A Pontifical of ca. 850 AD

Manuscript reference: 'Ordo Romanus' of Hittorp

published in Hittorp, De divinis catholicae ecclesiae officiis, Cologne 1568, col. 161-163.

translation from the Latin by John Wijngaards

The rite here published is also found almost identically in four other manuscripts: Monte Cassino 451, Vienna 701, Vallicella 5 and Vendome 14, the so-called family 'Mainz A'. Specific words or characters that deviate in this manuscript have been underlined in the latin text on this page. They are editorial changes, or mistakes, introduced by the scribe who copied the manuscript from its original. For an overview of how the rite developed see here.

A. Ancient Ordination Rite

Ordo Romanus ad diaconam faciendam

1. The Roman rite of ordaining a woman deacon

The word 'diacona' is ancient. Later the word 'diaconissa' (deaconness) became common.

Episcopus, cum diaconam benedicit, orarium in collo eius ponit. Quando autem ad ecclesiam procedit, portat illud super collum suum, sic vero, ut summitas orarii ex utraque parte sub tunica sit.

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.

The stole originally indicated the full status of the diaconate. Whoever wore a diaconate stole without ordination was excommunicated (Synod of Laodicea 363 AD).

 

3.

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The ordination prayer - EXAUDI - which stood here in the ancient text is omitted because it is used again in the mass ritual that follows (see no 10).

 

B. Mass for the ordination of a woman deacon

The formulary of this Mass contains many ancient elements. In the ministry of the woman deacon, the accent lies on her work among women: instruction and offering spiritual comfort to sick and dying women in their homes. Ancient elements are shown within a red frame.

It is clear that a new stress had developed in time focusing on 'the vow of sexual abstinence' required of the deacon. Such elements are highlighted in a green frame. However, the mass is distinct from other masses (i) for the ordination of an abbess; (ii) for the consecration of virgins ("who decide to live a life of celibacy in their own homes"); (iii) for the consecration of a widow who has professed chastity; and (iv) for the consecration of a nun.

Item missa ad diaconam consecrandam

4. Also the mass to consecrate a woman deacon

Antiph. Deus in nomine tuo; psalm. Deus, exaudi orationem.

5. Antiphon: "God in your name save me" (= the antiphone is taken from Psalm 54,1 (old numbering 53,3).

Psalm: "God, hear my prayer" (= Psalm 54)

Oremus. Deus, castitatis amator et continentiae conservator, supplicationem nostram benignus exaudi et hanc famulam tuam propitius intuere, ut quae pro timore tuo continentiae pudicitiam vovit, tuo auxilio conservet, et sexagesimum fructum continentiae et vitam aeternam te largiente percipiet. Per.

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].

The contents of this prayer focus on the support women deacons need in their commitment to sexual abstinence.

Ad Corinthios. Fratres, nescitis, quoniam corpora vestra ...

7. Reading from the Letter to the Corinthians: "Brethren, do you not know that your bodies . . ." [= 1 Corinthians 6,15-20]

Graduale. De necessitatibus meis.

Versus. Ad te, Domine, levavi.

Allel. Amavit eam Dominus.

 

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 . . ."

Deinde prostrata illa ante altare, imponatur litania. Qua finita dicat episcopus super illam hanc orationem.

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:

In the Latin rite, the litany precedes the actual ordination.

Exaudi, Domine, preces nostras et super hanc famulam tuam N. spiritum tuae benedictionis emitte, ut coelesti munere ditata, et tuae gratiam possit maiestatis acquirere, et bene vivendi aliis exemplum praebere. Per.

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 . . . "

This is the ancient ordination prayer, completely parallel to the ordination prayer of a male deacon. Note that 'benedictio' in Latin here means: 'ordination' as it does for bishops and priests.

More information here!

 

Sequitur consecratio in modum praefationis

11. Here follows the consecration in the form of a preface.

Ordination prefaces were used in the Latin rite for all the major orders: bishops, priests and deacons.

Deus, qui Annam filiam Phanuelis, vix per annos septem sortitam iugale coniugium, ita in annos octoginta quattuor in sancta et intemerata viduitate servasti, ut noctibus ac diebus orationes ieiuniaque miscentem, usque ad prophetiae gratiam sub circumcisione Christi tui, iustus remunerator, adduceres; quique deinceps per apostolicam intentionem sanctarum huius ordinationis manibus foeminarum, sexus ipsius adolescentulas ac iuniores instrui cum sancti chrismatis visitatione iussisti, suscipere dignare, omnipotens, piissime rerum omnium Deus, huius famulae tuae arduum et laboriosum nec satis discrepans a perfecta virginitate propositum, quia tu creaturarum omnium conditor probe nosti mundiales illecebras non posse vitari: sed cum ad te venitur per te, numquam animas semel vivificatas vel terribiles passiones vel deliciarum blandimenta sollicitant. Nam sensibus, quibus ipse dignaris infundi, nihil est desiderabilius quam regnum tuum, nihil terribilius quam iudicium tuum. Da ergo, Domine, ad petitionem nostram huic famulae tuae inter coniugatas trigesimum, cum viduis sexagesimum fructum. Sit in ea cum misericordia districtio, cum humilitate largitas, cum libertate honestas, cum humanitate sobrietas. Opus tuum die ac nocte meditetur, ut die vocationis suae talis esse mereatur, quales per spiritum prophetiae esse voluisti. Per.

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 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.]

This ordination preface tells us that the task of the woman deacon had two main components at this time:

1. prophecy, probably referring to instructions given to women and girls by women deacons;

2. visiting women and anointing them with chrism, referring to visiting sick and dying women at home: when a woman deacon might bring holy communion and perform the anointing of the sick.

The petition to save the woman deacon from the temptations of the world may also refer to the risks she took when performing her ministry in other people's homes.

Tunc ponat episcopus orarium in colla eius, dicens: stola iocunditatis induat te Dominus.

 

13. Then the bishop imposes the diaconate stole on her neck saying: "May the Lord dress you with the stole of happiness".

The word 'orarium', derived from its Greek equivalent, uniquely refers only to the diaconate stole.

Ipsa autem imponat velamen capiti suo palam omnibus de altari acceptum, cum Antiph. Ipsi sum desponsata, cui angeli.

14. She herself, however, puts the veil on her head which she received from the altar, in front of everyone.

According to the Byzantine rite, the bishop adjusts the stole under an ordinary veil which the woman deacon was already wearing. Here the veil becomes another sign of the sexual continence she has vowed.

Oratio.

Preces famulae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, benignus exaudi, ut assumptam castitatis gratiam te auxiliante custodiat. Per.

 

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.]"

Ad annulum dandum.

Accipe annulum fidei, signaculum spiritus sancti, ut sponsa Christi voceris, si ei fideliter servieris. Per.

 

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."

During the wedding ceremony husbands would give a ring to their brides, which perhaps also carried their seal.

Ad torquem.

Accipe signum Christi in capite, ut uxor eius efficiaris, et si in eo permanseris, in perpetuum coroneris.

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."

The meaning of 'torquis' here is not clear. In classical latin it denotes a clasp round the neck, or a chain hanging from the neck or a necklace. Here it seems to indicate a round quasi-crown on the head.

Deinde dicat antiphonam. Annulo suo subarrhavit me Dominus.

18. Then she says the Antiphon: "With his ring the Lord has paid a deposit for me."

"Subarrhavit" literally: "has acquired me by a down payment".

Oratio.

Famulam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, pia devotio te adiuvante perducat ad veniam, quatenus mereatur a cunctis mundari sordibus delictorum, reconciliatam tibi per Christum sereno vultu respicias et omnia eius peccata dimittas, severitatem quoque iudicii tui ab ea clementer suspendas et miserationis tuae clementiam super eam benignus infundas. Per eundem.

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.]."

Tunc imponat evangelium secundum Joannem. In illo tempore respondit Jesus et dixit: Non potest homo accipere.

20. Then he starts the Gospel according to John: "At that time Jesus answered and said, 'Human beings cannot understand this' . "

Post evangelium in ordine velatarum ad manus episcopi offerant, choro imponente offert. Miserere mei, Domine.

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".

Secret.

Munera, quaesumus, Domine, famulae et sacratae tuae, quae tibi ob consecrationem sui corporis offert, simul ad eius animae medelam proficiant. Per.

 

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.

Other manuscripts that retain a mass formulary for ordaining a woman deacon have a mass preface here.

Infra agenda: ... Hanc ergo oblationem servitutis nostrae sed et cunctae familiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, quam tibi offero pro incolumitate famulae tuae, ob devotionem mentis suae pius ac propitius clemente vultu suscipias, tibi vero supplicantes libens protege, dignanter exaudi. Diesque nostros.

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.]."

Benedictio.

Benedic, Domine, hanc famulam tuam preciosi filii tui sanguine comparatam. Amen.

Benedictionis tuae gratiam, quam desiderat, consequatur: et sine ulIa offensione maiestati tuae dignum exhibeat famulatum. Amen.

Cursum vitae suae impleat sine ullis maculis delictorum et superet in bonis actibus inimicum.

Quod ipse praestare digneris.

 

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.]."

Communio. Servite Domino in timore.

26. Communion antiphon. "Serve the Lord in fear".

Postcommunio.

Bonorum, Deus, operum institutor, famulae tuae cor purifica, ut nihil in ea quod punire, sed quod coronare possis, invenias. Per.

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."

Diacona vero illa inter mysteria sacra communicet et post missam episcopus ei pastorali banno pacem confirmat, ut sua cum securitate et quiete possideat.

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.

As we know from similar ordination liturgies, this means that, like other sacred ministers, she received communion from the bishop in the sanctuary itself.

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