Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 2.9: The Translation of the Relics (1961)

For a description of this part of the ceremony in the Pontifical of Clement VIII, click here.

Before going to the place where the relics are, the bishop and major ministers change their vestments from violet to white. While they proceed to the place, the following antiphons are sung; these were formerly sung while the bishop stood before the chapel or tent where the relics are kept, waiting to enter.
Ant. O how glorious is the kingdom in which all the Saints rejoice with Christ, clothed in robes of white, and follow the Lamb where ever he goeth.
Ant. Be moved, o Saints of God, from your abodes, and hasten to the places which have been prepared for you.
Ant. Behold the people that keepeth justice, and observeth truth, in Thee have they hoped, o Lord, forever.
Ant. The way of the Saints is made straight, and their path prepared.
The fourth antiphon is no longer sung with psalm 94. A fifth antiphon is provided for optional use with this procession; its text is the same as the third and fourth put together, but set to different music. (This version is found in two ancient antiphonals.) The rubrics provide that a responsory, or a hymn, or a “popular song” may be sung in honor of the Saint or Saints whose relics are soon to be brought into the church.

The bishop and minister proceed straight into the chapel or tent; the prayer formerly said before the door is suppressed. Standing before the relics, the bishop says:
Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, o Lord, that we may worthily touch these relics of Thy Saints, which have been specially dedicated to Thee; whose patronage we desire unceasingly to enjoy. (short conclusion; words in italics omitted)
He now imposes incense in a thurible, and incenses the relics. (They are not incensed at this point in the previous version.) A procession is arranged as follows: first the acolytes with candles, then the Cross, and the clergy. The torchbearers are now “beside” the bier, and the thurifer before it. It is now carried by deacons in red dalmatics, rather than priests in red chasubles. The bishop and his ministers follow. As the procession begins, a single antiphon is sung, (no longer intoned by the bishop), and repeated after each two or three verses of psalm 149 Cantate Domino, without Gloria Patri at the end. This antiphon is borrowed from the office of Several Martyrs; the three antiphons proper to this ceremony, and sung at this point in the 1595 ceremony, are suppressed.
Ant. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven, who despised the life of the world, and have come to the rewards of the kingdom, and washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb.
The relics are no longer carried in procession around the church. The long-disused exhortation to the people, the readings of the two decrees of the Council of Trent, the bishop’s address to the church’s founder, and the founder’s to the bishop are all formally suppressed. The responsory sung before the door “The Lord shall be my God”, and the prayer said before entering the church are suppressed. The anointing of the door is moved to a later part of the ceremony. The relics are therefore carried directly from the chapel or tent to the altar of the church.

As the procession enters the church, the following antiphon is sung, and repeated after each two or three verses of psalm 150 Laudate Dominum in sanctis, without Gloria Patri at the end. An alternative version in a different chant mode is provided, which begins “Enter ye blessed of God”, but is otherwise the same text.
Ant. Enter, ye Saints of God, for your dwelling place is prepared by the Lord; and the faithful people follows your path with joy, that for us ye may pray the majesty of God, alleluia.
On reaching the altar, the relics are laid down near it, and the bishop incenses them again. The antiphon “The Saints shall exult in glory, and rejoice in their beds,” formerly sung at this point with psalms 149 and 150, is suppressed. The prayer said by the bishop before he anoints the sepulcher is suppressed. The sepulcher is no longer anointed or blessed. The relics are received by the bishop and laid in it. The schola may sing one or more of the following antiphons, none of which is now intoned by the bishop.
Ant. Beneath the altar of God ye have received your resting places, Saints of God, intercede for us to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ant. Beneath the altar of God, I heard the voices of the slain, saying, ‘Why dost Thou not defend our blood?’ And they received the divine answer, ‘Wait ye yet a little while, until the number of your brethren be fulfilled.’
Ant. The bodies of the Saints are buried in peace; and their names shall live forever.
The first of these was formerly sung with a versicle and response, which are now suppressed. The second and third were formerly sung when the bishop fixed the tablet or stone over the relics. The third was formerly sung with Gloria Patri and Sicut erat, and repeated; these are now suppressed.

Cement is now made with the Gregorian water by a stonemason, no longer by the bishop himself. (Before the invention of modern quick-drying cement, the cement was made at the beginning of this part of the ceremony, before the bishop and ministers processed to the chapel where the relics were kept.) The bishop blesses it with the following prayer, preceded by “Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.”
God most high, who preservest all things, highest, middle and lowest, and encompass every creature to its very depth, sancti + fy and bless + this creature of mortar. (formerly “these creatures of lime and sand.” short conclusion, italics omitted.)
The bishop, with the help of the stonemason, lines the tablet or stone with cement, and fits it into its place. The stone is not anointed or blessed, either on the top or bottom. The second sealing of the stone in its place with cement is omitted. The bishop says the following prayer, preceded by “Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.” only; it is retained from the analogous position in the previous rite, and slightly modified.
O God, who from every union of the Saints, buildest to Thyself an eternal habitation, give from heaven increase of what Thou hast built, and may they whose relics we here embrace in a pious manner, ever aid us by their merits. (short conclusion. I suspect that the word “more – manner” here may be a typo for “amore – love”, as read previously.)
previous version : O God, who from the dwelling-together of all Thy Saints, buildest to Thy Majesty an eternal habitation, give from heaven increase to what Thou hast built, and grant that they whose relics we here embrace with pious love, may ever aid us by their merits. (short conclusion)
The incensation of the altar and the prayer after it, which formerly took place after the final sealing of the relics in their place, are suppressed.

The custom of placing relics in the altar derives from the very ancient tradition of building churches over the tombs of martyrs. Here we see a later version of this, from the era in which the translations of relics had become very common, and the original burial places of many Saints were either unknown or inaccessible. The relic seen here in the part beneath the altar of the church of San Giorgio in Velabro is venerated as the head of St. George. The altar is deliberately arranged so that the relic can be properly seen and venerated by the faithful.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: