The ‘Mainz Original’ Pontifical ca 850 AD

From evidence found in two families of Pontificals – the ‘Mainz A’ family and the ‘Mainz B’ family –
we can deduce the existence of a prototype from which both families derived. We call it the ‘Mainz Original’.

The historical setting

mainzoldWhen St. Boniface was confirmed as Archbishop of Mainz in 745, he became metropolitan over all German dioceses. Mainz gained supreme influence, we can be sure, also in the realm of the liturgy. And women played a role. One of Boniface’s close associates was the learned Lioba, abbess of Tauberbischofsheim (710-782).

Indeed, German women were beginning to reassert themselves. In 787 Hugeburc of Hildesheim wrote a book about St. Wunibald’s travel to the Holy Land. Nuns in convents studied the Bible, the Fathers of the Church and church law. Quite a few became skilled copyists of manuscripts in convent libraries that were well stocked.

The situation in Papal Rome

The Church of the time was experiencing the period of the so-called Byzantine papacy (534-752). Many of the Popes hailed from Greek-speaking families. A contemporary historian tells us that among the clergy at Rome there were seven Greek-speakers for every two Latin-speakers. Under Greek influence, Byzantine elements were introduced into the Latin Mass, such as the Kyrie Eleison, the Agnus Dei and liturgical processions.

The ordination of women deacons was a reality even in Rome at that time. Deaconesses are mentioned in the Synod of Rome of 743. And in 799 Pope Leo III had to flee Rome and sought refuge in Paderborn. When he returned later that year, he was welcomed back, we are told, “by the clergy, the senate, the army, and the whole population of Rome including nuns, deaconesses and noble ladies” (Vita Leonis III).

Compiling the Pontifical of Mainz

(1.) As will be remembered, sacramentaries only contained the prayers the celebrant said. Pontificals on the other hand also contained rubrics (on actions) and references to appropriate chaunts, psalms, readings. etc. for each mass. The compilers of the first pontificals gathered their material from many sources: sacramentaries, antiphonaries, lectionaries and other liturgical books.

(2.) The liturgist who compiled the ‘Mainz Original’ must have compared two sacramentaries: (i) from a sacramentary related to the Hadrianum he derived the section ‘Prayer to make a woman deacon’. (ii) He constructed the ‘Mass to consecrate a woman deacon’ from the old Roman-German Sacramentary.

(3.) We can piece together the ordination text in the Mainz Original from two families of Pontificals that derive from it: families we call ‘Mainz A’ and ‘Mainz B’ (see below). We can prove that these two families of manuscripts owe their material to ONE exemplar because they have so much in common: phrases, spellings, unusual endings.

This is well illustrated, for example, by the fact that all share a mistaken reference to the same Gospel reading. They cite the opening line as “At that time Jesus replied and said: ‘Man cannot understand this . . .’ “which they attribute to Matthew. However, this is a mistake. The reading comes from John 3,27-30. To verify this, read item no 19 in any of the Pontificals listed below.

(4.) Although the compiler of the Mass in the Mainz Original Pontifical kept almost all the original ordination elements listed in the ancient Roman sacramentary, he clearly directed the mass away from the original ministry of a woman deacon. He did this by:

1 .converting the original invitation prayer into a threefold blessing
2. bending the second half of the consecratio prayer towards sexual abstinence
3. inserting mass prayers (the collect, secreta, etc.) giving of the ring etc. which focussed on virginity and betrothal to Christ.

Comparing the two families

Mainz A family

stalbans vallicellas salzburgl

Mainz B family

eichstatts bambergs luccas pistoias

In the comparison table below differences are highlighted in red.

Mainz A Mainz B
1. The rite of ordaining a woman deacon  1. The rite of ordaining a woman deacon
 2. When the bishop ordains a woman deacon, he imposes a diaconate stole on her neck.
She however wears this stole on her neck whenever she enters church, but in such a way that the two extremities of the stole are visible from under her tunic on both sides.
 2. When the bishop ordains a woman deacon, he imposes a diaconate stole on her neck.
She however wears this stole on her neck whenever she enters church, but in such a way that the two extremities of the stole are visible from under her tunic on both sides.
 3. Exaudi prayer omitted.  3.”Hear, o Lord, our petition and send down on (name) your maidservant the Spirit of your ordination so that, since you have conferred on her your heavenly office, she may obtain favour with your majesty and may present to others the example of a good life. Through . . . “
4. Also the mass to consecrate a woman deacon.  4. The mass to consecrate a woman deacon
 5. Antiphon: “God in your name save me” (= the antiphone is taken from Psalm 54,1 (old numbering 53,3).
Psalm: “Because foreigners”.
 5. Antiphon: “God in your name save me” (= the antiphone is taken from Psalm 54,1 (old numbering 53,3).
Psalm: “Because foreigners”.
 6. Let us pray.
God who loves chastity and preserves sexual abstinence, kindly hear our supplication and look with mercy on this your maidservant, so that she who out of respect for you has vowed the purity of sexual abstinence to you, may preserve it with your help and may receive the sixtyfold fruit of her sexual abstinence and eternal life as your gift. Through [Jesus Christ Christ our Lord who lives with you for ever and ever. Amen].
 6. Let us pray.
God who loves chastity and preserves sexual abstinence, kindly hear our supplication and look with mercy on this your maidservant, so that she who out of respect for you has vowed the purity of sexual abstinence to you, may preserve it with your help and may receive the sixtyfold fruit of her sexual abstinence and eternal life as your gift. Through [Jesus Christ Christ our Lord who lives with you for ever and ever. Amen].
 7. Reading from the Letter to the Corinthians: “Brethren, do you not know that your bodies . . .” [= 1 Corinthians 6,15-20]  7. Reading weekday 4: “Brethren, do you not know that your bodies . . .” [= 1 Corinthians 6,15-20]
 8. Graduale song: “From my needs, Lord . . .”
Verse: “To you, o Lord, I lift up my hands . . .” [= Psalm 88,10]
Alleluia verse: “The Lord loved her . . .”
 8. Graduale song: “From my needs, Lord . . .”
Verse: “To you, o Lord, I lift up my hands . . .” [= Psalm 88,10]
Alleluia verse: “The Lord loved her . . .”
 9. After this, she prostrates herself in front of the altar and the litany (of invocations) is intoned. When the litany is finished, the bishop says this prayer over her:  9. Litany (of all saints). Kyrie (eleison)
 10. “Hear, O Lord, our petition and send down on (name) your maidservant the Spirit of your ordination so that, since you have conferred on her your heavenly office, she may obtain favour with your majesty and may present to others the example of a good life. Through . . . “  10. “Kindly hear, we beg you O Lord, the prayers of your maidservant that, having taken on the grace of chastity, she may preserve it with your help. Through . . .” 
 11. Here follows the consecration in the form of a preface.  11. Also the consecration in the form of a preface.
 12. God who preserved Anna, Phanuel’s daughter, who escaped the yoke of marriage after just seven years, for eighty-four years in holy and unblemished widowhood, so that you, just remunerator, led her who day and night mixed prayer with fasting, to the grace of being a prophet at the circumcision of Christ,
God who has further ordered, through the intention of the apostle(s), that the hands of these women which are sanctified by this ordination equip her gender – i.e. adolescent and young women – with the visitation of sacred chrism,
deign to accept, omnipotent overarchingly devout God, the commitment of this maidservant of yours, a commitment that is hard and laborious and not so far removed from perfect virginity,
because you, designer of all creatures, rightly understand that the attractions of the world cannot be avoided, but that, when refuge is taken in you, through you neither terrible sufferings nor the lure of pleasures can ever seduce souls once they have been brought to life; for to senses into which you deign to instil [your values], nothing is more desirable than your kingdom, nothing more horrific than your judgment.
Give therefore, Lord, at our request to this your maidservant fruit [= reward] which is thirtyfold among married women, sixtyfold for widows.
May her mercy be tempered by a clear focus, her freedom by uprightness, her social graces by soberness.
May she be intent on your work day and night. Grant this that she may merit to be such on the day of her calling as you wished her to be by the spirit of prophecy.
Through our Lord, [etc.]
 12. God who preserved Anna, Phanuel’s daughter, who escaped the yoke of marriage after just seven years, for eighty-four years in holy and unblemished widowhood, so that you, just remunerator, led her who day and night mixed prayer with fasting, to the grace of being a prophet at the circumcision of Christ,
God who has further ordered, through the intention of the apostle(s), that the hands of these women which are sanctified by this ordination equip her gender – i.e. adolescent and young women – with the visitation of sacred chrism,
deign to accept, omnipotent overarchingly devout God, the commitment of this maidservant of yours, a commitment that is hard and laborious and not so far removed from perfect virginity,
because you, designer of all creatures, rightly understand that the attractions of the world cannot be avoided, but that, when refuge is taken in you, through you neither terrible sufferings nor the lure of pleasures can ever seduce souls once they have been brought to life; for to senses into which you deign to instil [your values], nothing is more desirable than your kingdom, nothing more horrific than your judgment.
Give therefore, Lord, at our request to this your maidservant fruit [= reward] which is thirtyfold among married women, sixtyfold for widows.
May her mercy be tempered by a clear focus, her freedom by uprightness, her social graces by soberness.
May she be intent on your work day and night. Grant this that she may merit to be such on the day of her calling as you wished her to be by the spirit of prophecy.
Through our Lord, [etc.]
 13. Then the bishop imposes the diaconate stole on her neck saying: “May the Lord dress you with the stole of happiness”.  13.  omitted
 14. She puts the veil on her head which she received from the altar, in front of everyone. With the antiphon: “I am espoused to him.”  14.  omitted
 15. Prayer
“Kindly, Lord, hear the petition of your maidservant so that she may preserve the grace of chastity she has taken on with your help. Through [etc.]”
 15.  omitted
 16. At the giving of the ring
“Receive the ring of faithfulness, the seal of the Holy Spirit, so that you may be called a Spouse of Christ if you will serve him faithfully.”
 16. At the giving of the ring
“Receive the ring of faithfulness, the seal of the Holy Spirit, so that you may be called a Spouse of Christ if you will serve him faithfully.”
 17. At the torque [= a crown?]
“Receive this sign of Christ on your head in order that you may be made his wife and that, if you remain with him, you may be crowned for eternity.”
 17. At the torque [= a crown?]
“Receive this sign of Christ on your head in order that you may be made his wife and that, if you remain with him, you may be crowned for eternity.”
 18. Meanwhile those who stand around continue with the antiphone: “With his ring”.  18. omitted
 19. Prayer.
“We ask you, Lord, that her pious devotion may lead your maidservant to forgiveness, to the extent she needs to be cleansed from all the stains of sins. Look on her with a kind face now she is reconciled to you through Christ and forgive all her sins, mercifully suspend also from her the severity of your judgment and generously pour out on her the clemency of your mercy. Through the same [etc.].”
 19. omitted
 20. Then he starts the Gospel according to Matthew: “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘Human beings cannot understand this’ . ” until “I must decrease”. (text is actually from John 3,27-30)  20. Then he starts the Gospel according to Matthew: “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘Human beings cannot understand this’ . ” (text is actually from John 3,27-30)
 21. After the reading of the Gospel, she hands an offering to the bishop as one of the veiled women. Meanwhile the choir intones: “Have mercy on me, O Lord”.  21. omitted
 22. Secreta prayer.
“May the gifts of your maidservant and consecrated woman which she offers to you for the dedication of her body, at the same time be of profit to her for the healing of her soul. Through [etc.].”
 22. Secreta prayer.
“May the gifts of your maidservant and consecrated woman which she offers to you for the dedication of her body, at the same time be of profit to her for the healing of her soul. Through [etc.].”
 23. omitted  23. Preface.
It is truly right, eternal God, etc. . . . Through him we implore you, almighty God, that this offering that I present to you for your maidservant, may in your eyes always be acceptable, and just as for your saints their unwavering faithfulness leands to their crowns, may so her devotion through your help lead her to forgiveness, so that she may deserve through this sacrifice to be cleansed from all the stains of crimes and, since she has been reconciled to you through Christ, you may look on her with a serene face and forgive her all her sins, that you may also mercifully suspend from her the severity of your judgment and pour out over her the clemency of your compassion. Through Christ our Lord.
 24. During the consecration prayer:
“Please accept, piously and propitiously with merciful eyes, this offering from your servant [= the bishop] and from your whole family, Lord, which I present to you for the wellbeing of your maidservant considering the devotion of her mind. Liberally protect those who make supplications to you, and hear them in accordance with your dignity. And our days [etc.].”
 24. During the consecration prayer:
“Please accept, piously and propitiously with merciful eyes, this offering from your servant [= the bishop] and from your whole family, Lord, which I present to you for the wellbeing of your maidservant considering the devotion of her mind. Liberally protect those who make supplications to you, and hear them in accordance with your dignity. And our days [etc.].”
 25. Blessing.
“Bless, Lord, this maidservant of yours who has been bought with the blood of your Son!” – AMEN [= response by the people]
“May she obtain the grace of your blessing, and may she offer a worthy service to you without offending your majesty in any way!” – AMEN
“May she complete the course of her life without any stain of sin and may she overcome the enemy [= the devil] through good deeds!” – [AMEN]
“What he may grant who [lives and reigns with you, etc.].”
 25. Blessing.
“Bless, Lord, this maidservant of yours who has been bought with the blood of your Son!” – AMEN [= response by the people]
“May she obtain the grace of your blessing, and may she offer a worthy service to you without offending your majesty in any way!” – AMEN
“May she complete the course of her life without any stain of sin and may she overcome the enemy [= the devil] through good deeds!” – [AMEN]
“What he may grant who [lives and reigns with you, etc.].”
 26. Communion antiphon. “Serve the Lord in fear”.  26. Communion antiphon. “Serve the Lord in fear”.
 27. Post-communion prayer.
“God, initiator of all good works, purify the heart of your maidservant so that you may not find anything to punish, but things to crown.”
 27. Post-communion prayer.
“God, initiator of all good works, purify the heart of your maidservant so that you may not find anything to punish, but things to crown.”
 28. The woman deacon, however, receives communion in the middle of the sacred mysteries and after mass the bishop confirms her peace with a pastoral embrace so that she may possess her peace with security and quiet.  28. omitted