Differences Between Low, High and Solemn Masses

Low Mass

Only two candles are lit on the altar.

Father celebrates the Mass usually assisted by one or two altar boys who make all of the responses on behalf of the congregation.

High Mass (Missa Cantata)

A High Mass is a sung Mass (Missa Cantata) — think of it as a Low Mass celebrated with more solemnity.

Six candles are lit on the altar.

Father celebrates the Mass assisted by a master of ceremonies, a thurifer, a crucifer, and two altar boys serving as acolytes.  

Parts of this Mass are sung and the responses are made by the MC and altar boys on behalf of the congregation or by the schola. You may join the schola in singing in Latin the unchanging parts of the Mass (et cum spiritu tuo, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Angus Dei, etc.).

On Sundays, the Asperges (or Vidi aquam during Eastertide) will often precede Mass.

Solemn High Mass (Missa Solemnis)

This is the Mass that is ideally celebrated on Sundays and feast days if there are enough sacred ministers and a schola available.

Six candles are lit on the altar.

Father celebrates the Mass assisted by a deacon and a subdeacon, and together they are the sacred ministers of the Mass. They are assisted by a master of ceremonies, a thurifer, a crucifer, and two altar boys serving as acolytes.

Like with a High Mass, parts of this Mass are sung and the responses are made by the deacon and subdeacon (often joined by the MC and altar boys) on behalf of the congregation or by the schola. You may join the schola in singing in Latin the unchanging parts of the Mass (et cum spiritu tuo, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Angus Dei, etc.).

The subdeacon chants the Epistle and the deacon chants the Gospel.

On Sundays, the Asperges (or Vidi aquam during Eastertide) will often precede Mass.