We continue with second part of part IV 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.
We continue with the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, focusing upon the Adoration of the Cross and the rite of the Presanctified.
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
Part 3 - The Mass of Holy Thursday and the Mandatum
Part 4.1 - The Mass of Presanctified on Good Friday, Mass of the Catechumens and the Solemn Prayers
Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII
Part 4.2: The Mass of Presanctified on Good Friday, The Adoration of the Cross and the Rite of the Presanctified
by Gregory DiPippo
Synopsis of the Pre-Pius XII Ritual
When the Solemn Prayers are finished, the major ministers go to the sedilia, and remove their maniples; the priest removes his black chasuble and subdeacon removes his black folded chasuble. (The deacon by this point is already in "broad stole" which he changed into during the chanting of the Passion. This he he leaves on.)
The deacon in broad stole then goes to the altar, takes the veiled Cross, and brings it to the priest. The Cross is uncovered in three stages; the title is uncovered first, then the right arm and head, then the veil is completely removed. At each of these three stages, the priest raises the Cross and sings the words “Ecce lignum Crucis”; the deacon and subdeacon sing together with him “in quo salus mundi pependit”. To this the choir answers “Venite, adoremus”, and all except the priest kneel down, turning towards the Cross. At the first stage, this is done on the floor of the sanctuary, on the Epistle side; for the second, they ascend to the middle step of the altar, remaining on the Epistle side; for the third, they ascend to the middle of the predella.
When the Cross has been completely uncovered, all remain kneeling, while the priest carries the Cross down to the middle of the lowest step of the altar. During the Solemn Prayers, the acolytes lay on the floor, in the middle of the sanctuary, a violet carpet, and upon the lowest step itself, a violet cushion, symbol of the regality of Christ. This cushion is covered with a large white veil, which represents the Shroud of His burial. All rise, and the priest, deacon and subdeacon genuflect to the Cross once more. They then go to the seats, where they remove their shoes, as do all of the acolytes and the attending clergy; the adoration of the Cross is done barefoot, an ancient gesture of repentance. Meanwhile, the choir begins to sing the Improperia, or Reproaches of Christ to His people, one of the most beautiful texts in the Missal.
All those who are in the sanctuary go in procession to the Cross, first the priest, then the deacon and subdeacon together, then the acolytes and attending clergy in pairs. As each person comes towards the Cross, he stops before It three times, and makes the so-called “double genuflection”, that is, kneels and makes a profound bow. The third of these stations is made immediately before the Cross; each person kisses the feet of the Crucified Lord, then rises, genuflects again, and returns to his place. When all those in the sanctuary have thus adored the Cross, it is brought outside the sanctuary, together with the violet cushion and its white veil, for the adoration of the faithful. (It should be noted that in the Byzantine Rite, the double genuflections and adoration of the Cross are done in a very similar way during the ceremonies of Good Friday.)
When the priest, deacon and subdeacon have returned to their seats, they put back on their shoes and the priest and subdeacon wear again the chasuble and folded chasuble. The first acolyte comes to them with the altar missal and kneels down, holding it open before them. While the attending clergy and faithful are still doing the adoration of the Cross, the three major ministers read the Improperia sub voce, as certain sung parts of the Mass, e.g. the Creed, are also read by the priest, deacon and subdeacon together.
When the three major ministers have finished reading the Improperia, the candles are lit upon the altar. The deacon rises and goes to the credence, where he takes the burse with the corporal in it, and a purificator, and goes to the altar. He lays the Corporal upon the altar, as at Solemn Mass, places the purificator next to it, and returns to the sedilia.
When the adoration of the Cross by the faithful is complete, the acolytes bring it back to the sanctuary; the deacon then takes it and brings it back to its place at the altar. All kneel before the Cross when it passes in front of them, as it is brought through the sanctuary.
At this point, the Blessed Sacrament is brought back to the principal altar of the church, with a solemn procession done in reverse order from the procession of the day before. With this ritual of the double procession, the Church emphasizes in the clearest way possible the connection between the Lord’s Supper, and His Sacrifice upon the Cross.
The priest, with all of the major and minor ministers and attending clergy, goes in procession by the shortest way to the Altar of Repose, where he kneels down along with the deacon and subdeacon. The deacon then rises, opens the tabernacle, genuflects, and brings the chalice with the Host inside forward so that it can be clearly seen, without removing it from the tabernacle; he then returns to the side of the priest. The three major ministers rise, and the priest imposes incense in two thuribles; with one of these, he incenses the Blessed Sacrament as at Benediction. He then dons the humeral veil, while the deacon goes up to the altar, and brings him the chalice with the Host inside. All of the acolytes and attending clergy form a procession, and return to the main sanctuary of the church, while the choir sings the hymn Vexilla Regis. Immediately before the priest, who holds the chalice under the humeral veil, two acolytes take turns incensing the Blessed Sacrament.
When they arrive before the main altar, the deacon receives the Sacrament from the priest, takes It up to the altar, and unties the ribbon which holds the veil on the chalice. He then arranges the veil, without removing it from the chalice, in the same way that a chalice is set upon the altar for the celebration of Mass: another clear sign of the connection between the Mass and the death of Christ upon the Cross. The priest incenses the Sacrament once again, and the “Rite of the Presanctified” properly so-called begins.
The priest, deacon and subdeacon go up to the altar and genuflect. The deacon removes the chalice veil, paten and soft pall, then holds the paten with two hands over the corporal. The priest takes the chalice, and allows the Host to slide from it onto the paten, then places the chalice upon the corporal. He receives the paten from the deacon and places the Host upon the corporal. The deacon puts wine in the chalice, and the subdeacon a drop of water, as at Mass. The deacon gives the chalice to the priest, and, after the latter has placed it in the middle of the corporal, covers it with the pall. All of the Offertory prayers and gestures are omitted.
As at the Offertory of Mass, the thurifer comes to the priest, who imposes incense without blessing it, and, accompanied in the usual way by the deacon and subdeacon, incenses the Host and chalice, Cross and altar as at a Solemn Mass, genuflecting whenever he passes before the Sacrament. (Neither he nor anyone else is incensed.) Then he washes his hands, as at a normal Mass, but saying nothing.
Returning to the middle of the altar, with the deacon and subdeacon in line behind him, the priest says the Offertory prayer “In spiritu humilitatis”; he then kisses the altar, turns to the people and says “Orate fratres”. The response “Suscipiat” is not said, and the priest does not complete the usual turn in a circle. As the rubrics of the Missal say, he “omits the rest”, (secret, preface, Sanctus and Canon), and passes directly to “Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus.” and the Lord’s Prayer, sung in the ferial tone. He then sings the embolism “Libera nos” out loud, also in the ferial tone, omitting all of the gestures which normally accompany it.
The deacon and subdeacon kneel on either side of the priest, slightly back from where he stands. As the priest solemnly elevates the Host, they lift his chasuble, and in place of the bell, the “crepitaculum” or noisemaker is sounded. The deacon and subdeacon rise, and the deacon uncovers the chalice. The priest performs the Fraction of the Host, saying nothing and omitting the signs of the Cross. Then, bowing over the altar, he says the prayer “Perceptio corporis tui”; following the usual rite of Mass, he communicates with the Sacred Host. He then consumes the chalice, omitting the usual rites.
All of this rite follows, step by step, the rite of the Offertory of the Mass, and the prayers of the celebrant’s communion after the canon. Obviously, all of those elements which refer specifically to the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice are omitted, along with the Canon itself. (The fraction, however, is done after the Embolism, since the latter is sung aloud.) Here we have another clear sign of the sacrificial nature of the death of Christ. The very rubrics of the Missal underline this principal that the rite is modeled on the rite of Mass; everything in them is described in reference to the practice of the normal celebration of Mass.
The priest purifies the chalice and his fingers as at Mass. The subdeacon then re-builds the chalice as at Mass and the deacon removes the broad stole and vests again in the folded chasuble. Since it is a longstanding custom of the Church that only the celebrant receives communion on this day, at this point the liturgy is effectively completed and the priest, the major and minor ministers, and the attending clergy return to the sacristy in silence. The altar is stripped again, except for the Cross and candles.
One of the most important and solemn aspects of this rite is the way in which it leaves a true and powerful sense of absence at the death of Christ. The altar of Repose is taken down, and the few Sacred Hosts remaining (kept, where necessary, for Viaticum) are brought to the sacristy or another tabernacle, not that of the main altar. The church thus left empty can only look to the Cross, awaiting the renewal of all things on the following day, the completion of the Paschal mystery. This absence of Christ is a part in itself of the rite of the Presanctified, since at the end the Sacrament is not on the Altar, and the tabernacle is left with the door open.
Synopsis of the Pius XII Reforms
The following modifications are made in the 1955 Holy Week reforms.
In the reformed Good Friday rites, black chasuble for celebrant and black folded chasubles for deacon and subdeacon are no longer used. Instead, black cope, black dalmatics, violet chasuble and violet dalmatics are used at the specified times.
When the Solemn Prayers are finished, the three major ministers return to their seats, and remove their black cope and black dalmatics. The deacon and subdeacon remain standing at the sedilia, while the deacon, together with four acolytes, goes to the sacristy to get the Cross. (As mentioned in the previous article, there is no Cross on the altar in the reformed Holy Week rites.) As he returns from the sacristy, the deacon is preceded by two acolytes, and accompanied by two others carrying lighted candles. When he arrives before the altar, the priest and subdeacon meet him in the middle, where the priest receives the Cross from the deacon. Nothing is sung during the change of vestments and the bringing in of the Cross.
The rite of uncovering the Cross is not changed, except that the two acolytes holding the candles remain at the sides of the priest.
As soon as the Cross is completely uncovered, the priest hands it to the two other acolytes, who hold it upright by the two arms, standing on the predella and facing the people. The two acolytes with the candles kneel on the predella, on the sides, where they put their candles down. The violet carpet and cushion and the white veil are not used. It is no longer obligatory for the clergy to remove their shoes. (“si commode fieri possit, prius calceamenta deponunt.”)
As in the earlier rite, all come in procession to the adoration of the Cross, first the priest, then the deacon and subdeacon, the acolytes and the attending clergy. The three “stations” no longer consist of the double genuflection, i.e. kneeling and making a profound bow, but rather three simple genuflections. (“simplici genuflectione ter repetita”.) After the third genuflection, each person kisses the feet of the Crucifix and returns to his place; the rubrics do not mention the genuflection after kissing it.
When all in the sanctuary have adored the Cross, it is brought out of the sanctuary for the adoration of the faithful. The acolytes hold it up straight, accompanied by the two other acolytes who hold the candles. The text of the Improperia was not modified, but the new rubrics specify that they are no longer read by the three major ministers.
When the adoration of the Cross is done by the faithful, the acolytes bring it back into the sanctuary, and set it in its place upon the altar; this is not done by the deacon. The two acolytes who held the candles set them on the altar.
When the Cross and candles are thus arranged upon the altar, the priest and deacon remove their black stoles; the three major minister dress as for Mass, except in violet. The maniple is not used, and the deacon and subdeacon wear dalmatic and tunicle.
The deacon ascends to the altar with the burse in hand, and extends the corporal; at the same time, an acolyte places the Missal on the Gospel side, with a purification vessel and purificator for the purification of the priest's fingers after Communion.
The deacons and acolytes go to the altar of repose to bring the Blessed Sacrament back to the main altar. (The Sacrament is of course not present as a large Host in a chalice, as in the earlier rite, but rather in a ciborium full of small Hosts.) Nothing is sung during the change of vestments or the preparation of the altar, nor while the deacon goes to the Altar of Repose.
The Sacrament is carried by the deacon under a humeral veil; two of the acolytes carry candles on either side of the deacon. The priest and subdeacon do not participate in the bringing back of the Sacrament; incense is not used. The hymn of the Cross par excellence, Vexilla Regis, is substituted by three new antiphons.
When the deacon arrives at the altar, he places the Sacrament on the corporal, while the acolytes place their candles on the altar. The deacon removes the humeral veil, genuflects, and withdraws to the Epistle side; the acolytes leave the altar, which now has four candles on it.
The priest and subdeacon make a double genuflection before the Sacrament, ascend the altar, and genuflect again with the deacon. The actions in imitation of the Mass -- the preparation of the consecrated Host upon the corporal, the preparation of the chalice, the incensation, the washing of the hands, and the prayers from the Offertory -- are no longer performed.
The introduction “Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus...” is recited, not sung. The Lord’s Prayer is also recited, not sung, by everyone in the church, not just the priest. (A new rubric specifies that it is to be said in Latin.) The rubrics also prescribe that the priest keep his hands closed for the Lord's prayer, a rubric that does set it in distinction from the typical practice in this regard.
The “Libera nos” is recited, not sung, by the priest, but with hands open. He then says in silence the prayer “Perceptio Corporis tui”, and communicates with the normal rites of Mass. Holy Communion is then distributed to all who wish to receive, with the normal ceremonies of Mass.
When Communion is done, the priest purifies his fingers in the vessel set on the altar for the purpose; there being no chalice present, he does not perform an ablution as at Mass. The entire rite of the distribution is done almost exactly as a general communion outside Mass.
The Blessed Sacrament is returned to the tabernacle of the main altar. The Missal is then placed in the middle of the altar. The priest sings three new prayers, each one preceded by only “Oremus”, (without “Dominus vobiscum”, or “Flectamus genua - Levate.”), ending with the minor conclusion (“per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum”), keeping his hands closed. The deacon and subdeacon stand on either side of him, rather than in line behind him. The priest, with the major ministers descends from the altar; they and the minor ministers genuflect together before the altar, and return to sacristy. Afterwards, the Sanctissimum is brought to the sacristy or another tabernacle.
Copyright (C) Gregory DiPippo, 2009
(Part 5 will continue the consideration of Tenebrae. This will be followed by the Vigil.)