Missa Cantata

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Missa Cantata (Latin for "sung Mass" ) is a form of Tridentine Mass defined officially in 1960 as a sung Mass celebrated without sacred ministers, i.e., deacon and subdeacon.[1]

Other names in pre-1960 sources:

  1. Missa cantata sine Ministris (Sung/Chanted Mass without the Ministers) – documents of the Holy See such as the Decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites of 14 March 1906
  2. High Mass without Deacon or Sub-DeaconCeremonial for the Use of the Catholic Churches in the United States of America (commonly called the "Baltimore Ceremonial" because published by request of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1884), page 67.

While the Baltimore Ceremonial thus classified the Missa Cantata as a High Mass, Adrian Fortescue wrote in his 1910 article "Liturgy of the Mass" in the Catholic Encyclopedia, that a Missa Cantata "is really a low Mass, since the essence of high Mass is not the music but the deacon and subdeacon."

Pope John XXIII's Code of Rubrics, 271 gave the following definition of the forms of Mass in 1960:

Masses are of two kinds: sung Masses (in cantu) and low Masses (Missa lecta)).
A Mass is called a sung Mass, when the celebrant actually sings those parts which the rubrics require to be sung; otherwise it is called a low Mass.
Moreover, a sung Mass, when celebrated with the assistance of sacred ministers, is called a solemn or High Mass (Missa solemnis); when celebrated without sacred ministers, it is called a Missa cantata.[2]


The Missa Cantata came into use during the 18th century 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 Solemn Mass on Sundays and major feast days.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 ed.) stated: "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."[3]

Any remaining doubt about the full legitimacy of using incense at a Missa Cantata was cleared up by the 1960 Code of Rubrics, which stated: "The incensations that are obligatory in Solemn Mass are permitted in every Missa Cantata".[4]

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.

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.[5]

Current situation[edit]

The Roman Rite of Mass, as revised in 1970, now 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." The revision thus abolished the hard-and-fast distinction between Missa Cantata and Low Mass, but the distinction is still maintained in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal,[2] whose use as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is authorized in accordance with the conditions indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

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.


  1. ^ "Missa in cantu ... si celebratur absque ministris sacris, vocatur Missa cantata (1960 Code of Rubrics, 271) - "A sung Mass ... when celebrated without sacred ministers, is called a Missa cantata" (translation by Rev. Patrick L. Murphy).
  2. ^ a b Missarum species duae sunt: Missa in cantu et Missa lecta. Missa dicitur in cantu, si sacerdos celebrans partes ab ipso iuxta rubricas cantandas revera cantu profert: secus dicitur lecta. Missa in cantu porro, si celebratur cum assistentia ministrorum sacrorum, appellatur Missa solemnis: si celebratur absque ministris sacris, vocatur Missa cantata" (original text in Latin; English translation by Rev. Patrick L. Murphy).
  3. ^ article Liturgy of the Mass in Catholic Encyclopedia
  4. ^ "Incensationes quae in Missa solemni fieri debent, fieri possunt etiam in omnibus Missis cantatis" (Code of Rubrics, 426)
  5. ^ article Candles in Catholic Encyclopedia

External links[edit]