Saturday, September 13, 2014

Officium Missæ

The Carthusian Order has kept a liturgical prayer custom that dates back to the Middle Ages. The Carthusians call it Officium Missæ or the Office of the Mass. It has also been referred to as Missa Sicca or the Dry Mass, although today these titles are certainly not household terms. This form of liturgical prayer may seem a bit unusual for modern day thought.

It basically consists of the Proper and Ordinary texts from the Mass, without the Consecration, prayed similar to the Divine Office. The Missa Sicca is covered in Archdale A. King’s “Liturgies of the Religious Orders”.

For the Carthusians, however, the Office of the Mass is taken from the Common Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is usually the Salve, Sancta Parens except for the Season of Advent when it is Rorate Cæli.

Today in the Charterhouse, the monks pray the Divine Office and the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary daily as well as the Office for the Dead once a week. Praying Officium Missæ is optional but for the monks who still use this prayer, it usually follows Prime of Our Lady or Terce of Our Lady and is prayed in the solitude of the monk’s cell.

In our modern day spiritual journeys, it could be an edifying practice to read and meditate upon the texts of the daily Mass, perhaps even as lectio divina, especially if one is unable to attend daily Mass.

In the Carthusian tradition there’s a story that goes like this:
At the instigation doubtless of the devil, certain Houses of the Order were once assailed with such numerous temptations that the religious discipline became burdensome to the monks. The Divine Office, prayer, meditation, the observance of fasting and abstinence, awakened in them nothing but repugnance. From every heart there arose to almighty God a loud cry, together with pleadings and tears, begging Him to free them from their persecutor. Whereupon God sent an angel who addressed these words to a Father of exemplar piety: “The Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, will take pity on you, if in addition to the Hours you recite daily in her honor, you are willing to say between Prime and Terce of the Office of the Blessed Virgin, the dry Mass Salve, Sancta Parens, and to celebrate each day a Mass to her glory.” As soon as this was known, everyone was delighted to accept the condition; and from that day the Carthusian Order has always been helped by the prayers of the Mother of God (Le Couteulx: Annales Vol. IV).