5 April 2015

Easter Morning

In medieval England, Mattins on Easter morning, which modern breviaries assure us we can leave unsaid if we have been at the Vigil, was a centrally important corporate part of the life of the community, for which parish magnates were proud to lay out money to provide the resources. The Liturgy, of course, had happened earlier on Holy Saturday; now, early on the Sunday morning before Mattins began, the Host and Crucifix which on Good Friday had been 'buried' in the 'Easter Sepulchre' were taken in procession, the former to the High Altar, the latter to a side altar. Antiphons were sung; the versicle and response
V The Lord hath risen from the grave
R Who hung for us upon the Cross.
were followed by a collect. Similar services took place in many parts of Europe, some even surviving to our own time. So culturally important was it that Archbishop Cranmer, in his First English Prayer Book, felt obliged to leave a shadow of it still in existence (vide inferius).

Around 1000ish, on Easter morning, the Roman Pontiff entered his Cathedral and opened the silver doors which gave access to the ancient Resurrection Ikon. He kissed the Lord's feet three times and then chanted the same versicle, to which the response was given. He then venerated the Cross, and his household did the same. The Pope then gave the Peace to each of them, with the words
V The Lord hath risen indeed; to which each replied
R And hath appeared unto Simon.

In recent years, a form of this rite, with the same verses (although no longer in V and R form) being used, has been restored as a preliminary to Easter morning Mass at S Peter's. It is now seen as an expression of the tradition that the Lord appeared either first or most significantly (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5) to S Peter; so that when the Pontiff, in whom Peter lives and witnesses, venerates the ikon, that Meeting is re-enacted.

Back to England, Sarum, and Archbishop Cranmer: when translating the Medieval texts, he replaced the first versicle and response with
V Show forth to all nations the glory of God.
R And among all people his wonderful works.
This strikes me as motivated to eliminate the idea of a Mystery experienced and presently relived, and its replacement by the scaled-down notion of remembering and proclaiming his past wonders. The poor old gentleman just could not bear the thought that, for the devout common peasantry of England, the Lord, in His august Sacrament, really had  been in the Sepulchre in the North Wall of the Chancel of the Church.

Or is my understanding of the significance of liturgical commemoration rather too 'Odo Casels'?

3 comments:

Patricius said...

It's heartening to see a nod Sarumward this time of year. Usually one sees nothing but altars of repose and Vexilla Regis-less Good Friday services and vesperal liturgies, with no vespers, done at the wrong time with a big fat candle in procession.

Trisagion said...

Dear Odo,

You're about bang-on target.

Yours
Prosper

ansgerus said...

The poor old gentleman just could not bear the FACT that, NOT ONLY for the devout common peasantry of England, the Lord, in His august Sacrament, really had been in the Sepulchre in the North Wall of the Chancel of the Church.