Sunday, 28 March 2010

Dominica in Palmis - Palm Sunday

(A 15th century Russian Icon of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem from Wikipedia)

Palm Sunday is a privileged semi-double Sunday of the first class and the sixth, and last, Sunday in Lent. No feast can take its place. On a personal note it is the favourite day of this blogger's Liturgical Year and every year he sheds bitter and copious tears at its pernicious and shameful devastation in 1956, carried through into the 'liturgical books of 1962'. In his youth he would get up at 2:00am to drive to Newcastle for the 'Glover' ceremonies at the Royal Station Hotel - happy memories.

The Office began, as usual in Lent, with Vespers yesterday morning. Vespers were sung with the antiphons and psalms of Saturday. The chapter, from Philippians, Fratres: Hoc enim senite, was proper to the Sunday. The Office hymm Vexilla regis was sung. Commemorations were sung of the preceding Office of St. John of Damascus and the occurring Office of St. John Capistran. At Compline, sung at the usual time, the Dominical preces were omitted because of the ocurring double feasts at Vespers.

At Mattins there are three nocturns. In the first nocturn the book of Jeremiah the Prophet is read. In the second nocturn the lessons are a sermon of St. Leo the Great and in the third a homily of St. Ambrose. There is no Te Deum but a ninth responsory in its place. At Lauds the antiphons are proper to the Sunday and the second scheme of Psalms is sung (50, 117, 62, Benedictus es, 148). The chapter is proper to the Sunday and hymn is Lustra sex. A commemoration of St. John Capistran is sung.

The photograph below is from a celebration of Palm Sunday Mattins and Lauds, on the Saturday evening, at a private chapel in Central London from 1997. The large 'Rood Cross' should, of course, have been veiled but unfortunately this was not practically possible.

At Prime and the Hours the antiphons are proper to the Sunday. At Prime the antiphon is Pueri Hebraeorum (that will be heard later at the distribution of Palms) and psalms 92, 99 (displaced from Lauds) and the first two stanzas of 118 are sung. The Dominical preces are not sung due to the occuring double feast and the short lesson is Faciem meam. At Terce the antiphon is Pueri Hebraeorum vestimenta which again will be heard shortly afterwards at the distribution of Palms.

After Terce, as usual the Asperges ceremony takes place before Mass. The deacon and subdeacon wear violet folded chasubles. Being in Passiontide the Lesser Doxology is omitted after the verse of the Miserere. After the Asperges the celebrant and ministers proceed to the Epistle corner and begin the elaborate blessing of Palms. The rubrics give a direction that the Palms to be blessed are either to the Epistle side or be placed in the centre. The blessing starts with the celebrant reading an 'introit' Hosanna Filio David followed by a collect Deus, quim diligere. The normal ceremonies of High Mass are followed. The subdeacon removes his folded chasuble to sing the Epistle and the deacon removes his for the Gospel that follows the 'gradual'. After singing their pericopes the ministers again wear their folded chasubles.

The two photographs above and the others below are taken from the excellent series by Mark Coleman from St. Clement's Church in Philadelphia, USA. Note the folded chasubles and the deacon's broad stole when he is proclaiming the Gospel of the blessing of Palms.

Following the Gospel a further collect Auge fidem followed by a preface, Sanctus and four further collects Deus, qui dispersa, Deus, qui miro, Deus, qui per olivae and Benedic quaesumus. The celebrant then puts on incense and blesses it. The Palms are then aspersed with lustral water, the celebrant saying in a low voice Asperges me etc, and then censed. Another collect, Deus, qui Filium is then sung. The celebrant then receives his Palm from the senior canon present. If no other priest is present the celebrant kneels and takes the Palm from the of the altar, kisses it then passes it to the subdeacon who places it again on the mensa. The celebrant then gives Palms to the deacon and subdeacon and other ministers and then the people. The Palm is kissed first and then the celebrant's hand. During the distribution the antiphons Pueri Hebraeorum and Pueri Hebraeorum vestimenta are sung. After the distribution the celebrant and ministers go back to the altar, bow to the Cross and then go to the Epistle corner where the celebrant's hands are washed. Then, at the missal, he sings the collect Omnipotens sempiterne.

Whilst the celebrant's hands are washed the Processional Cross is decorated with the blessed Palms A Procession is then formed, led by the thurifer, followed by the subdeacon bearing the Processional Cross. The deacon sings Procedamus in pace and the following antiphons are sung during the Procession Cum appropinquaret, Cum audisset, Ante sex dies, Occurrunt turbae, Cum angelis et pueris and Turba multa.

Ideally the Procession goes outside and around the church. Often circumstances dictate the Procession must simply go around the aisles of the church. Towards he end of the Procession some cantors re-enter the church and close the door. The beautiful hymn of Theodolph Gloria, laus, et honor is then sung in alternation between the cantors inside the church and everyone else outside. At the end of the hymn the subdeacon strikes the church door three times with the foot of the Processional Cross and the party enters to the singing of Ingrediente Domino.

The photograph above is taken from 'Cardinal Bourne - A Life in Pictures', a memorial tribute to Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, and is from Palm Sunday 1919. Note the elaborate Palm the Cardinal is holding and the folded chasubles worn by the Canon Assistant Deacons (who are also wearing rochets). The photograph is at the stage when Gloria laus is being sung before the re-entry into the Cathedral.

Mass then follows the usual manner. The celebrant removes the cope and dons his chasuble. The preparatory prayers are said but with the psalm Judica me omitted. The introit is Domine, ne longe etc. There is no Gloria. No commemoration is made of an occuring Office on Palm Sunday so there is only one collect. Psalm 21 is sung in its entirety as a Tract. The major difference from any other Sunday is singing of the Passion according to St. Matthew by three additional deacons of the Passion. The text of the Passion is Matthew 26: 1-75; 27: 1-66. After the singing of the Passion the last part, Altera autem die...lapidem cum custodibus, is sung with the ceremonies of a Gospel by the deacon of the Mass (having removed his folded chasuble etc) to a most haunting tone. The people hold their Palms during the singing of the Passion. The Creed is sung, the preface is of the Cross and the dismissal Benedicamus Domino.

Sext and None again have proper antiphons. At Vespers the antiphons and psalms of Sunday are sung. The chapter and hymn are as at Vespers yesterday. A commemoration is sung of St. John Capistran.

In the 'liturgical books of 1962' rape might not be too emotive a word to describe what has happened to Palm Sunday. The official name of the day becomes the 'Second Sunday of the Passion or Palm Sunday'. Mattins has its usual truncation to three lessons. No commemoration is made of St John Capistran. Prime has psalms 53 and the first two stanzas of psalm 118. However, it is the blessing of Palms and Mass that have been mutilated.

The Asperges is suppressed. Why one might ask? The ministers wear dalmatic and tunicle, along with the celebrant's chasuble of red colour for the blessing, what remains of it, and procession. (It would be too distracting to argue the point but when red was worn in Passiontide in Medieval times the colour was a distinctly different shade from the red of martyrs and a dull 'ox blood' red.)

The blessing of Palms takes place at a table facing the people in the sanctuary or may take place at another place, facing the people. The people may hold, unblessed, palms from the beginning.

The above is from J.B.O'Connell's 'The Ceremonies of Holy Week', Burns Oates, 1960. O'Connell mentions that the table may be placed on the footpace of the altar to facilitate the people's view. In that case he says, the celebrant kisses the table, ft.nt. 5, p.20 - kitchen tables in the sanctuary here we go!

In practice this parody of the former rite looks like the photographs below from the FSSP.

The collect Deus, quem diligere is suppressed, the Epistle Venerunt filii Israel in Elim is supressed, the 'gradual' Collegerunt is suppressed, the 'gradual' In monte Oliveti is suppressed, the collect Auge fidem is suppressed, the preface of blessing is suppressed, the Sanctus is suppressed, the collect Petimus, Domine is suppressed, the collect Deus, qui dispersa is suppressed, the collect Deus, qui miro is suppressed, the collect Deus, qui, per olivae is suppressed. The collect Benedic, quaesumus survives! The celebrant then sprinkles the palms with lustral water, not saying Asperges me etc. Then he puts incense on the coals of thurible and censes the palms. Here the stupidity of the wreckovators shows through. In the traditional rite incense was put on, then the Palms were aspersed and then incensed so that the incense would have a little time to fume! The palms are then distributed with the two Pueri Hebraeorum antiphons interpolated with the Bea version of psalms 23 and 46. There is no mention in the rubrics of the usual ceremonial oscula when receiving the palms. The Gospel follows, the ceremonies of Mass are not followed. The collect Deus, qui Filium is suppressed, the collect Omnipotens sempiterne Deus is suppressed.

The procession follows. In another break with tradition an additional subdeacon, rather than the subdeacon of the Mass, carries an unveiled Cross. The first three antiphons of the Old Rite are suppressed. The first antiphon sung is Occurunt turbae (with Hosanna in excelsis suppressed), then Cum angelis and Turba multa. Then a new antiphon Coeperunt omnes followed by the Gloria laus. However, vernacular hymns in honour of Christ the King may be sung. Then Lauda, Jerusalem, Fulgentibus palmis, Ave, Rex noster and Ingrediente. There is no ceremonial re-entry (although Econe would pick this and incorporate it into their adaptation of 1962, as they quietly ignore the kitchen table for the palms). When the ministers reach the sanctuary they reverence the altar then turn, versus populum, to sing a collect introduced to the rite Domine Jesu Christi, Rex ac Redemptor noster. This collect is found in many medieval uses as a collect said at the Rood.

The sacred ministers then change in schizophrenic style from red to violet. No folded chasubles of course, but dalmatic and tunicle. The prayers at the foot of the altar are suppressed and the celebrant merely kisses the altar and censes it. The deacons of the Passion receive a blessing, rather than the deacon of the Mass, and sing a cut down version of the Passion. The Passion text is Matthew 26: 36-75; 27: 1-54. The former Gospel is omitted both textually and ceremonially. Palms are not held during the singing of the Passion. The dismissal is Ite, missa est and the last Gospel is suppressed. At Vespers there are no commemorations.

Shame on old Pius XII! A once beautiful day lies like a bleeding rape victim in the gutter. Whilst some of the traditional rite was undoubtedly less than a thousand years old it is rather beautiful and worked. More florid uses, such as Sarum, were arguably 'over developed' in the sense that the Procession of Palms became very complex in that the Palm Procession effectively merged with a Blessed Sacrament Procession etc. The old Roman form seems to get the balance right. The new form, a classic of inorganic committee work created liturgy, tried to give the Procession greater prominence but rather like a Victorian architect 'restoring' a medieval church mutilated it in the process. There is something intrinsically odd about wearing red vestments - a festive colour in the Roman rite - and then changing to a penitential colour for the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In the Roman rite this is an inversion of received praxis and hitherto whilst Processions may have been in violet penitential vestments the Mass afterwards, if there was a colour change, was always festive eg. Candlemass (violet to white), St. Mark as titular (violet to red). As on other days in the 'restored' Holy Week the opportunity was taken to make changes that would be later extended to the entire liturgical year e.g. the obsession with versus populum, introduction of the vernacular, the suppression of the preparatory prayers at the altar steps, the suppression of the last Gospel etc. Holy Week was used as a type of 'trial run' for some of the worst of the later reforms.

Rather ironically perhaps one can only cry out Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me!


Adulio said...

I can only share your horror at the reformed Holy Week.

Rubricarius said...


Well quite. It really is crap. No other words will do to describe the 'abomination of desolation'.

Capreolus said...

Of course I completely agree with everything you've written. I know no consolation is really possible, but I will say that all my prayers and efforts will be to see that one day--hopefully soon--all those deplorable changes are eliminated, at least where I am the celebrant. A most blessed Holy Week to you, dear Rubricarius, and all your readers!

Anonymous said...

Death to fiddlebacks!!

What we really need to do (whether or not the Sarum and some other diocesan usages are restored by BXVI - cf. the possibility with the Anglicans/rumour an editio typica of the Sarum Missal is being prepared) is go back to the Pius V Missal (its 2nd edition in which Candlemass was restored).

The Divine Office of the same period should be restored - but, where no choral observance is kept, only matins, lauds, vespers and 1 little hour should be binding (e.g. for parish priests).

The relatively meagre sanctoral cycle would be supplemented by national calendars.

latinmass1983 said...

But, was not the omission of the "Judica me, Deus" in place before the 1950's?

Fortescue's first edition (1917) mentions it and the Catholic Encyclopedia online (1913) also mentions that this Psalm is omitted starting on Passion Sunday.

What was the reason given then for this omission? Anyone knows?


Rubricarius said...


In the new Palm Sunday rite after the procession the ministers change into violet vestments.

There is no In nomine Patris etc, no Introibo ad altare Dei, no Judica (see below), no Confiteor etc, no Aufer a nobis etc - all is omitted and the celebrant just kisses the mensa, then censes the altar and then reads the introit.

The Psalm is omitted in Masses de Tempore from Passion Sunday to Mandy Thursday inclusive.

I am sorry if I had not made that clear. My quoting of the psalm at the end of the post was my way of saying LORD save my cause, Old Holy Week, from unholy people and the unjust and deceitful 'restoration'.

Peter said...

You are absolutely right (rite?) that the new Palm Sunday is perhaps the most devastating of all the tragic changes of the 1950s. I once had the good fortune to assist at the traditional Palm Sunday ceremonies (albeit in the simplified form, as there were no sacred ministers). There is absolutely no comparison between the "real thing" and the Bugnini rite. Please God, priests and faithful will soon wake up to the extent of the disaster!

Novian said...

There are several interesting (albeit brief) videos of Palm Sunday liturgies on the British Pathé website:

Rubricarius said...

Fr. Capreolus,

I was wondering about having a 'procession' involving a flotilla of small boats...perhaps under enemy fire...

Your kind words mean so much.


Well quite. A campaign for proper vestments and none of the cut down stuff I would heartily support.


Well quite: rite is right!

Scotus nouis,

Thank you! That clip of Cardinal Bourne appears to be with the same Canons that I posted the photograph of. As to 'pole with vines'... these people must have worked in the Vatican!

+ Peter said...

This year I finally dumped the reformed Palm Liturgies of both 1955 and 1970 - what a relief! The older form is just so much more coherent and effective.

Rubricarius said...


Thank you for your valued comment.

Well quite, the reformed rite simply doesn't 'flow', it appears as separate services just tacked together.

So encouraging that you have dumped the reformed rites and returned to something authentic. Keep up the good work and may He reward you.

Adulio said...

I really can't understand the opposition to Baroque or Roman cut vestments.

Would someone enlightened as to why they must be considered inferior? Should one wear Gothic regardless of the architecture of the church they celebrate the liturgy?

Rubricarius said...


De gustibus... It really is a matter of personal taste.

Roman vestments were much fuller than the 'modern' cut right up until the seventeenth century.

Personally, I prefer full conical chasubles as the ideal or failing that as full 'Gothic' as possible. Such vestments worn with apparelled albs and amices look superb IMHO.