Monday, May 11, 2009

Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII: Part 9 - The Reform of 1955 and the Post-Conciliar Holy Week

We continue with part 9 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.

This particular installment considers the pre-1955 forms, the Pius XII reforms and the reforms to Holy Week in the Missal of Paul VI.

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

Part 4.2 - Good Friday, The Adoration of the Cross and the Rite of the Presanctified

Part 5 - Tenebrae and the Divine Office of the Triduum

Part 6.1 - Holy Saturday and the Blessing of the New Fire, the Procession into the Church, the Exsultet and the Prophecies

Part 6.2 - Holy Saturday and the Blessing of the Font, Litany of the Saints, Mass and Vespers

Part 7 - The Vigil of Pentecost and the Readings from Sacred Scripture in Holy Week

Part 8 - The Hours of the Celebration of the Holy Week Liturgies

Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII


Part 9: The Reform of 1955 and the Post-Conciliar Holy Week


by Gregory DiPippo


The Holy Week reform of 1955 was the first substantial modification to the Missal of Saint Pius V since it was originally promulgated in 1570. However, many of its features remained in general use of for only fourteen years, and were abandoned when Pope Paul VI promulgated the Novus Ordo Missae in 1969. Furthermore, in some respects, the new rite returns to the practice of the Missal of Saint Pius V prior to the 1955 reforms.

Readings of the Sacred Scripture

With the introduction of a three-year cycle of readings in the modern Roman rite, all three of the synoptic Passions are now read on Palm Sunday, Saint Matthew in year A, Saint Mark in year B, and Saint Luke in year C. Although each of them has a optional shorter form, all three have returned to the Lectionary in almost complete form. In the new Lectionary, only the first thirteen verses are missing from the Passion of Saint Matthew, and the first thirteen also from Saint Luke. The Passion of Saint Mark, re-appears with the complete text.

At the vigil of Easter, there are now seven prophecies. Although it is not strictly obligatory to read them all, the Missal contains an admonition that the very nature of the vigil requires a certain length, and that they are not to be omitted except for grave cause. ( “At this vigil, the mother of all vigils, nine readings are set forth, namely, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New (the Epistle and the Gospel), which are all to be read whenever this can be done, so that the nature of the vigil, which demands a certain length, may be preserved.” ) Of these seven prophecies, three have been re-introduced into the lectionary from the pre-1955 Missal, the second (Genesis 22), the fifth (Isaiah 55) and the sixth (Baruch 3). The first (Genesis 1) and third (Exodus 14-15) are found in both the pre and post-1955 liturgical books.

The Rites

In the Novus Ordo Missae, many of the new rituals of Pius XII's 1955 Holy Week reform were cancelled. Most notably, in several places, the new manner of saying the prayers and readings has been abolished. In the Rite of Paul VI, as in the Rite of Saint Pius V (pre-1955), the prayers and readings are said during Holy Week like the prayers and readings of the other ceremonies of the liturgical year, in a manner consonant with the typical practice of the rite.

Palm Sunday is celebrated in only one color, red. The use of the cope is optional at the blessing of the Palms; if the priest uses it, he simply removes it for the beginning of the Mass. At the beginning of the ceremony, the faithful hold the branches of palm in their hands, avoiding the logistic difficulties of the table in the middle of the sanctuary. The veiling of Crosses in Passiontide is optional in the new rite, but if it done, the Missal no longer contains an exception for the Processional Cross of Palm Sunday. The prayer added to the end of the procession in 1955 has been suppressed from the new Missal entirely. As already noted above, nearly all of the verses of the Passion of Saint Matthew removed in 1955 have been restored in the new lectionary.

On Holy Thursday, the Agnus Dei is said as usual; the practice introduced in 1955, singing “miserere nobis” in place of “dona nobis pacem” as the third invocation, has been abolished.

In the rite of Good Friday, the celebrant wears a chasuble for the whole ceremony, restoring an important sign of the link between the Mass and the Sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross. The entire rite is celebrated in red vestments, eliminated the three complete changes of vestments introduced in the 1955 reform. The sole prayer of the Mass of the Catechumens is said in the usual manner of the 1969 Missal, as are the solemn prayers. At the end of the rite, the prayers have returned to an order which is much more like that of the Mass, with a single Postcommunion and blessing of the people, as at other Masses.

On Holy Saturday, the Missal of 1969 prescribes explicitly that the Paschal Candle is to be placed in a “candelabrum magnum” when it is brought into the church, restoring one of the most important symbols of the ancient rite. It is no longer required to place it in the middle of the sanctuary. From the end of the Exsultet, the prayers for the Pope, the bishop and the assembly present have been entirely removed, as well as the prayer for the government newly added in 1955. As mentioned earlier, the prophecies of the vigil have been restored to a form closer to that of the Missal of St. Pius V. They are no longer read by a reader with his back to the celebrant. Of the eight prayers removed from the Missal in 1955, seven have been put back. Furthermore, two of the prophecies remaining in 1955 have been cancelled from the rite of 1969, together with the prayers that follow them. All of the prayers are said in the normal manner of the 1969 Missal.

All of the baptismal rites, including the blessing of the font, have been moved to after the Gospel, according to the typical practice of the 1969 missal. The incensation of the Paschal candle immediately before the renewal of the baptismal promises has been abolished. At the end of the Mass, the Lauds invented almost for the end of the vigil in 1955 have been abolished, and the same Hour has been restored to the Breviary for the morning of Easter Sunday.

Copyright (C) Gregory DiPippo, 2009

(The series will conclude in the next and final installment.)