Liturgical Deviations in Ulysses

Willis E. McNelly

In view of James Joyce's religious background-a Catholicism so pervasive that he accepted it as ". . . the fish accepts the ocean, a world into which he had been bom and which was his natural element,"i-4t is almost inevitable that references pertaining to Catholic liturgy are incorporated throughout Ulysses by the Dublinborn, Jesuit-educated author. These references are not, of course, indicative of any personal commitment of belief; they are utilizations in an artistic sense, and are deployed in Ulysses into the rich fabric of language and symbolism on all levels of abstraction.

Diverse liturgical sources appear throughout the massive novel, ranging from the Introibo ad altare Dei intoned by stately, plump Buck Mulligan on page one to the half-remembered confessional procedures recalled by Molly Bloom in her final soliloquy. Most of these liturgical quotations may be found in the Rituale Romanum or in the Missale Romanum, which detail the proper procedures for celebrating mass and the administration of the Catholic sacramental system. This conscious integration of liturgical devices provides a complementary texture to the development of the Homeric and Dublin themes of the novel. Incorporated into Ulysses often with absolute accuracy, the devices reveal an intellectualized familiarity with the Missal and Rituale that an average Catholic would not normally attain; they undoubtedly reflect either Joyce's development under Jesuit education or his personal fascination with the two texts as an artistic source. The accurate citation of these sources is strikingly evident early in the novel. As Stephen is thinking of his mother's death, he murmurs:

Liliata rutilandum te confessorum turma circumdet.
iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat. (Ulysses, 1961, p.10)

Part of the Ordo Commendationis Anbnae, this particular prayer is one of the specific Latin recitations that would have been said while Stephen's mother was dying. The complete Ordo includes a litany of the saints, nine special prayers, a gospel lesson, the story of the passion, three Psalms, several recitations of the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and concludes with three final prayers. The entire blessing, of which the Liliata is a small part, occupies almost 30 pages in the Rituale, and Joyce uses the Liliwa here and in several other places in Ulysses to intensify Stephen's mental anguish. The fact that this reference should pervade Stephen's unconscious might presume a close familiarity with the text.

The Joycean commitment to liturgical reference falls into three categories. The first, already cated, is unqualified accuracy culled from a personal familiarity with these texts. The second is the transformation of the liturgical references into parody which demonstrates Joyce's facile wit, his delight in language, a satirical innuendo, and a semi-blasphemous jocularity. Here, accuracy is -not important, and Joyce intentionally deviates for an incongruous and unexpected effect. The parody of the Apostle's Creed in the Cyclops chapter provides a perfect prototype of Joyce's technique:

They believe in rod, the scourger almighty, creator of hell on earth, and Jacky Tar, the son of a gun, who was conceived of an unholy boast, born of the fighting navy, suffered under rump and dozen, was scarified, flayed and curried, yelled like bloody hell, the third day he arose again from the bed, steered into haven, sitteth on his beamend till further orders whence he shall come to drudge for a living and be paid. (329)

Examples of this type of artistic variation are almost a signature of Joyce's works, found in Dubliners, the Portrait, and Finnegans Wake as well as Ulysses.

Incidentally, the Wake in particular is replete with liturgical parody as even a casual eance at almost any page will demonstrate. A particularly amusing example occurs midway in chapter one of Book 11 as Shem and Shaun, bearing the names of Glugg and Chuff, are struggling for the approval of the girls. One says, "May he colp, may he colp her, may he mixandmass colp her!" (p. 238). This is quite obviously derived from a line in the Confiteor of the mass, "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.""through my fault, through my most grievous fault." Joyce's technique is his usual one of reversal in meaning by means of the parody, skirting the edges of blasphemy.

In addition to these two major types, there are a number of other inconsistencies or liturgical deviations in Ulysses. These include various in-accuracies, such as calling one part of the liturgy by the wrong name when no artistic purpose is apparently served by the name Joyce provides. Such deviations are surprising, for Joyce's research habits have been well documented by Ellmann. It would seem that Joyce might have depended upon a dimming memory of his Catholic inheritance in some instances rather than verify a name or quotation in the Missal or Rituale. One example occurs early in the Circe chapter with Stephen's first appearance on the scene:

(Stephen, flourishing the ashplant in his left hand, chants with joy the introit for paschal time. Lynch, his jocky cap low on his brow, attends him, a sneer of discontent wrinkling his face,)


Yidi aquam egredientern de ternplo a latere dextro. Alleluia.
(The famished snaggletooths of an elderly bawd protrude from a doorway.)
(Her voice whispering huskily.) Sst! Come here till I tell you. Maidenhead inside. Ssst.


(Altius aliquantium.) Et omnes ad quos pervenit aqua ista.
[Two speeches are here omitted]


(Triumphaliter.) Salvi facti i sunt. (431-432)

While this is a notable example of Joycean humor, it does not alter the fact that it is not the Introit for Paschal time that Stephen is chanting: it is the Asperges for Paschal time. In fact, liturgically speaking, there is no such thing as an Introit for Paschal time. One of the variable parts of the mass, the Introit will change from Sunday to Sunday throughout the year; the Asperges is not actually part of the mass itself. It is normally sung before a Sunday high mass as the priest, vested for mass but wearing a cope-a long cloak, fastening in front and worn at all solemn ceremonies outside mass-sprinkles the altar, the clergy, and the people in turn. The observant reader will notice the resemblances between Stephen's coat and ashplant on one hand and the cope and the sprinkler or aspersory used for sprinkling holy water on the other.

In the Salvi facti i sunt chanted triumphaliter by Stephen, the letter "i" inserted after facti is not in the actual Asperges, and Hanley's Word Index does not indicate that it is a typographical error. There is no apparent reason for Joyce's deviations here. The addition of the extra 'T' might be defended by some critics as being necessary in Gregorian chant; the change in nomenclature from Asperges to Introit could be explained by maintaining that the Circe chapter assumes the structure of a mass, that the Introit is the opening prayer of the mass, and that Joyce is simply allowing himself artistic elasticity as he opens a mass-structured chapter. Yet any explanation ultimately seems inadequate.

Two further deviations occur in the Cyclops chapter. One is an incorrect identification of the specific feast day celebrated on June 16, 1904; the other is an apparent anachronism. The identification Joyce gives reads:

And whereas on the sixteenth day of the month of the oxeyed goddess and in the third week after the feastday of the Holy and Undivided Trinity ... (322)

Strictly speaking, the date of the various feasts of the church is determined by the date of Easter. In 1904, Easter fell on April 3, with Pentecost, which marks the end of Paschal time, occuring on May 22. Since the Sunday following Pentecost is always Trinity Sunday, June 5 was the first Sunday after Trinity Sunday, and June 12, the Sunday which preceded the action of Ulysses, was the second Sunday after Trinity Sunday, and, as Joyce puts it, ".. . the third week after the feast day of the Holy and Undivided Trinity."

However, the Catholic church never uses Trmity Sunday as a base from which to measure liturgical time. Pentecost is the base to be used in d3is instance, with Joyce's passage conjecturally reading, "And whereas in the sixteenth day of the month of the oxeyed goddess and within the octave of the feastday of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus in the third week after Pentecost." Such details of liturgical reference could easily have been forgotten in the years that Joyce had left the Church, but the correct nomenclature could easily have been ascertained by consulting any missal. It should be noted also that Joyce's change apparently achieves no artistic purpose that could not have been served by accurate usage.

The anachronism in the same Cyclops chapter is also difficult to understand. In the long list of saints and pseudo-saints on p. 338, the name "Blessed Sister Theresa of the child Jesus" is used, an unquestioned reference to St. Theresa of Lisieux, popularly known as the "Little Flower." St. Theresa died in 1897, was beatified by Pius XI in 1923, and canonized by him in 1925. Of particular interest here is the title "Blessed!' ascribed to her by Joyce. This title is reserved by the church for those who have actually undergone the ceremony of beatification, just as the title "Saint" is criven only to those who have been formally canonized. Thus Joyce's ascription of the title to her in 1904, less than seven years after her death, is a technical error. "Blessed Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus" had not yet been beatified when Ulysses was written in 19141921. However, St. Theresa acquired a wide-spread reputation for pre-eminent sanctity within a few years after her death, and her veneration as a private devotion was permitted in France as early as 1910. It is this veneration, probably familiar to Joyce, which may account for the anachronism.

Another liturgical deviation occurs immediately following the procession of saints mentioned above:

And as they wended their way by Nelson's Pillar, Henry Street, Mary Street, Capel Street, Little Britain Street, chanting the introit Epiphania Domini which beginneth Surge, 11huninare and thereafter most sweetly the gradual Omnes which saith de Saba venient they did divers wonders .. .(340)

By coincidence, the deviation here also involves the Introit. What Joyce calls the Introit is actually the epistle for the feast of the Epiphany. The Introit for the Epiphany reads:

Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus. et regnum in manu eius, et potestas, et imperius. Deus, judicium tuum regi da, et
justitiam tuain Filia Regis.

The epistle for Epiphany begins:

Surge, Illuminare, Jerusalem: quid Venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te Orta est ...

In this same passage Joyce refers to the gradual; this prayer immediately follows the epistle in the proper of the inass, and Joyce cites it accurately. it reads, for the Epiphany:

Omnes de Saba venient, surum et thus deferentes, et laudem
Domino annuntiates. Surge, et illuminate, Jerusalem: quit gloria
Domini super te orta est.

It is difficult to ascertain the reason for this variation in nomenclature on Joyce's part. He knows enough about the liturgy to use the word 11thereaftee, to indicate that the gradual immediately follows what he has called the Introit. His placement of the Gradual is thus correct because it immediately follows the epistle in the canon of the mass and Joyce has quoted from the epistle while calling it the Introit. Again no apparent explanation for this deviation can be adduced, and again it is obvious that the correct liturgical nomenclature would have served Joyce's artistic purpose equally well.

Another adaptation is found in the formal blessing which immediately follows this passage:

... the celebrant blessed the house and censed the mullioned windows and the groynes and the vaults and the arrises ... and he blessed the viands and the beverages and the company of all the blessed answered his prayers.

-Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domine.
--Quit fecit coelum et terram.
-Dominus vobiscum.
-Et cum spiritu tuo.
And he paid his hand upon the blessed and gave thanks and be prayed and they all with him prayed:

-Deus, cuius, verbo sanctificantur omnia, benedictionem tuam effunda super creaturas istas. et proesta ut quisque eis secundum legem et voluntatem Tuam cum gratiarum actione usus fuerit per invocationem sanctissimi nominis Tui corporis sanitatem et animae tutelam Te auctore precipiat per Christum Dominum Nostrum.

In using this blessing, Joyce seems to be giving evidence that his knowledge of the liturgy is profound. He provides, precisely and accurately, a complete rendering of the Benedictio ad Omnia. The average reader of Ulysses, or even the average Catholic whose knowledge of the liturgy might well be less than Joyce's, might remark on the literary effect of an authentic blessing, consider the mocking overtones in his use of it, and then overlook any other implications. An examination of the Rituale, however, again shows what might be hasty research on Joyce's part. The Rituale reads, concerning the Benedictio ad Omnia:

Haec benedictio formula adhiberi potest a quovia Sacerdote pro
omnibus rebus, quarum sPecialis benedictiO in hoc Rituale non habetur.

This formula of blessing must be reserved by the priest for all things which do not have a special blessing in this Ritual. Such an admonition places a different light on Joyce's use of the blessing. Moreover the casual reader should not overlook the liturg- ical implications behind the word "celebrant," a word normally used for a priest only when he says or "celebrates" mass, as well as the phrase "laid his hand," a seeming reference to the sacrament of ordination. The Benedictio ad omnia is used in neither the mass nor ordination ceremonies. Joyce's "celebrant" has blessed the house and the "viands and the beverages." Thus two special blessings, the Benedictio Domorum and the Benedictio Panis, Vini, Aquae et Fructuum, might well have been used by Joyce instead.

It is again apparent here that Joyce, either trusting to memory or hurried research, seized upon the Benedictio ad omnia as an ac- curately sounding blessing, artistically correct for his purpose. Yet the question arises: would the artistic effect on any of Joyce's read- ers be altered by utilizing either of the correct blessings? Probablys not. Joyce may have loved the liturgy, as many wnimentators have remarked, but he did not always love it well enough to use it accurately.

Other deviations in liturgical procedure occur in the Lotus Eaters chapter. These deviations, again, are not those of parody, exaggera- tion, or semi-blasphemous content which the reader of Ulysses has almost come to expect. They are variations in liturgical procedures for which there is no apparent purpose, or instances where the ac- curate liturgical use would serve equally well artistically. Several occur when Bloom is visiting All Hallows Church. As Joyce de- scribes him:

... he sat back quietly in his bench. The priest came down from the altar [after saying the Last Gospel], holding the thing [chalice or ciboriuml out from him, and he and the massboy answered each other in Latin. (82)

Actually, all of the prayers said at the foot of the altar following the Last Gospel are said in the language of the country, and not in Latin. Bloom, of course, might be hearing English said indistinct- ly and in his ignorance of Catholic procedure mistake it for Latin. Yet Bloom comments mentally on the English prayers as he thinks skeptically, "Throw them a bone," and leans forward to catch the words.

. Such slips by Joyce in details that we would presume him to be familiar with are surprising, particularly when he is totally ac- curate as he refers to some minutiae of liturgical action. One of many such accuracies occurs early in the novel as Stephen thinks about the old woman who brings the milk to the Martello tower.

To the voice that will shrive and oil for the grave all there is of her but her womaes unclean loins... (14)

This comment on the sacrament of extreme unction adds much to the portrait of Stephen. Stephen is drawn further into his shell of pride and wounded sensibility by the fact that the woman speaks to Mulligan rather than to him. The woman---thus Ireland-speaks to priest and doctors, but not to artists. However, it is the phrase "all there is of her but her unclean loins" that reveals an accuracy of technical liturgical discipline that is in direct contrast with later deviations. The techniques of the actual annointing with olive oil in the admimstration of extreme unction include annointing the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the mouth, the hand, the feet, and the lions. Ye the annointing of the feet may be omitted for any good reason, and the unction of the loins is always to be omitted if the subject is a woman.

Thus Joyce's technical accuracy, his awareness of an extremely obscure ritualistic prohibition-a prohibition one might venture to say that not one Catholic in a thousand would be aware of-provides insight into Joyce's use and occasionaly misuse of ritual. Joyce might have studied the sacrament in detail while at Belvedere, but it is more likely that he remembered the administration of extreme unction given to his own mother only a few months prior to June 1904. The undoubtedly sharp memories of that moment could well have impressed the rites of the sacrament quite firmly upon Joyce's mind.

What is important in all of Joyce's liturgical deviations, most of which seemingly stem from a faulty, fading memory or hasty research, is that none of them vitiate the novel or disturb its artistic texture. It is this fact that is curiously important. Joyce's characters of Molly, Bloom, or Stephen do not have a geometrical congruence with their Homeric prototypes or analogues, and no one expects them to. Just as the reader does not expect Molly Bloom to be identical in every respect with an Homeric Penelope, the reader should not be surprised if Joyce calls an epistle an Introit. He is, after all, writing a novel, not a tract or Rituale.


Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. New York: Oxford, 1959.

Gorman, Herbert. James Joyce. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1939.

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. New York: Viking, 1939. Jayce, James. Ulysses. New York: Modem Library, 1961.

LeFebvre, Dom Gaspar, ed. St. Andrew Daily Missal. St. Paul: E. M. Lohmann, 1940.