Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Feria IV Cinerum - Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is a privileged greater feria. No feast can be celebrated on this day whatever its rank.
The third part of the Pontificale Romanum still contains the rite for the Expulsion of Public Penitents - De Expusione Publice Poenitentium ab Ecclesia in feria Quarta Cinerum. In that rite, when the bishop was to celebrate Mass this day, the bishop vested in pontificals as far as the dalmatic and then donned a violet cope. Public penitents assembled in sack-cloth and bare feet and were given a penance for Lent and then were given ashes, which the bishop had blessed, and then followed an elaborate ceremony that included the Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany and culminated in them being led, physically, from the church and expelled. [Update: I had failed to realise that the 1600 Caermoniale Episcoporum contains a reference to the Expulsion of Penitents in churches where it is the custom: C.E. Lib II, Cap.18, 2]
Although no longer practised echoes of the above can be found in today's Liturgy. The Liturgy is interesting too in that much remains of the Office of the Septuagesima season as originally Lent began with the first Sunday.
At Mattins the invitatory, hymn, antiphon and psalms are from the ferial Office. The second scheme of Mattins on Wednesday is used, a consequence of the 1911-13 reform's moving Ps. 50 into the cursus for Mattins. The lessons in the nocturn are from a homily of St. Augustine, the responsories from the third nocturn of Quinquagesima Sunday. At Lauds the second scheme is used (Pss. 50, 64, 100, Canticle of Anna & 145), the antiphon on the Benedictus and collect are proper to the day. Before the collect the choir kneels and the ferial preces are sung. The Suffrage of the Saints is sung.
At the Hours the ferial antiphons and psalter are used. Prime has a fourth psalm displaced from Lauds by the Miserere so at Prime the psalmody is Pss. 25, 51, 52 & 96. At Prime both the Dominical and ferial preces are chanted kneeling, the chapter is the ferial Pacem et veritatem. At the other Hours the short set of ferial preces are chanted kneeling too.
The blessing of Ashes and Mass follows None. The celebrant vests in a violet cope with the deacon and subdeacon wearing violet folded chasubles. The organ is silent following the general rule when folded chasubles are worn. The Ashes, made from the preceding year's Palms, are blessed with four collects of blessing. The short conclusion of these prayers probably indicates the blessing was separated by the Expusion of Penitents from the Mass which follows. The Ashes are imposed whilst two antiphons are chanted Immutemur habitu and Inter vestibulum. These are followed by the poignant responsory Emendemus in melius. The Mass that now immediately follows is proper. The Gloria is not sung. The second collect is A cunctis and the third collect Omnipotens. The preface of Lent is sung. The ferial tones are used for the orations, preface and Pater noster. The choir kneels for the Orations and from the Sanctus until Pax Domini.
Vespers are ferial. The ferial preces are chanted kneeling. A commemoration of St. Simeon is sung and the Suffrage of the Saints is sung. At Compline the preces are chanted, kneeling.
In Northern lands the idea of sackcloth was extended into covering all images and decoration in the church with 'Lenten Array'. This consisted of sack-cloth or unbleached linen with decoration of images of the Passion in red, usually, or blue and black. The image below is a Lenten Array altar frontal designed by the good Dr. Adrian Fortescue for his church of St. Hugh at Letchworth. It, along with some superb and unique vestments, were fortunately rescued a couple of years ago from a skip by a friend of a friend.
Before the 1911-13 reform the singing of the fifteen Gradual Psalms took place before Mattins and Lauds of the day. At Lauds the psalmody would have been as follows: Pss. 50, 64, 62-66, Canticle of Anna, 148-149-150. The Suffrage of the Cross, the BVM, SS Peter and Paul, (St. Joseph), the Patron and for Peace would be sung. At Prime there was no displaced psalm from Lauds and the psalmody would be Pss. 53, 25, 118i & 118ii.
In the 'liturgical books of 1962' there is no Suffrage at either Lauds or Vespers. The ferial preces are sung at Lauds and Vespers only. At Prime there are three psalms 25, 51 & 52 and the chapter is Regi saeculorum. At the blessing of Ashes the ministers wear dalmatic and tunicle. Judica me Deus etc is omitted from the beginning of Mass. There is one collect. The extended kneeling is omitted with the choir rising at the conclusion of the Canon.