ABSTRACT

The Virtues of the Mass is a literary corpus comprising around forty-four known Middle English texts. These writings expound the liturgical sequences of the Mass and/or its spiritual and physical benefits for both clerical and lay audiences, whether literate or illiterate. This article traces 107 manuscripts containing variants of the Virtues of the Mass (as examined in the  appendix) to contend that this corpus of texts should be viewed as a comprehensive genre. It proposes a new taxonomy that categorizes the texts into two traditions: the first textual tradition focuses on the benefits of attending mass, while the second focuses on explaining the liturgical ceremony. This article contextualizes the genre in light of the renewed interest in corporate worship and communal devotional practices in England in the first half of the fifteenth century, and considers key themes associated with the genre such as prayer, soulhele, and liturgical habitus.

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