The Secret ( Latin Secreta, sc. oratio secreta ) is the prayer said in a low voice by the celebrant at the end of the Offertory in the Roman Liturgy. It is the original and for a long time was the only offertory prayer. It is said in a low voice merely because at the same time the choir sings the Offertory, and it has inherited the special name of Secret as being the only prayer said in that way at the beginning. The silent recital of the Canon (which is sometimes called "Secreta", as by Durandus, "Rat. div. off.", IV, xxxv), did not begin earlier than the sixth or seventh century, Cardinal Bona thinks not till the tenth (Rer. liturg., II, 13, §1). Moreover all our present offertory prayers are late additions, not made in Rome till the fourteenth century (see OFFERTORY). Till then the offertory act was made in silence, the corresponding prayer that followed it was our Secret. Already in "Apostolic Const.", VIII, XII, 4, the celebrant receiving the bread and wine, prays "silently" (Brightman "Eastern Liturgies ", p. 14), doubtless for the same reason, because a psalm was being sung. Since it is said silently the Secret is not introduced by the invitation to the people: "Oremus". It is part of the Proper of the Mass, changing for each feast or occasion, and is built up in the same way as the Collect (q.v.). The Secret too alludes to the saint or occasion of the day. But it keeps its special character inasmuch as it nearly always (always in the case of the old ones) asks God to receive these present gifts, to sanctify them, etc. All this is found exactly as now in the earliest Secrets we know, those of the Leonine Sacramentary. Already there the Collect, Secret, Postcommunion, and "Oratio ad populum" form a connected and homogeneous group of prayers. So the multiplication of Collects in one Mass (see COLLECT) entailed a corresponding multiplication of Secrets. For every Collect the corresponding Secret is said.
The name "Secreta" is used in the "Gelasian Sacramentary"; in the Gregorian book these prayers have the title "Super oblata". Both names occur frequently in the early Middle Ages. In "Ordo Rom. II" they are: "Oratio super oblationes secreta" (P.L., LXXVIII, 973). In the Gallican Rite there was also a variable offertory prayer introduced by an invitation to the people (Duchesne, "Origines du culte", Paris, 1898, pp. 197-8). It has no special name. At Milan the prayer called "Oratio super sindonem" ( Sindon for the veil that covers the oblata ) is said while the Offertory is being made and another "Oratio super oblata" follows after the Creed, just before the Preface. In the Mozarabic Rite after an invitation to the people, to which they answer: "Præsta æterne omnipotens Deus", the celebrant says a prayer that corresponds to our Secret and continues at once to the memory of the saints and intercession prayer. It has no special name (P.L., LXXXV, 540-1). But in these other Western rites this prayer is said aloud. All the Eastern rites have prayers, now said silently, after the Great Entrance, when the gifts are brought to the altar and offered to God, but they are invariable all the year round and no one of them can be exactly compared to our Secret. Only in general can one say that the Eastern rites have prayers, corresponding more or less to our offertory idea, repeated when the bread and wine are brought to the altar.
At either high or low Mass the celebrant, having answered "Amen" to the prayer "Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium", says in a low voice the Secret or Secrets in the same order as he said the Collects, finding each at its place in the proper Mass. He ends the first and last only with the form "Per Dominum nostrum" (as the Collects). The last clause of the last Secret: "Per omnia sæcula sæculorum" is said or sung aloud, forming the "ekphonesis" before the Preface.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online