Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter Even - the Triduum Part II

Easter Even begins with Morning Prayer, which is read very simply with the Venite and the Glorias omitted. The church is then prepared for the Vigil, and Evening Prayer is read privately.

The Vigil, after many years of being celebrated on the morning of Holy Saturday, moved back to the evening in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the traditional rite was dismantled at this time and replaced by the present unsatisfactory mess. The 1967 Holy Week Booklet follows the 1956 Pian Rite, but it avoids, or does not legislate some of the less satisfactory forms such as the "temporary stand" in the centre of the sanctuary.

The ministers are vested in violet, with folded chasubles for the deacon and subdeacon, at the start of the Vigil. This old custom was maintained in the 1951/52 editions of the revised Roman Holy Week rite, but dropped in 1956. This year I finally got a satisfactory "New Fire" by turning a coffee can into a brazier and filling it with paper and dry juniper sticks. With a little encouragement from the liturgical "Bic" it burned hot and bright in the evening air as we blessed the new fire. We then ignited coals for the thurible and blessed the candle before lighting it from the New Fire. The candle is then carried in procession to its candlesick on the north side of the High altar with three stations being made, one at the back of the Church; one amidships, and the last just in front of the altar steps. The deacon then reads or sings the "Exultet" before changing back into violet vestments and taking his place while two robed readers read the four prophecies. After each prophecy a collect is read.

At the end of the prophecies the sacred ministers process in the proper order to the font. The font is then blessed using the form in the 1928 BCP, then the congregation renews its baptismal promises and holy water is sprinkled over the congregation. For this I use the same bundle of twigs that I used for the washing of the altar on Maundy Thursday. A Litany and a hymn then follow as the sacred minsters return to the altar.

The remainder of the service consists of a fairly standard Sung Eucharist, but the Creed is omitted. The church bells are run during the Gloria in Excelsis to greet the Lord's Resurrection.

The 1967 order for the Easter Vigil has the usual issues associated with the Pius XII reform. The Exultet really works best when the Hastar or Trident is used and the candle is blessed in its stand by the altar and the five grains are blessed and stuck into the candle at the appropriate point in the prayer. However, the renewal of Baptismal Vows, though excoriated by traditionalists, works well.

Easter Sunday sees the usual Morning Prayer, said Holy Communion, and sung Holy Communion. Our Easter festivities conclude with a potluck lunch. After that it is time for the clergy to take a well earned rest - provided they are back again for Matins and Mass tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Triduum - Part 1

The Triduum gets off to a dramatic start with the Maundy Thursday. The morning office is somewhat sombre as we follow the tradition of omitting the glorias at Morning and Evening Prayer during the Triduum. This is not strictly BCP, but was widely tolerated in even Low Church dioceses in times past. The major liturgical function of Maundy Thursday is the Eucharist. However, this differs from the standard Roman/Anglo-Catholic model in that English liturgical tradition, as represented by Sarum, does not have separate Chrism and "evening" Masses, but rather a single Eucharist that covers both, which, in former times was celebated in the morning, with Vespers occuring straight after communion.

In accordance with the older custom, I took the option of focussing on the institution of the Lord's Supper. The Gospel is the shorter of the two Gospels appointed in the 1928 BCP which focuses on the "new commandment." The older rites do not incorporate the foot washing into the service; that was part of a separate function in the chapter house in the old Roman Rite and in the Sarum Use.

For the most part the Maundy Mass is a standard 1928 BCP Solemn Eucharist. As the Bishop is the celebrant, we use white, rather than the festal red prescribed by Sarum for a priest celebrant. With our relatively slender resources the altar party consisted of the bishop, deacon, subdeacon, thurifer, and crucifer. Standard High Mass ceremonial as per the English Use is followed, but things begin to "go wrong" at the end of the Prayer of Consecration when we came to the blessing of oils. In the absence of any authoritative guidence, I followed the old custom I stopped after the words "and pardoning our offenses" to bless the oil of the sick; then, after the Lord's Prayer the Oil of the Catechumens and the Chrism are blessed before Communion. After Communion, the Eucharist concludes with the Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Blessing and the sacrament for tomorrow's Mass of the Pre-Sanctified being reserved in "the accustomed place."

Evening Prayer then follows, with the Gloria Patri omitted as in the morning. The sacred ministers then go to the sacristy and remove their outer vestments. They then strip the altar while Ps. 22 was read. Lastly the bishop washes the altar with water and vinegar. The church is left stripped and bare for Good Friday.

The Good Friday begins with Morning Prayer with its three proper psalms. Again there is no Venite, no glorias, and with Ps 51 as the first Canticle. This latter touch is "borrowed" from the proposed English BCP of 1928. Unlike many places which, incorrectly, wear only cassocks, normal choir habit is worn by the clergy. Being a bishop, I wear rochet and black chimere, but on Good Friday I omit the usual signs of Episcopal jurisdiction - the ring and the staff. Mattins is followed with the Litany, and concludes with Ante-Communion and a short address.

The afternoon service is that appointed in the 1967 Scottish Holy Week booklet. For this service the celebrant wears an alb and either back, or a dark red chasuble, the deacon alb and stole, and the subdeacon an alb. A lay reader in an alb takes the place of the third "passion" deacon. I favour dark red as the colour for Good Friday as that is more in keeping with English tradition.

The 1967 Booklet provides an outline into which BCP elements are fitted rather than a complete service. At St Paul's the service begins with the three Good Friday collects. This is followed by three lessons - Hosea 6, Hebrew 10, and St. John 19 interspersed with Ps 31, 1-6, and Ps 140. The Passion is read by the deacon, subdeacon, and reader. A short address then follows. The service continues with the nine solemn collects, which in our case consist of a long bidding read by the deacon followed by a suitable prayer from the BCP read by the priest. This arrangement is similar to the modern Roman Rite, but commended itself to me not for that reason, but simply because it is practical.

When the nine solemn collects are completed, the celebrant removes his chasuble and goes to the sacristy to collect the Cross. As he brings it in he makes three stations at the rear of the nave, "amidships," and just in front of the altar steps. Each time he lifts up the cross and says "Behold the wood of the Cross, whereon hung the world's salvation" and the congregation makes the response. The cross, rather than being individually venerated, is placed on its bracket above the altar and the service proceeds with the Reproaches from the English Hymnal ending with the hymn "Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle."

After this the reserved sacrament is brought from the side altar. The celebrant washes his hands and the service proceeds with the General Confession, Absolution and Comfortable Words, Lord's Prayer, Prayer of Humble Access, and Agnus Dei before communion is administered. The ablutions are taken in the normal manner, and there is a closing collect. The ministers leave in silence, and remove their vestments. The reader extinguishes the candles and removes them from the altar, and the linen cloth is also removed. The clergy then put on choir habit and return to church for Evening Prayer which is said in the usual form for the Triduum. This placement of Evening Prayer immediately after the principal liturgy is an adaption of the mediaeval custom of saying Vespers "infra missam" to the rubrics of the BCP.

This series of blog entries will conclude with the next post, which describes with ceremonies of Easter Even, and the Vigil.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Week at St Paul's

Holy Week has to be both my favourite time of year, and the most exhausting part of the Church Year for anyone with the time to really engage with the Church's Liturgy. St Paul's is not a particularly big parish - we have about forty families - but we have a pretty full Holy Week. Unfortunately, the BCP provision for Holy Week is a bit limited, but thanks to the various official and semi-official supplements produced over the years one can have a pretty full Holy Week without resorting to the Missals. This is the way in which we work things at St Paul's. For us, the basic texts are the 1928 BCP and the "Ash Wednesday and Holy Week" Booklet that was issued by the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1967. Experience has shown that this combination work very well together.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which celebrates the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, but, in the traditional rite, also sees the first reading from the Passion Gospels. Our first two services are not much different to normal. Morning Prayer is said with the Benedictus es, Domine and the Benedictus as the Canticles. The short form of the blessing of Palms and their distribution preceed the 9am said Communion. The "big one" on Palm Sunday is the 10.30am Sung Eucharist.

This begins at the high altar with the Palm Liturgy. I have slightly expanded the 1967 Scottish form to include the old Prophetic lesson from Exodus and the old Gradual. After that there is a longish blessing of the palms, and then Ps. 24 is read during the distribution. When this is completed we move off in procession singing "Ride on, ride on in Majesty." We do a lap of the parish hall, then return to the church doors to find them closed. The subdeacon knocks three times with the base of the processional cross, and then we enter singing "All Glory, Laud and Honour." There is a final collect before the altar, and then the Solemn Eucharist begins.

This year the clergy did the whole function in violet vestments. I would have preferred Passiontide red, but we St Paul's does not have enough dark red vestments to make this possible. I will never be able to work out why the Roman Church messed up Palm Sunday quite as badly as it did. The 1956 Rite is a mess, especially as it introduces a vestment change at the same time as eviserating the traditional Palm liturgy. I think our abridgement of the traditional order works far better.

By comparison to Palm Sunday the next three days are quiet. Morning Prayer and said Holy Communion being the only liturgical functions. I have to confess to taking a liberty with the BCP in that we read the Passions in a slightly different order to that appointed. Mark is read on Monday and Tuesday; then the whole of Luke on Wednesday leaving Thursday clear for the Maundy Gospel. It would actually make better sense to read Mark on Wednesday and Luke on Monday and Tuesday, but there is a very definite limit to how much I will muck about with the BCP.

I only see a handful of folks at the services on the first three days of Holy Week, but it is a gradually expanding handful. The real meat of Holy Week begins with the Maundy Thursday Mass. Here I follow the old English tradition and bless the Oils and Chrism at the same Eucharist as we commemorate the institution of the Lord's Supper and undertake the stripping of the altars. However, I will save the account of that long and elaborate liturgy for my next post.