High Mass vs Low Mass

Hello! I’ve been reading some apologetics books and they mention High Mass vs Low Mass… Could anybody describe the difference to me? And possibly suggest some further reading if you know.

(BTW the author was a convert… sometimes it seems they know more about Catholicism than we do;))

if you could watch a video of High Mass and low Mass would that intrigue you?

If so then go to www.sanctamissa.org/en/. I think you’ll find all your questions answered there

High Mass and Low Mass will seem radically different in externals. I prefer the High Mass, but the unadorned simplicity of the Low Mass can be equally attractive at times. The High Mass is more beautiful and complex with singing/chanting, incense, more standing, and other things. The Low Mass is completely spoken, with usually no singing, and it is also shorter. But it is simple, quiet, and extremely reverent. They are both good forms. If it were available, I’d go to Low Mass during the week and High Mass on Sundays.

In the Extraordinary Form, at least, the High Mass (because it’s said in a “high voice” or chanted, called a Missa Solemnis in Latin) is the norm, where there is singing, incense, and the Priest is assisted by a Deacon and Sub-deacon, as well as lesser ministers.

The Low Mass (because it’s said in a “low voice” or spoken) is a simplification of this, to allow the priest to celebrate when he doesn’t have all the ministers and assistants needed. In Latin it’s called a “Missa Privata”–that is, a mass “deprived” of its ceremonies.

However to the man in the pew, the Low Mass seems to be the norm because it’s less common, and the High Mass is seen as an elaborated form, though, as I have said, the opposite is true.

Prior to Vatican 2, a High Mass was simply a Mass with various parts sung. A Low Mass might have hymns or not, but it was not a sung Mass. And there was no incense; there would be incense at a funeral Mass, and there was an abundance of incense at a Solemn High Mass, but none at a high Mass. Additionally at our Parish, there were two smaller candles by the tabernacle which were lit during a Low Mass; during the High Mass they were not lit but 6 tall candles across the back of the altar were lit. And that was the distinguishing factors.

I don’t argue what you say about the term “missa privata” but “deprived” also means deprived of a congregation, so it’s not strictly the difference in ceremony. FWIW, I avoid that term unless a congregation is not present.

In any case, Low Mass is normally referred to as missa lecta (read Mass), even in the general instruction.

As well, there is the missa cantata (sung Mass, which is often popularly called “High Mass” even though it isn’t strictly speaking) and the missa recitata which is Low Mass where the congregation takes the server’s part and is also known as the “dialogue Mass.”

Sorry, not quite true. Both a missa solemnis and missa cantata take 6 lighted candles, whereas a missa lecta or missa recitata takes only two.

Further, incense at a missa cantata was, until the 1950s, allowed by episcopal indult which was normally granted. From the then on, incense was allowed without indult.

Well, as to the candles, I only spoke to the High Mass, not the Solemn High; we had candle bearers - 6 of them - with candles lit as they processed in; candles they carried (in addition to those on the altar) so there were 12. Those carried were put out once they were in the sanctuary, until after the Creed; then lit again.

As to the incense, thank you for the note; it was, however, not used out here in the West to my recollection.

Maybe it was just due to the fact that out here we had much less history, so much less time to accumulate funds, and funds being scarce, they were not used for incense…:smiley:

Well, as to the candles, I only spoke to the High Mass, not the Solemn High;

“Solemn High” is like saying “wet water.” The two terms are equivalent.

The MISSA CANTATA is a simplification of the High Mass where only one sacred minister–the Priest–is available.

As someone else has already mentioned, this frequently got called “High Mass,” but this is a solecismic misnomer.

Wait a minute…would it be more correct to say that a Missa Cantata is a simplified High Mass or a “gussied up” Low Mass? Strange question I know…kind of like the chicken or the egg I guess.

Nice work–thank you for sharing-
Thanks so much for this. I appreciate the effort. It really helps a lot.

The way I understand it is that the High Mass is said on non-feast day Sundays and the Low Mass is said daily.


Totus tuus Maria!

Wow, thanks for all of the answers:D I definitely understand it better now!

What a specific parish is doing now I can’t say, but before Vatican 2, we had Low Masses on Sunday (also) with the exception of one, which was a High Mass.

I believe the custom was (and remains in the EF) that only one High Mass (missa solemnis) be offered in a particular church on a given day. By extension, and while I am not 100% certain, I think the same applies to missa cantata. If other Masses are offered in the same church, they should be “Low Mass” (whether missa lecta or missa recitata).

While I will readily admit to having no familiarity of the proper terms, I think you are right.

a high mass has certain parts entoned (chanted) by the priest. it would be easily identified
as there would be three candles lit on either side of the alter.
a solemn high mass, would have the priest, a deacon and a subdeacon and again,
certain parts of the proper would be entoned (chanted). they would also incense the
alter during the mass. there would also be three candles on either side of the alter
signifying a high mass.
if you would attend a mass where there would be two candles on either side of the
alter it would signify a bishop is saying a low mass.
have a good year. (alih):thumbsup:

Not exactly, though this was how it often worked out. The rule rather pertained – in cathedrals, collegiate churches and monasteries — to the conventual
Mass - of which there could be only one with the obligation of attending in choir. The conventual Mass was commonly a Missa Solemnis, since such places usually possessed enough ministers. Other Masses were commonly not sung simply because of time and expense, though in the wake of the liturgical movement, in a few monasteries, the custom of a daily or semi-daily private *Missa cantata * was followed.

In parishes, the distinction was not only for reasons of expense and availability of ministers, but also to mark out what would technically be THE “parochial Sunday Mass”. The distinction is harder to make with respect to the USA where the practice was for multiple hourly Masses to be offered. In some ways, all of them were “parochial”, even if they were all low Masses (though, for rubrical reasons, one had to be designated the main Sunday Mass._

This practice was in contrast to Continental Europe, where for many years, the main Sunday Mass held sway, with majority of the people attending that. Only one or two “Communion” Masses would perhaps be offered earlier.

I guess our parish has Medium Mass most of the year and Maximum Mass during Holy week.