Saturday, 23 April 2011

Holy Saturday Evening - Compline, Paschal Mattins and Lauds

The high point of Holy Week in most medieval rites, and certainly in the Byzantine rite to this day, was the celebration of Paschal Mattins - Mattins of the Resurrection of the LORD.

In typical Northern European praxis, such as Sarum, the Lenten array was removed from the statues and images after Compline on Holy Saturday and before Mattins. Before the bells rang out in triumphant peals of joy to announce the Resurrection the clergy and people went to the Sepulchre and there the Tomb was opened and the Cross was 'raised' to the singing of the antiphon Christus resurgens. A ceremony of adoration of the Cross, just as on Good Friday morning, took place before a triumphal procession around the church. Rather interestingly examples of such liturgical orthopraxis continue in parts of Europe to this day despite the liturgical heteropraxis of the last century.

An example from contemporary Germany (Heilege Grab - the Holy Grave) may be found here . Of course, in modern times the idea of Easter Sepulchres hasevolved into the 'Easter Garden'. Two years ago year a friend from Poland for sent me this synopsis of Polish Sepulchres. Of pariticular note is that the Polish editions of the liturgical books had 'depositio' ceremonies and the corresponding 'elevatio' ones printed as part of the rites until very recently (e.g. Cantionale Ecclesiasticum, Cracow, 1925 in my collection).

In the 'modern' Roman rite Paschal Mattins was generally noticeable by its lack of celebration (although, to be fair, after the exertions of Holy Saturday morning where there are limited resources...) Westminster Cathedral, of course, did celebrate Pontifical Paschal Mattins and Lauds at 5:30pm on Holy Saturday evening, being the most important Office of the Liturgical Year the Cardinal celebrated:

(This extract is from the timetable of Holy Week services for 1939. The full programme may be seen here.)

Compline is sung, at the normal time. On Holy Saturday the Office of Compline has some interesting variations. Compline begins with the usual Jube, domne, blessing, short lesson and confession. Converte nos, Deus, salutaris noster and its response are sung followed by Deus in adjutorium etc with Alleluia for the first time since Septuagesima. The psalms are sung, without an antiphon, to a special form of tone 2. The hymn, chapter and responsory are omitted and Vespere autem sabbati sung as a fragment antiphon to the Nunc dimittis. After the Canticle the antiphon is sung in full. After the usual collect, Visita quaesumus, the antiphon Regina Caeli is sung with its versicle and collect.

The church is decorated for the greatest of feasts. Six candlesticks are on the altar. Mattins begin with the solemn tone for Deus in adjutorium etc. The invitatory is Surrexit Dominus vere Alleluia and psalm 94 is sung to a lovely tone 6 setting. Mattins consists of one nocturn of three psalms. There is no Office Hymn throughout the Octave (c.f. Monastic praxis). The first antiphon is Ego sum qui sum etc and sung with psalm 1. The second antiphon, Postulavi Patrem meum etc, is sung with psalm 2. The third antiphon, Ego dormivi etc, is sung with psalm 3. A versicle and its response are sung follwed by the absolution Exaudi etc. The first lesson has the Gospel fragment Mark 16: 1-7 and is followed by a homily of St. Gregory the Great. The two responsories Angelus Domini descendit and Cum transisset sabbatum are famous and intimately connected with the Quem quaeritis ceremonies and indeed the development of Western drama (vide the excellent book: Hardison, O.B., 'Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages', The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1965).

The second lesson, Notandum vero nobis est is sung followed by the second responsory. During the second responsory the cantors and the celebrant don copes the principal one pre-intones the Te Deum. Six pluvialistae assist the Hebdomadarius where possible. The Te Deum is then sung and, where it is the custom the bells ring throughout.

Lauds follow immediately and have a series of beautiful antiphons: Angelus autem Domini, Et ecce terraemotus, Erat autem, Prae timore autem ejus and Respondens autem Angelus all taking up the theme of the Angels, earthquake and empty tomb. Psalms 92, 99, 62, Benedicite & 148 are sung with these antiphons. The chapter, hymn, versicel and response are replaced by the Haec dies. If one has the opportunity listen to the setting by the English composer John Sheppard do so (Hyperion CDD22021). After Haec dies the antiphon Et valde mane is sung and then the Benedictus sung to a solemn tone 8. During the Benedictus the altar, the choir and people are censed in the normal manner. The antiphon is repeated and the collect of Easter, Deus, qui hodierna die sung. Benedicamus Domino, Alleluia, Alleluia and its response are followed by the solemn Regina Caeli, its versicle and collect.

In the Byzantine rite the Lucernarium rite from Vespers migrated to the beginning of Mattins about a millenium ago. Those interested in the details should consult Bertoniere, G., 'The Historical Development of the Easter Vigil and Related Services in the Greek Church', Orientalia Christiana Analecta 193, Rome, 1972. In the Byzantine Rite on Holy Saturday morning Vesperal Liturgy is celebrated with fifteen OT prophecies (or four in the Greek version) and a colour change from black to white before the Gospel. Seven of the prophecies and the Gospel are as used in the Old Roman Rite. Late in the evening of Holy Saturday Paschal Mattins begins. In the Slavonic version a triple candle is used to pass the Light of the Risen Christ and is used throughout Bright Week at the Office and Eucharistic Liturgy.

The above two photographs are taken from the website of St. Elisas Byzantine Catholic Church in Ontario. To all Eastern rite readers: Khristos Voskresie!

In the 'liturgical books of 1962' Compline and Mattins have been axed - with regards to Mattins, probably the most pernicious and shameful cut of all.


Anonymous said...

Dear Rubricarius:
A few lines from a total novice at these things....
An SSPX liturgist has told us that prior to 1956 the Easter Vigil was held in the morning so that the faithful would not have to keep the long fast that was then customary for the recption of Holy Communion. He said that Pius XII both restored the correct timing of the Easter Vigil as well as cut down on the duration of the fast.

He also told us that St Pius X began the work of simplifying the Liturgy. Pius XII was a Curial priest in Rome during the reign of St Pius X, and a fervent admirer of the Pope. When he himself became Pope, he brought to a conclusion the intended reforms of St Pius X of both the Missal and the Breviary. So by 1960 we had the rubrics of the Liturgy suitably simplified so as to enhance the devotional aspect.

I am inclined to think that the recent replacement of our chapel's altar missal with a 1962 edition is due to the influence of this priest.

I'd appreciate some comment from you on what I have written. Thank you.

Rubricarius said...


Pius X's reform of 1911-13 was certainly radical and more of the same was promised but Pius X died before that came to fruition. The ideas of practical reform did not become concrete until the appointment of members to a Commission for General Liturgical Reform by Pius XII in 1948. Certainly Pius XII had clearly experienced the significant effect of reform, particularly of the Office, whilst he was a young(ish) priest. I do not think there is any doubt his experience in those years contributed to his own decision to launch a major reform.

The idea of the Eucharistic fast was that the Eucharist was the first food of the day - whether that period was 30 minutes, an hour, three hours etc is irrelevant. As to the supposed restoration of 'correct' times for services of the Triduum, particularly that of the 'Vigil' why make so many other changes if all that was needed was to change the time of celebration?

Pius XII did not conclude anything, rather he re-started a process of reform of which the rites of 1956, 1962, 1965 etc are but stages.

How do the 1960 rubrics enhance devotion? John XXIII actually suggested that with the excision of so much patristic material users of the Breviary had recourse to patristic writings to enhance their own devotion.