La Croix: What did the mass celebrated at the beginning of Christianity look like?
Father Gilles Drouin: The fundamental structure of the Mass is made up of listening to the Word of God [des extraits de la Bible NDLR] and the breaking of the bread, as illustrated by the meeting between Jesus and the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24,18-35), a structure, liturgy of the Word – Eucharistic liturgy that we find very precisely described by Saint Justin in Rome in the middle of the second century.
All the rest of the liturgy (the language, the calendar, the songs, the prayers, the processions, the gestures of the priest, etc.) developed in the culture of each great Patriarchate. The mass was structured in the 4th century on the basis of the five major poles: Rome in the Greek language then, very quickly, Latin; Alexandria (Egypt) in Greek then Coptic then Arabic; Byzantium in the Greek language then in the Slavic countries in Slavonic; Antioch and Jerusalem around the Syriac.
Do we find the same variety in the Latin Church?
P. G. D. : Yes in a way. Around the Roman canon, common to the whole of the Latin West and attested from the 4th century in Milan, the fusion operated under the Carolingians (9th century) between the Roman, Gallican and Germanic traditions did not laminate the liturgical diversity . On the contrary.
We have of course preserved the venerable Ambrosian rites in Milan, Mozarabic in Spain, but in France, each of the great dioceses and great orders (Dominicans, Franciscans) had their own liturgical tradition in the Middle Ages. The rich heritage of prefaces (2000) and orations (7000) testifies to this incredible richness of the Latin tradition. The Missal of 1570 (Missal of Saint Pius V) is the fruit of an important work of simplification and correction of the medieval Missal of the Roman curia
Does the promulgation of this new missal mark the end of liturgical diversity?
P. G. D. : No, congregations or dioceses that could attest to liturgical traditions of at least two hundred years had the choice of keeping their missal or adopting the new one. The southern half of France widely adopted the missal of Saint Pius V. But at the end of the 17th century there was a significant movement in favor of a return to diocesan liturgies called, in France, French Roman liturgies.
It will be necessary to wait until the end of the 19th century to achieve the integral unification of the Roman liturgy. What some call the “always mass” is in fact only the mass of the end of the 19th century. In France, it only lasted a century.