a memento for the dead, consumes the Gloria particle first, and then consumes all the remaining particles in the inverse order of the fraction rite. Before doing so he prays a prayer which was found in medieval liturgies such as that of Sarum, imported by Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros from the medieval Roman missal of Toledo into the Missale Gothicum according to King:

Hail forever, most holy flesh of Christ, supreme sweetness for eternity.

Hail forever, O heavenly drink, which is sweet to me before all things and above all things.

Communion of the faithful would follow, which was always given to the faithful under both kinds.

Here followed the ablutions, the post-communion (completuria), dismissal and finally, kneeling before the middle of the altar, the Salve Regina.

This concludes this brief overview of the basic structure of the Mozarabic liturgy.

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