Rites in the
Lutheran Church

Rites of Tridentine Catholicism

Holy Mass was held in Latin until the Second Vatican Council. Remnants of Latin rite survive in a few prayers (AGNUS DEI); as do Greek language hymns (KYRIE ELEISON). Catholics when entering a church dip their fingers in holy water with which they cross oneselves. They also kneel down when praying. Hymns are accompanied by organ music.
While hymns and prayers were held,until into the late 19th century, in Latin, the SERMON was held in the vernacular.
In the Catholic church, only the bread is administered to the community; only the priest drinks of the wine. Only those Catholics who went to confession the previous saturday are supposed to participate in the communion on sunday.

Further rites in the career of lay Catholics include BAPTISM, FIRST COMMUNION (at the age of 9, after instruction in the basic concepts of Catholicism), CONFESSION, MARRIAGE and, perhaps, the anointment of the sick and the LAST RITES.

The ordaining of priests, novices taking vows and being accepted by monastic orders, the investiture of bishops in their office affect the clergy.

PILGRIMAGES were encouraged by the Catholic church as an active profession of Catholic belief. During the Counterreformation, many new pilgrimage sites were approved by the Catholic church, thus facilitating pilgrimages for large groups of Catholics who could not afford to travel far.

PROCESSIONS within the respective community were held on certain occasions, often facilitated by a set of sculptures representing 14 stations Jesus passed on his way up to Golgatha (the WAY OF THE CROSS).

Of great importance were FESTIVALS, which were numerous and diverse. The extensive catalogue of Saints permitted groups of Catholics to pick a local saint, a saint regarded the guardian of their profession etc., and celebrate his or her day. The way festivals were celebrated also differed much depending on the location. Many central elements of Catholic festivals have pre-Christian origin, for instance the Christmas tree (Germanic) and the Easter eggs (believed to have originated in Ukraine).
CHRISTMAS, EASTER, PENTECOST, ALL SAINTS DAY were the most important festivals for Catholics everywhere. MICHAELMAS was of importance to Europeans for centuries as on this day peasants usually had to pay their dues to their landlords. Sylvester's day marked the last day of the calendar year - few actually remember Saint Sylvester.

Catholics are expected to keep the FAST on certain occasions, for instance not to eat meat on Fridays, and to keep the fast during the six weeks and two days preceding Good Friday. In this period, meat, alcoholic beverages, sweets are taboo, as are festivities such as weddings, and games. The word BREAKFAST etymologically means breaking the fast.
As this extensive period of restriction was burdensome, Catholics traditionally celebrated the last days before fasting set in - CARNIVAL, a festival which is most suited to illustrate the social function of a festival. During the Carnival season (in the Rhineland beginning on Nov. 11th), a lot of alcohol is consumed; people pretend to take on different identities (Masquerades); social order is questioned by ridiculing authorities in speeches or otherwise. In the Catholic regions of Germany, the last Thursday before the end of the season is referred to as ALTWEIBERFASTNACHT; women dress up as ugly as possible, cut the neckties of men they happen to meet and take over offices by ousting the men in office (for one day; as this is a revered custom, it is accepted without resistance). Carnival permitted the people, for the duration of a few days, to ignore restrictions placed upon them by society (political hierarchy) as well as by the church herself. Early protestants were appaled because Carnival resulted in the birth of illegitimate children nine months later. Irish HALLOWEEN contains a similar element of questioning the social order.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 12th 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

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