THE DOMINICAN LITURGY
On Preparation of the Chalice before Mass
The preparation of the chalice before mass is a distinctive feature of the
Dominican Rite, which it shares with Eastern Catholic liturgies and a number of
mediaeval rites, including the usage of Sarum. Features like this one have
fed the controversy about the origin of the rite. (See
Eight Theories about the origin of the Dominican Liturgy).
Fr Bonniwell, in his 'A History of the Dominican Liturgy', published in 1944,
was keen to refute the claim that this preparation of the chalice at the start
of mass proved that the rite had a Parisian origin:
"In the Mass, the first variation is that the Dominicans wear the amice over the
head while they approach the altar, whereas the secular priest wears a biretta.
But this use of the amice was the Roman custom from about the ninth century,
whereas the substitution of a biretta (at least for ordinary priests) dates only
from the sixteenth century. At the very outset of the Mass, then, we have an
example of what often appears in the detailed comparative study of the two
rites. A comparison between the Dominican rite and the present Roman Rite
frequently reveals the Friars Preachers adhering to an old Roman custom which
the Church of Rome has abandoned.
"In the ancient Latin Church, the chalice was prepared with the wine and water
at the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful. When catechumens ceased to be
dismissed and the Missa Catechumenorum became merged with the Missa Fidelium, at
least as far as the people were concerned, a number of churches outside of Rome
logically transferred the preparation of the chalice to the beginning of the
whole Mass, as is done in the Eastern liturgies. This practice spread far and
wide, so that by the twelfth century it was greatly used throughout Europe by
both seculars and regulars. Among the Religious Orders which followed the custom
may be mentioned the monks of Cluny, the Carthusians, the Cistercians, the
Carmelites, the Premonstratensians, the Augustinian Canons of Marbach, the
German Benedictines, the Benedictines of Bec, Hirschau, Westminster, Ainey, etc.
But numerous as were the religious who "made" the chalice at the beginning or in
the early part of the Mass, the number of secular priests who followed the
practice was even greater. The rubrics prescribed it in the Celtic rite, in the
Sarum rite, in many places in Germany, France, and Spain. Even in Italy, it was
done in Sicily and in the archdiocese of Milan. To speak, then, of so universal
a practice as "distinctive of the Church of Paris" is utterly inaccurate.
"No less erroneous is the often-repeated statement that in the preparation of
the chalice the Dominicans followed the custom of Paris. The rite of that Church
prescribed the following:
"The priest first puts on the rochet, saying: Actiones nostras, etc. Next, he
washes his hands, saying: Amplius lava me, etc. Then, having uncovered and
prepared the altar, he places the host on the paten and puts wine and water in
the chalice, saying: De latere Domini, etc. Then he takes the amice, etc."
"No such rubric is found in any Dominican text. On the other hand, Humbert
directs that the making of the chalice was not to take place until the priest
reached the altar, fully vested and ready to begin the Mass. Instead, therefore,
of being misled by a group of French writers who naturally emphasize the
importance of their national capital, we would do well to remember that both in
the Diocese of Palencia (where Dominic took his university course and where he
was ordained), as well as in the Diocese of Osma (where he lived as a Canon
Regular), the wine and water were taken at the beginning of Mass. These facts
alone would have been sufficient reason for the Order to adopt the practice out
of reverence towards its Founder.
From 'A History of the Dominican Liturgy' by Fr. Bonniwell.
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