Ordinary of the mass

The ordinary, in Roman Catholic and other Western Christian liturgies, refers to the part of the Eucharist or of the canonical hours[1] that is reasonably constant without regard to the date on which the service is performed. It is contrasted to the proper, which is that part of these liturgies that varies according to the date, either representing an observance within the liturgical year, or of a particular saint or significant event, and to the common, which contains those parts that are common to an entire category of saints, such as apostles or martyrs.

The ordinary of both the Eucharist and the canonical hours does, however, admit minor variations in accordance with the seasons, such as omission of "Alleluia" in Lent and its addition in Eastertide.

These two are the only liturgical celebrations in which a distinction is made between an ordinary and other parts. It is not made in other celebrations of Christian liturgy: administration of sacraments other than the Eucharist, blessings, and other rites.

In connection with liturgy, the term "ordinary" may also refer to Ordinary Time - those parts of the liturgical year that are part neither of the Easter cycle of celebrations (Lent and Eastertide) nor of the Christmas cycle (Advent and Christmastide), periods that were once known as "season after Epiphany" and "season after Pentecost".[2]

In addition the term "ordinary liturgy" is used to refer to regular celebrations of Christian liturgy, excluding exceptional celebrations.[3]

Canonical hours

The ordinary of the canonical hours consists chiefly of the psalter, an arrangement of the Psalms distributed over a period of a week or a month. To the psalter are added canticles, hymns and other prayers.

Traditionally the canonical hours were chanted by the participating clergy. Some texts of the canonical hours have been set to polyphonic music, in particular the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc dimittis.


The ordinary of the Eucharist is sometimes known as the Order of Mass[4] (Latin: Ordo Missae). In the Roman Missal, the Order of Mass is printed as a distinct section placed in the middle of the book, between the Mass of the Easter Vigil and that of Easter Sunday in pre-1970 editions, and between the Proper of the Seasons and the Proper of the Saints thereafter.

Much of the ordinary of the Eucharist is common to Western liturgical Christian denominations, but quite different from that of Eastern Christianity.


The ordinary of the Eucharist in Western liturgy generally consists of the following sections:

  1. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar or the Penitential Rite.
  2. Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy").
  3. Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest").
  4. The prayers said in connection with the scripture readings.
  5. Credo ("I believe in one God"), the Nicene Creed.
  6. The Offertory prayers.
  7. The Canon of the Mass, or Eucharistic Prayer, with its opening dialogue and its Preface, the latter of which, in spite of being variable, is included in the ordinary.
  8. (Included in the preceding:) Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy"), the second part of which, beginning with the word "Benedictus" ("Blessed is he"), was often sung separately after the consecration, if the setting was long.
  9. The Lord's Prayer and the following prayers until the distribution of Holy Communion
  10. (Included in the preceding:) Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God").
  11. The prayer said at the cleansing of the chalice, and the concluding prayers, which in the Tridentine Mass included the reading of what was called the Last Gospel (usually, the first fourteen verses of Saint John's Gospel) as a farewell blessing.
  12. (Included in the preceding:) The phrase Ite, missa est "Go, it is the dismissal" (referring to the congregation) is the final part of the Order of Mass. In the Tridentine Mass, it was followed by a private prayer that the priest said silently for himself, by the final blessing, and by the reading of the Last Gospel (usually John 1:1-14), and in some Masses it was replaced by Benedicamus Domino or Requiescant in pace. These phrases are sung to music given in the Missal, as is the choir's response, Deo gratias or (after Requiescant in pace) Amen. In the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer, the service ends with the celebrant saying, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." To which the congregation responds, "Thanks be to God."

The Kyrie eleison was traditionally sung in Greek, the others in Latin. Prior to the Council of Trent the Kyrie was frequently troped by adding texts particular to a specific feast day between the lines of the Kyrie; indeed English renaissance composers seem to have regarded the Sarum rite Kyrie as part of the propers and begin their mass settings with the Gloria. These tropes were essentially texts.

Until the 1970 revision of the Roman Missal, the Agnus Dei was modified for Requiem Masses, and prayed not miserere nobis (have mercy on us) and dona nobis pacem (grant us peace), but dona eis requiem (grant them rest) and dona eis requiem sempiternam (grant them eternal rest).

It was at one time popular to replace at a Solemn Mass the second half of the Sanctus (the Benedictus) with hymns such as the O Salutaris Hostia, or, at requiems, with a musical setting of the final invocation of the Dies Irae: "Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem."


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