Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII: Part 4.1 - Mass of Presanctified, Good Friday, Mass of the Catechumens and the Solemn Prayers

We continue with 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.

Here, we pick up upon the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, focusing first upon the Mass of the Catechumens and the Solemn Prayers.

A separate part will follow this one in another posting.

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

Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII

Part 4.1: The Mass of Presanctified on Good Friday, Mass of the Catechumens and the Solemn Prayers

by Gregory DiPippo

Synopsis of the Pre-Pius XII Ritual

Inasmuch as the rite of Good Friday was changed more extensively than any other rite of Holy Week, this article has been divided into two sections. The first part describes the Mass of the Catechumens and the Solemn Prayers, the second describes the Adoration of the Cross and the Rite of the Presanctified.

In order to understand the difference between the Good Friday rite prior to the Holy Week reforms of 1955 and that thereafter, the following point must be kept in mind. Although the Mass of the Presanctified is not, of course, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, all of the rituals performed therein are done as they are done in the common rite of Mass. This is important because many of the rubrics of the 1955 reform enjoin ritual actions and gestures quite different from those of the rite of Mass. To take the first occurring example, in the older rite the collect of the Mass of the Catechumens and the Lord’s Prayer are said by the priest with his hands open, as at Mass. In the reform of 1955, the celebrant keeps his hands joined during the two collects of the Mass of the Catechumens, and at the Lord’s Prayer.

The term “Good Friday” is proper to the English language; its official Latin liturgical name is “Feria Sexta in Parasceve”. The word “parasceve”, Greek for “preparation”, was already used in pre-Christian times to designate the day before the “Pascha”, when the people of the First Covenant made their preparations for Passover, the most important feast of the year. Being as it is also the day of Christ’s death, the word appears towards the end of all four of the Gospel Passions. (Saint Matthew 27, 62; Saint Mark 15, 42; Saint Luke 23, 54; Saint John 19, 31) The Latin translations of the Gospels (both the Vetus Latina and the revision of Saint Jerome present in the Vulgate), transcribed the word “parasceve”, rather than translate it, and thus it became in all the Latin rites (Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic) the name of Good Friday.

In addition to the amice, alb, cincture and stole, the priest wears a black chasuble; the deacon wears a black stole, and, like the subdeacon, a black folded chasuble, the sacred vestments of penitential Masses. The use of the color black is unique to this day in the Roman Rite, apart from Masses for the Dead. At the beginning, the altar has no cloths on it, and the candles remain unlit as a sign of mourning. The Cross upon the altar, like all of the Crosses for the previous two weeks, is covered with a violet veil.

The minor ministers enter the church, genuflect to the Cross, take their places in the sanctuary, and kneel. The subdeacon, deacon and priest process in behind them, come before the altar, genuflect to the Cross, and prostrate themselves before it for a few minutes. (Traditionally, they recite the Psalm Miserere in silence, but this is not officially part of the rite.) The acolytes go up to the altar, genuflect to the Cross, and lay a single cloth upon the altar. This single cloth represents the shroud of Christ’s burial; it is placed on the altar at the beginning of the rite to signify that all which is done today is the living representation of the death of Christ, who is Himself Priest, Altar and Victim. The missal is also placed on the altar on the Epistle side. The major ministers stand up, genuflect and ascend the altar; the priest kisses the altar and goes to the Missal, as he does in other Masses, while a reader begins to sing the first reading.

There being no Introit or Kyrie, the rite begins with the first reading, Hosea 6, 1-6, followed by a tract and a collect. A similar order of a first reading, gradual (instead of a tract) and collect before the Epistle is also found in other very ancient Masses of the Roman Rite, for example, the Wednesday Ember Days.

Before the prayer, the priest, standing at the Missal with the deacon and subdeacon in line behind him, sings “Oremus”. The deacon sings “Flectamus genua”, and all kneel for a moment of silent prayer, then the subdeacon sings “Levate”, and all rise for the collect. The bows to the Cross at “Oremus” and the Holy Name are done as usual.

The prayer, “Deus, a quo et Judas” is that of the Mass of the preceding day. This collect refers both to Judas’ betrayal yesterday, and the good thief’s confession today, clearly linking the Lord’s Supper with the Sacrifice of the Cross. It also looks forward to the Resurrection (“…resurrectionis suae gratiam largiatur”) showing how this day forms the heart and center of the Easter celebrations.

There follows the Epistle, Exodus 12, 1-11, sung by the subdeacon as at Mass, another tract, and the Passion of Saint John. The Epistle, which is also the ninth prophecy of the Easter Vigil, is the beginning of the long passage of Exodus which describes the ritual of the Paschal lamb. The end of this same passage, Exodus 12, 46, is quoted by Saint John, (one of the few direct quotes from the Old Testament in his Gospel) “neither shall ye break a bone thereof”, establishing that Christ is the Paschal Lamb of the New Covenant.

As has already been stated concerning the rite of Palm Sunday, the Passion is sung by three deacons almost to the end, ( St. John 18, 1-19, 37) but the last part by the deacon of the Mass. When the three deacons who sing the Passion have left, the deacon, subdeacon and acolytes follow the normal rites that precede the Gospel procession; on this day, however, the Mass which they imitate is the Solemn Requiem Mass. The Gospel book is placed upon the altar, but incense is not used, and the acolytes do not carry candles. The deacon recites the “Munda cor meum”, but is not blessed by the priest , and they go to the place where the Gospel is normally sung. Omitting “Dominus vobiscum” and the title, the deacon sings the end of the Passion (chapter 19, 38-42) ; the book of the Gospel is not brought to the priest to be kissed, and he is not incensed by the deacon.

(There are two very slight differences from the Requiem Mass. The Missal, which will next be required at the Epistle side, is not moved, and the deacon removes his folded chasuble and dons a broad stole for this Gospel.)

After the Passion, the priest stands at the Missal on the Epistle side, with the deacon and subdeacon in line behind him, and sings the so-called “Solemn prayers”, a very ancient Christian prayer. The priest begins with an admonition of each prayer’s intention (e.g. “Oremus dilectissimi nobis, pro Ecclesia sancta Dei...”). After each admonition, there follow “Oremus”, “Flectamus genua” sung by the deacon, and “Levate” by the subdeacon, (as before), and then a collect.

Synopsis of the Pius XII Reforms

In the 1956 typical edition of the OHS, the traditional liturgical name of the day, “Feria Sexta in Parasceve”, is changed to “Feria Sexta in Passione et Morte Domini - Friday of the Lord’s Passion and Death”. The name of the rite itself is changed from “Missa Praesantificatorum – Mass of the Presanctified” to “Solemnis actio liturgica postmeridiana in Passione et Morte Domini - Solemn Afternoon Liturgical Action of the Lord’s Passion and Death”.

The altar is completely bare, not only of the altar cloths, but also of candles and Cross. The regular bows at the words “Oremus” e “Jesum” are not explicitly suppressed, but if they are made, they are made to a void.

At the beginning of the rite, the three major ministers wear amice, alb, and cincture; the priest and deacon also wear black stoles, but none of the three wears either a chasuble of any sort, nor a dalmatic or tunicle. The rubrics do not mention the maniple. Over the course of the rite, there will be three changes of vestments.

The acolytes enter the church, reverence the altar, take their places, and kneel, as in the rite of St. Pius V. The subdeacon, deacon and priest come before the altar, reverence it, and prostrate themselves before it for some minutes, also as in the rite of St. Pius V. An altar cloth is no longer placed on the altar during the prostration.

The three major ministers rise from the prostration, but the deacon and subdeacon remain kneeling, along with everyone else, as the priest stands up. Standing before the first step of the altar, he says a prayer, “Deus qui peccati veteris”, (added to this rite from an ancient sacramentary), keeping his hands closed. The prayer ends with the short conclusion, (“Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.”), rather than the long one used for the prayers of the Mass. All of the rites which are normally done when a prayer is said at Mass are omitted: the prayer is not preceded by either of the two formulae that normally precede (“Dominus vobiscum - Oremus” or “Oremus - Flectamus genua - Levate” ), the priest does not open his hands, the prayer is not said standing at the altar, but in front of it. The MC or an acolyte must bring the book before the priest, since he must keep his hands closed.

The three major ministers go at once to the sedilia; the rubric does not say that they make a further reverence to the altar.

A lector begins the first reading, which is followed by a tract, both kept from the Missal of St. Pius V. At the end of the tract, all rise, but the three major ministers do not go the altar. Remaining at the sedilia, the priest sings “Oremus”, the deacon sings “Flectamus genua”, and all kneel for a moment of silent prayer, then the deacon (no longer the subdeacon) sings “Levate”, and all rise for the collect. The collect of the previous day, “Deus, a quo et Judas”, is said, as in the earlier rite; the priest keeps his hands joined for the prayer. Once again, the MC or an acolyte must bring the book before the priest, since he must keep his hands closed.

There follow the Epistle, sung by the subdeacon, another tract, and the Passion of Saint John, as in the Missal of St. Pius V.

The three deacons who are to sing the Passion reverence the altar, but do not kneel and say “Munda cor meum”. They then go to the priest, bow before him, and he blesses them with the words “Dominus sit in cordibus vestris et in labiis vestris”, and these alone; the rest of the blessing said to the deacon at Mass, “ut digne et competenter...”, is omitted. They go to the place where the Gospel is normally sung, and sing the Passion.

As has already been stated in regard to Palm Sunday, the special ritual for the singing of the end of the Passion has been abolished. The last part is sung by the narrator, not by the deacon of the Mass, without pause between the Passion and the Gospel. Since there is no longer a Gospel procession at all, the particular rites borrowed from the Requiem Mass no longer appear.

After the Passion, before the Solemn Prayers, the priest, deacon and subdeacon change their vestments; the priest puts on a cope, the deacon and subdeacon put on dalmatic and tunicle. This particular combination of vestments is traditionally used in the Roman Rite for processions and blessings, not for Mass. While they are changing, the acolytes put a single cloth upon the altar, and place the missal in the exact middle.

The priest, deacon and subdeacon come before the altar, and ascend to the predella; the rubrics do not say that they genuflect before doing so. The celebrant kisses the altar. The deacon and subdeacon stand to either side of him (“ministris sacris hinc inde astantibus”), not in line behind him. As was done earlier, before the prayer “Deus, a quo et Judas”, the “Levate” is sung by the deacon, no longer by the subdeacon. Since there is no Cross upon the altar, in theory one should not bow when the priest says “Oremus” or the Holy Name, but the rubrics do not specify that this is in fact the case.

Copyright (C) Gregory DiPippo, 2009

(Part 4.2 will continue the consideration of Good Friday's Mass of the Presanctified. This will be followed by parts on Tenebrae and the Vigil.)

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: