Previous parts in this series:
As mentioned in part one of this series, the Holy Week liturgies were overhauled in 1955 by Father Annibale Bugnini, who was later the chief architect of the Novus Ordo Mass. By the grace of God, several parishes of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter have permission to offer the traditional liturgies for Holy Week. However, it remains that most traditional parishes are bound to the 1962 Roman Missal, which includes the revised Holy Week. Many of the revisions parallel and foreshadow the liturgical reforms of the 1960s, and display the same concepts discussed in our series on the Novus Ordo Mass – a horizontal focus rather than a vertical focus, de-emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and lesser reverence given to the Blessed Sacrament.
In addition, the Holy Week revisions heavily focus on reducing and simplifying the liturgy to make it shorter and easier to understand. The liturgies for each day are drastically shorter. Although there is merit in the people understanding the liturgy – the main point of my blog is to help people understand the liturgy – it should not be a guiding principle in liturgical reform. The liturgy is meant to be our greatest, most perfect worship to God and the lifeblood of our religion. Brevity and simplicity are not the goal. Especially during Holy Week, we should not be striving to spend less time with our Lord. Like the Novus Ordo, the revised Holy Week liturgies are inferior in form to the traditional liturgies.
Mr. Gregory DiPippo of New Liturgical Movement wrote an excellent series of articles on these revisions back in 2009. If you want a more in-depth look at the 1955 liturgical reform, I highly recommend his articles.
The first change is one that I discussed in part one. Previously, Mass was only ever allowed in the morning, so the liturgies for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday were offered in the mornings. In 1955, the times were changed. The Mass of the Lord's Supper is now offered in the evening, between 4:00 and 9:00 p.m., to correspond with the time of the Last Supper. The Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday (it is no longer called the “Mass of the Presanctified”) is offered in the afternoon, about 3:00 p.m., to correspond with the time of the Crucifixion. Finally, the Easter Vigil is offered late Saturday night so that the Mass begins about midnight.
The liturgical color for the Blessing of the Palms has been changed from violet, the color of penitence and of royalty, to red. The Asperges is omitted. The Blessing of the Palms is extremely shortened. It no longer has the dignity of imitating the Holy Mass.
The palms are placed on a table in the middle of the sanctuary. To bless the palms, the priest faces the people across the table, with his back to the altar, the crucifix, and the tabernacle. Nowhere else in liturgy would the priest ever turn his back to the altar and face the people when offering a prayer to God. Such absurdity was unheardof until 1955. It was clearly intended to acclimate the faithful to the vandalism that would occur in the 1960s.
After the Introit Hosanna filio David, the priest immediately sings a single prayer to bless the palms. The beautiful canon of six prayers from the traditional liturgy is suppressed. After the blessing, the palms are distributed to the faithful “in accordance with local custom” (1962 rubrics). Alternatively, they may be held by the faithful from the beginning. After the distribution of palms, the deacon sings the Gospel, Matthew 21:1-9, with the same ceremonies as at Mass. The reading from Exodus, formerly sung at the Blessing of the Palms, is suppressed. Whereas before, the priest always read the Gospel quietly to himself in addition to the deacon singing it, here the priest is directed not to do so, but rather to stand and listen. This was made the case for the Gospel of Mass in 1962.
That is the entire Blessing of the Palms. What was once an elaborate ceremony imitating the Holy Mass is now an antiphon, a prayer, and a reading. Whereas the traditional rite contained nine prayers – three corresponding to the collect, secret, and postcommunion of the Mass, and six forming a “Canon” to bless the palms – the new rite only has one.
Once this is done, the procession begins. Before, the procession was to walk with Christ in the days before his Passion, joining the people of Jerusalem in greeting their Savior. Now, it is a procession in honor of Christ the King. The traditional chants have been replaced by hymns to Christ the King. The hymn Gloria laus et honor, formerly sung at the door of the church, is now simply to be sung at some point during the procession. The ceremony at the door is suppressed. The processional cross is not veiled, even though it is veiled the entire rest of Passiontide. Like before, the chant Ingrediente Domino is sung when the procession enters the church.
To begin Mass, the ministers change vestments from red to violet, and the table that held the palms is removed from the center of the sanctuary. One should always be skeptical of a liturgy that calls for the moving of furniture. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are suppressed for the Mass of Palm Sunday. This is also the case any other time a liturgical action precedes Mass, namely on Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, and the Easter Vigil. There is no reason for the suppression except again to acclimate the faithful to the more drastic reforms to come. We no longer acknowledge our sinfulness before ascending to God's holy altar to offer sacrifice. The rest of Mass is unchanged except for the Passion. The Passion is now much shorter. The account of the Last Supper at the beginning is omitted. Ironically, this means that the account of the first Mass is never read at Mass. In addition, the deacon no longer sings the last part of the Passion. Finally, for the same reason that there were no Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, there is no Last Gospel.
Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Commemorations and prayers pro diversitate temporum are abolished. Otherwise, there is no change for Monday. The only changes for Tuesday and Wednesday is the Passions. Like on Palm Sunday, the account of the Last Supper is removed from the beginning of the Passion, and the special ceremony is removed from the end of the Passion. This is done again to shorten and simplify the liturgy.
With the Masses of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday now in the evening, Tenebrae is now directed to be offered the mornings of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday rather than the preceding evenings. Although the office of Tenebrae does in fact belong to those days, there is plenty of historical precedent for anticipating Matins and Lauds the previous evening. Furthermore, Tenebrae is meant to be held in darkness, which is difficult to achieve in the morning. (In Seattle in 2019, sunrise on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday was 6:15 a.m., 6:13 a.m., and 6:11 a.m. respectively.)
Psalm 50 is removed from the ends of the hours. In 1961, the ceremony of hiding the last remaining candle and making a loud noise was suppressed.
The most significant change on Holy Thursday is one that does not affect most parishes. The blessing of the holy oils, formerly done at the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Cathedral, is now to be done at a new, separate Mass. This Mass of the Chrism is held at the cathedral the morning of Holy Thursday after Terce, with the Mass of the Lord's Supper held in the evening after None. At the Mass of the Chrism, the liturgical color is white. Psalm 42 is omitted like in the rest of Passiontide, but the Gloria is sung. The Epistle is James 5:13-16, in which the apostle commands priests to anoint the sick in the name of Christ. The Gospel is Mark 6:7-13, in which Christ sent forth his disciples to anoint the sick and drive out demons. Strangely, the Credo is not sung. A new, unique preface was written just for the Mass of the Chrism. The actual blessing of the oils is the same. (No new typical edition of the Roman Pontifical was issued until after Vatican II.) Even more strangely, the distribution of Communion to the faithful is explicitly forbidden at this Mass, as Communion may only be distributed at the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper.
The Mass of the Lord's Supper is held in the evening, between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The first half of Mass is the same as before. The Gloria is sung and the bells are rung, as in the traditional liturgy. The first major difference is that the rubrics explicitly call for the priest to preach a sermon. This is a completely novel innovation. Never before in the history of the Church has a sermon been mandatory or even mentioned in the liturgy at all. A sermon is a devotional, extra-liturgical act that, although certainly beneficial for the laity, is in no sense part of the sacred liturgy itself. If the ceremony of foot washing is to be held, it takes place after the sermon. Like at the Mass of the Chrism, the Credo is not sung, even though Maundy Thursday is a joyful first class feast of our Lord, which under any sane and consistent set of rubrics would include the Credo. One again, liturgical beauty and reverence is being attacked for the sake of brevity.
Instead of a single extra Host, an entire extra ciborium of Hosts is consecrated. Otherwise, the Mass of the faithful is unchanged until the Agnus Dei, which is changed to:
|Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
|Lamb of God, who takes
away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
“Dona nobis pacem” (“Grant us peace”) is not sung. The first of the three following prayers is omitted, like at a Mass for the Dead. As in the traditional Mass, the kiss of peace is not given.
The Confiteor immediately before Communion of the faithful is directed to be omitted in this Mass. It was removed from the Missal altogether in 1962, though many parishes retain it, including the one I attend. In addition to the regular Communion antiphon, several other psalms are appointed to be sung during Communion. After Communion, the extra consecrated ciborium or ciboria remain on the altar. The ceremony of veiling the Chalice containing the reserved Host and tying it with ribbon is suppressed. Mass ends with Benedicamus Domino rather than Ite Missa est, despite its solemnity. The blessing and Last Gospel are omitted. The ceremony of the translation of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose is fundamentally unchanged, except that a provision is made for there to be multiple ciboria requiring multiple trips. At the stripping of the altar, everything is removed from the altar, even the crucifix and candlesticks.
There is no Vespers tonight, as the evening Mass replaces it. This is unheardof before 1955, and it is particularly inappropriate for such a major hour of the Divine Office to be suppressed on such a major feast. The Mass of the Lord's Supper is followed by Compline.
The liturgy of Good Friday has been altered substantially. It is no longer the Mass of the Presanctified, but rather the Solemn Afternoon Liturgy. This is consistent with one of the major Novus Ordo ideals of de-emphasizing the sacrificial nature of the Mass and reducing reverence given to the Blessed Sacrament. Likewise, the day itself is no longer called Feria Sexta Parasceve (Friday of Preparation), but rather Feria Sexta in Passione et Morte Domini (Friday of the Lord's Passion and Death). The liturgy is suggested to begin about 3:00 p.m., the hour of our Lord's death, though it may begin any time between 12:00 noon and 9:00 p.m. The priest and deacon wear amice, alb, cincture, and black stole; the subdeacon wears the same without the stole. They do not wear maniples, cope, or chasubles.
The altar is completely bare, lacking even a crucifix. After a short period of silent prayer, the priest sings a newly introduced collect before the first reading from Hosea. The readings are unchanged, as is the collect after the Epistle. However, two peculiarities are introduced with this collect. First, the priest sings it from the sedilia, not from the altar, which was never done before except at a Pontifical High Mass. It foreshadows the same change being made in the Novus Ordo Mass, which disconnects the Mass from its sacrificial nature at the altar. Second, normally, when the priest mentions the Holy Name of Jesus, he bows toward the crucifix. Since there is no crucifix, he either bows directly forward (the preferable option in my opinion) or he bows toward an empty space. As with previous days, the Passion is severely shortened. After the Passion, the priest puts on a black cope, and the deacon and subdeacon put on a black dalmatic and tunicle. Before 1955, there was no reason for a black dalmatic or tunicle to even exist, as folded chasubles were always used. Two servers spread a single white linen cloth over the altar.
At the Solemn Collects, the missal is placed directly in the center of the altar – a place formerly reserved for the sacred vessels – and the deacon and subdeacon stand on either side of the priest rather than in a line behind him. The prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor has been replaced by a generic prayer for rulers. I discussed the changes to the prayer for the Jews in part six of this series.
The ministers then remove their cope, dalmatic, and tunicle. The deacon retrieves the cross from the sacristy. The Adoration of the Cross is fundamentally unchanged, except that two acolytes hold candles on either side of the Cross and that the ministers make three simple genuflections rather than three prostrations. The Reproaches are the same. Afterwards, the acolytes place the cross and candlesticks on the altar.
The ministers then change vestments yet again, this time changing into violet Mass vestments, except without maniples. The ministers and servers go to the Altar of Repose in silence. As they bring the Blessed Sacrament back to the altar, the choir sings three new antiphons. The beautiful, triumphal hymn Vexilla regis has been abolished. Upon arrival at the altar, there is nothing resembling an Offertory. There is no wine or water. Almost everything that was meant to imitate the Holy Mass has been removed. The priest immediately sings the invitation to the Our Father, “Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus moniti...”
What follows is one of the 1955 liturgy's most obvious omens of what was to come. The rubrics direct everyone present, even the congregation, who were hitherto barely ever acknowledged by the rubrics, to say the Pater noster aloud together. The rubric of the Missal explicitly specifies that it should be in Latin, which is strange, because that never needed clarification before. The spirit of Vatican II's focus on the people's active participation rather than the sacredness of the liturgy begins to bud. The priest says the embolism Libera nos aloud (he does not sing) and then the prayer Perceptio Corporis tui silently. The priest then receives Communion himself before distributing Communion to the faithful, which was traditionally never done on Good Friday. Psalm 21 is given as an optional Communion chant.
Since there is no chalice of water and wine with which to make an ablution, the priest purifies his fingers in a small dish of water, as is usually done for assisting clergy distributing Communion. Whereas before, the liturgy ended quite abruptly after Communion with the silent prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, the priest now sings three new prayers aloud after Communion, which conclude the liturgy. The altar is stripped in silence. Like the previous day, Vespers is abolished.
Thus, the solemn liturgy of Good Friday is fundamentally changed to strip it of its association with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is no longer a Mass of the Presanctified, but rather a “Solemn Afternoon Liturgy.” In the 1970 Missal, it is called a “service,” the word usually used to describe Protestant rituals. On the day our Lord sacrificed himself on the Cross, the sacrifice in which we participate in every Mass, the Sacred Tradition of the Church gives us a solemn rite to express our sorrow and our desire to unite ourselves with Christ in the Mass. Even though it is not a Mass, it still remains centered on the Mass. The 1955 reformed liturgy is a novelty totally detached from the Mass.
Like the liturgies of the preceding two days, the Easter Vigil is moved to the evening. The Mass is to begin around midnight, as if it were some sort of New Year's fireworks. Although midnight is when the civil day begins, it has never had any special significance in the liturgy. The liturgical day begins with either Matins or first Vespers. To this end, the vigil usually begins about 10:30 p.m. Thus, the Easter Vigil does not occur after None like every other vigil, but after Compline. It replaces Matins. Thus, not only is Paschal Matins abolished (and with it the hymn Te Deum), but first Vespers of Easter is abolished. Beginning feasts with first Vespers is one of the Church's most ancient traditions, probably originating with the apostles. Every other major feast has first Vespers. Easter, however, the greatest feast of the year, now has neither first Vespers nor Matins. Such is the malice with which the sacred liturgy has been vandalized.
The vigil itself has been substaintially overhauled. The beautiful triple candlestick is abolished. Instead, the paschal candle itself is brought to the new fire. After blessing the new fire with a single prayer, the priest marks a cross, alpha and omega, and year on the candle. Previously, the missal assumed that the candle was already marked, and the new missal comments that there is no reason why the candle should not already be marked, so it remains a mystery why this was added to the rite at all. The priest blesses the five grains of incense, saying nothing, and immediately inserts them into the candle. Finally, the priest lights the paschal candle and blesses it with the prayer formerly used to bless the incense.
The deacon carries the lit paschal candle into the church, pausing thrice to sing, “Lumen Christi,” as in the traditional rite. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, he places the candle in a small bracket, not the large, dignified candlestick in which the paschal candle is traditionally placed. He then sings the Exultet without pause. Its traditional function is displaced, as the paschal candle is already blessed and lit. The traditional prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor in the Exultet has been replaced with a new prayer for rulers.
The new Easter Vigil has only four prophecies – the creation, the deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea, Isaiah's vision of the new Israel, and Moses's exhortation of the Jewish people to follow God's law. The remaining eight prophecies have been abolished. Stories such as Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, the valley of dry bones, and the law of Passover, which are especially relevant to our Lord's Resurrection, have been removed from the liturgy. Like on Good Friday, the priest sings the collects from his chair rather than from the altar.
After the collect following the last prophecy, the choir immediately begins the Litany of the Saints. The tradition of doubling each line of the litany is abolished. Instead of blessing baptismal water in the baptistery, the logical place to do so, the water is blessed in the sanctuary so that the people can see it. After the line, “Omnes sancti et sanctae Dei / Intercedite pro nobis,” the litany is stopped. The blessing of the water itself is not changed. If Baptism is to be administered, it takes place in the sanctuary, not in the baptistery. Afterwards, the tract Sicut cervus is sung as the ministers process to the baptistery to deposit the water. Alternatively, a footnote in the missal allows the traditional practice of blessing the water at the baptistery. However, the rubric is very vague. It says that Sicut cervus should be sung on the way to the baptistery, but also that the choir should remain in the church singing the litany, repeating the litany if necessary. The most reasonable possibility seems to be that the Sicut cervus should be sung upon conclusion of the first half of the litany. However, DiPippo suggests the alarming possibility that the choir is to repeat the litany continuously during the entire blessing of the font. This is a foreshadowing of the vague and poorly written rubrics that dominate the Novus Ordo liturgy.
Next is the Renewal of the Promises of Baptism. This was previously only done as a private devotion, not as part of the liturgy. It is all done in the vernacular. This marks the first time in history that the vernacular tongue was called for in the sacred liturgy. It is a clear foreboding of even more radical liturgical reform. The priest first reads a short exhortation and then invites the faithful to renew their threefold renunciation of Satan and threefold profession of belief from the rite of Baptism. All then recite the Our Father together.
The Litany of the Saints is then resumed, starting from the line, “Propitius esto / Parce nobis, Domine.” The ministers go to the sacristy to prepare for Mass, which is mostly unchanged. As previously discussed, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are omitted. The prayer Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti before Communion is omitted.
After Communion, instead of first Vespers of Easter, we sing Lauds of Easter at about 1:00 a.m., a strange time to sing morning praises. Lauds is abbreviated the same way that Vespers was formerly abbreviated. Psalm 150 is sung with the antiphon, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,” and then the Benedictus is sung with the following antiphon:
Et valde mane una sabbatorum, veniunt ad monumentum, orto jam sole, alleluia.
|And very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they come to the sepulcher, the sun now being risen, alleluia.|
We should be skeptical of a liturgy that sings about the sun being risen at 1:00 a.m. Perhaps this is the perfect liturgy for Catholics living in the northern regions of Alaska or Scandinavia, but I digress. There is no Last Gospel.
As previously mentioned, the tradition of Paschal Matins and Lauds has been completely destroyed. Matins of Easter no longer exists, and Lauds is part of the new Easter Vigil. The only change to Mass on Easter Sunday is that the final line of the Sequence is changed from, “praecedet suos in Galileam,” to, “praecedet vos in Galileam.”
Thus are the reforms of 1955. The same themes visible in the reforms of 1969 are visible here. The focus is more on the people than on God, and there is less emphasis on the sacrifical nature of the Mass and on the Blessed Sacrament. Since the liturgy is considered less sacred than before, there is less diligence in the composition of the text and ceremonies, resulting in very strange, inconsistent, and vague rubrics. I hope and pray that permisison to use the traditional Holy Week liturgies is retained and expanded.
Mass of the Chrism – A new Mass celebrated in the cathedral on Holy Thursday morning, at which the bishop blesses holy oils.
Solemn Afternoon Liturgy – The new liturgy for Good Friday, since it is no longer a Mass of the Presanctified.
Renewal of Baptismal Promises – A former private devotion that has been inserted into the 1955 Easter Vigil, in which the faithful reaffirm the threefold renunciation of Satan and the threefold profession of faith from the rite of Baptism.