Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Pictures of an Ambrosian Rogation Procession

As we described in an article last year (my translation of notes by our Ambrosian expert Nicola de’ Grandi), the Ambrosian liturgy keeps the Minor Litanies on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the Ascension, where the Roman Rite has them before. Since the week ends with the vigil of Pentecost, one of the two great occasions for the celebration of baptisms, the traditional Ambrosian celebration of the Minor Litanies has many elements in common with Lent, the season par excellence for baptismal preparation. During the processions, there are stations at various churches; at each station, lessons are read as part of the catechumenal preparation for baptism, exactly as was done in Lent. Black vestments are used as on the ferias of Lent, and in the Office, all of the characteristic features of the Easter season (the Paschal hymns, antiphons consisting of just the word “Alleluia”, etc.) are replaced with those of the season per annum. The Ambrosian Rite has no Ash Wednesday, and only much later did it adopt the imposition of ashes on the first Monday of Lent; the blessing and imposition of ashes is in fact historically done on the first day of the Minor Litanies. (These pictures were taken yesterday during the celebration of the second day at the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, the home of the traditional rite in Milan.)   

The procession through the neighborhood. At the end of this post, there are photos of an Ambrosian breviary which show the full text of the two sets of processional antiphons and the litany of the Saints, which varies from day to day.  
In the Middle Ages, when the Minor Litanies were still kept with great solemnity, on each of the three days, the archbishop, the cathedral chapter and the entire clergy of the city participated in a procession which departed from the cathedral, and stopped at twelve different stational churches along the way, each group within the clergy walking behind its own processional cross. An enormous number of processional antiphons were sung, interspersed between the verses of the longest Psalm in the Psalter, Beati immaculati (118). At each station, a synaxis was held in a form which is common to various penitential functions in the Ambrosian Rite such as vigils and the ferias of Lent: twelve Kyrie eleisons, followed by a prayer, a reading of the Old Testament, a responsory, and a Gospel. Here we see a simplified version of this custom: on returning to the church, a station is held at a side altar...

during which the processional cross is laid upon it. 
The conclusion of the procession is held at the gates of the sanctuary, before the celebrant and ministers enter the sanctuary.
The Mass is celebrated in a very simple form also characteristic of penitential days; all of the usual Mass chants are omitted, apart from a very brief cantus, the equivalent of the Roman tract, between the readings. The Ambrosian Mass has no Kyrie or Agnus Dei, and the Gloria and Creed are omitted; the Ordinary is therefore reduced to just the Sanctus.

The Ambrosian custom is to hold the chasuble up more or less parallel to the floor during the incensations.

The processional antiphons and litany of the Saints for the second day of the Ambrosian Minor Litanies.  

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: