Eucharist: The Gathering


Said and Sung Eucharists

The Eucharist (also called the Mass) can either be said with one or two servers or it can be sung with several servers.  A Said Eucharist is also known as a Low Mass and a Sung Eucharist as a Sung Mass.  The Low Mass – the simple, said service – is really a Sung Mass cut down and was unknown anywhere in Christendom until perhaps the seventh century.

The Early Church

In the Early Church the Eucharist was usually celebrated by the bishop of the diocese with all his clergy with him.  As each diocese was quite small and consisted only of a town, this was fairly easy.  But as the number of Christians grew and new churches were built in the outlying districts, the bishop, who could not be in two or more places at once, used to get one of his priests to celebrate the Eucharist for him.  So, instead of every Eucharist being a diocesan Eucharist, you had parish Eucharists in which all the clergy
of the parish took part.  In other words, it was very like a modern High Mass in which the principal part is taken by three clergy.

Later, in the sixth century, as the Church spread far and wide into the country districts and few parishes had more than one priest each, the Eucharist was sung by that one priest alone as a Sung Eucharist is today.

Later developments

But in the Latin Monasteries of Western Europe the position was very different, for there you had a number of priests, all of whom wanted to celebrate the Eucharist frequently during the week as well as on Sundays.  It was obviously impossible for each of them to have a Sung Eucharist with choir and servers, and so instead they had a Low Mass in which everything was said and each priest just had one server to act as a congregation and to make the responses in the service.

The Said Eucharist (Low Mass) today is what we generally have during the week, but as you can see the Sung Eucharist is much more like the Eucharist in the early centuries of the Church.

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