The Mass of the Five Wounds

From the Sarum Missal—

Sanctus Bonifacius papa ægrotavit usque ad mortem; qui instanter petiit a Deo vitam in hoc sæculo sibi prolongari. Ad quem misit Dominus sanctum Raphaelem archangelum cum officio missæ de quinque vulneribus Christi, dicens ad papam: Surge et scribe istud Officium; et dicas ipsum quinque vicibus: et continuo recipies sanitatem. Et quicunque sacerdos hoc Officium devote pro se vel alio ægrotante celebraverit quinquies; hic sanitatem et gratiam recipiet, et in futuro vitam æternam possidebit, si in bono perseveret. Et in quacunque tribulatione homo exstiterit in hoc sæculo, si procuraverit a sacerdote hoc officium quinquies pro se legi, sine dubio liberabitur. Et si pro anima defuncti legatur; statim postquam complete dictum fuerit, scilicet quinquies, a poenas anima solvetur. Sanctus igitur Bonifacius papa hæc audiens, statim erexit se in loco quo jacuit infirmatus, et ipsum conjuravit per omnipotentem Deum, ut absque suo periculo recederet, et quis esset, et ad quidvenisset sibi continuo indicaret. Qui statim dixit, se esse archangelum Raphaelem a Deo sibi missum, et superius pronunciata promittebat sine dubio fore rata. Sanctus tunc Bonifacius papa officium confirmavit apostolica auctoritate; tribuens omnibus vere confessis et contritis, septimam partem remissionis omnium peccatorum suorum, qui illud devote legerint quina vice. Et similiter illud prædictum officium legi procurantibus, quadraginta dies criminalium et unum annum venialium in Domino relaxavit.

“St. Boniface the pope was sick, even unto death; and he urgently besought God to prolong his life in this world. God sent to him St. Raphael the Archangel with the Office [the word Officium can also mean the Introit] of the Mass of the Five Wounds of Christ, saying to the Pope ‘Get up and write this Office, and you shall say it five times; and straightway you will receive health. And what priest soever shall devoutly celebrate this Office for himself or for another sick person five times, he shall receive health and grace, and in the future shall possess life eternal, provided he perseveres in good. And in whatsoever tribulation a man shall be set in this world, if he procures from a priest that this Office be said for him five times, without doubt he shall be set free. And if it shall be said for the soul of one departed, immediately after it shall have been completely said, that is, five times, his soul shall be loosed from pains.’ Pope St. Boniface therefore, hearing these things, immediately got up in the place where he lay sick, and conjured him [the angel] by Almighty God that he should depart from him without any danger to himself, and should straightway give a sign who he was, and for what purpose he had come to him. He [the Angel] at once said that he was the archangel Raphael sent to him from God, and promised that the things listed above would without doubt be ratified. Pope St. Boniface then confirmed the Office by his apostolic authority, granting to all, truly confessed and penitent, who should say it for the fifth time, a seventh part of the remission of all their sins. And likewise, he loosed in the Lord forty days of mortal sins and one year of venial sins to all who should procure the aforesaid office to be said.”

Illuminated Manuscript/Cutting.

Illuminated Manuscript/Cutting.

In the Divine Worship Missal, there is one Mass that was taken in its entirety from the Sarum Missal*, the Mass of the Five Wounds [Officium missæ de quinque vulneribus domini nostri Jesu Christi].

Devotion to the Wounds of Jesus was extremely popular in medieval Europe, and increasingly so in England in the years leading up to the Reformation. Late medieval piety transformed the contemplation on Christ’s Passion and Death, which was a natural and inevitable topic for devotion among Christians from the earliest years of the Church, into an emphasis on Christ’s suffering—and on the love and pity for us sinners which led Him to undergo it for our salvation. The focus of prayer then came to rest on death and judgement.

man of sorrows chicago

Almost every copy of devotional Books of Hours used by lay people contained depictions of the Man of Sorrows called the Image of Pity [a wounded or dead Christ, frequently shown in front of his tomb and surrounded by the instruments of His torture and execution—the Arma Christi] accompanied by prayers addressed to the Wounds, most often the Adoro te, Domine Jesu Christe, part of which goes—
O LORD JESUS, I adore Thee hanging on the Cross, bearing a crown of thorns upon Thy head. I beseech Thee that Thy Cross may free me from the deceiving Angel. Amen. O LORD JESUS, I adore Thee hanging wounded on the Cross, given vinegar and gall to drink. I beseech Thee that Thy wounds may be the remedy of my soul. Amen. O LORD JESUS, I adore Thee placed in Thy tomb, anointed with myrrh and aromatic spices. I beg Thee that Thy death may be my life. Amen. O LORD JESUS, I adore Thee descending into hell and freeing the captives from there. I beg Thee, that Thou mayest never permit me to enter there. Amen. O LORD JESUS, I adore Thee rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, and sitting at the right hand of the Father. I beg Thee that I may be worthy to follow Thee and be with Thee. Amen.

The prayer concluded thus:

O most kind Lord Jesus, turn to me, a miserable sinner, the eyes of mercy with which you looked upon Peter in the courtyard, Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and the thief on the cross; grant then that with Peter I may lament my sins, with Mary Magdalene I may faithfully serve you, and with the thief I may look upon you forevermore in Heaven; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The earliest versions of this prayer were probably compiled in northern Britain in a monastic setting. Certainly, a much longer version (referring to many events from throughout salvation history) is to be found in the Book of Cerne, which belonged to Adeluald of Lichfield sometime before AD 830. Within a century or so, the sections concerning the Passion of our Lord appeared separately in other Anglo-Saxon collections. The inclusion of Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the “good thief” Dismas in the concluding collect served to lead the devout Christian to emulate their penitence, and thus obtain mercy and forgiveness as they did. Thus the wounded Body of Jesus becomes the sinner’s hope.

It is no accident that five invocations were selected to comprise this separate prayer. As Eamon Duffy points out in his magisterial history of the medieval faith of pre-Reformation England, The Stripping of the Altars, “…fivefold symbolism in connection with the Passion was to become a very striking feature of medieval English piety.” [p.243] This is seen in the Votive Mass of the Five Wounds, the origin legend of which contained the assurance that any soul for whom five Masses of the Wounds were celebrated would be freed from his purgation. Thus this votive Mass was one of the most requested masses to be specified in wills requesting prayer for the deceased. Devotion to the Five Wounds was intimately connected in the minds of Englishmen to intercession for the dead and delivery from Purgatory.

Images of and invocations to the Five Wounds were ubiquitous, appearing in church carvings, headstones, jewelry, and badges throughout the Middle Ages. (Indeed, the Jerusalem Cross itself is a visual reference to the Wounds.)

Duffy, in The Stripping of the Altars, reminds us that the Image of Pity depicts Christ displaying His wounds, which is not an image derived from the iconography of the Passion, but of the Last Judgement when Christ the Judge will show His wounds “to the elect as pledges of his love for them, to sinners as bitter reproach – ‘they shall look on him whom they have pierced’.” [p.246]

wellingham norfolk- pre reformation

This month, St. Luke’s will offer the votive Mass of the Five Wounds five times for the repose of the souls of the beloved dead of St. Luke’s and St. Ignatius’ parishioners and friends. With this intention, four low Masses of the Five Wounds will be offered at 9 am, Tuesday November 12th through Friday November 15th. A fifth sung Mass of the Five Wounds will take place on Saturday November 16th at 10:30 am.

If you would like to have your beloved dead remembered at these masses, please email us so that we can enter the names in our Requiem Book. And join us on November 16th at 10:30 am to assist in the offering of the Mass of the Five Wounds.


*The Sarum Missal contains the Mass ordinary and propers of the Sarum Rite, the particular variant of the Roman Rite which was established by Saint Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury, and Richard Poore in the 11th century. Originally the local form of the Mass used in the Cathedral and Diocese of Salisbury [England], over time it became prevalent throughout most of England, Wales, Ireland, and eventually Scotland. When the Church of England separated from the Catholic Church in the 1530s, it initially retained the Sarum rite, with gradual modifications. Under King Edward VI, Protestant pressure for public worship in English resulted in its replacement by successive versions of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1552. Queen Mary I restored the Sarum rite in 1553, but it was finally abolished by Queen Elizabeth I in 1559. Catholic recusants continued to use the Sarum rite until it was gradually replaced by the Tridentine rite.