Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter in the Ambrosian Rite - Part III

The aim of this last part of this article (previous parts can be found here and here) is to give our readership an overview about the ceremonies of the Masses of Paschal Vigil according to the Ambrosian Rite tradition.

As we mentioned in the previous post, the announcement of the Resurrection of Our Lord is given, according to the Ambrosian Liturgical Tradition, after the chant of the Laus Cerei, a long pre-baptismal Catechetical liturgy from the Old Testament, the Blessing of the Baptismal Font, and the carrying of the Most Sacred Species to the Altar for the Mass.
It is, as such, the acme of the whole ceremony, and, according to the interpretation of some scholars, cited in the second part of this article, it works as a parallel to the proclamation of the Death of Our Lord on the Cross on Good Friday.

It could sound strange, to those familiar with the Roman Rite tradition, that the Announcement of the Resurrection comes after the Blessing of the Font and the administration of the sacred Baptism to the Catechumens.
However, according to the unanimous Ambrosian tradition, this succession is consedered the only possible, because the Baptism is considered a mystical purification of the Church, Bride of Christ, in the eschatoligical expectation of the return of Her Bridegroom.
Unfortunately, with the liturgical reform, borrowing the Roman symbology, the order of the ceremonies has been altered, and Baptism is now given after the proclamation of Christ's Resurrection, and the three readings, right in the middle of the Mass, which seems rather unfitting, to say the least...

Previously, we said that the announcement of the Resurrection occurs at the beginning of the Mass of Easter Vigil. The formula used in the Ambrosian Rite is very close to the Byzantine Christos anesti, but was also very common in many uses of Northern Italy.
It has now been preserved only in the Ambrosian Rite in all the West.

A very relevant precision is to be added here, as well.

According to the Ambrosian tradition, there exist two different sets of Mass propers from Easter Vigil onto the Dominica in Albis Depositis excluded.
One set of Propers is used for the Mass of day, the other one is, as rubrics say: "pro Baptizatis", that is for the Neophites, baptized during the Vigil. According to a custom dating back to the High Middle Age, the latter was to be celebrated in the Winter Cathedral.

Those propers have different texts for Prayers, Prefaces, and Readings. They have, on the contrary, only one set of Antiphons.

However, neither of the Mass sets for Easter Vigil like all Masses celebrated on the Vigil of greater liturgical feasts, has Antiphons, apart from the Psalmellus after the first reading, and the beautiful Hallelujah before the Gospel.

Also, like all Vigiliar Masses in the Ambrosian Rite, this Masses have no Gloria and no Credo.

Both Masses as costumary for the Ambrosian liturgical tradition, have three readings, all taken from the New Testament.
So, after the Celebrant has sung the proper oratio super populum, the following readings are sung:

Mass of the day:
Acts 2, 22-28: St.Peter, after Pentecost, explains the Resurrection as the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Old Testament.

On those days. Peter opened his mouth and said: Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as you also know: This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that he should be holden by it. For David saith concerning him: I foresaw the Lord before my face: because he is at my right hand, that I may not be moved. For this my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life: thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

Romans 1,1-7: the Gospel proclaimed by the Apostle is the announcement of the Resurrection of the Lord.

Brethren. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, Which he had promised before, by his prophets, in the holy scriptures, Concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh, Who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification, by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead; By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith, in all nations, for his name; Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matth 28, 1-7: the readings continues exactly from the point it was interrupted on the Catechesis before the paschal Vigil. The Angel gives the two Mary's the announcement that Christ has risen.

At that time. And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen: and behold he will go before you into Galilee; there you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.

Mass "pro Baptizatis"

Acts 2, 29-38 This is the continuation of the reading of the Mass of the day.

On those days. Peter opened his mouth and said: Ye men, brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David; that he died, and was buried; and his sepulchre is with us to this present day. Whereas therefore he was a prophet, and knew that God hath sworn to him with an oath, that of the fruit of his loins one should sit upon his throne.
Foreseeing this, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ. For neither was he left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses. Being exalted therefore by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this which you see and hear. For David ascended not into heaven; but he himself said: The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy enemies thy footstool.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ, this same Jesus, whom you have crucified. Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Ephesians 4, 1b-6 St. Paul exhorts to be faithful to the vocation given in the Baptism.

Brethren, I beseech you in the Lord that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.

John 3, 1-13: Christ's discourse with Nicodemus.

At that time. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night, and said to him: Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man can do these signs which thou dost, unless God be with him.Jesus answered, and said to him: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again? Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. Wonder not, that I said to thee, you must be born again. The Spirit breatheth where he will; and thou hearest his voice, but thou knowest not whence he cometh, and whither he goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered, and said to him: How can these things be done? Jesus answered, and said to him: Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?
Amen, amen I say to thee, that we speak what we know, and we testify what we have seen, and you receive not our testimony. If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not; how will you believe, if I shall speak to you heavenly things? And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.

Amongst the most notable features in the euchology of this Mass, we can count the beautiful Prefaces, and a proper Canon, or, better, that inside the Canon, according to the Gallican liturgical tradition, a "post Sanctus" prayer is inserted:

Vere sanctus, vere benedictus Dominus noster Jesus Christus Filius tuus: qui cum Deus esset majestatis, descendit de caelo, formam servi, qui primus perierat, suscepit, et sponte pati dignatus est, ut eum, quem ipse fecerat, de morte liberaret. Unde et hoc paschale sacrificium tibi offerimus pro his, quos ex aqua et spiritu sancto regenerare dignatus es, dans eis remissionem omnium peccatorum, ut invenires eos in Christo Jesu Domino nostro. Pro quibus tibi, Domine, supplices fundimus preces, ut nomina eorum, pariterque famuli tui Papae nostri Benedicti et Pontificis nostri Dionysi scripta habeas in libro viventium. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Truly holy, truly blessed is Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son: Who, being God in His Majesty, descended from heaven, took the shape of the servant, who first got lost, and vouchsafed to suffer by His own will, in order to free from death those whom He created. Therefore, we offer to Thee this paschal sacrifice for the sake of those whom Thy vauchsafed to regenerate from water and Holy Ghost, giving them the remission of all sins, in order to become one with Jesus Chris our Lord. Also for them, O Lord, we present our imploring prayers, so that Thou may write their names, and also of Thy servant Pope Benedict, and our Pontiff Dionysius in the book of the living. For our Lord Jesus Christ...

Immeditely after the Mass of the day, the Easter Vespers are sung.

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