Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dominican Rite Lent I: Ash Wednesday

We begin with a picture of Fr. Anthony Patalano, O.P., pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Portland OR blessing ashes before the Mass of Ash Wednesday. Father is using the simple form of the blessing of Ashes before Mass, which consists simply of the Benedictio Cinerum itself with no other ceremonies. Observant readers will notice that, as the celebrant of the day, he already wears the alb and stole (but not, of course, the maniple), and is wearing a cope pro causa solemnitatis. The veiled chalice is already on the altar since the Mass at Holy Rosary that day was a Missa Cantata and so there was no subdeacon to carry it in during the Kyrie, which is what would be done in the Dominican Solemn Mass.

Were this ceremony to being done in a large priory, there would be considerably more ceremony. The ministers would come in procession to the sanctuary in this order: acolyte without candle, subdeacon, deacon with missal, hebdomadarian (celebrant of the week), prior. The major ministers would be vested for Mass as on ferial days (alb and stole, no dalmatics) and the celebrant would not be wearing the chasuble. The prior would wear surplice and stole. On reaching the altar, the minsters would prostrate below the altar steps, and the prior would begin the antiphon Ne reminiscaris without chant; the community would then recite, also without music, the Seven Penitential Psalms. These finished, and following the recited Kyrie and silent Pater Noster, the prior recites the usual collect for these psalms. He then gives the absolution Dominus Iesus Christus, with its references to Peter's power of binding and loosing. This absolution has its roots in the bishop's prayers for the public penitents who were still enrolled on this day in the 1200s. Those who want to read more on Public Penance during Lent in that period may consult my book Cities of God, chapter 7.

This rite over, the subdeacon holds the ashes and the acolyte the holy water; the prior blesses the ashes using the usual prayer, which is sung to the melody of collects during Office. The Dominican blessing of Ashes is as follows:

Almighty and ever-living God, who have mercy on all and hate nothing which you have made, overlooking human sins because of penance, we ask you, who raise up all those struggling in need, also to bless + and sanctify these ashes, which, on account of humility and holy devotion, and to reform our failings, you have commanded to be placed on our heads, after the model of the Ninivites. And grant that, through the invocation of your name, all those who have them on their heads and beg your mercy might merit pardon of their offenses; and, as today we begin the fast of Lent, may they also, on the day of the Ressurection, with minds cleansed, merit to approach your Passover Supper, and in eternity become sharers in your glory. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

As the community sings Psalm 68 (69) under the antiphon Exaudi nos, the friars come forward two by two to the altar steps, kneel and receive ashes on the top of the head (historically on their tonsures) from the prior, who sprinkles each with Holy Water. After giving ashes to the ministers, he receives his ashes from the hebdomadarian. After a closing collect by the prior, the ministers then return to the sacristy to prepare for Mass.

The Dominican formula for ashes has an interesting variant from the Roman: Memento quia cinis es, et in cinerem revertéris. "Remember that you are ashes, and to ashes you will return." Mass then follows in the usual way.

My next posting will treat some of the Dominican rituals of the Triduum in Holy Week.

Credit to Fr. LaSalle Halissy Hallissey, O.P, for the photo.