By the high middle ages the mass (as it had come to be known) had become an ornate and complex service. There had been additions and accretions and at the principal service of the day, there was an elaborate ceremonial involving priest, deacon, subdeacon, master of ceremonies, thurifers, torchbearers, and acolytes. Everything seemed to conspire to remove the Eucharist further and further from the people.
When in the fourth century churches were built the altar or holy table had been placed at the chord of the apse (where the free-standing altar is today) and the celebrant continued to sit or stand behind it. With increasingly large congregations he would need to stand in order to be seen and heard. In the eighth or ninth century the altar was often moved to the east wall of the church requiring the celebrant to stand facing it with his back to the congregation. The service was in Latin so that most of the people and many of the clergy were unable to understand it. The more knowledgeable among the laity devised their own devotions, the others indulged in fancies and superstitions. There no seats and the people stood throughout. There would be no robed choir or congregational hymns: these were nineteenth century innovations.
People were expected to make their communion fasting and because the High Mass occurred relatively late in the morning (and because many were not confirmed) the custom developed of non-communicating attendance. In the twelfth century people were offered only the bread (communion in one kind) for fear of accident with the chalice.
The First Censing of the Altar
* The Celebrant blesses incense saying: Be thou bles(+)sed by him in whose honour thou shalt be burnt. Amen. After receiving the thurible from the Deacon, he censes the Altar, saying nothing. Then the Deacon takes the censer from the Celebrant, and censes him only.
Almighty God, who sent your servant John the Baptist to prepare your people to welcome the Messiah, inspire us the ministers and stewards of your truth, to turn our disobedient hearts to you, that when Christ shall come again to be our judge, we may stand with confidence before his glory; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
* The Deacon places the book of the Gospels on the Altar in the middle, and the Celebrant blesses the incense as before: then the Deacon, kneeling before the Altar says: Cleanse my heart and my lips, O almighty God, who didst cleanse the lips of the prophet Isaiah with a live coal; so of thy gracious mercy vouchsafe to cleanse me, that I may worthily proclaim thy holy Gospel. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
* Then he receives the book from the Altar, and again kneeling asks a blessing from the Priest, saying, Sir, Bid a blessing.
Priest. The Lord be in thy heart and on thy lips: that thou mayest worthily and fitly proclaim his Gospel: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, (+) and of the Holy Ghost. Amen
* After having received the blessing, he kisses the hand of the Celebrant:
and going with the other Ministers, the incense and the lights, to the place where the Gospel is read, he stands with joined hands, and says:
* Announcing, The Holy Gospel according to Matthew he signs the book with the thumb of his right hand at the beginning of the gospel which he is to read, then himself on the forehead, on the mouth, and on the breast: while the Ministers respond:
After the Gospel the Subdeacon carries the book to the Priest, who kisses the book, saying: Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out. Then the Priest is censed by the Deacon.
I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible, And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. Begotten of the Father before all worlds. God of God. Light of Light. Very God of Very God. Begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven. (Here genuflect) And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary: And was made man. And was crucified also for us: under Pontius Pilate, he suffered and was buried. And the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven: and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead: whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life: who proceedeth from the Father and the Son. Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified: who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy catholick and apostolick Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead. And the life (+) of the world to come. Amen.
Priest. The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart; his judgements are sweeter than honey and the honey-comb: moreover, thy servant keepeth them.
* The deacon presents the Paten with the Host to the Celebrant which he offers, saying:
Receive, O Holy Father, almighty everlasting God, this spotless host, which I, thine unworthy servant, offer unto thee, my living and true God, for my numberless sins, offences, and negligences, and for all who stand around, as also for all faithful christians, both living and departed: that to me and to them it may avail for salvation unto life eternal. Amen.
* The deacon then pours wine, and the subdeacon water, into the Chalice, after which the Priest says:
O God, who didst wonderfully create, and yet more wonderfully renew the dignity of man's nature: grant that by the mystery of this water and wine we may be made partakers of his divinity, who vouchsafed to share out humanity, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord: Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: throughout all ages world without end. Amen.
* As the deacon stands with the thurible, the Priest says: Through the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, standing at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all his elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bl(+)ess this incense, and to receive it for a sweet-smelling savour. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
* Receiving the thurible from the Deacon the Priest censes the oblations,
saying: May this incense, which thou hast blessed, ascend unto thee, O Lord: and let thy mercy descend upon us.
Let my prayer, O Lord, be set forth in thy sight as the incense: and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips: O let not mine heart be inclined to any evil thing, let me not be occupied in ungodly works.
The Lord kindle in us the fire of his love, and the flame of everlasting harity. Amen.
* The Priest is then censed by the deacon who then censes the others in order.
* The Priest washes his hands, saying: I will wash my hands in innocency, O Lord; and so will I go to thine altar: That I may show the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
* The Priest then kisses the altar, turns to the people, extends his hands, and says:
People: May the Lord receive this sacrifice at your hands, to the praise and glory of his name, both to our benefit and that of all his holy Church. may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty.
We beseech thee, O Lord, that this oblation may cleanse us from our sins: and sanctify thy servants both in body and mind for the celebration of this sacrifice throughout all ages world without end. Amen.
Priest. It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places gives thanks unto thee: O Lord holy Father almighty, everlasting God: Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the cvompanym of heaven we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee and saying:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Therefore, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, we humbly pray and beseech thee (he kisses the Altar and with hands joined before his breast, continues) that thou accept and bless these (+) gifts, these (+) offerings, these (+) holy and unspotted sacrifices. (Extending his hands, he proceeds) which, first, we offer unto thee for thy holy catholic Church: that thou vouchsafe to keep it in peace, to guard, unite and govern it throughout the whole world: together with thy servant our Chief Bishop, our Bishop ..., and all the orthodox, and those who profess the catholic and apostolic faith.
Remember, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids ... and all who stand around, whose faith and devotion unto thee are known and manifest, for whom we offer unto thee: or whom themselves offer unto thee this sacrifice of praise, for themselves,and for all to whom they are bound: for the redemption of their souls, for the hope of their salvation and safety: and who render their vows unto thee, the eternal, living and true God.
Joining in communion and venerating the memory, first of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ: as also of thy blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddeus: ... and of all thy Saints; by whose merits and prayers grant, that in all things we may be defended with the help of thy protection. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This oblation, therefore, of our bounden service, as also of thy family, we beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to accept: and order our days in thy peace, and bid us to be delivered from eternal damnation, and to be numbered in the flock of thine elect. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Which oblation do thou, O God, we beseech thee, vouchsafe in all things to make bles(+)sed, appro(+)ved, rati(+)fied, reasonable and acceptable: that unto us it may become the Bo(+)dy, and Blo(+)od of thy most dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who the day before he suffered, took bread into his holy and venerable hands, and lifting up his eyes to heaven to thee, God, his heavenly Father, giving thanks to thee (he signs over the host) he blessed, brake and gave to the disciples saying: Take and eat ye all of this, For this is my Body.
Likewise after supper, taking also this excellent Chalice into his holy and venerable hands: also giving thanks to thee, be bles(+)sed, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and drink ye all of it. For this is the Chalice of my Blood, of the new and eternal testament: the mystery of faith: which shall be shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. As oft as ye do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of me.
Wherefore, O Lord, we also thy servants, together with thy holy people, mindful of the blessed passion of the same Christ our Lord, as also his resurrection from hell and glorious ascension into heaven: do offer unto thine excellent majesty of thine own gifts and bounty, a pure (+) host, a holy (+) host, a spotless (+) host: the holy (+) Bread of eternal life: and the Chalice (+) of everlasting salvation.
We humbly beseech thee, almighty God: command thou these to be brought by the hands of thy holy Angel to thine altar on high, in the presence of thy divine majesty: that, as many of us (he kisses the altar) as by this partaking of the altar shall receive the most sacred B(+)dy and Blo(+)od of thy Son, (he signs himself) may be fulfilled with all heavenly benediction and grace. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Remember also, O Lord thy servants and handmaids N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace.
To them, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, we beseech thee to grant a place of refreshing, light and peace. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.
To us sinners also, thy servants, trusting in the multitude of thy mercies, vouchsafe to grant some part and fellowship with thy holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, ... and with all thy Saints: within whose fellowship we beseech thee admit us, not weighing our merit, but granting us forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord.
By whom, O Lord, all these good things thou dost ever create; dost sanc(+)tify, quick(+)en, ble(+)ss, and bestow upon us. Through (+) him, and with (+) him, and in (+) him, is unto thee God the Father (+) Almighty, in the unity (+) of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory. Throughout all ages world without end. Amen.
Commanded by saving precepts, and taught by divine institution, we are bold to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven: Hallowed be thy name: Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.
* The priest says secretly: Deliver us, O Lord, from all evil, and (+) grant peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us fromall anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
* The priest takes the host, holds it over the chalice, breaks it in the middle, and from one half breaks a particle which he drops into the chalice with the words:
May this commixture and consecration of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be to us who receive it unto everlasting life. Amen.
* The priest says secretly: O Lord Jesu Christ, who saidst to thine Apostles: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: regard not my sins but the faith of thy Church; and vouchsafe to grant her peace and unity according to thy will: Who livest and reignest God, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
* The priest says secretly: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.
Receiving the host, he says: The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto everlasting life. Amen
What reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me ? I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will call upon the Lord which is worthy to be praised, so shall I be safe from mine enemies.
Receiving the chalice he says: The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto everlasting life. Amen.
Grant, O Lord, that what we have taken with our mouths we may receive with a pure heart: and from a temporal gift may it become to us an everlasting remedy.
Let thy Body, O Lord, which I have taken, and thy Blood which I have drunk, cleave to my members: and grant; that no stain of sin may remain in me, whom though hast refreshed with pure and holy sacraments: Who livest and reignest world without end.
In a medieval high mass there would have been no communion of the people.
The communion of the people will follow here.
Music at the Communion: such as Ave verum corpus - Plainsong
Priest. The Lord be with you. People. And with thy spirit.
Priest. Let us bless the Lord. People. Thanks be to God.
+ The Beginning of the holy Gospel according to John
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made: in him was life, and the life was the light of men: and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (He genuflects) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we beheld his glory, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grave and truth. Thanks be to God.