Monday, February 25, 2008

Dominican Rite Lent II: Holy Thursday

The Mass of the Lord's Supper (Missa In Cena Domini) in the Dominican Rite is preceded by a penitential rite in choir very similar to that before the Mass of Ash Wednesday. In this way just as the first Mass of Lent began with a penitential liturgy and the Mass of Holy Thursday of the Triduum Ante Pascha also does. After None, attended by the deacon, subdeacon, and acolytes, the prior came to the sanctuary. The ministers wore only albs, amices, and cintures, not colored vestments. The prior intoned (without music) the antiphon Ne reminiscáris and then he and the ministers prostrated themselves on the sanctuary floor, as they had on Ash Wednesday. The cantor intoned, and the choir sang the Seven Penitential Psalms. The penitential rite closed with the same prayers and collects that I described in my post on Ash Wednesday.

During this penitential rite the friars in choir took the position called "prostration on the forms." In the photograph above you can see this posture, so I will not describe it. This photo is not actually of the ceremony of Holy Thursday, as the friars would on that day be wearing their black cappas. My guess is that this is probably one of the penitential liturgies during an Ember Day outside of Lent. But the friars' posture and the postion of the three ministers would be the same. At this point the minsters have not yet prostrated. This chapel, by the way, is that of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C., about the year 1909. The chapel looks very similar today except for a mural on the altar wall showing the Dominican Saints before Christ and his Blessed Mother in Heaven, a freestanding altar, and carpet in the presbytery. The old altar with its Mysteries of the Holy Rosary Retable is still there.

After return to the sacristy, the ministers returned in procession for the Mass. As was and is still the practice, no private Masses were celebrated on Holy Thursday, which was traditionally one of the days of general communion for the friars during the Solemn Mass--something I have explained in my post on the Dominican Mass. In the 1200s there were about 10 of these a year, by the 1950s the number of general communions was closer to 20. Otherwise communion was taken by brothers at the priests' private Masses in early morning.

After Holy Thursday Mass, the friars, in procession, took the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose. Priests when went, each accompanied by two acolytes carrying cruets of water and wine, for the stripping of all the altars in the monastery. The priests then washed of the altars (or altar stones) with water and wine. Symbolically, this recalled Christ's stripping and the preparation of his body for burial. In this photo you can see Fr. Eugene Sousa, O.P., washing the stone of the altar in the Lay Brother's Chapel at St. Albert the Great Priory in Oakland about 1958. He is assisted by Bro. Peter De Man, who holds the cruet of wine and wears an alb, rather than a surplice, as this is a major feast. During the rite of washing the priest and ministers recited the Psalm Miserere. As this ritual was not part of Mass, and considered "paraliturgical," we continued to perform it even after the general adoption of the Roman Rite in 1969. I remember as a novice ministering the wine for my novicemaster, Fr. Martin de Porres Walsh, O.P., as he washed the main altar in St. Albert's Chapel in 1977.

As was typical of medieval monastic rites and others, the Mandatum, the washing of feet was not performed publicly in the Dominican Rite. It followed the Holy Thursday main meal in the refectory. Here, in a photograph of about 1958, we can see Fr. Fabian Stanley Parmisano, O.P., washing the feet of Bro. Mathias Locket. He is assisted by his deacon, Brother Ambrose Toomey. Both wear albs, as was customary for this rite. That Fr. Fabian was performing this rite suggests that he was filling in for the normal celebrant of the Mandatum, the prior, who was then Fr. William Lewis, O.P. This was probably because Fr. Lewis was very elderly at that time and could not kneel to perform the ceremony.

I have to admit that the washing of feet in a private ceremony after the clergy's Holy Thursday dinner appeals to me more than the current practice with all the controversies it seems to generate. Christ washed his Apostles' feet, not those of the crowd. Just my personal taste, perhaps. The next installment of this series, will focus on Dominican practices of Good Friday.

I thank the Rev. Bro. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P. of the Eastern Province for the photo of D.H.S. Chapel.

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