On Ferial (Weekday) Masses

The advent of Advent tends to bring with it an increase of services during the week. In most parishes, this probably takes the form of a Wednesday evening vespers, but an increasing number of parishes seem to be offering mass in place of or in addition to the evening office. This year has probably also seen a substantial uptick in the number of weekday masses in all seasons of the year taking place in Lutheran parishes as we deal with concerns regarding capacity and distancing.

With all this in mind, it seems that a post on weekday masses is necessary, and, perhaps, six months overdue. We are all quite familiar with the Divine Service as it proceeds on Sundays and feast days, but rather less familiar is the form of ferial, or weekday, masses. Feria, as used here, might simply be understood as “a day that is neither a Sunday nor a feast day.” Ferial masses are rather simpler than an ordinary Sunday mass, and tend, like the services of Lent and Holy Week, to retain a more sparse ordering of the service. While one might speak of ferial masses “omitting” such things as the Gloria in excelsis and the Creed, it would be more accurate to understand the Gloria in excelsis and Creed as ordinaries that were never added to the ferial mass in the first place, much as the Gloria in excelsis was not so much omitted from the season of Lent as the sober nature of the season resisted such festive additions.

Rather than commenting in entirely paragraph form, I have instead provided below an outline, with commentary, of what a ferial mass looks like, taking as its basis the Common Service (The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 15; Lutheran Service Book, p. 184).

Confession and Absolution – The service proceeds exactly as printed in the service book from Invocation to Absolution.

Introit – The introit may be either sung or spoken. Unless otherwise noted (as on Ember Days), the introit, gradual, and verse are that of the preceding Sunday. So, for example, the introit for the Wednesday and Friday of the first week in Advent is “Unto Thee, O Lord…” as on the First Sunday in Advent. (The notable exception, of course, is if a feast happens to fall on a Sunday. So, for example, when All Saints fell on a Sunday this year, the Wednesday and Friday masses had the introit from the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity, which had been displaced by All Saints.)

Kyrie – The Kyrie is sung or spoken.

Gloria – The Gloria in excelsis is not said on ferias, with the exception of the days within the octave of Easter.

Salutation and Collect – The salutation and collect are sung or spoken as normal. The collect is that of the previous Sunday.

Readings – Ferial masses largely have only two readings, generally an Epistle and Gospel, though the ferial masses of Lent have an Epistle from the Old Testament (Yes, yes, confusing, I know. “Epistle” in this context refers to a liturgical function and not a genre of biblical literature). In either case, nearly every week through the year has assigned readings for Wednesday and Friday, and a full mass (introit, collect, readings, etc.) is provided for every day in Lent. A ferial mass on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday would use the readings from the previous Sunday.

Gradual and Verse – The Gradual was historically (in the time period with which we are concerned) sung directly before the Verse on Sundays as well as ferias, and they return to this pattern at ferial masses. They might well also return to their historic arrangement at Sunday masses, but that’s a matter for another post.

In Advent: While Alleluias are not absent from Advent in the same way that they are absent from Lent, the weekday mass in Advent most properly has only the Gradual from the preceding Sunday and not the Alleluia and Verse.

Gospel – The Gospel is introduced and read or chanted as normal.

Creed – The Creed is a rather late addition to the mass, and never seems to have been added to the ferial masses. In addition, there are quite a few feasts that aren’t even considered of sufficient importance to merit the saying of the Creed. As I flip through the 1503 missal from Magdeburg, for instance, I see that the Mass for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist does not include the Creed unless it falls on a Sunday (Credo non dicitur nisi sit Dominica), and the same is true of St. Lucy and St. Nicholas; though it is specified that the feasts of the Annunciation, the Conversion of St. Paul, and St. Thomas the Apostle are to have the Creed said at their mass, no matter on which day they fall.

While we are quite accustomed to saying the Creed at each and every mass, it is helpful to remember that the Creed didn’t really have a place in the Mass of the Western Church until around the year 1000, and even then it never made its way into these ferial masses.

Hymn of the Day / Hymns – These are entirely optional at a weekday mass. Do what you like, though perhaps lean toward less.

Sermon – Yes, but perhaps lean toward less. If you’ve been a manuscript sort of fellow and find yourself with a regular weekday mass, it can be a great opportunity to become more comfortable with an outline, or with just the text and some notes in the margins.

Offertory – The offertory is said, and there may well also be proper offertories included in the published missal.

Prayer of the Church – Some form of intercession for the church and the world is desirable, though the full General Prayer might be a little excessive. Some more abbreviated forms can be found in The Lutheran Liturgy (the companion volume to The Lutheran Hymnal, and not the historical work by Luther D. Reed). You might also consider using the adapted litany from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as found in Lutheran Service Book pp. 249-251.

Preface, Proper Preface, and Sanctus – Sung or spoken. The preface is the “weekday preface” as found in the Altar Book of Lutheran Service Book. The text is as follows:

It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God: Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and saying:

If the Sanctus is spoken, it is spoken without the repetitions, e.g.:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Our Father and Verba – Sung or spoken.

Pax Domini and Agnus Dei – Sung or spoken.

Nunc Dimittis – As the Nunc Dimittis is a fairly recent addition to the service, there are no rubrics governing its usage. However, in line with the custom of not allowing later additions like the Gloria in excelsis and Creed at ferial masses, I suggest that you might also refrain from the Nunc Dimittis at ferial masses.

Thanksgiving and Post-Communion Collect – Sung or spoken. The printed missal will provide at least some of the proper post-communion collects.

Salutation, Benedicamus, and Benediction – Sung or spoken.

I hope that this outline has proved helpful, and if you have any questions, please feel free to drop them in the comment box.

6 thoughts on “On Ferial (Weekday) Masses

  1. Thank you very much for all of your hard work on this. When might lections be available for the Trinity season? My parish offers Wednesday evening Divine Services during the summer months, and I would love to use the lections for the Wednesdays in Trinity.


    1. I’m afraid we don’t have a completely ironed out Trinitytide weekday lectionary ready to go, but I can send you a draft.


      1. I would appreciate that very much! Do you have access to my email address from this website? And thank you again for all that you are doing on this!


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