Wednesday, April 06, 2022

The Ceremonies of the Passion: Guest Article by Fr William Rock, FSSP (Part 2)

Last month we published the first part of this article by Fr William Rock, FSSP, about the ceremonies of singing the Passion at the Masses of Palm Sunday, Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday, and the Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified. I confess that I let myself be distracted by other responsibilities, and complete forgot about the second part; my apologies to Fr Rock for the delay. He is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, Texas; he thanks his confreres Frs James Smith and Seth Phipps for their contributions to this article.

Almost two decades after Van Der Stappen, the 1918 edition of Fortescue & O’Connell states that the deacons of the Passion should be distinct from the ministers of the Mass, but grants that in cases of necessity, the celebrant may sing the part of Christ (pp. 277-278). In a footnote (#2), on page 278, the following also is found:
It is even allowed, if the subdeacon is ordained deacon, that the ministers of the Mass take off the folded chasubles (the subdeacon puts on a deacon’s stole) and sing two parts of the Passion at the usual place, the celebrant singing the “Christus” at the altar (Le Vavasseur, ii, 61, n. 1). But there must be three men, ordained deacons, to sing the Passion. Otherwise the celebrant reads it aloud at the epistle corner, and the deacon sings the last part only.
The 1920 (pp. 277, 282-282) and 1932 (pp. 267-268; 272-272) editions of Fortescue & O’Connell contain the same. The 1932 edition, however, does add a reference in the footnote to the then current Memoriale Rituum (III, ii, §IV.4) as the authority for the celebrant reading the Passion if there are not three total suitable men to sing it. The 1943 edition has the same footnote (p. 268). These all maintain the position that three individuals, who are at least deacons, are required for the Passion to be sung, but they can be the ministers of the Mass, differing in this last respect from Martinucci’s position, but agreeing with the position held by the others.
From our first Good Friday photopost of last year: the singing of the Passion at St Mary’s Oratory in Wausau, Wisconsin (ICRSP.)
The Memoriale Rituum, referenced in the 1932 edition of Fortescue & O’Connell, is a Church document, first published under Benedict XIII in 1725 with later revisions, which describes how various functions of the year are to be carried out in smaller churches when the celebrant is not assisted by a deacon or subdeacon. An edition later than the one referenced, from 1950, gives the following three cases with respect to the Passion (see III, ii, §IV.4)
  1. If there are three deacons of the Passion available (but a solemn ceremony is not held), they are to sing it while the celebrant reads it to himself. Then, the celebrant sings the Gospel portion.
  2. If there are two deacons of the Passion available (but a solemn ceremony is not held), the celebrant sings the part of Christ from the Gospel corner while reading to himself the other two parts as they are chanted. Then, the celebrant sings the Gospel portion.
  3. If there are no deacons available (si non adsint diaconi), the celebrant reads, and does not sing, the Passion.
These instructions from the 1950 Memoriale Rituum are also included in the 1956 edition of Matters Liturgical, and applied to solemn ceremonies (499, q):
If the Mass on Palm Sunday is a high Mass, the Passion may be sung by three deacon-chanters or by the celebrant and two deacon-chanters in the manner described in the preceding paragraphs (o-p); but it may not be sung by the celebrant and two laymen or two clerics who are not at least deacons (S.R.C. n. 3110, X [footnote 4]; 4031, ad III). If the celebrant of the high Mass is not so assisted, he shall read the Passion at the Gospel corner as far as the words Altera autem die when he goes to the middle and says the Munda cor meum and the Jube Dne; he shall then return to the Gospel corner and in the tone of the Gospel shall sing the Altera autem die without Dnus vobiscum or Sequentia and without signing either the book or himself, though he kisses the book at the end and says the Per evangelica dicta (S.R.C. 4031, ii; EPH. LIT.: lvii, p. 50 ad 5; N. 201 D).
Again, thus far the consistent principle is that three parts of the Passion must be sung by three individuals, who are at least deacons, and if there are not three, the Passion is to be read. At this point the de Herdt/Wapelhorst position regarding the ministers of the Mass being able also to serve as deacons of the Passion is maintained (or at least not positively rejected).
In 1950, in the 14th edition of the Handbook of Ceremonies, by J.B. Mueller S.J., the following is found: “According to [the Caeremoniale Episcoporum], the Passion is not to be sung by the [celebrant] assisted by the ministers, but by three other priests or deacons” (Part III, III, 3, d.1). Further on, however, he does express that permission has been given for the deacon and subdeacon to act as deacons of the Passion (Part III, III, 3, d.2). He references here two S.R.C. decrees. The first is the above referenced decree from 12 March 1836 (n. 2740, ad 2). Mueller also references another decree from 1893 (n. 3804, ad 3), but this points back to the earlier decree.
At this point, the following summary of liturgical principles/positions can be ascertained based on the authorities reviewed above:
  • The three parts of the Passion must be sung by three individuals - certain
  • The three who sing the Passion must be at least in the diaconal order - certain
  • These three can be the ministers of the Mass – most probable
  • If only one additional Deacon of the Passion is needed, the celebrant can fulfil this role and sing the part of Christ - certain
  • If three proper ministers are lacking, the Passion is to be read aloud, not sung, by the celebrant and the Gospel sung – certain
From our fourth Palm Sunday photopost of 2019: the deacon sings the Gospel at the end of the Passion of St Matthew at the collegiate church of St Just in Lyon, France (FSSP). 
A major change comes when the rites of Holy Week were altered in the mid-1950s. A rubric is found which allows the celebrant alone to read or sing the entire Passion from the Gospel corner (“legit vel cantat clara voce historiam Passionis Domini”; Palm Sunday, rubric 8a; rubric 9 explains that this applies to the other days as well). This alteration also did away with the distinction between the Passion and the Gospel and shortened the accounts. The 2009 edition of Fortescue & O’Connell & Reid (pp. 332-333), with Ordo Hebdomadæ Sanctæ Instauratus, Ritus Simplex (issued by the S.R.C. on 5 February 1957 to replace the Memoriale Rituum) in mind says that, in small churches, if three deacons are not present, the celebrant can read or sing the Passion himself or may sing it with two deacons. If the celebrant is allowed to sing the entire Passion alone, there seems to be no reason why it cannot also be sung by the celebrant and just one other, nor that the deacon and subdeacon of the Mass cannot serve as deacons of the Passion, assuming the one serving as the subdeacon of the Mass is at least in the order of deacon.
Further alterations in the mid-20th century allowed the congregation to take the part of the Synagogue / Crowd, and a lay reader to take the part of the Narrator.
This brings to a close this knowingly incomplete exposition of the Ceremonies of the Passion during Holy Week and the various opinions with regards to them. It is hoped that it as shed some light on the somewhat complicated history of the ceremonies of the Passion and made explicit different liturgical principles held at different times and by different authors. Such information is valuable for all those who are interested in discussing such things.
Note (numeration continued from previous article):
4. This response from 22 March 1862, which is the one usually referenced as restricting the singing of the Passion to those ordained to the diaconate, seems to apply to the organist (organista) only. The response from 16 January 1677 is a stronger authority on the restriction.

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