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Mozarabic Rite

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The Mozarabic, Visigothic, or Hispanic Rite is a form of Catholic worship within the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, and in the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (Anglican). Its beginning dates to the 7th century, and is localized in Spain and Portugal (the Roman Hispania). Mozarab is the term for the Christian population living under Muslim rulers in Al-Andalus.

Formation of early Catholic rites

Ritual worship surrounding the Eucharist in the early Church was not scripted with precise rubrics as is the norm today. One of the earliest known documents setting down the nature of Eucharistic celebration is the Didache, dating from 70–140 (see historical roots of Catholic Eucharistic theology). Few details are known of early forms of the liturgy, or worship, in the first three centuries, but there was some diversity of practice; Justin Martyr, however gave one example of the early Christian Liturgy in one of his apologies. As Christianity gained dominance in the wake of the conversion of Constantine I early in the fourth century, there was a period of liturgical development as the communities emerged from smaller gatherings to large assemblies in public halls and new churches. This time of development saw the combination of embellishment of existing practices with the exchange of ideas and practices from other communities. These mutual processes resulted both in greater diversity and in certain unifying factors within the liturgy from the merging of forms throughout major cities and regions. The liturgies of the patriarchal cities in particular had greater influence on their regions so that by the 5th century it becomes possible to distinguish among several families of liturgies, in particular the Jerusalem, Alexandrian, Antiochene, Byzantine, and Syrian families in the East, and in the Latin West, the African (completely lost), Gallican, Celtic, Ambrosian, Roman, and Hispanic (Mozarabic) families. These settled into fairly stable forms that continued to evolve, but none without some influence from outside. In the West, however, the liturgy in Roman Africa was lost as the Church there was weakened by internal division and then the Vandal invasion, and then was extinguished in the wake of the Islamic ascendancy. In Gaul, the fascination of the Franks with Roman liturgy led them to begin adopting the Roman Rite, a process that was confirmed and promoted by Charlemagne as an aid to imperial unity.

Visigoths in Hispania

The Arian Visigoths were driven from France and came south, converting to Catholicism around 587. The Catholic liturgical practice in Iberia prior to the Visigoths (and the Muslims) is termed "Old Hispanic", and inaccurately is often called Mozarabic. There was a liturgical tradition in Hispania prior to the arrival of the Visigoths as evidenced by the fact that it lacks Arian influence. This liturgy reached its point of greatest development in the 7th century, and is found partly in the Verona Orationale, taken to Italy for safekeeping after the invasion of Muslims (below). Terminological confusion regarding the liturgical development in this area is common, and most names proposed bear a degree of inaccuracy; hence qualifications are the norm in the discussion of this history. The most precise use of the term "Mozarabic rite" is for that liturgy followed by the inhabitants of former visigothic Hispania who submitted to Islamic rule and their descendants. St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636), who was influential at the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, according to the wishes of that Council, gave the Hispanic rite its final form before the invasion of the Muslims.

Muslims in Hispania

A crisis within Visigoth rule facilitated the Muslim invasion; shortly after 711 only a remnant of Iberia was left outside of Muslim control. The term "Mozarabic", in early centuries having more diverse spellings, comes from Arabic for "Arabized".

As is generally the case with Islamic rule the Christians were made dhimmis and therefore became subjects of an Islamic ruled state. Islamic rule is normally more systematic than Christianity when it comes to its treatment of non-believers. This system kept Christians in an inferior political and financial position. This was true of the Umayyad emirate which enforced the Qur'anic rules obliging dhimmis to pay the jizya and killing those who defamed Muhammad or reverted to Christianity after converting to Islam. However, in practice the Muslim authorities generally tolerated fanatical Christians who routinely defamed Muhammad or Islam because they were seeking martyrdom. The authorities viewed them as being insane.

This tolerance began to erode after the rule of the Umayyad emirate ended and al-Andalus devolved into small local kingdoms. The change started with the conquest of the Almoravides in the 11th century. The Almoravides deemed the previous Muslims to be too willing to work with Christians and persecution increased. Under the even stauncher Almohads the position of Christians declined further and Iberia became a much more violent place for Christians. In order to avoid violence there were many in Iberia who in various ways adapted to Moorish culture, in dress and work, in marriage, and in language. Toledo, approximately 75 kilometres south-east of Madrid, was strategically important to the Muslims, and there the Christians were able to arrange a compromise making Toledo somewhat different from the rest of Muslim Iberia (the Al-Andalus): Christians were permitted to practice their religion and retain their property.

Christianity restored in Hispania

As the Christians reconquered Hispania, the kings sought to establish links to the rest of Europe including the Papacy. They established the Way of Saint James for pilgrims and invited Roman-rite Catholics ("Franks") into Iberia, who established that rite in all Christianised portions, a change that was met with "uprisings", such that the Mozarabic rite was permitted to be used in Toledo and León even after the Muslims had been expelled. The Mozarabic rite was approved by Pope John X in 918, suppressed by Pope Gregory VII in 1085 yet permitted in six parishes. Unity in liturgical practice was strongly encouraged by Rome from an early date as well as around the general period of the East-West Schism; areas Christianised after periods of conquest typically had the Roman rite installed—this was true for centuries in the East as well. Eventually the Mozarabic rite became a memorial service, as people grew to accept the Roman rite.

Gallican, Mozarabic, and Roman rite connections

There is evidence that the Mozarabic rite is tied to the Gallican rite, given common points of construction. Schaff argues for an Oriental element in both the Gallican and the Mozarabic (or Old Hispanic), while Jenner quotes Dom Marius Férotin, O.S.B., who writes that the framework of the liturgy is from Italy or Rome, while various details such as hymns are from Iberia, Africa, and Gaul. Jenner states that there is no extant concrete information about the Old Hispanic liturgy prior to the end of the 6th century, a point echoed by Cabrol. Michael Davies reports that it is commonly believed that the Gallican rite came from the East, perhaps Antioch, and through Italy influenced the West. The work of St. Isidore, who was asked by a Council of Toledo (probably the one occurring in 633) to revise and rearrange the liturgy of the time (Old Hispanic), leaves us a number of documents demonstrating liturgical stability prior to the Muslim invasion. Cabrol lists several liturgical points of Oriental origin ("the place of the diptychs, the Kiss of Peace, and even the 'epiclesis'") while indicating the liturgical commonalities to the entire West, including Rome and Gaul. Cabrol also indicates that the Mozarabic rite contains some customs that ante-date those of Rome.

Preservation and relevance of the Mozarabic rite

The Mozarabic Rite is the second-best attested liturgy in the Latin Church in terms of preserved documentation. The Mozarabic Rite was considered authoritative for the clarification of a Sacramentary received by Charlemagne from Pope Adrian I (d. 795). The first is, of course, the Roman Rite, which, to encourage unity of faith and worship, generally replaced the Mozarabic in Iberia from about 1080.

In the year 870, Charles the Bald, wishing to see what the ancient Gallican Rite had been like, had priests sent from Spain to celebrate the Mozarabic Rite before him.

In the latter part of the eighth century, the Rite had fallen under some suspicion owing to quotations cited by Elipandus of Toledo in support of his Adoptianist theories, and the Council of Frankfurt 794 spoke somewhat disparagingly of possible Islamic influence on it. It was due to these suspicions that in 924, John X sent a Papal Legate named Zanello to investigate the Rite. Zanello spoke favourably of the Rite, and the Pope gave a new approbation to it, requiring only to change the words of consecration to that of the Roman one. Spanish clergy gradually started to use the Roman words of institution (though there is no evidence whether or not it was done consistently).

When King Alfonso VI of Castile conquered Toledo in 1085, it was being disputed as to which rite Iberian Christians should follow: the Roman rite or Mozarabic Rite. After other ordeals, it was submitted to the trial by fire: One book for each rite was thrown into a fire. The Toledan book was little damaged whilst the Roman one was consumed. Henry Jenner comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia: "No one who has seen a Mozarabic manuscript with its extraordinarily solid vellum, will adopt any hypothesis of Divine Interposition here."

The king allowed six parishes in the city to continue to use the Mozarabic rite.

Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros (d. 1517) published in 1500 a Mozarabic missal, and two years later a breviary, both of which were formally approved by Pope Julius II. To perfect the presentation of the liturgy Jiménez interpolated elements of the Roman Rite as then used in Iberia, particularly the preliminary prayers for the Mass. He also instituted a chapel in the Cathedral of Toledo, with a college of thirteen priests to use the Roman Missal and Breviary. This continues to the present day, in spite of vicissitudes that included the killing of all the priests of the group in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

The texts prepared by Jiménez were republished at various times. The dawn of the twentieth century saw an intensification of studies of the rite and the publication of its manuscript sources. In response to the encouragement given by the Second Vatican Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium, 3-4 to renew other rites as well as the Roman, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo Marcelo González Martín set up a commission to revise the liturgical books of the Mozarabic rite. Between 1988 and 1995, the Missal (in two volumes), the Lectionary (also in two volumes), and a vernacular (Castilian) version of the Ordinary of the Mass appeared, with the required approval of the Spanish bishops conference and confirmation by the Holy See.

The Mozarabic Rite is celebrated daily in the Corpus Christi Chapel (also called the Mozarabic Chapel) in the Cathedral of Toledo. In Madrid Mozarabic or Gothic Rite is celebrated in Spanish every Tuesday (Pº Recoletos 11 Monastery of Poor Clare Sisters, 19' 00 h). Two of the original six "Mozarabic" parishes of Toledo remain. About two hundred families in Toledo belong to these parishes and form an association of those who can claim that their families have always belonged to Mozarabic Rite. Additionally, all the churches of Toledo annually celebrate this rite on the Mozarabic Feast of the Incarnation on December 18, and on the feast day of Saint Ildephonsus on January 23. The rite is also used on certain days each year in the Talavera Chapel of the Old Cathedral of Salamanca and less regularly in other cities in Spain. Pope John Paul II celebrated it once in each of the years 1992 and 2000.

The Mozarabic Rite has been of interest to non-Catholic communions as well. For example, in the 1880s the Anglican Communion examined the Mozarabic rite for ideas about making their own liturgy more inspiring, and at present the aforementioned Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church employs it for the celebration of all sacraments. The Spanish custom of the bridegroom giving his bride thirteen coins after exchanging their nuptial vows during the marriage ceremony (also observed in the former Spanish colonies in the New World and in Hispanic Catholic parishes in the United States and Canada) has its origins in the Mozarabic rite.

The oldest Western manuscript written on paper is the Mozarabic Missal of Silos, from the eleventh century.

Mozarabic rite a lesson in evolution of rites

After the early period of persecutions came to an end, Christians began to develop more elaborate forms of worship, perhaps because it became possible to store and share rubrical ideas over time and geography, and because love for Christ inspired greater elaboration. Liturgical variety has always been assumed, by the Church, to be permissible in small details that do not touch upon articles of faith or morals. This variety is a natural result of the Church, i.e. the body of faithful, being in "a dialogue of love" with Jesus: this is how forms of worship are perceived by the Church—which can authoritatively, but not arbitrarily, "define and limit the usage of rites" (quotes from Ratzinger). G. S. Lee writes that the Church is always eager to "recognize the varying wants of her spiritual children, and to shape her devotional exercises in conformity to these".The Council of Toledo affirmed it to be "a form of worship grateful to the people" and the Council of Mantua, 1067, declared it to be free of heresy and "also worthy of praise".

Character of Mozarabic rite

While the liturgy used during the period of Islamic rule was very much like that to which St. Isidore put some finishing touches in the 7th century. During Islamic rule the pastors took more care, where practice of Christianity was permitted, to address the faithful during the Mass. The Bible was translated into Arabic during this period as well, and the liturgy was celebrated in Arabic.

The Mozarabic Rite is longer in duration than that of the Roman Rite. Imagery and ceremony are used extensively; its great beauty is shown in the support it received even after the Roman Rite was installed throughout Iberia. Many learned theologians have praised it. Many hymns were written within the Mozarabic Rite.

The Mozarabic Rite may have emphasized the Blessed Virgin Mary's role even more than did the liturgy of Rome. It also exalts Mary by addressing her directly in prayer, which the Roman Rite does not do.

The Mozarabic Rite was the first to use ashes within the liturgical celebrations of the Church. Ashes were used prior to the Mozarabic Rite, but this was done outside of liturgical events, e.g., marking people for penance.

The Breviary has a short and uncomplicated extra office (session of prayer) before the main morning office.

Extensive use is made of responsories between the celebrant (priest) and faithful during the Mozarabic Mass, including during the Confiteor (prayer of confession of guilt for sin), which is quite different from that in the Roman Rite (Tridentine or post-Tridentine); though much of the preparatory prayers and other elements in the old Missal were borrowed from a Romano-Toledan Missal and is not originally part of the rite.

Isidore of Seville in his writings made reference to the 'seven prayers' of the Mozarabic Mass. These are the seven major variable liturgical texts which constitute the essential prayer formulas said by the celebrant in the Mozarabic liturgy of the faithful, namely: 1. The Oratio Missae or Prayer of the Mass, an opening prayer making reference to the feast being celebrated and in general character much like the Roman Collect. 2. The Prayer after the Names, said immediately after the recitation of the names of the faithful, living and dead, who are being prayed for. 3. Prayer for Peace, said immediately before the kiss of peace. 4. The Illatio corresponding to the Roman Preface and most frequently the longest part of the Mozarabic eucharistic prayer. 5. The Post-Sanctus, the part of the Mozarabic eucharistic prayer connecting the Sanctus with the institution narrative. 6. The Post-Pridie, the concluding portion of the eucharistic prayer including the anamnesis with its prayer of offering, the epiklesis, (when either or both of these are present) and the final doxology. 7. The Lord's Prayer with its variable introduction and fixed embolism and concluding clause.

While the liturgy is quite beautiful, it also tended toward "prolixity" and at times was lacking in "sobriety". The Roman rite of Mass is more ordered: in its Tridentine form it left almost nothing to the choice of the celebrant; the present (Mass of Paul VI), though it limits extemporaneous variations to the words of introduction to certain ceremonies, frequently allows a choice between different formulas of prayer. This may be due to the influence of the Mozarabic rite.

There was no fixed anaphora or Eucharistic prayer in the Mozarabic rite of Mass, which permitted a fair degree of extemporaneous flexibility. When the Mozarabic rite was given a new lease on life in 1500, the Roman words of institution, the key words that Jesus used at the Last Supper, were required. Originally, the Mozarabic words of institution were from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:24), with the formula for the consecration of the wine being a combination of 1 Corinthians 11:24, Luke 22:20, and Matthew 26:28. These were the words written on the (old) Mozarabic Missal, though the Roman formula was included as a footnote in the Missal and was used in actual practice in place of the old Spanish formula (note, however, that it was reinstituted by the modern Mozarabic Missal).

Some Eucharistic prayers are addressed to Christ rather than to God the Father. After the consecration of the bread and wine (see Eucharist), as the Creed is being chanted, the host (the real presence of Christ under the species of bread) is broken into nine pieces, each representing a facet of Christ's life on earth, seven of which are arranged in a cross on the paten. After a variable introduction the Lord's Prayer was said by the celebrant alone, with everyone else responding "Amen" to each petition, except for the petition for daily bread, for which the response is "For you are God" and everyone concluding the final petition, "but deliver us from evil" with the celebrant.

The Mozarabic Eucharistic Prayer for the Nativity of Christ

In this translation of the Mozarabic eucharistic prayer for the Nativity of Christ we have a representative example of the texts of this liturgical tradition at its best.


It is meet and right for us to render to Thine omnipotence and goodness, the praises which Thou hast given us the power to render, O Merciful Father, because after long ages, as on this day not long ago, Christ Jesus, Who was one with Thee or with Himself, was born to us. Thine Only-Begotten was made son of His handmaid; the Lord was born of His Mother; the Shoot of Mary is the Fruit of the Church, and He Who comes forth as a weakling babe by the One, is magnified by the other as a worker of wonders.

Mary begat salvation for the nations, the Church begat the nations; the one carried life in her womb; the other in the font. In the body of the one was Christ conceived, in the waters of the other is Christ put on. Through the one He, Who ever was, is born; through the other, he who had perished is found. In the one the Redeemer of the Nations receives life; in the other the nations themselves are made alive. Through the one He came that He might take away sins; through the other He took away those sins on account of which He came. Through the one He wept for us; through the other He cared for us. In the one He is an infant; in the other He is a giant. There He weeps, here He triumphs. Through the one He played with toys; through the other He subdued kingdoms. The one He soothed with a child's merriment; the other He bound with the faith of a husband.

Then at last appear the pure interchanges of precious love. The husband gives to His spouse His gifts of living water, that is, Christ to the Church, with which she might be washed fo find favour in His sight. For the oil of gladness He gave to her the sweet-smelling oil of chrism by which she might be anointed. He called her to His table, and satisfied her with the fat of corn, and filled her with the wine of sweetness. He placed upon her the ornament of justice, and gave her a vesture glittering with many virtues. He gave His life for her, and when about to reign as Victor, He gave to her as dowry the spoils of Death captured and trampled underfoot. To her He gave Himself for food and drink and raiment. He promised that He would give to her an eternal kingdom, and that she should stand as Queen upon His right hand. To her He granted what had been bestowed upon the Mother; to be filled, but not violated, to bring forth, but not defiled. To the Mother was this a single gift; to the Church for all time. So might she repose as His bride on the couch of loveliness, and multiply sons from the bosom of pure love, and might be fecund with offspring yet not fretid with lust. So she herself made rich in Him and through Him brings lowly gifts to her Husband and Lord; This, of her own, offering her faith; This, from His example, offering a responsive love; This, of His own gift, that she could accomplish even what He willed, and even what she accomplished. She gave to Him martyrs for roses, virgins instead of lilies, the chaste as violets. All these gifts she transmitted to Him through the Apostles, the ministers of His will, as the finished tasks of her work. Wherefore now she stands upon His right hand in eternal happiness and glory, and praises Him Who reigns with Thee, O Omnipotent Father, and the Holy Spirit, with all Angels confessing Him and saying---

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and Earth are full of the glory of Thy Majesty. Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.
Truly Holy, Truly blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son; Who came from Heaven that He might have His consecration upon earth, and was made flesh that He might dwell amongst us. He Himself our Lord and Eternal Redeemer. For the Lord Jesus, in the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and gave thanks and broke and said: TAKE, AND EAT: THIS IS MY BODY,WHICH IS GIVEN FOR YOU. DO THIS FOR MY MEMORIAL. Likewise also He took the cup, when He had supped and gave thanks and gave it to them, sayingTHIS CUP IS THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD, WHICH IS FOR YHOU AND FOR MANY IS SHED FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. AND WHEN YE SHALL DRINK IT, THIS SHALL YE DO FOR MY MEMORIAL. (Response: "Amen") AND AS OFTEN AS YE SHALL EAT THIS BREAD AND DRINK THIS CUP, YE SHALL PROCLAIM THE LORD'S DEATH UNTIL HE COME INTO CLEAR SIGHT FROM THE HEAVENS. (Response: "So we believe, Lord Jesus.")

Observing, O Lord, these Thy gifts and commands, we placed upon Thine Altar these offerings of bread and wine, beseeching Thee in the abundance of Thy goodness and compassion, that by the power of that same Spirit by which uncorrupt virginity conceived Thee in the flesh, the Undivided Trinity may sanctify these oblations, so that, when they shall be received by us with no less fear than veneration, whatever there be of life harmful to the soul may wither, and that what has withered may in no wise live again. Amen. Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest one God world without end. Amen.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Mozarabic Rite. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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