11 April 2017

A Triduum hermeneutic

I here repeat, together with its very interesting thread, a post from 2009. My views have now changed to the extent that I now more strongly favour the pre-Pius XII rites wherever it is unproblematic to do them. But I think this piece ... and the associated thread ... raise and discuss some very important topics, especially given the Benedict XVI principle that what has been sacred cannot just be abolished.

It is not surprising that the Spirit of Bugnini struck, proleptically, when Pius XII published the first revision of the Holy Week Rites. They were an easy target; very few laypeople attended them and they were celebrated at hours which did not respect the Authenticity of Time, the veritatem horae. Even those who did attend them only did so, of course, once a year. They naturally had much less of a constituency which felt an investment in them, than the daily liturgy did. So they became the first big example of radical revision which ignored the concept of organic development; the first victims of whatever the Germanic compound for Committeeliturgy would be.

Moreover, it happened a very long time ago. There are lots of clergy and laypeople who remember the Mass of the 1962 Missal; I was myself was part of the very last generation trained at seminary to say the Tridentine Mass and I am, just about, in full time ministry still. So there are continuities, and not least because, since the Heenan indult, there have always been tridentine celebrants. But any priest who remembers doing the pre-Pius XII Holy Week rites must be eighty or older. For most of us, standing outside the church hoping the fire will 'take' and wielding our stylus to incise some marks on the candle before processing it inside the building, sprinkling the people after they have renewed their baptismal vows, and all the rest of it, constitute our oldest memories of the Great Vigil.

I think the reforms contained a substantial gain. I gather that Abp Lefebvre also thought so; I believe one of the origins of the SSPV lay in his unwillingness to sanction the older rites. And it must be better to have a goodly number attending somewhat mangled rites than practically nobody taking part in pure pristine rites. A hermeneutic of continuity implies now the organic development of the Pian rites; a return to the pre-Pian rites would be that very archaeologism which (with Pius XII) we rightly condemn when it is used to foster formulae questionably derived from Hippolytus.

But those who most favour the revised usages are ill placed to argue that a status quo is totally immutable. And it remains true that changing the Holy Week Rites is less disruptive than altering what happens weekly and daily in the life of Christians (sauce for goose, ditto for gander). You can't do Holy Week on autopilot; you have to fish out your last-year's notes of where to leave the props and how to rehearse the servers.

So what should we be doing? For starters, I think we priests should try to find time, during our retreat if not in the hustle and bustle of Holy Week itself, to read each year the rites in the older books; and thus at least to understand more adequately (and perhaps to preach more profoundly upon) the meaning of these ancient Mysteries of our Redemption.


Conchúr said...

"I gather that Abp Lefebvre also thought so"

I'm not so sure that is true. I believe Lefebrve chose the 1962 Missal not because he believed it to be preferable to the pre-1955 rites, but rather to root out crypto-sedevacantists from the SSPX, who by using the older forms de facto showed they did not recognise John XXIII as a true pope.

The fact is that many traditionalist communities today wish to (and probably will at some stage) return to the pre-1955 rites as they find them to be more coherent and spiritually rich especially the Holy Week rites.

Indeed I've seen some traditionalists (and not cranks I might add) trace our current liturgical mess back to 1911 and Pius X issuing Divino Afflatu.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Long-time followers of this blog will recall my insistence that the rot started with the perversion of the hymn-texts in the Breviary by Urban VIII.

Pastor in Monte said...

My memory is that for a long time—well into the seventies—a large part of the SSPX used the very pared-down 1967 Missal, often with vernacular readings and the prayers at the foot of the altar from a lectern facing the people.
Lefebvre would never let his sons wear the biretta: the English province was, I believe, one of the only ones to do so.

frbader said...

While any Romans using the old rites must be over 80, there are a fair number of Anglo-Catholics (especially here in the Colonies) using them. Although I now use the 1962 Missal rites, I was using the pre-1955 rites in the 1980's when I was in my twenties!
Your point on whose chrism one receives, is very applicable here in the US as well.
This is my first comment, but I very much like your blog and am glad you have continued to post during the busy Triduum.

Anonymous said...

"the rot started with the perversion of the hymn-texts in the Breviary by Urban VIII."

Excellent point! The Urbane pencil-heads reeked some major poetic havoc; among other things trying to 'improve' St. Thomas' Adoro devote to Adoro te devote - the hubris!

Speaing of which, when will ya'll return the penultimate verse to the "Victimae" removed by Leo XIII (who was a usurer prior to being elected pope)?

Credendum est magis soli Mariae veraci Quam Judaeorum turbae fallaci.

I know of at least three large Roman parishes in the USA that have done so, God bless them.

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

a return to the pre-Pian rites would be that very archaeologism which we rightly condemn when it is used to foster formulae questionably derived from Hippolytus.

I'm trying to figure out how possibly this could be the case. I'm stumped. I think there's a world of difference between the modernist/progressivist obsession with reconstructing pre-Nicene or pre-Constantinian rites (chucking 1500 years of organic Tradition in the process), and a preference for the pre-Pian Holy Week, or at least certain aspects of it, as advocated by the likes of Alcuin Reid and Laurence Hemming (not just fringe sedevacantist types).

Like Fr Bader, I've personally experienced the celebration of the pre-Pian Holy Week many times, because I used to attend a parish using the Anglican and American Missals. And I was born well after the advent of the Novus Ordo!

Rubricarius said...

Well, I've just returned home after being MC for a complete 'pre-Pius XII' Triduum on the south coast. Very moving it was too, if rather exhausting, with the highlight being Paschal Mattins yesterday evening. I had not heard that Tone6 invitatory for 12 years and it was so moving to hear it sung again.

(And yes, we used the pre-Urban VIII version of Vexilla regis on Good Friday as printed in the Roman Gradual.)

pamino said...

"A hermeneutic of continuity implies now the organic development of the Pian rites; a return to the pre-Pian rites would be that very archaeologism which we rightly condemn when it is used to foster formulae questionably derived from Hippolytus."
Dear Father, I go further than that as the following quotation from an email recently written by me indicates:
"I have here a Latin Missal published in 1920. In the case of Good Friday as of Holy Saturday, the introductory rubrics give a terminus post quem for the beginning of the ceremonies with the words dicta Nona, which implies a long fast for the celebrant of the Mass of the Presanctified and for all those communicating on Holy Saturday. In the case of the latter a terminus ante quem for their end is given as well by the cut-down Vespers with which the cut-down Mass concludes. I imagine the length of the Eucharistic fast was the main reason for the Holy Saturday ceremonies' gradually creeping back to the early morning (in my Australian experience much earlier than your 10:00 a. m., as far as I remember something like 7:30 a. m.). There is also no justification for beginning the Good Friday ceremonies at 3 p. m. as specified in the new rubrics, as if they were begun straight after None the Mass of the Presanctified would begin about then anyway.
I think the next objective should be to abolish the Ordo Hebdomadæ Sanctæ Instauratus* and return to the good old Missal, this time following its time-of-day prescriptions to the letter. Partly thanks to you, I am now certain of something I had suspected for years: that the new Holy Week foisted on Pope Pius at the end of his life was the beginning of all the nonsense, and that the return to the traditional rite should not stop short of the most important week of the year.
There are also the practical reasons that such a return would 1) allow the extraordinarily good rite to be celebrated at Easter as well as at other times, with all twelve prophecies and without all the blah-blah, audience participation and credimus instead of credo, and 2), more prosaically, put an end to the impossibly overloaded Holy Saturday evening-Easter Sunday morning marathon, hard enough for single people, let alone for families.
I am in the unusual, I imagine almost unique, position of having experienced the old Holy Saturday ceremonies at their proper time of day several years in succession round the turn of the century, in fact of having taken part in them as a singer. I don't know whether you have heard of Holger Peter Sandhofe, the musical young man of Bonn who some years ago edited and published a Nocturnale Romanum (with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Cologne) and so enabled all those so wishing to sing Matins and Lauds of all feasts and not just the few greater ones already in the Liber Vsualis. The enormous task was complicated by the fact that in its last phase Holger was attacked by a cancer of the pancreas which soon put an end to his young life, so that the work unfortunately still contains many misprints and other slips. While still in good health however he applied for and was granted permission to organise an Indult Mass every second Sunday well out of the way at a small disused church in the middle of its hilltop cemetery in Bonn. With the co-operation of one regular and various secular priests he managed several years in succession to have Holy Saturday celebrated not only in the old rite but at the proper time as laid down in the Missal (actually for practical reasons marginally later than straight after None). As you have in all likelihood never known this yourself, I assure you that the experience was entirely convincing from the time-of-day point of view. It all seems to fit in with the Gospel of that Mass Vespere autem sabbati with the (further) earthquake and the descent of the Angel to roll back the stone and show the Maries the empty tomb. Our Lord has risen at midday (end of fast) and descended into Hell. His Resurrection will be celebrated on earth the following morning, preferably with a Solemn High Mass with impeccably sung Gregorian Proper, a big Mozart Ordinary with trumpets and timpani, no audience participation - and no sermon.
I hope this information will interest you. With all good Easter wishes,
*together with its change-for-change's-sake substitution of 'Hebdomada Sancta' for the traditional Major Hebdomada and of 'in Passione et Morte Domini' for in Parasceve; cf. the still-current names Ἡ [Ἁγία καὶ] Μεγάλη Ἑβδομάς with Κυριακὴ τῶν Βαΐων, Μεγάλη Δευτέρα, Μεγάλη Τρίτη, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, Μεγάλη Πέμπτη, Μεγάλη Παρασκεύη and Μέγα Σάββατον.

Dad29 said...

It is clear that the ICK is very interested in the pre-1955 Rites.

Adulio said...

Lefebvre would never let his sons wear the biretta: the English province was, I believe, one of the only ones to do so.Would this be down to the fact that the Holy Ghost fathers (of which Lefebrve was one) never wore birettas?

pamino said...

Ottaviani said...
Lefebvre would never let his sons wear the biretta: the English province was, I believe, one of the only ones to do so.Would this be down to the fact that the Holy Ghost fathers (of which Lefebrve was one) never wore birettas?
15 April, 2009

Very likely. That fits in with the fact that one of the three priests who used to say Mass at my school in the early 1950s, a Holy Ghost Father survivor of Chinese torture which had partially unhinged him, never wore a biretta.

Rubricarius said...


So at what time did you celebrate the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday? What about the other days of the Triduum?

Did you have any form of 'elevatio' ceremony before Mattins of Easter?

pamino said...

Rubricarius said... Pamino, So at what time did you celebrate the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday?

– As I say above, some time after the Missal's "dicta Nona", as far as I remember about 2.30 p.m. People had to come from all over the place and there were transport problems, But the ideal of starting early enough to make the Vespers part occur more or less at the normal time was fulfilled, which however it would not have been if anyone had needed to be baptised.

What about the other days of the Triduum?

– Pre-Pianic Good Friday likewise "dicta Nona" as directed; Easter Sunday in the afternoon for two reasons: a) the sacred ministers were not available in the morning, and b) the normal time for the Sunday Mass in that church had to be stuck to.

Did you have any form of 'elevatio' ceremony before Mattins of Easter?

– To our great disappointment it was not possible to organise them. But I can't give even an hypothetical answer as I'm not sure what is meant: the knocking on the door with the cross and the singing of the "Attollite portas"?
PS How does one begin and end italics?
15 April, 2009

Rubricarius said...


Thanks. Interesting. Holy Saturday was never meant to be at 7.00am but neither midninght. But of course all ferial Masses in Lent should be post None if we are being consistent with the earlier celebration on Sundays and feasts.

What I meant by elevatio was some form or raising of the Cross from a 'burial' on Good Friday. Anything to do with the Heilge Grab.

To begin italics type "" to end them type "" missing out the quotes.

Rubricarius said...


Sorry that didnt work. Type 'less than'sign, i, then 'greater than' sign to start italics. To end them 'less than', /i and 'greater than'. Substitute b for to get bold.

pamino said...


1) thank you very much for html info.

2) all ferial Masses in Lent should be post None if we are being consistent with the earlier celebration on Sundays and feasts. I can only interpret this as "all Masses in Lent should be post None if […]"; is that really what you mean?

pamino said...


Sorry, I'm probably being influenced half by the 1962 Missal used by the FSSP who do the traditional Mass here and half by my recollections of six years' (compulsory) daily Lenten Mass in the 50s. What I now understand is "all Masses in Lent in which the Proper of the Feria is to be used", but even then I find this very surprising and would be glad of further explanation.

Rubricarius said...


Following the traditional rubrics all Masses de Tempore on ferial days in Lent were sung after None. (vide: Rubricae Generales XV). Festal Masses occuring during Lent were sung after Terce. In Collegiate and Cathedral churches two Masses were sung on such days prior to the 1911-13 reform; one of the feast and then the ferial Mass.

So actually there is nothing exceptional in the rubric at the beginning of Holy Saturday. In addition prior to Lent 1961 Vespers were sung during Lent in the morning. There is a strong link between Vespers in Lent and the ferial Masses - just examine the collect at Vespers and the 'oratio super populum'. Some rites had fully integrated Vespers and Eucharistic liturgies for the Triduum until modern times.

All the Triduums I have assisted at, including last week, have had the Little Hours chanted during the Triduum and Holy Saturday began after None.

I am still eager to learn more of what you did. Please feel free to contact me via my blog.

Acolytus said...

If people are still posting or at least reading these...

I think the 1956 is v odd.
On Palm Sunday there is an extra collect that appears to be an orphan final stational collect.
The most noticeable change must be the colour change – a new idea to have two different shades of a penitential colour in one office. Pius (or his advisers - "it is not our king, it is his evil cousellors") seems to have been trying to copy a feature of the Byzantine rite of the same day. Because the Lenten colour for the Greeks is (or should be) red, they were wearing red for the Liturgy, after which follows the first service of Holy Week, the so-called Bridegroom service, (if memory serves this is an abbreviated as well as anticipated form of next day’s mattins, the vespers of the Sunday having gone astray). The services of Holy Week are all conducted in black. Thus there is a change of colour in the functions of the day, from red to something darker. This seems to have been something that the Roman authorities tried to emulate, but for artificial reasons. In the East, two different functions that were later moved together accounted for the change. In the West, functions that had been part of the same office for centuries were artificially marked off for no reason other than emulation.

The blessing of palms before the gospel is very odd, sits wrongly and I have known it to lead to an organist mistaking the Palm Gospel procession for the beginning of the palm procession itself. Its abbreviations are all pure twentieth century invention. Comparison with other, simpler, gallican rites shows there is no precedent for what Pius did. The loss of the great (and, yes, complicated) Roman rite of blessing is a very regrettable loss and a poor example of human vandalism.

The Good Friday ceremonial is noticeably simpler, without double changes of vesture, and no need for the cope. Pius XII would seem to have been thinking of the ordination rite in having the ministers perform the prostration ceremony at the beginning in albs without vestments. The original tradition is otherwise. The Sacrament is also carried back to the high Altar with the (white) humeral veil over the black chasuble of the priest. There is no especial difficulty in the performance at present. That is the issue with the next observance.
Fr Swain, at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in NY city publishes nice pictures of his pre-1955 Holy Week rite.


Does anyone else have experience of using folded chasubles?

Rubricarius said...

Sorry to be rather pedantic but Lefebvre did originally sanction the 'pre-Pius XII' rubrics. The first 'General Chapter' in 1976 agreed that those places using these rites (parts of North America, the UK, Germany and a couple of other priories) should continue to do so. The situation changed in 1983 with Lefebvre's negotiations with Rome. I posted a photo of the UK District Newsletter from 1981 on my blog with the calendar clearly showing the old rite being publicly used: http://ordorecitandi.blogspot.com/2008/11/revisionism-strikes-again.html

Gerald said...

I was at a special Rite of Braga Palm Sunday Mass in Providence, Rhode Island, earlier this month. Of course, the extensive ceremonies preceding the Mass were very different from the 1962 Roman Missal, but I wonder if they simply reflect the pre-1956 Roman rite (the Bragan Mass itself is quite similar to the Roman). I don't think the other Latin rites were required to go along with the Pian Holy Week revisions.

Simon Platt said...

Dear Father,

Could you please explain how or why your views have changed? That would be very interesting.

Patrick Sheridan said...

To continue, if I may, Fr John's comment about rot setting in, I used to pick out various arbitrary magic dates for rot setting in the Roman Rite myself; dates like 1955, 1911, 1890, 1854, 1629, and so on. Nobody ever thinks to look much farther back to the 8th century, to the pontificate of Gregory II specifically. He it was that reversed the erstwhile universal (or shall we say ecumenical?) praxis of keeping "aliturgical days," that is days on which the Presanctified liturgy is prescribed, in Lent in a typically chauvinistic reaction to the Quinisext synod. Prior to the reforms of Gregory II, the custom of the Roman Church, as at Milan and Constantinople and elsewhere, was to celebrate the Mass of the Afore-hallowed Gifts on the Thursdays and Saturdays of Lent. Gregory II changed that, and his reform lasted in the Roman Rite until the reforms of Pius XII. And so already, as far back as the 8th century, we see a reversal of traditional praxis in the Church of Rome and a standard for later liturgical reforms. And I don't think anybody could argue that this reform was a legitimate or desirable one.

Elisabeth F. said...

Hello Rubicarius -

I read your comment about the start time for Holy Saturday service, and I recall reading that Joseph Ratzinger was born at 4:30 am and baptized with the new Holy Water at the Saturday service - at 8:30 am.
(Clearly he was not the first born !)


Maureen Lash said...

But did you not attend an Anglican Theological college rather than a seminary? And were students in those days not instructed in the use of the Book of Common Prayer rather than the Tridentine Mass?