The History of Daily Mass in the Church

Issue: When did the celebration of daily Mass begin in the early Church?

Response: The Eucharist began to be celebrated daily on a regional basis in the seventh century. During this time the practice became widespread in Frankish monasteries and in rural parishes.

Discussion: Regarding daily Mass, as with most developments, the early Church progressed by region and according to different time lines. “Mass” is a term used for the Latin Rite liturgy in the Western Church. “Eucharist” is the more universal term.

According to Dom Dix in The Shape of the Liturgy,[1] the Eucharist was first celebrated with bishops and priests concelebrating, or “corporately.” The Eucharist was not normally celebrated daily in pre-Nicene times. During Augustine’s time (c. 400), daily Eucharist was introduced in Africa, but the rest of the Church simply observed the feast days on the calendar. As more feast days were added to the calendar, the Church moved gradually closer to daily Eucharist. Where there was daily liturgy in the fifth century, it was celebrated with the bishop. Daily Eucharist in some regions in the fifth and sixth centuries was tied to the bishop’s devotion to the Eucharist. Therefore, the largest leap to widespread daily Eucharist was the assignment of priests to parishes. Priests who wanted to exercise more fully their priesthood began to celebrate the Eucharist daily.

According to Dix, the Eucharist was not celebrated daily on a regional basis until the seventh century. At this time the practice became widespread in Frankish monasteries and many of the secular priests of large rural dioceses were dispatched by their bishops for parish work. While daily Mass eventually became usual for all regions of the Western Church, to this day Eastern Catholics celebrate according to the liturgical calendar.

Recommended Reading

Holy Bible (Catholic edition)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Vatican II Documents

Sacrosanctum Concilium

Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger

Fr. Josef Jungmann, S.J., Early Liturgy: To the Time of Gregory the Great (Available from Notre Dame Press)

Rev. Peter Stravinskas, The Bible and the Mass

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, In the Presence of Our Lord

Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God

Hahn and Flaherty, eds., Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass

Leon Suprenant and Philip Gray, Faith Facts:Answers to Catholic Questions

Ted Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew

Leon Suprenant, ed., Servants of the Gospel

Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life

To order these and other titles, call Emmaus Road toll-free: (800) 398-5470 or visit www.emmausroad.org.

Other available Faith Facts

• Is Missing Sunday Mass a Mortal Sin? • The Year of the Eucharist • Eastern Catholic Churches • Mass: Timeless and Changing • Smells, Bells, and Other Liturgical Odds & Ends • Defending Our Rites: Constructively Dealing With Liturgical Abuse • Invalid Masses

Call 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484).

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© 2004 Catholics United for the Faith

[1] Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (London: A & C Black ©1945) 592-593. Includes note: “A useful collection of the early evidence on  daily celebration is found in Sacrificial Priesthood by Fr. Joseph Barker, C.R., London, 1941.”

Date created:
7/1/2005
Last edited:
7/1/2014

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