Monday, March 30, 2009

Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII: Part 3 - The Mass of Holy Thursday and the Mandatum

We continue with Part III of Gregory DiPippo's consideration of the texts, ceremonies and history of the Holy Week ceremonies from before and after Pope Pius XII's reforms in 1955.

Here, we pick up upon the Mass of Maundy or Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord's Supper, where the mandatum (the washing of the feet) also takes place.

Previous Installments in this series:

Part 1 - The Palm Sunday Blessing and Procession of Palms

Part 2 - The Masses of Palm Sunday, Holy Tuesday and Spy Wednesday


Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII


Part 3: The Mass of Holy Thursday and the Mandatum


by Gregory DiPippo




Part 1 - The Mass


Synopsis of the Pre-Pius XII Ritual

Holy Thursday is treated as a solemn feast of the Lord; as on other such solemnities, the vestments are white, and during the Mass both the Gloria and Creed are said. These customs are proper to the Roman Rite and quite different from those of some other churches; for example, in the Ambrosian rite, the vestments are red, a color of mourning in that tradition, and the Gloria and Creed are not said. There are however, several changes from the normal rite of Mass, which indicate the particular character of the day on which the Holy Eucharist and Priesthood were instituted. These changes help us to understand that this day is the beginning of the Paschal mystery, which is completed only on the Sunday of the Resurrection.

Therefore, after all of the bells of the church have been rung during the Gloria, they are not rung anymore until the Easter vigil. In place of the bells at Mass is used a “crepitaculum”, or noisemaker, the dissonant sound of which indicates that this is also an occasion of mourning for the Church, the night of Christ’s betrayal, His abandonment by the Disciples, and His imprisonment, before His condemnation to death on the following day.

In this Mass, the kiss of peace is not given; “Our thoughts turn to the traitor Judas, who on this very day profaned the sign of friendship by making it an instrument of death. It is out of detestation for this crime, that the Church omits, today, the sign of fraternal charity:” (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year) Otherwise, the whole rite of the celebrant’s communion remains the same as in other Masses.

The celebrant consecrates two large Hosts on this day, one for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the other for the rite of the following day. One of the most beautiful aspects of this rite is the special way in which this second Host is prepared for being brought to the Altar of Repose, before the communion of the celebrant. It is placed in a chalice, not in a pyx or ciborium, and then covered with a soft pall, a paten turned upside down, and a thin white chalice veil, which is then tied with a ribbon around the node of the chalice. The Host thus enclosed in the chalice is left on the corporal, until the end of the Mass.

This custom of enclosing the Body of the Lord in a chalice is a sign of the Passion which He undergoes in His human body, the Passion which He Himself describes as a “chalice” when He goes to pray in the garden. (St. Matthew 26, 39-42; St. Luke. 22, 42.) It also serves as to indicate the link between the first Mass, the Lord’s Supper, and the Sacrifice of the Cross, which takes place on the following day; the instruments of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the chalice, pall, paten and veil, are used on both days.

Once the Host has been thus enclosed, the rest of the Mass is celebrated as a “Missa coram Sanctissimo”. The celebrant and major ministers genuflect before the Sacrament each time they come to the middle and stand before it, and before they move away from it. When the Priest or Deacon turn to address or bless the people, they turn only half way, so as not to turn their back to the Blessed Sacrament. At the very end of the Mass, at the genuflection in the Last Gospel, the Priest turns towards the Sacrament as he says “Et Verbum caro factum est.”


Synopsis of the Pius XII Reforms

The Holy Week reforms of 1955 brang only a few small changes to this rite, one of which however forms a notable part of the nearly complete change to the rite of Good Friday.

The Creed is suppressed, which brings about a shift with regard to the custom of the Roman Church of singing the Creed on all of the solemn feasts of the Lord.

The custom of not giving the Peace remains, but two changes are made to the rite of the celebrant’s communion. At the Agnus Dei, the words “dona nobis pacem” are no longer said as the third invocation, but rather “miserere nobis” is said a third time. The first of the celebrant’s silent prayers before communion, “Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis ‘Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis’...” is also omitted, a practice introduced from the Requiem Mass into a solemnity of the Lord. This prayer cites the very words which Our Lord spoke to the Apostles during the very Supper which is commemorated in this Mass. ( St. John 14, 27)

The entire rite of enclosing the second large Host in a chalice is omitted, and indeed, no large Host is consecrated for the celebrant of the rite of Holy Friday. Instead, two ciboria of small Hosts are consecrated, one for the general communion of Holy Thursday, and another for the general communion of the following day. The Priest who celebrates the new rite of Good Friday receives communion with a small host, as do all of the rest of the faithful.

Three other modifications were made to the rites after Communion. In place of “Ite, missa est” is said “Benedicamus Domino”, a formula hitherto used in the Roman Rite on penitential days, when the Mass is celebrated in violet. The change was clearly motivated by the fact that one does not actually leave the church after the Mass, because there follows the procession to the Altar of Repose. “Ite, missa est” is a formula which is used exclusively in the Roman Rite; it is unknown to the Ambrosian and Byzantine traditions. The people are not blessed after the Placeat. At the end of the Mass, the Last Gospel is omitted, and consequently the genuflection towards the Sacrament at “Et Verbum caro factum est.”


Part 2 - The Procession to the Altar of Repose and the Stripping of the Altar


Synopsis of the Pre-Pius XII Ritual


In the pre-1955 ritual, after the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is brought with a solemn procession to a lesser altar of the church, which is decorated for this purpose with flowers, drapes made of precious materials, candles, etc., and fitted with an urn or tabernacle. Many churches had a special urn made particularly for use in this rite.

After the Mass, the celebrant removes his chasuble, and dons a white cope. Coming before the altar along with the major ministers, he imposes incense in two thuribles; with one of these, he incenses the Blessed Sacrament as at Benediction. Then he dons a humeral veil, while the deacon ascends the altar, and brings him the Chalice with the large Host closed inside it. All of the acolytes and attending clergy form a procession, and go to the Altar of Repose, while the choir sings the hymn Pange lingua. Walking immediately before the Priest as he holds the Chalice under the humeral veil, two acolytes take turns incensing the Blessed Sacrament.

When they arrive at the altar of Repose, the deacon takes the Sacrament from the priest and places it on the altar. After a pause, the choir sings the end of the hymn, i.e., Tantum ergo, while the Sacrament is incensed again, and finally laid in the urn or tabernacle. The priest, the major and minor ministers and the attending clergy return to the sacristy by the shortest way. It is traditional for the church to remain open until midnight, at which hour it is closed to symbolize the complete abandonment of Christ on the night of His imprisonment.

After the Procession with the Blessed Sacrament, the Altar is stripped of all of its furnishings. The Priest, Deacon and Subdeacon, after they have returned to the sacristy, remove their Mass vestments and don violet stoles. They return to the principal altar of the church, along with the Acolytes and attending clergy. The Priest intones the antiphon “Diviserunt sibi”, which is continued by the choir, along with Psalm 21, while the acolytes remove the altar cloths, altar cards etc. When this has been done, all return to the sacristy.


Synopsis of the Pius XII Reforms

The Holy Week reforms of 1955 did not modify this Procession or the stripping of the Altar.

Part 3 - The Mandatum, or Washing of Feet


Synopsis of the Pre-Pius XII Ritual


In the pre-1955 ritual, the Washing of the Feet, commonly known as the “Mandatum”, from the first word of the first antiphon sung during the washing, is done as a separate service from the Mass. After the stripping of the Altar is complete, and generally after a break of some hours, the clergy and servers go in procession to a place set aside for the Mandatum. (The service was often done immediately after Vespers, but it was not obligatory for the Vespers to precede.) If there is no other place where the Mandatum may be conveniently done, it may be done before the main altar of the church, but this is not the ideal practice.

The Gospel of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is repeated, with all of the ceremonies normally observed at a Solemn Mass. After this, the priest washes the feet of 12 men, wearing an apron as Our Lord Himself did at the Last Supper. As he comes before each of the twelve, the priests genuflects before him, in imitation of our Lord’s humility. The subdeacon kneels to hold up the foot of each of the 12 men as the priest washes it, and the deacon proffers a towel with which to dry it, after which the priest kisses it.

The Missal and Gradual have 9 antiphons to be sung during the washing of the feet, which are certainly to be ranked among the most beautiful pieces in the entire Gregorian repertoire. Of these nine, the first six are taken from the 13th chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, the seventh from the end of the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, Saint Paul ’s “Hymn to Love”. The eighth is the identical in text, but not in music, to the Introit of the feast of the Holy Trinity, and has a different versicle accompanying it; the last of these nine is the famous “Ubi caritas.”

When the washing of the feet is done, the celebrant sings the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer aloud, and says the rest silently up to the verse “Et ne nos inducas in tentationem,” the choir responding “Sed libera nos a malo”, as is frequently done in the Roman Rite. There follow two versicles with their responses, and a collect.


Synopsis of the Pius XII Reforms

In the Holy Week reforms of 1955, the Mandatum was modified as follows.

It is permitted, but not required, to insert the Washing of the Feet into the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, immediately after the Gospel (and Homily, if there is one.) A new rubric specifies that as many of the antiphons as are needed for the length of the service may be sung, but “Ubi caritas” may never be omitted. The eighth of the nine antiphons in the Missal of St. Pius V is suppressed. The rubric no longer says that the priest kisses the feet after washing them.

Since the Mandatum may still be done outside the Mass, another new rubric specifies that in such case, the Gospel of the Mass is to be repeated at the beginning, as in the Missal of St. Pius V.

In the Missal of 1961, a further slight alteration was made to this rite, namely, that the collect at the end is to be said “versus populum.”


Copyright (C) Gregory DiPippo, 2009

(Part IV will begin to take up the consideration of the Mass of the Pre-sanctified on Good Friday. This will be followed by parts upon Tenebrae and the Vigil.)