Tag Archives: Liturgy




In reply to the following question: “Should we bow down or look up at the Elevation?” a Decree was published by the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences on May 18th, 1907, which shows what we should do.

An Indulgence of seven years and seven quarantines, each time, is granted to all the faithful, who, looking with faith, devotion, and love at the Sacred Host at the moment of the Elevation, say at the same time, the words, “MY LORD AND MY GOD“.

A further Plenary Indulgence may be gained once each week by those who, having heard Mass, daily as above, receive Holy Communion.

The first named Indulgence may also be gained by looking devoutly upon the Sacred Host whenever it is solemnly exposed, saying the aforesaid words.

– From: St Anthony’s Treasury, A Manual of Devotions, Laverty & Sons Ltd., Leeds, 1916


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The last week of the Liturgical Year is the week between The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe and the First Sunday of Advent.

  • Alleluia, alleluia! Stay awake and stand ready, because you do not know the hour when the Son of Man is coming. Alleluia! (Mt 24:42, 44)
  • Alleluia, alleluia! Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand. Alleluia! (Lk 21:28)
  • Alleluia, alleluia! Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to stand with confidence before the Son of Man. Alleluia! (Lk 21:36)
  • Alleluia, alleluia! Even if you have to die, says the Lord, keep faithful, and I will give you the crown of life. Alleluia! (Apc 2:10)

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The parts of the Mass

According to the Gospel narrative, ‘whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to His disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is My body. And taking the chalice, He gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the New Testament which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins’ (St. Matthew, xxvi. 26-28).

The words and actions of Our Lord constitute the very essence of the Mass; but around them the Church has built up, during the centuries, a most inspiring liturgy that is now enshrined in the Missal. The Mass consists of varying and unwearying parts. The part that does not vary is known as the Ordinary of the Mass.

That which varies is made up of the Introit, the Collect, the Epistle, the Gradual and Gospel, the Offertory, the Secret, the Preface, the Communion (prayer) and the Post communion. The first part of the Mass is known as the Mass of Catechumens, while the second part is called the Mass of the Faithful.”

– Fr Gebhard, 1952


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Using every means to visualise the meaning of her Liturgy, the Church has adopted five colours, each having its individual significance. These colours are white, red, green, violet and rose. Cloth of gold which is used only on the greater solemnities may be substituted for white, green and red.

WHITE, which is the sum of all colours, signifies joy and purity of soul. This colour is used on the feasts commemorative of the great events in the life of Our Lord, on the feasts of Our Lady, the Angels, Confessors and Virgins. It is also worn during Christmastide and Eastertide.

RED, the symbol of fire and blood, is worn on Pentecost and throughout Witsuntide, and on the feasts of the Martyrs. It is also worn on the days commemorative of the sufferings of Our Redeemer.

GREEN, the colour of hope, is worn on the Sundays between Whitsuntide and Advent.

VIOLET, symbolic of penitence and humility is the peculiar colour of Advent and Lent, and is also worn on the Rogation Days, the Ember Days and Vigils of the greater feast days.

By way of exception, ROSE colour is permitted on Gaudete Sunday (third) in Advent and Laetare Sunday (fourth) in Lent.


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“On … Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, let us prayerfully reflect on some of the words contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Holy Spirit.

‘The HOLY SPIRIT comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.’ (Section 683).

‘The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these ‘end times’, ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognised and welcomed in a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’ (section 686)

The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

• In the Scripture he inspired;

• In the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are already witnesses;

• In the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;

• In the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us in communion with Christ;

• In prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;

• In the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;

• In the signs of apostolic and missionary life;

• In the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation (section 688).”
– From “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris” (June 2014)


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“There is surely no other moment in the year when the Church succeeds in producing the right impression so perfectly as she does in the service of Good Friday. The very strangeness of the rites, utterly unlike any others, gives us at once the feeling that this is a day different from any other day.


That little procession coming to the altar in dead silence, the prostration before the altar, then the lessons, the series of collects with their strange chant, all this produces a sense of desolation, of mourning, such as no other service in the year approaches. Today the most ignorant observer who enters a Catholic church can see that the Church mourns because her Lord is dead.


Then comes the worship of the cross, so full of meaning today, and the one gleam of light in the dark service, as we bring the Sanctissimum back to the altar, singing that superb hymn of the triumph of the cross. The gleam of light fades again; there follows the strange little Communion service that we call Mass of the Presanctified, then Vespers; again the altar is stripped, and now all the church is indeed desolate, waiting in gloom for the first light of the Easter sun next day. The wonderful thing about this service, expressing so perfectly the feeling of the day, is that it has all come together quite naturally. There was hardly any conscious symbolism in it at the beginning. Each element can be explained as the obvious thing to do under the circumstances. It is the association of long centuries that has filled it all with mystic meaning.


The service of Good Friday is made up of three separate functions – first, the lessons and collects; secondly, the worship of the cross; thirdly, the Mass of the Presanctified. Vespers and stripping of the altar follow, as on the day before.


The first function is the lessons and the collects. Everything in the Good Friday rites (except the worship of the cross) is exceedingly old. Here we have what has otherwise almost always disappeared from our rite – namely, three lessons, a prophecy from the Old Testament, an epistle and a gospel. Between them tracts are sung, as during the whole of Lent. The Gospel is the Passion according to St John, sung by three deacons, as on Palm Sunday.


Then come the collects. Here, again, Good Friday has preserved what was once an element of every Mass, a series of petitions for all kinds of people. Maybe, something like this was once said before the offertory act at every Mass, at that place where the priest still says: ‘Oremus,’ though no prayer now follows. [Adjustments have since been decreed so as to accord with the traditions of apostolic times and of the early Church.] Moreover, in the Good Friday prayers we see the older form of all collects. Now, on other days, the celebrant says: ‘Oremus,’ and then goes on at once to the collect. Once the form was longer, as we see it today. The priest not only says: ‘Let us pray,’ he tells the people what to pray for: ‘Let us pray, dearly beloved, for the holy Church of God, that God our Lord may give her peace, union, and may keep her throughout the whole world,’ and so on. Then the deacon, whose office it is always to control the people, tells them to kneel. they kneel in silent prayer for that object (once they certainly spent some moments in this silent prayer); then the subdeacon tells them to stand up again, and the priest gathers up all the petitions in a final prayer aloud, the collect. That is why the typical Roman collect is so short, and often so general in its petition. It is not so much the prayer itself, as a final clause asking God to receive the prayers already said silently. Here, again, we have a case where the ceremonies of Holy Week are invaluable, as showing the older form once common to all days. There is nothing that belongs specially to Good Friday in this chain of prayers for men of all sorts and conditions. We could say them equally well any day. But this relic of older times, with its petitions redolent of the circumstances of the early Church, bringing us memories almost from the catacombs, this too, by long association, has become part of the feeling of Good Friday.


Then follows the one element that is not very old, what our fathers called the ‘Creeping to the cross.’ In the East we know of a cerempny of reverence to the relic of the true cross, on Good Friday, from the time of Aetheria’s pilgrimage (Peregr. Silviae, xxxvii, 1-3.) No doubt this had some influence on the West too. But we can find a very simple explanation of the ceremony as we have it. Since the beginning of Lent originally, now since Passion Sunday, all pictures and statues in the church are covered. This is easily understood. These pictures and statues are a conspicuous ornament of the church. During the time of penance we deprive ourselves of them, for the same reason that we go without the music and the organ. (For the connection between covering the images and the old Lenten veil, see Thurston, pp. 99-105).


But a crucifix is a statue. So crucifixes too are covered from Passion Sunday. It must, eventually, have seemed strange that, on the very day of the Crucifixion, people should not see the crucifix. Hence, on Good Friday they made this one exception and uncovered the crucifix. We can imagine the origin of the ceremony as the simplest thing possible. Someone went and uncovered the crosses in the church. Then, especially with the associations of this day, a ceremony, such as we have now, grew out of this. The cross is uncovered with honour, the people take this opportunity of paying to it symbolic reverence, reverence directed, of course, really to him who hung upon it. We know of a rite, very like the one we still have, since about the eighth century, first north of the Alps, then adopted at Rome (see Thurston, pp. 345-362).


In the Reproaches, [Impropreria, incl. verses fr. ‘Pange lingua’] sung at the same time, we have one of the few cases of Greek in our Roman rite. The verses ‘Agios o Theos,’ etc., are sung alternately in Greek and Latin. This is the famous Trisagion, a feature of the holy Liturgy in the Byzantine and other Eastern rites. Its introduction into ours seems to be a case of the considerable influence of the Byzantine rite in Gaul (St Germanus of Paris, +576, M.P.L. LXXII, col. 89, 91), whence it passed to Rome.


The Mass of the Presanctified, known to us on this day only, occurs frequently in Eastern rites. It is really only a little Communion service… On Good Friday the Sanctissimum is brought from the place where it has been kept since Maundy Thursday; the altar is incensed, and the priest goes on at once to what would follow after the Consecration, ‘the Pater noster’ and Communion. [Afterwards] the torchbearers extinguish their candles, and the service comes to an end with the same sense of desolation with which it began. Vespers are said as yesterday, the altar is stripped, the church is left empty and bare for the rest of the day of mourning.”
– Adrian Fortescue, from “The Holy Week Book”, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1913


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“The name ‘Maundy’ is from ‘Mandatum,’ the ceremony of washing the feet at the end of the Mass, whose first antiphon begins: ‘Mandatum novum do vobis.’ It is usual to call a service after the first word of its chants. In the same way we speak of a ‘Requiem,’ a ‘Dirge’ (‘Dirge’ is the beginning of the first antiphon at Matins for the dead), and so on. It is curious that in England the ceremony of washing the feet should have given its name to the whole day.


The main feature of the function today and tomorrow is that on Good Friday the holy Sacrifice is not offered. That is as old a custom as any in the Church. It obtains equally in all rites. Indeed, in most of the Eastern rites, as once at Rome, there were many ‘aliturgical’ (that is, days on which the holy Liturgy [Mass] was not celebrated) days in Lent. The Byzantine rite, for instance, has this Liturgy of the Presanctified every Wednesday and Friday in Lent, and on Monday and Tuesday in Holy Week. We now have it only on Good Friday. But, although no priest consecrates on Good Friday, it is the equally old custom that the priest (and once the people, too) should make their Communion. For this purpose it is necessary to reserve the Sanctissimum consecrated at the Mass the day before. Nowadays, it would be easy to take the Sanctissimum from the tabernacle; but the ceremonies of Holy Week date from a time when it was by no means the universal custom to reserve in every church. So special arrangements had to be made to reserve for this occasion. At the Mass on Maundy Thursday the priest consecrates [hosts, some of them he takes to a place prepared where they are kept] till Communion on Good Friday. That is the root of the service on both days.


For the rest, the Mass of Maundy Thursday is a festal Mass, with white vestments, with the ‘Gloria in excelsis.’ It is the only case in the year when the Mass of the day and office do not correspond. The office is all mournful. Here the memory which seems most to fill the mind of the Church is the betrayal of Judas. But when Mass is said the Church cannot forget, although it is the middle of the week of mourning, that this is the day to which we owe the Holy Eucharist. So, a startling exception to the usual note of the time, at Mass at least we put aside all thought of mourning and celebrate with joy our Lord’s last gift before he died.

The ringing of the bells at the ‘Gloria’ is only the sign that from now on they will not be heard again until the first Easter Mass. The Church is accustomed to do a thing solemnly for the last time before it ceases, as we say the ‘Alleluia’ solemnly twice at the end of Vespers before Septuagesima. Probably the time of the ‘Gloria’ is chosen because it corresponds to the time when the bells ring out on Holy Saturday. The playing of the organ at the same time is obviously a further development of the same idea. The organ, too, comes back at the ‘Gloria’ on Holy Saturday. (Thurston, pp. 277-281). To play the organ on Maundy Thursday is less logical, since it should not have been heard during all Lent; but one can see the connection of ideas.

From this time begin the ‘still days’ of our forefathers, on which all are to be intent only on the memory of what our Lord bore for us.

After Mass the procession takes the Sanctissimum to the place where it is kept till the next day. This is an example of a real Roman procession, having a definite object. It is usual to call the place to which the Blessed Sacrament is taken the ‘altar of repose.’ This is a harmless popular name; but it is not really an altar. No sacrifice is offered on it.


At first it seems that nothing more was done than to keep the Sanctissimum reverently in some safe place, often in the sacristy, as it is still reserved in many Eastern Churches. Then people realised that this was the one occasion when they had the Blessed Sacrament in their churches. So they made much of it. They fitted up and adorned a place of honour; they began to watch and pray before the ‘altar of repose’ all the day and all night. Much of the ideas of such later developments as Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, of the ‘Forty Hours’ and so on, seems to have begun during this time between Mass on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. And then, even after it had become usual to reserve the Sanctissimum on the altar of nearly every church all the year round, the old custom of special reverence on this occasion went on. That, too, is nearly always so. Custom preserves many things in liturgy after their first reason has ceased.


This accounts for the special reverence with which we still treat the Sanctissimum at the altar of repose, although we have it now in the tabernacle always. And, indeed, on this night of all nights, when our Lord was suffering his bitter torment, it is natural that people should spend part of the time with him in prayer, honouring the gift of that day.


We leave the altar of repose, come back to the High Altar and say Vespers. This is not really a special feature of these days. On all fast days Vespers are now said in the morning, from the old idea that one does not break one’s fast till after Vespers. Easier rule now allows people to eat at midday on fast days; but the liturgical sequence is preserved; so the meal pushed Vespers back to the morning. The fact that on fast days at the end of Mass the deacon says not: ‘Ite missa est,’ but ‘Benedicamus Domino,’ meant once that he did not dismiss the people then, because they were to stay for Vespers.


After Vespers the altar is stripped. This ceremony has become to us one of the features of Holy Week; yet it is only one more case of an archaic custom, otherwise abolished, but preserved on these days. Once, after Mass on any day, the altar was stripped. Now on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday the stripping of the altar has become a symbol of desolation, or a memory that our Lord was stripped of his garments.


The Maundy follows. When our Lord had washed the feet of the Apostles he gave us a clear command to do as he had done (John xiii. 15). Doubtless this means, in the first place, rather the general attitude he then observed; but the Church has always taken his command literally too. There are innumerable cases of washing feet (at one time a very practical work of charity) by Heads of religious houses, done to poor travellers, pilgrims, and so on, by Popes, bishops, Kings. Still in Catholic countries it is the custom for the Sovereign to wash the feet of thirteen poor men today. Indeed, so definite is our Lord’s command to carry out this ceremony, so clear the implication of a grace given thereby (John xiii, 10, 11, 17), that at one time it seems to have been considered almost to approach the dignity of a sacrament. We shall certainly not consider the Mandatum to be a real sacrament; but it may be counted among the sacramentals.

Naturally, it was most of all on this day that people obeyed our Lord’s command. Whereas Fathers and synods, from the fourth century, recommend the washing of feet in general, often especially the washing of the feet of the newly baptised (Thurston, pp. 307-309. As a typical example see the Rule of St Benedict, chap. 35 and 53), in the seventh century we find a Spanish council insisting on the restoration of this ceremony on Maundy Thursday, since in some places it was falling out of use (Seventeenth Syn. of Toledo (694), can. 3 (Hefele-Leclerq: Hist. Des Conciles, iii, p. 586). It is curious that thirteen men whose feet are washed, not twelve, are constantly mentioned. In the twelfth century the Pope washed the feet of twelve subdeacons after Mass, and of thirteen poor men after dinner (Ordo rom. xii, 25, 27). Various explanations are given of the number thirteen. Either it is meant to include St Matthias, or St Paul, or perhaps the Lord himself. There is a legend about an angel who appeared and joined the twelve poor men entertained on one occasion by St Gregory I. No number is specified in the missal; but the Ceremonial of Bishops speaks of thirteen (Caer. Ep., L. II, cap. XXIV, 2); this is the usual number now in the West (the Eastern rites keep to twelve).

After the washing of feet the church is left all empty and bare; only in a distant chapel the lights burn and people watch silently before the altar of repose, waiting for the service of the next morning.”
– Adrian Fortescue, from “The Holy Week Book”, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1913


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