Friday, April 08, 2022

The Mass of Passion Thursday - Continued

In yesterday’s article, I described the Roman station church of Passion Thursday as a place of exile for Eastern iconodule monks whom the persecution of the iconoclast Byzantine emperors had driven into Italy. This basilica is dedicated to St Apollinaris, the first bishop of Ravenna, who is traditionally said to have been a disciple of St Peter, sent there by him to evangelize the northern Italian region of the Romagna.

Episodes of the life of St Apollinaris, depicted in a stained-glass window in the cathedral of Chartres, 1205-15. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Rolf Kranz, CC BY-SA 4.0.
The Byzantine emperors had lost control of Italy, and hence of Rome itself, the place where their empire began, in the later fifth century, but regained it over the course of the sixth through a series of extremely costly wars. Once this was achieved, the official who governed it on their behalf both civilly and militarily, called the exarch, kept his capital at Ravenna. The exarchate was never a very strong power; it slowly lost one territory after another, especially to the Lombards, then began to collapse much more rapidly in the mid-8th century, just as Byzantium itself was embracing iconoclasm, until it was completely overrun, and Ravenna itself conquered in 751.
However, the Lombards were in turn soon driven out of the region by the Franks under Pepin the Short in 756, at which point, the Pope, already the ruler of Rome and environs, laid claim to the former territories of the exarchate. This claim was granted by Pepin, and confirmed by his son Charlemagne in 774. Thus, the see of St Apollinaris, Ravenna, became a subject of orthodox Rome, rather than of heterodox, iconoclast Byzantium.
In the Epistle of Passion Thursday, Azariah says that the exiled Israelites “are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins.” Given the historical context described above, when this was read in the church that represents the former seat of Byzantine power in Italy, it must surely have been taken to signify also the destruction of that power so soon after it had turned to heresy, and as a punishment for doing so.
The episode of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace, depicted by Franz Joseph Hermann (1738-1806) in the parish church of St Pancratius in Wiggensbach, Germany.
The prayers of this Mass do not refer to any of this, since indeed, they are all much older than it. The Collect, Secret and Post-Communion are all attested in the so-called Leonine Sacramentary, but each at a different Mass: the first on the vigil of Pentecost, the second at one of the Ember days of September (which one is not specified), and the third at the twentieth of thirty-one Masses in a section labeled “orationes et praeces diurnae – daily orations and prayers.” (This Mass also includes the worst preface ever written.) In the Old Gelasian Sacramentary, the first surviving example of its genre for the Roman Rite (ca. 750 AD), they are put together in a single Mass, that of the third Saturday of Lent, with the addition of an alternative Collect and a prayer “over the people.” In the Gregorian Sacramentary, the alternative Collect is removed, and the Mass transferred to Passion Thursday.
Collecta Praesta, quáesumus, omnípotens Deus: ut dígnitas condiciónis humánae, per immoderantiam sauciáta, medicinális parsimoniae studio reformétur.
Collect Grant, we beseech You, almighty God, that the dignity of human nature, wounded through self-indulgence, may be restored by the zealous practice of healing self-denial.
Secreta Dómine, Deus noster, qui in his potius creatúris, quas ad fragilitátis nostrae subsidium condidisti, tuo quoque nómini múnera jussisti dicanda constítui: tríbue, quáesumus; ut et vitae nobis praesentis auxilium et aeternitátis efficiant sacramentum.
Secret O Lord, our God, Who hast commanded that especially from these created things, which Thou didst fashion for the support of our weakness, offerings also be dedicated to Thy Name, grant we beseech Thee, that they may provide for us both help in the present life, and the sacrament of eternity.
Postcommunio Quod ore súmpsimus, Dómine, pura mente capiámus: et de munere temporáli, fiat nobis remedium sempiternum.
Post-communion May we receive with pure mind, O Lord, what we have taken by mouth, and as a gift in time, may it become for us an everlasting remedy.
Super populum Esto, quáesumus, Dómine, propitius plebi tuae: ut, quae tibi non placent, respuentes, tuórum potius repleantur delectatiónibus mandatórum.
Over the people Be merciful to Thy people, we beseech You, o Lord, that as they reject whatever pleaseth Thee not, they may be filled all the more with the delights of Thy commandments.
Folios 35v and 36r of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 A.D., with the Masses of Thursday (from the middle of the Secret), Friday and Saturday of the third week of Lent, and most of that of Laetare Sunday. In the Mass of Saturday, which was later moved to Passion Thursday, the prayers given above are all the same except as those given above, for the Post-communion. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12048)
Despite their extreme antiquity, and continual use since at least the mid-6th century, the Collect and Secret of this Mass were ejected from the post-Conciliar rite. Ideas such as “the dignity of human nature, wounded through self-indulgence”, “self-denial”, and “our weakness” cannot be presented to that most improbably chimeric of creatures, Modern Man™, simultaneously a mature adult who no longer needs to be coddled by his Holy Mother the Church, but too fragile to be confronted with “negative” thoughts, especially about himself. The Post-communion had long become part of the Ordo Missae, and is retained as such in the post-Conciliar rite, but not in its original role as a Post-communion, since Modern Man™, despite his assiduous attendance at the Lenten ferial Masses, will also immediately abandon the practice of the Faith if he hears the same prayer twice in a single day.
The prayer over the people appears in the Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries as a feature of many Masses (but not all), whereas in the Gregorian Sacramentary, the ancestor of the Missal of St Pius V, it is limited to the ferias of Lent. Flatly rejecting Sacrosanctum Concilium’s wish that “other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers”, the first creators of the post-Conciliar Missal simply suppressed it outright. Having been realized the foolishness of this pointless impoverishment, the creators of the 2002 edition restored it ad libitum, and this specific example returned to its traditional place, though not without some typically cack-handed and unnecessary rewriting.
The Gospel, Luke 7, 36-50, tells of the anointing of Christ’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee by an unnamed woman, who later came to be identified as St Mary Magdalene, in part because she is mentioned immediately after this passage, in verse 8, 2. As noted yesterday, the antiphons of the Benedictus and Magnificat are not taken from the day’s Gospel, as they are on almost every other day of Lent. Instead, the former is taken from Matthew 26, 18, “The master saith, ‘My time is near at hand, with thee I keep the Pasch with my disciples.’ ”, and the latter from Luke 22, 15, “With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I suffer.” This choice is not accidental. Both antiphons contain the word, “Pasch”, and cite words spoken by Christ Himself right before the Last Supper, one week before the day on which the Church commemorates it.
The Supper in the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1480-88, by a Spanish painter known as Maestro Bartolomé. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 
St Luke is the only one of the four Evangelists who does not record an anointing of the Lord’s feet by a woman right before His Passion; this episode occurs much earlier in his Gospel, when Jesus and His disciples are still in Galilee. (The versions of Matthew and Mark are included in their Passions, that of St John is read on Holy Monday.) The pairing of this Gospel with these antiphons brings into the context of the Passion Luke’s account, the only version in which Christ speaks to the woman herself, saying, “Thy sins are forgiven thee. … Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.” In the Passion, the same is said to all of mankind.
The historical events and cultural factors that originally determined the choice and arrangement of these texts have long since faded from common memory, but their final result serves a beautiful purpose as Lent draws to a close. The Mass is permeated with the thought of the sinfulness of fallen Man, and his hope for redemption: in the Introit, “…we have sinned unto Thee… but… deal with us according to Thy great mercy”; in the Collect, “let the dignity of the human condition… be restored”; in the Epistle, “Confound us not, but deal with us according to Thy mildness”; in the Gospel, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” In the Offertory, the Babylonian exile becomes a symbol of the worse exile of Man from Paradise, to which he longs to return; in the Communion, “…Thy word… in which Thou hast given me hope… hath consoled me in my low estate.”
Having made this last confession of sin, and profession of repentance and the hope for redemption, the Church turns its gaze to the Passion, in which the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world.

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