Thursday, April 18, 2019

Holy Week, Part 6: Good Friday

Previous parts in this series:

On Good Friday, the Savior of the world died on a Cross. At his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus first showed his divinity, Jesus told his mother, “My hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). After the Last Supper, when he began his Passion, Jesus said to his apostles, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12:23). On the day our Lord was crucified, darkness fell over the earth (Mark 15:33). The last words that St. John records Jesus saying on the Cross are, “It is finished,” also translated as, “It is consummated” (John 19:30). The Old Covenant is consummated. The sin of Adam is propitiated. The redemption of the world is complete. Now, because God has become man and died for us, we can be free of sin and have the hope of eternal salvation. Good Friday is known in Latin as Feria VI Parasceve, or Friday of Preparation, because it was the day of preparation for the Sabbath (Luke 23:54).

All Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are bound to fast on Good Friday. Fasting means only one full meal and two small meals that combined do not equal the full meal. Those who are medically unable to fast are exempt. As with every other Friday, Catholics aged 14 and older are bound to abstain from meat. There is no option to substitute an equivalent act of penance during Lent.

There is no Mass on Good Friday. This is the only day of the entire year on which the Mass is not offered. Every Mass is a re-presentation of the Crucifixion of Christ. On Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion, we abstain from offering the Mass. The priest receives Communion from the Host that was consecrated and reserved on Holy Thursday. For this reason, the solemn liturgy of Good Friday is called the Mass of the Presanctified. It is also sometimes described as a dry Mass or missa sicca, meaning a liturgy following most of the structure of the Mass but without the consecration of the Host and Chalice. Dry Masses were once a popular devotion for sailors and others who were away from the Mass for a long period of time, so that they could still unite themselves with the Church's liturgy.

The Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday has a special connection with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. The Last Supper was the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, but the Crucifixion was the Passover sacrifice. Neither is complete without the other. Furthermore, the Mass of the Presanctified requires that an extra Host be consecrated and reserved at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. For these reasons, neither liturgy may be offered in a particular church unless the other is also offered.

The solemn liturgy begins in the afternoon, after None. The liturgical color is black, which is also used for Masses for the dead. The altar, having been stripped on Holy Thursday, is bare except for the crucifix (veiled in either purple or black) and six unlighted candles of unbleached beeswax. (Fr. Adrian Fortescue, one of the foremost liturgists of the twentieth century, devotes an entire paragraph to whether the veil for the crucifix should be purple or black. It appears either is acceptable.)

Readings from Sacred Scripture
The servers and ministers vest as for Mass in black vestments. After entering the sanctuary, they lie prostrate before the altar for a few moments of silent prayer. Meanwhile, the acolytes spread a single white linen cloth over the altar. The liturgy is in five parts, the first of which is readings from Sacred Scripture. There are no Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, Introit, or Kyrie. Instead, a lector begins with the first lesson from the Prophecy of Hosea (page 2 of the PDF booklet). This lesson takes the place of the Introit. There is no title at the beginning, nor do we respond “Deo gratias” afterwards. This passage exhorts us to prayer and penance and reminds us to trust in the Lord. Hosea foretells the Resurrection of Christ, saying, “He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his sight.”

This first reading is followed by a Tract from the Prophecy of Habakkuk, foretelling both the Messiah's humble first coming and his glorious second coming. Habakkuk says, “In the midst of two animals thou shalt be made known,” referring either to the animals present at our Lord's birth or to the two thieves with whom he was crucified. The Tract concludes, “His majesty covered the heavens: and the earth is full of his praise.” After the Tract, the priest sings the collect of Good Friday, which is the same collect from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. This is another connection between the two liturgies.

Next, the subdeacon sings the second lesson, the Epistle of our dry Mass, which is taken from Exodus (pages 3-4). In this passage, God gives the law of Passover. This was the greatest of the burnt offerings required of the Jews. The Jews, living in captivity in Egypt, were commanded to sacrifice a one-year-old male lamb without blemish for a burnt offering to God. They were to eat its flesh with unleavened bread and wild lettuce, and they were to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on their door posts so that they would be saved from death. In all the houses not marked by the blood of the Passover lamb, God killed the first-born son, the twelfth plague that finally won for the Jews their freedom and hope of the Promised Land. This passage is extremely important on Good Friday, because Jesus is the true Passover lamb who was sacrificed. By his Precious Blood, we are freed from bondage to sin and death and have the hope of eternal life in heaven. This reading is followed by a long Tract from Psalm 139.

Three deacons then sing the fourth and final Passion, the Passion according to St. John (pages 6-24). This is the shortest of the four Passions. Like with the previous Passions, one deacon sings the Christus, one sings the Chronicler, and one sings the Synagoga. St. John is the only one of the four evangelists who was actually present at the Crucifixion. He sat with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross, never wavering in his love for Jesus Christ. St. John does not include the institution of the Eucharist, so the Passion begins with the Agony in the Garden. St. John also elaborates more on Jesus's dialogue with Pontius Pilate, with Pilate ultimately asking, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Three of the seven last words of Christ appear only in St. John's Gospel, including, “Woman, behold thy Son. Behold thy mother” (John 19:26-27). With these words from the Cross, Jesus gave us his Blessed Mother, conceived without sin, to be the mother and patron of all mankind. As with the other Passions, the last part is sung by the deacon of the Mass to a special, melismatic tone, with most of the ceremonies of the Gospel of the Mass. The difference is that, on Good Friday, the deacon does not receive the priest's blessing, and there are no candles or incense. This is the same as at Masses for the dead.

Solemn Collects
There is no Credo. After the Passion, we offer solemn prayer for the Church and for the world, known as the Solemn Collects. In ancient times, these intercessory prayers were part of the Mass, after the Credo and before the Offertory. They are preserved in the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday. (The Novus Ordo Mass attempts to imitate this ancient practice with the Prayer of the Faithful before the Offertory.)

For each collect, the priest sings an invitation to pray for a particular cause, beginning with “Oremus.” This invitation is sung in the tone of the Preface. The priest then sings again, “Oremus,” and the deacon sings, “Flectamus genua.” All then kneel for a moment to silently pray for the given intention, and then the subdeacon sings, “Levate,” and all rise. The priest sings the collect.

Like in the Canon of the Mass, we begin by praying for the holy Catholic Church (page 26). The priest's invitation to prayer quotes the prayer for the Church in the Canon. We also pray to God that all principalities and powers be subject to the Church. The traditional liturgy rejects the heresy of Americanism, which promotes a radical separation of Church and state and suggests that the Catholic Church should be treated the same as any other religion by secular governments. Also like the Canon of the Mass, we then pray for the Pope, who always needs our prayers. In the third prayer, we pray for all clergy and religious. The priest lists each of the four major orders (bishops, priests, deacons, and subdeacons) and four minor orders (acolytes, exorcists, lectors, and porters), along with confessors, holy virgins, and widows, who have also devoted their lives to the service of God. Jesus commanded us to pray for clergy and vocations when he said, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

The next prayer in the 1920 Roman Missal is a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor. The priest invites the congregation, “Let us pray also for the most Christian Emperor __ that the Lord God may reduce to his obedience all barbarous nations for our perpetual peace.” It is specifically for the Holy Roman Emperor, not any other king or ruler. Since the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist in 1806, this prayer is now always omitted. It was officially removed when Pope Pius XII published his Holy Week reforms, which means the first typical edition of the Roman Missal without this prayer was in 1962. It speaks to how slowly the liturgy changed before Vatican II that the Church had a prayer for a nonexistent emperor in her liturgy for 156 years. (Since this prayer is now always omitted, it is not included in the PDF booklet.)

Next, we pray for the catechumens who are preparing to be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil the next day (page 28). After that is a prayer for anyone in need. We pray to God to “take away diseases, drive away famine, open prisons, break chains, grant a sure return to travellers, health to the sick, and a safe haven to those at sea.” Jesus said of those who are to receive eternal life in heaven, “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me” (Matthew 25:35-36). Thus, we pray for God to protect the health and safety of everyone.

Just as we pray for the catechumens who are learning about the faith, we also pray for heretics and schismatics who do not yet know the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ. God wishes everyone to be Catholic. It is an act of charity to pray for the conversion of non-Catholics. Outside the Church, there is no salvation. (In Latin, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.) Again, this contradicts the popular idea that the Catholic Church is just one of many equally valid religions, and that non-Catholics do not need to convert in order to be saved. That idea is heresy. This is not to say that all non-Catholics are automatically going to hell, because it is God alone who judges souls, but we do know from God's revelation that the Catholic Church is the only true Church and that her sacraments are the only ordinary means of sanctifying grace. Thus, we ought to pray for the conversion of everyone in the world to the true Catholic faith.

The prayer for the Jews
The next prayer, the infamous prayer for the Jews, must be the most controversial prayer in the history of the Church's liturgy. Like the last prayer, we pray for the conversion of all to the Catholic faith. In this prayer, we pray specifically for the conversion of the Jews, who reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The prayer printed in the 1920 Roman Missal is as follows:

Orémus et pro pérfidis Iudæis: ut Deus et Dóminus noster áuferat velámen de córdibus eórum; ut et ipsi agnóscant Iesum Christum, Dóminum nostrum.

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui étiam iudáicam perfídiam a tua misericórdia non repéllis: exáudi preces nostras, quas pro illíus pópuli obcæcatióne deférimus; ut, ágnita veritátis tuæ luce, quæ Christus est, a suis ténebris eruántur. Per eúndem Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that our God and Lord would withdraw the veil from their hearts: that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.

Almighty and eternal God, who drivest not away from thy mercy even the faithless Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that
people: that acknowledging the light of thy truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through our Lord. Amen.

Flectamus genua” and “Levate” were not sung at this prayer, in order to avoid imitating the Jews, mocking and striking Jesus (Luke 22:63-65). “Withdraw the veil from their hearts” is taken from 2 Corinthians 3:14.

Judaism is a false religion. The Jews rejected their Messiah and crucified him. They took full responsibility for this crime, shouting, “His blood be upon us and our children” (Matthew 27:25). Thus, it is especially important that we pray for the conversion of the Jews. St. Paul was a Jew who persecuted Christians before he converted and became one of the Church's greatest saints. Praying for the conversion of the Jews has always been an important element of the liturgy of Good Friday. Once again, it is an act of charity to pray for their conversion, so that they too may have the hope of salvation.

However, this prayer angered the Jews. At their insistence, the prayer was revised several times. First, when Pope Pius XII published his revised Holy Week in 1955, “Flectamus genua / Levate” was added into the prayer for the Jews like at all the other prayers. In 1959, Pope John XXIII removed the word perfidis (meaning “faithless” or “perfidious”) from the prayer, so that it began, “Let us pray also for the Jews...” When the Novus Ordo Mass was published in 1969, an entirely new prayer took its place, this time not praying for the conversion of the Jews at all, but rather praying that they may “advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.” This is heresy. The Jews have no faithfulness to his Covenant; rather, they completely reject it. This prayer says exactly the opposite of what the traditional prayer said.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI published Summorum Pontificum, granting wider freedom to use the traditional liturgy. The Anti-Defamation League, an anti-Catholic liberal extremist organization run by the Jewish Freemasonic group B'nai B'rith, attacked the Church for bringing back the traditional prayer for the Jews. In response, Benedict XVI composed yet another prayer, this time asking God to “illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men” (pages 29-30). This is the prayer now used by the FSSP and other traditionalist groups in communion with the Holy See. (The one time I went to a Good Friday liturgy at an SSPX chapel, the priest used the traditional prayer, “Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis...” but I do not know whether this is the SSPX's official policy or the priest did it on his own initiative.) Two thousand years later, we remain in fear of the Jews (John 19:38, 20:19). Even sadder, the Church leaders who were ordained to defend the true faith felt it necessary to capitulate to the demands of persecutors and false religions.

The final prayer of the Solemn Collects prays for pagans, who worship idols and false Gods, praying that they too may see the truth and convert to the Catholic Church. Once again, the Catholic Church is the only true religion, and outside the Church there is no salvation, so in charity, we pray for all to convert to the true faith.

Adoration of the Cross
After the Solemn Collects, the priest and subdeacon remove their chasubles. (The deacon has already removed his chasuble and is wearing the broad stole.) The third part of the liturgy is the Adoration of the Cross. The deacon takes the veiled crucifix from the altar and brings it to the priest. The crucifix has been veiled since Passion Sunday, but today, we unveil the crucifix and venerate the image of our crucified Lord. The priest uncovers the top part of the crucifix, down to the inscription INRI, while he sings, “Ecce lignum crucis.” All three sacred ministers together continue, “in quo salus mundi pependit.” Everyone in the church kneels in adoration and responds, “Venite adoremus.” The priest then uncovers Christ's head and the right arm of the cross, singing again a step higher, “Ecce lignum crucis,” and the rest as before. The priest sings these words a third time another step higher as he removes the veil completely. Each time, all kneel and sing, “Venite adoremus.” All other crucifixes in the church are then unveiled.

The priest lays the crucifix on a cushion on the lowest step of the altar. The sacred ministers remove their maniples and their shoes. Each one in turn approaches the crucifix, worshipping it with three prostrations and kissing our Lord's feet. The triple prostration originates in the Anglo-Saxon ceremony of “Creeping to the Cross,” in which the ministers would approach the cross on their hands and knees. This in turn is based on a ceremony from fourth century Jerusalem, which is where the Adoration of the Cross comes from. After the ministers, clergy, and servers have all adored the cross in this manner, the cross is brought before the people, who all come forward and adore the cross by making a single prostration and kissing our Lord's feet.

During the Adoration of the Cross, the choir sings a particularly beautiful and haunting series of chants known as the Reproaches or Improperia. They date to at least the ninth century, possibly earlier, and have been set polyphonically by the Renaissance composers Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Tomas Luis de Victoria. They are written as poetic cries from our Lord to the Jews, who crucified him. They begin, “O my people, what have I done to thee? or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer me” (cf. Micah 6:3). We can also view the Reproaches as being addressed to ourselves, because it was truly our sins that caused our Lord to suffer. In the Reproaches, Christ mentions all the good works that God did in the Old Testament, which have been repaid with cruelty and rejection. God has been so good to us, and we have been so terrible to him.

After each of the first three Reproaches, we sing the Trisagion, an ancient prayer for mercy. Each line is sung first in Greek and then in Latin. This is one of only two cases when Greek is used in the liturgy, the other being the Kyrie at Mass. After each of the nine remaining Reproaches, we repeat the antiphon Popule meus (“O my people...”). The Old Testament events recalled in the Reproaches surround the deliverance of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt through the Red Sea. This is one of the central events of the Old Testament and one of the strongest allusions to our redemption. It is therefore remembered in the Holy Week liturgy.

The Reproaches conclude with a very simple, syllabic chant in the form of an Introit. We sing the antiphon, “We adore thy Cross, O Lord: and we praise and glorify thy holy Resurrection: for behold by the wood of the Cross joy has come into the whole world,” along with Psalm 66:2: “May God have mercy on us, and bless us: May he cause the light of his countenance to shine upon us, and have mercy on us.” This psalm verse was used as a blessing in the Jewish liturgy. Thus, we conclude by expressing our hope in the Resurrection of Christ.

After finishing the Reproaches, if there is time, the choir sings the hymn Pange lingua. This is not to be confused with another hymn, also called Pange lingua, that was sung on Holy Thursday. The Pange lingua on Good Friday is much more ancient than the hymn on Holy Thursday and was written for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We covered it in depth in our article on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Mass of the Presanctified itself
The fourth part is the Mass of the Presanctified itself. Near the end of the Adoration of the Cross, the acolytes light the six candles on the altar, and the deacon spreads the corporal in the center of the altar. After the Adoration is finished, the servers and ministers proceed to the Altar of Repose in silence by the shortest way. The priest retrieves the Chalice containing the reserved Host, and they process back to the sanctuary. During the procession back to the sanctuary, the choir sings the hymn Vexilla Regis (pages 43-45). This hymn sings of Christ's Crucifixion as a victory over Satan's army. The Holy Cross is the heraldic standard of the Church Militant. The Cross will always triumph over evil. This is also the hymn at both First and Second Vespers of Passion Sunday. The procession to the Altar of Repose mirrors the procession from the day before.

Returning to the main altar, the deacon takes the Chalice from the priest and puts it on the corporal. The Chalice is unveiled. The priest places the paten in front of the Chalice and lets the Host slip out of the Chalice onto the paten and then onto the corporal. He does not touch the Host with his fingers. Recall that, once the priest touches a consecrated Host, he must keep his thumbs and forefingers joined until he has washed his hands after Communion to prevent any particle from being profaned. The deacon pours wine into the chalice, and the subdeacon pours water. The chalice is covered with the pall. All this is exactly as at the Offertory at Mass, except that the Host is already consecrated, and the wine will remain unconsecrated. Additionally, the Mass of the Presanctified is marked by a great amount of silence. All of the preceding is done in silence. The usual prayers are not said.

The priest then puts incense into the thurible without blessing it, as is done at Masses for the dead. He incenses the Host, chalice, and altar as at Mass, saying the usual prayers (pages 45-46). (These are the first words said since the Blessed Sacrament was brought back to the altar.) He washes his hands in silence, and then bows down in the middle of the altar and says the prayer In spiritu humilitatis, as at Mass. This is one of the only prayers from the Offertory at Mass that is retained here. On Good Friday, we simply pray for the humility and contrition to offer ourselves completely to God. The prayer In spiritu humilitatis works well for this purpose. The other prayers, offering the Host and chalice to God, are not said. The priest kisses the altar and turns to the people, standing off to the side so as to not turn his back to the Blessed Sacrament, and says the Orate fratres in the usual way. There is no response. Thus, the priest still asks us to pray for his sacrifice and ours to be acceptable to God, but since this sacrifice is merely our personal sacrifice of contrition and devotion and not the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we do not pray the Suscipiat.

The Pater noster is next. The Preface, Sanctus, and Canon are all omitted. The Missal has the rubric, “omissis aliis,” meaning, “omitting everything else,” which has the tacit implication that the Mass of the Presanctified feels like an actual Mass (i.e. the priest would otherwise assume that he was to sing the Preface and what follows). The priest sings, “Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus...” as at Mass, and then sings the Pater noster (page 46). The embolism, Libera nos, which is usually said silently, is instead sung aloud. At its conclusion, the priest elevates the Host, as at the consecration at Mass, so that all may look upon it and adore it. The Host is not incensed, nor is the clapper sounded. He then breaks the Host over the Chalice and places a particle in the Chalice, as at Mass, saying nothing. All of this mirrors the Mass. Even though we do not offer the Mass and the Host is already consecrated, we still imitate as much of the Mass as possible. However, so much more is in silence. Through all of this ceremony, the only things sung aloud are the Pater noster and the Libera nos. The choir sings nothing. There is silence.

Whereas at Mass, the priest says three prayers quietly before receiving Communion; at the Mass of the Presanctified, he only says the prayer Perceptio Corporis tui (page 47). Unlike the other two prayers, this prayer does not mention the Blood of Christ, only the Body. It is thus more appropriate on Good Friday, when the priest receives only under the species of bread, not of wine. Although the entire Body and Blood of Christ is present in the Host, the species of bread more particularly represents the Body of Christ, and the species of wine more particularly represents the Precious Blood.

The priest says Panem coelestem accipiam and three times Domine non sum dignus, as at Mass, and then says Corpus Domini nostri and consumes the sacred Host (page 47). No one else besides the priest receives Communion today. Just as we abstain from offering the Mass, we abstain from receiving our Lord in Communion. Only the priest, acting in persona Christi, fulfills the daily duty of visiting our Lord in Holy Communion. In silence, the priest then drinks the wine from the Chalice with the particle of the Host. The subdeacon pours wine and water into the chalice over the priest's fingers, like the second ablution at Mass, and the priest drinks it in silence. (The first ablution from Mass is omitted.)

The subdeacon wipes and covers the chalice, as he usually does after Communion at Mass. Meanwhile, the priest bows and says the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus quietly, as he usually does at the first ablution. Again, this prayer is retained because it makes no mention of the Sacrifice of the Mass or of receiving the Precious Blood. This is the last prayer of the Mass of the Presanctified. There is no postcommunion, dismissal, blessing, or Last Gospel. After the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, the priest descends from the altar and leaves with the ministers. This disconcertingly abrupt ending further represents our sorrow on the day of our Lord's Crucifixion. After the ministers have left, the servers strip the altar once more in silence, leaving only the crucifix and the six lighted candles.

After the altar is stripped and the ministers have removed their Mass vestments, they return to the sanctuary to recite Vespers in choir. Vespers today are identical to the day before. The entire Divine Office during the Triduum except for Tenebrae is recited, not sung. It begins with the prayers Aperi Domine, Our Father, and Hail Mary, said silently (pages 48-49). The verse Deus in adjutorium is omitted. Vespers begins with the first antiphon. Each of the antiphons are verses from the psalms to which they are attached, reflecting Christ's suffering on the Cross.

We begin with Psalm 115 (page 49), expressing thanksgiving to God for his sacrifice. The antiphon is the prayer that the priest says at Mass before drinking the Precious Blood: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Next is Psalm 119, in which we express our longing for Christ and our cry to God in our distress. In the next psalm, Psalm 139, we pray for deliverance from all the forces of evil that try to separate us from God. In Psalm 140, we pray for safety and protection from temptation. Finally, in Psalm 141, we unite ourselves to our Lord's suffering and agony.

The capitulum, hymn, and verse are all omitted. We proceed immediately to the Magnificat (pages 53-54). Even on the most sorrowful day of the year, the Church never abstains from singing the joyful canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary as her evening prayer. Today, we can view this canticle as giving thanks to God for his mercy and his triumph over evil. In the words of our Lady, “His mercy is from generation unto generations to them that fear him.” The antiphon at the Magnificat is from John 19:30, the last words that St. John records Jesus saying on the Cross: “It is consummated!” Because it is such a sorrowful day, the altar is not incensed during the Magnificat.

To conclude Vespers of Good Friday, we say the antiphon Christus factus est from Philippians 2:7-8, like at Tenebrae: “Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death of the cross.” The Our Father is then said silently. In the 1912 Roman Breviary, Psalm 50, the Miserere, is said at the end of every hour during the Triduum. However, my understanding is that FSSP priests are still bound to the 1961 Breviary (even when they are using the 1920 Missal), in which the Miserere is not said at the ends of the hour. (Everything else is the same between the two Breviaries.) Finally, the priest says the prayer Respice quaesumus, and then all leave in silence. The six candles on the altar are extinguished after Vespers.

New terms
  • dry Mass or missa sicca – A liturgy following most of the structure of the Mass but without the consecration of the Host and Chalice.
  • Solemn Collects – The second part of the Mass of the Presanctified, in which prayer is offered for the Church and for the world.
  • prayer for the Jews – The prayer in the Solemn Collects that prays for the conversion of the Jews, which has been very controversial over the past century and has been revised several times.
  • Adoration of the Cross – The third part of the Mass of the Presanctified, in which the crucifix is unveiled and all come forward to adore it.
  • Reproaches or Improperia – A series of chants sung during the Adoration of the Cross, representing Christ's cries to the Jews who crucified him.
  • Trisagion – “Thrice holy,” a short prayer for mercy sung during the Reproaches.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Holy Week, Part 5: Maundy Thursday

Previous parts in this series:

Throughout Holy Week, we walk with Jesus Christ and keep him company during each part of his ministry. On Palm Sunday, we join our Lord in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we walk with our Lord during his ministry in Jerusalem and prepare with him for his Crucifixion. Now, on Holy Thursday, we join him and his disciples for the Last Supper.

The night before his Crucifixion, Jesus and his apostles gathered for the Passover meal to eat unleavened bread and drink wine. They did not sacrifice a lamb, for Jesus Christ himself was the Passover lamb. Before supper, St. John tells us that Jesus washed the feet of his apostles, showing them a true act of charity. When St. Peter protested, Jesus still insisted on washing his feet and only his feet. Afterwards, he told them, “Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord. And you say well; for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.” Jesus also told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Jesus, the incarnate God, who is love itself and loves mankind perfectly, admonishes us also to love each other perfectly. It is for this reason that Holy Thursday is also commonly called “Maundy Thursday,” after the the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment.” On this day, God gives us a new commandment, that we love each other as Christ loved us.

The Last Supper is recalled at every Mass:

Who, the day before he suffered, took bread into his most sacred and venerable hands, and with his eyes lifted up towards heaven, unto thee, God, his almighty Father, giving thanks to thee, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat ye all of this,
For this is my Body.

In like manner, after he had supped, taking also this excellent chalice into his holy and venerable hands, he blessed it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and drink ye all of this,
For this is the Chalice of my Blood, of the new and eternal Covenant: the mystery of faith: which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
As often as ye do these things, ye shall do them in remembrance of me.

Jesus commanded his apostles to continue observing the Passover in memory of him. With this command, Jesus instituted the Holy Mass, which since that day has been the lifeblood of the Christian religion. The Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Mass. It is therefore a joyful feast. The vestments are white, flowers are placed on the altar, the organ is played before Mass, and the Gloria is sung for the first time since before Septuagesima (except on feasts).

In ancient times, there were three Masses on Holy Thursday. The first was the Mass of the Holy Oils, at which the bishop, together with all the priests, deacons, and subdeacons of his diocese, blessed and consecrated the holy oils for use in the following year. The second was a Mass of Reconciliation for public penitents to be reconciled with the Church before Easter. Since public penance is no longer practiced, this Mass no longer takes place. Finally, there was the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the evening, celebrating the institution of the Mass. In the pre-1955 Holy Week liturgy, there is only one Mass, that of the Lord's Supper. Private Masses are forbidden on Holy Thursday.

Blessing of holy oils
The blessing of holy oils, which has been done on Holy Thursday since the fourth century, remains part of the liturgy of Holy Thursday. In the pre-1955 practice, the bishop of each diocese blessed the holy oils at the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the cathedral. There are three types of holy oil. Oil of Catechumens is used for the anointing of catechumens prior to their Baptism. It is also used for some blessings of objects, such as bells (the so-called “Baptism of Bells”). Oil of the Sick is used to administer Extreme Unction to those who are gravely ill. Finally, the most sacred type of oil is Sacred Chrism, used to anoint new Christians after Baptism, in administering the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders, and for consecrating objects set apart for sacred use, such patens, chalices, and the walls of a newly built church. Olive oil is traditionally used for the holy oils, though any vegetable oil is valid. The oil for Sacred Chrism is also mixed with a sweet perfume, traditionally balsam. The use of balsam comes from the balm of Gilead, a medicinal plant mentioned several times in the Old Testament (Genesis 37:25, 3 Kings 10:10, Jeremiah 8:22, Ezekiel 27:17).

As one of the most solemn blessings of the church, the blessing of holy oils is done in the context of the Mass. Moreover, since it is a function of a bishop in his office as chief pastor of the diocese, the bishop is joined by twelve priests, seven deacons, and seven subdeacons. In ancient Rome, all of the clergy of Rome joined the Pope for the blessing of holy oils. In the middle of the Canon of the Mass, before the bishop says, “Per quem haec praestas nobis,” he washes his hands and descends from the altar. The ampulla (pl. ampullae), or vessel of oil, for Oil of Catechumens is brought into the sanctuary by one of the subdeacons.

Mass of the Lord's Supper
Mass begins like any other Mass with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (pages 4-5). Since it is still Passiontide, Psalm 42 is omitted. The Introit is the same as on Holy Tuesday, from Galatians 6:14 and Psalm 66:2, extolling the glory of the Cross (pages 5-6). Since it is a joyful feast, after the Kyrie, the priest intones the Gloria (pages 7-8). While the sacred ministers are reading the Gloria to themselves, the organ is played, and all the bells in the church are rung joyfully. (Under no circumstances is it permissible for the congregation to jingle their keys in place of bells. Our editor, Kermit, has actually seen that more than once.) Once the sacred ministers sit down, the choir sings the rest of the Gloria. At the conclusion of the Gloria, the organ and bells are silent. They will not sound again until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil.

The collect acknowledges God's perfect justice, addressing him, “O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession.” It then prays that we may receive the grace of our Lord's Passion. Whereas most of the focus on Holy Thursday is on the Last Supper, the collect does not mention the Last Supper at all. It is nevertheless a beautiful prayer, coming from the ancient Gallican liturgies and having been used in the Roman Rite since at least 1225. In addition, it is the same as the collect of Good Friday, demonstrating the connection between these two liturgies. There is only ever one collect. No commemorations are allowed.

The Epistle for the Mass of the Lord's Supper is the account of the Last Supper from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (pages 9-10). This is the earliest account of the Last Supper, which St. Paul received by word of mouth from the apostles, and it is the account on which the Catholic Mass is most closely based. St. Paul begins by chastising the Corinthians for their irreverent practices in the Mass. He then gives his account of the Last Supper, in which Jesus takes bread and declares, “This is my Body,” takes the chalice of wine and declares, “This is my Blood,” and commands his apostles to do the same for a remembrance of him. St. Paul also warns of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, which is why only practicing Catholics in a state of grace are permitted to receive Communion.

The Gradual for Holy Thursday is the antiphon Christus factus est from Philippians 2:8-9, which is also sung at the end of Tenebrae of Holy Saturday (page 10). There is just this Gradual, with no Tract.

For the Gospel, we hear St. John's account of Jesus washing his disciples' feet at the Last Supper (pages 11-12). St. John never includes the account of the institution of the Eucharist, but he devotes a full five chapters to the evening of the Last Supper. In these five chapters, Jesus commissions his apostles to continue his earthly ministry, instituting the sacrament of Holy Orders. In John 15:15, he says, “I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you,” which is sung at the ordination of priests.

In today's Gospel in particular, Jesus washes the feet of his apostles, giving them an example of the charity and humility with which they ought to serve others as the first priests and bishops of the Church. St. Peter, the prince of the apostles whom Jesus appointed to be the first Pope, doubts Jesus, saying at first, “Thou shalt never wash my feet,” and then, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus, however, insists on washing his feet and only his feet. Jesus admonishes his disciples to follow his example and obey his commandments. As he says later in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This verse was adapted as a motet by the great English Catholic composer Thomas Tallis in 1565. Although the motet was written for Pentecost, it is commonly sung on Holy Thursday. It is clear that one of the biggest themes of St. John's account of the Last Supper is the necessity of following Jesus's commandments.

Since it is a major feast day, the Credo is sung. The Offertory Verse is from Psalm 117:16-17, a word of hope from our condemned Savior (page 15). “The right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength: the right hand of the Lord hath exalted me. I shall not die, but live, and shall declare the works of the Lord.” We can apply this to ourselves as well, strengthened by the Holy Eucharist.

At the Offertory, two large hosts are prepared on the paten (instead of the usual one), as one will be consecrated and reserved for the next day, when no Mass is offered. Otherwise, the Offertory is normal. The Preface is still that of the Holy Cross. At the Sanctus, since the bells are silent, a wooden clapper or rattle (in some sources called the crotalus) may be used instead.

The Canon of the Mass is special on this day in three different places. The Communicates is modified to begin, “Communicating and celebrating the most sacred day in which our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed for us: and also honoring the memory...” (page 22). Likewise, the Hanc igitur is modified to:

We therefore beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to accept this offering of our service, and that of thy whole family, which we make to thee in memory of the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples the Mysteries of his Body and Blood to be celebrated; and to dispose our day in thy peace preserve us from eternal damnation, and rank us in the number of thine elect. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Finally, Holy Thursday is the only day of the year in which the Qui pridie is modified (page 23). The priest says, “Who, the day before he suffered for our salvation and that of all men, that is, on this day, took bread...” Holy Thursday is the quintessential Mass of the year, since we are commemorating the institution of the Mass at the Last Supper, the institution of the priesthood, and the Crucifixion of our Lord, the true Paschal Lamb. The liturgy reflects this, even in the Canon.

At the elevations, the clapper is sounded instead of the bell. The rest of the Canon is as usual. The Agnus Dei is sung and the three following prayers are said as usual, but the kiss of peace is not given. In the Passion of our Lord, the kiss is not a symbol of love and peace, but of betrayal (Luke 22:47-48). We do not give the kiss of peace on this day so as to not imitate Judas's treachery.

During the singing of the Agnus Dei, a second chalice is brought to the altar, with a paten, pall, and a silk veil. After the priest receives Communion, the priest places the second consecrated Host into the chalice and covers it first with the pall, then with the paten upside-down, and finally with the veil, tied with a ribbon. It is placed at the center of the corporal.

Communion is always distributed to the faithful at this Mass, and everyone is encouraged to join our Lord at his supper through the reception of Communion. As this is the quintessential Mass of the year, it is laudable to participate in it as intimately as we can by receiving Communion. In the book of Apocalypse, the angel of the Lord commands St. John to write, “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” The angel adds, “These words of God are true” (Apocalypse 19:9). The Holy Week schedule from Westminster Cathedral in London (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey) in 1939 mentions Holy Communion being distributed outside of Mass throughout the morning so that more people could have a chance to receive Communion this day, even if they could not make it to Mass.

After Communion, the Chalice with the reserved Host remains on the altar, so the remainder of the Mass follows the rules for a Mass in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. In particular, nobody ever turns their back on the Blessed Sacrament. When the priest turns to the people to sing, “Dominus vobiscum,” he steps to the side so as to not turn his back on our Lord. Otherwise, the ending of Mass is as usual. The deacon sings Ite Missa est, and the priest gives the final blessing and reads the Last Gospel.

Translation of the Blessed Sacrament
On Good Friday, the day our Lord died, we abstain from celebrating the Mass. However, the priest still receives Communion from the Host consecrated on Holy Thursday. It is for this reason that the liturgy on Good Friday is known as the Mass of the Presanctified. Between the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday and the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, the Host is reserved at the Altar of Repose, a side altar in the church that is adorned with candles and flowers. After the Last Gospel, all go in procession to the Altar of Repose, with the priest carrying the Chalice containing the reserved Host. This ceremony is known as the translation of the Blessed Sacrament. A canopy is held over the Blessed Sacrament, and lanterns are carried on either side. The clapper may be sounded during the procession.

During the procession, we sing the hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century for the feast of Corpus Christi (pages 32-35). It is a hymn to the Blessed Sacrament. The final two stanzas are the familiar hymn Tantum ergo, sung at Benediction. The faithful can gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions by singing or reciting the Tantum ergo on Maundy Thursday, in any language.

Upon arriving at the Altar of Repose, the deacon takes the Chalice from the priest and places it in the tabernacle prepared at this altar. The Tantum ergo is sung, the Blessed Sacrament is incensed, and finally the tabernacle is closed. Henceforth, anyone passing before the Altar of Repose makes a prostration, as if the Blessed Sacrament were exposed. All now return to the main altar in silence by the shortest way. Vespers may be recited in choir.

Stripping of the altar
Before his Crucifixion, Jesus was stripped of his garments (Matthew 27:35). In art, Jesus is usually depicted with at least a small covering for the sake of decency, but he was in fact stripped naked. When Adam committed his sin and condemned the world, he saw that he was naked and clothed himself. When Jesus, the new Adam, died for the redemption of the world's sins, he was stripped naked.

The altar, being the focal point of the church, represents Christ. The altar mensa, or table-top, has five crosses engraved in it to represent the five wounds of Christ. Just as Jesus was stripped, the altar is stripped of everything except the veiled Crucifix and the six extinguished candles. The linen altar cloths, frontal, flowers, relics of saints, icons, statues, sacred images, carpet, everything on the credence table, and everything else adorning the sanctuary is all removed.

During the stripping of the altar, the choir sings Psalm 21, a haunting prophecy of our Lord's Crucifixion that we also hear in the Tract on Palm Sunday and at Tenebrae of Good Friday (pages 35-37). When this is completed, all exit in silence.

Everyone is encouraged to spend some time with our Lord at the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday, so that we can give a firm answer to our Lord's question, “Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Matthew 26:40). One may make a pilgrimage to different churches on Holy Thursday to visit our Lord. The traditional number of churches to visit is seven, originating from the seven pilgrim churches of Rome, though one can visit any number of churches. Most churches close at midnight. I have heard this explained as representing the presence of Christ taken away on Good Friday, but it seems to be a very modern practice (none of my usual sources mention it), and it is probably more for practical and security reasons than for symbolism.

Washing of the feet
The ceremony of the mandatum or maundy or simply washing of the feet may take place this day outside of the Mass. This ceremony has taken place since the apostles.

All sources say that it is to be done sometime after the stripping of the altar, but this is written with the implicit assumption that the Mass of the Lord's Supper is in the morning, and the foot washing is later in the day. It is unclear whether, if the Mass of the Lord's Supper is in the evening, the foot washing may instead be held earlier in the day. Of the FSSP parishes currently using the traditional Holy Week, I am not aware of any that do the foot washing ceremony.

The priest wears violet stole and cope, and the deacon and subdeacon wear white vestments with maniples. They are assisted by acolytes and other servers as at Mass. The deacon takes the Book of Gospels and lays it on the altar. The full ceremony for the Gospel of the Mass is followed. The deacon sings the Gospel from the Mass of the Lord's Supper, the story of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles. The deacon and subdeacon then remove their maniples, and the priest removes his cope. The priest washes the feet of thirteen poor men (though I have also seen it done with altar boys). Meanwhile, the choir sings a series of chants, including the beautiful and well-known chant Ubi caritas. Afterwards, the poor men are given alms.

New terms
  • Oil of Catechumens – Holy oil used to anoint catechumens before their baptism and for some blessings.
  • Oil of the Sick – Holy oil used for the sacrament of Extreme Unction.
  • Sacred Chrism – The most sacred type of holy oil, used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, and for the most solemn blessings.
  • ampulla (pl. ampullae) – A vessel of holy oil.
  • crotalus or clapper – A wooden rattle or clapper used instead of the bell during the Triduum.
  • translation of the Blessed Sacrament – The ceremony of carrying the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose.
  • mandatum or maundy or washing of the feet – The ceremony of foot-washing that takes place on Holy Thursday outside the Mass.