How Good Friday was celebrated in the Medieval Church February 3, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Christendom, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, Latin Mass, Liturgical Year, reading, sanctity, Society, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
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.
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.