The term Roman Rite, sometimes mistakenly called the Rite of St. Peter, is here taken to mean the entire complex of liturgical prayers and practices in the Mass, Office, and Sacraments, etc., which originated in, or were adopted by, the Diocese of Rome and later imposed on almost the entire (Western) Church. Here are discussed its history, its chief characteristics, and its main variants.
History. The beginnings of the Roman Rite in Latin from the Greek are obscure. Many scholars have questioned
the long-held assumptions about the date, origins, and authorship of the Apostolic Tradition, a church order that was traditionally associated with the Church of Rome by virtue of its supposed author, hippolytus of Rome. The earliest extant manuscript evidence suggests that around 270 (parallel to the same occurence in northern Africa) the Greek liturgy of the Roman Rite was gradually translated into Latin.
One characteristic feature of the ancient Roman Rite was its solemn prayers—a series of prayers, each beginning with a bidding by priest or bishop, followed by silent prayer and ending with a concluding collect by the priest or bishop. Geoffrey Willis and Paul De Clerck have suggested that the biddings are older than the collects. During the season of Lent, the deacon would instruct the faithful to kneel (flectamus genua ) for silent prayer, and rise (levate ) for the concluding collect. The solemn prayers fell into disuse and survive only on Good Friday.
Another feature of the early Roman Rite was the litany known as the Deprecatio Gelasii, traditionally attributed to Pope gelasius (492–6). The Litanies are very similar to those in the Divine Liturgy of the Christian East, with the bidding of the deacon and the assembly's responding "Lord have mercy" (Kyrie eleison ). Over time, the Litanies disappeared. While older scholarship thought that the Litanies were abbreviated into the kyrie eleison we know of today, many scholars now hold that they were simply dropped in favor of processional litanies.
The reforms carried out by several popes affected especially the prayer formulae, rituals, and chants. Under the Oriental influence of successive Eastern popes (from c. 640 to c. 750) certain texts (e.g., the Agnus Dei, inserted into the Roman Rite by Pope Sergius I, which was originally a Confractorium ) and certain feasts (e.g., the Annunciation, "Dormition," and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin) were introduced.
The Ordo Romanus Primus gives us a detailed description of an 8th century papal mass at a stational church. By this time, the Solemn Prayers and the Deprecatio Gelasii had long disappeared. What was once a simple eucharist has evolved into an ornate and elaborate ritual complete with processions from the papal palace to the stational church.
Sometime after 754 the Roman Rite was officially introduced into Franco-German areas by the Carolingian monarchs, replacing the gallican rites. The Roman Rite succeeded in supplanting the liturgical forms of the old Frankish empire, not by abolishing them, but by assimilating them. Both Pepin (d. 768) and Charlemagne (d. 814) authoritatively introduced the liturgy of Rome into their realms; Alcuin, and later Amalarius, combined old Gallican elements with the Roman usage, thus achieving a new form which was practicable outside the city of the popes. It was this Gallicanized liturgy, embellished with new forms, that returned to Rome from the Rhineland (Cologne and Mainz) around 950. Important in this connection were the Germanic emperors and popes who brought back with them the Frankish Ordinals and especially the Romano-Germanic Pontifical of Mainz. After the year 1000 the smelting process began in Rome itself, especially under Gregory VII and Innocent III, who had service books made for the Roman Curia. These were used in turn by the Franciscans, who introduced them far and wide.
Between 1568 and 1614, Rome, at the behest of the Council of trent, created a uniform liturgy for almost the whole Latin Church, based principally on the Roman Curial books, themselves a mixture of Roman and Franco-Germanic elements. The books issued were the Roman Breviary (1568), Missal (1570), Pontifical (1598), Ceremonial of Bishops (1600), and Ritual (1614).
On Dec. 4, 1963, at the end of the second session of Vatican Council II, Paul VI approved and promulgated the conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and implemented it with a special motu proprio on Jan. 25, 1964. The conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy crowned the reform work of the 20th-century popes beginning with Pius X, who gave the liturgical movement a decidedly pastoral orientation. The document contained not only many well-ordered pastoral admonitions, but pointed decrees for reform, the most important of which had to do with the translation of the Roman Rite into the vernacular, and adaptations to the genius of the diverse cultures throughout the world.
Though originally local in character and circumscribed in use, the Roman Rite became the most widespread in Christendom. It is found almost universally in western Europe and in every country evangelized by western Europe, including those that have native European liturgies.
Although the beginnings of a distinctly Roman liturgy are dim and uncertain, it seems to be an entirely native growth, though it was undoubtedly influenced by outside forces, particularly in its later development. No one any longer takes seriously the numerous conjectures of 19th-and early 20th-century scholars. The Roman Rite bears clear marks of its local origin: the Missal indicates the Roman stations, and the Canon of the Mass honors the Roman martyrs with special solemnity.
Chief Characteristics. The traits of the present Roman Rite are many and varied. But the sober, not to say somber, earnestness of the ancient Roman liturgy, with its clear, compact, and controlled style, is in strong contrast to the dramatic exuberance and prolixity of the Gallican liturgies and the poetry and volubility of the Oriental. However, the present Roman liturgical books contain an admixture of other styles, indicative of their long and complicated history. In fact, the Roman form was really incomplete as far as the development of many of the Sacraments and sacramentals was concerned, and the work of completion and enrichment was done in the Frankish realms and drawn from many sources, native and foreign.
Variants. The centuries before the Council of Trent were times of great liturgical diversification even within the framework of the Roman Rite. During the Middle Ages the rite developed a vast number of derived uses which were, for the most part, abolished by St. Pius V, in the bull Quo primum, July 14, 1570. Many dioceses and religious orders that had developed their own variants of the Romano-Frankish liturgy took advantage of a stipulation in the document Quo primum. Only Braga, Lyons, the carmelites, carthusians, cistercians, dominicans, and premonstratensians have retained remnants of their own rite until the liturgical renewal of Vatican Council II.
See Also: bragan rite; lyonese rite; sarum use; carmelite rite; carthusian rite; cistercian rite; dominican rite; premonstratensian rite.
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[f. a. brunner/eds.]