Page 1, 2nd December 1955

2nd December 1955
Page 1
Page 1, 2nd December 1955 — `EARLY CHRISTIAN' HOLY WEEK AND EASTER!

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Locations: Rome


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Good Friday Mass at 3 p.m.

with Holy Communion for all: Mass on Maundy Thursday 5 p.m.: Midnight Mass for Easter

N historic Papal decree published in Rome on Saturday by the Sacred Congregation of Rites restores the Early Christian liturgical order of Holy Week and Easter.

The principal effects of the decree—which comes into force next Palm Sunday, March 25, and is obligatory for all Catholics of the Latin rite—are : The Mass of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday will be between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The Mass of the Pre-sanctified on Good Friday will be celebrated not in the morning but in the afternoon, preferably at 3 p.m. but not later than 6 p.m.

For the first time Catholics all over the world will be allowed to receive Holy Communion on Good Friday.

The ceremonies of the Easter Vigil will begin on Saturday evening and Mass will begin at midnight between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

"Tenebrae" will be sung in the mornings, not evenings.

The Lenten fast will end at midnight on Holy Saturday instead of at midday.


THE first part of the decree reforming the liturgical order of Holy Week is a long introduction explaining the reasons why this reform has been made.

The second consists of three sections with 10 subsections ordering the liturgical changes as from Palm Sunday, March 25, 1956.

To the Decree is added an Instruction of four section and 25 subsections so that " the change may be more easily understood and the faithful be enabled to draw with certainty more abundant fruits."

The Introduction, after describing the importance and the nature of the ceremonies of Holy Week, explains how " these rites were celebrated in the beginning at the very times when the mysteries recorded took place."

'thus the institution of the Blessed Sacrament was commemorated on the evening of Maundy Thursday; a special liturgical function commemorating the Death of Our Lord took place during the afternoon of Good Friday; and on the evening of Holy Saturday began the solemn vigil whose end in the joy of the Resurrection was on Easter Sunday morning.


Various causes led, however, in the Middle Ages to the anticipation of the proper hours. At the end of that period they all took place in the mornings. The result was " an obvious injury to the liturgical sense with the ensuing contrast between the Gospel accounts and the related liturgical commemorations."

In more recent times another change was made—this time an even more serious one from the pastoral point of view. For many centuries the Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Holy Week were holidays, so that the faithful might be present at the sacred rites. In the 17th century this was changed because of the completely altered conditions of social life.

Consequently the number of the faithful who could he present at these ceremonies was greatly diminished. It is now the common experience that these liturgical functions are celebrated in virtually empty churches.

"This loss is all the greater in that these ceremonies not only have a special dignity but also a specially strong and efficacious sacramental value; they cannot be made up for by pious devotional exercises which are commonly called extra-liturgical."

It was all these reasons which caused eminent liturgists, priests and, in the first place, the Bishops themselves to petition the Holy See in recent times for the changes which would allow the faithful to participate more easily in the ceremonies of Holy Week.


The Introduction then explains how in 1951 the Paschal Vigil was restored by way of an experiment, and how its success was attested to by a very great number of Bishops, who continued their petitions and suggested a similar reform as applied to the other days of Holy Week,

Furthermore, the same experience has been reported in regard to evening Masses at which so many of the faithful are present.

In the light of all this the Cardinals of the Sacred Congregation of Rites unanimously approved and prescribed this new liturgical order, subject to the agreement of the Holy Father.

By a special mandate of the Holy Father the Sacred Congregation of Rites establishes what follows.

In the first section of the new " Order " it is stated that it will enter into effect on March 25, 1956, Palm Sunday.

During the whole of Holy Week all commemorations are excluded and during Mass all collects, even specially ordered collects under whatever title, are to be omitted.

Ceremonies at the new hours

rim HE second section of the

decree deals with the new times for the Holy Week ceremonies. Palm Sunday and the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week arc not changed.

After dealing with changes in the recital of the Office, the " Order " states that the Mass of Holy Thursday in Cana Domini is to he celebrated " in the evening at the most convenient time, but not before 5 o'clock and not after 8 o'clock."

On Good Friday " the solemn liturgical function is to take place in the afternoon at about 3 o'clock. A later time is permitted if there are pastoral reasons for this. but it must not he after six."

The solemn Easter Vigil is to take place at the appropriate time so that " the Solemn Mass of the Vigil can start at about midnight between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday."

According to local conditions with the permission of the Ordinary, the Easter Vigil may be anticipated, but " it must not take place before twilight and certainly not before sunset."

The third section legislates for the Lenten abstinence and fast, which will no longer end midday on Holy Saturday but continue until midnight.

Continued in neat column

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