23 April 2011


In medieval England, before Mattins on Easter morning, the Host and Crucifix which on Good Friday had been 'buried' in the 'Easter Sepulchre' were taken in procession, the former to the High Altar, the latter to a side altar. Antiphons were sung; the versicle and response
V The Lord hath risen from the grave
R Who hung for us upon the Cross.
were followed by a collect.

Around 1000ish, on Easter morning, the Roman Pontiff entered his Cathedral and opened the silver doors which gave access to the ancient Resurrection Ikon. He kissed the Lord's feet three times and then chanted the same versicle, to which the response was given. He then venerated the Cross, and his household did the same. The Pope then gave the Peace to each of them, with the words
V The Lord hath risen indeed; to which each replied
R And hath appeared unto Simon.

In recent years, a form of this rite, with the same verses (although no longer in V and R form) being used, has been restored as a preliminary to Easter morning Mass at S Peter's. It is now seen as an expression of the tradition that it was to S Peter that the Lord first appeared; so that when the Pontiff, in whom Peter lives and witnesses, venerates the ikon, that Meeting is re-enacted.

Two interesting points. (1) The Vatican introduction to the rite says that "the Icon of Christ is the 'sacramental presence' of the one who is ...Risen ..." I wonder what exactly the words 'sacramental' and 'presence' mean here.
(2) Cranmer, when translating these texts, replaced the first versicle and response with
V Show forth to all nations the glory of God.
R And among all people his wonderful works.
This strikes me as the elimination of the idea of a Mystery experienced and presently relived, and its replacement by the scaled-down notion of remembering and proclaiming his past wonders.

Or is my understanding of the significance of liturgical commemoration rather too 'Odo Casels'?


Jonathan said...

An interesting blog with a sting in the tail. Some of us believe that Odo Casels was right! He has not and (because of the extensive use of Novus Ordo for countless Eucharistic celebrations and ordinations) can't ever be considered anything else. Can he?

Albertus said...

In Lithuania and Poland (and perhaps in some other countries wherof i have no knowledge), the early morning Easter Mass of the Resurection begins with the priest in white cope going to the Grave (side altar containing the Blessed Sacrament), and there he looks for Christ's dead body in the tomb, but finds instead the tomb empty, and sings ''Christ is risen, alleljua'' to wihch the faithful respond ''He is truly risen''. The priest then places the Sacrament into the Ostensorium, incenses It and carries the Sacrament in procession three times around the church whilst the choir and faithful sing a joyous Easter hymn. A cross decorated witha red stole and a statue of the Risen Lord is also borne in procession. After which the Mass of the Resurrection begins. I see the similarities between this rite, and those described by you in your post, both in England and at Roma. The Eastern Churches know a similar rite. I also think that many of Odo Casel's insights are very valuable and true. Noone is one hundred percent right about everything, one should be like the bees, gathering what is good, true and beautiful wherever it is found. Happy Easter in advance to you, Father, and to the readers of your weblog.

Auriel Ragmon said...

I had thought that the Lord appeared first to the myrrh-bearing women, rather than St. Peter, but to each his own.

Auriel Ragmon said...

I had thought that the Lord first appeared to the myrrh-bearing women, but oh well....

rdr. james morgan

justin said...

"I had thought that the Lord first appeared to the myrrh-bearing women, but oh well...."

Where does it say in the post that our Lord appeared firstly to St Peter?

Joshua said...

Surely Our Lord appeared first to His Mother, according to the text, He is risen, He is not here - and where but with her?

stpetric said...

Along similar lines, I like the old "Commemorations of the Cross" that were prescribed for the Office on Sundays in Paschaltide:

Antiphon at Mattins
He that was crucified † is risen from the dead; and hath redeemed us, alleluia, alleluia.

Antiphon at Evensong
He the Holy Cross endured, † Burst the gates of hell in twain: Begirt with might and majesty, On Easter morn he rose again, alleluia.

V Tell it out among the nations, alleluia;
R That the Lord reigneth from the Tree, alleluia.

Let us pray.

O God, who didst will that thy Son should for us undergo the burden of the Cross, that he might deliver us from the power of the enemy: Grant unto us thy servants that we may attain unto the joy of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jeremy Smith said...

Thank you very much for this excellent analysis! But I wonder: Might Cranmer's change to the versicle/respond have been part of his idea of promoting the aspect of "glory," as a means to heighten a sense of Royal Supremacy? I see this as a potential explanation for other things he did with the Sarum in the Holy Saturday/Easter morning rites, especially in adding the 1 Cor. 20 text and also in making more of the Harrowing of Hell throughout (by condensing the Sarum).