Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Week at Westminster Cathedral, 1939

A friend forwarded me this old post from the Saint Lawrence Press blog. It's a snippet from a 1939 issue of The Tablet with Westminster Cathedral's Holy Week schedule for that year. See below:

Three observations:

1.) They're using the pre-1955 times, like having the Easter Vigil on Saturday morning. I'm actually not in favor of those (except for retaining Tenebrae at night), but one has to respect just how robust the services are. According to Rubricarius, this schedule is only listing the "highlights", too. All the Divine Hours were regularly observed at Westminster in these days.

2.) Westminster's schedule today seems rather paltry by comparison. See here.

3.) Easter Sunday sermon to be given by "the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Canon M. Howlett, D.D., Ph.D." I'm not sure if this species of priest even exists anymore.

All articles in my Holy Week 2015 series, short and long

Palm Sunday in Sarum

Palm Sunday 1461: the bloodiest battle of the Middle Ages in England

The kiss of peace (for Spy Wednesday)

The mandatum: Maundy Thursday and stinky feet

The Easter sepulchre

Holy Week at Westminster Cathedral, 1939

A medieval defense of the nocturnal Vigil of Easter

The Exultet and "Lucifer"

The Exultet scroll: the Powerpoint of medieval Italy

Terra tremuit! (the Offertory antiphon of Easter Sunday)


  1. If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend Gregory DiPippo's series of articles on the Holy Week changes. It was published on the New Liturgical Movement website a few years ago, and can easily be found via Google. His article on the timing of the ceremonies is also interesting. A couple of key points to my mind:

    The Holy Saturday Rite is not actually a Vigil, or at least pre-55 was never properly considered so by the Church. It is a Vesperal liturgy (anticipated, just like everything in Lent historically since Medieval times) which anticipates the Resurrection. The Mass Rite tellingly omits things like the lights at the Gospel, the Credo, the Agnus Dei, etc. The Vigil of Easter, when Easter really begins, is Paschal Mattins & Lauds, which you allude to in your post about the Easter Sepulcher. Even if you want to speak of original, ancient times, the Rite began immediately following the Office of None - 3pm. Outside of the Cathedral of the Savior (granted, the place for which the Rite is designed), it would not have gone much past 7 or 8 pm, especially in the average parish Church. I watched this Rite this morning via live webcast, celebrated Pontifically from the faldstool, and it took 4 hours and about 20 minutes, and that included two baptisms, which would have hardly happened at the average parish in late medieval times.

    In the "new times," Good Friday does not start until Our Lord had already expired on Calvary. Hardly an authentic "Solemn Liturgical Action of the Lord's Passion and Death."

    Food for thought...

    1. Yes, Mr. DiPippo's articles are excellent.

      I remain unconvinced, but will briefly address the timing of the Vigil in a new post shortly.

    2. I look forward to it. On this subject, the timing change would have some merit if it were an actual restoration of ancient practice, such that the Holy Saturday Mass started at 3pm (after None) and was the ancient Rite rather than a liturgical commission concoction. There is nothing traditional whatsoever, as far as I can tell, about it starting at 10pm, and certainly not much traditional about the bastardized Rite used.

      As quoted over at Ordo Recitandi, there is no reason to believe the Resurrection occurred precisely at midnight, pace Dr. Glover. Day #3 begins at 6pm on Saturday according to the reckoning of hours and days, so it could have happened that early, and in any case the Exultet tells us that "only the Night knows the precise time."

    3. Matthew: we can agree about the concoction rite, for sure. As to when the nighttime Vigil ought to start, I'm on the fence about the various suggestions. The 10pm time appears to be based on the rationale that the Vigil should end after midnight so that it falls within Easter Sunday according to the typical midnight-to-midnight reckoning. But, I'm okay with reckoning the Sunday since First Vespers of Saturday evening (or 6pm, as you say), so having the Vigil begin at dusk is fine by me. A third alternative, which would probably never catch on in in the real world, would be to start the Vigil at around 3am to end at dawn (depending on your time zone). I went to see "The Dark Knight Rises" on its premiere not at midnight (since the local IMAX showing was sold out then), but at a subsequent 3:30am showing. We didn't get out of the theater until it was daybreak. That was awesome. Not to imply that the liturgy should be based on my moviegoing preferences, lol.

      Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish my post on the Vigil in time for the Vigil at my parish church (8pm), so I need to leave this unresolved until tomorrow. Alas.

    4. I will try to patiently wait until your post to reply! A blessed and joyful Easter to you and your family.

  2. In your zeal to discuss differing views on "correct" times for Holy Week liturgies, you seem to have overlooked something quite significant : the Celebration of the Vesperal Mass of the Lord's Supper is not mentioned in this 1939 program. Discussing why that is so would be more interesting ...

    Monsignors Canon and Monsignors Dean still exist, but only in the United Kingdom, where this peculiar doubling-up of titles is still sometimes observed.

    As we know, the stars of the sky vary as one Monsignor differeth from another.

    1. To the eminent Saint Bede Studio: I assume the 9am Mass listed for Maundy Thursday is the Mass "in coena Domini". Even though it mentions the chrism, the blessing of the oils was merely incidental to the Mass celebrated by the Ordinary on this day, not a separate event.

      As to the time, of course, no Mass was permitted to be celebrated at night in 1939 except for the Christmas "missa in nocte", which is why the Maundy Thursday Mass is in the morning. (You probably knew that already.)

    2. Saint Bede Studio: Your condecesion notwithstanding, it is right there in the program, "9 a.m. Pontifical High Mass and Consecration of Holy Oils by HIS EMINENCE THE CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP." Since about the 7th or 8th century, there has been only one Mass on Holy Thursday, even in Cathedrals (i.e. Gregory DiPippo's article on NLM on the subject): Missa in Coena Domini. At this Mass the Ordinary consecrates the Holy Oils. The Pian Rite introduced its own separate Chrism Mass, ostensibly "restoring" ancient practice.

      Also, HK, regarding "Missa in Nocte" - that had to begin at or after midnight, so it was only an "exception" insofar as it was allowed to start earlier than 6am, which was the rule. No Mass was permitted in the afternoon, evening, or night prior to midnight.