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Carthusian Rite


This entry traces the origins and history of the Carthusian Rite and its unique characteristics in Mass and Office. It seems certain that the predominant and exclusive influence in the formation of the Carthusian liturgy was the rite of the primatial See of Lyons, of which Grenoble was a suffragan. This is true of the Mass and very largely of the Office, though for the latter the order of psalmody (which governs the form of the Hours) laid down by the Rule of St. Benedict was adopted; for the other variable parts of the Office, the Antiphonary of Lyons was drawn upon.

There is considerable evidence for these assertions. One of the earliest Carthusian liturgical manuscripts (MS 33 at St. Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster, England) shows that the octave day of Pentecost was celebrated with the Mass of the feast, so that the series of Masses for the Sundays after Pentecost are one behind the corresponding series in the Roman rite; the last of the series is Si iniquitates instead of Dicit Dominus. This, the versicle Pone, Domine, custodiam ori meo, said before the Confiteor at Mass, and the prayer at the mixing of the wine and water (De latere, etc.) are all features common to the early Carthusian liturgy and to that of Lyons. Similar influences may be seen in the Antiphonary. Guigo I, the fifth prior of Chartreuse, who compiled both books, followed the principle advocated by Agobard, archbishop of Lyons (d. 840), that only Scripture and sermons from the Fathers could be used at the Office or Mass. As a consequence "ecclesiastical compositions" were excluded from the rite: Mass for the dead had as Introit Respice instead of Requiem, and many well-known pieces found no place. Although at a later date some nonscriptural matter found its way into the Missal and Office, the Carthusians were conservative in this matter; there were no "historical" second nocturn lessons in the Carthusian Office. Hymns were allowed in the Office, though at Lyons there were none until a late date. Guigo's work is to be found in the Consuetudines Cartusiae; his successors coordinated successive enactments of general chapters in a collection known as Statuta Antiqua (c. 1222), which remained in force until 1582, when a reform of the rite produced the Ordinarium. However, little real change was effected in the rite. From the Council of Trent to Vatican II the Carthusian Rite was largely as it was codified by Guigo.

Mass. The celebrant of a high Mass was attended by a deacon (there is no subdeacon). Mass began below the step at the Gospel side, where the celebrant sang the versicle Pone, Domine, etc., to which the choir responded, and the Confiteor follows (a short form). Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria were recited by the celebrant while they are sung by the choir; after the Collect he went to his seat at the Epistle side and listened to the Epistle sung by a monk from the choir; meanwhile the deacon prepared the offerings. Immediately after the Gospel (or Credo), the celebrant washed his hands and received the paten and chalice from the deacon. As the drop of water is poured into the chalice, the celebrant said De latere Domini nostri Jesu Christi exivit sanguis et aqua, in nomine Patris, etc. Paten and chalice were offered simultaneously with the prayer In spiritu humilitatis. The priest then washed his hands again. Meanwhile the deacon incensed the altar, walking around it, swinging the thurible at the full length of its chains. During the Canon the celebrant held out his arms in the form of a cross, unless some manual act was necessary. The kiss of peace was given with an instrument. The deacon communicated with the priest on Sundays and certain feasts. Having drunk the ablutions, the celebrant left the chalice for the deacon to purify and went to the Epistle corner to sing the Complendae (Postcommunions). There was no blessing or Placeat. The blessing of candles, ashes, and palms takes place after the preparatory prayers at the foot of the altar, but the Carthusians had no liturgical processions.

Office. The Carthusian Office followed the general pattern of the monastic Breviary, but the lessons at Matins were very long compared to those of other monastic

orders (e.g., two or three chapters of a book of Scripture comprised the three lessons of a ferial night). All the day Hours concluded with long ferial preces before the Collect. The Carthusian Breviary, used only by those unable to go to choir, contained short lessons on the pattern of the modern Roman Breviary. Simplicity and sobriety are the chief characteristics of the historical Carthusian liturgy.

Bibliography: a. a. king, Liturgies of the Religious Orders (Milwaukee, Wisc. 1955). l. c. sheppard, The Mass in the West (New York 1962); "How the Carthusians Pray," Thought 4 (1929) 294311. j.-b. martin, Bibliographie liturgique de l'ordre des Chartreux (Ligugé, Austria 1913). j. hogg, Mittelalterliche Caerimonialia der Kartäuser (Berlin 1971). h. becker, Die Kartause: liturgisches Erbe und konziliare Reform: Untersuchungen und Dokumente (Salzburg 1990). e. cluzet, Particularités du missel cartusien: contribution à l'étude des origines du missel cartusien (Salzburg 1994). a. devaux, Les origines du missel des chartreux (Salzburg 1995). e. cluzet, Sources et genèse du missel cartusien (Salzburg 1996).

[l. c. sheppard/eds.]

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