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How Good Friday was celebrated in the Medieval Church February 3, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Christendom, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, Latin Mass, Liturgical Year, reading, sanctity, Society, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
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With Lent and then the Easter Season approaching, I thought it not a bad time to post this excerpt from A Sense of the Sacred: Roman Catholic Worship in the Middle Ages, concerning Good Friday.   Suffice it to say, the degree of passionate intensity and deep piety prevalent in the Middle Ages is amazing, and, I think it can be said, serves as a stark contrast to the relative indifference that surrounds this most holy of days in the modern Church.

There are some interesting tidbits and factoids below.  From pp. 404-5:

Honorius of Autun: “By the Passion of Christ the four elements are purified, and by the four arms of the Cross, the four quarters of the world are saved.  It is for that reason that he is suspended between Heaven and earth, because by His Passion Heaven and earth are united, and the entire world is dedicated a temple to God in His Blood.

It can be said without exaggeration that on Good Friday the entire medieval Christian world came to a standstill before the Cross and the Holy Sepulcher.  The liturgical texts of this period testify to a shared longing to spend every hour of this solemnity with Christ crucified.  This can best be seen in a rubric of Cardinal Bernard of Porto’s Ordo officiorum for Rome’s cathedral church of St. John Lateran from about 1140:

And because not one hour of this day is devoid of the Passion of Christ, its fitting remembrance by us for that purpose of meditation should run through the individual hours, such that this entire day we should continually remember and unceasingly meditate upon these things, when he would have borne the spittle, the reproaches, the blows, the slaps, the crown of thorns, the scourges, the Cross, the nails, the gall, the vinegar, the lance, and death.

Benedictine customaries in the tenth century prescribed the recitation of the entire Psalter from beginning to end on Good Friday, following the morning office of Prime, a practice that by the thirteenth century was being observed by the popes and the Roman Curia.  The Benedictine customary of Fructuaria, Italy (c. 1085), after prescribing the Good Friday recitation of the Psalter, remarks that the monks should pray “with tears” in order that “He, Who on this day vouchsafed to die for us, may mortify the vices in us and vivify the virtues.  As a penance, the Benedictines of 10th century Europe also spent much or all of Good Friday barefoot, a custom that by the twelfth century had spread to the laity.  At Italy’s Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, the reading on Good Friday morning of the martyrology entry for the following day during the office of Prime, in anticipation of Holy Saturday, announced to the monks: “Saturday; Our Lord rested in the sepulcher,” and was marked by a total prostration “to the earth” by all present.

———-End Quote———-

One thing A Sense of the Sacred makes clear is how early so many of our liturgical traditions date from.  For instance, the Palm Sunday Procession of Palms was occurring in Jerusalem in the early 4th century, and may well predate that.  Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday started immediately after the finding of the True Cross by St. Helen in the 4th century.  There are aspects traceable at least to the 3rd century, including most of the Roman Canon – and I remind that simply because evidence of earlier use does not exist, does not mean it was not done.  Liturgical historians have repeatedly found evidence of earlier practice of TLM-type rites than was previously known as study has advanced.

Unfortunately, the earliest Church, after the death of the Apostles, so under pressure from persecution, kept very few written records, or they were lost in the collapse of the Greco-Roman civilization.  Monasteries in England had for centuries from Bede the Venerable specialized in maintaining and expanding historical records from ancient times, but almost all of that precious knowledge was lost with Henry VIII’s sack of the monasteries, driven by his insatiable lust for money and……..

A Sense of the Sacred can get pretty dry at times, however.  It’s almost more of a textbook than a real sit down and read book.  There are golden nuggets throughout, but I find much of the content excessively detailed and a bit repetitive for my taste.  What it makes clear in toto, however, is that St. Pius V certainly did not create a new Mass out of whole cloth with his 1570 Missal, but simply rationalized the several minor variations into one formal Rite, which was just the Rite of the Diocese of Rome (and most other places) already extant.  Thus, any claims that Paul VI’s completely novel, and unjustifiable, creation of an entirely new Mass was simply a redo of what St. Pius V had done 4 centuries earlier simply will not stand.

There is absolutely no comparison between the two, and that is why it is really best to avoid referring to the TLM as the “Tridentine” Mass, which usage only plays into the hands of the liturgical revolutionaries who try to play upon ignorance in drawing an invalid comparison between circumstances surrounding the creation of the Mass of St. Pius V and the Novus Ordo Missae.

Comments

1. La Gallina - February 3, 2016

Wow! I love to read these little tidbits about how Catholics have historically worshiped. When I first converted I bought a kids book about how to celebrate the Church’s feast days. It was such a piece of garbage, that even I, as a recent convert, knew it belonged in the trash. (Which is where I sent it.)

I think “Fat Tuesday,” Easter, and Christmas were almost the only days mentioned. (On Fat Tuesday it encouraged pigging out on pancakes.) The ideas where so incredibly idiotic I just couldn’t even read the stupid thing. At the time I thought, “either this book has got it all wrong. Or Catholicism is the lamest religion ever.” I strongly suspected the former.

Thanks for the information on the beautiful worship from the true historical Church.

2. Lynne - February 3, 2016

We shouldn’t refer to the TLM as the “Extraordinary Form” either…

3. Fr Anselm Marie O.S.B. - February 3, 2016

The ‘restored’ Holy Week promulgated in the 1950s (under the influence of one Annabile Bugnini) are as “completely novel, and unjustifiable” as the Novus Ordo Missae.

Despite the penury of pre-Constantinian Christian written liturgical records and the criminal destruction by so-called ‘reformers’ of so many others — a void convenient for modern liturgists to fill with their fantasies about the ‘pristine’ liturgy unsurprisingly similar to what the Novus Ordo has become — what little historical evidence there does remain in no way supports the disingenuous claim that the rites of Holy Week were ‘restored’, but quite to the contrary, strongly attests to the authenticity of rites as they have been preserved for millennia.

Tantumblogo - February 3, 2016

They certainly started things and I am no fan. But in terms of sheer scale and audacity I’ve got to say the NO is so much worse.

But Father you are right that the Holy Week reforms of the 50s were a disastrous novelty that set the stage for SC and the NO and that have no real connection to early practice.

But here is one question – don’t you think returning the Vigil to late in the evening/night was better than having it much earlier/daylight? Not that that affected any Rite, per se., but just timing. That’s really the only part of it all that makes any real sense to me.

Fr Anselm Marie O.S.B. - February 4, 2016

While it is true that in the ancient Church, the ceremonies of the Paschal Vigil lasted into the night, it was not because they commenced in the evening, but because they were much more protracted than in later centuries. Just the Baptism of numerous catechumens could last most of a day, with the scrutinies, exhortations and exorcisms that formed part of the ancient rites (woefully suppressed in the modern Ritual). And not only were many baptized, but absolved penitents too, clothed like the neophytes in white garments, joined in the celebration of their own personal “resurrection” along with that of Christ.

Besides this, the Paschal Vigil, as all the ceremonies of Holy Week, were conducted not in parishes, but by the bishop, surrounded by all his clergy and the Faithful of his diocese, who would process from one stational church to the next. Of course, these processions included not only clergy and catechumens, penitents and religious, but kings and nobles too, with attendant ceremony, ​​also took part in them. The vestiges of these lengthy proceedings are still found in the traditional paschal rites, albeit more as symbol than actual event.

(Holy Week in parishes is a relatively recent phenomenon that began as an indult to certain religious orders and other groups. Eventually the permission was extended to parishes and the Memoriale Rituum published of approved abbreviated ceremonies.)

So, although it seems plausible, the fact is that the experiment officially approved in 1951 (but practiced unofficially before that) did not actually return the Paschal Vigil to its original time. Like all the other liturgical “reforms” of the twentieth century, it was based upon ignorance, deception and disobedience.​

Incidentally, until the twentieth century, no liturgical rite was ever meant to begin later than noon, and certainly not at night, not even the Office of Matins or Christmas Midnight Mass. Rather than late, these liturgies are considered to begin very early in the morning. This “scheduling” is inextricably united to the orientation of church buildings and the worshipers within them. It has always been essential to Christians to worship facing in the direction of the rising sun, eminent symbol in nature of the longed for promised return of Christ as King and as Judge.

Just imagine how rich and beautiful were the ancient rites of the Catholic Church, how laden with meaning and grace, how the whole of society participated in them with fervor and awe! The destruction of them in the name of “reform” is nothing less than a crime against all that the martyrs died for, all that the saints built in love and service of God, and even against history and civilization and art.

May Almighty God have mercy on us all.

Fr Anselm Marie O.S.B. - February 4, 2016

While it is true that in the ancient Church, the ceremonies of the Paschal Vigil lasted into the night, it was not because the commenced in the evening, but because they were much more protracted than in later centuries. Just the Baptism of numerous catechumens could last most of a day, with the scrutinies, exhortations and exorcisms that formed part of the ancient rites (woefully suppressed in the modern Ritual). And not only were many baptized, but absolved penitents too, clothed like the neophytes in white garments, joined in the celebration of their own personal ‘resurrection’ along with that of Christ.

Besides this, the Paschal Vigil, as all the ceremonies of Holy Week, were conducted not in parishes, but by the bishop, surrounded by all his clergy and the Faithful of his diocese, who would process from one stational church to the next. Of course, these processions included not only clergy and catechumens, penitents and religious, but kings and nobles too, who, with attendant ceremony, also took part in them. The vestiges of these lengthy proceedings are still to be found in the traditional paschal rites, albeit more as symbol than actual event.

Holy Week in parishes is a relatively recent phenomenon that began as an indult granted to certain religious orders and other groups. Eventually, the permission was extended to parishes and the Memoriale Rituum published of approved abbreviated ceremonies.

So, although at first glance it seems plausible, the fact is that the experiment officially approved in 1951 (but practiced unofficially before that) did not actually return the Paschal Vigil to its original time. Like all other liturgical ‘reforms’ of the twentieth century, it was predicated upon ignorance, deception and disobedience.

Incidentally, until the twentieth century, no liturgical rite was ever meant to begin later than noon, and certainly not at night, not even Matins or Christmas ‘Midnight’ Mass. Rather than late, these liturgies were understood to begin very early in the morning. This ‘scheduling’ is inextricably bound to the orientation of church buildings and the worshipper within them. It has always been essential to Christians to worship facing in the direction of the rising sun, eminent symbol in nature of the longed-for promised return of Christ as King and as Judge.

Just imagine the splendor and rich beauty of the ancient rites of the Catholic Church, how laden with meaning and grace, how the whole of society participated in them with fervor and awe! The disregard of them in the name of ‘reform’ is nothing less than a crime against all that the martyrs died for, all that centuries of saints built with love in service of God, and a crime even against history, civilization and art.

May Almighty God have mercy on us.


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