The Roman Rite today celebrates the Feast of the Sacred Heart, which is absent from any missal prior to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – including Sarum. However, the medieval devotion to the Five Wounds of Jesus celebrates in a similar way the sacred humanity of our Saviour.
I reproduce two excellent little articles by Fr John Hunwicke (or Deacon John Hunwicke if you’re finicky). A little searching on his blog will bring up many more treasures of medieval Catholic England.
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Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo is the beginning of the psalmus of the Introit (Officium in Sarum terminology) of the Votive Mass of the Five Wounds of Jesus. This was one of the most popular Votives used in Medieval England (“drill into it”, as the inimitable Fr Zed would say, by looking for it in the index of Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars). Here is a translation of the introduction to it in the Sarum Missal:
“S Boniface the Pope was sick even unto death; and he urgently begged of God that his life in this world be prolonged. The Lord sent to him S Raphael the Archangel with the Office of the Mass of the Five Wounds of Christ, saying to the Pope:
‘Get up and write this Office; and say it five times; and immediately you will receive your health. And whatever priest shall celebrate this Office five times for himself or another sick person, he shall receive health and grace, and in the future he will possess eternal life, if he perseveres in good. And in whatsoever tribulation a man shall be in this life, if he procures of a priest this Office to be read five times for himself, without doubt he will be set free. And if it is read for the soul of a Departed, immediately after it shall have been completely said, that is to say, five times, his soul will be loosed from pains …
‘Then Pope S Boniface confirmed the Office by Apostolic Authority, granting to all truly confessed and contrite, the seventh part of the remission of all their sins if they should have read it devoutly five times …”
It was an enormously popular Mass among both clergy and laity (particularly when the latter were making wills). It is not surprising that Master Patrick Haliburton [he was a MA of S Andrews] had these familiar words carved on his choir stall: I will sing for ever the mercies of the Lord.
But – call me an typical Enlightenment sneering sceptic if you must – I don’t entirely believe the story about S Boniface and the Archangel. I’ll tell you why soon.
The reason why I have a niggling doubt about the account of what S Raphael said to Pope S Boniface is that the Mass found in the Sarum Missal for the Five Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ seems to be more or less the same as the Mass de Passione Domini preserved from earlier in the Tridentine Roman Missal. Phrases have been added: in the Collect, after ‘descendisti‘ the words ‘et in ligno Crucis quinque plagas sustinuisti‘; and in the Postcommunion, after ‘deprecamur ut‘, the words ‘per tuae passionis et vulnerum tuorum merita‘. And there are areas of the Sarum Gradual and Sequence which are clearly textually corrupt. Therefore, obviously, Sarum’s is an adapted, secondary version of this Mass. Don’t you agree?
No? What? You want to know whether I have checked how far back the Passion Mass goes and whether I have considered the possibility that the version in the current EF Missal might be a pruned and secondary version of the Five Wounds Mass? Well … er … um … no, … er … I … um … er …, as my students used to say when, having listened to their miserable essays, I began savaging them. It is possible. The Counter-Reformation was a rather puritanical period. The Calendar in the original Missal of S Pius V is a tree even more savagely trimmed in some respects than Dr Bugnini’s. The lovely Raffael pictire of La Madonna di Foligno, a copy of which is part of the baroque superstructure of the High Altar at S Thomas’s, was ejected from the Church of Sancta Maria in Ara Coeli on the Capitoline Hilland and a dusty old medieval ikon reinstated in its place. So somebody certainly could have taken scissors to the florid old English medieval Mass. We must not assume that earlier versions are always shorter and that time brings accretion: that is one of the most egregiously erroneous assumptions of twentieth century NT textual criticism, as my old and beloved mentor, the greatest of all textual critics, George ‘Eclectic’ Kilpatrick, formerly Dean Ireland’s Professor in this University, used to love demonstrating.
So, no rash assumptions. If anybody likes to do the necessary research, I’m very willing to eat my biretta and concede that the Archangel Raphael did indeed give all those mathematically precise instructions to Pope S Boniface … oh, and you might as well, while you’re about it, suss out which Boniface that was.
But while you’re busy with that, I’ll start drafting the next post on the history of this Mass and devotion.