Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Gaufredus, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. Gaufredus New Member

    New York City
    Which author was the first person to use "missa" to mean the liturgical "mass" in English?
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    Are you asking (a) which author first used the word 'missa' in an English text with the meaning 'mass'?

    Or (b) who was the first author to use the word 'missa' in Latin to mean what is known in English as the 'mass'?

    If it is (b), Lewis and Short give one reference for this word: Ambrosius, Epistle 5, 33.
    This was Ambrose, bishop of Milan from 374 till his death in 397.

    From the OED:

    the celebration of the Christian Eucharist, especially in the Roman Catholic Church

    Old English mæsse, from ecclesiastical Latin missa, from Latin miss- 'dismissed', from mittere, perhaps from the last words of the service, Ite, missa est 'Go, it is the dismissal'.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  3. The early Christians were the first, but nobody knows exactly when.

    It used to be that catechumens (ie those who were not yet baptised) were allowed into the first part of the religious service, the "Liturgy of the Word", which concluded with the reading of a passage from one of the Gospels.

    They had to leave before the next part, the "Liturgy of the Eucharist" which was restricted to baptised Christians. The priest would tell them "Ite, missa est", meaning "Go, this is the dismissal".

    The "missa" or "dismissal" then became the word used for the Eucharistic liturgy and eventually for the whole service. It's not entirely logical, but that's what happened.
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    In the modern editions of St Ambrose’s letters this is counted as Epistula 76. It is indeed the earliest text to use missa to mean “mass, eucharist”. Contrary to what Kevin Beach implies, Ambrose very specifically says that “I began to celebrate the missa” “after I had sent away the catechumens”. So, in this earliest reference missa does not mean the dismissal of the catechumens, but the eucharist proper.
  5. That's exactly what I said! "The "missa" or "dismissal" then became the word used for the Eucharistic liturgyand eventually for the whole service"

    The Church had been in existence for nearly 300 years before Ambrose was born. By his time, the transition from the dismissal to the Liturgy of the Eucharist had already occurred.

    This is the most authoritative source of information:
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    We are talking about what is in fact the first attestation of the word in a specifically liturgical sense. To say that "missa" had a different meaning in an earlier stage of Christian liturgy is speculation.
  7. Look at the Catholic Encyclopaedia link that I gave in my last post. The liturgical history is made plain.
  8. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    That page, as I read it, in fact says that the mention by Ambrose was the first certain use of it. "We may consider St. Ambrose as the earliest certain authority for it." The description then given of the development in the meaning of the term relates to the period following St. Ambrose.
  9. But why did he use that word? He used it because of the history of its use as explained in the article. If a thousand others had not used it before him, he would not have used it either. Look a few lines further up in the Article and we see "Ambrose uses the word as one in common use and well known".

    The OP asked "
    Which author was the first person to use "missa" to mean the liturgical "mass" in English?". The precise answer is "We don't know, but this is how it happened ...... ".
  10. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Yes, this is exactly what the article (incidentally: published in 1910, and thus hardly the last word on the subject) says. Ambrose very clearly writes: “missam facere coepi” and then continues “dum ofero...”, implying that he understands missa to mean “offering of the sacrifice” and that it thus (for Ambrose at least) has nothing to do with the usual Latin word for “dismissal”.

    I wonder whether it might be an idea to revive the old suggestion that, as a liturgical term, missa is simply a transcription of Hebrew missat מִסַּת, which probably means something like ‘sufficiency’, but which the Latin version of Deut. 16,10 renders as oblatio (presumably reinterpreting missat as the construct state of a fictitious *missā). Later Christian authors (beginning with Ambrose’s disciple Augustin) do use missa to mean “dismissal of the catechumens”, but this is perhaps a later development. It is, in any case, later in terms of attestation, which is really all that we, as linguists, have to go by.
  11. CapnPrep Senior Member

  12. With respect , the article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia simply cannot be interpreted as you have both read it. You have reversed the chronology. It is plain that the origin of "Missa" lies in the 2nd century and that it developed into the current meaning long before Ambrose's era. That's why he used it with that meaning.

    The date of the Article's publication is irrelevant unless you can point to the publication of later learning showing a different history. Can you? Indeed, is there any authoritative contrary evidence from any time?

    As for resurrecting old theories, again there must be evidence for them to give the revival any validity. Have you got any evidence, instead of late attempts at reinterpretation?
  13. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    The above comment does seem to be at variance with the Catholic Encyclopedia article.
    The article first reviews a number of terms used in the early church, then says, in a new paragraph,
    It quotes from the letter in question, dated apparently to 386, in which he says missam facere coepi: meaning 'I began to say mass'. This was after the dismissal of the catechumens. That means he is using missa in reference to a part of the liturgy.
    In other words, in this, its first recorded appearance (in 386), the liturgical term missa was not being used in its later sense.
    The article then proceeds to explain the development in its meaning from the time of Ambrose onwards.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2012
  14. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    I think we have pretty much exhausted what can be said on this topic on the basis of the outdated literature knocking around the internet. If anyone has time to go to a real library he or she might want to look up the long entry on “missa” in the Thesaurus linguae latinae, M volume (completed in 1966), with lots of citations from late-antique and mediaeval sources, as well as references to secondary literature. From these it emerges that although Ambrose (d. 397) uses the word missa in its Christian sense exactly once in his voluminous writings, it occurs about 70 times (!) in a short work written during his lifetime, the anonymous Peregrinatio aetheriae (composed not long after 384), where it is used to designate both the liturgical service as a whole and several of its parts. I find it very strange that it is not mentioned in the Cath. Encyc. of 1910, especially since that encyclopaedia does list (in its bibliography) the important article by O. Rottmanner, Theol. Quartalschrift 71 (1889) pp. 521-557, where the Peregrinatio is discussed in some detail.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  15. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    The Peregrinatio Aetheriae is available to read online at the Internet Archive.
    However, the searches I did on all singular cases of missa produced no matches.
  16. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The search function on that site is often unreliable. Try the "Full Text" display and then use your browser's search command.
    I guess you overlooked this sentence in the "Liturgy of the Mass" article:
    And this (somewhat contradictory) statement in the "Sacrifice of the Mass" article:
  17. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Thank you for the correction. Yes, I see that the Cath. Encyc. article does mention "Etheria", rather out of the chronological flow.

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