Liturgical Timeline of the Roman Liturgy
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Liturgical Timeline of the Roman Liturgy

a modification of an off-site document: The Catholic Liturgical Library
For easier printing also available in PDF format (A4, landscape)

Widespread practice but no universal norm
Optional or one of many options
Universal norm of the Latin rite
Part of another section of the Mass or in a different location than currently
Psalms sung as a processional. ca. 397: 

St. Ambrose introduced practice of singing an antiphon before and after the psalm.

ca. 700-900: 

Psalm shrunk to one verse with antiphons. Said at every Mass by priest at altar (Also sung in procession).

Middle Ages: 

Any embelishments added to elaborate on the psalm and fill the complicated melodies.


Simple form restored with promulgation of Tridentine Missal.


Gradually dropped as a processional


restored as processional music


Made optional said when there is no processional song.

Prayers at the foor of the altar
Private preparation prayers said by priest with no set form followed by a private admission of sin said while approaching the altar. ca. 900:

Psalm 43 becomes a commonly used prayer followed by a confiteor and the "Aufer a nobis." To avoid rushing, prayers are said while at the foot of the alter.


Prayers set in final form following Council of Trent.


Prayers abolished. 

Originally part of prayers aid by priest as he approched the altar with no set form. Usually said with a profound bow or kneeling. 1080: 

Basic form of current Confiteor used at Cluny.


Cistercian order added Mary to list of saints petitioned.


3rd Council of Ravenna limits saints petitioned by name to those in the current Tridentine form.


Norm in Rome made universal in Tridentine Missal.


Confiteor re-written and added to new penitential rite as an option.

  ca. 500: 

Introduced into the Roman rite from the East with the addition of "Christe eleison" and a litany Sung alternating between clergy and faithful.


Litany gradually dropped. Triple repetition of Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie becomes norm.

Middel Ages: 

Variety of texts inserted to fill up complicated melodies.


Extraneous texts removed. Triple repetition restored.


Triple repetition dropped. Now is just a responsory.

  c. 128-139:

Pope Telsphorus supposedly added fist half of Gloria to Christmas Mass.


St. Hillary translated the rest of the Gloria that we have today.


Pope Symmachus extended use of Gloria to all Sundays and births of martyrs but limited its use to bishops.

11th century:

Priests given permission to use Gloria same as bishops

Middle Ages:

Manu additional parts inserted into Gloria agains wishes of Rome


Additions abolished

  Date uncertain: Legend attributes original collects to Pope Damascus (366-384) V-VI Century: 

First record of collects found in missal.

ca. 1100: 

Use of multiple collects adopted by Rome from Northern Europe.


Number of collects decreased to one for almost all occasions.


Number of collects decreased to one for all days.

Lessons from Bible read from earliest times. No set length or selections V Century: 

Number of readings reduced to two with a fixed length

VII Century: 

Number of readings reduced to one from the Epistles except on certain feasts


Number of readings for Sundays increased to two and a three year cycle of readings created

Gradual and Alleluia
Psalms originally sung between readings followed by Alleluia VI Century:

Length reduced from entire psalm to two verses.

VII Century: 

When number of readings was reduced second psalm (tract) dropped except on certain occasions. Alleluia combined with graduale


New responsorial psalms written as options in place of Gradual and Tract

Dismissal of Cathechumens
Until the end of the sixth century catechumens were dismissed from the church at this time In all other rites the catechumens were dismissed after the sermon.   1973: 

New Rite of Christian Initiation provides option for a dismissal of the cathechumens after the homily.

The Gospel was originally read by a male lector and did not have a fixed length ca. 400: 

Reading the gospel became the duty of the Deacon.

The sermon was given from the earliest times but was not a usual practice at all Masses in Rome 1563: 

Council of Trent commanded that sermons be given at all Sunday and feast day and other times deamed appropriate.


Regulations concerning sermons reafirmed in GIRM


Nicene Creed added to the Mass on Sundays and feasts

Prayers of the Faithful
Prayers where said for the Church, state, poor, enemies, travelers, prisoners and anyone else thought to be in need of spiritual help. ca.500: 

Prayers dropped except for a litany on Good Friday, possibly because the prayers were seen as repetative of the prayers in the Canon.


Prayers of the Faithful restored.

Offertory Procession
The faithful would bring forward gifts of bread and wine for the consecration. Whatever was not consecrated was distributed to the poor. ca. 400: 

Other churches began preparing the gifts before Mass and held a solemn procession at this time.

ca. 900: 

Practice of bringing bread and wine along with the offertory procession disappears.


Offertory procession restored but people no longer bring bread and wine from home.

Offertory Chant
A psalm was sung during the Offertory procession c.300-400: 

Psalm shortened to a few verses with an antiphon.

ca. 1000-1100: 

Shortened again to just an antiphon.


Made optional. Sung if there is not an offertory song.

Offertory Prayers
  ca. 1300: 

Various offertory prayers came to be used in all parts of Europe.


Prayers set into one form in the Tridentine Missal taking parts from various regions.


Prayers rewritten and shortened.

from the earliest times:

Washing of hands has been done usually twice, once after receiving the gifts and again in its curent location. There were no fixed prayers


First washing vanished and Psalm 25 becomes a common prayer during the remaining washing.


Psalm 25 is made the universal prayer to the Holy Trinity in use in parst of Europe also made universal


Psalm 25 abolished and replaced with a 1 sentence prayer. Prayer to the Holy Trinity droppen.

Orate Fratres
  ca. 1400: 

Various forms come into use asking the people to pray for the worthiness of the sacrifice.


Form standarized in Tridentine Missal

Said silently from earliest times and always had different forms for different feasts. 1969: 

Secret made audible

Originally not considered separate from the Canon. Was much longer and contained a list op p1etitions ca. 600: 

Number of prefaces grew to 267.

ca. 700: 

Number of prefaces reduced to 54 including the most common preface still used today.

ca. 800: 

Number of prefaces reduced to 10, all of which are found in the Tridentine Missal. Preface now concidered a separate portion of the Mass

Middle Ages: 

Number of prefaces increased to fifteen.


1969: Number of prefaces increased to 55.

Attributed to Pope Sixtus I. Sung at solemn feasts.


council of Vaison orders Sanctus to be sung at all Masses

The Canon to the Consecration
Original form of Canon is unknown. Writing from the 4th century contain many of the same prayers as in the Tridentine Mass but in a different order. ca.

500: Prayers set in order found in Tridentine Mass.


St. Gregory set Canon in current form found in Tridentine Mass

ca. 750 

Canon said silently


St Joseph added to the Canon


Three new Eucharistic Prayers added. Canon kept as an option.
2 Eucharistic Prayers of reconciliation added.

Original form was a blending of different gospel accounts. ca. 600: 

Words of consecration same as in Tridentine Mass.

Middle Ages: 

Various ceremonies such as elevation of host and chalice and ringing of bells added. No set form.


Ceremonial form set for Tridentine Mass.


Words of consecration rewritten

Mystery of Faith

Phrase "mysterium fidei" removed from consecration and made into a new responsory.

To the end of the Canon
Original form of Canon is unknown:

Writings from the 4th century contain many of the same prayers as in the Tridentine Mass but in a different order.

ca. 500: 

in order found in Tridentine Mass


Women listed in Canon possibly added by St. Gregory.

ca. 750: 

Canon said silent


Three new Eucharistic Prayers added. Canon kept as an option.
2 Eucharistic Prayers of reconciliation added

Pater Noster
Pater Noster has been a part of all liturgies from the earliest times. Originally was said after Communion in Rome. ca. 589: 

St. Gregory claims to have moved the Pater Noster to its current location

Sign of Peace
Sign of Peace has been a part of all liturgies. Originally came before the Canon. ca. 400: 

Sign of Peace moved after the fraction and comingling.

Middle Ages: 

Practice of passing the peace from the piest to the deacon and to the faithful becomes common.

Late Middle Ages: 

Practice slowly fades until it is a formality exchanged between the clergy at high Masses


Sign if Peace moved to its current location with the option for a general exchange of peace.

Fraction was originally a much more complicated ritual involving laying out the broken host in the sign of the cross Ceremony involved in the fraction gradually dwindled until it reached its present form.  
Agnus Dei
  -- XIIth Century:

Current triple repetition ending in dona nobis pacem adopted but some churches end with miserere nobis instead.

Middle Ages:

Additional texts inserted and often used as a communion song.


Additional texts dropped.

Placing of a particle of the Host into the chalice is ancient and originally was done twice/ First, apiece of the Host from the previous Mass was added at the Pax. Second, right before Communion. Xth Century: 

First commixture disappears

XIVth Century: 

Current practice which is a shortened version of rite becomes the norm.

Communion of the Priest
From the earliest times:

the priest received Communion before everyone.

IXth-Xth Century :

Prayers for holiness and grace appear in some missals but are not universally used.

Middle ages: 

Other prayers introduced but original prayers are most common and eventually become norm.


Priest now chooses between the prayers instead of saying both.

Communion Prayers
  Late Middle Ages: 

Prayers said before distribution of Communion outside of Mass become common during Mass. No set form.


confiteor, Ecce Agnus Dei and Domine Non Sum Dignus added to Roman Missal


Confiteor dropped

Communion of the Faithful
From the earliest times: 

the faithful received Communion under both species, standing. The Host was distributed in de hand but women were reguired to have a cloth over their hands to receive


Practice of Communion on the tongue appears but not common.

Xth-XIth Century:

Communion in the hand decreases and is abolished for fear of proganation.

XIth-XVIth Century:

Practice of kneeling to receive Communion becomes primary practice.


After a long decrease in reception from the chalice, practice abolished to combat Hussite heresy.


Communion under both species restored in most cases along with option to recieve in the hand and standing.
1968: Permission granted for laity to distribute Communion in extraordinary circumstances for the first time in the history of the Church.

Communion Antiphon
  Vth Century: 

First mention of a Communion chant. Originally the Communion song sung alternately by choir, subdeacons and laity.

XIIth Century: 

Length decreased to a simple antiphon said by the priest after Communion but still occassionally sung as well.


Antiphon may be sung during Communion. If there is no singing, it is recited by a reader or the laity. It may also berecited by the priest before he gives Communion to the faithful.

  ca. 700:

First mentions of a special hand cleansing following Communion.

IXth century: 

Special ceremonies for cleansing the chalice appear but only include the use of water.

XIth Century:

Cleansing begins to include wine.


Dominican ordo introduces ceremonies that eventually become the norm for the Latin church.


Use of wine made optional.

Post-Communion Prayer
From the earliest times:

A prayer without a set form was used and originally combined a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing which marked the end om Mass. The blessing eventually dwindled as a separate final blessing evolved. Over the centuries the prayers were standardized.

Oratio super populum
  3th Century: 

Originally a prayer of blessing over the people

6th Century: 

Use of prayer dwindled until it was only used during Lent as a prayer over non-communicants. Some areas retained sporadic use of the prayers during the year.


Prayer dropped completely


Practice of the priest kissing the altar before leaving is very ancient but dat of introduction is unknown. Took place following the dismissal.

9th Century: 

Prayer as found in the Tridentine Ordo appears in France and spreads quickly throughout Europe.

Middle Ages: 

Additional prayers added without a set form.


Medival additions dropped and form standarized


Prayer dropped completely

Final Blessing
  8th Century: 

First mention of a final blessing separate from the post-communion prayer. Only given by the Pope.

11th Century: 

Priests geven permission te give blessing but not a mandatory part of the Mass

14th Century: 

final blessing given by bishop is the same as in the Tridentine missal.


Final blessing given by all clergy standarized.


blessing moved to before the dismissal. Many new optional blessings added.