High mass

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In the Roman Catholic Church, high mass is a solemn form of Holy Mass ( Missa sollemnis ). The term is the translation of Latin summum officium '(highest / s) service', 'office', corresponding to ancient Greek λειτουργία leiturgía 'public service', from λαός / λειτός laós, leitós ' people ',' crowd 'and ἔργον érgon ' work ',' Service '( liturgy ).

High mass as a Levite office

Levite office in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite: the deacon sings the Ite, missa est , in front of him stands the subdeacon in Tunicella, behind him the celebrating priest.

The high mass arose in the Roman rite in 10/11. Century by simplifying from the episcopal pontifical service . In the High Middle Ages it took place almost daily in cathedrals , monastery and collegiate churches as a common form of the convent mass or the chapter office . More recently, it has been transferred to church services on the one hand and limited to Sundays and public holidays on the other.

The high mass was characterized by the singing of the celebrating priest and the choir with the use of incense and other external ceremonies. In the “Levite Office” (named after the Old Testament tribe of the Levites ) the priest was assisted by a deacon in dalmatic and a subdeacon in tunicella . The deacon recited the gospel and the sub-deacon the epistle . In the case of special church services, an assisting priest ( presbyter assistens ) was also involved, wearing a choir cloak . If no deacon or sub-deacon was present, their liturgical roles could also be taken over by priests, the function of sub-deacon also by a male layman.

Since 1957, a “ Missa cum diacono ” (“Mass with deacon”, i.e. without a subdeacon) has been permitted during Holy Week , which was previously only used in some religious liturgies, e.g. B. the Carthusian rite occurred. Since the suspension of the subdiaconate by Pope Paul VI. in 1972 his functions at the holy mass are taken over by lecturers and acolytes , the Levite office was replaced overall by the "Missa cum diacono". If more than one priest is present, they usually celebrate Mass in concelebration . In the extraordinary form of the Roman rite , the form of the office of the Levites continues.

Indistinguishable from high office were the so-called Singmesse ( Missa cantata ) and the silent Mass ( Missa LEcta ).

High mass as a solemn (main) church service

The main mass of a parish on Sundays and holidays in the form of the missa cantata was referred to as “(high) office” , also “holy office”, even if no Levites were involved. After the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council , the distinctions between high mass and other forms were largely abolished in favor of the parish mass as the "basic form of the Eucharistic celebration". Popularly, however, the main worship service on Sundays and public holidays is still occasionally and regionally differently referred to as high mass, whereby the assistance of a deacon and the use of incense are no longer compulsory. In some monastery communities, the daily convent office is traditionally called “high mass” when it is solemnly organized.


  • Josef Andreas Jungmann : From the overall episcopal worship service to the Missa sollemnis. In: ders .: Missarum Sollemnia. A genetic explanation of the Roman mass. Volume I, 5th edition, Herder, Wien-Freiburg-Basel 1962, pp. 257-272.

Web links

Wiktionary: Hochamt  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Josef Andreas Jungmann: Missarum Sollemnia. A genetic explanation of the Roman mass. Volume II, 5th edition, Herder, Wien-Freiburg-Basel 1962, p. 579.
  2. ^ Hans Bernhard Meyer : Eucharist: history, theology, pastoral. Pustet, Regensburg 1989, ISBN 3-7917-1200-4 (Church service. Handbook of liturgical science, part 4), p. 173.