Saturday, April 7, 2012


In 1955 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a decree changing the liturgy of Holy Week. Shortly before that, in 1951, Sheed and Ward published a new edition of the Rites of Holy Week, translated by Ronald Knox. For those interested in the development of liturgy this small volume, entitled 'Holy Week Book', is well-worth acquiring. It begins with a masterful introduction by Adrian Fortescue (reprinted from the 1916 edition):
Perhaps the first thing to note about Holy Week is that it is part of the same feast as Easter Week following. We must think of all that fortnight, from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday, as one event. The whole fortnight makes up the Easter feast, the paschalia solemnia in which we remember, each year, our redemption by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. It is true that the character of these two weeks seems as different as anything could be. Holy Week is the time of mourning, the saddest week of the year, the Easter octave the most joyful. Yet they belong together; we should think of them as the two halves of one whole. The change from the mourning of Holy Week to the joy of Easter, taking place in the middle of the function of Holy Saturday, is of the essence of this Pascal solemnity. It was so at the first Easter.
While it is perhaps no longer practical to use this manual during the liturgies of Holy Week it remains a worthy devotional. Two examples, illustrating the exultation of the enemy, followed by the triumphant exultation at Christ's victory.
A: Alone she dwells, the city erewhile so populous; a widow now, once a queen among the nations; tributary now, that once had provinces at her command. B: Be sure she weeps; there in the darkness her cheeks are wet with tears; of all that courted her, all those lovers grown weary of her, and turned into enemies. G: Cruel the suffering and the bondage of Juda's exile; that she must needs dwell among the heathen! Nor respite can she find; close at her heels the pursuit, and peril on either hand. D: Desolate the streets of Sion; no flocking, now, to the assembly; the gateways lie deserted. Sighs priest, and the maidens go in mourning, so bitter the grief that hangs over all. H: Exultant, now, her invaders; with her enemies nothing goes amiss. For her many sins, the Lord has brought doom on her, and all her children have gone into exile, driven before the oppressor. - Lam. 1 1-14
Joy for all heaven's angel citizens, joy in the secret council-chambers of God! In praise of this royal Conqueror, let the trumpet sound deliverance. Bathed in that bright sunshine, let earth too rejoice; splendours of the eternal King all about her, nothing of her orb but feels the shadows gone. Joy, too, for the Church, that has yonder flashing rays for her jewels; with the loud acclaim of worshipers let these courts ring again! Brethren well-beloved, by the strange glow of this holy light drawn together, pray you, in my company cry to Almighty God for mercy. His choice, not worth of mine, it was that enrolled me for his minister; may the outpouring of his own light enable me, the high mystery of yonder candle while I set forth. - Blessing of the Pascal Candle