Missa Cantata

Missa Cantata

[mis-uh kuhn-tah-tuh]
Missa Cantata (Latin for "sung Mass") is a Tridentine Mass "in which the liturgical parts are sung as in the High Mass, but which is ceremonially less elaborate" (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000); "a Mass whose music is equivalent to that of the High Mass but that is less elaborate in its celebration. Also called sung Mass" (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 1997); "Usually a Low Mass with the choir singing the Proper" (New Catholic Dictionary).

The Ceremonial for the Use of the Catholic Churches in the United States of America (commonly called the "Baltimore Ceremonial") published upon the request of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, calls it "High Mass without Deacon or Sub-Deacon" (page 67); but see Solemn Mass for the usual meaning of "High Mass".

The article "Liturgy of the Mass" in the Catholic Encyclopedia says: "A sung Mass (missa Cantata) is a modern compromise" (between a High Mass and a Low Mass). "It is really a low Mass, since the essence of high Mass is not the music but the deacon and subdeacon."

Since Solemn or High Mass is also sung, the Latin term Missa Cantata is here used in preference to the term Sung Mass, which is often employed with the same meaning.


The Missa Cantata came into use during the 1700s and was intended for use in non-Catholic countries where the services of a deacon or a subdeacon (or clergy to fill these parts in the ceremony of the Mass) were not easily had. It was intended to be used in place of High Mass on Sundays and major feast days.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 ed.) states: "Only in churches which have no ordained person except one priest, and in which high Mass is thus impossible, is it allowed to celebrate the Mass (on Sundays and feasts) with most of the adornment borrowed from high Mass, with singing and (generally) with incense. The Sacred Congregation of Rites has on several occasions (9 June, 1884; 7 December, 1888) forbidden the use of incense at a Missa Cantata; nevertheless, exceptions have been made for several dioceses, and the custom of using it is now generally tolerated.

A Missa Cantata may thus be celebrated with or without incense, and with or without a preceding Asperges ceremony, which is allowed on Sundays only.

The parts sung by the priest are to be sung in Gregorian chant. More elaborate musical settings of the choir's parts may also be used. The German-speaking countries developed a version known as the Deutsche Singmesse. But the Society of St. Pius X holds that "the singing of vernacular hymns at a Sung Mass or Missa Cantata is manifestly an abuse that can only be tolerated when backed up by a long standing custom that has lasted for over a century.

Four candles, not two as at an ordinary Low Mass nor six as at a High Mass, are to be lit at a Missa Cantata.

Current situation

The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as revised in 1970, allows parts of the Mass to be sung on all occasions, and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 147 even states: "It is very appropriate that the priest sing those parts of the Eucharistic Prayer for which musical notation is provided." But the hard-and-fast distinctions between sung and merely spoken Low Mass, and between Low Mass and High Mass, are still observed wherever the Tridentine Mass is celebrated in accordance either with the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, as approved by the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, or an earlier edition.

The "Missa Cantata" form of Mass, or something like it, is also in use in some traditional-minded Anglo-Catholic churches in the Anglican Communion and the Continuing Anglican bodies, in Western Rite Orthodoxy, and some groups of Old Catholics.


External links


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