Saturday, 4 April 2015

Holy Saturday Evening - Paschal Mattins

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. In parts of German representation of the Tomb are still made, 'Heilege Grab'. The same structures are found in modern Poland. Of particular 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 and, 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, versicle and response are replaced by the Haec dies. 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 of St. Basil 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. Following Mattins and the Hours the Paschal Liturgy is celebrated, the equivalent of the Easter Day Mass, Resurrexi, in the West. Many Christians, both from Western and Eastern traditions, wrongly, equate Paschal Orthros and Liturgy with the ‘Easter Vigil’ of the modern Roman rite.

In the 'liturgical books of 1962' Compline and Mattins have both been axed - with regards to Mattins, probably the most pernicious and shameful cut of all – destroying the defining service of the Resurrection, although there has been a partial restoration in the 'Ordinary Form' of the 1962 rite.


none said...

Alas, in the "Ordinary Form" Matins is actually the "Liturgy of the Word" from the Easter Vigil...with the option of four readings minimum + orations, etc. There are no proper texts. 1962, of course, does keep the Paschal Matins...but only for those who do not participate in the "midnight Mass".

Blessed Pascha and thank you as ever for all your wonderful work!

-Dr. Lee Fratantuono

Rafał Maślanka said...

I'm from Poland and here the rites of depositio and elevatio are still present in a current liturgical book: Roman Missal for Polish Dioceses from 1986. After "the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord" the Blessed Sacrament in a Monstrance covered by a white sheer veil is moved to the Tomb, where is adored until the Resurrection Procession. The procession takes place after Paschal Vigil or before the first morning Mass of Easter Day (which is often the only Mass this day in smaller parishes) and is often considered (even by priests) as the most important liturgy of this day. In the procession the Cross used to Good Friday adoration weared in a red stole, a statue of raised Christ and the Blessed Sacrament are carried to main Altar. During the procession easter hymns are sung. The procession goes around the church one or three times. When it reach the Altar Te Deum is sung, a short prayer and the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament take place.

Historically the procession was connected with and took place before the Easter Matins, but sadly the abolition of them in the Liturgies of 1955 and 1962 caused total absence of them in today's practice. Here an there "tenebrae" at 7 or 8 am are celebrated, but the Easter Lauds (as Liturgy of Hours has not an Office of Readings for Easter) are celebrated almost nowhere. I think if it was not a period without Easter Matins, then they would be still celebrated everywhere in Poland and considered the most important Liturgy of the year.

I hope my English is understandable, I usually only read in this language.

Rubricarius said...


Thank you for such an interesting comment and your English is fine. It fascinates me in Western Europe with an increase in your people here one can see the Blessing of Easter Food at lunchtime Holy Saturday in parishes where there is a Polish community.


Thank you for the kind wishes and a Blessed Pascha to you and yours too. Please forgive the poor writing: what was meant was that in the 'EF' for those who attend the Easter Vigil the liturgy of Easter Day begins with Prime. In the OF there is at least a Te Deum and the collect of Easter Day followed by Laudes Matutinas which is an improvement, albeit a marginal one.